This episode of Warm Regards, the second of two that explore climate data as art, looks at more immersive and embodied experiences of climate data. First, an exploration of the multimedia installation World Without Ice, from producer Justin Schell, and then a conversation between Jacquelyn and Daniel Bird Tobin, who evocatively utilizes theater to help people imagine sea level rise in their own immediate communities.
3. Coincidence or covert operations?
In September this year, the former Republican congressional candidate DeAnna Lorraine had a frightening epiphany. “I find it very interesting how the show The Masked Singer hit America in January 2019, a little bit over a year before they started forcing us all into masks. It’s almost like they were beginning to condition the public that masks were ‘normal’ and ‘cool’,” she wrote on Twitter. “The media is demonic.”
Most people had the good sense to dismiss Lorraine’s theory, but this tendency to claim some kind of causal connection from a random coincidence has given birth to many other unfounded ideas. “Conspiracy theorists tend to take a grain of truth, then cast another narrative around it,” says Van der Linden.
Speculating on whether the paintings had a sacred or other purpose, he said: “It’s interesting to see that many of these large animals appear surrounded by small men with their arms raised, almost worshipping these animals.”
Observing that the imagery includes trees and hallucinogenic plants, he added: “For Amazonian people, non-humans like animals and plants have souls, and they communicate and engage with people in cooperative or hostile ways through the rituals and shamanic practices that we see depicted in the rock art.”
Al-Shamahi added: “One of the most fascinating things was seeing ice age megafauna because that’s a marker of time. I don’t think people realise that the Amazon has shifted in the way it looks. It hasn’t always been this rainforest. When you look at a horse or mastodon in these paintings, of course they weren’t going to live in a forest. They’re too big. Not only are they giving clues about when they were painted by some of the earliest people – that in itself is just mind-boggling – but they are also giving clues about what this very spot might have looked like: more savannah-like.”
Fisher describes the parent-child dynamic in terms of “serve and return.” He isn’t talking about tennis; serve and return is psychologyspeak for the essential signals that travel continuously between young kids and their parents or the people who care for them. A baby fusses or wails or droolingly smiles; the caregiver notices and responds with a diaper change, a warmed bottle, a sloppy raspberry kiss. This constant exchange and recognition is the bedrock of the evolutionary business we now call “parenting.” Fisher focuses his research on kids 5 and under, and though serve and return refers to that cohort, parental balance and reassurance are protective at every age.
What Fisher worries about now is how many young children — what portion of America’s 20 million kids under 5 — are serving into a void. He starts with the premise that parents love their kids and want to care for them, that even overwhelmed humans know in their cells how to nurture. But after 37 weeks of pandemic, too many American parents are too tapped out. Decades of research has definitively shown that the presence of a responsive caregiver, especially during early childhood, when the brain is extremely plastic, is the crucial ingredient in healthy development. This stable adult attention is exponentially more meaningful when children are growing up in persistent adversity: environments of neglect, abuse, deprivation, or poverty that medical and psychological professionals call “toxic stress.”
But when kids ask and they receive no answer, or when the answer they do receive is inconsistent, unpredictable, or cruel, the long-term consequences on development are dire. They include cognitive delays; learning problems; impulsivity or aggression on the one hand and numbness or lack of affect on the other; addiction and alcohol abuse; and social difficulties, including with romantic partners and authority figures. Children who grow up in environments of toxic stress, without the buffering presence of a responsive adult, struggle as they get older — not just with more psychiatric disorders but with higher rates of asthma, diabetes, teen pregnancy, and lower educational outcomes. Toxic stress was already endemic before this pandemic. Too many families were struggling to keep it together. And now there are too many more.
The 250,000 dead — that’s just the beginning, with each one of these deaths afflicting children and grandchildren in varying degrees, always with grief, perhaps also with the loss of an indispensable caregiver or a beloved friend. More than 18,000 people between the ages of 25 and 54 have died of the virus, many of them parents with children at home. But the suffering isn’t limited to the dying or those who mourn them. The experience of those who’ve stayed healthy, inhabiting the same crowded spaces as their kids, has been grueling. Burnout is rampant everywhere, even among the well-to-do. Parents are keeping it together while children dangle off their laps on Zoom, juggling meetings to help with science assignments while everyone squabbles over unending household chores. These are the lucky ones. Eleven million people are unemployed, city eviction moratoriums are coming to an end, and federal aid is petering out with no infusion of money in sight. In July, a Brookings Institution analysis showed that 16 percent of American families were experiencing child food insecurity (up from 3 percent two years ago), which means that 14 million kids sometimes don’t have enough to eat.
“There are huge inequalities in parents’ ability to create a predictable environment, and those disparities are widening,” said Katie McLaughlin, a psychologist at Harvard who is studying the effects of the pandemic on teens. “That doesn’t take away from the fact that we are all experiencing this. We no longer have the ability to predict what the next month is going to look like. How are we going to organize our lives? It’s a risk factor that really cuts across the board.”
To establish an exercise routine, I needed to let myself be bad at it. I needed to stop trying to be an actual athlete.
I started exercising again by running for only one minute at a time — yes, that’s right, 60 seconds. Every morning after I brushed my teeth, I changed out of my pajamas and walked out the door, with my only goal to run for one full minute.
These days, I usually run for 15 or 20 minutes at a stretch. But on the days that I’m totally lacking in motivation or time, I still do that one minute. And this minimal effort always turns out to be way better than nothing.
Maybe you relate. Maybe you’ve also failed in one of your attempts to change yourself for the better. Perhaps you want to use less plastic, meditate more or be a better antiracist. Maybe you want to write a book or eat more leafy greens.
I have great news for you: You can do and be those things, starting right now!
The sole requirement is that you stop trying to be so good. You’ll need to abandon your grand plans, at least temporarily. You must allow yourself to do something so minuscule that it’s only slightly better than doing nothing at all.