‘Fire season’ and record-breaking high temperatures are another factor in the ‘fatigue’ so many people are feeling. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

‘Fire season’ and record-breaking high temperatures are another factor in the ‘fatigue’ so many people are feeling. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Viewpoint: Exhausting extremes may yet earn ‘fatigue’ word-of-the-year status

In Plain View by Lachlan Labere

Various reference publications recently announced their words of the year.

For Oxford, their choice word of 2022 was actually two: goblin mode, defined as “a type of behavior which is unapologetically self-indulgent, lazy, slovenly or greedy, typically in a way that rejects social norms or expectations.” Merriam-Webster’s was gaslighting: “the act or practice of grossly misleading someone especially for one’s own advantage.” Collins went with permacrisis: “an extended period of instability and insecurity.”

So far, I’m not aware of anyone having chosen “fatigue” as their word of the year, which surprises me given how often it gets used, both on its own and in numerous fatigue-inducing combinations, such as: apocalypse fatigue, climate fatigue, vaccine fatigue, subscription fatigue (relating to streaming services), inflation fatigue, news fatigue, and so on, showing the word has come to represent a spectrum, ranging from an actual physical condition to just an overall feeling of “I’m done with this.”

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While they didn’t use the word, a friend said they were feeling another kind of fatigue, one relating to terms like “record-breaking” and “extreme” and numerous crises. This came up after having shovelled snow from the deck of their fourth floor Lower Mainland apartment – something they’ve never had to do before. As I write this, Environment Canada’s forecast for Vancouver includes snow and ice rain. Flights have been grounded and ground travel is treacherous. Meanwhile, communities throughout the province, including Salmon Arm, have experienced record-breaking low temperatures. (Today’s record-breaking low in Salmon Arm being colder than yesterday’s record-breaking low.)

I understand what my friend is talking about. For the past few years it seems we’ve been hit with a steady deluge of extreme, record-breaking weather, various states of emergency and crisis upon crisis, for which there are all kinds of suggested remedies but limited will and/or ability to resolve. All of this is responsible for that record-breaking/extreme fatigue my friend and, I assume, others are feeling.

I feel it too.

I’ve come to dread “fire season” in the Shuswap, especially since summer 2021’s oppressive heat dome and the barrage of record-breaking temperatures experienced since. It would be so easy to say “I’m done with it,” and give in to the wishful thinking that such things will somehow resolve themselves. But that’s generally not how things get done. What I do see happening is a lot of polarizing politics and promises for the future which somehow give a free pass for doing more of the same now. Which is why I think the word “fatigue” may still get the recognition it deserves as word of the year.

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