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Saturday, April 13, 2024

The Last Words Of A Climate Change Warrior - 'Armageddon Took Too Long'

Bob Musgrove was a climate warrior and proud of it.  'Tree-hugger' and 'eco-cunt' were terms that just rolled off his back.  Environmental hate had no traction for him. He had given up any climate doubt years ago when the first data had come in about the melting polar icecaps.  When they start to go, mankind is sure to follow, not in a watery slushy mess but in a a fiery, Biblical Armageddon. 

What galled him most was the denial.  Otherwise intelligent people were whisking climate change from the table like a housefly on the food, a nuisance, pesky and hard to get rid of, buzzing around despite swipes and slaps, ruining the meal.  How could they be so stupid? 

Bob's inner voice howled as he prepared the lawn signs, posters, and banners for the climate march on Washington.  This demonstration of thousands would turn the tide, would resonate well beyond the Beltway and shake some sense into Middle America.  This would be a once-and-for all event, the culmination of years of preparatory work, counselling, advising, and lecturing. 

The event was held on a sunny May Sunday.  It would be a Boy Scout jamboree, big-tent revival, Freedom Ride, Martin Luther King Hallelujah on the Mall extravaganza unmatched in American civil  rights history.  It would make headlines in Washington, Rome, and Beijing.

The crowd of jubilant young people, happy-go-lucky and enthusiastic about springtime, were overjoyed to be out and about, hooking up while doing something meaningful, and feeling good about themselves. For Bob's generation it was Woodstock; for his children's the Baltimore E-raves, and for Gen Z-ers a rousing, a en plein air party of historic proportions.  They whooped and hollered at every speaker's harangues, jumped up and down, rallied together in a show of solidarity, comradeship, and good will, and then went home. 


The press gave the event only desultory coverage.  They like everyone else in America had gotten tired of the clamor, the ankle-biting, pestering, and agonized howling. 'Enough already', said their editors, there were other more pressing stories to be covered. 

So all the hoopla and fol-de-rol turned out to be nothing more than a carnival, a lawn party with balloons, streamers, cake, and party hats.  Marching on the Mall had become an American thing, a show of strength and support for social causes.  Women marched for equality, abortion, and attention.  The Gay Men For Justice march was a Bay-to-Breakers, Castro, Folsom Street Fair all rolled into one, a naked men on floats, leather, bondage cock show.  Farmers plowed the Mall under with their tractors for increased farm subsidies; and pipe fitters and steam press operators marched for, well, no one was exactly sure, but thousands came in overalls, work boots, and monkey wrenches. 

If the climate march was less than expected - thin crowds, little public notice, and absolutely no effect on the partisan wrangling in Congress over politics as usual - Bob never let down his guard.  The incidental attendance and coverage only meant that renewed, stronger, and more committed action was necessary. 

Bob became a whirling dervish of energy, going from pillar to post like an itinerant preacher with his message of the coming climate Armageddon; but the crowds, like those on the Mall for the march were sparse, polite and unenthusiastic.  They had come only to see 'The Madman from Washington' as a conservative Idaho paper called him; and Bob certainly gave a show worth the price of admission.  He was lion tamer, big-top acrobat, and Mussolini-worthy fiery pulpit banging demagogue.  He strode across the stage waving his arms, sucking the microphone, blasting out verses, lines, and scripts from the Bible, Hollywood, and cattle auctions. 


'Maybe it's time for a new line of work', his wife said to him one dreary, rainy March morning, the day before his trip to Dayton and the Knights of Columbus.  'You're looking peaked' but Bob was having nothing of it, knotted his tie, and walked out the door.  If it wasn't exactly God's work, Bob thought to himself, but it was close.  Capitulation in a time of great need would be a mortal, unforgiveable sin. 

Bob became so obsessive about turning the country around that he actually prayed for some sign of the coming environmental disaster.  He stopped short of praying for acid rain or the shriveling of the Great Plains, but did ask God for something, anything he could use. 

"I must watch myself", he had the sense to say. "This is a slippery slope"; but far greater men than he had exaggerated for the benefit of the many; and hadn't many of his academic colleagues already stretched the truth about global warming to make a point?

Yet although he kept hammering and hectoring, climate change drifted below the fold, to the inside pages, to Metro and finally to Style. 'How to make your garden grow in a warming climate' was the feature article in Sunday's Washington Post Style section. When he saw the article, he threw the paper in the air, upsetting the tea service and spilling perfectly good Darjeeling first blush on his wife's newly pressed linen tablecloth. 

'Now, that's entirely enough', she said. 

Bob wasn't getting any younger, and as the interest in climate change grew more desultory and incidental, his agitation only increased.  Would his life's work have gone for naught?  Would he only be remembered as a Cassandra or blind Tiresias? Would his epitaph read, 'He Stayed Late At The Office'?

'You have forsaken me!", he howled to the sky one moonlit night, addressing the climate, the Earth, God himself; and at that moment went over the edge.  His obsession which had become mania had finally been outed as derangement.  The man was no longer himself and no longer stable. Tears streamed down his face as he bent down to touch the petunias and the impatiens. 'My children', he wept. 'My children'.


His wife rescued him from his misery, comforted him, and called the doctor.  Hospitalized and then institutionalized, the end was not long in coming, and in his last delusionary moments on earth, he opened his eyes, raised his arms, said, "You took too long", and died. 

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