Signs and Wonders

SA: This is a wonderful essay reflecting on the current state of things. Click on the link to read the whole thing.

Written by Delia Falconer

Things seem to carry a terrible freight these days. Swimming at Nielsen Park, in Sydney harbour, an ancient river valley filled by melting Ice Age waters that stabilised seven thousand years ago, I find myself wondering how high the water will rise again when the ice caps melt. ‘Every time I see a bird or bee these days,’ a friend says when we are talking on the phone, ‘I find myself wondering if it’s the last.’

The sense of loss is everywhere as each day brings news of unfolding disaster. Vanishing creatures are only part of a suite of ongoing catastrophes we are starting to recognise under the umbrella of the Anthropocene. Heating of the atmosphere and the rise of CO2, loss of forests, disruption of weather systems and sea currents, pollution from plastic and micro-plastics, and ocean acidification; together, these have accumulated the force of geological change, pushing us out of the stable patterns of the 12,000-year-old Holocene and into a human-influenced new epoch.

And yet within the small span of one’s own experience, it’s hard to measure causes and effects, let alone how fast things are turning. As the world becomes more unstable in the grip of vast and all-pervasive change, it’s difficult to discern exact chronologies, relationships and meaning. In this unfolding context, small things take on terrifying and uncertain correlations. It’s as if, I found myself thinking, as I scoured the water for fish, that in trying to see into the future we’re returning to the dread speculation of the past. We’ve entered a new age of signs and wonders.

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