Just got a book to review, "Eaarth," by Bill McKibben. Not a misspelling.
Imagine we live on a planet.
Not our cozy,
but a planet, a real one,
with dark poles
and belching volcanoes
and a heaving, corrosive sea,
raked by winds,
strafed by storms,
scorched by heat.
An inhospitable place.
A different place.
A different planet.
It needs a new name.
McKibben says: "I make the case that we're going to have to figure out how to stop focusing our economies on growth and start thinking about survival. ...We've built a new Eaarth. It's not as nice as the old one; it's the greatest mistake humans have ever made, one that we will pay for literally forever. We live on a new planet. But we have to live on it. So we better start understanding what the hell is going on."
He likens us to being like unruly teens craving excitement and escape from boredom. It's time to grow up. Mature. The time for boyfriends has passed; now is a time of the husband, in the oldest and best sense (as in husbandry). Sure a Thoroughbred race horse is sleek and fast-- you can't go much faster. But if that horse hits rough track, hits some bad mud, and accidents happen, those slender legs get broken. Now is a time for Belgians, Percherons, Clydesdales. Steady as she goes, endure, adapt.
Basically, it's really too late to stop climate change, even if everything we did stopped this minute. It's past the tipping point. Future generations will curse us for our folly. We had better start adapting now. The real question, that whatever you believe the degree of human involvement in climate change to be, our civilization is built on finely balanced systems that can't stand much change. And things are changing, make no mistake. I am only 50, and I see it all around me in this Montana valley, which I have known since childhood.
When I lived in Iowa while going to grad school in the 90s, I went up to Minneapolis, to the history museum there. I was helping them interpret one of our ancestral Ioway tribal sites, the Jeffers Petroglyphs. Unlike most petroglyph sites which are on cliffs, Jeffers is out in the middle of the prairie. On the ground, on the recumbent bones of the Earth, looking skyward. The petroglyphs are under your feet, etched into the red quartzite.
Anyways, I was at the museum and I went to see an exhibit there in 1995 or 1996. It was quiet. There was a recreated room there, from the 1940s or 1950s it looked like. A chair and a lamp. An upright piano. Framed photos everywhere. Like someone's parents' or grandparent's living room. There were small spotlights that faded on and off the various photos, while someone read from old letters written by people living their lives and loves, talking about people they had known who had passed away, and then those same people's own obituaries from local papers. The exhibit played a song I had never heard before, which I found out later was Oleta Adams' "Everything Must Change." So intensely beautiful and stirring was this exhibit, that I sat there alone. And the tears came unexpectedly as I felt my own mortality and all of those people I had ever known, my family, and those I would ever know.
They removed that exhibit a year or so later, because when I came to Minneapolis I wanted to see it again, and it was gone.
When I was a teen in the 1970s, I had a dream. I looked to the top of our street and saw clouds there, misty fog rolling down our street. Wherever the fog touched, the houses decayed, nails popping out of boards, roofs sagging, rotting into the earth. And the cars rusting, decaying, dissolving. Everything metal, everything built, as in time lapse, disappearing with the advancing fog. Closer and closer, block by block, it came. And I stood in the street to meet it. I did not hide. There was no where to hide. But I wondered what would happen when the fog touched me.