The river of time bends in its bed just north of here, leaving the Place of Many Berries nestled in the slower currents of its inner curve. The years have been kinder there, marked more by the growth of saplings into trees than the destruction of forests for cheap housing developments and box stores like everywhere else. The kingfishers still perch on telephone wires as they search for salmon fry in the estuary’s lazy waters; the stately heron still wades in the shallows and darts out his long neck to snap up a crab. The same decaying barns still gradually sink into the waiting soil and the same weathered fences still disappear bit by bit beneath encroaching blackberry vines. The beast of greed which devours this sleepy community’s larger neighbors has yet to turn its full ugly gaze on her bountiful woodlands, has yet to covet her velvety nights and clear, crisp mornings, and I pray it never has the chance. I pray society comes to its collective senses before bulldozers break the sacred ground of these fields sprinkled with wildflowers and tadpole ponds. This land grows children quick like deer, curious like crows, and generous as apple trees in autumn. Given a little more of time’s kindness it might raise enough generations of such honorable souls to slay greed’s beast for good – or if not, may it at least remain the last bastion of peace in our rapidly crumbling world. Hold on, home of my youth. We will try to keep you safe as long as possible.
You know, I almost hope unicorns don’t exist. Dragons, too, and fairies and gryphons and harpies, the grim and the sphinx, even ol’ Nessie; all those mythical creatures so rare and beautiful. I hope they’re not real, or at least that they’re long gone by now. That sounds terrible, I know, but think about the shape our world’s in. Do you want such fantastical symbols to exist on an earth we’re running to ruin? I’m not sure I could handle that; it might just be the very last straw. Imagine unicorns treading daintily over cracked concrete with plastic bags tangled around their shining hooves! Imagine kelpies coated in oil, their organs full of microplastics and chemicals! If our trash has made its way to the very farthest depths of the oceans, even onto the moon itself, then where can these legendary creatures possibly hide to escape our touch? Sure, some of them might survive in a polluted landscape – banshees, goblins, other assorted spooks – but not many. And anyway, even a banshee deserves a nice lonely moor to haunt, not some drained and cultivated piece of land with condos sitting on top. It would just suck, is all I’m saying, if we had such magical creatures in our midst and dragged them down with us. If all those unbelievable beings do exist, I hope they can at least get the hell out of here while the getting’s good.
These days I find myself longing for Mars. Not like a Bradbury character yearning for adventure, though, but more like someone skipping to the last page of a tense book to see what happens. Why? Because Mars is dead. Mars is a barren wasteland. Mars is red soil and orange rocks and not a single living thing, not even a drop of water, and that’s oddly comforting. Earth will be like that one day at the rate we’re going, so can’t I just pack up now and move to Mars where the end’s already come and gone? It’s the waiting that’s killing me, you know, it’s the anticipation. I know one day all the green places will be buried under cement and the oceans are gonna swallow us up in their acidic, plastic-laden waters, but when? When will the last bee perish from pesticide poisoning and throw our global food production into chaos? When will the last day pass during which we could ever breathe freely without face masks? When will the last polar bear go extinct, the last Amazonian tree be bulldozed, the last national park fall to the greed of big coal and oil? When? When? I just can’t take it anymore; roll the damn credits! I’m out. But at least there’s nothing on Mars we can fuck up very much, just rocks and dirt and dust as far as the eye can see in every direction. And I won’t have any memory of trees on Mars, so the view won’t bother me so. It’s better than waiting, at least, better than having to sit on the sidelines of the whole damn apocalypse. Take us to Mars, Ray. To Mars!
Look, it really depends on what you mean by “doomed”. It’s true, after all, what lan Malcolm said: We haven’t got the power to destroy the planet – or to save it. In the planetary sense everything’s fine. Man is just the briefest blip on the geologic timescale, just a pack of fleas the earth will wipe out with a twitch. Earth will remain so long after we are gone that the mind is incapable of grasping such immensity. However, if you define “doomed” as the inevitable extinction of most major species on earth, well, that’s different. Earth may not be doomed but every beautiful, complex, unique form of life upon it is, and isn’t that what we’re really talking about? No one’s worried that we’re going to annihilate single-celled organisms – just, you know, the millions of other precious lifeforms that can’t survive a nuclear holocaust. We are the product of billions of years of evolution, yet in a few thousand we will have managed to ruin everything. So are we doomed? Are we witness to life’s final death throes? I guess it just comes down to semantics. If we are gone tomorrow, the earth will not miss us, he said. But it certainly won’t ever be the same, either.
I think I’d rather be Atlantis
or maybe Pompeii;
at least they went out in a blaze of glory
ninety-foot waves and boiling ash clouds;
at least they went out fast
Mother Nature reclaiming Her body
with a thunderous upheaval;
I think that would be better than
a slow death by pollution
climate change and vanishing bees;
I think anything would be better than
eking out existence in a desert
that used to be an ocean
and pretending this mass extinction
is just a coincidence.