August 29, 2011
I suppose it is hysteria if nothing happens, and preparedness if all hell breaks loose. I’m glad Bloomberg battened down the hatches in New York, so we aren’t spending millions repairing broken buses and soggy trains. And if he hadn’t done so, and hell had unleashed its fury, you can only imagine the ensuing second-guessing and finger-pointing; New Yorkers are so fond of exercising their right to free speech, letting out the leash for long talk.
My Rhode Island town got caught somewhere at the “not much” end of things during Hurricane Irene. Kids were down at the shore with their parents, marveling at the size of the waves and the spew of the foam, kiting their arms to feel the lift of the wind. But I felt like the child who was coaxed by a fun-loving dad onto the roller coaster, spent terrified minutes white-knuckling the safety bar, sobbing, only to be told, at the end, gee, wasn’t that fun?
Irene whipped the ocean into a roiling mess. I watched the tide charts warily, wondering when we were going to be slammed by a surge. I was anxious with anticipation of disaster. Gardens were flattened and mulched by salt spray, tree limbs cracked and leaves where shorn off. Autumn looks to have arrived early. But we were lucky. Now we’re into the “disruption” stage; no Internet, no electricity, that sort of thing. We’ll recover.
I did fall asleep thinking about how our anxiety about a hurricane was nothing compared to the anxiety we should all be feeling about the climate crisis. We aren’t concerned anywhere near enough. Irene, like any storm, focused us on one event, her own drama. We could see it through. Once out the other end, the sun would shine, the sky would have a polished cerulean gleam, the flowers would lift up their faces, drink it all in, and we would start mending fences.
We aren’t preparing for the biggest climate whopper of them all, one that, unlike the roller coaster, won’t stop to let us off–even though it is we, the mothers and fathers, who are coaxing our children onto what will be an unforgiving ride from hell. Too many of us aren’t listening to the storm warnings. Those of us who hear the news aren’t calling to warn our friends and neighbors, who might not have heard the alarm bells. We must do so. We have to shrug off the torpor of acceptance, of defeat, that has settled heavily over us.
No one is going to get through to the end of the climate crisis ride and think it was any fun at all.