I want to be tramping around Alaskan wildernesses, not fighting immediate onset heat exhaustion in Bangkok

It’s 36 degrees celsius (97F) in Pakkret, Thailand. 50 (120F) in Northeast India, and over 29 (84F) near the arctic circle.

I’m still recovering from mild heat exhaustion from 20 or so minutes of heat exposure on Saturday, along with a fever, a cold, and the latest in my life of never ending ailments – itchy rashes. I think from eating under-cooked shrimp last night. I couldn’t even taste the damn food my sinuses were so clogged up.

So I’m here. Spending my summer at home in Bangkok dodging from one ridiculously inefficiently air-conditioned space to the next and picking out shrimp from my food. Feeling like death in the heat – any heat at all – it doesn’t have to be above 30C for me to feel bad. Complications from the concussion that I had. I saw a neurologist who offered nothing much other than a touch of sympathy (unheard of actually, I should count my blessings) and a vitamin B supplement that *might* help with my head. So stay in, out of the heat, and don’t exert too much.

I planned to be out of the city, in the countryside, working on a farm and interviewing and writing about the people. Instead I’m keeping my AC on because otherwise I will die.

I want to be tramping around Alaskan wildernesses, not fighting immediate onset heat exhaustion in Bangkok.

I want to breathe in the air coming off the glaciers, eat ice from the glacier, worry about grizzly bears, palm-sized mosquitoes, and relentless Alaskan windstorms. I want to lose myself by swimming in the streams and rivers. I want to trod a chunk of land as big as Texas, but without the mega-churches and 15 lane wide interstates. Actually a chunk of land with nothing at all (according to white settlers and capitalism). But a chunk of land with everything I dream about every night. No roads, no trails, no towns, no homes, no buildings, no concrete, no trace of humans at all.

Tundra, rock, and ice.

I dream of being on expeditions like the ones Luc Mehl and Sarah Histand do. Ice skating hundreds of miles of icefields, hiking up the brooks range and packrafting down to the arctic ocean on the other side, or skiing across the endless ethereal landscape.

The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge – along with the Brooks range – is one of those few places on earth seemingly untouched by humans. But who are we kidding. Of course we’ve touched it. Its existence is now defined by precarity (hasn’t it always been?). Climate Disaster is the obvious one. But not so well known are the attempts by the government and corporations to open up the land for extraction – gas, minerals, you name it. A two-front enclosure both manufactured by capitalism.

Those glaciers, elk calving grounds, arctic foxes, polar bears, and grizzly bears not to mention the indigenous peoples of the land – all threatened and already deteriorating.

So in the big picture my hobbies, my tourism seems pretty frivolous. But for me, when I can feel my brain wilting and melting and boiling in the Bangkok heat, I think about skiing on a glacier or walking across that wild land. I think about how I truly feel like myself out in nature. It’s very selfish I feel. But it connects me deeply, existentially, to this land and to the planet. For now and since time older than the Brooks range, for me – and for all of us – every being’s liberation also means our liberation.

If the refuge dies, a part of me dies. A part that feels like the core of who I am.

When I go into nature I feel like I am coming home. And when I go back to the city I feel anxious and try to hold on to that person that I was when I was immersed in that stream. The shock of the cold on my body and the warmth of the familiarity of that feeling. I try to remember when we looked into each others faces across the campfire and were just there. In that moment. No phones, all worries left in the car back at the trailhead. Only nature and each other to hold our attention. In those moments I don’t feel so alone anymore – I forget what loneliness feels like. That’s what home feels like to me.

I want to be tramping around Alaskan wildernesses, not fighting immediate onset heat exhaustion in Bangkok.

I want the people I love to see the tundra and the elk. I want to be able to have children because I know they’ll have a planet still alive and thriving. I want to feel full and whole.

I dream of nights under the stars laying next to my friends. Waking up to the glow of the sunrise on the mountain. Of romances kindled and transformed into bonfires by nature. I dream of writing stories with the lines traced by our bodies through the landscape.

Above all I don’t want people to needlessly die and suffer. My self-actualization or whatever can shove it. Climate disaster means that the material existence – the food, water, community – of so many people is going to be precarious or impossible. Just this week we’ve had 50C temperatures in Northeast India – causing a wave of heat strokes and obliterating the water supply. Migrations all over the world are fueled by climate change.

To fight for climate justice is not just to fight for yourself but for every being on this earth. For me it is to fight for the very core of my being.

So for those of you who stake your hearts and tents down in the world’s wild places: realize that there will be no more glaciers, pristine wildernesses, or wild animals if temperatures rise uncontrollably. Billions of people will die. Entire animal species have already died. If you hold any part of nature at all dear to your heart, a part of you will die. If you don’t, a part of you will still die – you just don’t know it yet. And if you don’t know it yet, I will show you so you can maybe catch a glimpse of what I mean.

Every being’s liberation is your liberation.

I want to be tramping around Alaskan wildernesses, not fighting immediate onset heat exhaustion in Bangkok.

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