earthweal weekly challenge: THE COMMONS


First, thanks to Sherry for last week’s thoughtful and heartfelt Everwild Challenge. Great work and the responses were wild!

It’s good to be back. The war in Ukraine has affected my mood and verse, but I hope renewed earthweal presence will help.

Earth is on fire in so many ways that is re-defining normal. A wildfire near Flagstaff, Arizona, continues to explode in windy dry weather, and much of the Southwest is similarly vulnerable. An even broader realm of fire engulfs western, central, southern and eastern Siberia, burning an area twice as large as when they raged this time last year. Russian attention is elsewhere, depriving locals of fire-fighting elsewhere. The burning in Ukraine is more directly man-made — fires roar and smoulder in ruined cities and villages across the country — all of it the signia of the politics of extraction and domination. As usual, the push for energy independence has been eclipsed by crises of oil. So we burn.

Here in my country, white ragers boil dark sentiment for our upcoming midterm elections, especially the Tweedledee and Tweedledumdum Republican governors of Texas and Florida, Greg “Yosemite Sam” Elliott and Ron “Swamp Thang” Desantis. Climate change denial is proving especially damaging on the human psyche, as monsters like these turn a smoldering animus against everything not white, Christian and obsolete. Republlican supermajorities rule both state legislatures.

Here in Florida, Desantis portrays Disney World as an agent of California woke, and the Florida Department of Education (whose commissioner is a longtime DeSantis crony) has rejected dozens of math books on the grounds they “contained prohibited topics” from social-emotional learning to critical race theory. And this week, a man in California was arrested for threatening to bomb and shoot the offices of the dictionary publisher Merriam-Webster for changing the definition of such gendered words as “boy, girl, and trans.” In the downward spiral of outraged dumb, a fiery contingent of my reality is headed straight down the Putin potty in ruscist (a cute new word merging “Russian” and “fascist”) and racist ire. Cinders of the burnt world.

Much may be beyond saving, but all we can do is continue to cultivate the region between human and wild that is earthweal. This is our commons.

Gary Snyder writes about the commons in The Practice of the Wild.

Between the extremes of deep wilderness and the private plots of farmstead lies a territory which is not suitable for crops. In earlier times, it was used jointly by the members of a given tribe or village. This area, embracing both the wild and semi-wild, is of critical importance. It is necessary for the health of the wilderness because it adds big habitat, overflow territory, and room for wildlife to fly and run. It is essential even to an agricultural village economy because its natural diversity provides the many necessities and amenities that the privately held plots cannot. It enriches the agrarian diet with game and fish. The shared land supplies firewood, poles and stone for building, clay for the kiln, herbs, dye, plants, and much else. Just as in a foraging economy it is especially important for seasonal and full-time open range for cattle, horses, goats, pigs and sheep. (32)

One trope here at earthweal is to explore, widen and celebrate the commons of animal and human, vegetable and mineral in a future sustainable for all. Sometimes it feels like a rote exercise, but in an age of diminishing choices, earthweal remains the productive alternative to despair. It is in that commons that we can turn climate grief into hope.


Snyder, again:

We have to make a world-scale “natural contract” with the oceans, air, the birds in the sky. The challenge is to bring the whole victimized world of “common pool resources” into the mind of the commons. As it stands now, any resource on Earth that is not nailed down will be seen as fair game to the timber buyers or petroleum geologists form Osaka, Rotterdam, or Boston. The pressures of growing populations and the powers of the entrenched (but fragile, confused and essentially leaderless) economic systems warp the likelihood of any of us seeing clearly our perception of how entrenched they are may also be an illusion.

Sometimes it seems unlike that a society as a whole can make wise choices. Yet there is not choice but to call for the “recovery of the commons” — and this in a modern world which doesn’t quite realize what it has lost. Take back, like the night, that which is shared by all of us, that which is our larger being. There will be no “tragedy of the commons” greater than this: if we do not recover the commons — regain personal, local, community and people’s direct involvement in sharing (in being) the web of the wide world — that world will keep slipping away. Eventually our complicated industrial capitalist/socialist mixes will bring down much of the living system that supports us. And it is clear, the loss of a local commons heralds the end of self-sufficiency and dooms the vernacular culture of the region…

… The commons is a curious and elegant social institution within which human beings once lived free political lives while weaving through natural systems. The commons is a level of organization of human society that involves the nonhuman. The level above the local commons is the bioregion. Understanding the commons and its role within the larger regional culture is one more step toward integrating ecology with economy. (39-40)

An ecologically-founded economy: that is good vision for this dim time. If it is possible to write an ecological poetry, then we here have the means to describe and embrace the commons in which future possibility can grow.

For this challenge, write about THE COMMONS. How would you describe that half-wild, half-human habitat of sharing and sustenance in your locale? Maybe it’s a park or an area just outside of town of diverse borders. Or maybe it’s a region of your imagination, fed and sustained by your greener thought.

Let reclaim our commons before it mined and lumbered and burnt!

— Brendan



Thomas Tranströmer


Suddenly, out walking, he meets the giant
oak, like an ancient petrified elk, with
mile-wide crown in front of September’s sea,
the dusk-green fortress.

Storm from the north. When rowanberry
clusters ripen. Awake in the dark, he hears
constellations stamping in their stalls, high
over the oak tree.


The moon’s mast has rotted and the sail shriveled.
A gull soars drunkenly over the sea.
The jetty’s thick quadrangle is charred. Brush
            bends low in the dusk.

Out on the doorstep. Daybreak slams and slams in
the sea’s stone gateway, and the sun flashes
close to the world. Half-choked summer gods
           fumble in sea mist.


Under the buzzard’s circling dot of stillness
the waves race roaring into the light,
chewing on their bridles of seaweed, snorting
           froth across the shore.

The earth is blind in darkness where the bats
take bearings. The buzzard stops and becomes a star.
The waves race roaring forth and snort
          froth across the shore.

transl. May Swenson



Mary Oliver

I think sometimes of the possible glamour of death —
that it might be wonderful to be
lost and happy in the green grass —
or to be the green grass! —
or, maybe the pink rose, or the blue iris,
or the affable daisy, or the twirled vine
looping its way skyward — that it might be perfectly peaceful
to be the shining lake, or the hurrying, athletic river,
or the dark shoulders of the trees
where the thrush each evening weeps himself into an ecstasy.

I lie down in the fields of goldenrod, and everlasting.
Who could find me?
My thoughts simplify. I have not done a thousand things
or a hundred things, but, perhaps, a few.
As for wondering about answers that are not available except
in books, though all my childhood I was sent there
to find them, I have learned
to leave all that behind

as in summer I take off my shoes and my socks,
my jacket, my and, and go on
happier, through the fields. The little sparrow
with the pink beak
call out, over and over, so simply — not to me

but the whole world. All afternoon
I grow wiser, listening to him,
soft, small, nameless fellow at the top of some weed,
enjoying his life. If you can sing, do it. If not,

even silence can feel, to the world, like happiness,
like praise,
from the pool of shade you have found beneath the everlasting.

— from Blue Iris (2004)

earthweal open link weekend #115


Happy Earth Day, and welcome to earthweal open link weekend #115! Share a favorite earth poem and visit your fellow linkers and comment.

Link forum is open to midnight Sunday when the next weekly challenge rolls out.

Thanks to Sherry for taking up this week’s fine challenge. Great work.

Happy linking!


earthweal weekly challenge: EVERWILD

source: The Greta Effect

The ‘nothing’ that so many people are doing
is inexcusable inaction in the face of indisputable harm.                       

– Evelyn C. White in Rising Tides –
Reflections for Climate Changing Times

By Sherry Marr

Where to start, with Ukraine being bombed into rubble, a small country of heroic people fighting off a major super-power, as the rest of us watch? I go very quiet, just trying to stay steady. Wild grief, but trying to hold onto wild hope, though the accelerating climate crisis has once again been sidelined as we deal with yet another crisis.

There is an existential threat to democracy from this war  – and to our survival on the planet, as Putin utters nuclear threats to deter NATO from direct involvement. Russian soldiers firing missiles at the Chernobyl nuclear reactor displayed a chilling display of ignorance about the possibility of a nuclear chain reaction, if a facility is either accidentally or deliberately activated. Reporters have expressed horror that the Russians, who held the staff captive (and then took them to Russia as prisoners), had no clue how the reactor worked; staff had to keep them pacified in order to avert disaster. As it was, the Russians dug trenches in radioactive soil around the site, likely exposing themselves to radiation.  Recently they fired upon another reactor, the largest in Ukraine.

Given the scope of this threat, it is understandable that governments and populations are sidetracked from the climate crisis – but it is happening whether or not we pay attention. It is a lot to process, to carry in our hearts and minds. It is a lot to live through, most especially for the Ukrainians, who are having this horror imposed on them.

Meanwhile, in March, NASA reported 178 wildfires were already burning in Texas. I Googled a map of current fires in the eastern USA and the number is shocking. Australia had torrential rainfall this month, receiving a month’s rain overnight. Thousands were ordered to evacuate in Sydney. Because the war is so terrible, we barely hear about these other disasters.

But recently, the Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change warned that we are not shifting quickly enough to a low-carbon economy. It warned “catastrophic and irreversible upheavals can only be averted by urgent action now.” Daniela Schmidt, a professor at Bristol University and one of the authors of the report, said “The war in Ukraine is a terrible tragedy. But we seem blind to the fact that an even larger and existential crisis is already unfolding – one that will result in a global humanitarian crisis never seen before.”

The report states heatwaves, drought, wildfires and floods are “already exceeding plants’ and animals’ tolerance thresholds, causing cascading impacts. Millions of people are exposed to food insecurity in Africa, Asia, Central and South America, small islands and in the Arctic…….Families everywhere fear being pushed into poverty by inflation.”  North America experienced supply chain problems this year due to chain disruptions caused by the so-called “Freedom Convoy.” That showed us how vulnerable we are, and points to how we need to become more locally and regionally self-sufficient.  Importing goods from across the world, when they are available closer to home, just adds to the global carbon footprint. Shopping locally and regionally is one thing we can do to help, along with driving less.

“Governments, the private sector and civil society need to work together to safeguard and strengthen nature, because healthy ecosystems are more resilient to climate change,” Ms. Schmidt stated.

Let’s take a look at a climate graph to see how various countries are doing. Brace yourself; the news is not good. The worst offenders are the richest countries. Capitalism is a resource extractive system. And corporations are not about to voluntarily give up the gravy train; they have to be made to do so. It looks like it is up to we folks on the bottom to demand it, because those on the top are dragging their heels.

source:    Call2Change

Each year, more than 30 giga-tons of C02 are released, due to fossil fuels. Worst offender is China at 10,065 million tons of C02, or 30% of all emissions. The USA is second, at 5,416 million tons, or 14%. In Canada, Trudeau is smooth at talking about having “a clean climate AND a growing economy” but those are just words to put off taking action. He just extended his reduced emission goals to 2030, so we can look forward to more heat domes and wildfires.

I feel like a mother cat with too many kittens, with so much to worry about. What saves me, always, is nature, which keeps on trying to live, in spite of us and our non-cooperation on this matter.

There is good news too, but you have to hunt to find it.

  • Twenty African countries have united to plant a 7,000-kilometre wall of trees to stop the spread of the Sahara Desert. The Great Green Wall will stretch from coast to coast.
  • In Kenya, the Kenya Electricity Generating Company (KenGen) has completed a geothermal power plant and will connect it to the grid this June. It will boost KenGen’s capacity by 42%, providing a sustainable supply of renewable energy and displacing fossil-fuel-based electricity. They are aiming for 100% renewable energy by 2030.
  • Dutch trains run on wind energy. One windmill running for one hour powers 120 train miles. 600,000 people commute daily with no emissions.
  • Cheaply made clothing (made by virtual slaves overseas), that is unsold or discarded, are clogging landfills, where they don’t biodegrade; dyes and toxins leach into the soil. Hemp and bamboo can replace nearly all textile and building materials, and make comfortable clothing. They both grow quickly, sequester more carbon than trees, and can be used in 50,000 products. They grow everywhere and create jobs. It feels crazy to be cutting down old growth when hemp and bamboo are so user-friendly.
  • Plastic is perhaps our worst invention (other than nuclear bombs). Some countries are experimenting with using recycled plastic for road-building; the findings are that the roads wear better and will last longer.
  • North America is addicted to cars. Huge parking lots take up vast areas in every city. Some forward-looking companies are creating long solar rooftops that cover parking lanes, providing energy, and allowing productive use of the space. They combine this with charging stations for electric cars. Progress.


source: Call2Change


So there is good news. Interestingly, much of the innovation and progress is in some of the less wealthy countries, who perhaps are more aware, and feel less entitled to “having it all”. Clearly, we have to leave that mindset behind.

Wild grief and wild (rather desperate) hope, as this old world turns and turns. May the war end. May we not blow ourselves up. May we learn to live with kindness to Mother Earth and our fellow beings, both human and non-human. Let’s keep writing our grief and hope into poems – and, sometimes, in  letters to elected officials to remind them that, according to the experts, we have to make significant changes in the next five years to slow down what is heading our way.

(Letters do have impact. In Tofino, our petition to save the rest of Tonquin forest reached almost 2500 signatures. As a result, Council is now talking about protecting the area the developer had hoped to expand into.)

I was most inspired, and most infused with hope, recently, by Ingrid Wilson’s wonderful poem “Everwild”.  Here it is, with permission.


Catbells is changing colour
burnished copper into gilded green
the fields, alive in flower
give on to glorious mountainscapes, serene

Higher peaks peppered with snow, below
the wan sun warms the valley floor
here we may lay aside sorrow
where grieving sings no more

The birds trill out their tra-la-la song
all the length of my broad trail
their honeyed melodies in throng
rise, warm my heart, and rouse the vale

And all the land’s alight with springtime
majestic mountain, rolling field
beats with my heart, my footsteps keep time
and I am reborn: everwild

© 2022 All Rights Reserved.

Yes, I thought: that is it, exactly. No matter what, I will stay Everwild. Thank you to Ingrid for the spiritual reinforcement. I needed it. I was born just after WWII and can’t believe I am watching the rise of fascism across the globe, and watching this terrible, brutal war on my tv screen. Yet, at the same time, Mother Earth showers us with springtime blossoms, and every living thing strives to flourish. A message of hope, of growth, of moving forward along the great arc of life, whatever comes.

For our challenge, let’s write from that place of holding onto wildness of soul, to balance the wild love and wild grief we swing between on any given day, at this time of utter unpredictability, when Mother Earth herself is providing us with comfort in our grief, even while she herself is bleeding.

— Sherry

earthweal open link weekend #114



Hello again, and welcome to earthweal open link weekend #114. Share a favorite poem and then visit your fellow linkers and comment.

The link forum is open until midnight Sunday EST when the next weekly challenge rolls out. Sherry Marr takes up the reins with one she has titled “Everwild.”

Happy linking!