Those Are The Last Days
by Bjørn Larssen | 1912 Words
Our hydrangeas died the day London was burning, July 19th, which was also the 19th day of the first drought. On the 21st it began to rain, and it rained all day, and then it didn’t again, and I started counting the days anew. Otherwise I would have to admit the drought was not over. That it just took a pause to regroup. The numbers would get too big. Intimidating. It is very good holiday weather, they say. I think of food.
Day 1 of the second drought
It is a strange summer; strange droughts. It hasn’t been hot (except the day London was burning). I know dry heat, yes. Very good holiday weather that won’t stop confuses me. Our hibiscus is dying of thirst. Grasses are dying of thirst. Flowers the name of which I have forgotten are dying of thirst. We water them in the evening. It is still legal, now. Those are the last days. But not tonight, not yet. Soon.
The cherry tree is dead. Internet says it should have been planted March-April, after the frosts ended. We planted it in November and the frosts came in March-April. We probably overwatered it during the drought, says the gardener who sold it to us. I hope it comes back to life next year, I say to Husby. It will not, he says.
I pray for rain.
A few years ago Husby would have said “it’s good for the plants” during every downpour, and there were many, and I would huff “I’ll appreciate that when I’m a plant,” and now he doesn’t say it, and I wish he had a chance. It is good for the plants. Hydrangeas, hibiscus, harvests.
Day 6 of the second drought
Phillippa Fox, the general manager of New Zealand’s Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, declares the climate change has “insufficient weight.” There is a photograph of Phillippa Fox on her Facebook. There is no photograph of the climate change.
I think of Surtr, the God whose fires will devour the world when Ragnarök comes. Phillippa Fox tells Surtr to put his sword away before he steps on the scale. She knows his tricks, she says. As the desk begins to smoulder underneath the flaming sword Phillippa Fox slowly shakes her head; makes tsk-tsk noises. His weight, Phillippa Fox declares, as Surtr’s shoulders drop and lip quivers, is insufficient. Phillippa Fox has no choice but to issue more permits, to search for more oil and gas, and more and more and more and more until Surtr’s weight is sufficient for him to be released into the world and end it.
It is Freyr, the God of good harvests, who will fight Surtr in Ragnarök. He will lose. He is already losing, even though Surtr’s weight is insufficient. There will be few good harvests this year, and those few will be destroyed.
Day 1 of the second drought
Here, in the West, Husby orders 15 kg of flour online. “It’s more expensive already,” he remarks. In the East, where my Mum lives, there is no flour or sugar in the shops. It’s only available on TVPropaganda, laughs Mum, same as coal. There will be lots of coal, promises the prime minister, actually too much coal, we don’t need Putin’s gas, we can buy coal from other countries. (Poland exports its coal.) I laugh too. We both remember communism, although she remembers more of it. We survived on laughter.
Putin agrees to a deal with Ukraine to allow grain exports. 12 hours later Odesa, Ukraine’s main port, is targeted with cruise missile strikes. I think about the crops. I remember getting up at five a.m. to stand in line to buy bread for Easter. I remember the bread ran out when there were just four more people in front of me. There was nowhere else to go. There was no flour. Even though nobody destroyed the grain on purpose.
The word “famine” appears somewhere as I doomscroll. Then the word “Africa.” I scroll faster.
Day 18 of the first drought
One day before our hydrangeas die, the day before London is burning, the Good Morning Britain weather forecaster Laura Tobin is accused of scaremongering and “weather propaganda” and called Dr Doom, and told she should be jailed over her climate warnings. Twitter decides the weather propaganda has to end. The next morning, angered Dr Doom uses her powers to give the London Fire Brigade their heaviest workout since World War II. (It is a quote.)
Surtr pleads with Phillippa Fox to give him a phone, so he can start a Twitter account. “Insufficient weight,” she says, and her voice is so cold Surtr unexpectedly shivers.
Day 6 of the second drought
We are having a barbecue. Husby watered everything thoroughly. The charcoal doesn’t produce sparks or flames, only ash. The temperature is 21 degrees in the shade and a bit more through the smog. We eat nice food now because soon it will not be there. Chicken burgers and beef burgers and a baguette and a salad.
Can we have a fire later, Husby asks, a small one?
I don’t feel great about it, I say.
Just kindling? he asks hopefully.
I assess the wind and our surroundings. I bring some kindling over and put it on top of the coals and set aflame. I guard each spark. A few ride on a gust of wind, head towards the open door of the shed. My gaze follows. There is sawdust on the floor. I announce the fire is over. There is no better food for sparks than sawdust. It’s dry. There is air. Everything fire needs to grow and multiply. Did you know the only reason why humans don’t consider fire a living being is that it has no DNA?
I wonder whether Surtr’s fire will consider humans a living beings even though they will have had DNA.
Day 7 of the second drought
Shell announces record earnings of $11.5bn in April-June. Shell’s chief executive, Ben van Beurden, says the company could not “perform miracles” to bring oil and gas prices down. “It is what it is,” says Ben van Beurden. Do not use His name in vain, for He is a being so powerful the Shareholders themselves bow to Him, as they await the dividends.
Every night we look at smallholdings for sale. A ritual. Make sure it’s not in Groningen, Husby says. There are earthquakes in Groningen because of fracking. “A lot of people don’t see the link between what they eat every day and what we as farmers do,” says an organic dairy farmer from Groningen. He was ordered to reduce his livestock number by 30% to lower emissions. It is what it is.
We eat nice food now because soon it will not be there.
Day 13 of the second drought
“Crucially, our powering progress strategy is delivering strong results for our shareholders on the back of years of portfolio high grading, combined with robust operational performance” says Ben van Beurden, and Shareholders applaud, for it means they will get $7.9 billion.
1 Some time later Shareholders tested Abraham. They said to him, “Abraham!” “Here I am,” he replied.
2 Then Shareholders said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love – Isaac. Then sacrifice him as a burnt offering on a hill we will show you, far away from our yachts and villas and private jets.”
3 When they reached the place Shareholders had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He laid his son on the altar, on top of the wood, and soaked it in Brent crude oil.
4 But the spokesperson of Shareholders called out to him from Internet, “Abraham! Abraham!” “Here I am,” he replied.
5 “You must pay for the Brent crude oil you poured on the wood.”
6 Abraham apologised profusely, paid $103.34 per barrel, then sacrificed his son, his donkey, his servants, the hill, his village, the villages surrounding it, the country, the continent, and himself.
7 “It is what it is,” said Shareholders and shared a $7.9bn dividend.
Day 14 of the second drought
0 mm in last 24 hours. None expected in next 10 days. Fuck you, Weather app, I used to say. That was before I found torpor.
I used to think about Shareholders, Greta, Personal Responsibility (marketing concept invented by British Petroleum). I used to snap at people who neglected their Personal Responsibility. I stopped eating beef for a few months because of Bolsonaro’s politics. (This did not change Bolsonaro’s politics.) I did not buy a car, a motorbike, or a private jet. I used to retweet important statistics. (Okay, I still do that. Grief is not a linear process.) I felt powerless. Like I didn’t matter. Like nothing I did mattered.
It is true and now I am free.
When I stand next to a waterfall, or a mountain, or a great forest, I feel like a dot. I will be gone, I think, all of us will be, even horsies and doggos and bunny rabbits, but Earth will remain. This waterfall will still roar, or maybe it will not, replaced with a volcano or turning into a canyon for nobody to admire. The mountains, sprinkled with ash from the forest, the red-grey sky will be inherited by creatures able to adapt, such as salamanders and Shareholders.
Ben van Beurden did not give me $7.9bn in dividends. He gave me something that has no price: understanding and acceptance of my dot-ness. “It is what it is,” I repeat every time anger threatens to break my faith in Stockholders’ wisdom and kindness. Torpor brings peace, relief, and joy. You too can find torpor in those last days. Repeat: “it is what it is” over and over, until you no longer know what it means and what you mean, and then you shall see the meaning of your life is meaninglessness. Enjoy your last days, always remembering Personal Responsibility.
I have more last days left than most others. I live in a rich country and I have air conditioning. I don’t have as many last days left as Shareholders, but more than people of Pakistan or India, and horsies and doggos and bunny rabbits, and our hibiscus. I avert my gaze when it pleads silently. News: the water level is so low ships are getting stuck. There is no need to worry about drinking water, says News, then specifies: for people. Those are the last days of our hibiscus.
I wish I took a photo of the cherry tree. I did not know those were its last days. Our tomatoes beg and Husby sneaks outside with a watering can. Courgettes, I think in a whisper, lettuce, brambles, strawberries. Livestock, Odesa shelling, chicken burgers, sunflower oil. Flour. Sugar.
Are you sure it won’t rain, Husby asks. I look at him blankly. Those clouds are really dark, he says. His voice is husky. Throat – dry. Quietly, he wastes more litres of water on the pear tree. It’s almost ready for harvest. Just a few more days.
0 mm in last 24 hours. None expected in next 10 days.
My lips move in prayer even though I know nobody important is listening.
“You are free to go,” says Phillippa Fox.
Surtr’s blank eyes meet her smiling gaze.
“Your weight is now sufficient,” Phillippa Fox clarifies.
“There’s nothing left for me to do,” Surtr says.