Monday, June 12, 2023

The Day the Sun Disappeared

I had that terrible "my best friend just died" type feeling this morning -- just a powerful feeling but puzzling because it had NO basis in reality. I wandered from room to room and tried to think why I felt so dismal Molly happened to call and I shared my confusion and dolor. She said she was miserable, too, and that Doug, her partner, said it was because of the forest fires in Canada and the smoke that blotted out the sun for us last week.  Here's how the NY Times depicted it:

It was the opaque orange that was so terrifying. I talked to Molly at the time and we commiserated about how scary it was. But thinking about that moment as the source of my despair, I can see why I feel such terrible mourning: I really liked our climate -- no, I LOVED our climate -- and this slap in the face that it's gone is both a terrible loss and a harbinger of even worse to come. Who knows what? I don't know. 

I used to say to students wanting to plan their careers, "How can you plan decades out? Do you know what will happen with the weather?"

Even then we knew something would happen. But I'm here to say that having a suspicion and not being able to see across the street are two completely different things. But what makes me feel so terrible is that I don't know what to do. I read in the paper that Greta Thunberg has finished school, so no more school strikes. Yikes. Not that I went on school strike, but it was something. 

I am often reminded that I am powerless, but watching the sky darken took that to a whole new level. 

If I'm any indication of the human response to looming terribleness over which I am powerless, we are in for not just erratic weather, but also erratic emotions. That a third of the nation is clinging to the belief this is not happening is going to make matters -- they will push for autocratic strongmen who say that they will be able to manage this. [snort]

What the strongmen will manage is their profits and our freedom. 

I heard a remarkable sermon yesterday by Reverend Darrell Berger, who was the minister for our Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Orange and came back as guest lecturer, you might say. He wanted us to know that UUs don't sit on the sidelines at critical moments. During the Civil War, for example, they were leaders of the Abolitionist Movement and joined the fighting for the Union. He gave the example of Robert Gould Shaw, a white Unitarian who led the first all-black regiment in the Civil War, the Massachusetts 54th. They were in the second battle of Fort Wagner, and took massive casualties. Colonel Shaw was one of many who died in that fight. The bravery shown by the regiment inspired the nation -- in its aftermath, a hundred thousand black men enlisted in the Union Army. 

Saturday night we made the most desperate charge of the war on Fort Wagner, losing in killed, wounded and missing in the assault, three hundred of our men. The splendid 54th is cut to pieces…. If I have another opportunity tonight, I will write more fully. Goodbye to all. If I die tonight, I will not die a coward.
The battle for our climate is heating up -- sorry for the pun! -- and leaders will offer us new ways to join. In the meantime, remind your network to wear masks when the air quality takes a nose dive. Doug said that being of service by distributing masks helped him feel better that terrible day. There is always something we can do and this is a lesson that will come in handy as the best friend of homo sapiens, the climate in which our species evolved and thrived, pushes upheaval and change we can't even imagine. 

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