A thousand little ways

My son, 10 1/2, recently had his eyes forced open to global warming by his big sister, 14. I’m not sure what she said to him; it only came to our attention as his bedroom adjoins ours, and after lights-out one night began the most gut wrenching sobbing we’d ever heard from him. My husband went to check in.

“What’s that about?”
“Global warming. Apparently his sister told him that the world is going to flood.”

A few days ago he brought up the issue of flooding, which seems to be the image that stuck with him. “I dont’ think the whole world could flood, because what about the atmosphere?”

“No no, not all the land is going to flood; the mountains would still be above the ocean surface; it’s a big deal for cities, since many of the world’s cities are expected to flood, so many are at current sea levels. Oh, and maybe all of Holland — most of that country is at or below sea level already, they have dykes; and a lot of Northern Germany, where Oma is from. And Burma, and Ceylon… but our mountains would still be above the water, even if all the ice in the world melted.”

“Oh, well. You’re giving me a lot of comfort about this, mom. And I think that people are going to realize that this is a really serious thing, and do something about it.”

I didn’t say anything.

Here’s a poem, Good Bones by American poet Maggie Smith. Posted my my friend Ella on her Facebook feed, pretty much sums it up for me:

Life is short, though I keep this from my children. 
Life is short, and I’ve shortened mine in a thousand delicious, ill-advised ways, a thousand deliciously ill-advised ways I’ll keep from my children. 
The world is at least fifty percent terrible, and that’s a conservative estimate, though I keep this from my children. 
For every bird there is a stone thrown at a bird. For every child loved, a child broken, bagged and sunk in a lake. 
Life is short and the world is at least half terrible, and for every kind stranger, there is one who would break you, though I keep this from my children. 
I am trying to sell them the world. Any decent realtor, walking you through a real shithole, chirps on about good bones: This place could be beautiful, right? You could make this place beautiful. 

Good Bones by Maggie Smith