Postcard from Sidney
My post on Greta and Growth has become a meandering epic. “Growth” denominates and drives the whole theater of absurdities that is the Status Quo. I have been reading all over the place and got a bit lost. But let’s re-start. In Sydney. Now :
“2019 wasn’t just protests and Fleabag: it was the year a climate truth bomb dropped” writes Brigid Delaney in The Guardian
“When I think about 2019, there is one scene that springs to mind, something that sums up the milieu so perfectly that it almost seems art-directed.
There we were two weeks ago at Rose Bay on the water’s edge, waiting for a private boat to take us to a harbourside mansion for a wine tasting. It was one of those days when Sydney’s air quality was among the worst in the world. The boat emerged from the pea soup gloom with the words “VIP” on the side.
We were all in our party dresses and chunky trainers, phones fully charged to maximise the Instagrammable location, only coughing a little bit although peoples’ eyes were red and I noticed some fellow guests pulling on Ventolin inhalers. …
Later there was a wine tasting where we gathered around to swirl and spit. Every varietal had notes of bushfire. Various people wandered up to us and said “great day for it!” and “beautiful weather” without irony. How could they say that? The sun was (there was only one word for it) demonic, a burning red eye in a thick smoky sky. The Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Opera House were out there … somewhere, obscured in a brown haze. We stood near the pool, eating tiny food, drinking wine from large balloon glasses while ash flew from the sky, some of it landing in my drink. …
Returning to shore in the haze, we could have been excused for thinking we were crossing the Styx – the mystical Greek crossing into the Underworld – and in this heightened state the day seemed more than the sum of its parts. Instead it served as both an elegy for the lost world that had disappeared beyond the haze and a portent of the world to come.
That is what 2019 has come to mean to me: not the landslide elections and the global protests and Fleabag season 2. But the year some undeniable bomb dropped and dispersed its truth all around us in the form of dark particles in the air that didn’t just sit around us – but entered our bodies in unholy communion, its fine matter an anti-sustenance that made us sick and afraid.
The truth bomb came in various forms: in the form of a girl (Greta Thunberg) whose eloquent rage finally caught the world’s attention and inspired millions around the globe to strike for climate action. The truth also came in the form of heat, smoke and fire.
Even then, some people tried to ignore it.
Ernest Hemingway had this famous line from his 1929 book The Sun Also Rises, which speaks to me of where things washed up in 2019: “How did you go bankrupt?” Bill asked. “Two ways,” Mike said. “Gradually, then suddenly.”
2019 is the year of suddenly. Many of us were shaken awake from our cognitive dissonance this year as our weather patterns and climate conditions become ever more extreme. When wine turns to ash in your mouth, you can’t deny the new reality anymore.
Yet some still live in a land of cognitive dissonance: the lump of coal brought to parliament; the haze over the city obscuring the flashing Christmas lights; dead bats falling from the sky because their sophisticated and highly evolved sonar systems are overheating and confused; beekeepers being traumatised and needing counselling after hearing the sounds of animals screaming as they burn to death; new types of megafires devouring entire ecosystems; the NSW premier opening a new zoo during these megafires with a commitment to “protecting wildlife”; and the prime minister disappearing without a word about the climate catastrophe – last seen boarding a business-class Jetstar flight bound for Hawaii; the Instagrammers posing on the jetty under the eye of Sauron, hoping that with the right filters, we can pretend the sky is blue.
… “It’s no wonder the hot illegal drug of 2019 – ketamine – is an anaesthetic, numbing your body and making you feel separate from your environment.
People disappear, aptly, into the k-hole, the chemical equivalent of our political situation. “Like you’re watching your own life happen instead of living it,” said New York magazine, calling it “the party drug for the end of the world”.
But 2019 was in many ways, for many of us, Year Zero. It was the year many of us stopped disassociating, woke up and realised the party is over.”
to be continued
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