Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Red in the morning

Today started with a red sun, burning against a pale grey sky.

At first, I thought it must be a trick of the light. I opened my back door and stepped out onto the deck to get a closer look. It’s odd, that I was so surprised by seeing the sun as a ball of flame. I mean: that’s what it is. But normally, that’s not how it appears.

On the train platform, I looked around. I couldn’t believe that no one else seemed to notice, or find it odd. A little boy skipped by. He had tousled curls and a Bob the Builder backpack, and he stayed one step behind his immaculately suited father.

‘Daddy,’ he said, tugging at his sleeve. ‘Why is the moon in the sky? It’s daytime!’
‘It’s not the moon,’ said his dad. ‘It’s the sun.’
And he quickened his step, forcing the boy to skip faster.

That’s when I noticed: everyone was deliberately avoiding the ominous red sun. I looked again at my fellow commuters, and saw the woman closest to me glance at it, then return her gaze to her feet.

My eyes began to sting. I realised that I was staring directly at the sun, and remembered it wasn’t a good idea.

I remember an old folk rhyme: Red in the morning, shepherd’s warning. What exactly is it that we’re being warned about?

I’m afraid that it’s not just one hot summer, or the worst fire season on record. And I’m well aware that what we’re seeing in Melbourne is nothing compared to what’s happening in the bush.

My feeling is something akin to when I woke up in the middle of the night to find my flatmate transfixed by a crappy disaster movie about terrorists flying into the World Trade Centre. Or so I thought.

The world is changing.

And the natural world is a far more formidable enemy than Osama bin Laden or al Qaeda. Or rather: we are our worst enemy. A cliché, but true.

I don’t know if we have the courage to do what is necessary to stop this. I don’t know if we’re unselfish enough.

It seems to be far harder to make the decision to go without than to send troops and bombs to obliterate far away countries.

By the time that we accept that we need to drastically change our lifestyles it will very probably be too late.

It’s probably too late already.

I have a seven-year-old boy who I love more than I ever thought I could love anything or anyone. And I’m worried that he will not have the life I’ve had. I can’t bear to think or write anything more drastic than that. I just tried, and I literally can’t. A mental barricade goes up.

It’s much easier to be cynical about my own life than my child’s.

I don’t know what to realistically hope for anymore.

As I rode my bike to the train station this morning, towards the burning sun, I couldn’t help but think: What if this is the last year that we live the way we do now?

Will this be the time we look back on as a turning point, the moment when the world changed?

Maybe that could come true in a positive way. Maybe this could be the year that we collectively wake up?


MikeFitz said...

Thanks for this Ariel. You've inspired my own post.

February's bushfires in December, with the promise of worse to come. Change is happening; some of it may be natural but the majority is caused my unsustainable development. The first change we need to make is in our hearts.

Galaxy said...

I saw that sun on the news. It reminded me of the one over Brisbane once, after there had been a volcano eruption, in the Phillipines, I think. It's eerie and, yes, portentous.

Kate said...

I heard a story on the news last night about how by 2040 there probably won't be any ice in the Arctic come summer. No ice. It will ice up over winter, but essentially the northern polar ice cap will be a seasonal thing. That's huge, and terrifying.

We do have to change the way we live, and it needs to be done now, and no-one seems to have the will to do it.

Ariel said...

Mike - like I said on your post, thank YOU.

Galaxy - I'm glad I'm not the only one who finds it eerie and portentous.

Kate - God that's terrifying. I was in such a poor state of mind last night that I had to avoid all environmental news. I guiltily skipped an ominous headline on Crikey, something like 'The State of Our Planet'. Even though I know that's a bad and irresponsible reaction. (It was just temporary!)

I've decided to try to take my hope from the small things - like the Greens getting the balance of power in the Vic Senate today.

meva said...

It is a frightening time, and not just for Victoria and Tasmania. If the icecaps melt, then entire countries will get wiped out.

But our little world has come through disasters before. I wonder what species will survive the current impending changes. It would be better for the planet if we don't. We are like selfish, voracious locusts, really.

Audrey said...

It reminds me of the scene in The Magician's Nephew when the Professor as a boy first finds Jadis in her dying world. There's a particularly vivid description of a huge red sun, burning to its last embers in the final breaths of thy dying world.

I'm frightened by our future. I think we can safely say that our children won't have the lives we had. But hopefully a small percentage of us will last long enough to begin again with a better respect for the planet.

I'm just on the last book of Scott Westerfeld's Uglies/Pretties/Specials trilogy. It's for Young Adults, so it's sort of teen, but it's a pretty scary/cool/frightening/hopeful vision of the future. I highly recommend it if have a couple of days free to read them all.

redcap said...

Now that I'm out of Blogger pergatory (O frabjous day!), I can comment again. Hurrah!

Climate change makes me think of the beginning of a disaster movie where they take a little time to introduce the people who are going to die or be heroic and set the scene with some TV news items that would seem innocuous if you didn't know you were watching a film called, "It was such a lovely day until that volcano we thought was dormant went off and burned everyone to death".

And do I detect a hint of the influence of The Road, Ariel?

Ariel said...

Meva - you're probably right that it's better for the planet if we don't, but I can't be that altruistic. I want us to survive.

Audrey - thanks for the observations - and the reading tip.

RC- I can see the movie now. It's terrifying when life starts to resemble a Hollywood disaster movie. And yes, you're right on the money, there. Children of Men, too.

TimT said...

The bushfires are a worry, but I think we have lots of causes to be optimistic about the future. Humans are flexible, smart, and adaptable; I think we can continue making a better world for our kids.

I feel I should mention that this post has caused me to write one of my own - a set of reflections on what people think and feel and say about climate change:

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