Michiana Chronicles: A month called May
It’s the end of April, the beginning of May. Happy times. A bunch of happy. Happy Earth Day.
Happy it’s-finally-what-we-like-to- think-of-as-Spring-day Day. Happy International Workers Day.
Happy May Day.
I can remember when I was teaching at New Prairie, leafing through a giant desk calendar at the beginning of a semester setting deadlines for student work, discovering a month called May.
What a perfect name for the month when school ends. May. It’s a warm breeze, spotting the capitalized “May” there, actually on the very same calendar as a month called February. May. Rhymes with “Ah.”
Teachers, I know it’s gotten even harder and it was hard when I was doing it so really I’m not sorry I’m not there with you, but I do miss it sometimes and I love that I can say that once I was a part of the collective you. Anyway, when you go back into work on Monday, it’ll be May, so for you more than anybody, Happy May Day.
I’m a week late, but Happy Earth Day, too.
Earth Day, that was last Friday but I wasn’t here that day, so here’s a belated Happy Earth Day. I had to look it up to be sure, but like I thought, the first Earth Day was in 1970, April 22, near the end of my junior year of high school, and as I remember that time, I had been peacefully floating around in a zero-gravity snow globe when somebody shook it really hard and dumped me out onto the ground.
Anyway, back to Earth Day, 1970. As the Adirondack Council website describes it, “Americans marched and demonstrated in the streets for a healthy, sustainable environment in massive rallies across the US. It was estimated 20 million people, from 10,000 elementary and high schools, 2,000 colleges, and over 1,000 communities participated that day.”
Oh, and get this, “Republicans and Democrats and people from all demographics - union members, farmers, scientists, and politicians - came together for the environment.” I guess that was before we found only liberals care about the environment, or found out that it’s a Chinese propaganda hoax. April 22, 1970.
The next week, pretty much, was Kent State, May 4. Like I said, “the real world” turned that snow globe upside down and dumped my 16-year-old self out on the hard ground. Might’ve been the sidewalk. Ouch. Could somebody give me a hand here? Nope. I found Catch 22 that summer and that helped, but it’s kinda been the day after Kent State ever since.
A group of researchers convened by the United Nations issued another one of those reports on climate change this past February. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says, “The capacity of ecosystems to support human society is thought to be coming under threat.” It says, “Human induced climate change is a threat to our wellbeing and all other species.” Key risks, the report says, include risks to the supply of water and food. Water and food?
What would happen, I wonder, if five million people in a major American city and suburbs, say one built where water was never a natural resource, twist the tap one morning and nothing comes out. I’m looking at you, Phoenix.
The report says that unless countries drastically accelerate efforts to slash emissions from coal, oil and natural gas, the goal of limiting global warming to relatively safe levels will most likely be out of reach by the end of this decade.
Water and food?
Last Saturday’s paper said that last summer was the hottest on record in Europe. One- hundred-and-20 degrees in Sicily one day in August. I know it’s a fiction, but when Kim Stanley Robinson’s book, The Ministry for the Future, begins with a heat wave that kills 20 million people in a week, it does seem plausible.
Nowhere to run. Nowhere to hide. Frightening.
It feels like we’re a long way from Earth Day, 1970, in 2022, as what seems like yet another report on climate change is met with yet another leave-us-alone shrug, a “Go to a movie,” Greta. A serious threat to our future is we’ll-get-to-that-later news, page six news, or no news at all.
Reagan should have left those solar panels on the White House and Al Gore should have been on the nickel by now.
The IPCC report says, also, though, that it’s not too late. There is a month called May. It’s not too late, but all of us have to care more and say more and do more and we have to do it quickly.
End of the decade, the report says.
Let the grass grow. Divest. The fix is not inevitable but if we make the effort we may solve this climate change mess yet.
Happy May Day.
"The Lusty Month of May" sung by Julie Andrews