That’s not just a song by Queen; it’s a question I find myself asking increasingly often.
Earlier this week, I took a three-day road trip, mainly because I will be leaving California soon and wanted to see a few more California things. I don’t really want to leave, but the cost of living is unmanageable. Anyway, I went up as far as Lake Sonoma, the furthest-out point, with the idea of working my way back on the last day. It was a hot afternoon, and a lake seemed like a good choice.
The parking lot at the visitor center was deserted because the visitor center was closed; but I saw the notice saying that no day-use fees were being collected until further notice, and picked up the map to find out where to find the swimming beach. After a long, winding drive up a hill and then down, I came to the swimming beach parking lot. It seemed rather odd that there was only one other car there. I passed through the playground area and came to the sign saying “No lifegurd on duty. Swim at your own risk.” I walked down the sandy slope, found a few bleached-out shells of freshwater clams, and came to the bottom, where the ground flattened out again and was covered with weeds. Looking to one side, I saw a concrete ramp that sloped down and ended at the weedy flat. It occurred to me, “That looks like a boat ramp.”
I saw the beach, the “no lifeguard” sign, the shells, the boat ramp. What did I not see?
There was no water visible from the swimming beach.
The realization hit me so hard. California’s drought has gotten so bad, you can’t see any water from a designated swimming beach. When will California’s cities have their Day Zero, like Cape Town has had? When will these green athletic fields turn straw-colored as the city decides that it can’t water them anymore? When will we go from restrictions on watering lawns to actual water rationing? And at that very moment, Hurricane Ian was rip-roaring through Florida.
Well, I’m less upset about leaving California now.
Some time ago, I saw an ad on YouTube for a book purportedly about how to live to be 120. After briefly considering whether I was interested, I was overwhelmed by several realizations. First: my 120th birthday will take place in the year 2093. What will the world be like by then? By 2030, hurricanes and other rain-related disasters will already have noticeably increased. By 2040, 1 in 4 children are predicted to live in places with severe water shortages. By 2050, sea levels are expected to be 10-12 inches higher. Sometime between 2040 and 2060, Phoenix, Arizona could be above 95 Fahrenheit for more than 6 months of the year, and by 2070, much of the United States could be unsuitable for growing crops. If I lived to be 120, I would experience all this.
Realistically, not many of us get to live to 120. But if you figure full retirement age is considered to be 67 (just over halfway to 120), well, I turn 67 in 2040, which is a year mentioned in several predictions; including one prediction that pollution and overpopulation could cause society to collapse around that time. That’s really going to put a crimp in my plans to enjoy my retirement.
Yeah… I had been planning a very different post, about the huge increase in our carbon and resource footprint late in life due to lifesaving medical interventions (electricity to run MRI machines, dialysis machines, artificial circulation; single-use plastics in the form of syringes, catheters, and what not; the resources used in manufacturing medications). I was going to ask, at what point do you decide to refuse further intervention for the sake of the environment? But this experience at Lake Sonoma prompts me to think a different thought: at some point, one might refuse further intervention because the planet no longer feels livable.