Welcome to earthweal’s first open link weekend. Every Friday afternoon at 4 PM EST an open link challenge kicks off, inviting all comers to share a poem, new or old, long or short, hopefully in the spirit of this forum but all doors are really open as long as your contribution is a poem.
Earthweal is designed to gather voices from around our Earth with news of how things are changing, what we are seeing, fearing, loving, hoping, grieving. Bring your local tidings or share your deep vision.
The twenty-first century’s third decade begins with a disturbing clarity about how quickly the Earth’s climate is changing, the intensified weather and its impacts on human and nonhuman communities. Predictions of these changes by climate scientists since the 1970s have been unerring, but the time grows increasingly uncertain as feedback loops created by melting Arctic sea ice and permafrost or deforestation due to agricultural burning intensify into weather patterns difficult to anticipate and endure.
These feedback loops are now affecting daily life worldwide so dramatically that the world which is coming into view bears little resemblance to the one many of us grew up in. Seas are rising, wildfires burn out of control, temperature norms are shattering, animal orders are going extinct, traditional forms of government and society are disrupting and swelling migrant populations are on the move.
For those of us who grew up in the middle decades of the previous century, the sudden upsweep in the pace of these events is disconcerting. In a matter of a few years an entire worldview and habitation has come into question. Geological and human time scales which have had little to do with each other are confounded. Strangeness irrupts into the daily. Bewilderment, terror and grief are close, and it feels a bit like waking from a long dream.
But how shall we wake? In his book-length essay The Great Derangement, the novelist Amitav Ghosh points out that literary arts, particularly the novel, have been strangely blind and deaf to the changes of the Anthropocene, rapt in a personal human narrative increasingly distanced from nature and the World. He asks,
In a substantially altered world, when sea-level rise has swallowed the Sundarbans and made cities like Kolkata, New York and Bangkok uninhabitable, when readers and museum-goers turn to the art and literature of our time, will they not look, first and most urgently, for traces and portents of the altered world of their inheritance? And when they find them, what should they—what can they—do other than to conclude that ours was a time when most forms of art and literature were drawn into modes of concealment that prevented people from realizing the realities of their plight? Quite possibly, then, this era, which so congratulates itself on its self-awareness, will come to be known as the Great Derangement. (11)
As a good friend says, poetry is cheaper than whiskey; but to the degree it is also agency of distraction and evasion of the essential bond between writer and world, it can become litter in a tornado of white noise.
The timing of this first open link night is sadly propitious as a major climate catastrophe unfolds in Australia with wildfires burning out of control. Since September, nearly 12 million acres of forest, bushland, fields, scrub, homesteads, recreational areas and habitat have collapsed into walls of flame. Australia is a hot spot on the climate change map, both for its vulnerability to drought, high heat and fire, as well as for a political leadership with deep ties to the country’s coal-exporting interests.
Decades of refusal to address the nation’s role in rising carbon emissions bring us now to this. Whole towns are now being evacuated in New South Wales and Victoria, and already some half a billion life forms—not including insects and plant life—have been killed. A 2018 study published in Nature Climate Change demonstrated 467 pathways in which climate change was adversely affecting human life on earth, and concluded that if greenhouse emissions aren’t capped by the end of this century, many people will face between three and six concurrent climate catastrophes on a par similar to the Australian wildfires.
Elsewhere in the world today, flash flooding in Indonesia have displaced more than 400,000, and present MIddle East tensions—Iran and the US are closer to open conflict following the drone killing of an Iranian general who ran military operations in Syria and Iraq—have smoldering roots in climate change, as the whole area heats and dries threatening water and food security across a region in which fossil fuel extraction has been the dominant economy.
Here in Florida, Holodcene-era politics is enacting a Clean Waterways bill with gentle regulations for water conditions which have worsened out of sight. It’s pretty and fair today—no scent of burning in our air—the but seas keep warming and the next hurricane season promises to be worse than the last.
How will we measure such magnitudes, alternating so weirdly with the everyday? This forum is named earthweal for the coinage’s dual sense of an Earth-wide community’s hope and wounds. May there be a balance of both; as Wendell Berry writes, hardship is possibility. I don’t know the task is too late or difficult, but the hope is that we can train our collective vision on the space between human and world and grow roots there, even if the product is damaged, fleeting, and forever incomplete.
Share a poem and visit your fellow linkers and comment. As with other forums, please be respectful of each other. Remember we are emissaries of the wider Earth community.
Open-forum links will be accepted through Sunday night, followed by a Monday challenge focused on some aspect of our changing Earth and lasting til Friday. Not surprisingly, the Jan. 6 challenge will be FIRE,
Click on the Mr. Linky icon below and you’ll proceed to to another page where you can enter your link. Help this forum show the breadth of your participation by putting your locale also in the link.
For more details about earthweal, see the Jan. 1 2020 opening post or click on the “about earthweal” link at the top.
If you’re having difficulties or have any comment, you can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Now let’s get this party started!