Welcome to Earthweal’s second 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.
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. The Jan. 13 Monday Challenge will be GHOSTS.
That’s all you need to know to get started today. If you’re itchin’ to post, click on the Mr. Linky link which follows. Ifyou don’t mind, put your location after your name in the link so we know where the report is coming in from. For Earthweal to take root, we need global voices!
Homily follows. Would love to read your thoughts and responses in the comments section. Conversation has been so energized and heartfelt!
Fruitful posting and reading and commenting—
These days, the pace of world events keeps the news on a fast spin cycle. Coverage of the Australian fires has been eclipsed by war-thunder in the Middle East. Residents of Puerto Rico still slowly rebuilding from Hurricane Maria are without power—again—after a series of earthquakes. A new coronavirus from the dreaded SARS family is spreading in China and the East Coast of the USA is experiencing unseasonable heat with temps more than 30 degrees above average. Here in Florida, after a few cool nights earlier in the week it now swelters like there’s no tomorrow. And so the world races on. Bitter cold snaps are coming, then drenching spring rains, then tornadoes, then hurricanes, then summer heat and drought, wildfire and more big storms … you all know the reel: We just can’t tell how much climate change is magnifying and speeding things up, a warp drive powered by something monstered by human intervention.
Still, many of us though are not ready yet to leave the immense devastation of fire in Australia. The backstory always takes a while to filter in. People are just returning to their homes and trying to decide whether to rebuild or leave. Fire management practices are being assessed with lessons to be learned from Aboriginal methods. The scale of devastation to non-human life keeps growing by magnitudes, and whatever number we come up for the dead—more than a billion, some scientists now say—there is an even greater shadow number of survivors who won’t be able to live on in what’s left. Some species are sure to go extinct.
And the fires keep coming back. Kangaroo Island is ablaze again, with a third of its 1,700 square miles already burned including Flinders Chase national park and Kangaroo Island Wilderness Retreat. Home to many unique animal species and some 60,000 koalas, the island is becoming an ecological disaster. Welcome to the nightmare of the Anthropocene, no longer down the road.
A tipping-point is a fact of life which consumes all the facts we can summon to describe it, a growling magnitude of multiplying dimensions. The spectral red glow of those fires brings into consciousness a new and perhaps unstoppable weather whose catalyst is itself.
“It’s like the fire is a sentient being,” said a New South Wales writer whose husband and son are volunteer firefighters. “It feels like it’s coming to get us.”
What is fast eroding is any believable sense of resilience against such stacked events. Climate change is creating unliveable zones. The thought of adaptation in the manner we’d prefer is as behind our present moment as climate change denial was five years ago. That’s how fast geologic time is now smashing through real time.
If that is so, where is the hope? Without something to have faith in in the midst of this, something to believe in and work for, despair becomes the only conclusion and distraction an opiate, dulling pain and clouding vision with obliviousness. Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we will be gone. Party like it’s 1999.
But as Holderlin says: where there is danger, salvation grows as well. Much of the old dominant human order may not be worth saving, but new sources of earthwealth may become visible as the old ones burn away.
Jeb Bendell asserted in a 2018 paper a way of working through the fall of the human world we are witnessing. He begins by asserting that runaway climate change will result in societal collapse within the next few decades. However, that is unthinkable and untenable only if we cannot let go of the civilization and order which created it. We can’t manage our climate now that tipping points are passing, nor can we maintain status quo in our politics, economy and social structures; however, we can strive for a deeper adaptation which can provide hope and meaning in the maelstrom.
Reflection on the end of times, or eschatology, is a major dimension of the human experience, and the total sense of loss of everything one could ever contribute to is an extremely powerful experience for many people. How they emerge from that experience depends on many factors, with loving kindness, creativity, transcendence, anger, depression, nihilism and apathy all being potential responses. Given the potential spiritual experience triggered by sensing the imminent extinction of the human race, we can appreciate why a belief in the inevitability of extinction could be a basis for some people to come together.
Remember in Poe’s classic tale, boats are easily devoured by the Maelstrom, but it is possible to survive if one clings to rising shapes, even if they make no sense for sailing.
“In abandoning hope that one way of life will continue, we open up a space for alternative hopes,” Tommy Lynch recently wrote in Slate. Can our grief for so many animals extinguished or rendered homeless by the Australian brushfire act as a whetstone for a sharper, more insightful clarity about the difficulties ahead and work that is still worthwhile?
There is always productive work to be about, even if its larger end is a future not as hot as it could be without that work. Humanity will probably fail to keep warming of the world under 2 degrees C by the end of the century, but we can avoid 3 or 4 or 5 degrees C, maybe. Green New Deals are possible. We can drive less, consume less meat, transition to alternative energy. We can vote and encourage others to do so. Jedidiah Purdy, a legal scholar with a fine mind for politics in the Anthropocene, writes in The Atlantic about his decision to have children and teaching his son “to wonder at the world before he learns to fear for it.” I’m not as game as he is for keeping the world populated with the likes of us, but we do need voices of welcome.
Predictably, those who are too in bed with former orders and their powerful lobbies will hunker down further and hurl invective on the prevailing digital wind (Rupert Murdoch’s flagship newspaper The Australian is an appalling case in point). Don’t expect the fossil fuel industry to become like the apostle Paul, struck Christian on the road to Damascus. Expect the trolls to continue pushing climate misinformation like methed-up sex offenders. And then there’s US President Donald Trump, who, during at an event yesterday to announce his administration’s rollback of requirements of the National Environment Policy Act, sent his love to Australian PM Scott Morrison, proclaimed love for the environment and clean air and clean water and adoration for jobs, jobs, jobs. Another head-spinner for a future which will hold us all to account.
The danger of despair has already woven its dark thread into this forum; it this only about despair, who has the fortitude to keep coming back for fresh buckets of black water? But behind that despair there may be doors; temporary houses can still be located where inconceivables become pantry stock.
The only thing I know to do is keep writing.
So here goes.
The Road, a book so devastating that I couldn’t watch “the movie”–theft and cannibalism and, yes, probably ghosts. But who can fear ghosts when there is such a thing as fire and guns and missile errors that kill 176 people?
Thanks Susan — I love Cormac McCarthy — he’s sort of a postmodern Melville — but The Road was just too harrowing. I read it but it’s hardly fiction. More like a nightmare sent from the future. Ghosts are everywhere these days, extinct animals, innocents still strapped to their plane seats, landscapes spectral with past and future. Fear isn’t quite the word any more.
Thank you for picking up the fallen standard, now that we no longer have Toads except as an archive. Bravo, dude! Doing so requires work and time, and I want you to know it is appreciated.
Thanks FB. Sure glad to see you here. Real Toads was the gold standard.
I love this viewpoint:
“new sources of earthwealth may become visible as the old ones burn away”
I very much enjoyed your post.
I know it isn’t much of a contribution, but I am trying my best to go mostly vegan, and to impart healthy and controlled eating habits to my children.
One of my biggest concerns is trash. I can’t imagine how we will get that beast under control, unless we can somehow turn it into fuel.
Thanks Shawna – we have the insect kingdom to thank for cleaning up our mountains of waste. They are disappearing, which isn’t good news for us. Maybe it doesn’t make much of a dent, but doing things similar to what you mention is a conscious connection to working the change.
So much good was done under previous administrations to clean up the environment. In the last 3 years we have seen a huge reversal in policies. The new motto “what’s good for business is good for America”. I fear many cannot comprehend the bigger picture. I myself have had talks with people and they tell me climate control is a lie? I heard on the news today the majority of jobs that have been created are in retail and the health industry. Hmm…not in manufacturing, think about it the health industry. Why are so many people sick. Scary stuff…
Thanks — the basic line by those invested in fossil fuel extraction — and the politicians they lobby and own — always puts for the argument that they’re for jobs, jobs, job, even if destroys the earth. Speaks for the capitalist addiction and its deep Industrial Age roots.
It’s very difficult to raise our heads above problems to breathe poetry. But that’s the only lifeline. Thank you for providing such a wonderful platform.
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Thanks Sumana, truly — some worry that a forum like this can only focus and amplify despair, and that’s a danger … but like my pal Holderlin sd., where there is danger, salvation too is on the increase.
Thank you for the opportunity to share a new series of American sentences I am illustrating, a la #inktober52 on Instagram.
Thanks Kerry — it’s great to have another series to be about …
I’m starting to think I can stop reading any news but what you post here, B–not only do you present all the prevailing events, you show them to us with a scholar’s eye. I am often swamped by all the disasters piling on and on each other, so much so that my perspective, the long view of things, is totally lost in despair. But here you present the idea that change and improvement, or at least respite, can come out of extinction and misery. The one door closes and another one opens sort of narrative is comforting, and I think, very true. Our planet, our universe, is never static. Human civilization does not ever remain so for long either. It’s true this fall may be rather more cataclysmic than our normal variety(before our numbers became so fatally overwhelming) but it is also true that life is stubborn, and birth, the two-edged sword, is painful, sometimes deadly, but inevitable.Thanks for your words, and for all the work you have put into this site. It’s going to be part of that positive change, and hearten us all–I can feel it.
Thanks Hedgewitch, I’ve been brewing these thoughts for a few years now and it’s good to get them down in a more linear fashion than the verse circus. I think it’s good — I find it hard and harder to read accounts of how a heating climate is changing everything so fast — an irritating drone — I’ll try to at least keep these posts perky with thought-candy. Sherry Blue Sky will be doing a challenge in a few weeks, hopefully others will volunteer too so the voice isn’t so … scholastic-monocular. I’m hoping for new inspiration and direction, that will take our village I think. And congrats on the resuscitation of the Friday 55. If ya want to have a reason to write, create a ring and hop into it ..
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Sorry that my poem today is not really in the spirit of your forum, but I will try to do better in a future open link. I had not read all of the directions ahead of time. Sigh.
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Don’t worry Mary — Open link is just that, whatever as long as it is a poem. And I thought your poem worked well in the assembly.
I enjoyed your post too and did hear this morning that a billion animals have perished in the Australian brush fires. Could that be right? A billion??
And about Trump? Well…the only person he loves is himself, a lying hypocrite. We can’t believe a word he says. He lost all credibility about two and a half years ago.
Thanks Yvonne, I just don’t have the mental equipment to fully appreciate 500 million animals lost, much less a billion — maybe poets here can help unpack such magnitude.
I’m with you, the one thing I know how to do is write. As we are aware people, there is no comfortable ignoring the state of things. It can feel depressing writing about these things. But another way to look at it is: we are bearing witness, drawing attention, spreading awareness, and maybe sometimes motivation to do something, as well as finding an outlet for our angst. I have a friend who has devoted her life to the cause of clean and alternative energy. 40 years ago, we are still talking about it but things have gotten so much worse, so quickly. Had governments started making changes 40 years ago, the story would be different. And governments knew back then the cost of unrestrained and unregulated industry. My friend says human beings being what we are, we will change our ways in reaction to these climate crises, rather than before. We waited too long. And I see humans rising up, in all of these events, to help each other. There is that spirit in humans, thank heavens. trump proclaiming himself an enviornmentalist yesterday nearly knocked me off my chair. PULL-LEEZ!!!!!!!!!!! We are so far down the rabbit hole, we cant even see the sky. I am glad there is this forum and this discussion going on, Brendan. It is needed, and appreciated. We all miss Toads so much. Kerry did such a stellar job there. Brendan, I have trouble leaving comments here. Fourth try. Akismet does not like me, no matter how I log in.
I think governments will get around to addressing the problem when its gotten too big to address — they move so slowly, and we don’t have that sort of time to act now. In 2014 two scientists published a book of speculative history, “The Collapse of Western Civivlzation: A View From the Future,” taking the timeline of climate change forward all the way into the twenty-fourth century, after centuries of adequate government response to the crisis and the resulting collapse of civilization. (They see about 500,000 human survivors living up in the Arctic Circle.) Few try to imagine what life will be like on Earth after the year 2100, but the climate change will continue heating the atmosphere for centuries; if we can’t conceive it, the species certainly won’t be around to live through it.
Happy this forum has started, I miss Real Toads. I am so sorry about the nasty Askimet, I think Fireblossom had trouble once before in the same way — I’m looking through support docs to see how I can remedy from my side. I did go into the comments queue and saw those comments marked as spam and un-spammed them; let me know if the trouble continues.
All I can say is,
1. Thank you for writing
2. I’m glad I found your blog.
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Thanks Scott, stick around and help with the witness!
Again, thanks for hosting this site.
I’ve been sleeping badly lately, so that led the way in writing…
Thanks, I’ve been sleeping oddly too. Who can sleep well, with that terrible burning on Earth’s austral side …
I commend you for starting this wonderful blog. I discovered it today from reading Sherry’s post. I will certainly read and contribute what I can in the future. My heart is with you for bringing us together in hope for this world. Thank you.
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Thanks Myrna, we have much work to do!
“What is fast eroding is any believable sense of resilience against such stacked events.” And we will write anyway, on and on. I have begun to think a little differently, inspired by Charles Eisenstein. You may be interested in this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SRYEHOStmss&feature=share&fbclid=IwAR1Rh_JICx8Kb8blJjG7nW2DjOywKpYoAX0OhDG5M-pXoREkRj6uewaDEjk
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PS: Thank you for this new and necessary forum!
At that link, around minute 24, the essential question arises.
Sorry to respond slow to this comment, took me a while to get to the the YouTube link — I listened a few minutes at 24, will go back again to listen in full, but Eisenstein makes a crucial point on how things proceed at earthweal: The despair sources mainly in an extractionist worldview that has been broken for centuries; the hope comes from a poetry of earth which embraces and suffices. Both songs weave into this forum, though so far the thread has mainly been the dark one. I hope you will keep bringing more of the fairer thread, and I will try too.