I used to be one of the people who wore shorts even during the depths of winter. I’m not sure how it is in other parts of the world, but in the Midwest of the US, it is fairly common to see such folk, frequently masculine in appearance (but not limited to that by any means) trudging through blizzards and all but the worst wind chills. It always made sense to me, given that I spent most of the winter indoors, in buildings with their heat set for people who needed a higher external temperature to be comfortable. I didn’t want to attempt to change the ambient temperature for my comfort alone, so I started wearing shorts and upperbody layers that were easy to remove (zippered hoodies, mostly) so that I could be comfortable. It wasn’t that I was immune to the cold outside, just that I was willing to endure a few minutes of being uncomfortable in order to spend two hours in class or at work without needing to fight off sweat or the sleepies.Continue reading
Lately, the weather has been changing more than usual. Setting aside all the potential problems this might indicate (for sanity, not because they aren’t necessary), I’ve been enjoying the variability. There are very few places in the world where the weather can go from “potential frostbite if the wind blows long enough” to “you’ll want a sweatshirt, but you’ll need to roll the sleeves up before long” in less than twenty-four hours without drawing remark. I happen to live in one of them (the midwest of the US). As a result, I got to enjoy a pleasant walk in the sunny fifties one day and then had to bundle up tight against a frigid wind that sought to claim my exposed skin the next day.Continue reading
I had an enjoyable day, today. Facebook was down for most of it and, as much as I’d like to say I got a lot done as a result, I definitely did not. Partly because I have already taken steps to disconnect myself from Facebook and partly because it was hard to focus while enjoying the feeling of being free from one of my larger, more nebulous anxieties.Continue reading
We’ve had a few hefty storms in my area lately, which has been nice considering how few of those we’ve had prior to this last week. We needed the rain and I needed a chance to bask in the gentle susurrus of water falling on leaves as I sit in the mostly dry area beneath them. I also needed the comforting rumble of thunder echoing through the gray skies about as much as the area needed a return to proper summer water table levels. There’s a creek I walk by most days that has been low for so long all the signs of the “normal” water level disappeared a month ago.Continue reading
Ever since the flooding in the Madison area happened, I’ve started to regard thunderstorms and rain storms as actual storms rather than a simple minor shift in weather conditions. I used to enjoy sitting on my porch during storms, drinking a beer or just watching the rain fall. Now I can’t really shake the feeling that I’m looking at one of the first steps required to create a natural disaster. I used to take comfort in rain but now I spend most of the storm wondering if this is going to be enough rain to flood again or if the slow but steady rain over several days is going to make the lakes and rivers around here rise even more. I’m not in any danger, thankfully, but tons of people who live near me are in danger, as are a bunch of people I know.
Storms were once incredibly dangerous weather phenomena because they could knock over buildings, wash away months or years of hard work, and easily ruin the lives of people who were in their path. As humans developed into what we are now, we learned to set up our lives in such a way that it would mitigate the dangers of a storm. Things like better building techniques, irrigation, mechanical pumps, and stuff like gutters or cisterns or aqueducts are all things we’ve developed or learned to use as part of our adaption to storms. Most of them were meant to make it more likely that we’d survive the storms or to prevent the storms from wrecking our things, but some of them were things we built to make the storms work for us. Humanity, ever-adapting, learned to be able to thrive in an environment where chunks of ice, huge globs of water, and the occasional bolt of electricity are fairly frequent over the course of a year.
We got used to the storms and nature’s wrath expressed through earthquakes, giant storms, hurricanes, tornadoes, and lava spewing out of giant rocks on the horizon. We learned to adapt and to build our homes in a way that would leave them somewhat more likely to survive the same disaster again. We refused to move away from places we’d adopted as our homes and determined we would master our environment. No amount of flooding, storming, hurricaning, or erupting would stop us from living where we wanted. For a while, that even worked. We built giant walls to keep the water where we wanted it, with complicated doors and windows so we could control where the water went once it was gathered up. We learned how to make big, strong buildings that would not only stay upright in an earthquake, but protect the people inside them. We learned how to predict eruptions and what to do when they started in order to save as much of our community as possible. We figure out how to predict the worst of the storms and then communicated to people that they needed to hide in specially designed shelters. We just adapted to the problems we found in our areas, invented insurance to pay for the homes that kept getting wrecked, and carried on with our lives.
And then we screwed it all up. Thanks to global warming and the fact that the entire world dragged its feet on responding (and many parts of the world still refuse to respond and at least one significant part of the world refuses to accept as fact), we get the leveled-up version of every storm. Hurricanes flood and destroy the costs. Tornadoes rip apart the interior of the US. Earthquakes show up in areas where there never were any before. Giant waves wreck coastal countries. Rainy seasons and typhoons stick around much longer in come areas and disastrous droughts show up in other places. Wildfires burn all summer and destroy ever larger patches of land. All the while, the people leading my country stick their heads further up their asses, people with money decide how best to screw over everyone else, and reactionary politics starts working its way into political systems that seem designed to let them have their way. The world is on its way to hell in a hand basket and it feels like all I can do is watch. And write.
I don’t really think I’ve got the power to change much right now. I’ve got a platform and a voice, but not a lot of people listen. I’m not even the person people should be listening to for these problems. Those people are screaming at the top of their voices and all the systems that should be taking notice are ignore them. It sometimes feels like there isn’t much of a point to trying. I wonder if there’s any point in trying all the time. Not about sticking to writing, I’ve thankfully passed that point in my life, but about trying to make people see what’s wrong in the world. So many people want nothing but confirmation of their own biases or to be told that someone else is taking care of the problem. What’s the point of reaching out if everyone who will listen already agrees with you and everyone else refuses to accept anything that differs from their opinion? In the age of the internet, it’s super easy to find whatever you want to confirm your incorrect beliefs. I mean, we’ve got people who think vaccines are bad because one shitty-ass doctor lied to the world (and lost his license) and we’ve got people who believe the Earth is flat because some people wanted to figure out if they could make people believe something stupid. How the hell do you try to talk to people about scary, difficult topics in a world where people will believe governments are controlled by some fictional “deep state” and that a bunch of money-grubbing assholes are actually prophets of some insider who will shortly expose the “deep state” for the dark cabal of secrecy and manipulation it supposedly is?
The world suddenly got too weird for me to understand it. I want to be a voice of reason, but it’s pretty clear that people care less and less about reason lately and more about emotional appeal. But only emotional appeal that benefits them because screw all the people who die due to, or have their lives ruined by, worsening natural disasters, racism, police brutality, fascism, extreme poverty, or disappearing natural resources.
Normally, I’d like to go sit on my porch and take comfort in the rain that’s gently falling on the area, but I can still see the pile of ruined furniture and carpet sitting next to my neighbor’s driveway if I do, so I can’t really enjoy the rain that’s probably helping to grow mold behind what’s left of the drywall in their once-finished basement. Instead, I’m going to sit here and write something until I feel better about being unable to make the change I want to see.