Alternate Histories: 5/31, 4/19


Yeah, I would say I’m definitely anxious about global warming. It’s an interesting problem — there’s a dichotomy of being really concerned and the knowledge that the horrible things about it are probably not going to affect me, so I want to enjoy the state that the world is in now while that’s possible. I mean, according to the predictions that scientists are making–I live in the first world [sic], so it may have dramatic but not life-threatening consequences. I’ll still be able to enjoy life in a way that most people aren’t going to be able to. I do have a fear of getting old and having a lot of things become huge problems around the time that I get old and can’t take care of myself. A fear of not being able to do anything about it — not being able to enjoy the world because you know this horrible thing is coming.

What if it was going to be sooner? You know, what if in the paper you read that instead of fifty years, it’s going to happen in thirty years or whatever?

I hate to say it, but I think that would — rather than wanting to immediately do something, I would be in the mode of trying to enjoy the world and [didn’t catch it] as much as possible. There’s a way to slow but not stop it, and I think a lot of people are like, “Well, fuck it.” If it did look that imminent, there are all these things I would want to do and see.

Do you really hate to say it?

A little bit, because I think it’s a reflection on my weakness as a person, where everyone’s out to have a good life, which got us into this — why should we stop it now?

What do you see yourself doing to look out for people in this harder world?

I think it’s going to require a radically different way of looking at resources that I don’t think anyone in the U.S. is at all used to. I’m a planner, and I try hard to live off not a lot, so that’s a skill I could maybe give to other people — like how not to use an obscene amount of water. I’ll be the jerk who’s like, You can’t take a 20 minute shower, you just can’t.

Are you the jerk now?

No, not really. I try to be mindful of what I use, where my food’s coming from, but Americans are conditioned to not pay attention to that because we don’t have to.



The next day, DD thought: the future is where everything bad happens, like the breakdown of ecologies and supply chains, like getting old and being helpless. It’s also where everything good happens, like seeing things and trying things. She thought, I’m good at doing with less, but I want more.

DD thought about places she would like to have seen. Seeing is having, she thought. She said goodbye to each of them, using the feathers from part of a pigeon wing she picked out of dead oak leaves and Dutch Masters wrappers blown against the side of her apartment house. She gave each feather the name of a place, laid them out on the windowsill, watched the wind lift them. When the last one was gone she washed her hands three times.

Two years later, tourism was down, way down, the bottom. People were still flying to see their families, to do science, for work sometimes, but almost no one, then no one, was flying to devour anyone else’s place. This was difficult for places that had built their living around influxes of expensive strangers. It took some people there a long time to unclench their fists. Skies got quieter, the water cleaner. The sand, too, was cleaner at first (not so many people to pick up after) then dirtier (no one paying money for picking things up) then cleaner again (when everyone got sick of it being dirty). Some of the fish, some of the birds, some of the mosses, and some of the santos started to come back, and then there was more to eat. Others were gone forever. People said goodbye to these in their own ways.

Back at the airports, a few families tried to live in the grounded planes but it turns out that the things that make airplanes good for flying make them bad for almost everything else: not enough light, not enough ventilation, plasticky, weird-shaped, cramped. Mostly people broke them down for materials and parts. The frameworks of wings made good roof supports and squash trellises. Kids took flotation devices to the swimming holes.

Some things we’ll never see because we killed them. Some things we can allow to flourish by never seeing them, letting them rest, secret from us, but not from themselves.



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