Tuesday, June 18

When Extinction Seems So Far Away

Yesterday we had a gorgeous day, with a truly perfect weather, and a beautiful sunset. There were birds flying, and families playing. It looked almost like a postcard, and for a moment I could almost allow myself to forget that we are living on borrowed time, that the perfect days won’t stretch endlessly into the future.

Yes, I know, I am a pessimist, a happy pessimist (I have said so before), but a pessimist nonetheless.

Still, what truly caught my eye were the children.

There was a little girl there, maybe two years old, playing in the sand surrounded by what I can only assume were her mother and a gaggle of her friends, openly fawning over her every move, with cameras at the ready. It was as if a queen were holding court. There was what looked like a four or five-year-old boy, with curly hair, whose father was trying to teach him to fish. That is not an activity I am particularly keen on, but to see that man trying to teach his little boy to be still, and to wait for the fish to come to him, was almost magical. Also, considering a five-year-old’s natural inability to hold still, I suspect no fish were harmed in the pursuit of that particular endeavor. Elsewhere there was a young woman breastfeeding, and two kids playing with their dog, all of them seemingly without a care in the world.

It was almost enough to make me want to go out, and do something –anything– to ensure that there would be a future, one in which those children would have a chance to live the lives their parents had dreamt for them… maybe it was even enough to make me believe that things are not as bad as I think they are, that there is still time, that there is still hope… and then I thought back to my friends’ children, and to the ones belonging to my cousins and other assorted relatives.

Unlike the children I saw yesterday, I know their names. I know who they are, and what they want to be.

Yes, those children deserve a future, all of them, but no matter how much I may wish things were different, and no matter how perfect a day yesterday happened to be, I know chances are that they won’t, that in a matter of decades the perfect days will come to an end, and those children will find themselves being plunged into a nightmare we can hardly even begin to comprehend, and then I wonder what could their parents possibly have been thinking.

Oh, I know there is an animal side to human nature, that the drive to reproduce –to keep the species going no matter what– is a strong one, and for the children I saw yesterday on the beach there is even the question of how aware their parents are of what is to come. Yes, the information is now so widespread that it is almost impossible to live in total ignorance, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t millions who are cheerfully determined to keep their heads in the sand. For those I am closer to, there are no questions in that regard.

I have a cousin whose messages alternate between alarming posts warning of what is to come –and what we absolutely must do to prevent it– and photos of her three-month-old granddaughter… a granddaughter who will get to experience the full brunt of that ‘what is to come’, though at no time does my cousin seem to make a connection between that dark future she keeps foretelling, and the life she envisions for that little girl. To her those two realities seem to exist in isolation from each other, and as far as I am concerned that… that is the very definition of madness.

Now, I do realize that the messages I am getting come from the girl’s grandmother, who had little to do with her conception and birth, and that my contact with her parents is rather limited, but as involved as my cousin is in the fight against climate change, I don’t see how they could remain oblivious to it, so why bring a child into this world in the first place? You do know better.

Of course, that is for the little ones. For those whose children are teenagers, I have a bit more patience, and I do share their despair. Seventeen or eighteen years ago the scientists knew we were in trouble, but the fact that the die was cast was not as readily apparent to the uninitiated, nor was the information as readily available, but those with infants and toddlers who keep wagging their fingers in my face, telling me what I must do to ensure that their kids will actually have a future? I admit that at times I am almost tempted to shout back at them, because at the end of the day the mess we are currently in is not exactly a new development. Not just the mess, but also the awareness have been there for a number of years. It was certainly there nine months ago, and they knew what kind of a world it was that they would be bringing their kids into, to what kind of fate they would be dooming those still hypothetical children. There was no need to make them real… and then I see a day like yesterday, where everything seems picture perfect, where it seems almost like a crime to have no hope for the future, and it is almost enough to make me understand.

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