earthweal weekly prompt: GLOBAL ASSEMBLY

by Ingrid Wilson

Back in July of 2021, inspired by the weekly prompts and poetry of earthweal, I published The Anthropocene Hymnal, an anthology of poems which represent a poetic response to the climate and ecological crisis. The responses were heartfelt and impassioned. I divided the book into two sections: ‘From Despair,’ in which poets expressed their concerns about the current situation, and ‘Towards Hope,’ in which they wrote about how we might survive the Anthropocene and build a better future, both for ourselves and for the rest of the natural world. Proceeds from the sales of the book continue to raise money for WWF.

As the COP26 Conference in Glasgow drew near, I wanted to do something more to add my voice to the chorus of people concerned about the future of our planet. I hosted ‘The Anthropocene Hymnal Live‘ event, in which contributors to the anthology came together to read their poems, and discuss their concerns. Unfortunately, I do not have a recording of the event, but it was a truly moving experience to get together with others and talk about our hopes and fears for the future, which we had shared in such an impassioned manner through our poetry. Around the same time, I also applied to host a Community Assembly on the climate and ecological crisis. It was a great honour to be selected to run an assembly and feed back to the Global Assembly.

About the Global Assembly

The Assembly’s own literature states that:

The aim of the Global Assembly is to support citizens from around the world to learn about and discuss the climate and ecological crisis and to provide guiding principles for climate action to world leaders.

The Global Assembly consists of a 100-person Core Assembly, whose recommendations were delivered at COP26, and a worldwide coalition of Community Assemblies, whose recommendations will be fed back to world leaders in March 2022.

Though the chances of world leaders listening to the voices of the people who are most affected by the climate and ecological crisis are slim, it is important that we keep raising our voices in hope. It is important that we keep the faith and trust in humanity’s inherent ability to heal itself and learn to live in harmony with nature once again.

Our Community Assembly

When I applied to chair a Community Assembly, I envisaged this as a gathering of poets, artists and writers from around the world: such is the online community of which we are all a part. I put out a call to attend a live assembly, but unfortunately there were not enough participants to make this viable. It is understandably difficult to co-ordinate a meeting of hearts and minds across the globe, and the three-hour timescale may well have been off-putting to those with busy lives! Nevertheless, as our very future is at stake, I feel it is important to hold the assembly in one form or another. I therefore decided to take an unconventional approach, and host the assembly in the format of this week’s earthweal prompt, in which I invite and heartily encourage you to participate!

The Burning Question

The question we have been asked to deliberate by the Global Assembly is this:  “How can humanity address the climate and ecological crisis in a fair and effective way?”

And for this week’s challenge, I want you to attempt to answer this question in poetry. A little different, I know, but let us try. Poetry carries within it an inherent truth, which may contain the very solutions we are seeking. Here are some activities to consider (taken from the Community Assembly toolkit) which may provide some inspiration for your poems:

  1. A Snapshot of My Life
    Tell us a little about your life, and how the climate and ecological crisis relates to it.
     
  2. Expressing Hopes and Fears
    Close your eyes and visualise your life in 10 years time: Who are you with? What are you working on? What affects you the most? How is climate change affecting you? Choose one word that expresses your vision.
     
  3. Near and Far
    Consider what the hopes and fears of others around the globe may be: from those who face the devastating effects of a chaotic climate on a daily basis (such as small island nations who live with the threat of inundation) to those who have lost loved ones, homes and livelihoods to fire, flood or landslide.

I will collate your responses to the challenge, pick out the main points, and feed them back to the Global Assembly. This is a real chance to have your voice heard, so I hope you will take part!

Ingrid

To end with some poetic inspiration, here is Kerfe Roig, with a poem from the ‘Towards Hope’ section of The Anthropocene Hymnal, to which I often return, as it expresses so well my own ambivalent feelings towards the ecological crisis, and life in general:

MERCY 1 AND 2
(after M L Smoker)

by Kerfe Roig

An answer arrives,
but it’s not words,
not even something
that you can hear.

–not that you
ever listen to anything
anyway–
How do you
recognize it?–
but you know
that your inside has shifted
into what it wasn’t–

At the same time
you are still where you were–
you still face towards impossibility
in every direction–

And yet your mind is not the same–
a strange memory you cannot name
has cleared a path between
the synapses of despair
and you can breathe again.

Is the light lost?
You leave a candle burning,
place it in the window–
come home

20 thoughts on “earthweal weekly prompt: GLOBAL ASSEMBLY

  1. Thanks for reminding me of my words Ingrid. It’s so easy to get caught up in the cycle of despair. This is a thought provoking prompt. I will be interested in the responses (including my own) (k)

    Like

  2. This is an issue that is close to my heart, Ingrid. About three years ago, I wrote a poem about red tide, a neurotoxin, and blue-green algae, which causes permanent liver damage in humans. These Florida problems were a direct consequence of aging dikes at lake Okeechobee. Polluted water was being released into rivers because of fears the dikes might fail and cause flooding.

    Endangered sea turtles, endangered manatees, dolphins, and fish were dying and washing up on beaches in massive numbers. The stench in our neighborhood was unbelievable! Many people living along the coast were becoming sick. Tourism was affected, and small businesses were struggling. Property values along rivers were plummeting, and people could no longer live in their homes there. Two years ago, we sold our house near the Gulf and moved further inland because our health was affected.

    The Everglades, the jewel of Florida, had been shrinking for decades because of the natural flow of water being diverted from the Everglades. Tropical bird numbers in the Everglades were at historically low levels.

    I sent my poem and a cover letter to my elected representatives. I got back a form letter from one senator.

    Last year, I was astonished to learn that the dikes had been updated. Less water is being released into rivers that flow into the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean…no massive algal blooms this year! More water is flowing into the Everglades. Our representatives did hear the complaints of their constituents after all!

    Kerfe and the other poets who contributed their work to the Anthropocene Hymnal have added their voices to the public outcry on climate issues. How can we be ignored if we continue to speak?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Cheryl, you make such a good point: we just assume our voices will not be heard, but how can they be if we don’t speak up? So pleased the situation is getting better in Florida. I saw Red Tide in Slovenia, and now I see very unhealthy-looking foam wherever I look in the UK: in the sea, and in lakes and rivers, including the beautiful Lake District. I think it’s time to write to my MP…

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Cheryl, thank you for this interesting information. One reply back. I hear you. But I think of the saying Think Globally, Act Locally. In my village (albeit a small population), we citizens continue to have input into Council’s decisions. We attend meetings, write letters, draw up petitions. This does have impact, even though it feels like we dont win many issues. Right now we are trying to save the remaining half of a forest, as housing is encroaching on the other half which has already been clearcut. We also have been pushing for a tree protection bylaw, while Council has been dragging its feet to allow for more chopping trees/development. It is exhausting. We see the end dates for needed change coming closer. At least we are trying.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. This is such a powerful challenge! I thought it would have me writing reams, but instead for two whole days I find myself rereading poems from the past, key words children, survival, water, global . . . . I think I’m posting an older poem or two for this challenge. Thank you for all you do!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I’ve been creating poems for publication submissions recently and so haven’t been publishing them on my blog, but I wanted you to know that I created poetry using this prompt. I’ll drop a link to the publication I’m submitting to in case anyone wants to submit their own work. Deadline is February 28. https://www.humanaobscura.com/submit
    Congratulations on the book, it sounds both thoughtful and thought-provoking.

    Liked by 1 person

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