earthweal open link weekend #4


 

‘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.

—Brendan

australia fire 12 2019 3

Photo: Jenny Evans / Getty

 

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!

 

  

 

 

25 thoughts on “earthweal open link weekend #4

  1. I’ve left a link to a poem I wrote in 2017. The last two lines are
    “Species come and species go
    The way it has always been………..”

    Gaia will act to remove our species if we are not careful. I am not talking about a goddess, but about the Gaia principle, where it’s suggested living organisms interact with their inorganic surroundings on Earth to form a self-regulating, complex system that helps to maintain and perpetuate the conditions for life on the planet.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Kim — As it stands now with humanity, I wish Gaia would hurry up to something to eradicate our viral mastery. Or what we call mastery … we certainly aren’t as smart as we think we are, and nature is far, far more intelligent than we give her credit. Two hundred years after the fact, we’re just discovering that extracted finite resources have a greater toll than a walking ape’s immediate comfort. Maybe Gaia will shake her terran hips and invite a meteor to come smashing down our way. Kill off 70, 90 percent of live but the little fellers come back.

      Like

  2. I will link something tomorrow, friends. Here in Tofino, the dangerous road – the only road – in or out collapsed in torrential rain, under a landslide as they were blasting, trying to make it safer. Now it is gone, an interesting rehearsal for what is likely to happen here one day. And we had another earthquake. Yikes. No more vegetables in the CoOp, gas sales stop tomorrow. No way in or out expected for days. They are going to try to put a one lane bridge for small traffic across the narrow remains of what was the road. But it is a mess. Big trucks, RV’s, tourists are trapped here. I’m fine, with my store of rice and beans. Long as there’s no tsunami, should be fine. Lol.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sorry to hear about the main road — another human improvement creating worse conditions … Reminds me of the toll road they’re building between this town and another to the east, loops in with a region-encrircling toll road, imagine how many single family suburban houses will be built nearby as a result .. Anyway, the state spent 10 years negotiating with enviornmentalists to assure that the road, which, of course, cuts through dense wild habitat, will have safeguards for the critters. Probably will, but o the devastation of the construction which has been going on for several years, a miasmal mess! Hope all stays safe and there’s plenty in the fridge for you and a thumbs down for progress.

      Like

    • I have driven that road (back in May 2000), taking my brother and his wife to a wedding. Long and winding through forests in continous rain is how I remember it. Pretty empty 20 years ago….

      Even in here Southern England I always have my stores of Rice and beans, just in case!

      Like

  3. All these things you discuss feel to me like a swarm of wasps under our skin, in our hair, stinging us with a terrible sudden pain, then into a deep, coma-like numbness. It really seems too often these days that the only way for things to be fixed is for them to become so broken that all these complex systems simply fail, and us along with them. I didn’t write about this galling burden we face this time, but have posted a poem from 2013 about other kinds of screwing up. It’s late, so see you all tomorrow.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yikes — that swarm of stings followed by long numbness sounds to me like the very imago of sudden death. Human scale and earth scale are mashing together, human and geologic time in one confusing tango, so the way we read events and the way the geosphere experiences may have a vastly different language, but they’re talking about the same thing. What do we know of complex systems? We’re barely grasping the idea that fossil fuel extraction in an overpopulating human world leads to dramatic and killing changes of atmosphere. I went with a 2017 poem about the sort of going wrong from long ago and how it blinds the present sight.

      Like

  4. I really struggled to write something this weekend. The muse is exhausted by the drain of my January workload, but I rearranged words and images until i got the semblance of something poetic. I hope it doesn’t sound too much like everything I have ever written….
    Thank you for hosting the open link, David, so I have somewhere for my poem to sail.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Sorry to be late, kids. I am tired from walking the wild beach yesterday. And tired in soul, I think, just in general. Yes, as Kerry says, thanks for giving us somewhere for our poems to sail.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I decided to share this with Earthweal as it I “think” it goes with the general motif of the site. I am having a difficult week. Can you imagine your whole life being turned upside down? If it doesn’t fit I apology and I will gladly take it down.

    Like

    • I wanted to elaborate more on my first comment.

      Your posts are always informative and thought provoking. I think at any time due to the changing environment ones life could be dramatically changed(turned upside down) How do we prevent such loss caused by natural forces, fire, wind and rain? We have a government in denial even as the people ask for witnesses. Everyone turns a blind eye. The truth to be hidden from the people so they can continue on in the name of progress. The tax cuts aren’t helping the middle class. There are many businesses closing their doors. My employer let 35 people go.

      Like

      • Thanks Truedessa — the Earth’s changes are hard enough to contend with, but then wha are we to do with human ones, around us and our own? The fog is so hard to cut through these days. Please feel free to share whatever poem is big on your heart at the moment for the open link weekend. I’ve been under the shadow of the employment scythe for some time (I work in the newspaper biz, now that’s an oxymoron …)

        Like

  7. Dear Brendan, I know you mean it all from the bottom of your heart, and are hurting with us – nevertheless, with all due respect – and despite some of us having some awareness of The Wizard of (a different) Oz – the phrase, ‘We’re not in Kansas any more’ is hardly likely to spring to the minds of any Aussies in any circumstances.

    Like

    • Sorry — Aussies never were in Kansas — There certainly is a danger trying to write into events which are not happening locally, a sensitivity which must be learned. And Oz a Murdoch-owned newspaper in Australia, right? So local cultural referents may be difficult in a global forum. (Just writing in
      English is one great barrier.) Thanks for the reminder.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks for being receptive, and taking the point.

        No, Oz is simply what we often call our country. (It’s possible that some people also apply it to the name of the newspaper belonging to that individual we’d rather disown … but I haven’t heard it used that way.)

        Like

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