Global Climate Sprawl

You get them wrong before you meet them, while you’re anticipating meeting them; you get them wrong while you’re with them; and then you go home to tell somebody else about the meeting and you get them all wrong again. Since the same generally goes for them with you, the whole thing is really a dazzling illusion empty of all perception, an astonishing farce of misperception. And yet. . .It’s getting them wrong that is living, getting them wrong and wrong and wrong and then, on careful reconsideration, getting them wrong again. That’s how we know we’re alive: we’re wrong.

I want to suggest that Global Climate Change (GCC) isn’t just a bad mess; it’s a spectacularly, can’t-keep-our-eyes-off-it, awful mess of getting it wrong, again and again.

It’s the demonstration of a stunningly profligate human nature. You see the sheer excess of it all in the epigraph, Philip Roth’s rant about human nature from American Pastoral. So too the elder statesman in T.S. Eliot’s eponymous play admits,

The many many mistakes I have made
My whole life through, mistake upon mistake,
The mistaken attempts to correct mistakes
By methods which proved to be equally mistaken.

That missing comma between “many many” also demonstrates the excess: After a point, we no longer can pause, with words and thoughts sprawling and piling up all over the place. (That the wildly different Philip Roth and T.S. Eliot are together on this point indicates the very real mess it is.)

That word, sprawl, takes us to a more magnanimous view of what is going on, as in Les Murray’s “The Quality of Sprawl”:

Sprawl is the quality
of the man who cut down his Rolls-Royce
into a farm utility truck, and sprawl
is what the company lacked when it made repeated efforts
to buy the vehicle back and repair its image.
Sprawl is doing your farming by aeroplane, roughly,
or driving a hitchhiker that extra hundred miles home…

This extravagance and profligacy–the waste–are not ornery contrarianism. For poet, Robert Frost, “waste is another name for generosity of not always being intent on our own advantage”.

To my mind, Global Climate Change is a hot mess–both senses of the term–now sprawled all over place and time. GCC is inextricably, remorselessly part and parcel of “living way too expansively, generously.” If I had my druthers, I’d rename it, “GCS:” Global Climate Sprawl.

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