earthweal open link weekend #122

 

Greetings, and welcome to earthweal open link weekend #122. Share a favorite poem and visit your fellow linkers to comment.

The link forum is open until midnight Sunday EST when the next weekly challenge rolls out. Sherry will be back with another she has titled “Earth’s Wild Music.” Dust off your redwood tubas and hummingbird triangles and let’s have some fun!

Brendan

earthweal weekly challenge: DREAMING IN GREEN

 

by Sherry Marr

When I first saw this video, which won the David Suzuki songwriting contest Playlist for the Planet in 2010, I was reduced to tears. Then age ten, Ta’Kaiya Blaney, a member of the Sliammon band in North Vancouver, B.C., co-wrote this song with her singing teacher Aileen De La Cruz. She addressed the song to the Enbridge oil company. While she was writing it, a huge oil spill occurred in the Gulf of Mexico, making a line in the song, “If you do nothing, it will all be gone,” all the more heartbreaking.

At thirteen, she addressed the UN Forum on Indigenous Issues. Now in her early 20’s, Ta’Kaiya is still an environmental activist. And I am still her biggest fan.

David Suzuki, our beloved Canadian life-long environmental activist, now age 82, is speaking with increasing urgency about what he terms “a Green and just economy.” He lists the three pillars of a green recovery as:

  • Protecting and restoring nature
  • Acting on climate (work towards a low-carbon future)
  • Replacing our economic system, which isn’t working. He explains that a system that measures success by GDP growth pushes us towards ecological and social collapse

Suzuki advises that Canada could have clean renewable electricity as soon as 2035, using wind, solar, energy storage, energy efficiency, and by upgrading the electricity grid, connecting the grid across provinces, were governments to take the necessary steps to transition away from the addiction to fossil fuels.

He says, “Economics is a form of brain damage. Conventional economics is fundamentally disconnected from reality. Take the money from the forest, when the forest is gone, put the money into fish. When the fish are gone, put the money somewhere else. It’s nuts!”

He continues, “When you ask an economist where you factor the ozone, underground aquifers and topsoil – the web of life – into that equation, an economist replies ‘those are externalities.’ Economics is fundamentally disconnected from the real world.”

“Externalities.” The air we breathe, the water we drink, the soil we need to grow our food.

David Suzuki Foundation photo

We are starting to hear the term greenwashing, the process of conveying a false impression or providing misleading information about how a company’s products are supposedly more environmentally sound. Greenwashing is a conscious attempt to deceive consumers into believing that a company’s products are environmentally friendly.

Politicians use greenwashing frequently, to try to convince us that what they are doing is good for the climate crisis, when it is anything but. Trudeau has been known, in the same sentence, to announce pipeline projects while trying to convince Canadians that “We can have clean air and a strong economy.” Canada’s target is reduced emissions by 2030 (but Trudeau doesn’t say how we will accomplish this), and net zero by 2050. That is, if a livable planet still exists in 2050.

Green Member of Parliament Elizabeth May said recently, “We are standing on the edge of too late, but it is not too late.”  However, corporate culture is a problem governments seem loathe to tackle.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change stated emissions must peak between 2022 and 2025, and drop to half by 2030.  That timeline seems not to have registered with the Canadian government, as Trudeau announced approval in April of the Bay du Nord offshore oil and gas project in the Maritimes, followed by assurance that the Trans Mountain Pipeline project will go ahead in B.C., though transferred to indigenous ownership. (Tossing the hot potato?) Paraphrasing former Alberta Premier Liberal leader Kevin Taft: “The government may be in office, but oil is in power.”

Hope lies with the young, who are aware of the mess we’ve made. Many young people are talking about not bringing children into the world, given the accelerating climate crisis. It is unfair that they are the ones who will face the consequences of our inaction, and are the ones we are looking to to make the changes we ourselves should have made decades ago. Should be making now.

However, in the hard work young people are doing, I see what hope there is. It is the governmental failure to lead that frustrates me, and the choke-hold industry has on government. Politicians are choosing to protect staying in power over being stewards of land and resources in the best interests of the people they were elected to serve. We are meant to leave a livable planet for the generations that follow us.

Issues of survival should not be political issues – all voices in government need to come together to find a way forward through what we are facing as global citizens.

No matter what, I will never stop dreaming in green.

In this world of wildfire, floods, extreme weather events, mass shootings and war, it can feel dark, as if we are, as Milton said, “making a hell of heaven.” But, thankfully, all around us is still a world of green – trees that shade us, help us breathe, wild forests, our own yards and gardens, and green spaces in cities, where we can go to connect with nature and restore our tattered spirits.

Right now, in the northern hemisphere, life is bursting into glorious bloom – rhododendrons of every hue are everywhere. On the Wild Pacific Trail this week, a friend and I exclaimed over new growth on salal bushes, fresh pale green spriglets thrusting up. A cool and rainy spring has encouraged the wildflowers. We thrilled over them all: monkey flowers, red Columbine, wild strawberry, and the Nootka rose were tucked into nooks and crannies of rock cliffs along the ocean.

The changing weather encourages clouds to dance along the hills ringing the harbour.  A baby orca has been born in the Salish sea, and is healthy, and playful.  He brings hope. Life is green, growing, bursting, and wonder is everywhere.

 

Midst the madness, good things are happening on Planet Earth.

  • Australia has elected a climate-conscious prime minister, Anthony Albanese, who has pledged to cut emissions in half by the end of the decade.
  • In the U.S., government passed a new bill to improve and increase production of heat pumps, offering tax breaks to homeowners who convert.
  • Legal challenges have been brought against Exxon for alleged climate crimes, and for covering up the industry’s role in worsening the climate crisis.
  • California is leading the country in solar capacity and plans to do the same with wind power.
  • Swiss scientists have made a major fusion energy breakthrough. Scientists at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne discovered ignition: the process of a fusion reactor generating more energy than was required to create the reaction.
  • One of the highest courts in India has granted nature the same status as a human being.
  • In April, the U.S. saw 20% of its energy come from clean energy for the first time.
  • Scientists have developed an enzyme that eats plastic.

So there is hope. There is action. There are good things happening, just not fast enough. And we hear far more of the bad news, than the good, so it tends to make us feel the world is dark; it dims the light for us.

What is a poor, discouraged environmental activist to do? Keep writing letters to officials, stand up, speak out, make ethical spending choices, boycott products of offending corporations, and do the usual small things we all do to minimize our carbon footprint. VOTE!! for advocates of environmental reform. And most healing of all – find solace in nature around us, to keep us on the path.

Let’s turn off the daily news, and walk out into this green world, bursting with life. “Walk as if your feet are kissing the earth,” like Thich Nhat Hanh.

And keep on dreaming. Never stop dreaming in green!

Your challenge: In the middle of all that is dark, and disheartening, and seemingly insurmountable, let’s send some poems infused with green to Mother Earth, to let her know she’s not alone, and that we see her blooming. I include some inspiration below.

 

PRAYER BOWL

When the moon is turned upwards like a bowl waiting to be filled
We must fill it. We must fill it by honoring the spirits of creation
With songs of our joy and thanks, with foods created with our own hands,
Water for the thirsty, prayers for the people, prayers for the spirits,
Prayers for the Creator, prayers for ourselves, and the sacred instruments
That join us to the glory of this world, that join us to the glory of this world
And the world beyond our sleep.

— Al Hunter, in When the Light of the World Was Subdued, Our Songs Came Through, an anthology by Joy Harjo

Yes! Let’s fill our prayer bowls!!!

MORE THAN SEEING

There is a moment before the kingfisher dives,
the eagle swoops, the small green ducks disappear
like the breeze in the low hanging cedar branches
over the river; there is a moment before I name
the kingfisher, the eagle, the ducks when I am not
the observer, I am the dart of light, rush of wings,
the trusting wind; I am grace: an end of living
in awe of things, a beginning of living with them.

– Susan Musgrave, in Worth More Standing: Poets and Activists Pay Homage to Trees, an anthology edited by Christine Lowther

THE COUNSEL OF PINES

When I’m weighted down with the futility
of trying to change anything,
I seek the high ridges
and good counsel of whitebark pines.

Gnarled and wind-blasted,
they spread wide, long-limbed crowns
and stiff tufts of needles
expansively
among the slender spires
of mountain hemlock and subalpine fir.

They welcome the full pitch of wind,
needle-blast of ice, slow broil
of summer sun.
They embrace their mountain world full-on.

At the highest reaches
even they are brought to their knees,
and storm-hobbled, crawl shrublike
along ridge crests, limbs
unfurled in tattered banners
against the cobalt sky.

Every now and then
I have to see that.

Along a ridge on the Cascade crest
I find the charred hulk
of a lightning-struck pine.
Its trunk shattered on talus,
its broken-off base silver-brown,
sunbaked amber, flecked
with delicate furls of wolf lichen.

But inside the charred hollow,
in the deep green of boxwood leaves,
and beside them, a single sprig
of whitebark
scrabbling up-through a rubble of ash and duff.

-Tim McNulty in Worth More Standing: Poets and Activists Pay Homage to Trees, an anthology edited by Christine Lowther

 

 

 

earthweal weekly challenge: ANTHROPOCENE WILDERNESS

 

Greetings all — sorry to post this challenge late, other things are heavy on the plate. And apologies if it seems lopsided, awkward and repetitive. So churns this brain …

As your responses to the Everyday Extreme challenge came in last week, it occurred to me that we should include our crazy Anthropocene as resident now in the same wild we have visited much of late in our challenges. The unknowable power and ferocity of a heating climate, amplifying droughts and wildfires and hurricanes: This strange new wild measures our knowledge and certainty, just as a European settler in North America of the 16th century gazed in awe and terror a the vast consuming forest just beyond a field’s bounds.

Is it any different now for us, staring out at this looming beast of provoked nature?

All our boons bear the contrary of bane. Everyone’s aerosol hair spray lifted bouffants high enough to punch holes in the ozone. A civilization of moving cars invokes acid rain. Research indicates that the genes that contributed to the rapid evolution of the human brain are linked to autism and schizophrenia. (There are also genetic links between schizophrenia and both alcoholism and Alzheimers). What made us human also drives us crazy; the wild brain is the part of nature which we thought we tamed, but comes in the night to taunt us.

Learning to live in this new wild means accepting we can’t tame the ferocity of Anthropocene without understanding its wild nature. Likewise, an empathic language is needed to scale the wilderness on the flip side of the evolved human brain. My father-in-law is in the stages of late Alzheimers; the guy who helped lift the Saturn rocket into space can’t figure out now how to get food to his mouth.

Maybe it takes the poetry of our wild dark brains to perceive the awe and awfulness of what we have invoked, the wilderness of the provoked.

For this week’s challenge, write of the Anthropocene Wilderness.

Brendan

 

 

GARBAGE: A POEM

A.R. Ammons

section one

Garbage has to be the poem of our time because
— garbage is spiritual, believable enough

to get our attention, getting in the way,
piling up, stinking, turning brooks brownish and

creamy white: what else deflects us from the
errors of our illusionary ways, not a temptation

to trashlessness, that is too or off, and,
anyway, unimaginable, unrealistic: I’m a

hole puncher or hole plugger: stick a finger
in the dame (dam, damn, dike), hold back the issue

of creativity’s flood, the forthcoming, futuristic,
the origins feeding trash: down by I-95 in

Florida where flatland’s ocean- and gulf-flat,
mounds of disposal rise (for if you dug

something up to make room for something to put
in, what about the something dug up, as with graves:)

the garbage trucks crawl as if in obeisance,
as if up ziggurats toward the high places gulls

and garbage keep alive, offerings to the gods
of garbage, of retribution, of realistic

expectation, the deities of unpleasant
necessities: refined, young earthworms,

drowned up in macadam pools by spring rains,
moisten out white in a day or so and, round spots,

look like sputum or creamy-rich, broken-up cold
clams: if this is not the best poem of the

century, can it be about the worst poem of the
century: it comes, at least, toward the end,

so a long tracing of bad stuff can swell
under its measure: but there on the heights

a small smoke wafts the sacrificial bounty
day and night to layer the sky brown, shut us

in as into a lidded kettle, the everlasting
flame these acres-deep of tendance keep: a

tree offering of a crippled plastic chair:
a played-out sports outfit: a hill-myna

print stained with jelly: how to write this
poem, should it be short, a small popping of

duplexes, or long, hunting wide, coming home
late, losing the trail and recovering it:

should it act itself out, illustrations,
examples, colors, clothes or intensify

reductively into statement, bones any corpus
would do to surround, or should it be nothing

at all unless it finds itself: the poem,
which is about the pre-socratic idea of the

dispositional axis from stone to wind, wind
to stone (with my elaborations, if any)

is complete before it begins, so I needn’t
myself hurry into brevity, though a weary reader

might briefly be done: the axis will be clear
enough daubed here and there with a little ink

or fined out into every shade and form of its
revelation: this is a scientific poem,

Asserting that nature models values, that we
have invented little (copied), reflections of

possibilities already here, this where we came
to and how we came: a priestly director behind the

black-chufffing dozer leans the gleanings and
reads the birds, millions of loners circling

a common height, alighting to the meaty streaks
and puffy muffins (pufffins?): there is a mound,

too, in the poet’s mind dead language is hauled
off to and burned down on, the energy held and

shaped into new turns and clusters,
the mind strengthened by what it strengthens: for

where but in the very asshole of comedown
is redemption: as where but brought low, where

but in the grief of failure, loss, error do we
discern the savage afflictions that turn us around:

where but in the arrangements love crawls us
through, not a thing left in our self-display

unhumiliated, do we find the sweet seed of
new routes: but we are natural: nature, not

we, gave rise to us: we are not, though, though
natural, divorced from higher, finer configurations:

tissues and holograms of energy circulate in
us and seek and find representations of themselves

outside us, so that we can participate in
celebrations high and know reaches of feeling

and sight and thought that penetrate (really
penetrate) far, far beyond these our wet cells,

right on up past our stories, the planets, moons,
and other bodies locally to the other end of

the pole where matter’s forms diffuse
and energy loses all means to express itself except

as spirit, there, oh, yes, in the abiding where
mind but nothing else abides, the eternal,

until it turns into another pear or sunfish,
that momentary glint in the fisheye having

been there so long, coming and going,
it’s eternity’s glint: it all wraps back round,

into and out of form, palpable and impalpable,
and in one phase, the one of grief and love,

we know the other, where everlastingness
comes to sway, okay and smooth: the heaven we mostly

want, though, is this jet-hoveled hell back,
heaven’s daunting asshole: one must write and

rewrite till one writes it right: if I’m in
touch, she said, then I’ve got an edge: what

the hell kind of talk is that: I can’t believe
I’m merely an old person: whose mother is dead,

whose father is gone and many of whose friends
and associates have wended away to the

ground, which is only heavy wind, or to ashes,
a lighter breeze:  but it was all quite frankly

to be expected and not looked forward to:  even
old trees, I remember some of them, where they

used to stand: pictures taken by some of them:
and old old dogs, specially one imperial black one,

quad dogs with their hierarchies (another archie)
one succeeding another, the barking and romping

sliding away like slides from a projector: what
were they then that are what they are now:

The book-length poem ‘Garbage’ was published in 1993
and won the National Book Award for poetry 

earthweal weekly challenge: THE EVERYDAY EXTREME

 

It’s mid-May and Florida’s rainy season has begun, weeks earlier than the norm of ten or even five years ago. Surly storms rolled north across the state on Friday in waves, with brilliant flashes, startling loud thunder and downpours that drenched everything. At twilight as another band of storms strolled over, the power went off — not long, maybe 45 minutes — and my wife and I sat in the dimming silence listening to the cracks and booms of tomorrow’s weather tonight. And through the night there were more waking intrusions, leaving us with that “Toto, I don’t think we’re in Kansas any more” feeling of a world changing so fast. Not doom, but nothing Aunt Em would recognize.

Last night the storms came again, not as loud but with the same thrashing fury of the unforgiven — an exclamation point added to the idea of normality increasingly defined by extremes.

In the pre-industrial world, last summer’s heat dome that brought Death-Valley like temperatures to temperate British Columbia, would have a been a once-in-an-8-million-year-event. It is now being described as one of the six most analmous heat waves in recorded history. Today, such events now have a one-in-a-thousand-year probability; and oonce we have reached two degrees of warming, 8-million-year events will happen once a decade.

“What used to be a very extreme event is now probably not a very extreme event but something that we expect in this warmer climate quite frequently,” says Dr. Frederike Otto, a senior lecturer at the Grantham Institute for Climate Change at the Imperial College of London. She’s also a leading expert in the growing field of climate attribution, which tries make better sense of the climatic anomalies we’re now experiencing.

In his inaugural New York Times newsletter, David Wallace-Wells wrote recently,

A U.N. report published in April suggested that by just 2030 the world would be experiencing more than 500 major disasters each year. And the quickening frequency of what were once called “generational disasters” or “500-year storms” or even “acts of God” disorients us, too, so that it becomes hard to distinguish once-a-decade events from once-a-century ones — our disaster depth of field blurred by climate disruption. “What used to be a very extreme event is now probably not a very extreme event but something that we expect in this warmer climate quite frequently,” Dr. Otto said. “We really are in a quite different world.”

A different world: we are increasingly fooled by what we recently remember. When my wife and I first moved to this small town 25 years ago, the month of May was so hot and dry that wildfire smoke would blow on the stiff breezes of blisteringly hot afternoons. Not the May I’m looking at today, muggy, overwarm and grey with more storms approaching. A warmer atmosphere means a hotter Gulf perspiring big rainfall events in Florida with the so-called “rainy season” starting up much earlier.

It also means bigger, more menacing hurricanes. The so-called Gulf “Loop Current” is a brewer of storms, and conditions this May are like those in 2005 that sent Hurricane Katrina barreling into Louisiana and Mississippi. The Loop Current had a role in the transformation of a tropical wave that entered the Gulf in 2018 into a Category 5 Hurricane Michael, the most powerful storm to brew up in the Gulf, creating the strongest maximum sustained wind speeds to make landfall in the contiguous United States since Hurricane Andrew in 1992.

Do you feel the same vertigo that I do? This early morning (as I continue to work on this week’s challenge) the darkness is archly saturated, almost cool, humming, and pregnant to bursting with full summer — in May. Why is it that the ground feels unsteady with change?

Wells again:

As recently as 2015, the 10-year average of global temperatures showed, according to the I.P.C.C., warming of 0.87 degrees Celsius above the preindustrial average. Just five years later, it had jumped to 1.09 — 25 percent higher in half a decade.

When sociologists talk about “shifting baseline syndrome,” they mean we tend to base expectations for the future on our memory of the recent past. But just five years ago, it was exceedingly rare for more than a million acres to burn in a California wildfire season; today the record is 4.3 million acres, and in four of the past five years more than 1.5 million acres burned in the state alone. Over the past decade, extreme heat events have grown 90 times more common, compared with a baseline of frequency between 1950 and 1980.

I’m not trying to ring the climate alarm bells here; most of us can already hear them. But I do wonder what’s happening to everyday life now that the Earth in its fast lane. And what happens to the language of memory, once a smooth continued Holocene-lenght narration, devolving fast in a daily clash of Anthropocene terms formulated by Glenn Albrecht like solastalgia (yearning for lost homelands), toponesia (forgetfulness of precious places), meteroanxiety (fear of coming weather) and mermerosity (a chronic state of anxiety over the changing climate). (From Earth Emotions: New Words for a New World, Cornell University Press, 2019)

We’ve all seen the “hockey-stick” projections of global warming — a long swath of slow incremental change followed by an abrupt lift toward killing temperatures — we’re in the fast-uptick now of the spike, still widely disoriented and with many making themselves and the world crazy pretending it isn’t happening (the way COVID isn’t real and there’s no war in Ukraine).

Most of us also see the weird parallel between global heating and technological innovation, the hockey stick of a fast-heating climate superimposed by the ghostly “reality” of innovations that have brought us so many mindless online pleasures to the detriment of personhood, civility, natural connection and a common basis of reality in truth. From Prometheus to the steam engine, not much of note, and then everything almost all at once.

(Note: algorhythms made Amazon the dominant retailer, but who can say their billion incremental improvements were advances in any true sense?)

Who are these shadow twins, separated at birth but living out the same fate?

And what are we to make of it, loving this Earth, sharing Her bounties, praising her wealth in our poems? How do we factor in these early storms, frightening heat events, disturbed-to-destroyed ecosystems and lingering nightmares not dispelled by the dawn’s light? The world is increasingly fragile; political systems are dark; healthcare sucks; inflation and recession loom. The conflict in Ukraine grinds amid the rubble and ruin of its farmland and forests, straying toward massive cyberattacks and nuclear conflict. Hunger stalks with emptying eyes.

This is our 21st century, home sweet savage home, and we must remain awake and vigilant for the things changing so rapidly all around us, like a massive summer storm summoned up on a hotter day than any in recent memory.

“Within our own lifetimes,” Wells writes, “we may find ourselves living on a planet warmed beyond a level scientists long characterized as ‘catastrophic,’ though well below the level casually described as ‘apocalyptic.’ The question is: how?” He continues,

How do we imagine our future, how do we expect to live in it, what do we count as success and what as failure in a world beset by ecological disarray and all the human messiness that shakes out from that?

For me there a fundamental reckoning is called for, personally and collectively: If human mastery is a peril the Earth cannot afford and we value our continued existence on this planet, then we had better find systematic ways to reject human mastery. Let’s banish controls heedless of consequence and re-calibrate our fear of the unknown as faith in humility. Fossil-fuel dependence is an addiction, digital mind’s an abomination: From those starting points we may eventually gestate something in the human spirit that will reverse the hockey stock before life is finished on Earth As they say with the Tao, to and fro goes the way — even, perhaps, with the perverse Tao of our maddening reality.

That Tao, I suspect, is our how.

For this challenge, write about the everyday extreme.

—Brendan

Postscript

One yay for this reverse-engineering goes out today to Australians who voted out the conservative government of Scott Morrison and their gross reluctance to deal with climate change.

Another for reminders of who we are and where we live from our earth-poets. Here are a few poems for keeping one’s sight on the Way.

COME INTO ANIMAL PRESENCE

Denise Levertov

Come into animal presence
No man is so guileless as
the serpent. The lonely white
rabbit on the roof is a star
twitching its ears at the rain.
The llama intricately
folding its hind legs to be seated
not disdains but mildly
disregards human approval.
What joy when the insouciant
armadillo glances at us and doesn’t
quicken his trotting
across the track into the palm brush.

What is this joy? That no animal
falters, but knows what it must do?
That the snake has no blemish,
that the rabbit inspects his strange surroundings
in white star-silence? The llama
rests in dignity, the armadillo
has some intention to pursue in the palm-forest.
Those who were sacred have remained so,
holiness does not dissolve, it is a presence
of bronze, only the sight that saw it
faltered and turned from it.
An old joy returns in holy presence.

—in Poetry, Vol. 96 No. 1, January 1960

 

SAYINGS FROM THE NORTHERN ICE

William Stafford

It is people at the edge who say
things at the edge: winter is toward knowing.

Sled runners before they meet have long talk apart.
There is a pup in every litter the wolves will have.
A knife that falls points at an enemy.
Rocks in the wind know their place: down low.
Over your shoulder is God; the dying deer sees Him.

At the mouth of the long sack we fall in forever
storms brighten the spikes of the stars.

Wind that buried bear skulls north of here
and beats moth wings for help outside the door
is bringing bear skull wisdom, but do not ask the skull
too large a question till summer.
Something too dark was held in that strong bone.

Better to end with a lucky saying:

Sled runners cannot decide to join or to part.
When they decide, it is a bad day.

— ­from West of Your City (1960)

 

BECOMING A FOREST

Ama Codjoe

Not to feel the grasses brush my knees, as if wading
for the first time into the ocean, but a different prayer—

this was after declaring, These trees are my bones,
and I could feel myself loosed from tendons, muscles,
and sinew, a skeleton knocking, as a chime
against nothing, and in my marrow
the blood of sap, the rungs of pinecones,
and myself, inside myself, telling me this—

to make an alphabet of stammering, a song
of a cry, to be anything buzzing with blood
or wings, anything alive, including grief, because
isn’t that—I asked the trees, my bones’ forest
framing me—what my long ago dead dreamed,
tossed in their short allowance of night?

The Adroit Journal; anthologized in The Best American Poetry 2020