The Eleventh Hour

A bright moon and stars illuminating night clouds and oak crowns.

Who would have imagined watching the collapse of human culture on television, the unreal news–the footage, the statistics of devastation and human suffering–flowing past on a small-scale screen, while, in another corner of the living room, our American household has paused for that welcome ritual known as “happy hour”?

As we ingest cocktails and hors d’oeuvres, our eyes follow the raging brown waters as we hear about the submersion of over one third of Pakistan, overwhelmed with floods.  Yes, as we sit there, a part of us considers what it would be like to stand in a landscape where everything is lost to muddy water.  How long would we last?

After a thorough segment on Pakistani suffering, the news shifts to Sudan, the African nation whose people have lost their crops to “climate whiplash,” in this case a combination of floods followed by droughts.  The crops they have planted are dying for want of water, whereas immense tracts of normally arable land are useless, a dead loss, because they are still submerged or saturated with water from last year’s floods.  The families have no farm animals or machinery to begin with, and, over the past year or so, they have had to watch their crops rot, to ration out what little remaining food they have to their hungry children.

A representative of Unicef is interviewed, who pleads on behalf of the suffering children of Pakistan.  The nation’s minister of climate change, a beautiful knowledgable woman, tells us that the cost of climate remediation is staggering.  Also that Pakistani sorrows proceed directly from the modern customs that people in our part of the world invented, built up, and at this point are hopelessly addicted to.

Every day at home and abroad, Americans witness and experience similar catastrophes.  Many of us accept the drastic shift that the developed world must undertake and reorganize around if our habitat, our families and societies are to survive.  Like so much else we have experienced since 2020, the accelerating pace of lethal natural disasters seems unreal.  Circumstances demand that all humanity pivot, and in short order contrive a more modest and sustainable relation to nature.

Yet, now, in the eleventh hour, it is easier to continue on in our habits than to grapple with a radical resolution, to acknowledge our inescapable dependence on Earth, and to stop engaging in all that we know is degrading the planet and intensifying the suffering multiplying everywhere around.

Covid 2.0

Editor’s note: This previously unpublished post is seeing the light of day today, 3 Dec 2021, as the Omicron variant has begun to sicken Americans, sending the covid epidemic into a third distinct phase.  The basic distinction made here, in the divergent risks the virus poses to the vaccinated and unvaccinated, remains as salient today as in September, when this piece was composed.

Instead of continuing to wane. the pestilence known as COVID is surging, and a nasty new phase of the pandemic lies ahead.  Since the more contagious delta variant arrived from overseas, it has moved into areas previously left untouched.  More Americans in out-of-the-way places are getting sick.  Delta is spreading over the South and other “red” regions where a fatalistic or defiant attitude toward preventive measures reigns.

At the same time, delta confounds the simple narrative of “victory through vaccination” that federal officials and the scientific community have been telling.  Two starkly different fates await the vaccinated and unvaccinated, but, unfortunately, even vaccinated people are still contracting and transmitting the disease. Continue reading