Urban Millennials, We’re Screwed When the Climate Apocalypse Comes

Reading that Esquire article about depressed climate scientists made me realize: I have no meaningful survival skills. How about you?

In retrospect, I should never have clicked that link.

It was Monday morning, after all, and the sun was just barely up. If you must read something before you peel yourself out of bed, it should be something benign. Maybe a scroll through Facebook. A little celebrity gossip, perhaps.

But no, I chose to start last week with John H. Richardson’s latest piece for Esquire, “When The End Of Civilization Is Your Day Job.” If you’re not quite prepared to ruin your day, I’ll summarize it for you: Climate scientists are freaking out — some are even experiencing PTSD-like symptoms — because the end is near and no one will pay attention unless it interrupts Big Brother.

It’s not that I never thought about it. In 2015, you can order a hot dog-encrusted pizza to your door from a computer in your pocket. We’re building waterparks in hotels and overnighting cases of paper towels. I have a plastic container of cookie-flavored coffee creamer in my refrigerator that contains neither cookies nor cream. I’m well aware that this way of life isn’t sustainable, that something’s gotta give — and that that something is probably a polar ice cap.

I just never thought that it could happen in my lifetime or backyard. Although maybe I should have. Weather.com recently ranked Philadelphia at No. 10 in its survey of U.S. cities most affected by climate change, and I’m fairly certain I saw a zombie in Suburban Station last week. Which is a problem, considering the fact that I — like a lot of my fellow urban-dwelling Millennials — have zero game-time survival skills.

In my defense, I move about present-day Philadelphia just fine. I go to work, I pay my bills, I show up at the dentist twice a year. If I was your daughter, you wouldn’t be ashamed to admit that you raised and released me into the world. (You wouldn’t be particularly proud, but you wouldn’t have to explain why I was living in your basement, either, so cut me some slack here.) And yet, if Doomsday decides to drop by, I’m about as prepared as a toddler. In two short generations, the Weymouth family went from surviving WWII in a South Pacific jungle to Googling “how do I remove a splinter?”

Outrunning the tidal wave isn’t an option – I spend most days at a desk, and this would be evident a half-mile into the race. If I could yoga away from the giant wall of water I might have a chance, but only if my no-slip mat was within reach.

But for the sake of going further, let’s say Will Smith was in town playing Apocalypse lifeguard and I somehow survived. Even so, the next few days in Philadelphia look bleak for me. If there’s no running water and Wiccaco Market isn’t open, I’m going the way of my late, thirsty basil plant. Build a shelter? Last time I needed a place to live, I paid an apartment broker to find one for me. Self-defense? When the hordes of undead show up (and they always show up) this is what I have in my weapons arsenal: a three-legged shih tzu, a blind shih tzu, and a hefty Restoration Hardware candle.

The one thing I can console myself with is that, for a woman who came of age alongside Dippin’ Dots, I’m a pretty decent cook. I know my way around a kitchen, and unlike some of my friends, I wouldn’t starve as soon as Circles stopped delivering. No, my fall-out shelter would have baguettes — slightly chewy, a little bit of crunch on the crust, just delightful, oui oui. Provided, of course, that someone else grew the wheat and processed it into flour. I suppose I’d need a packet of yeast, too. Whatever yeast is. Wait — what is yeast? A fungus that magically makes bread? Really? That sounds like a Jesus trick. Who in the fucking fuck figured that one out?

I’m OK not understanding how my iPhone works. What I’m less OK with is not understanding how bread works — this one strikes me as a problem. Or maybe it’s not so much a problem as an accomplishment of sorts: For perhaps the first time in the history of the Earth, an animal survived 30 years without knowing how to feed, shelter or defend herself.

So where do I go from here? I briefly considered buying a self-sustaining farm in New Jersey and going off the grid, but living in New Jersey is no way to live. I guess I could hit the lab and try to save the world, except I fulfilled my science requirement with a class titled “Religion, Magic and Sorcery” (that one’s on you, Penn). As for repenting, well, pretty sure I missed that deadline.

In the end, after a week of panic, I’ve got nothing. My last hope is that the climate-change naysayers over in the Esquire.com comments section are on to something. Trust politicians and oil tycoons while doubting scientists? Hey, I have cookie-flavored coffee creamer in my coffee — don’t overestimate me.

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