Inner Resources


Ways to stave off suicide:

  • Borrow somebody else’s neural net.
  • Write a love letter to someone, maybe your dead boyfriend.
  • Eat blueberries.
  • Go outside. Even if it’s winter and there is snow on the ground, you will think of green.
  • Make yourself laugh by telling yourself it will all be OK.
  • Try not to be so sarcastic. It’s corrosive, this sarcasm.


There are several ways to stave off apocalyptic global warming:

  • Stop using so much fossil fuel.
  • Unplug your computer from the wall socket.
  • Take shorter showers.
  • Ride your bike.
  • Don’t travel by airplane.
  • Don’t buy plastic.
  • Don’t use plastic bags.
  • Don’t buy blueberries from Argentina in plastic clamshells in November.


But sometimes these things are impossible. The shortening of showers. The riding of bicycles—all these hills. The laughing. The finding of non-Argentinian blueberries even in June. The antidote to sarcasm is sincerity. Sincerity feels like such a layer of bullshit.


What might be a layer of bullshit is the prospect of geoengineering, a back-up plan to save the planet. Or at least to save the atmosphere. Geoengineering is the deliberate, large-scale intervention in the Earth’s natural climate systems to counteract climate change. It’s a last ditch effort in case humans don’t change their climate-altering behavior. Scientists have devised ways to artificially create more cloud-cover by adding sulfur to the atmosphere to cool the air. There are drawbacks to this plan but it is a potential, albeit last-ditch effort, to prevent self-destruction.


The oceans will still become acidic. And the ozone layer might disappear entirely. But if crops continue to burn and tsunamis continue to drown and humans can’t stop themselves from their humany ways, then perhaps something less humany must be done. Something with big machines. Or big guns. Big molecules. Americans like things big and the small changes to live sustainably are even smaller than they are.


Smaller than the gut microbes they destroyed in their stomach by overdoing on antibiotics and now they can’t eat anything but rice. No blueberries.

One way to stop the greenhouse gases from turning the planet into an ever-hottening greenhouse is to whisk up the ocean to create more cloud cover. That sounds easy and simple enough. Not too troubling, unless you’re a fish. The size of the machines would need to be alien movie-sized like the ones in The Abyss, War of the Worlds, the new Superman, Man of Steel. A turbine or a generator or a big fan spins and spins the water, makes a ruckus. The molecules, not liking this busy-ness, separate. The O’s say goodbye to the H’s and flee to the sky. “Here, humans,” the O’s would say. “Here’s our gift to you. A big fat cloud between you and that thing you claim to love so much, that indomitable sun. We broke up, me and the H’s, just for you and still you curse the rain.”


To stop yourself from killing yourself, you stir things up a bit. Change your basic weather patterns. Find the ocean inside of you. This will require self-awareness, which, being suicidal, you think you have too much of but actually you have too little. You need to get away from yourself. Stop bothering your poor mother. She’s had it up to here with you. What you need is a new personality. You have to do the thing most uncharacteristic of you.

Let’s say you are usually a friendly person on the outside, “Hi, how you doing?” but on the inside, you’re saying to yourself, “my god, that is a stupid coat.” Change it around. Make yourself alien. Go ahead and say aloud, “My god, that is a stupid coat” and think to yourself, “Hi. How are you?” You might make an enemy. You may even get punched in the nose. But you’re at the beginning of changing your neural net. Even better, you might realize you’ve been being a jerk in your head all along. Maybe you’ll shut up about people’s coats. Maybe you’ll stop being a jerk in your head and in your mouth. You might even find a way to like rain.


Once, when I lived in Portland, I claimed to love the rain in the same way people who live in places it snows claim to love the snow. But lying to yourself is only a temporary means of survival. No one likes her feet wet. You tell yourself it’s beautiful but frostbite is a killer and gangrene killed my grandmother. First you lose your footing. Then you lose your actual foot. Then the infection spreads like depression. Like carbon dioxide. You are not a tree. You cannot breathe in all these combined H’s and O’s. All this carbon. All this anti-air. You need regular oxygen to live. What is oxygen? It is rain coupled with blueberries.

They grow lots of berries in Oregon. Grapes are a kind of berry that you make into wine. Wine is a big industry. People like to drink, not usually to death, at least not on purpose. The grape growers don’t want the grapes to die either but in Oregon, it is awfully wet. It is moist most of the time. Powdery mildew is the enemy. To prevent the moisture from growing fungus on the grapes, you just apply sulfur. It’s an easy machine—kind of like a potato gun or a portable humidifier. The sulfur prevents mildew from growing, protecting the planet of the grape, letting it survive until harvest and crush. It’s so harmless, wine with sulfured grapes can still be labeled organic. Still, the sulfur must interfere with the sun to some degree. Some wines taste like sulfur. Some people are allergic to sulfites. And sometimes, sulfites stick grape fermentation, which means the wine remains grape juice, and the world ends nonalcoholicly.


There are other ways, besides the spurring on of cloud-making from the ocean, to man-make a fix to this carbon problem, to this greenhouse effectively turning our planet into a desert-zone. You can spread a layer of sulfur dioxide along the atmosphere, like a layer of protective Vaseline. The sun does not like sulfur dioxide—it’s a mirror to its vampiric self. The sunlight bounces off the sulfur. Deflection. Rejection. Take that sunlight. Try not to heat us up so much. Our planet is not an old two-liter bottle of Squirt, capped and trapped. We are a can of Zima. We are going to dance all this heat away.

This geoengineering is good for the kind of humans with a lot of luck and a little forethought. To coat the atmosphere in sulfur dioxide, you (not you in particular, you in general, like you and your mother) send giant balloons, that rise up, like clouds. The balloons rain down sulfur upon the atmosphere. Smear it on like a salve. The hope is the sulfur dioxide stays up in the sky instead of collapsing into the ocean, turning it to vinegar. That the ozone layer doesn’t take offense and leave for a better Venus. That the sky turning whiter wouldn’t make the swans disappear. Humans have always been an experiment. Bleach is their favorite color.


Suicide is the greatest rejection. Dear Life, you are too stupid. Please go away. When you kill yourself, it’s the one big fuck you, everyone. The last one, but a good one. In suicide, hutzpah. I do not need you, you dirt, you air, you soft animal flesh. You want it all gone. Bleach kills everything.

It takes technology to kill yourself. Death by self, unless you can manage to starve or not breathe, requires tools and apparatus. You need a knife. An electrical cord. A hose for the exhaust pipe. A bottle of pills. A gun. A razor. A train. The fact that it takes something human-made should be a sign it’s no good for you. Can you kill yourself with blueberries? No you cannot. They grow by rain and by sun. A reasonable combination of both. Be like the blueberry. Breathe.

They say that the art of deconstruction is to find the flaw, and therefore the key, to any piece of art. You are art, made, constructed. Bleached and grown, twisted and loved. What is the most you thing about you? Your dirty looks? The way you quote Oscar Wilde? That you sleep with one hand down your pants? That you consistently see yourself in the eyes of others? That you see through the skin of others, like Superman, and see all their flaws. Their flaws are your flaws. Stringy and elastic. You feel your own muscles stretch like a rubber band. Now we’re onto something. Their sadness crushes your soul because you know it crushes theirs. You know how desperately they’re trying to hold on. It makes you suffer. Their flimsy skin. The way they say, hey, that’s cheating, when you place your Scrabble letters on the board, let go, for a second, and then change your mind and pull them back. It’s fine, it’s fine, they say but you’ve already seen their insides. You’ve decayed them like plutonium 135. Half life half life. The fingers on the Scrabble letters are the only things holding them together. You are made of carbon. You keep spewing yourself into the atmosphere. You remind them, by letting go, by coming back, how fragile everything is. And now, by seeing them, you’ve reminded yourself. You are blowing apart like hydrogen and oxygen, abandoning your letters, going back to them. You wanted a second chance. The word Beloved was better than Valuable. What will it take to turn you into protective layer of Vaseline. Compassion. To save them, you have to save yourself. Maybe grow some local blueberries. Give them to your friends. Live.


With the atmosphere fully lathered in sulfur, what happens to the sunlight? Shame spiral? The solar flares turn inward. The sun, rebuffed and rejected now looks like you when you were feeling your worst. What if the sun takes it to heart, undoes himself, goes supernova? It is hard to feel sad for a sun that one million of your earths could fit inside of. But you are its people. It will miss you. The sun won’t even turn into a red giant in 4.5 billion years. That’s a long time to go on with all your good efforts returned. Maybe the sun will shrivel and die without the humans who once loved the sun.


Balance is the most useless verb. If you can balance, you’re already doing it. You don’t need to say it. If you’re telling someone to balance, then obviously, they can’t. Just balance the amount of sulfur with the amount of cloud. Just balance the amount of sun with the amount of artillery fire. Just balance the amount of carbon you release with the number of trees you plant. You always wanted palm trees in Cleveland. Just balance the good things with the bad. Just wait another day and balance will come. People are the worst at balance. That’s why the oceans do it for us.

On the top of the staircase is where you need balance the most but have it the least. You could just throw yourself off the balcony, off the deck, out the window, down the stairs. The moment is unbalanced. Everyone can see your insides. You are a mess of wires and propulsion. If life were a teeter-totter, you’d be on the ground with the snakes. If life were a teeter-totter, you’d be stuck in the air with the clouds and the bombs. If you knew how to balance, you would have stopped driving your car long ago.


Bicycles. The solution to suicide and global warming. All you need is for it to stop raining. One very unlikely prediction of global warming is that it will lead to less sun, more clouds, naturally. We won’t need the sulfur. The carbon will heat up the air. Hot air will heat up the oceans. Hot oceans will make more clouds. More clouds will mean more rain. The sun will not be rebuffed. The sun believes in clouds. He’s already been to Venus. And, we can live on in the everywhere that is the Portland, Oregon of our dreams where everyone already rides bicycles, even in the rain, and everyone lives in balance with their oxygens and their hydrogens, mixed, shaken not stirred, their corn and their mothers. The bicycling may be wet but isn’t too full of hills. All that even breathing, the in and the out, the oxygen balancing the carbon as you balance on your pedals and balance you’re just glad you have a coat, even if it’s an ugly.

And on those sunny days there is no conflicted feeling about the sun. You are one hundred percent certain. You don’t need any sulfur protectant. The sweat on your face reflects the extra bit of sun the layer of carbon trapped in here. You are your own Vaseline. It doesn’t worry ozone and it doesn’t worry shame. Do I love you or hate your coat? It doesn’t matter. Take it off. The sun has arrived. Oh, sun, it’s OK. It has been too long. Thanks for just a little of you. June in Oregon is for blueberries, enough for everyone.


Rumpus original art by Claire Stringer.

NICOLE WALKER’s is the author of two forthcoming books Sustainability: A Love Story and Where the Tiny Things Are: Feathered Essays. Her previous books include Egg, Micrograms, Quench Your Thirst with Salt, and This Noisy Egg. She also edited Bending Genre with Margot Singer. She’s nonfiction editor at Diagram and Associate Professor at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, Arizona where it rains like the Pacific Northwest, but only in July. More from this author →