© Jack Waro
Jack Waro scribbles things about ecology and art at https://jackwaro.substack.com/.
A pair of aging protestors and I stand beneath the Official Halls of Power. We talk doom and gloom. Chatting about the weather with two old ladies.
“It’s different,” says one. She’s been protesting since the 1970s. “In the past it was wet, and now… well… it’s different.”
The weather is still wet. But I get what she means.
“If you keep bees, you can tell,” says the other. She fought the Red Squad during the Springbok tour. “All the bees are dead now. Nothing’s left anymore.”
I saw wild bees the other day. But I get what she means.
Our protest banners wave in the breeze. Shoppers walk past, paying us no mind. Some children join us for a while. “We’re protesting!” they shout. “Save our future!” I’m not sure they know what they mean. Yet. They soon leave for another game. Passing cars praise our virtue.
Each one is a combustion engine. Carbon Dioxide to last a thousand years. They infuriate me. But I get what they mean. What else can we do? Someone pulls the fingers at us, shouts garbled slurs out their car window. The two old protesters laugh. I haven’t seen what they’ve seen. But I get what they mean.
At noon, one of the city councilors comes out and joins us for lunch. A leader of our city. “They should do something,” he says. “Someone really should do something.”
I’m horrified. But I know what he means.
I get out of the shower. Gas powered. Carbon Dioxide to last a thousand years. This place is a rental. Not my choice. I love the feel of hot water on my skin.
Lightning thunders outside. We never used to get so much lightning here. Maybe. I haven’t lived here forever. The Earth has cycles longer than human lives. How would I know? I don’t know. I don’t have the data. The air is humid, reminds me of up north. That subtropical feel. Too far south. I love the sound of thunder. Makes me feel alive.
The rain hammers down on the roof. Too hard for this place. Too far south. Maybe.
Our land is a changeable land. Thin as a stick between the oceans, Te Moana-nui-a-Kiwa, water enough to fill half the world. The weather comes and goes. Flood season is whenever you’re not expecting it. Then it goes. Then it comes. Now it’s coming. And coming. And coming. Harder. Higher.
This is normal.
Just El Niño, or La Niña, or whatever.
The tree is a Laurelia novae-zelandiae, a pukatea, and I’m wasting time worrying if it’s shrinking. Pukatea is a swamp tree. Big buttress roots. This one might be three centuries older than me.
The landscape is a parched dusty brown. Drought. The rain can’t make it over the ranges. The pasture’s half dead. Sheep got into the forest. I measure the tree’s circumference a second time. I check the field notes. This tree is shrinking. That or someone screwed up their measurements ten years ago. Much more likely. I measure the tree a third time. We might be confusing water loss for carbon change.
Because this tree is dying.
But trees don’t shrink.
The scientist shrugs his shoulders. He’s been doing this work for thirty years. I’m being paranoid. This doesn’t matter. Move on.
Gather the data. Figure it out later. We’ll figure this out later. It’s just a trivial detail, an error of observation, nothing much. Not my problem. Someone else will do something. One day. All this. All this. Everything I see: a mere accumulation of so much observational dust.