NOTE: The National Evil is all over global warming and its sticky presence in our increasingly sweaty-necked lives. Our Nauseous Earth is a continuing discussion of that which afflicts our dear mama planet and what we can do to aid her, hopefully short of the utter obliteration of mankind.
Today let us consider one of the vilest, yet underreported, effects of global warming: the constant news of icebergs “calving” off the rim of Antarctica.
Have you ever seen a calf being born? I have. And it’s not something I care to think about.
Some might respond: Well, global warming isn’t something anyone cares to think about either, Chuckles, but it’s in your face whether you like it or not. Fair enough—I’m willing to face unpleasant truths. But the “calving” of icebergs doesn’t make me set my jaw and pledge my eternal carbon neutrality. What it does is make me think of blood and birthgoo and spasmodically lowing cows—and then think of anything else, anything at all, to distract me from all that.
Now. I’m sure Ernest Shackleton and his men, a-sailing for the South Pole, saw many an iceberg liberate itself from continental bondage. And I’m sure some farm-savvy member of the crew was struck by how much a sluice of ice splooshing into the Southern Ocean resembled the birthing of a calf. The spectacle of shellshocked penguins raining down from the rupturing ice probably called to mind the aforementioned spray of blood and birthgoo he’d witnessed hundreds of times. And I imagine he said, “Looks jes like a heifer calving, don’t it?”
English is a beautiful language, endlessly supple in its descriptive capacities. But there are some descriptions that are too perfectly evocative. Fireworks might explode like bursting pimples, but you don’t have to ruin everyone’s Fourth of July saying so.
Did the title of this post disgust you? Just a little? Good. That’s how I feel about icebergs “calving.” And you should too.
. . . Besides, the image falls apart as soon as the birthing ends. A calf emerges from the womb a stick-legged, staggering thing, whereas an iceberg floats off with malign purpose. Like the ghosts in Pac-Man.
Icebergs don’t “calve.” They plop from the proud ass-end of the planet we call “Antarctica” and drift off, sovereign in our toilet-bowl sea. Doesn’t that sound better?