A False Goodbye

I really love writing for this blog. I love thinking about the weird things that happen in my life and how they could be connected to climate change and anything in the world, drawing lines to connect everyone to everything and each other.

And that’s why The Climate Pickle doesn’t really have an end date. Once I wrap up the loose ends of my thesis and craft it into the final, bound version, I’m going to be writing on this blog again.

The Pickle has never been about a grade, or trying to impress anyone, or making my résumé look cool with my blog url–I write these words because I think it’s really important. There’s a lot of information about climate change that is thrown around in the media, everyday conversations, on Facebook, wherever; I’m like a new pair of glasses. You slide them on and see the world in a different way. I can’t say how exactly that different looks, but it’s my perspective.

I like to think that my glasses add a little vibrancy, a little zooming in or out, a shift of some sort. Maybe even like a movie that runs parallel or overlaps with your life. A different sense of awareness about the world.

I don’t want to go into some grand final conclusion because I honestly don’t think there is one, especially since we’re only pausing for little bit. More to come, more stories to share.

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Bread for the Pickle Sandwich

This semester has been slipping through my fingers so fast; I try to hold onto it and wind it around my hand, but time is moving faster than I am.

I’m torn with urges to drop everything and retreat to the mountains, but to also somehow stay chained to Albion and never leave the familiar. At times I want to kick my notebooks and homework assignments, undone, under my bed because I’m sick of spending my time working, working, working, but then I think about how terrifying it would be to not have the structure of academia waiting for me when the summer turns to fall.

At this moment, though, the main thing on my mind is the thesis deadline that’s following me around like a piece of paper stuck to my shoe.

It’s exciting and terrifying at the same time. There’s a lot of work to do, and that work won’t be on this website, The Climate Pickle, which makes me feel weird.

This isn’t a death sentence for The Pickle; the time has come for me to focus my writing energies in a different place because since September 2014 all my focus has been on this blog and a lot less on the formalities of actually writing a thesis. It’s a different kind of work than what I did for each post on here.

There were days where I sat on my chocolate brown couch with my head on my computer, and the cursor in the blank new post was blinking at me expectantly, feeling like I had nothing to write about, nothing to say.

Other days, my fingers flowed across my keyboard in a symphony of clicks and clacks as words spilled on the to page effortlessly, giddy with knowledge and the feeling of thinking deeper and more complexly about climate change, turning to my housemates, “Yess. You have to listen to what I just wrote….”

Sometimes that giddiness, or sleep deprivation from finals, leads to posts that don’t make any sense after reading them now; it was like looking at a piece of art I made in the dark in the middle of the night, only to see my strokes of genius in the daylight as confusing scribbles. A good try, but no grand masterpiece.

Today was one of those days where it was hard to write. I started off, and still am, slightly uncertain with what I want to say. It’s not an ending, a weepy goodbye to my blog. I really just won’t be able to do the posts justice while juggling the other half of the Pickle–the thesis.

My job now is to put on my academic thinking cap and write the stuff for my thesis that’s the bread to the meaty goodness that is this blog, turning it into a pickle sandwich with the introduction slice, and the satisfying, taste bud-lingering conclusion slice.

Doesn’t really sound appetizing, but I’m beyond excited about it. All this work, these past two years of writing and thinking and pushing myself feel like they’re culminating into a black bound book with The Climate Pickle pressed into the cover in fancy gold lettering, my tasty, pickle-y knowledge sandwich creation.

The Magic of Music

Today, music is on my mind.

I read this cool article about a scientist dude, Robert Davies, who got this idea to use music, specifically classical, to engage people while learning about climate change. He wanted to release human emotion, to let the shiver-inducing frequencies of music move through people, so they can feel what’s at stake.

And I know that shiver. I used to play the cello for nine years. I remember sitting in orchestra rehearsal in high school, and we were playing a song called “Elegy”—I can’t remember who the composer is anymore–which is this slow sweet minor piece that sounds as if you’re sinking to the bottom of a melancholy pond, but it’s not a bad place to be; it is one of the most beautiful.

Music is probably my favorite thing about being human. There’s something about it that is completely indescribable but at the same time completely and whole-heartedly necessary to our existence.

I love a ton of music from tons of different genres. Classic rock, jam bands, jazz, funk, metal, folk, classical, alternative, grunge. But my two favorite bands are Modest Mouse and Umphrey’s McGee.

I’m a word person. I get really attached to artists when they have beautiful, poetic lyrics that I can weave into the fabric of my own life, that act like little mirrors of my internal thoughts, that I can crawl into like a soft blanket.

And Mouse and Umphrey’s do just that.

My love for Modest Mouse has been around since I was in 5th grade. And didn’t think it was humanly possible to love them any more. And then today I looked up the lyrics to their new song Lamp shades on fire.

Oh, this is how it’s always been
And this is how it’s goin’ to be
So, you just move on

 

The air’s on fire so we’re movin’ on
Better find another one ‘cause this one’s done
Waitin’ for the magic when the scientists glow
To push, push, push, push, pull us up

 

Spend some time to float in outer space
Find another planet, make the same mistakes
Our mind’s all shattered when we climb aboard
Hopin’ for the scientists to find another door

I totally melted on the floor. Favorite band plus the topic I am beyond passionate about. Dude.

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Modest Mouse from their 2014 summer tour

The funny thing about music is, at least for me, I can listen to a song a lot of times and then one day I actually hear the words. That’s what happened with this song–not my favorite song style-wise from Modest, but the message is undeniable.

We have all been kicking our shoes in the dirt, waiting for a scientific miracle to save us all. Remember geoengineeringHopin’ for the scientists to find another door. 

And have any of you heard of Mars One? The Dutch non-profit project? Yeah, they are sending 100 people out into space with a one-way ticket to colonize Mars and then die there. The air’s on fire so we’re movin’ on; Better find another one ‘cause this one’s done.

Modest Mouse is pretty explicit about their message. Humans have fucked things up and now we’re hoping it’ll go away or we can just dip out. But below is a couple lines from Umphrey’s McGee song, The Crooked One, that, for me at least, gets at the idea about how we have gotten ourselves in the position we’re in.

The context was twisted so everyone missed it
Except for the obvious sign.
The truth that they swallowed was empty and hollow
But nobody spoke up in time.

Music is powerful. I’m moved by music in so many different ways. There’s nothing that compares to when I listen to a song, and something deep inside myself, that moves me to tears. Sometimes I don’t know why this happens; it’s just the simple fact that music makes me feel. 

The Complicated Existence of The Climate Pickle

The Climate Pickle can get complicated for me since I’m a writer and also a student.

I write this blog because I love to–that’s the simple part. If I didn’t love it, it wouldn’t exist. I love nature. I love writing about and creating and weaving a vivid experience for people. I love being able to live on this planet. So I write about how humans are fucking all that up. Reconnecting. Showing. Experiencing.

This blog starts to get complicated and interesting for me because The Climate Pickle is also my Senior Honors Departmental Thesis. This factor adds extra work and things I may not have done without a thesis.

Some of that extra work includes being on social media a lot, more than I normally am, to spread the word of my blog. I’ve had people that are friends with me on Facebook ask me why I share links to theclimatepickle.com all the time and wonder what exactly it is. And I tell them, “It’s my thesis! I need people to read my words, so I’ll know if what I’m doin’ is actually working.”

The type of writing I do first sprouted when I was a sophomore and approached my advisor, Nels, for the first time about this idea I had.

I’ve mentioned Nels in passing in these posts, so here’s a little snapshot of my advisor: when you hear his boisterous, distinct laugh, it’s like a bird call–the wild Nels is near. He walks with a slight clomp, smacks desks and swears occasionally to bring students attention back from daydreams. And makes us go outside and touch things in the frigid winter to actually be in contact with the stuff we talk about, wilderness.

Back to my idea—I wanted to make learning about climate change less boring and difficult because I wanted to reach people around my age–we’re the ones who will live with the choices our leaders make today, and no one really wants to read a scientific journal if they don’t have to.

He gave me two paths to choose from: one, write fiction or two, write creative nonfiction.

 

As a writer, I find my self continuously pulled towards nonfiction, which isn’t the path past-Olivia would’ve foreseen. But the world is so fucking nuts and crazy there’s no need to make anything up. Reality is the craziest thing. So I write about it. I write and write and write, which has brought me to where I am today, a creative nonfiction climate change writer for the Millennial Generation. Whew.

The thing about most Millennials, myself included, is that we work so much we get lazy, and the probability of anyone picking up a longer book I write goes way down, which is why having my writing online is far more convenient.

All people need to do is click a link. And I get instant feedback if people liked it, have something to add on to it, or just make a passing comment about their thoughts.

The Climate Pickle is also pretty neat because all these posts are the exposed development of my thesis from beginning to wherever it ends up; I’m puttin’ it all out there for everyone to see.

If I didn’t have my thesis driving me to push this blog, there’s a pretty good chance I wouldn’t expose so much of my raw, personally revealing, and reflective writing–it’s vulnerability.

Nor would I have done all the research on scholarly articles about blogs and the environment and science and creative nonfiction–building support for my idea and learning cool new stuff.

All this extra stuff is a lot, but it’s good stuff, the kind of stuff that makes me a better writer, academic, thinker, and do-er.

The best part about all the good stuff I’m doing because of my thesis is the fact, as I’ve said, I’m doing what I love and what I want to do with my life. I’m working my ass off, and I’m positively drowning in work of all kinds, but it’s all worth it.

Is Geoengineering Science Fiction?

Sometimes, life feels like one big sci-fi story. Science is absolutely crazy if you pull back from it, looking at it through binoculars and not a microscope. You don’t need the best pair of binoculars to see how the most popular climate change solution is straight out of freaky sci-fi shit. 

Geoengineering.

Let’s get a ‘lil narrative. 

There is a planet that is third from a sun, buried in a galaxy that looks like all the other ones. 

Humans, strange two legged creatures, thought their planet, Earth, was made just for them, carved out of a pocket of the universe in the arm of a galaxy.

They slaved and built and grew and demanded and fought until the surface of the planet was slathered in an impermeable rind of concrete, buildings rose high enough in the air to be taller than everything else around it, and the air, the water, the ground was thickened with their waste. There were less plants, less animals, less natural things. They thought they were the smartest living beings.

Things were not always this way. Humans once lived in damp and dank caves where they were equal, if not entirely lesser, than every other jaw gnashing and plant eating beast at that time. There was a time when humans lived in the shadows of trees, and crouched down and collected little red berries and withered mushrooms; their gazes were suspicious and cautions under furrowed brows. 

But then, one day, no one knows exactly when they stood up taller, looking down on anything below them. They built and grew, and we know what the planet looked like after that–nothing natural, poisons leaking everywhere. 

Some humans didn’t like the way the planet looked, the way it was treated. They new they should change, but old habits die hard, and now the planet is warming, heat swirling and sucking things dry. They hide from storms that dash them away. Things are tumultuous and humans are scrambling. They need an idea. 

One is to launch a fleet of sleek metallic rockets, sending them into the blue sky that’s not really there, and inject the air with millions of aerosol molecules, acting like millions of mirrors to reflect the sun away. The planet would cool and things would calm, but when the mirrors fall, the aerosols disperse, the planet will rage hotter than before as the heat that was pushed away comes crashing back.

Another is to mimic the plants, the natural things they destroyed. They would study the world around them and see how it works. They thought they knew everything, but the planet knew more.  

No decisions have been made. This story of the third planet from the sun is to be continued. 

Runaway Ice Sheet

I have to present an article, “Recharge of a subglacial lake by surface meltwater in northeast Greenland,” to all the geology professors and majors and minors this Friday. Friday the 13th. Just my luck.

It’s been one of those weeks where everything just sort of falls apart. Our heater broke in the house, the laundry machine is leaking water all over the basement, the heater broke again, and then today the garbage disposal decided to fall apart and spray food everywhere.

But back to ice sheets and other catastrophes.

Ice sheets are weird. They are miles and miles of compact ice that flow and move, super, super slowly. It’s hard to wrap my head around. Ice moves and crawls and can fucking swallow mountains! It’s crazy. When I try to picture ice crawling, I visualize myself peaking under the ice and seeing millions of little feet taking tiny steps.

Glaciologists don’t fully know the intricacies of how ice sheets and glaciers move, their dynamics, especially when other factors, like a warming atmosphere, are messing with those known dynamics.

The paper talks about the discovery of a mitten-shaped basin on the surface of the Greenland ice sheet, and after the scientists did some data gathering for two years, they found out that climate change is making the Greenland ice sheet melt faster. Not good.

When the ice on the surface melts, it collects in lakes like the ones in the study. Ice sheets have a bunch of cracks and crevasses, and sometimes the surface meltwater, whoosh, rapidly evacuates into these cracks, now collecting at the bottom of the ice sheet.

We have lakes at the bottom of ice sheets (subglacial lakes), which is mind boggling, but so what?

When these subglacial lakes overfill, they catastrophically burst and flood the bottom of the ice sheet, flowing towards the ocean in circuits of subglacial channels. It’s kind of like a water slide. If you don’t have any water to rocket you down, you don’t move very fast–skin sticks to plastic and it’s an uncomfortable situation. But if there’s water on that slide, you’re going to rocket down.

The same thing happens with ice sheets. The water allows the ice to flow, almost glide, way faster that geologists thought before. And all that ice is flowing towards and into the oceans.

More warming in the atmosphere means more surface meltwater, which means more subglacial lakes, which means ice sheets will shrink and disappear rapidly. All those little feet at the bottom of the ice sheet are in a full-on sprint.

Shit.

Unhappy Endings

0 Degrees of warming

The farm fields prosper. The yield year after year after year is good. Leaves turn into a spectrum of colors, and they fall smoothly into winter, where snowflakes drift in air and layer the ground. Trees shake their snowy shoulders off and make room for new buds. Cars fill the streets, roads, parking structures, garages, and lots. Everyone, for the most part, is happy.

1 Degree

Cars keep driving. They continue their stop and go dance at intersections. They snake across countries on paths that dip and dive around mountains, hills, and forests. Words are whispered that something isn’t quite right. But how could anything go wrong? Weather is fine for some, but others swelter in an unusual heat. Others pull their raincoats close as they slop through waterlogged streets. Everyone, still, for the most part, is happy.

2 Degrees

Mountains shake and crumble. Earthquakes crack and frack the earth. Gas tanks are full. Winter is warm for some, but others froze and held their cracking hands. Spring slipped by and bloomed into an endless summer heat. Something’s not right. What happened to that bird, that butterfly, that creature I used to see. Glaciers leak, spilling down mountainsides and disappearing disappearing in streams. Ice sheets slosh into oceans, overflowing onto the coasts. Hurricanes rage. Historic snowstorms bury cities and homes. The parched ground groans apart; wildfires roar. Some are happy. Some are not.

3 Degrees

Endangered. Endangered. Endangered. Coral reefs wither white in the ocean heat. Farmers stand swallowed in billowing fields of dust, shriveled leaves in hand. Sweat-soaked clothes stick to skin from the unwavering summers that scorch and burn. Water, water, we search for freshwater, peering into the fractured ground, tossing wishful coins into a forgotten fountain. Hurricanes surge, slamming into shores like never before. Diseases spread like wildfires. Oceans encroach on every coast, lapping buildings and taking streets. A few may be happy, but most are not.

4 Degrees

All of this has become worse. The heat, the floods, the starving stomachs, the parched lips and land, the melting ice, the rising seas, the terrible storms, diseases that disperse, everything. Extinctions begin to sweep and the land looks unfamiliar. Other living things we shared this planet with are disappearing, turning into the signs of a time that’s now past. Everyone is struggling to be happy. 

5 Degrees

It’s gone too far, too far. Nothing is right. No one, no thing, is happy. 

On Snowstorms, Shovels, and Soreness

The sky was blurred with spiraling snow for an entire day and two nights. So many flakes filled the air that they made a sound, sort of like a hissing.

My friend Elizabeth and I were curious cats, sitting on opposite ends of my couch that is pressed against my windows. We watched the snow piles grow on my windowsill, slowly obscuring our vision of the street throughout the day.

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This was the third biggest snowstorm to hit Michigan. Historic. Momentous.

This storm was seriously epic and weirdI watched it develop on the radar like a movie. It was sort of shaped like a sweet potato with the ends pointing down. It spanned a good chunk of the US; it started developing in the Nebraska, Iowa area, growing in size as it approached Chicago and Michigan.

We were dumped on by snow because the sweet potato storm was fueled by a warm, moist air system in the Gulf of Mexico, which was producing tornadoes and severe storms in the south. This rain/storm system merged with the snowstorm, creating a shape with crazy tendrils. A sweet potato octopus.

Albion got somewhere around 18 inches of snow.

And let me tell you, we all felt the repercussions of all that snow.

I was chatting with my advisor today about how snowstorms become physical. We don’t get sore or stuck in our houses when it rains, but when it snows we have to dig ourselves out, we have to use a shovel to unearth our cars, doorsteps, driveways and sidewalks. We feel it.

I even felt it today as Elizabeth and I donned our many layers and jumped into the ocean of snow that is our driveway with shovels in hand. My arms burned and quaked with each heap of snow, hardly making a dent in an hour. It was fucking hard.

We feel changing weather patterns in our backs and shoulders, burning biceps and forearms, our snot-dripping noses, numb fingers, in our spinning, sliding, traction-less tires, in our sopping socks and snow-filled boots.

Where’s the Snow?

This one is for my East Coast homies.

Y’all just got shit on by snow.

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Ironically, NYC was supposed to get totally buried in snow, and the city shut down in anxious anticipation for the white apocalypse, but they only got a little bit of snow.

Weather is pretty much unpredictable. Meteorologists try hard to predict weather with all their projections, programs, math, and maps to tell us what the weather will be like, but the atmosphere will do what it wants. Conditions change rapidly. Computers aren’t perfect.

I just found out today on grist.org, that snowstorms are apparently way harder to predict than other weather systems.

Snow is a weird type of precipitation because it needs the perfect combination of conditions to actually turn into the white fluffy stuff, and those conditions vary from region to region.

So it’s not easy.

NYC may have been skimped, but Boston was slammed with 30 inches of snow and southern Maine got about 26 inches of snow. It’s certainly winter on the East Coast.

But scientists are predicting that these current extremes of weather we are experiencing right now, like the nor-easter, will slowly dwindle away, and snow is highly likely to become ways less frequent. No more apocalyptic blizzards.

 

Encounters with Food

Let me tell you about my class I just had.

Albion College is a liberal arts school, and that basically means we can do some weird and cool and unusual stuff.

I was a part of one of the first humanities labs. We brought together four classes– my class (Wild Things), ancient civilizations, a French creole and Cajun class, and the choir.

And one thing is the glue that sticks us together. Encounters with food.

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Weird right?

As I sit here and write this, I’m finding it hard to narrow down all the things I could talk about and how it ties into The Climate Pickle. So to prevent myself from endlessly writing, I’ll just talk about the first half of the lab.

We were sent out into the snow-covered woods of the nature center with this passage and one task– to find food signs.

To one who lives in the snow and watches it day by day, it is a book to be read. The pages turn as the wind blows; the characters shift and the images formed by their combinations change in meaning, but the language remains the same. It is a shadow language, spoken by things that have gone by and will come again. The same texthas been written there for thousands of years, though I was not here, and will not be here in winters to come, to read it. These seemingly random ways, these paths, these beds, these footprints, these hard, round pellets in the snow: they all have meaning. Dark things may be written there, news of other lives, their sorties and excursions, their terrors and deaths. The tiny feet of a shrew or a vole make a brief, erratic pattern across the snow, and here is a hole down which the animal goes. And now the track of an ermine comes this way, swift and searching, and he too goes down that white shadow of a hole.

John Haines, The Stars, the Snow, the Fire

I’m enamored with this beautiful language.e. Gives me shivers.

John Haines was this badass dude who lived in Alaska as a trapper, poet, painter, and homesteader, among other things. He didn’t have the leisure of a grocery store to make his dinner. He had to trap animals, intimately place his hands on their warm bodies, and kill them to preserve their pelts, so he could sell them and buy his can of beans.

A lost art in many ways.

Our professors sent us out to find these tracks, follow them, discover something. Mostly how fucking hard it would be. It’s cold, definitely not as cold as Alaska, but still. Maybe you don’t know the language of the snow and have no clue what the hell you’re looking at. If we really were tracking animals and came home empty handed, well shit, your stomach is going to be empty too.

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My oldest sister, Justina, is the hunter in the family. After she read my post, she identified the dear tracks in the pictures above; it was a buck. “You can tell because how far apart the points of the hooves are. Bucks are heavier than does, and their body weight spreads the points apart. He’d probably be a shooter, something you’d want to follow,” she told me.

I’ll mention one other part of the lab because I think it increases the difficulty of foraging and hunting. The choir stood up and sang a hauntingly beautiful poem about living alone for long, long stretches of time in the heart of a snow-locked, forested land and that the biggest fear, obstacle, tormenting thought is loneliness. Having nothing, no one. Your thoughts fold and shift like snow blowing in the wind. Illusive, mocking.

Not only do you have to tromp around and kill your food, you might have to do it alone. The only company is the crunching of your boots as they break the icy rind of snow.

We forget about what it’s actually like to forage and hunt for our food. Alone. You’re the only thing you have, and if you don’t find it, all the worse. Alone and hungry.

A grocery store is as close as we get, but we take it for granted. I know I do. A lot of us would be screwed if we didn’t have well-lit and organized grocery stores. And there’s even people who can see the gleaming lights, but have no money or opportunities to waltz in.

As temperatures rise and seasons change, farmers are having a difficult time getting high crop yields every year. Those stores might be empty, and we’ll all be looking into the stores, faces pressed close, breath blooming clouds on the window because it’s just too expensive. Stomachs twisting and rolling in on themselves.