Snow and ice

In the middle of the day yesterday, I looked out of the window here in Seattle and it was snowing steadily. The snow didn’t stick to the ground where we were, and it was soon over. This afternoon when we went for a walk, we saw frozen puddles by the side of the road, and frozen mud crunched under our feet when we stepped off the paving. We passed a pickup truck with a couple of inches of packed snow on its roof; it must have been driven into the city from some place nearby at a higher elevation, where there had been more snow, and the snow had stuck. And as it turns out, the same cold front swept down to San Mateo, where the National Weather Service reported “an active morning with passing showers and snow showers,” with the showers ending by this afternoon.

There is a long and honorable literary tradition in which events in the natural world are linked to human affairs, and I can’t help thinking about what Robert Frost said about fire and ice. If he had to choose between the world ending in fire or ice, Frost said, he’d bet on fire, based on what he knew of desire. But, he said:

…if [the world] had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To know that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.

Consumer capitalism provokes our unending desire for cheap consumer goods, and cheap consumer goods require the ever-increasing use of cheap energy, which in turn has led to the frightening rise in average global temperature: so the odds are pretty good that Frost is right, and the world will end in fire. But all the hatred that has broken out into in the United States in the past couple of years has made it clear that is we don’t die of fire and desire, we will freeze to death from icy hatred.

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