‘Tis now the witching hour! Earthweal’s linking free-for-all kicks off every Friday afternoon at 4 PM EST. Share a poem, new or old, long or short, hopefully in the theme of this forum but all wells are really open for business as long as your contribution is a poem.
Click on the Mr. Linky link which follows to add your link. Add your location after your name in the link so we know which corner of Earth you hail from.
Links will be accepted through Sunday night, followed by a Monday challenge focused on some aspect of our changing Earth and lasting til Friday. This coming Monday, Sherry Marr takes over the reins with a challenge on The Animals of Climate Change. Let’s build an ark of verse!
As always, your fruitful and communal conversation is welcome in the comments section.
After a lull which brought cool and wet relief to some but not all of Australia’s drought-stricken, fire-ravaged regions, dry heat and stiff winds have returned and so too the brushfires. Suburbs south of Canberra were threatened and a 600,000-acre blaze burns out of control near the south coast towns of Moruya and Bermagui.
It’s hard—very hard—to go on with this, even from this distant porch in Florida, but imagine the daily dose of climate reality for most Australians, where the smoke of 25 million burning acres of homeland infiltrates everything and -body with dread and the dead.
One survey showed that more than half of Australians have been directly affected by the blazes, with a quarter experiencing health effects and a third changing their daily routine as a result of the conditions. The ultrafine particles in smoke can bury in the lungs and enter the blood stream, causing infection and an increased chance of heart attacks, lung disease, urinary tract infections and renal failure. Several players at the Australian Open have required medical care for breathing problems, while NASA reports that Australia’s wildfire smoke encircles the globe, resulting in a dense haze in South America and redder sunsets around the Southern Hemisphere.
For Australian journalist Amy Coopes, the last round of fire around the New Year was too much: “We all know someone who has lost something; everything. Photos from friends of a wall of fire racing across paddocks, engulfing life as it was once known. Everything is gone. The scars on our landscape will heal, but will we?”
Before we can take in the depth and damage of those scars, the fires return.
Elsewhere, American President Donald Trump and Greta Thunberg had at each other at the World Economic Forum in Davos, with Trump scolding Thunberg and other climate activists for peddling doom in an age of deregulated economic prosperity. To which Thunberg tartly replied in a separate venue: “Our house is still on fire.” She said world’s investors have a choice between pulling their money out of fossil fuel stocks or face telling their children why they failed to protect them from the climate chaos they created.
Treasury Secretary Stephen Mnuchin came to his boss’s rescue a few days later by saying Thunberg ought to study economics before offering climate proposals, which is rich, because Mnuchin keeps a steadfast gaze away from economic facts by saying that the Trump 2017 tax cuts were paying for themselves, even though the federal deficit has climbed over $1 trillion. “His defiance of reality probably pleased President Trump, who likes lieutenants to pretend everything is going according to plan,” said a New York Times editorial on Jan. 23. “But Mr. Mnuchin would better serve his country by encouraging his boss to confront reality.”
But why bother with that? Take a cue from Craig Kelley, the conservative Australian politician who “argues that the fires are no worse than in the past, that arsonists and socialists are to blame for the blazes, that coal is winning, that Arctic ice is not melting — and that those who disagree are no better than the censors in Orwell’s ‘1984.’ (Damien Cave, New York Times).
Denial is the opiate of the asses, for sure. And when the truth gets tough for these jerks, they commence twerking all the more wildly.
Rather than throw more of those stones at the painfully obvious, today I’d like to turn instead to the pot I’m a-boil in. One of the most maddening things about life in the Anthropocene is the sense of how pervasively, perhaps inextricably, all of us live in the problem, so much so that me talking here is a criminal waste of juice, breath, and care. It makes any sense that humans can work their way out of this climate dilemma rather absurd.
In order to blunt and lower the curve of rising heat (and keep all the tipping-points from springing on us like the Devil’s Jack-in-the-Box), fossil fuel extraction has to stop—now. But what a task that is! Billions of humans now clamor for the basics of beyond-survival living — fresh water, good housing, a fridge stuffed with food, a/c for the heat, a streaming TV and cellphone and gas-guzzling conveyance, the bigger and more fumous the more elegant.
All of the standard conveniences of modern life demand power—lots of and with more and more billions clamoring for it, the load is nigh impossible. An upward spike: half of the nearly 2 degrees C temperature rise we’ve seen since 1880 is the result of consumption during the past 20 years.
To wit, my daily life is threaded and connected to fossil fuels in too many ways to count. I have a 50-mile daily commute to work. I’m on a computer all day. (Data centers around the world now consume annually some 650 terawatt hours of electricity, and that number surges every year in the demand for more and more cloud computing. ) My wife and I go through mountains of packaging every week getting to our food. Suburban life is the ultimate fossil fueled convenience with its vast vista of single-family houses inured from summer heat and winter cold, stocked with food, with one room dedicated to entertainment—comfy chairs, low lighting, a media system comprising of TV, computer, streaming device, stereo, MP3 player, old video and DVR players, etc.
I don’t have to go anywhere, I just hang out at home and consume. But then, most suburbs lay a distance from urban centers where most work is found, which means you drive for everything.
This dream is repeated millions– billions—of times around the world, in increasing numbers, density and heights of consumption.
The modern convenience dream is so complete that there’s a Matrix-like blindness to what’s happening just outside that shimmering wall. Truth is, humans are devouring the world fast and haven’t a clue how to live in any truly sustainable way. Our lifestyle and cloud of conveniences work only with a much, much smaller population—500 million or less–and there isn’t any way to teach that but through the hardest lessons.
But we are a long way from learning that—decades maybe, though the timeline sure seems to be compressing as wildfires take off around the world.
Meanwhile we hunker down in our addictions, at rest and complete in fictive baths where warnings don’t sink in, climate truths are denied, powers that be steal what they can for their few and a president is denied due process and a fair trial just so things can stay as they can’t be. That contingent is not leaving the Titanic’s ballroom, no matter how crazy the angles.
Back in Australia, locals are sorting out that they aren’t in Kansas anymore. “Sometimes you can see the end of the old world and the beginning of the new one as clearly as a seam,” Brigid Delaney writes. “Transformations that were once barely perceptible, recognisable only after the fact, this summer have become akin to a crossing. You can see the line as you step over it.”
Maybe the seam is still hard for some to perceive, but then there’s so much smoke getting in our eyes these days. We can’t see the carbons overpopulating the atmosphere; nor does the surface of the sea belie the growing emptiness below. But we can see the smoke, and through it our invisible fate is coming into view
Back to Amy Coopes for a close: “As our climate becomes more hostile, perhaps the single greatest risk is that, in tandem, so do we. The learned helplessness of neoliberalism not only invites us to believe that we, as individuals, are powerless, it depends on it.”
Here our poems don’t have to be helpless.
And so let’s dance!