“Although he would not remember it, when Lucien was born the first thing he saw as he peeked over the edge of the world was his mother’s bunghole. Well that can’t be right he thought. And he thought he might cry for the shock. Then the midwife flipped him over and the second thing he saw was the blue sky through the skylight. He thought, Oh that’s better. So he cried for the beauty and was at a total loss for words for almost a year. He wouldn’t remember the moment, but the feeling would come back to him from time to time when he encountered blue.”
Now that there above is a masterful paragraph, which is to say I am not its source. No, a Monsignor (Christopher) Moore deserves the applause for that textual bonanza, which I’ve allowed to parachute into our weather report with the understanding that I will only be adhering to copyright law if this, this text for which I put my name to and ask credit for, becomes the embodiment of a critical article.
Yesterday I watched the Kings beat the Devils in a game of hockey, which was played on ice, in June… What THE FUCK? Where was, where is the weather? Water should not be frozen in June in New Jersey. Not unless it’s been stored in a dark place, like a cellar, under layers of sawdust and hay since the previous February. I write that as a hockey fan, who believes the conclusion of Ms. Bohnhorst’s “Merciful Evening Light” is on point: “people must… just keep. Fucking. Going.”
If people are to do that, then they need a place, or places, to go, and ice in June isn’t preserving or creating places, it’s terminating them. And I write that as a hockey fan who fears getting splattered when the defecation hits the oscillation.
Now in our civilization the weather is seen as a neutral topic, which makes it a seemingly safe place from which to start a conversation with a stranger. That’s skewed. The weather is seen as neutral because it is thought that we have no effect upon it. But we do. It can be obviously direct, such as cloud seeding, a freaky technology developed in part by Kurt Vonnegut’s brother that prompts precipitation, or less so, such as fossil fuel combustion, perhaps burned to produce electricity to power the cooling systems of an ice arena in June, releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
Imagine a pot of water, metaphorical earth, over a low flame, metaphorical sun. Now imagine layering low gauge wire, metaphorical carbon dioxide, over the top of the pot. For quite a while the space, the place, the habitat above the water’s surface wouldn’t be dramatically altered by the reduced porosity. But eventually it would and the convection within the pot would increase, making the space, the place, the habitat more turbulent and less pleasant, less predictable.
I saw a t-shirt once on a man that read, “Reduce your carbon footprint! Kill yourself, hippie!” That irony displays a basic misconception about decreasing emissions: macro change is realized by accumulative micro change, e.g., be the change you want to see in the world. Wrong.
Take that thin gauge wire you already imagined and multiply its circumference by 8.5. Now you have a rough but illustrative parallel between the U.S. civilian carbon contribution in a year and the U.S. Military’s carbon contribution in a year.
It’s been argued and will be again that that expenditure is in the interest of national, global, defense. Perhaps at one point in time, say, oh, 1943, that position would have been tenable. But now is not 1943, now is 2012 and we are less safe than ever and any investment not leading directly to reducing dependency on fossil fuels is only increasing the degree of danger. Which leads nicely to another outrage: we are subsidizing the continued production of fossil fuel as some of us believe it to be closely tied to the well-being, the perpetual production, and the expansion of our economy. Fools! There can be no economy without the prefix eco, which is as definite as the river I’m watching drain Teton Valley, Idaho, and that’s where the perpetuation of this economy is bringing us, which as disastrous as the Colorado River I’m reading about running dry well before reaching the sea.
This screed, critical, necessary as it is, is getting bloated and I’ve other affairs to attend to but I hope I’ve convinced you that the weather isn’t neutral. It’ll kill us if we let it, if we make it. So talk about it, examine it, prod it—hell, criticize it—but do not trivialize it. And I hope if like baby Lucien when you wake up and look at something surprisingly similar to an arsehole—Gary, Indiana; Sacramento, California; Newark, New Jersey—you will roll over and look at the sky and see how truly blue the world can be.
Peter Nichols is a poet, rock climber, and vagabond originally from Toledo, Ohio.