Loss Is Such a Useless Word Loss Is Such a Useless Word
Michael Flomen, From The Web, Edition 5, 2016
Dreams and Visions

Loss Is Such a Useless Word

An Interview with Forrest Gander
Julia Fiedorczuk
time 16 minutes

The world faces an ecological catastrophe and the ubiquitous consumerism seems like a new form of totalitarianism. In such circumstances, does individual action matter at all? Can we be hopeful about the future? Julia Fiedorczuk talks to the poet Forrest Gander.

Julia Fiedorczuk: Don’t you sometimes feel overwhelmed by the news of catastrophes? The Amazon fires last summer, the catastrophic fires in Australia at the beginning of this year… I remember when I was a child, whenever there was something scary on TV, I used to cover my eyes with my hands and watch through my fingers. That way I could see and not see at the same time. Increasingly, this is how I feel watching the news these days. But I wrote down a few phrases, such as this headline from The Guardian: “Emergency warning for Eden. It is too late to leave. Seek shelter as the fire approaches”. These phrases have haunted me for weeks.

Forrest Gander: As someone from California, I was immediately struck how that quote applies to Paradise, the town near me which recently burned to the ground. A few years ago, many people died there. Yes, I think a lot of us are doing just that: we cover our eyes. Sadly, if anything can disrupt our habits, our short-span attention, greed and satisfied self-absorption, only these huge fucking disasters can, like the fires in Australia [or the coronavirus pandemic. The interview was conducted on 23rd February 2020 in Louisville, before the pandemic was declared – author note].

It does look like what is happening in Australia is going to affect the politics there. The support for coal mining and the support for carbon-based energy is shifting now, only because the people have lost so much. The scale of disaster is going to turn things. In California, there were immediate and significant changes to water usage after the devastating fires rolled through. And even though the water table has come back up and we have had two seasons of good rain, those conservation policies remain in place. So the politics have changed.

One of the big exports from Southern California is almonds, a super water-intensive crop. President Trump has promised to divert Northern California water, necessary for salmon and wetlands, to service agriculture in Southern California. We will need another disaster to change that kind of thinking. The worst thing is that countries like Australia or the US can manage relatively well with catastrophic disasters, while poorer countries can’t. If we continue to ignore the


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