Look This Way
Look over here. Not there. Here! Everybody's talking, but do you see it? Last February, when I was in Toronto litigating, I had a thought that I haven't been able to shake. I was tired. I imagine a few consecutive months in court will do that to any lawyer. It was February and it was supposed to be cold. Like, really cold. It was a gap day - the other side, our Friends, completed the leading of their evidence and our turn was coming up. We had an afternoon out of court, to go out and about and try to do stuff you think humans are supposed to do. Going to coffee shops and stuff. Writing. So I was out and about in February, and it was eighteen degrees celsius. That's summer weather! Since my brain was in a kind of fog, I basically floated around the town for a while, thinking, something's not right here. And then on University St. a fire truck came speeding around the corner, lights flashing , sirens sounding and a similarly decorated cop car close behind. You know the scene right, you've seen it before. Most of us have, but that didn't stop everybody from looking at it. Fascinated, eyes were glued to the same flashy but comfortable scene they've seen countless times.
But then I look up and I see an icicle dripping down the building's eave and the thought hits me: everybody is looking at the wrong thing. They were all looking at the firetruck and police car, like children distracted by flashy lights, loud noise. But what about this melting icicle? Icicles aren't supposed to melt in February. They might not be there at all or they might stick around for a few months, chilling, until around the end of March or April, when thawing can start. But not melting. Not in February.
Saturday was twenty-eight degrees celsius, pool weather for sure. Sunday was about thirty, the tam-tam's were going stronger than ever. Today was thirty degrees as well, or something. More of a summer than the summer, we like to joke, knowing it's not funny. But what are you supposed to do, right?
I'm not saying nobody recognizes that this freakishly warm weather is a symptom of climate change. But I can't help thinking it's like the cops and the firetruck - like we're all looking in the wrong direction. So where is the melting icicle, the real sight. What should we be looking at?
Neil Degrasse-Tyson says that climate change denial is the unraveling of democracy. It's the way science is frowned upon. The way when hurricanes hit coastal cities and storms swirl sand (and the earth rumbles itself apart) we say, "now is not the time to talk about climate change." When can we talk about it then? When it's blistering heat at end of September? Who wants to be that killjoy? We are sun deprived here, come March and we're all bleached out versions of our former selves; can't we just enjoy this? I mean, there's nothing we can do about it, so might as well make the best of it. Better than to look at the melting icicle, right?
It's the way we reassure ourselves by saying, "well if it's going to happen anywhere, best to be here. We'll be ok in Quebec...with all the fresh water we have..." But selfishness does not form the core of democracy. In fact, I'd say democracy cannot properly function when selfishness becomes rampant, unchecked. So why don't we see it that way? To me, saying that we will be ok with the effects of climate change in Quebec is the same as saying, I don't care what happens in Polynesia, Sri Lanka, California. I only care about me. A melting icicle.
I'm not pointing fingers. All I'm saying is, if something does happen faster than you thought it would, if the fresh water plan doesn't quite work out, if you realize the world is even worse off with the better half of the population gone, if your bunker escape plan fails somehow, just blame me. It was my fault. Three days a week I drank my coffee in take out paper cups, destroying the trees, I know. I ate half of my lunches each week to-go, usually given in plastic dishes that go into recycling. Sometimes styrofoam right into the garbage. I've just been too busy to think about those things. All my time working, billing, watching firetrucks and police cars.
Photo credit: Ceyda Turan