It hardly matters where you look. In Italy, for instance, the authorities recently closed roads and evacuated homes near the Mont Blanc glacier, part of which is at increasing risk of collapse as it melts ever more rapidly, helped along by this summer's brutal heat waves across Europe. In northeastern Switzerland, local hikers and environmentalists dressed in black had a "funeral" ceremony at the Pizol glacier, now 80% gone. (Scientists estimate that, by 2050, half of Switzerland's glaciers will no longer exist.) Recently, the government of Iceland held a similar ceremony for that country's first lost glacier.
Funerals could already be held elsewhere on this planet, too. And not just for its "lungs" like those burning forests of Indonesia, where almost 2,000 fires (largely human-set) turned the sky "blood red" over parts of the island of Sumatra and cast a smoky pall as far away as Singapore; nor just for the Amazon rainforest, where 4.6 million acres have reportedly been lost this year alone due to fires and so the ability to absorb carbon dioxide. Consider as well the recent report from the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change on the globe's oceans and then start unpacking those mourning clothes. The 100 scientists who produced it found that "the rate at which oceans are warming has doubled since the early 1990s, and marine heat waves are becoming more frequent and intense." Unless greenhouse gas emissions begin to be cut drastically and soon, such warmth will wreak havoc on global fisheries and coral reefs, while increasing the intensity of storms like Hurricane Dorian, which recently destroyed part of the Bahamas. Sooner or later, those heating waters will intensify the heat on land as well. And that, of course, is just to begin to tell a tale of climate-crisis woe.
No wonder another two million people walked out of schools and workplaces last week (six million over two consecutive Fridays) to protest what we fossil-fuel-burning creatures are doing to this planet. Can there be any question that the climate crisis developing now could, as I've written elsewhere, turn out to be the greatest crime in human history? Back in 2013, I tried to pin the label "terrarism" (and "terracide") on the CEOs of the major oil companies. Of course, it never faintly stuck, but they and more recent figures like President Donald Trump and his crew of planetary pyromaniacs, men visibly intent on incinerating this planet for their own gain, are indeed terrarists of the first order. The term for what they're doing that does seem to be entering the language is "ecocide" (like genocide). While news of possible impeachment has recently filled our media world to the brim (and beyond), there are far grimmer charges than those now being leveled at Donald Trump, ecocidal ones, that will never be taken up in the House of Representatives. Yet talk about true "high crimes and misdemeanors"! And worst of all, as TomDispatch regular Frida Berrigan writes today, such crimes will, in the end, have been committed against small children like hers across this country and the world. Tom
Trumping the Future
Which Would Mean No Future for My Three Kids
By Frida Berrigan
Okay, I'll admit it. Sometimes I can't take the bad news. It's too much. It's so extra, as the kids like to say.
When I hit that wall of hopelessness and anxiety so many of us have become familiar with, I take what I think of as a "kid break." I stare into the faces of my three children seeking solace and sanity. I remind myself that they are the why of it all.
Seamus, who is seven, and I do our special four-part kiss. I arrange five-year-old Madeline's hair into Dutch braids or bear-ear buns. Twelve-year-old Rosena and I talk about her five-minute YouTube-inspired craft projects. I connect with those three nodes of antic energy, creativity, and goodness and I feel a little better.
Unfortunately, kid breaks don't represent a long-term solution to my problem. They're too brief to keep my hopes afloat, nor is it fair to continually cling to my kids' narrow shoulders to keep my head above the surging waters. Still, sometimes it really does help to see the world, however briefly, through their eyes, because despite everything, they're having a good time.
Check out how cool they are: Madeline and Seamus are lying on opposite ends of the couch, both in their pajamas, both reading, both humming under their breath. It's early morning. Soon they'll have to go upstairs and get ready for school. From the other room, I reach for my phone to capture this unconscious and beautiful moment, but before I can, Seamus leaps up, adds a lyric to Madeline's tune and starts dancing, whipping a piece of fabric around his head. She sits up and watches, rapt, humming ever louder.
Seamus spins further into the room until I can't see him anymore, but I watch her watching him and think: They're going to be A-OK.
All three of them. Kind and caring of one another and others. But the world they're growing into is another matter entirely. It's not A-OK. What do I do about that? I have to do more than day-dream that Greta Thunberg will become Queen of the World and declare a carbon-free future by fiat.
"Tronald Dump! Tronald Dump! Tronald Dump!"
One morning, not too long ago, Madeline and I were playing "interview." It's a game all of us like in which one person asks random questions and the other has to answer instantly, off the top of his or her head. Sometimes, admittedly, it can get tedious (for me, at least) because they always start by asking, "What's your favorite animal?" and they remember if I mention a different one than last time.
On this day, as it happened, I needed the game to distract Madeline, while I put a pair of hand-me-down school-uniform pants on her, so I played it, machine-gun style:
"Who is your favorite person?"