Prosecards from the Edge (of a Continent)

A running commentary on my life in Izmir, Turkey...and other thoughts.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007


It's hot. Offensively hot. Sit-and-don't-move-a-muscle-and-still-feel-sweat-trickling-down-your-body hot. A heat wave marched in yesterday like a besieging army, and everyone is suffering. Temps reached a sweaty 41 C (105 F) in Izmir yesterday, where at least we have the benefit of the sea breeze to make us feel a little cooler. Inland, people are not so lucky. In the ancient city of Ephesus, about 90 km from Izmir and slightly inland, a whopping 60 C (140 F) was recorded. At a gas station yesterday, I saw a bewildered, tousle-feathered dove wandering in dazed circles, looking completely disoriented. Is he ill, I wondered? It's the heat, said the gas station man. Dogs and cats lie comatose in shade, suffering. The only relief that evening brings is the merciful disappearance of the sun -- otherwise, there is no relief, not even the usual cooling breeze; just hot air, and the mingled smells of diesel fumes and honeysuckle.

Tomorrow is supposed to be the peak of the wave. In this suffocating heat, my thoughts can't help turning to the end of the world...what will it look like? Is this how we will end -- incinerated? When the sun is burning holes in your skin and the heat is so intense it makes even your eyeballs ache, it is easy to imagine being cooked to death. Slowly; frogs in a pot. I imagine a time in some not-too-distant future when mankind will go underground, when we will be like the early Christians of Cappadocia, who escaped their enemies by retreating to deep, cool cave cities and networks of dark tunnels. Only we will be fleeing nature, not man... On the earth's surface, the heat will be deadly. Searing, violent storms will waste an already desertified landscape while we huddle below. And there in the depths, I can imagine the first generations of refugees languishing in the dark, their faces tilted skyward towards tiny windows of light, weeping for the beauty of a lost world...for the memories of cool streams and grass beneath their feet and trees and birdsong. They will pass these stories on, and perhaps their children will also feel a pang of longing. Eventually, dark, flickering cave life will be all that is and ever has been, and these cave children will be unable to conceive of anything else. Maybe then it won't be so bad; it is, after all, change and loss that pain us most.

Am I painting an unreasonably gloomy picture? Maybe. I do have a knack for seeing the dark side of things. But still...everything is cyclical -- life and death, the rise and fall of empires, the flourishing and decline of our natural world. Inevitably, the wheel turns. It is pure delusion to imagine we can stop the wheel through our own artifice, try in all the myriad ways we may to achieve immortality. It is a bittersweet truth, but one I can live with, because it seems somehow philosophically right. There is a kind of melancholy beauty in these circles of life, death, rebirth. We will end. Something else will begin.

The real pain and anger I feel comes when I look at the ways in which we needlessly accelerate the cycle. We have raped and otherwise taken for granted the mother who gave life to us. When I see factories erected in flagrant violation of emissions laws, or no emissions controls where there should be; when I see buses and trucks belching exhaust and witness the absolute, holy supremacy of the automobile; the insistence of the wealthy upon their own complete comfort at the expense of the poor and the planet; when I see people and countries focused on short-term wealth over the long-term livability of the Earth, and disposable goods produced with no thought as to how and where to dispose them, while the gasses generated during their production ceaselessly thicken our atmosphere; especially when I see all this as I stand sweating under an increasingly merciless sun, and think of how much better we could do if only we had the will to do it -- it puts a strange, unswallowable lump in my throat. These blistering days are more than just 'hot'; they are burning reminders of great folly and short-sightedness that are speeding the demise of our lovely blue home. A peaceful death in old age of natural causes is one thing; philosophically and emotionally it is relatively easy to come to terms with it. But a needless accidental death from overdose -- that's what we're doing, isn't it? Overdosing our world? -- is a tragedy of Shakespearean proportions.


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