"I can say with some confidence that we're losing the fight, badly and quickly -- losing it because, most of all, we remain in denial about the peril that human civilization is in."
I had been composing an idea in my head to write about the election. And it started with the weather in my life as of late. Now let me begin by saying I'm not one of those people who complains about the weather. Or even discusses it endlessly (think of anyone from Britain who has ever moved here. Even if it was decades ago). For me, for the most part, the weather just is what it is. But then again I've been lucky, I've lived in Los Angeles my whole life, with blue skies and lots of sunshine, and just the perfect amount of brisk weather and rain coming mostly on cue, until now.
I've been uneasy about the whole state of the ecosystem of our earth for quite a while now. It almost felt like a premonition I didn't want to be having. Like a friend of mine was sick and I knew it in my bones, but it was too hard to admit. I recently wrote about something that made me so sad and sick -- a mother polar bear eating her cub to survive, but mostly I just push the thoughts of -- 'what in the world are we doing to ourselves' and 'this could really get bad in the not too distant future if we're not careful' and the worst for me, 'what kind of a mess are our kids and grandkids going to be left with in regard to our environment' right out of my head whenever they creep in. It's just too much to think about. And we're still here, right? But that's getting harder to do these days. It's fall. Only it doesn't feel like fall. I live just above the Pacific Ocean and normally it's getting cool by now. Pretty breezy, chilly air on my cheeks that remind me that the season change is upon us and I better get out my sweaters and coats. Not so much these days. It's sickeningly warm. Unseasonably hot. And while it's tempting to enjoy the warmth a bit longer, linen dresses and sandals, pretty manicured toes, underneath it all I feel slightly nauseous. And more than a bit afraid.
And as I sat watching the debates, in my light linen clothes, in late October, the irony was not lost on me. All this endless debating of the debates. Constant discussing of the "issues," where each of them stand on every single thing, all minutia weighed in on, body language analyzed, proper amount of aggression, or lack thereof, measured and judged. Even the ties they were wearing was discussed (does the color they choose mean something??). And mind you, I agree that the election is the most important thing to be talking about right now. In fact, I'm beginning to believe it is a matter of life and death. Our very own planet's. To be specific.
I read Robert Redford's essay on why he's voting for President Obama -- basically, overwhelmingly, the environment, and I nodded my head in agreement with much of what he said. He's right, I thought to myself. At the end of the day, the environment is the most important thing any of us can be debating about at this point. But that was a little while ago. And I'm still wearing linen. Weird. Unsettling. Global WARMING. I push the phrase out of my mind and pour some more ICED tea in my glass. But the thoughts keep coming. "It feels like the planet has a fever" I say to myself too loudly. Like my daughter would feel to the touch when she would get sick. Or how I can feel my heart beating strangely when I'm ill and burning up and searching through the messy drawer digging around for my digital thermometer, a bit scared of how high it will go. No question it's disturbing. I wish, as a mother, I could put a cold towel on the earth's forehead. But maybe it's too late for that.
The point is, I feel kind of helpless. "What have we done?" is the thought that makes its way into my mind. But what good does that do, really, which leads me to wonder if there is anything we can do. Sometimes, with the weird weather lately, along with the stories of my dear friend who has gone on expeditions to the North Pole -- and reported things, firsthand, I didn't ever want to hear or think about, I feel like I'm living in the midst of some sort of "Emperor's New Clothes" mentality. Not to mention I went to a destination wedding recently, got a rustic "cabin" right next to the "creek" -- lovely, the person taking my reservation assured me -- only for the first time, there was no water in the "creek" just dry rocks and leaves looking overly exposed and unhappy about it. No water. In far too many creeks everywhere. It's got to make you wonder. And worry.
And as I'm deciding yet again what I'm going to wear today, another unseasonably warm day (I knew I should have ironed that light cotton dress yesterday!) I see an article right here in HuffPost entitled, "Weather Worse Than The Historic 'Perfect Storm' Threatens U.S." Here we go, I thought to myself as I took a deep breath and started to read. There was that nauseating feeling again as I read the opening line, "Could a Hurricane Sandy, winter storm hybrid worse than the perfect storm of 1991 slam the East Coast just in time to ruin both Halloween and election day?" (Just as an aside, I wondered to myself, hmmmm, if a hideous storm hits during the election, I wonder how it would affect people getting out to vote, especially older, fragile folks and other people who would be hindered by impossible weather. Ugh, could be a clusterf*ck for sure, affecting some sorely needed votes if the election is truly as tight as they predict it is. I really can't think about that, just keep breathing, in and out, in and out, and think about something else.)
Anyway, the article goes on to say some very sobering and worrying things, "Politico asked on Wednesday if perhaps Hurricane Sandy would be 'the next climate wake up call' as climate change will cause storms to become increasingly intense." And, "We don't have many modern precedents for what the models are suggesting." (ok, what does that mean, exactly?) And, "They say it has all the earmarks of a billion-dollar storm." (speaking of money, which we do so often these days, I wonder how many 'Hurricane Katrina's' and the aftermath can we afford to support?) Then, "'The forecasts keep getting gloomier and more convincing with every day' several experts said." They warn that here may be huge power outages lasting through the election. Ouch. Best laid plans... right?
I couldn't help but feel an overwhelming feeling of helplessness and worry -- my daughter is finishing her last year of college on the very east coast where this storm, a hurricane which is of great concern and worrying the scientists and meteorologists alike! How can I not worry that she will be alright? And not just this storm, which may or may not end up being as devastating as they say this time, but the future storms, hurricanes, heat waves, tsunami's, etc, etc? It feels really scary. For her, for me, for all the "Beasts of the Southern Wild," for all of us. And at the end of the day, I'm with Robert Redford, what other issues really matter? Even in the article about the impending potentially dangerous storm coming, it says, "As for this storm, the potential timing with the Election Day led ClimateScience.org's Brad Johnson to remark, 'Sandy is yet another reminder that the candidates should stop competing over who can poison the weather faster with increased oil, gas and coal production." To me, isn't it a no brainer that if we have no earth, or a far less compatible earth, to live in -- that affects our well being and takes our very lives -- doesn't everything else there is to talk about pale by comparison?
The people who poo-poo the idea of global warming or deny it altogether really concern me. And I'm tired, even as I sit here fanning myself in almost November, of making excuses for that kind of stupidity. While I definitely lean toward a Democratic philosophy -- and I will be voting for Obama, the candidate whom I, and Robert Redford and millions of others, believe is the only environmentally sane choice -- I promise you, if any candidate of ANY party, stood up and said, "The environment, and making sound, informed choices to make sure there IS a world for our children's children to safely inhabit, is my number one priority and concern -- and I promise you it will get my full attention and action, being there is nothing, in this world, more important." I would, no doubt about it, vote for that person. Party be damned. Because to me, all this endless arguing about the nuances of every other issue is beginning to feel too much like we are arranging, and rearranging, deck chairs on the Titanic.