I step outside into a shroud of stupefying air. Still chilled from the air conditioning, the hot air feels good to me, like when I open a hot oven on a winter’s day. I breathe it in. It tastes like a movie of my life, a feeling so basic and all-powerful, some might call it god. If this is my last breath, I happily surrender.
I imagine this is what it feels like to freeze to death. You stop fighting to keep your insides at 98.6. You peacefully give in to the elements and become one with the world outside your body. You are reclaimed.
I poke around in the yard until self-preservation kicks in and the heat shepherds me inside. Back at my desk, I see that Amy Armantrout has shared an article about global warming on Facebook. She’s looking for feedback, so I dive into “The Uninhabitable Earth” by David Wallace-Wells from the July 10, 2017, issue of New York Magazine.
I’m surprised at what I learn. Apparently, there are ancient diseases trapped in Arctic ice, “an abridged history of devastating human sickness, left out like egg salad in the Arctic sun.” As the planet heats up, we’re only a few degrees away from another round of Bubonic Plague.
Meanwhile, right here in real time, the air is becoming increasingly more toxic. I learn that our cognitive abilities are negatively affected by high carbon dioxide-to-oxygen ratios. And that carbon dioxide just reached 400 parts per million and is estimated to reach “1,000 ppm by 2100,” Wallace-Wells writes, “At that concentration, compared to the air we breathe now, human cognitive ability declines by 21 percent.” Maybe that explains why we’re not all worked up over what’s coming down the pike. “Surely this blindness will not last,” the author pleads with his readers.
Perhaps it’s for best, this dumbing down. Natural selection may solve the problem the way Kurt Vonnegut Jr. proposed in his novel, “Galapagos.” In that story, the isolated human survivors of a world-wide disease outbreak evolved into furry, sea lion-like creatures without a care in the world. Turned out our big brains were the biggest threat to humanity ever invented.
I think back to my surrender on the back porch moments ago. I was as comfortable as a frog in a pot of water brought slowly to boil. As Daniel Quinn observed in “Ishmael,” put a frog into a pot of boiling water and it will hop out. But, put a frog in a pot of cool water and bring it slowly to a boil, and a frog will sit there and turn into stew. We are that frog, and our pot is boiling.