Five and a half hours into our drive from San Francisco to Portland, I got into an argument with A. about the return to mask mandates. I was wrong, but that didn’t stop me from digging in and getting increasingly frustrated. My rage at the situation, at the people choosing not to get the vaccine for political reasons, at my mother for being one of them, all bubbled up into white hot anger and contempt.
Since last March I have seen people get fired up by small inconveniences in daily life. Fear of reality gets sublimated into rage at the service being slow or an item being out of stock. It was my turn. I lost my hold on rational thought. Other countries with flawless pandemic responses are also seeing Delta variant surges. It’s not rational to blame the reappearance of distancing and masking on vaccination refusal. Wearing a mask indoors is the right thing for everyone to do right now, and that fact broke me.
One of the assumptions I held about climate change is that there would be some disaster so obviously terrible that the powerful—and the financially invested—would have to take action to save themselves. This year has taught me that there will be no such disaster. There will be death and destruction, the powerful will retain their hold on power, the invested will have the government pick up their losses then be paid to “rebuild.”
The kind of humility and international cooperation it will take to save our home is nowhere to be found. If the augur is true, I can expect an adulthood of social fracture, solutions slipping out of our grasp, and rapidly disintegrating ecosystems.
I worry that I won’t resist becoming uglier as our planet becomes uglier. With each passing day, the pressure grows to look at others as my competition for dwindling resources or problems to be solved. I will be pressured to learn how to dissociate from the feeling of distress that comes with noticing the increasingly loud warning signs the Earth is sending. Or tuning them out altogether. I don’t have much appetite for those kind of changes.
Why does the fact of human climate change hurt my heart and the fact that the earth will fall into the sun not hurt? Choice is the difference. Choice, and the unfulfilled dream that we could transcend our biology. What comes next is the same thing that happens to every other animal population that exceeds the carrying capacity of its habitat.