Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Day of the Ice Heave (or: the Earth Strikes Back)

This is raw footage, shot in portrait rather than landscape (which I thought went out of style 5 or 10 years ago), but I include it in its entirety because it is way more dramatic than anything that was shown on the news.

This is an ice heave, a bizarre weather phenomenon in which an ice sheet on a lake is bulldozed by winds with such force that it becomes alive. It moves with frightening speed, making a deafening sound like a shattering chandelier, with an even more bizarre "sh-sh-sh-sh-sh" sound that reminds me of the locust-like cameras flashing in The Right Stuff. This is a glacier forming not in thousands of years but in a couple of hours, and comparably moving at light speed.

This video goes on pretty long and includes some confused, shrill commentary, but I still like it better than the snippets shown on the news. It's more immediate and captures the confused reactions of people who do not know what the hell is going on (including the woman who keeps yelling at her kid, "Keep away from that!"). The tinkly fingers of the edge of the eerily accelerated glacier sneak forward like spider's legs, and the ice sheet moves with so much relentless force that it shatters windows and pushes in walls.

Nature is striking back. There is no doubt about it now. We've become completely accustomed to stories about wildfire, flood, insane amounts of snow and parching drought: what is happening to the weather now? We all walk around with question marks hanging over our stupid heads, when we bloody well know the answer.

What we've done, all that we've done through industrial pollution, millions upon millions of cars, and other forms of casual rape, is to destroy the world's millenia-long balance of climate permanently. Whatever we do now is too little, too late. We have barely begun to awaken to a nightmare which can't and won't go away: we can't fix it now and still refuse to take responsibility for it. 

This will only escalate, and soon: the ice caps are melting at an alarming rate, species are going extinct, and green space is being ruthlessly ripped out to build soulless condos not suitable for a robot to inhabit, let alone human beings. Nowhere is that better illustrated than around here, where the horror of narrow, ugly attached "homes" assaults the eyes. With unusual candour, these have been named "saltbox" homes, but to me they look more like crackerboxes made of particle-board, cement and wire. These "homes" have no yard, front or back, and only the odd sickly sapling bolstered on both sides with sticks. I can only imagine how a family would ricochet off those narrow, cramped walls. A bed would take up the entire room.

What does it mean? Can you guess?

We've run out of space.

How have we come to live like this?  Rip out the green space, pile all our discards into the landfill and forget about it, and I won't even get into the massive, ever-growing, floating horror called the Great Pacific Ocean Garbage Patch (and I have news: they've found another one in the Atlantic) made of discarded computers and other throw-away plastic debris. We look at these things, think "too bad", then quickly push the delete button in our minds and carry on. 

My husband is a scientist, and he refuses to see that any of this is related to climate change or global warming. He just says "everything goes in cycles", meaning that very soon, perhaps next year, everything will return to calm, pastoral beauty with gentle rains and benevolent sun.

Don't count on it. It's not going to happen any time soon. Or ever.