In two weeks I'll get another office mate. It's a lady who just finished her PhD. You would think she'd have accepted a job as a postdoc. She hasn't; she'll be a research assistant. In a perfect world these would be talented students earning some money on the side, but this world isn't ideal. A colleague who was on the application committee said they wouldn't even consider hiring someone without a PhD. Times are hard. Jobs are few and far between. It doesn't inspire much hope for those who don't have a permanent contract. I'm glad my soon-to-be office mate got this job; she's a nice and hard-working woman, and it's better than nothing.
The contrast with those who got in before times got tough can be somewhat abrasive. Someone who has a permanent contract is my office neighbour; he had spent a year in the far east, and he was scheduled to be back October the 1st. He hasn't been seen yet. And it's only the 3rd, but well, most of my colleagues don't know what he looks like, or wonder if he even really exists, as he doesn't have the habit of going out of his way for his employer by doing things such as actually show up. His tutees were seen, sitting somewhat forlorn in a meeting room, expecting a tutorial, and getting void.
In the meantime, on the other side of the Atlantic, there's an election battle raging. The choice is between some well-meaning chap who promised to close Guantanamo Bay and didn't. His administration is seen by many as a disappointment. But the alternative is an arrogant multimillionaire who gives the impression he'll be quite a good president for those who are white, Christian, rich and male. And for nobody else. And if he'd win, green energy goes straight out of the (airplane?) window, and who knows how much CO2 would be hurled into the atmosphere under his reign. Probably an amount that would be quite in harmony with what Canada intends to exhaust, with its support of tar sand exploration.
I haven't kept up with the most recent literature, so I don't know how feasible I think the predictions of an ice-free Arctic in summer within a few years is, but I do believe that if I don't die prematurely by being run over by a bus, or have a mine collapse on my head or something, I'll live to see this scary phenomenon. These are surely interesting times. And generally, I manage to let it slide off my back and keep smiling, but some days it's hard to not be weighed down by all of this. And it's not just unemployment, climate change, and American politics, of course; there's much more unpleasantness going on.
Maybe in 30 years I'll tell some youngsters how I lived through the infamous 2nd decade of the 21st century. I might say I found solace in the beautiful mines of the southwest. Most of which will have collapsed by then! In that sense, it's good living now...