Kel Munger
Teacher, Journalist
California, United States

Oh, that's terrible!

“When the ice caps and glaciers started melting, we said, “Oh, that’s terrible!” and looked away. ”

To the dear ones I will never meet:

I once saw a relative get into a car—yes, a personal automobile, and at that time, we had more personal automobiles in the driveway and garage than there were licensed drivers in our home—to drive the block and a half to the A&W and bring back a container of soft-serve ice cream.

A&W was a chain of restaurants noted for being configured so that it was possible to drive a personal automobile up, park, and be served while sitting in your car. And soft-serve ice cream was a treat made from milk, sugar and chemicals, all frozen to a delightful slush.

But because we wouldn’t get out of our cars, not even to go a few blocks; because our freedom to have carbon-sucking and CO2-producing automobiles with cup holders and satellite radio and air conditioning was crucial to our well-being; because the need to have privacy to curse at nearby drivers as we drove on terribly expensive freeways was paramount—well, you know what happened.

At least, those of you who survive know.

Instead, even while we sent people (on airplanes, no less) to Paris to discuss and negotiate huge changes in our behavior (changes that might have saved things like ice cream treats and, well, ice, at least in the places we expected to find ice), we couldn’t be inconvenienced.

When the ice caps and glaciers started melting, we said, “Oh, that’s terrible!” and looked away. When scientists told us that continuing to extract fossil fuels would cause earthquakes, loss of groundwater, air pollution and climate change, we said, “Oh, that’s terrible!” and looked away. When droughts and storms and wildfires were worsened by the heating planet, we said, “Oh, that’s terrible!” and donated a little money to help the victims, and looked away.

We had a lot of practice at looking away.

Of course, my dear ones, while we were looking away, everything changed. I wonder sometimes if, as the asteroid that destroyed them was bearing down, the saurian citizens of the Cretaceous looked away?

It wouldn’t have done them any good, even if they had. You, unfortunately, know how looking away means only that you don’t see what hits your dear ones.