In June 2012, Amazon picked The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker as one of the month’s best reads. A combination coming-of-age story and apocalyptic page turner, the novel focused on how people would react to a changed world, where “the Earth’s rotation slows, gradually stretching out days and nights and subtly affecting the planet’s gravity. ”
The book outlines how a young girl, along with her family and friends, cope with this adjustment, as the planet wobbles off to it’s slow demise. Meanwhile, the best laid plans and schemes from governments fail to make much difference in how the Earth’s denizens cope with the disaster.
And that’s kind of where we’re at these days, isn’t it? We’re in a vague malaise, unable to confidently say what the weather will be like today or tomorrow, while hapless governments, even if they agree that there is a problem, struggle to find bandaid solutions to the earths’ sores that have been left to fester for too long.
Except this guy .. this guy thinks he knows better than anyone on the planet, be they incredibly educated scientists or those who have spent their lives dedicated to studying the effect of climate change on people. This guy is an asshat.
It must really be pointed out how completely insanely and selfishly Trump and his band of reverse Robin Hood Merry Men are behaving. They’re hooting and hollering like ignorant hillbillies as they seal the environmental fate of those fools who voted for them to make life altering decisions, in the name of ‘economic change.’ These corporate raiders of the environment are convinced that money and power will save them from dying from a lack of clean air and water. But just them. The rest of us? Dream on. We’re all going down with this ship.
Remember when the first rumblings about a change in the planet’s clime began to hit the middle class consciousness? Those who could see the bigger picture were worried about how even a slight shift in warming could damage our environment, the least of our worries being an increase in natural disasters, as melting polar ice caps brought about flooding, and extreme weather swings were tempered with more frequent and deadlier droughts.
Others smiled at the thought of palm trees growing down the main streets of large northern cities. With a thorough lack of understanding of the fragility and interweaving of climate and landmass, some hoped this warming would bring about new tropical beaches in heretofore frigid areas. These foolish humans thought they could somehow control where and when climate change would happen, and bend it to their wishes.
All of their fantasies depended upon where they were located, and hinged upon a lack of empathy for those who would see the opposite of these desires. In order to have the tropics brought to your front yard, many countries would have to be completely displaced or disappear from their current sites. In order to have Floridian temperatures in Boston, New York or Toronto, you first have to lose Florida.
But, of course, they were attempting to take a world problem, and make it into a personal triumph. Still, Man proposes, god and the environment disposes. You’ve only to look locally, to the disastrous flooding on the Toronto Islands and the economic battering Toronto is taking on this matter alone, to see that we have no control whatsoever when Mother Nature gets pissed off. Instead of a tropical beach, you have land masses swept away, along with coastal areas being eroded, possibly never to be returned in our lifetimes.
I wonder what Trump will think when his precious Mar-a-Lago is swallowed up by the sea? It will happen, and I can only hope it will happen sooner than predicted. Right about now works for me.
And when I think about those who continue to claim that our actions are too miniscule to have any sort of immediate impact upon the planet, I’m struck dumb by the hubris, and the inability of some to look at the damage we all regularly inflict upon the planet, and not see how integral each and every living creature’s actions are to maintaining this delicate balance. Where once we knew, instinctively and intuitively, that the lowliest butterfly snatched from our timeline could have an impact upon the food chain, we now struggle to throw off responsibility for the most damaging of indignities and raping of natural resources ever seen in human history.
But don’t we love to talk about the weather! Talking about it, singing about it, trying to forecast what might be on the horizon, and molding our protective coatings around what we hold precious … this is what we have always done, since caveman days. Through the centuries we learned more about how the planet moved through it’s cycles, and how the sun and moon determined how best we could use the land and waters around us.
We learned to measure how precipitation complicated the times when seeds could be planted, in order to feed our populations. We began to understand that chemicals, seeded into the lifeblood of the planet, the very earth and air, could and would damage the reproductive cycles of all living creatures. We learned how to forecast what the weather might be in coming days, and when we would need to protect our bodies with clothing that would keep us warm, or sunscreen that would fend off the increasingly irradiating rays of the sun, which were no longer impeded by the thick coating of ozone we had taken for granted.
All of these things we learned over time, through observation of the repetition of the seasons, we now blithely toss aside in favour of commercializing and exploitation of resources, an exploitation that seems less inclined to profit humanity, but certainly enriches corporations with no concern for the actual ‘owners’ of the lands they rape.
We looked to the seasons as metaphor for our lives. The cycles of the seasons echoed the natural order of life. Spring reflected our callow youth, and Summer mirrored the fullness of being an adult. We understood that the fall indicated a slowing of days, and winter … dark, cold, unforgiving winter … symbolized a time of aging, and eventual death. The days have the same length, but there are fewer of them.
When the natural order of the seasons is displaced, when you can no longer count on April showers bringing May flowers, our human minds have difficulty grasping that which we’ve always taken for granted – the flow of time reflected in our environment.
The impact of climate change doesn’t end with the physical damage that’s being inflicted on the world. Now, those who study our psyches are beginning to see a change in how humans respond emotionally to the trauma and shock of weather events. Even if we try to avoid focusing on the earthquakes, tsunamis, droughts, floods and landslides which now occur more frequently, our minds are aware of these catastrophes, and our ability to absorb these disasters is lessened. Our empathy is impacted, leading to a rationalization of isolation, and of a need to protect what we have from those displaced by events beyond their control.
We are, in effect, living in a state of post traumatic stress and shock. Some might feel a low grade sense of depression and anxiety, while others, perhaps more sensitive to this imbalance, may have behavioural issues, ranging from substance abuse, to interpersonal and job-related difficulties. Other symptoms can include a heightening of violence and aggression towards others. It is no accident that the rate of suicide has risen in the last decade, as some decide that there’s simply no reason to carry on, in a world so out of balance.
Climate change on our planet will eventually impact every one of us, wherever we live. In recent studies (Bryant et al., 2014,) (Simpson et al., 2011,) it was noted that,
“ Changes in climate affect agriculture, infrastructure and liveability, which in turn affect occupations and quality of life and can force people to migrate. These effects may lead to loss of personal and professional identity, loss of social support structures, loss of a sense of control and autonomy and other mental health impacts such as feelings of helplessness, fear and fatalism.
Extreme temperatures in their own right have a unique influence on behavior and wellbeing. As research by Craig Anderson (2001) and Simister & Cooper (2005) has shown, aggression increases as temperatures rise. Thus as summers get hotter, so might our tempers — likely due, the researchers explain, “to the impacts of heat on arousal, which results in decreases in attention and self-regulation, as well as an increase in the availability of negative and hostile thoughts.” Heat can also impact our ability to think clearly, they add, “which may reduce the ability to resolve a conflict without violence (Pilcher, Nadler, & Busch, 2002).” Higher temperatures have also been found in other research to increase the risk of suicide (Lee et al., 2006).
Add to this mounting fear and anxiety derived from watching the world around us change in irreversible ways — coupled with the helplessness of feeling as if we cannot stop or reverse global warming— and you have another effect of climate change on mental health:
“Watching the slow and seemingly irrevocable impacts of climate change unfold, and worrying about the future for oneself, children, and later generations, may be an additional source of stress (Searle & Gow, 2010),” the authors write. “Albrecht (2011) and others have termed this anxiety ecoanxiety. Qualitative research provides evidence that some people are deeply affected by feelings of loss, helplessness, and frustration due to their inability to feel like they are making a difference in stopping climate change (Moser, 2013).”
While it may be expedient and profitable for climate change deniers to continue on the path to ecological destruction, those who deny what is happening to their own psyches are impeding any kind of healing for the rest of us. Seasons change, and we must change with them. But more gently.