For the first time in almost three weeks, I can breathe. Although the sky is still the same bleached dead-bone ivory, the temperature has finally slid from the nineties to the low seventies. I’ve opened up the apartment, which has resembled an air-conditioned mausoleum all summer. Faint breezes enter through the wrenched-open windows, and the cat and I can see beyond the drapes and shades: the magnolia, in lush leaf, alive with hectoring blue jays and squirrels leaping into the rhododendron and scrabbling to my upstairs neighbors’ porch to sneak a few seeds from their bird feeders.
I hate to complain about my “First World problems.” Those of us (whose parents could afford “higher” education for us, so that we now work for a good salary) in the so-called developed world live with the irony, and the guilt, that our nations and their shitty systems created and exacerbated global climate change. But/ and we can still afford the mitigation that enables us to survive and continue working (often at jobs where we do nothing truly useful): better food, clean water, air conditioning, family swimming pools or access to institutions that have them, cars, airline flights, vacations wherever we like.
And the poor, in the United States and all over the world? Some are able to steal a few seeds here and there; many are caught and sent to prison for it. They swelter, suffer, and die in the extreme heat (hurricanes, floods, wildfires…). Until the early 1980s, when Ronald Reagan became president of the U.S. (and Margaret Thatcher the prime minister of the United Kingdom), my country’s government at least paid lip service to eradicating poverty, and for a time poured money into programs to help educate, feed, and house its citizens. But then the neoliberals moved in, and now the neo-Nazis have been unleashed.
I began my musings by saying I can finally breathe, but I’ve realized that’s a lie: it’s obvious that I’ve been holding my breath since election night 2016, and I don’t expect full respiration again for any of us on this planet. I feel bad about being so bleak, but extinction depresses me.