The Unbearable Hotness of Being and the Unbearable Coldness of Being.
I am not afraid to admit that I am an environmentalist.
I live in a bush and my best past time is to go camping.
Recycling is part of my every day life. Like the rest of us I am seduced and horrified by a devilish problem of climate change. The deadly problem for humanity that is immediate and distant, real and abstract, at once urgent and slow moving at the same time.
As a writer I am saddened by a thousand of tragic human stories that are happening constantly all around the globe. Just like everyone else in the morning making my coffee I hear in the news: ‘200 m climate refugees by 2050, the UN warns…’, suddenly my mobile rings and I hear the distressed voice of my friend working in Bangladesh. The part of Bangladesh where she used to work was washed away by rising sea levels. She is lucky, she lost just a job and can return to Australia. Many Bangladeshi lost their lives and those who survived have no where to go. “You like writing stories, so you have to write about it.” She demands adamantly when I pick her up from the airport: “Those people are doomed if Australia does not help them.”
While travelling in the car, the angry voices of desperate farmers who lost thousands of herds of cattle in the recent unprecedented huge flooding in Queensland demand help. ‘We are helping all those bloody refugees all around the world, who will help us?”
I look at my friend while driving and she sighs: “I heard the cost of the milk goes up. At least we can still buy milk.”
The road in front of us is shimmering in 45 degrees.
“What is happening?” My friend stares on the burning black horizon with sudden panic.
“Yes, I know it is already March, you would assume it would cool off.”
But she is shaking her head and quickly changing the station to the ABC station: ‘There are threats to houses reported in the suburb of Jarrahdalle….’
I turn off the radio and pat her arm: “I did not want to stress you out, you are staying on my farm tonight, the fire is slowing down, don’t worry there is nothing we can do now.”
She nodded and I continued calmly: “I have evacuated the farm twice while you been away, it is the way of life for us now.”
Back on the farm, my friend picked her car and left to find out what’s going on with her house and I went back to fixing the fire breaks.
“Bloody hot again hey?” My neighbor working in his avocado orchard shouted across the fence.
“What is happening to your trees?” I pointed at the whole line of dried out trees.
“Die back.” He shrugged his shoulders: “I am giving up on it.”
“How is your brother doing up the East?” My neighbor pushed his hat back and came closer to the fence: “He likes it there, farm is good but he feels sorry for koalas you know, he said every morning on his rounds around the farm he finds dead koalas around the trees. He made up troughs he fixes on the trees…”
“I thought koalas do not drink, they just eat leaves.” I wiped the sweat off my forehead suddenly feeling very thirsty myself.
“The leaves are too dry these days, my brother said, the trees are dying from the thirst and so do koalas.”
I nodded and he winked at me: “You should write a story about it, did you hear that by 2050 the koalas will be extinct. What would Australia be without koalas?”
I waved him goodbye and rushed back to house to cool off.
While drinking my tea I have found messages from my Russian friend from back home.
He lives in Siberia these days teaching children there.
‘You would not believe what has happened in our sleep village,’ he writes in Russian, ‘Arctic scientists posted here to research the Climate Change got trapped by melting ice on an island inhabited by polar bears. We managed to rescue them. The whole village helped, but we have polar bears all around the village these day. They are very hungry and pestering us daily. People are thinking to leave the village altogether these days. Oh and one of my students, just a boy, very sad truly got poisoned by anthrax from a reindeer carcass uncovered by thawing permafrost. It is weird, never happened before it is so unbearably cold still but not safe here anymore, people are leaving and I will follow too, maybe I come to your Australia, you have it nice warm there…oh, I thought you could write a story about that boy you know.’
I opened my computer and started to write. Where to start? Which story to write?
I sighed and typed: The Global Warming we still do not want to believe in.
Global warming is no parable. Far from being a problem only for future generations, it is wreaking havoc now. Five of the twenty worst fires in world’s history blazed in 2017. The deadliest incinerated the many highly populated towns all around the globe last year. Floods are becoming wetter, droughts drier and hurricanes fiercer. Such calamities are not the ‘new normal’, they mark ‘the end of normal’, as climate change tips Earth beyond the conditions that allowed humans to evolve in the first place. And that is with barely 1celsia of man made warming since the industrial revolution.
Things will get much worse. The world is on course to become at least 3celsia hotter that in pre industrial times. Within a few decades this mean that temperatures rise to such extent that part of the globe will become uninhabitable. With a rise of 7celsia plausible if humanity remains wedded to fossil fuels, nearly the half of the planet would become uninhabitable…even if the warming did not exceed 2celsia as we all hope for, rising seas we can not stop engulf all the coastal areas all around the world…
I stopped typing, numbers can numb, I thought.
We all know about the impacts of extreme weather, sea levels, human health, economic consequences, we already live it.
But just as the rest of the population, I am complacent. I am the complacent environmentalist. I should as everyone else be more insistent on voting to elect leaders with climate-friendly policies. It matters more at the end than forgoing a plastic straw in your cocktail.
My cousin in Europe rightly pointed if Australian or Americans’ carbon footprints matched those of average Europeans, Australia and the Northern America would emit less than half as much carbon as it does.
But I do not want to dwell on politics.
I like writing stories, just right now there are too many individual stories to write about, tragic stories and very important stories to tell right now and I do not know where to start.
I also know some of my readers find my outline of possible futures alarmist. I am indeed alarmed. You should be too.