11 March 2012

Earthworms After a Rain: A Metaphor for Climate Change Catastrophe

I took my (newly gluten-free and therefore pain-free) body for a run this morning. It had poured rain all night and so I wasn't surprised to find a huge earthworm on the road at the end of my driveway.

I couldn't just leave it there because it would soon be run over by a passing car. But I'm a bit squeamish about picking up worms (which does surprise me, since I played with them as a child). So I got a stick and gently tickled the long, thin worm into a squirmy spiral of fat worm (worms are so fascinating), which was then easy to pick up with the stick and move to the side of the road. Remembering the old joke about the Boy Scout who helped the little old lady cross the road, even though she didn't want to cross, I hoped I had put the worm on the side it was heading to.

I carried on my jog, feeling pleased that I'd done my good deed for the day. Another few steps, and DISASTER! Worms everywhere! More worms than I've ever seen before. Big mama worms, baby worms. Pink worms, bluish worms, terra cotta worms. I was stunned! The road was covered with soon-to-be squished or dried out annelids. I realized very quickly that there was no way I could rescue all these worms.... Especially if I was to finish my run and get on with my day.

All I could do was try to avoid stepping on them. My eyes welled up with sad tears, but that only made it worse because I could no longer see the road clearly.

And then it struck me. Here was a metaphor for what's happening in the world today, in the face of climate change catastrophe.
• Some people care, but feel helpless against the sheer size of the problem.

• Some people don't notice worms ... or vulnerable populations.

• Some people just don't care about worms ... or those who are already losing their homes and homelands.

• Some people are skeptical that thousands of worms on the road constitutes a problem. "Can you show causal effect? Maybe the moon's plasma whatever caused it."

• And some people deny the problem completely. "Worms? What worms? I don't see any worms. Those are just dead sticks on the pavement." "Global warming? What global warming? There's no global warming. Those refugees are just sissies who can't swim."
I hope the psychologists are ready for the day when these comfortable skeptics and deniers discover that their greed, their lack of compassion, and their refusal to see and accept the problem are responsible for their children's lack of a future. Progenycide.

Should we be trying to put all the earthworms out of harm's way? I don't know. Should we be trying to get to zero carbon as rapidly as possible? Oh yes.

p.s. Thanks to schwarz wetter for the great photo of an earthworm after the rain.

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I would appreciate hearing your thoughts or questions on this post or anything else you've read here. What is your take on courage and compassion being an important part of the solution to the climate change emergency?