My heart breaks when I think about what humans have done to this planet. We are so fucked.
When I was growing up, I lived in an area which was becoming increasingly (sub)urbanised. The last vestiges of market gardens surrounding my area, where you could still spot the occasional horse, were making way for ‘little boxes on the hillside’. People need somewhere to live, I know. This is not a tirade, this is a lament.
There was a small, fucked up stream that ran along the back of my house, and if I walked to the end of the street, there was a bush track through a small bush area that led to a stagnant waterhole, waterfall and all. The waterfall flowed magnificently when there were heavy storms, but was mostly just a trickle, cut off by a huge main road a couple of kilometres away.
My parents told stories about what the area was like when they were little, how few roads there were, how big that waterhole was etc, etc. It made me think about how much was lost that I wasn’t aware of, and, that one day, children would grow up in my street not knowing what had once existed there. I thought too, about how slowly things would become more polluted, less wild, and how we might not necessarily notice the changes as they happened, and that people would live, unaware of what had been lost.
Zadie Smith writes here, An Elegy for a Country’s Seasons, it’s beautiful, and mournful, and gives us a new, more practical question.
Maybe we will get used to this new England, and—like the very young and recently migrated—take it for granted that April is the time for shorts and sandals, or that the New Year traditionally announces itself with a biblical flood. They say there will be butterflies appearing in new areas, and birds visiting earlier and leaving later—perhaps that will be interesting, and new, and not, necessarily, worse. Maybe we are misremembering the past! The Thames hasn’t frozen over for generations, and the dream of a White Christmas is only a collective Dickensian delusion. Besides, wasn’t it always a wet country?