Though we’ve known for four years that the 2020 US election cycle would be even more fraught than the strange and painful fall of the 2016 elections, most of us still find ourselves a little disoriented these days. For some, the urgency to remove Trump from office has immobilized us. For others, it’s fortified us into action to get out the vote and to sway those who are undecided, apathetic, and reluctant.
In the final five weeks before the election of a lifetime, we asked writers to consider the undecided voter and contribute compelling arguments and ideas for making the world right. Some contributors sent us work that takes on issues with precision and gravity. Others sent us different work, perhaps an even more visceral snapshot of this alarming moment — a one-act play, an open letter, a story of exile. New writing will be published weekdays; we believe its wisdom and strength will help us all navigate the uncertainty ahead.
I think about climate change every single day. I don’t know how not to think about it, and I don’t believe I should not think about it. Sometimes I worry that all the good times are over. I fear for my niece and nephews and my friends’ kids, what their lives will be like. What I know is that the trajectory we are on, of devastating hurricanes, wildfires, drought, superfloods, pandemics, rising seawater, melting ice caps, and on and on, will only grow faster and more catastrophic each year. We may have good times (and we should welcome them and be grateful for them when they are here), but they will be in the midst of, or between, the crises that are not only imminent, but already with us.
I’ve lived in Los Angeles, a city I love, for twelve years, and in that time I’ve experienced drought, the rising temperatures of global warming, and wildfire seasons that have grown bigger and more destructive since my arrival. It’s terrible to not be able to go outside when the air is not only unhealthy but hazardous, when you have to keep all your windows closed to keep out the smoke. When it’s happening in the middle of a pandemic, it feels even worse. It’s terrible to see images of horses and llamas on the beach, where you swim, when the mountains behind them are on fire. Do I leave, move to a “safer” city? But there is no safe place, only places that are being hit earlier than others.
I am thinking now of the han at Tassajara Zen Mountain Center in Carmel Valley (a temple which itself was in danger of burning down during the Basin fire in 2008), the instrument that calls the students, monks, and priests to zazen meditation. Inscribed on it are these words: “Wake up! Life is transient, swiftly passing. Be aware the great matter. Don’t waste time.”
We no longer have time to deliberate. The crisis is here, and four more years of a Trump presidency would be fatal for the climate. Please vote for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. Our lives really do depend on it, in so many ways, and certainly in this one. We can do something about climate change, but we literally have to do it right this moment.
If you enjoyed this essay, please share it with an undecided voter in your life, and please consider contributing to the Extinction Rebellion.
Amina Memory Cain is the author of a novel: Indelicacy, and two collections of short fiction: Creature and I Go To Some Hollow. Her writing has appeared in Granta, The Paris Review Daily, n+1, BOMB, the Believer Logger, and other places.