Are You Ready for the Present?

For the last few years, I’ve been introducing my classes on climate change with a line like, “You know how you’ve spent your whole lives hearing that climate change is really going to be a problem for our children, and so we should really do something about it?  Well, it’s been 20 years.  You ARE those children, and this is the world that everyone was worried about.”  Poor students take a few weeks to adjust to that new reality!

I’ve spent a few days weirded out by my own adjustment to the new reality this week.  Since the middle of 2014, I’ve been waiting for the repeat of 2008/9; not with any specific deadline in mind, just knowing that the economy was going to crash again before the “recovery” was complete.  Sure enough, in the second half of 2014, oil prices started dropping.  Then the Albertan, Canadian and other oil economies started to feel the pain.  How long would it take before the stock market collapsed and the recession began?  As long as the powers that be can keep it going, apparently (not a coordinated conspiracy, just that the 1% that benefits so much from keeping the ship afloat that it keeps the money circulating as long as possible).

So the world economy is teetering on the edge, and the edge gets closer every day.  Greece is bankrupt and headed to default, Puerto Rico is bankrupt, China’s bubble is bursting.

In the meantime, we’re in the hottest year ever, both globally and locally here on the West Coast.  In my area, we’ve had the driest spring on record, leading into the warmest May and June on record.  July and August are normally hot, drought months, and in recent years that’s been true for September and often October as well.  We’re irrigating our lush, vibrant veggies and fruit, strategically watering the rest where we want to keep something alive, and letting some things die.  We had a terrible broody hen hatch, with only one surviving chick, which I’m blaming on the heat.  All the heat and dry ground is bringing constant fires.  On the news, our provincial fire service reported that they expect 30 new fires to start each day…indefinitely.

Our land is literally burning up.  The skies are a strange, surreal shade of rosy grey; our air quality as bad as Beijing.  At least the smoke is keeping the temperature down a little, though!  And living by the water, we’re starting to get enough wind to have the grey skies turn slightly toward blue from their creepy red…

Adaptation’s a bitch.  Preparing for the future is one thing.  Experiencing the reality is something else all together.  There’s this attitude among doomers and preppers (I try not to count myself among these, although the line blurs sometimes) that we just have to get our food storage ready, make our gardens productive, stock up on gas and propane, and we’ll be an island of calm in the middle of everyone else’s chaos.  It’s the Rapture fantasy, you know–we’ll be rescued by God because of our virtue while everyone else burns in hell.  But it doesn’t really work that way, of course.

Psychologically, it’s a very strange feeling to watch a slow, global collapse while also going about your daily life as normal.  Chop wood, carry water while the world crumbles around you.  I don’t live in Greece…yet.  The economic crises are at a distance, until the construction work dries up around here for the Skipper, which I expect to happen over the next year.  And even through 2009, he managed to keep working, more or less steadily, so that could still happen again.  My job is secure until we become like Greece, which I don’t expect to be in the short term.  We continue to make plans to reduce our housing costs and increase our security of access to land.

The ecological collapse is another story.  I feel a bit queasy already about buying and eating fish this year; in theory we’re getting ready for our bulk Sockeye purchase.  But the rivers are so low, the oceans so warm…our stocks aren’t going to hold up much longer, and it feels wrong to fish them now.  We’ll have enough water to get through our veggie growing season (I hope), but then it’s all about how much rain we get this winter.  And all the ash in the air?  It’s ok for the soil–maybe even good for the soil.  Not good for anyone’s respiratory systems (including the animals).  All food prices will be going up, and even the local supply is more vulnerable.

I’m doing my best to be stoic, to be Zen, to be flexible, and I try to remind myself of my MANY blessings each day.  But living through interesting times is a very strange feeling.  Nothing seems reliable or predictable, there’s a disconnect between what’s going on in the wider world and what’s going on in my local community.  Everything seems a mix of joy and fear.  I’m nervous.  And aware that there’s only so much adapting and preparing that’s possible; that one day it might well be me that’s joining the line of refugees leaving a home that’s no longer inhabitable.