In my childhood, I was fascinated by the underwater world. Ponds, streams, rivers, lakes and oceans, I was obsessed with catching glimpses of fish, snails, crustaceans, cephalopods, plants, coral and on and on… an abundance of lifeforms beyond imagining. It amazed and enchanted me to know that there were so many hidden worlds on our planet and a reoccurring dream I’ve had since childhood has been about looking down into bodies of water that are teaming with life.
But for the last several years, those dreams have changed. When I look down into dream waters, I no longer see life. Instead, I see coral a dead, brown sludge, there are no swimming fish to be seen as the water is the temperature of a too warm bath. In my dreams, this blue planet has become a vast watery cemetery.
Last night, while sleeping, I visited my favourite beach from my childhood, Te Kaha. Myself and my Melbourne friends lowered ourselves into the clear blue water, where I spent many an hour snorkeling with my father as a child. But when I looked under the water, there were no fish, no snails, no shrimp, no sea cucumbers, no paua, no kina, no life. Nothing. Just sand, rock and water. I cried out to my friends, terrified and despairing because this was it, this was the end, soon we were to follow.
Nobody seemed bothered the way that I was. They swam and laughed and took selfies of themselves and went home happy. I woke up and ate toast for breakfast while my head floated in a dead ocean. Today, I feel heavy with despair. The loneliest thing about climate grief is how often I find myself crying alone.
I know I’m not the only one who feels this, so why does this grief make me feel so painfully separate?