By Sherry Marr

It has been a hard month, with kangaroos and koalas burning, suffering and dying in the Australian wildfires. Due to drought (and unregulated corporations buying up fresh water sources), rivers are drying up. Thousands of platypus have perished, among the billion beings lost.  I nearly lost it when someone proposed shooting 10,000 camels “because they drink too much water.” Typical human thinking: as if we are the only species that matters.

The exhaustion and gratitude in this orphaned baby joey’s face pierces my soul. The wild creatures lived in harmony with the natural laws of Mother Earth until the last couple of hundred years, when the dominant species began extracting more than our share of resources. Humankind is too slow to recognize that we are all interconnected. What the wild things are experiencing now, we will experience too, likely sooner than we expected. In fact, many of us are already climate refugees, as the cascade effect accelerates.

Governments are too slow to act. “Economic interests” still come first, as global systems falter and wreak havoc.

The animals are suffering all over the world: remember Tahlequah in 2018, carrying her dead calf on her nose for seventeen days of grief we shared. Near me, on the West Coast of Canada, wild salmon stocks, infected by fish farm pollution, are dying; the result is starving whales and bears, and collapsing ecosystems. Grey whales are washing up with stomachs full of plastic; dolphins are trapped in driftnets. A million seabirds were killed in the hot waters of the Pacific Blob.

The numbers of creatures suffering and dying is too vast for comprehension.

Up north, polar bears are dying excruciatingly slowly of starvation; photos show only their empty skin left behind in the spots where they finally mercifully perished. Habitat and food sources are running out for the wild ones. Last fall, a mother bear and her three cubs searching for food  in a city suburb near me were shot as they tried to flee back into the forest. Bees, that pollinate our crops, are disappearing.

Did you see the recent photo of the orangutan trying to physically fight the bulldozer that was destroying his habitat to grow palm oil? He reminded me of the lone young man facing the tank in Tiananmen Square in 1989. Courage born of desperation.

We now know that the lives of animals in factory farms are horrendous. We need a movement just to liberate them, and return to small sustainable farming. Without pesticides. Animal agriculture is one of the biggest sources of CO2.

This listing could push us right into despair, and heaven knows my heart breaks every day for the animals. But we need to feel there is hope, and my heart lifts at the people rising up to care for the injured animals in Australia, and the many raising funds to help them heal. The best in human nature is always evident during times of crisis, clear evidence that we humans can – and must – find a better way to co-exist with the other beings on this planet.

There is much we can do, individually and collectively, to help the animals of climate change. We can donate, we can care, we can push for legislation to protect the wild ones. We can choose a more plant-based diet. We can write poems.

Today let’s speak for the animals. We can look at the big picture, which is devastating, and requires human action, human change. Or we can take whatever creature speaks to us, whatever struggle has captured our hearts in these past weeks, and write about that. The animals are crying out to us for help.  Big blessings to those humans on the ground who are helping the helpless, terrified creatures of climate change.

(In future prompts, I will look for good things happening to reverse climate change, as well. Stay tuned. I won’t always be depressing. But the animals are always first in my heart in perilous times, because they have no voice, and they are suffering because of us.)

In hope, and love for the animals,


Sherry Marr posts from Tofino on Vancover Island, off British Columbia and the west coast of Canada. She is the first to submit a guest weekly challenge and will be back. The earthweal weekly challenge runs from Monday through Friday afternoon; then at 4 PM EST an open link weekend kicks off.  Feel free to contribute multiple times if helps scale the theme.Include your posting location on Earth, include a link back to this challenge somewhere in your post and be sure to read and comment on your fellows’ posts. We carry this work together.

34 thoughts on “weekly challenge: THE ANIMALS OF CLIMATE CHANGE

  1. Sherry, I wish that I had a poem or two, for this week’s prompt, but this bug has drained me, of all creative energy. Especially, as today is, the 75th anniversary of Auschwitz’s liberation, by Soviet Red Army troops.

    My heart screams for justice, which can never replace those lives that were stolen, whether by greed, or ignorance. For we all share the same world, even if, we’re living our lives, in denial.


  2. Hi Sherry – and Brendan, too. Thank you for hosting. I think Earthweal will grow and grow. The poetry is of an exceptionally high standard, in my opinion – and there is great thoughtfulness here.


  3. Hello, friends. I am very grateful for this platform, in such times we are living through. It helps, to share our concern and our ideas, and to feel not alone with our worry. Thank you, Brendan, for this place in which we come together. And thank you to every voice who joins the conversation.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thanks so Sherry for picking up the reins on this one, the animals are the most important story of climate change. Many scientists assert that a warming Earth will cause a cascading Sixth Extinction event. The evidence of that pours so wildly forth these days so that huge numbers — a billion animals plus magnitudes more of life in Australia killed by the brushfires, a million seabirds by the Pacific Hot Blob, coral bleaching events, animal orders everywhere threatened by heat and drought and flood and fire–those numbers raise in our awareness that life is drowning, not slowly but very fast before our eyes. We stand behind that cascade, figuratively and literally, barely watching, our eyes fixed on screens, distraught or distanced by our human gambits which are the world’s very cause of woe … Hard not to despair deeply — my first contribution to the challenge cannot rinse itself of that, though that difficulty is still a possibility. Sherry thanks for adding the freshness of hope in your love of the animal world and dedication to carrying it in your verse. And thanks for great work on this challenge.


    • It is truly a pleasure, Brendan. I am so happy this forum is here. My climate crisis poems make people uncomfortable in some venues. Here I feel among kin, those of us carrying the grief and concern. The animals have my heart. Their suffering is the hardest for me to bear. Somehow I didnt think this acceleration would happen in my lifetime. How terrible for young people with who knows what before them!


  5. Hi Sherry and Brendan.
    After researching, I guess I went off on a tangent, as my thoughts were directed to that of the butterfly, and through this research I learnt a lot myself, not fully realising that most life, that of flora and fauna, are dependent on the existence of the insect kingdom.
    We are in crisis, perhaps more than we know…
    Anna :o[


    • So right, Anna, more than we know, though we are beginning to realize it. So happy you spoke for the butterfly and found your way here to Earthweal. It helps to share our worries.


    • I certainly understand that — this is the deep end of the pool, where the most difficult aspects of climate change are found. I sometimes wonder if despair is really too great, staring into a vanished animal’s shadow: will it kill this work too? Sherry may have her response — this is her prompt this week — but I have to wonder what our children and poetic successors will think of us, not being able or willing to articulate in poetry our apology and amends. I think of Australian military reserves dispatched to clean up the dead animal carcasses from places like Kangaroo Island — every few feet, another shape of ash felled where it fled — : Where and who do those soldiers get to unload their shock and grief? Sometimes it’s no more than morgue duty, but the witness must be borne and we don’t have to carry it alone. (Brendan)


    • I know, kiddo. I can hardly bear it myself. Animals suffering always bothers me most. Maybe in writing it helps to release some of my pain, to bear witness to what they are living. Thanks for stopping by though.


  6. Sherry and Brendan – I kind of feel like Shay. It is just too sad to dwell on the extreme pain and suffering of animals. I can no longer even read or look at anything about the animals of Australia, for example. So many species (polar bears, butterflies, wolves, various birds, etc.) have their stories. I couldn’t do any research for this prompt. I just couldn’t. I feel helpless in the light of all of the issues. And for sanity sake, sometimes, I just must look away. I did write something though. It is an important issue…

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I have to scroll past a lot of suffering too, Mary. But the kangaroos and koalas, just like Tahlequah, really got to me. Thanks for writing, and for stopping by. It takes brave hearts. Smiles.

    RedCat, looking forward to your poem.


  8. It takes strength to Go There, Hedge. Thank you, in the midst of your own grief, for sparing some for the wild creatures. Sometimes a poem is all we can do.


  9. Right now, in Tofino, we are trying to save at least part of a forest slated for a housing complex. They use terms like “Vacant undeveloped land”. We explain it is a whole ecosystem, habitat for so many. Falls on deaf ears. The trick will be to keep them within half the forest and not let them destroy it all. Sigh.


  10. I seem to be stuck on imagining scenarios on how we will act after we wrecked the planet. Can’t say that it gets my hopes up, but it gets some fear ann sorrow out.


  11. That is what it does for me, too, releases some of the frustration and grief………today I listened to a ted talk by Valerie Kaur about revolutionary love. It was very moving and was a note of hope I badly need right now.


  12. I posted an old poem, one that you reminded me of in your amazing essay. You are a powerful writer in all media, and your voice is that of a prophet–add that to Wild Woman! I love what you do from your perch on the edge of the sea.


    • Susan, I am so glad to see you. And I apologize for my poem breaking your heart. This topic is heartbreaking and depressing. But we write, we move on, we keep trying to grapple with all that is happening. It takes strength and courage and sharing together makes it possible.


  13. Hello, I often worry about the fate of the animals. It saddens my heart and is sometimes difficult for me to ponder. I am not sure what is the answer? How can we protect them more and who will listen?

    Thank you for hosting Sherry, I know you grieve as I do over the magnitude of animal loss. It’s a staggering number of lost lives.


    • I think it is good to talk about our feelings. It gives some release to the pressure cooker. It takes a strong spirit
      to look at the difficult situations that surround us on this wheel we share. Sherry, you are a warrior speaking for all
      who cannot speak. A guardian is a job
      you do not take lightly. Thank you for all you do!


      • Thank you for understanding, Truedessa. It is a large weight to carry. But we cannot look away. Brendan, again, I am so grateful for this forum where we can share the feelings and the difficulties.


  14. Sumana, I had not heard of your sweet dolphin before, had no idea that the Ganges had dolphins. So sad that these sweetest of creatures are struggling, among so many others. Thanks for writing and linking!


  15. That picture is heartbreaking. Sometimes it’s overwhelming, so much is wrong. Fish farms Suck! I try to only buy wild caught, but then wonder if that’s even doing the right thing. I’m posting, just slow, trying to get it together. Thanks for a wonderful prompt.


  16. Lovely to see you, Yvonne. Even wild caught re full of plastic now, apparently. Gah! All we can do is deal with it all as best we can. I love what I am learning about different places on the planet, in this forum.


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