I recently spent four days with my brother at my parents’ place near St. Pete Beach in Florida. Initially I hadn’t been looking forward to leaving Ian and Grace for that length of time, but the trip was to celebrate my father’s 70th birthday and I couldn’t really get out of it. Of course, I also knew that once I arrived, the sun, sand and endless stretch of beach bars would help obliterate any guilt or reluctance I had to travel without my immediate family. At any rate, we spent a fantastic four days together, and every afternoon around four my brother and I would head back to the beach for three hours of boogey boarding and swimming before cocktail hour and dinner with my parents. At one point I looked at him as we were both bobbing over the water, the sun glinting off the waves, casting a silver shimmer across the horizon, and said, somewhat cheesily, “Aw, we’re making a memory.”
“Yes we are,” Ryan said. “Yes, we are.”
Sometimes I think people who live on the ocean have life completely figured out. I would rather be on the water than almost anywhere else and remain convinced to this day that if I had grown up around it I would be an expert surfer. Why, I wondered idly, floating over waves, staring up at the endless azure sky, do I even bother living in the northern part of our country at all?
After several days in Florida, though, I am always reminded that a little bit of it goes a long way – I have minimal self control when it comes to rum, sun, salt water and ice cream and never manage to leave anything less than a freckled, bleary mess, albeit a well-rested one.
There is the possibility, I know, that Ian and I might move somewhere south eventually. He suffers from some autoimmune issues that cause him quite a bit of pain, much of which is alleviated in warmer climates. I’ve grown accustomed to this idea, and have had to force myself to not mourn the changing of the seasons prematurely. After all, we aren’t moving in the foreseable future.
I love living in an area where the seasons change. I grew up in northern Michigan and, with the exception of a couple of years in North Carolina, have always lived in northern climates. Yes, I am one of those wackadoos who even loves winter. I embrace the rhythm and pacing the changing seasons bring, the way food, clothing, exercise and even hobbies change with the weather – it would feel like a sacrifice to give that up.
More and more, though, I wonder if winter is even going to be around as I grow older. Will I be able to take Grace cross-country skiing, like my dad did with me, the snow fast beneath our feet, our noses and cheeks covered with frost while our bodies work up a sweat beneath slate gray skies? In twenty-five years, will seasons even change disernably…will spring distinguish itself from summer, the way it is this year, all early blooms, cool evenings and greening mountains in the distance?
Reports like this one from Saturday’s New York Times make me feel especially hopeless. This article is pretty heavy on data and parts per million of carbon dioxide so you should just go read it but the upshot of it is that the earth is getting hotter faster than anyone could have predicted and we’ve probably passed the point of no return when it comes to reversing the damage climate change is causing.
I do not want to live in a crazy hot world.
I’m tired, though, of reports like this one coming out without being accompanied by a recommended action plan. Okay, so – we are living in dangerous climate times. What in the world are we supposed to do about this? On an individual level I already recyle, watch my meat consumption, grow my own vegetables (well, many of them), never drive more than two miles a day and mostly, don’t drive at all, and yet all of this action is completely obliterated whenever I fly on a plane. The U.S. has finally reigned in some of its over-the-top contributions to this particular problem, and China and India are now in the lead, but we CERTAINLY are still contributing.
Climate change news coverage makes it feel like disaster is just around the corner, and inevitable, but unless some sort of action plan is recommended I’m coming pretty close to throwing my hands up in the air and moving on with my life without worrying too much about it. If any sort of action plan ever accompanied these reports, like “Okay, Americans, we can stave off or fix this problem if all of you commit to the following: only 2 plane trips a year for recreational purposes, meat consumption only twice a week, and drive no more than 150 miles a week” I would be SO ON BOARD and I actually think a lot of other people would be as well. Okay, maybe not the hard-core capitalists and creationists, but still, a lot of people – enough maybe to make a difference. We know the situation is dire, but we can’t all be scientists or policy makers! Help us do what we can, and we’ll do that while you try and stop people from blowing the fucking tops off mountains and burning piles of coal in third world countries!
This isn’t a problem people set out to create during the Industrial Revolution, and it didn’t enter into our consciousness, I am sure, when cars were first invented. Now, we know it’s a problem. There are large numbers of us willing to help fix it, but we need guidance. Recommendations. Scientific explanations about what we should do, and why, and not just some hand-waving and groaning over the disappearing bee population or melting Arctic. I mean, if I’m willing to make some pretty significant sacrifices, and there isn’t much I love more than big steaks and for no-reason car rides, then my more tree-hugging, yogurt-making counterparts certainly are as well.
Help us know what to do before it is too late, and we are all living in the equivalent of Mississippi, except probably without water or sustainable crops.
Also, while I’m at it, if you same scienc-y types could explain whether or not the Mississippi River is still suffering from drought after epic rains, I would appreciate that as well.