Sometimes it feels hard to focus on climate change. And I don’t mean “focus” like “pay attention to”, I mean “focus” like “see clearly”: it’s like trying to see a while with your nose against its fin.
Then you read a story like Borrowed Time on Disappearing Land in last week’s New York Times, which pans from the personal to the global. Here’s a Bangladeshi woman who lost her husband and subsequently “became so destitute that she sold her son and daughter into bonded servitude…[and now] spends her days collecting cow dung for fuel and struggling to grow vegetables in soil poisoned by salt water.” Now here’s the future of Bangladesh and other lower-lying countries in a warming world: “rising sea levels will inundate some 17 percent of the land and displace about 18 million people” in Bangladesh alone.
And then I look at my son, five-years-old and cheerfully oblivious, assuming, as so many of us do, that the world he sees today will be the world he lives in when he grows up, and I want to cry.
What are we supposed to do?
Here’s one small thing:
The Office of Sustainability and Environment of the City of Seattle is offering from $500 to $10,000 to to support climate focused special events or education, outreach initiatives and projects that engage residents in reducing climate change. Applications are being accepted year-round for small projects, but there is an April 22nd deadline for the larger grant.
For more information, including application forms, see the Community Climate Projects web site for more information and application forms. The office is also seeking volunteers who wish to participate in the evaluation of the project proposals. Approximate time commitment is 10 – 20 hours between April 23 and May 7. Applications can be found on the same site.[Added 9:45 am]
Last night, Zev and I watched Episode 2 of Cosmos, the reboot of the classic Carl Sagan series hosted by Neil deGrasse Tyson. It covered evolution and, in dramatic fashion, the five great extinctions.
A great stone memorial tomb is imagined, with five halls, and above each is carved the name of one of the eras in the Earth’s history when great swathes of the world’s life were suddenly and catastrophically wiped out: Cretaceous, Triassic, Permean, Devonian, Ordovician. Beautifully and horribly rendered CGI effects imagine the destruction.
But in this memorial, there are six halls. The cold stone over the sixth is blank, waiting for engraving. Tyson gazes up at this yet unnamed tragedy with a sad foreboding: “That nameless corridor? That’s for another day.”
So this morning, after a long morning of quietly playing with My Little Pony and scotch tape, Zev paused, looked at me and asked “Daddy, what was that hall without a name? What did he mean?”
He’s bright, deeply empathic and five years old. How do I answer that?