Monday, October 15, 2007
A Greener Day
I used to think that we'd blow up the Earth. I was so convinced of it that I deluded myself into believing that the Soviet sense of fair-play would not allow them to nuke us while we slept. It was my secret way to trick myself into sleeping at night. Before I made up the fair-play rule, it was during the darkest hours of the night that my fears of planetary destruction would pound in my ears and keep me from thinking about anything else. During the daytime I could put Nuclear winter out of my mind unless I happened to see photographs of mushroom clouds or the hear the engine of a low-flying propeller plane (which I must have associated with the Enola Gay, because I always thought the bombs would be traveling by plane, even though I swear I had heard of missiles).
Nowadays superpowers blowing up the Earth occurs to me less and less. I spend that familiar nervous energy worrying about what we're collectively doing to it instead. The Earth will survive our game of chicken with the enormous bombs. It won't go out with a bang (or a series of back-and-forth bangs between ticked off superpowers). Instead it will go out with an almost too quiet whimper.
It will complain of the heat, like a menopausal coworker. "Is it hot in here or is it just me? Do you mind if I open a window?" Only the window won't help, and the Earth will continue whimpering. "It didn't used to bother me, but now, well I guess, I just never expected to be able to wear shorts Trick-or-Treating in Minnesota. I'm hot. Are you hot? I used to could go North to cool down, but there's hardly any ice up there anymore. When was the last time we cross-country skied, anyway?"
We'll hear stories about how the roofs in Poland collapsed last winter under the weight of the snow, and we'll pause for a minute, "Hmm. Doesn't it usually snow in Poland? How much snow did they get to collapse roofs that were built for snow?" And then we'll hear about mudslides in California and hurricanes in Louisiana and torrential rains all over China, and we'll stop each time, listening to the faint sound of the Earth whimpering, but caught up in our own lives as usual, grading papers, getting home to the baby, trying to figure out a route home that doesn't involve that 35W bridge. And the Earth will groan a little bit more. A drought here, a flood there. A late-season tornado that wipes out a small town. "We weren't expecting it. The sirens didn't sound." And the weather-person tries to come up with new non-threatening ways of telling us that we've broken heat records. "Record-high temperatures today. Lots of sun. Hope you got a chance to get outside and enjoy it." Nothing ominous there, except that I just don't remember setting so many records back when I was a kid.
And so I'm glad that we haven't blown up the Earth, don't get me wrong. I just wish I could remember to focus my anxiousness about this climate thing the way I used to when I was a child. I also sort of wish I could think up a good lie to tell myself so I don't have to lie awake at night. The Right does it all the time. Why can't I?