What a relief climate change has been reconfigured as extreme weather by the Trump administration, writes Suzanne Harrington
For a while it seemed we were doomed, but turns out it was just the weather. Nothing to do with either climate or change. I will be reminding myself of this as we drive to the exact corner of the South of France that has just gone up in flames.
The very campsite where we are headed, which we visit annually like migrating wildebeest programmed to return to the same beach year after year, is the one recently evacuated as the ‘weather’ turned the surrounding hills into a raging inferno more usually involving koalas with burnt paws. Not temperate, moderate France. And yet here it is, this extreme ‘weather’, burning down our holiday. Instead of immolated koalas, it was French-speaking Hermann’s tortoises who perished, too ponderous to hoof it into the Med to save themselves.
A month or so earlier, similar ‘weather’ caused 60 people to die in Portugal. Up a Portuguese mountain at the time, visiting friends who smiled nervously as fires raged an uneasy 30 minutes away from the tinderbox hillside where we slept. Everything dust dry and crackly. Surrounded by eucalyptus, highly flammable, terrifying once ignited. The friends’ place was miles off road – our fire plan was to stand in the tiny water tank behind the tiny house and pray, should our hillside become engulfed.
It didn’t, but it could have been tricky. Even if there had been a working phone, our Portuguese would not have stretched to, ‘We appear to be experiencing some extreme weather. Please send a rescue helicopter, before we become ash’. Instead, we sat around laughing and joking in that way you do when you’re a bit worried, and silently praying for a massive storm, although without lightning, because that wouldn’t have been good either. We would have made excellent conductors. Like flies fried in a fly zapper.
Obviously it’s a massive indulgence to be talking about climate change in the context of one’s European holiday being a bit hot – I mean, Heatwave Lucifer, honestly. We are culturally ill equipped for heat – Lucifer is our meteorological Brexit. It’s not as though we are up to our necks in the Ganges Delta, or quietly submerging in Mauritius, or dying of thirst in Darfur. No, we’re just a bit hot.
But to go as far as Trump, and instruct an entire government of the world’s primary polluter to rename what is happening to the earth in front of our very eyes, seems the maddest thing he has done yet. Not the most outrageous, but the maddest. Mad as in Orwellian Doublespeak mad, rather than Idi Amin off-with-their-heads mad.
What to do? We pack the diesel car with tents to drive 1,000 kilometres south — whatever carbon is offset by being vegan is cancelled out by my ancient knackered car — and pretend none of it is real.
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