***This is the second in a series of posts tracing some thoughts and notes from my July 2019 trip around the world. I stopped for two weeks in France followed by two weeks in The Maldives. Very different ecosystems, very different vibes. Many moments of clarity and feelings — about ecologies, climate change, life with other humans and non-humans. One of the best things I heard came from a Swedish designer at the residency in France, as our group, up late, talking, talking, talking in the still (heat-wave) night: “But how do you feel?” What do we feel as we head deeper into the sixth mass extinction, sitting in a very old market town in the Cevennes, in baking heat? How do the rest of us talk about being ecological — away from theory, science, philosophy, technological solutions, ecological artists? What does it mean to be human in these times? Is it a scream? A dance? A long, loud laugh?
7 July, Ganges, France
This is the night of the Women’s World Cup Final and we watch the match on television in the Thackara home — Autourdethackara on Instagram — a 17th-century construction that invites many comments about all of the humans and their lives before us — the births, the celebrations, the deaths — it is also said to be the locus of a Dumas novel. So the place reverberates with the noise of history.
It has been deadly hot in France, the red map of the country projected across Twitter feeds to show the temperature. But the color red does not help with understanding the feel of the heat. The heat feels like my afternoon nap, the 20 minutes I need to get my breath back — or the feels of sliding into the River Viz each afternoon, the cold mountain water stinging the skin as this mountain water offers a respite for hot skin.
We sit on couches and the fans blow and the windows are open and we are from the Netherlands, England, Sweden, and the one non-human, Rita, is an Italian breed whose instinct is to herd. Everyone, save me, is on the side of the Dutch team, who arrives in Lyon to face Rapinoe et al as the 24 teams winnow down to two. They are tall, these Dutch footballers, and they play a physical game. Rapinoe had noted in a much-earlier interview, casually, while tying her shoes in a locker room, that if they won it all, she would not be going to the “f***ing White House. This comment was picked up, the viral thing, during the actual competition. The only piece of this that I take exception to – because it was such a powerful, informal moment that resonated for so many Americans — is that we not allow the symbol of the White House to stand in for the person who currently makes his residence there. I would prefer that we name him and say, we do not want to visit with him, rather than making the architecture — an important one symbolically — part of the problem. But that’s not my point.
My point is that we are all women watching the game and we are all talking about equal pay and dirty hits and engaged with these two squads as they slam back and forth across the field. We are in different fields, from medical, to engineering, to web development, to writing and we all know about unequal pay and what happens in the workplace. In one exchange, we watch players’ heads bash together trying to get to the ball. Both of the players appear to be knocked out on the field. Someone says: That’s life for you.
We sit and eat tapenade and salads and the heat is omnipresent. This is the time when we are coming off the 40-degrees days. I imagine how things must feel on that field in Lyon. And as the game ends, with the American side victorious, the crowd does this remarkable thing, they start chanting about equal pay. Then someone — I don’t recall who – says, “There is another way to fix this wage problem. Pay the men what the women are paid and with the savings, fund some climate change initiatives.”