Local Weather VI
What do you do while the world ends? It’s sixty degrees in winter, so I’m standing outside at midnight, sharing a cigarette, wearing a jacket that’s mostly for show. I’m in Kansas City this week, and a new friend tells me I’m lucky I chose now to visit, because the weather’s so nice. The apocalypse shouldn’t be so pleasant, but it is. It’s divine.
The weather is nice everywhere this time of year. If you’re in North America and reading this, it could easily be sixty degrees wherever you are, yet we know it shouldn’t be. The reason it’s sixty degrees is because our climate is being actively and violently destroyed every second, yet the people with the power to change that aren’t doing much.
Every 100 minutes, a football field of Louisiana coastline disappears. Just vanishes into the ocean. And despite all that oil money, no one here is rich. We are one of poorest states in the union. Yet, who is profiting from the vanishing of our state? “Exxon alone, one company, has 7% of the carbon in its reserves necessary to take us past [the] red line” that destroys the planet irreversibly. These companies should be absolved immediately, but they won’t be. It’s their oil, and they deserve a profit.
And it’s not just the changing climate. Our schools are striated by greed, jealousy, and the rarely discussed fear of white parents sending their children to predominantly black schools.
People are dying everyday from silly, preventable things: illnesses with cures, overdose, gun violence, the unusual severity and frequency of natural disasters. In every major American city, you will probably pass by a person collapsed on the sidewalk if you go for a walk downtown.
The two top-selling drugs on the U.S. market are for an antidepressant and a heart disease medication —which of course is caused by obesity, which of course is caused by a sedentary, unhealthy, consumerist society that smugly discourages anything that is natural or free.
And because of all this, more and more carbon is released, and the ice caps keep melting, and the earth gets a little warmer than usual.
Back in New Orleans, I fixed up my bike and rode it out to the levee, watched the sunset, called a friend. There was a breeze and the scent of winter in the air, but still, a jacket would’ve been superfluous. It was gorgeous outside.
Living below sea level, near the ocean, surrounded by gas refineries and a precariously-placed nuclear reactor, it’s hard to put the impending disaster in the back of your mind. It’s not something we like to discuss with outsiders (and I’m still a bit fresh to use the pronoun we), but the fact remains, this place won’t exist a hundred years from now.
Honestly, it might not make it twenty. It doesn’t have to be like this, there are things we could be doing, but let’s be real. We can recycle bicycle tires and ban plastic bags, but it’s not people that pollute, it’s corporations and militaries. And they’re not going to stop.
Everyone I know is tired and broken-hearted because the apocalypse is currently happening, and not in a sexy, The Walking Dead type of way. Our evil is banal. There is still slavery in the world — slavery that I benefit from — and actively ongoing genocides on multiple continents, yet it’s easier somehow to sympathize with 20th century Jews than the 21st century Rohingya, or the children who make my clothes and cellphone. No one cares.
Not to mention the troubles at home, in the United States. There is so much that is wrong with the world it’s a wonder that only one in six Americans are actively taking antidepressants. Andrea Gibson is right when she asks, “Do we really believe our need for Prozac / has nothing to do with Baghdad?” And I don’t mean to vilify those on any sort of medication — I’m glad it exists. Xanax is in my medicine cabinet.
But it’s hard not to imagine why one would be depressed, and I highly doubt it’s a society-wide chemical imbalance. We are all depressed because we have very good reasons to be depressed — all you have to do is look under the veil and see the awful way we treat one another, the way our society treats women and minorities, the way our species treats the earth.
It’s so fucking banal, but in 2004, 25% of Americans said they had no one they could confide in. It doesn’t seem like there’s a middle-ground between playing cornhole at the brewery on Friday and overdosing on Sunday. On Tinder, it really seems like Netflix and sleep are our number one hobbies. Going out is a chore to most. Our attention spans are shot. Teenagers would rather call an uber than cruise around town.
I can’t decide whether it’s good or not to look under the veil. If I’m sad, I listen to a sad song. If I’m happy, I like to laugh and shout. But what should I do in winter, when it’s seventy degrees, and I’m shirtless in the garden, working on my bike?
Do I write my congressman, buy some reusable grocery bags off Amazon, be better about turning off the lights before leaving? Or do I enjoy the day, and believe that my knowledge of the issue is enough? I don’t know, I have no clue. I feel culpable, yet paralyzed.
If I were sick, I’d see a doctor. Listen well. Call my mom from the parking lot when I’m finished. But the world is sick and no one cares. It’s dying right in front of me, every day, despite the gorgeous weather and my comfortable, American lifestyle. The world is ending and no one’s going to stop it.