This is purely anecdotal, but I feel as if some mysterious, unseen force has destabilized what once was our relatively predictable relationship with the natural world. For example, I have been encountering a drastic increase in aggressive dogs in my neighbourhood. Just this morning, I witnessed two great Danes, tethered in their front yard, gnashing their teeth, drooling gobs of foam as they strained at their leashes to get at me. I have seen goldendoodles plainly giving me the stink eye. And it’s not just man’s best friend, either, although that disloyalty is especially sad. Recently, I have been intimidated by both housecats and squirrels. In the past fortnight alone, several sparrows have dive bombed me, and numerous spiders have eyed me with bad intent. God knows what the crows are planning.
By a weird coincidence, I happened to have watched Alfred Hitchcock’s classic thriller The Birds not so long ago. It was probably the dozenth time I’d seen it, but it never fails to get to me. The thought of Mother Nature, always a bit of a dodgy character—bullying, red in tooth and claw—let’s face it, even at the best of times, turning upon humanity in such a violent and malevolent way. Terrifying.
If it was only the animal kingdom that was getting belligerent, that would be one thing. But then there’s the tornados, the thunderstorms, the fires, and the floods! Have you heard that deadly fungi are on the rise? The odds of survival on this planet are dicey enough to begin with: brain cancer, curare poisoning, Komodo dragon, satanic sacrifice, mutating viruses, hydrogen bomb; to name just a few ways of snuffing it. Having the natural world throw a hissy fit feels like coals to Newcastle.
Truly, I feel that we may be on the brink of the End Times. This is especially a problem for me, as I don’t do well under apocalyptic conditions. When our world is in ruins, and the veneer of civilization has been rubbed away, I feel as though people with practical, useful skills, such as hunting, carpentry, and mechanical maintenance will easily find their place in the new dystopian meritocracy—finding favour with the warlords, militias, torch-wielding mobs, and human resources departments. On the other hand, I wonder what the new world order will make of my knowledge of Restoration comedy. How useful will my crossword skills be seen to be?
I am a decent cook, so perhaps that will be my “in”. When we have all reverted to cannibalism, I imagine I could give a good account of myself by turning slain enemies into savoury cassoulets and saltimbocca dishes.
But perhaps I am only being alarmist. Nothing is more likely. I was a particularly pessimistic and bloodthirsty child, routinely orchestrating toy soldier and stuffed animal Armageddons. I was not alone, of course; how could any of us possibly be otherwise, having all been born and raised under the shadow of a mushroom cloud, with the lightning flicker of climate catastrophe forever dancing on the horizon? Visions of the impending apocalypse are our birthright.
Still, every cloud has a silver lining. Even a mushroom cloud, am I right? As Canada’s own Saint Joni once reminded us, “You don’t know what you got ’til it’s gone.” Well, it ain’t gone yet, and we’re at least starting to know what it is we are on the verge of losing. That knowledge is not a solution, and probably not even a reason for the slightest glimmer of hope. But it’s not nothing.