And yet, and yet, and yet

By | 15 May 2023

The koolbardi-magpies on noongar boodja-country are thirsty. The water coming out of the cold tap is warm. A lonely ibis prowl outside the public library, desperate for the air conditioning, or maybe company and the blessed solitude of books. This city: its harsh buildings plastered with their logos – unbearable. The children’s metal fair rides burn our skin. I feel guilty lighting Hanukkah candles in this heat, watch them studiously (just in case). I imagine the headline: “bushfire started from abandoned Hanukkah candles in third-floor apartment”.

I wonder what I’ll tell my children (and their children) what I was doing with my life as everything was unravelling. (I should speak in the present tense. Is. Are. I should be more specific: ecosystems, species, sense of self. And you may find yourself living in an age of mass extinction.)1 Maybe I’ll tell those children about the point where the day tips over. The heat subsides. We come past the lip of a wave, the trail on a steep hillside, making it down the other side.

My most hated phrase is net zero by 2050. I know this isn’t a sexy thing to put in a poem. And yet, and yet, and yet. Here we are. Net zero by 2050, floats up from some millionaire or billionaire’s imagination, unconstrained by forces of physics or basic compassion. Spoken by people wearing suits who will be dead soon, for whom 2050 is a slow afternoon acid fever dream. They can’t even imagine one generation, let alone thirty years.

Children: the myth and promise of them; As elusive as net zero, as unsure as the reality that one day 2050 will be here. Or we will be there. Caught within its temporality. Time breaks open. Atoms split. Layers of radioactive dust and petroleum and now we have projected our presence forwards and backwards simultaneously. I was not born. These scales are not possible, and yet, and yet, and yet. Here we are.

Each day I count what I can, notice what is there, consider my steps
I spend summer in transit, watching sunsets through various modes of transport windows, orienting myself towards all the homes I have ever known
I spend summer purchasing jars of tahini and peanut butter, abruptly abandoning them in share houses and hotels for others to consume
I spend summer accepting that I’ll never get the Hollywood cliché coming out that I desire
It usually goes something like this: Parent and child sit in a living room. “I’ll always love you exactly as you are.” Then, tearful hugs and kisses. Cut to next scene.

Life doesn’t happen in that way. No Hollywood-one-challenging-moment-and-that’s-it. No net-zero-and-now-it’s-all-fixed.

only each moment, filled with suffering and abundance
as everything is unravelling, we balance or fight this dichotomy

create new ones, burn them down, tend to the seeds

our weariness carrying something of our ancestors and descendants

our palms containers of sea water

our fingers lighting candles

one by one

  1. Timothy Morton, All Art is Ecological (2021)

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