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Column: Denials

10 January 2017

Column: Denials

Columnist Melanie Jane Parker explores the psychology of a climate change denier

My daughter was born in a tropical storm, two weeks after our family moved into the Fisher Island condo. The night we brought her home, the lobby of the 23-unit luxury building was damp from flooding.

We named her Kinga.1 She sleeps in a bassinet in the smallest of the four bedrooms. In the morning, before I leave for work, I stand in the doorway of her room and admire the composition: my child, a solar system mobile, an heirloom rocking chair, unobstructed ocean views, the Miami skyline.

I travel to the agency by boat. From one immaculate space to another, I rarely lose sight of the water. Last year I landed a corner office overlooking the harbor. For lunch I order in seafood and watch the yachts bob up and down like bath toys.

3,140 SQUARE FEET, ONLY $19,205 A MONTH.

Between sales, meetings, and conference calls, I read the news, check stocks. The New York Times reports that Congressman Ken Buck, stating that “when we distract our military with a radical climate change agenda, we detract from their main purpose of defending America from enemies.”

I debate whether or not to share this on my personal social media accounts. After a brief discussion with the marketing team, although we unanimously agree with Buck’s sentiment, I decide against it.

VENETIAN PLASTER THROUGHOUT. DECORATOR FEATURES. REINFORCED CONCRETE.

Our most successful campaign included a quote from an obscure paper on drowning in the context of Greek mythology, by Dr. Stathis Avramidis. He writes, It has been hypothesized that Paleolithic humans swam for the first time to escape from enemies or from wild animals.

For our purposes, we frame our enemies and wild animals as looters, thieves, the poor. Our market consists mostly of low-income and working class Floridians. We’re working on outreach to more southern and mid-Atlantic states, but I’m afraid I can’t disclose that information at this time.

EXPANSIVE SOUTHEAST WRAP TERRACE. DOCK, DOORMAN, ELEVATOR. EMERGENCY EXITS.

I am a restless sleeper. Some nights all it takes is a slight turning of a body—my own or my wife’s—to send a wave of dread through my nervous system.

GARDEN, GREENHOUSE, HOT TUB. HELIPAD.

The agency’s direct competition is a corporation called Dreamspace. They endorse and are endorsed by radical politicians and subversive scientists who dismiss sea-level rise as a liberal conspiracy at best, and a temporary gravitational disagreement between the moon and the tides at worst. Dreamspace plans, hosts, and documents waterfront events at which likeminded people can gather to drink, dine, and participate in allegedly environmentally hazardous activities (i.e., burn plastic, spray aerosol cans, freely dispose of batteries and pharmaceuticals). My wife is the CEO.

PATIO. POOL. PORCH. PANIC ROOM.

On Sundays we walk Kinga around the island. My wife wears a wide-brimmed hat, large sunglasses, and SPF 100. She drapes a mosquito net over the stroller. I try to spot the glossy ibis, the white-faced ibis, the roseate spoonbill, the black vulture. I calculate the agency’s quarterly profit.

My father was a commercial farmer. When I was twelve he went insane. I’m thinking about this word, insane, as I make myself a cup of espresso in the agency kitchen. When I return to my desk I look up the word insane, the Internet says: in a state of mind that prevents normal perception, behavior, or social interaction. Extremely foolish, irrational, or illogical.

IN-HOUSE LAUNDRY AND DRY CLEANING. HOVERCRAFT. SUNDAY MORNING BRUNCH SERVICE.

The island was created in 1905, constructed in 1919. Carl Fisher, for whom the island is named, purchased the land from Dana Dorsey, the first African-American millionaire in south Florida. Fisher gave up the island in 1925, in exchange for a luxury yacht. When we moved here my wife said the whole island felt like a magical vessel at the edge of the earth.

HURRICANE DOORS, UPDATED KITCHEN AND BATHS. SPA. TENNIS COURTS.

The Fisher Island Day School has a three-year waiting list. We registered Kinga one year before we even conceived. The state-of-the-art curriculum emphasizes business, with electives in political science, astronautics, wealth management, biotechnology, and cyber security.

HOUSEKEEPING. SWEEPING VISTAS! RETAINING WALLS.

It wasn’t easy finding a home, not in this real estate market. My wife wanted the right place for Kinga to grow up. You have to understand, my wife was raised in landlocked Utah, the daughter of a used car salesman and a pyramid scheme devotee. She got out by earning her degree in Nutrition, then spent a few years managing a juice bar in Sarasota. You can see how far she’s come. But she isn’t the beach bungalow-type. Really she’d rather see the water than be in it. It’s like looking out over a vast empire, she said, standing at our living room window, bouncing Kinga in her arms.

MARBLE COUNTERTOPS, MOROCCAN-TILE MANTELPIECES. SALTWATER BIDETS. WETSUITS.

The sun is too strong for my eyes in the morning, too horizontal and sharp, like winter sun but all year round. I’m home and awake between the hours of 5 AM and 6 AM, and 9 PM and 11 PM, Monday through Friday. On weekends we take the boat out, or go shopping on the mainland, or attend one of the many parties thrown by our neighbors, all of whom work in climate-preparedness or climate-dissent industries. We get along fine.

The agency is developing a dynamic kit designed for any climate change-related catastrophe: drought, flood, disease, earthquake, tsunami, wildfire, ozone disintegration. The insiders joke that these kits are the bomb shelter of the 21st century—fifty years, one hundred years, five hundred years from now, they will be intact, antiquated, and evidence of the erroneous eco-freak thinking that is crippling economic growth.

OXYGEN TANKS, FIRE EXTINGUISHERS, FLASHLIGHTS.

Our products are intuitively and impeccably crafted from the finest materials. Packages are reasonably priced at $2,695.00 (individual), $3,895.00 (family of two), $5,595.00 (family of three), $7,395.00 (family of four). We are currently strategizing to respond to increased demand for kits that accommodate families of five or more.

At night, before I go to bed, I lock three bolts on our front door—one, two, three—and say a mantra for peace of mind: protected, shielded, sheltered. I sit on the couch, look out at the city lights. I think about having a drink, gin on the rocks, but most nights I resist. Most nights I walk slowly from the living room to Kinga’s bedroom for one last check, and from her bedroom to our bedroom, where my wife is sleeping soundly in her tailor-made virtual reality NightCap. I know she favors the Garden of Eden mindscape; Adam and Eve kiss her goodnight.

SURVEILLANCE, FLEET OF GENERATORS, FALLOUT SHELTER.

When I dream well, I dream of siring a formidable brood of offspring. I dream that my wife and I are elected to public office at a local level, then county, then state. I dream that we have answers and solutions to the most urgent questions of our time.

When I dream badly, I dream of broken pipelines, leaky faucets. I dream of the sun burning out, hanging like a spent piece of charcoal in the green-gray sky. I dream of acute viral infections with no cure.

But the morning. In the morning I gently remove my wife’s NightCap. She stirs, repositions, falls into a half-sleep. I roll out of bed, stretch, throw on my old fraternity sweatshirt. As I walk through our home I hear the appliances and computers chirping, whirring, a cacophony of technological wakefulness. Kinga is bright-eyed, pink-cheeked, lengthening and contracting her limbs. I pick her up and cradle her, careful with her small, weightless head. Her room is filled with sunlight. I take her to the window, I touch the glass. She watches my face, I watch the sea.

1The Hungarian derivation of Kunigunde. Kuni: clan, family. Gund: war.

Image: Henri Matisse, “Seated woman, back turned to the open window” (1922). Oil on canvas. 73.3 x 92.5 centimeters. From the colletion of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.

Written by Melanie Jane Parker