Thursday, February 1, 2007

The Ostrich: Smart Bird or Super Chicken?

I don't know if it's cowardice, short winter days, or emotional-self preservation that's making me want to bury my head in the sand lately.

I seem to remember feeling this way before; in junior high, I started reading horror books. I spent a lot of time at home alone, and was prone to getting the creeps, but I still read horror books. About halfway through a Stephen King or John Saul, I'd find myself so freaked out that I couldn't get out of my chair unless someone else was home. Sometimes I was stuck for hours. No thirst, no hunger, no need to pee could move me. The only things that could break the spell were my mom coming home, or finishing the damn book. No matter how petrified I was, I was compelled to keep reading and reading until the end, until the resolution, when the monster was finally (if not permanently) conquered.

So, now we have global warming, and I'm getting that feeling again. Fortunately, not the "can't get out of my chair" part, but the compulsion to delve deeper and deeper into some stuff that's scaring the heck out of me. This week's headlines don't help: scientists are coming forward about being pressured into silence, other scientists conclude global warming is likely caused by humans, still others find that yes, it does create stronger hurricanes.

Sometimes I feel that maybe I've just tuned into it, the way you suddenly notice a new band only to find they've been getting airplay for months, or the way that Chihuahua owners notice Chihuahuas. Whatever the reason—and excuse the pun—global warming is a hot topic. It's everywhere.

So I keep reading and reading. The book selected for our community reading program, Santa Barbara Reads!, is Field Notes from a Catastrophe: Man, Nature, and Climate Change, by Elizabeth Kolbert. I've just started it. Chapter 1 summary: unprecedented artic ice melting. Stop me if you've heard this one...

I'm not complaining about the book itself. It's very well written. Yet I wonder why I'm reading it. I wonder if I will learn anything new, or if I'll just come away with more images of drowning polar bears and more dire details that confirm what I already believe. I suppose it's part morbid fascination, part thirst for knowledge, part quest for cure, and part just can't stop reading even though it's scaring me witless.

I'm considering a self-imposed media moratorium, simply avoiding the issue to give myself a psychic rest. Wallowing in the rising waters isn't very good for me. At the same time, along with bouts of despair, I get moments of hope when I see our leaders and lawmakers creating real change. It's a good time to be a Californian. Sometimes.

I don't know. Days like this, I just wonder if maybe the ostrich has the right idea.

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