What is warmth?

Hobart, September 2019

Writing from the fickleness of Tasmania’s spring, I’m remembering – and missing – Irish weather. Today it’s raining; snow is once more predicted for the mountains; and if the sun delivers I’ll be diving for shade or a sun hat.

I’m attempting to nurture my solastalgia: a preoccupying melancholy about the warming planet, and our future so characterised last week when students, led by the remarkable Swedish sixteen-year-old Greta Thunberg, mobilised to implore adults to wake up and DO SOMETHING about climate change. The rally in Hobart was vibrant with adolescent energy, leaping dogs, and activated adults flocking into the madding crowd. The bitter sexist comments directed at Greta in the days that followed ­– after her declamatory speech to the UN Climate Action meeting – flared my melancholy into anger and deep despair. Hope dies hard in these times but I’m understanding that it’s as necessary as a beating heart to staying alive.

And so I garden, ripping colonising hybrid stems from the passionfruit vine and dosing my lemon tree with chicken shit. I’ve netted the kale seedlings to keep away the blackbirds, and renovated the worm farm to encourage the worms up into a new tray. In a few weeks I’ll be siphoning the castings onto my tomato plants.

I listen to the report of forest fires in Indonesia: the long-term health impacts of smoke from the peat fires and greenhouse damage from the spume. Peat, when left damp, is a significant carbon bank; it burns because it’s been drained to allow for plantations which have very low carbon sequestration. And when peat burns it can burn for a very long time, deep into the earth. I think of the Irish bogs – the source of fuel for home-fires and areas devoid of trees –  and arrest my thoughts of the potential for all those bogs to burn if they dry out.