They were waiting while the ice caps melted into the sea. The sound of ice, the size of small countries, breaking apart, disappearing into the ocean. A deep rumble that would shake them to their core but it was rumbling in places they couldn’t reach. Places they could ignore. Maybe if they could hear it, if they could feel it, it would make them shudder. But they didn’t listen. The water was too cold yet, too icy and far away. But, even from far away, it began to touch them, some of them—not enough. Flood water to the knees. Places disappearing underwater, communities swallowed by the sea. They were warned that places would soon be forever underwater. Homes would gradually be swept away. Houses, entire cities, fragmented into sand. Gradually floating into the ocean, becoming ocean. Nothing but a memory in the minds of millions of refugees. No rubble remaining—just stories. But this threat was not enough to move them. Just a distant dystopia. Too distant, too cool. They paddled in the water, the coolness tickling their knees.
They noticed that the water was slightly more tepid and violent than usual, they became concerned about frequent algae blooms. But they were mainly bad for dogs and stomachs, they wouldn’t boil a frog or hurt a child. Children matter. Water was becoming violent, destructive. It was a rising threat but in places that didn’t matter enough. It was news but nothing new—nothing too threatening. No palaces, no parliaments. They convinced themselves the water was okay. A passing threat. It’s okay, we have floods now and again. It’s normal. We come together as a community, it’s a beautiful thing to see. Let’s not make this political—it’s a time for togetherness.
The crisis had become a political debate, an ideology—as if facts and science could be challenged until debatable when powers wished them to. A taboo. A marker of a particular bias. Let’s not bring up the dirty word, the elephant in the room. The elephant that they were all hiding inside of. The water may have been dirty and destructive. But cool to the skin and accidental. No need to shout, the water wasn’t tepid. The frogs would be happy for the deluge. There should be better defenses for the next time, they said. Next time.They floated away from homes on dirty water but, still, there was no flood of change. The water had risen but the heat was still bearable.
Think of our future, a young girl said, why should we pay for your mistakes? She tried to put them all in hot water. They laughed at her. Silly child who dared to stand up to the adults, to face power with the stern voice of a chiding teacher. She’s nothing more than a puppet, they said, a phony with a dangerous ideology, they said. An ideology most scientists agreed on but they couldn’t convince the masses. No charts, tables, graphs or evidence could be as emotive as a little girl’s voice, or, as the march of children in the street. Children matter, of course. It was emotive, yes.
But, business as usual mattered more. Denial, widespread, infectious. The companies who thrived on destruction, pretended it wasn’t there or pretended to care. We care about the planet, they said, whilst they continued to destroy it without a care. Hey, look, we plant trees. Planting trees made everyone feel better. It excused them for flying half-way across the world for a weekend holiday. Of course, they certainly needed trees. Greed was eating trees across the world. Fire was engulfing them. The world was on fire—but not enough of it. They could look over in pity. What a shame, a natural disaster, so cruel. And they used to like going on holiday there. A shame. A mere natural disaster. The frogs were hot in the forests, their skin boiling, but the water still felt too cool.
They were in hot water, heading close to a tipping point that they couldn’t see. All the shouting and striking and fighting had done nothing. Negligible reduction. All that shouting but the ones that mattered still weren’t listening. They were still buying, they were still selling. The world wasn’t hot enough yet—the issue was too opaque for them, too distant. Was it at a boiling point yet? It was too hard for them to be scared of something too far away. Too many carbon comforts. Too many companies who were comfortable in complacency. Change had a cost. Short-term gains, long-term costs. They were never very good at picking the sensible option. They celebrated greed and materialism while the debris of their countries plagued elsewhere. Stinking mountains of greed. Toxic wastelands of their leftovers. Out of sight, out of mind. Out of sight, easy to deny. Easy to ignore. They were moving too close to the sun now but could not feel the burn, yet. The water was boiling but they couldn’t see the steam, yet.
People were getting angry but not enough. Things were too comfortable. It was still too warm and cosy to the powers that mattered. The future seemed distant—it could wait. But, what were they waiting for? Were they waiting for the children of the future to curse them? Waiting for their favourite holiday destinations to be underwater? Waiting for their homes to be reduced to houses? Waiting to feel regret as they watched their lives being swept away? Waiting for their children to scream ‘why did you do this to us’ while they stirred in their underwater graves? Waiting till the world became a hostile place? Waiting until money returned to paper? Until, food would become so scarce, that money became outed as inedible and irrelevant? Waiting till the worse perpetrators ran to their lavish bunkers, while the rest of them, as usual, boiled in hot water? Waiting until nothing mattered but survival? Waiting until a wake up call? Waiting for a wake up call too late? When would it be too late? Waiting for what? What if the deniers were right, what if it was all wrong and they accidentally made a better, cleaner world? Would that be so bad? What if it was right and like frogs in hot water they boiled?
Would they jump to action before they burned?
Or would they end up waiting,
waiting for the end?