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Books
Books/Poetry

Fen, Bog and Swamp, A Short History of Peatland Destruction and Its Role in the Climate Crisis,by Annie Proulx, 2022.  Better known for her prize-winning fiction (The Shipping News, Brokeback Mountain), here Proulx gives a "stark but beautifully written Silent Spring-style warning" about the ongoing degradation of a crucial carbon-storing ecosystem; the wetland.

Black Earth Wisdom; Soulful Conversations with Black Environmentalists, edited by Leah Penniman, co-director of Soul Fire Farm and author of Farming While Black. She calls the 30 interviews "a conversation between African diasporic people who are carrying on our ancient ancestral practice of listening to the Earth to know which way to go.”  Black environmentalism is healing--not only for Black individuals but for the planet itself.

We are Water Protectors, children's book (ages 3-7) by Carol Lindstrom, illustrated by Michaela Goode, 2020. "Written in response to the Dakota Access Pipeline protests, the book tells the story of an Ijibwe girl who fights against an oil pipeline in an effort to protect the water supply of her people."  "Water is the first medicine, it affects and connects us all..."

Not Too Late: Changing the Climate Story from Despair to Possibility, edited by Rebecca Solnit & Thelma Young Lutunatabua, 2023. "Absolutely beautiful, absolutely necessary, and absolutely right!" (Bill McKibben)  "A powerful anthology of dispatches from the front lines of the struggle over the future of our planet, by some of the most important activist voices of our time."  (Amitav Ghosh)  Encouragement and practical suggestions are sorely needed to maintain hope these days, and this book provides them.

The Climate Book by Greta Thunberg, 2023.  Along with her "stories of demonstrating and uncovering greenwashing around the world," this book collects the knowledge of over one hundred experts on how to combat climate change.  Full of urgency yet hope.  "If a schoolchild's strike could ignite a global protest, what could we do collectively if we tried?  It has to be us, and it has to be now." 

Earth for All, a Survival Guide for Humanity, Sandrine Dixson-Decleve et al, 2022.  Inspired by the prophetic The Limits to Growth of 1972 and Doughnut Economics of 2020, this cutting edge "map to a better future" puts elimination of poverty and the social instability it creates front and center in the 5 critical turnarounds necessary for humanity's survival on the planet. "State-of-the-art computer modeling explores policies likely to deliver the most good for the majority of people."  Johan Rockstrom is one of the leading scientists and economists who co-authors.

Science in the Capital Trilogy, by Kim Stanley Robinson, 2015.  40 Signs of Rain, 50 Degrees Below, and 60 Days and Counting (of 2004-7) are now updated with the latest research and published in one volume, titled Green Earth. These "eco-thrillers" combine "cutting-edge science, international politics, and the real-life ramifications of climate change."  Fans of the Ministry for the Future, (see below) take note! Robinson says "these days we live in a big science fiction novel we are all writing together."

The Big Fix: Seven Practical Steps to Save Our Planet, by Hall Harvey and Justin Gillis, 2022. An accessible, inspiring how-to for concerned people to make the crucial switch from "green consumers" to "green citizens" in order to compel action on climate change.  Praised by Al Gore, Bill McKibben, and Elizabeth Kolbert, who calls it "smart, honest, and down-to-earth."

Arctic Dreams: Imagination and Desire in a Northern Landscape, by Barry Lopez, 1986. Acclaimed National Book Award winner, a classic of nature writing.  "Leads readers on a journey of the mind and heart into a place that grips the imagination and invigorates the soul." I recently heard a webinar panelist declare that this book changed his career path from corporate law to environmental policy! 

Erosion: Essays of Undoing, by Terry Tempest Williams, 2019.  A beloved writer and environmentalist, "her fierce, spirited and magnificent essays are a howl in the desert" as she sees democracy, support for public lands, and the environment eroding. See her poem below, which accompanies The Council of Pronghorns in the installation section.

Cloud Cuckoo Land by Anthony Doerr, 2021. A novel set between 15th c. Constantinople, Idaho in 2020, and space some time in the future. He says “The world we’re handing our kids brims with challenges: climate instability, pandemics, disinformation. I wanted this novel to reflect those anxieties but also offer meaningful hope.”  It's a wonderful story by an amazing storyteller.

Overstory by Richard Powers, 2018.  Pulitzer Prize-winning novel about humans and trees and their deep connections.  Magnificent writing and powerful eco-advocacy.  

The Ministry for the Future by Kim Stanley Robinson, 2020. An amazing “what-if” mapping out a possible (mostly) positive scenario for the next 50 years.  Chock full of great solution ideas, could it be a blueprint for real-life world leaders today?

Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler, 1993. Considered one of the first climate novels, a forerunner in treating climate change and social inequality.

Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer, 2019. (non-fiction) Essays intricately interweaving botany, personal experience, and indigenous wisdom.  A truly outstanding book.

 

Poetry

Nature is What We See, by Emily Dickinson, 1860.

"Nature" is what we see--

The Hill--the Afternoon--

Squirrel--Eclipse--the Bumble Bee--

Nay--Nature is Heaven--

Nature is what we hear--

The Bobolink--the Sea--

Thunder--the Cricket--

Nay--Nature is Harmony--

Nature is what we know--

Yet have no art to say--

So Impotent our Wisdom is

To Her Simplicity.

Extinction, by Jackie Kay, 2015.

 

We closed the borders, folks, we nailed it.

No trees, no plants, no immigrants.

No foreign nurses, no Doctors; we smashed it.

We took control of our affairs. No fresh air.

No birds, no bees, no HIV, no Poles, no pollen.

No pandas, no polar bears, no ice, no dice.

No rainforests, no foraging, no France.

No frogs, no golden toads, no Harlequins.

No Greens, no Brussels, no vegetarians, no lesbians.

No carbon curbed emissions, no Co2 questions.

No lions, no tigers, no bears. No BBC picked audience.

No loony lefties, please. No politically correct classes.

No classes. No Guardian readers. No readers.

No emus, no EUs, no Eco warriors, no Euros,

No rhinos, no zebras, no burnt bras, no elephants.

We shut it down! No immigrants, no immigrants.

No sniveling-recycling-global-warming nutters.

Little man, little woman, the world is a dangerous place.

Now, pour me a pint, dear. Get out of my fracking face.

Hestia, by Ilona Inezita, 2014.

Claiming we’re gods,

Creating heaven,

When we’re nothing but men,

Destroying earth,

Creating hell.

Summer, by Abhijeeth, 2019.

It's a never ending summer
Every year is getting warmer
Stuck in an oven
A/C on twenty four seven
Nobody seems too worried though
busy dealing with life you know
Never ending summer
It's the new normal
Air around us filled with dust and smoke
Majestic whales filled with plastic
Nobody sheds a tear
Why would you care
For you it's only a slight discomfort
it's not an immediate threat
Why should I care about the oceans
Why should I care about the animals
They mean nothing to me and my life
This world is mine and mine only right
I am not gonna waste my time
thinking about humanity's crime
And besides what could I do to help
I am just a simple man busy with his life
I am not gonna reduce plastic in my life
I am not gonna raise my voice
Let these animals suffer
I got AC in my ivory tower
So let's burn our resources
Use plastic to fill our stomachs
And when it gets warmer next year

Don't worry.

It will just be the new normal.
 

Survival, by John Bartlett, 2021.

She's back again this year,

in heels and nuptial plumes,

coquettish

in pale eyeliner

            --the white-faced heron

selecting twigs,

thinking of survival

What rush of rapture

bursts

            --these birds

designed from

templates of dinosaurs

with songs that shiver

in the deep wells of the soul

So, despite 

the cracking ice

in Greenland, the rift,

the cleft, the split,

the speld

Despite the smell,

the stench, the stink

of burning forest,

I see you still,

framed

by cross-thatched leaves,

your changing of the guard

with stilt-stepped stealth,

this private pact

between you, 

this brooding hope

                 --triumphant.

 

Once I said that bubble wraps are a major source of noise pollution, by Jayant Kashyap, 2022.

 

and everyone laughed and I was happy about it.  Then I said that we are all dying and everyone laughed again.  So I thought it might have been funny

 

and told them about all the whales instead. And about forest fires and heat waves and defined anthropogenic activities.  Some didn't agree that we

could cause avalanches to happen or tsunamis, tornadoes and other issues with funny names either,

said the bears and porpoises need to learn to

adapt to survive, quoted a bit of Darwin and laughed again.  Everyone said I was being too dull or silly or boring or uninteresting and left me alone.

So I went to the library with a bottle of old red wine and read a bit more.  

      

 

Rise: From One Island to Another, by Aka Niviana and Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner, 2018. Niviana, an Inuk from Greenland, and Jetnil-Kijiner, from the Marshall Islands, wrote and met in Southern Greenland to perform this offering between legendary "sisters" of two far-distant islands both imperiled by global warming. The cinematography and soundtrack of the film, produced by 350.org, are beautiful and moving as well. 

Performance on Vimeo

Excerpt:

 

From these islands
we ask for solutions.
From these islands

we ask
we demand that the world see beyond
SUV’s, ac’s, their pre-packaged convenience
their oil-slicked dreams, beyond the belief
that tomorrow will never happen, that this
is merely an inconvenient truth.
Let me bring my home to yours.
Let’s watch as Miami, New York,
Shanghai, Amsterdam, London,
Rio de Janeiro, and Osaka
try to breathe underwater.
You think you have decades
before your homes fall beneath tides?
We have years.
We have months
before you sacrifice us again
before you watch from your tv and computer screens waiting
to see if we will still be breathing
while you do nothing.

My sister,
From one island to another
I give to you these rocks
as a reminder
that our lives matter more than their power
that life in all forms demands
the same respect we all give to money
that these issues affect each and everyone of us
None of us is immune
And that each and everyone of us has to decide
if we
will
rise

 

Earthrise by Amanda Gorman, 2018. (first National Youth Poet Laureate) A Climate Reality project dedicated to Al Gore.

Performance on YouTube

 

Excerpt:

 

Climate change is the single greatest challenge of our time,

Of this, you’re certainly aware.
It’s saddening, but I cannot spare you
From knowing an inconvenient fact, because
It’s getting the facts straight that gets us to act and not to wait.

So I tell you this not to scare you,
But to prepare you, to dare you
To dream a different reality,

Where despite disparities
We all care to protect this world,
This riddled blue marble, this little true marvel
To muster the verve and the nerve
To see how we can serve
Our planet. You don’t need to be a politician
To make it your mission to conserve, to protect,
To preserve that one and only home
That is ours,
To use your unique power
To give next generations the planet they deserve.

Still, by Miriam Mosqueda (Indigenous Mexican/American poet and artist) 2021.

Performance on YouTube

Where I call home

Corn stalks stretch to the sky
Intertwined with cables
And rooftops

A backyard
Not a farm or a field
But we still call this home

For the corn seeds and for us

We both ended up here

Trying to find new ways to be
New places to plant
To grow

We still call this home

Even if we live in diaspora

Forced displacement
On ever changing land
That we’re in relation to
And never in ownership of

As guests
On this soil that so graciously hugs corn seeds into sprout into stalk into life
For us

The year our skies were red with rage from wildfires
Ash fell from above
Floating down and coating our garden gray
Smoke in the air and our lungs
We still placed corn seeds to earth

When a refinery was built next to our family home in Mexico
Out the window we could see it
On the other side of large brick walls were tanks and metal cylinders
trucks moved in and out
Things we’ve never seen before
And we still placed corn seeds to earth

600 gallons of oil were spilled into the water near us this year
Closing access to waterways
poisoning all it touches
A danger greed refuses to see
And we still placed corn seeds to earth

We still call this home

Dad says corn is the gold
Our little soil bed of memories
A prayer held in seeds
Thousands of years old
Corn gives us life when life around us
is changing

We both ended up here
Trying to find new ways to be
New places to plant
To grow
And grow
And grow

We still call this home

Speaking Tree by Joy Harjo, 2015. (U.S. Poet Laureate, Myskoke Creek nation)

 

I had a beautiful dream I was dancing with a tree —Sandra Cisneros

Some things on this earth are unspeakable:
Genealogy of the broken—
A shy wind threading leaves after a massacre,
Or the smell of coffee and no one there—

Some humans say trees are not sentient beings,
But they do not understand poetry—

Nor can they hear the singing of trees when they are fed by
Wind, or water music—
Or hear their cries of anguish when they are broken and bereft—

Now I am a woman longing to be a tree, planted in a moist, dark earth
Between sunrise and sunset—

I cannot walk through all realms—
I carry a yearning I cannot bear alone in the dark—

What shall I do with all this heartache?

The deepest-rooted dream of a tree is to walk
Even just a little ways, from the place next to the doorway—
To the edge of the river of life, and drink—

I have heard trees talking, long after the sun has gone down:

Imagine what would it be like to dance close together
In this land of water and knowledge. . .

To drink deep what is undrinkable

 

The Council of Pronghorns by Terry Tempest Williams, 2011

We, the Council

of Pronghorn

have convened

as witnesses

to this moment

in time

when our eyes

wish to peer

into the hearts

of humans

and ask

what kind

of world

are you creating

when we can

no longer

run as Windhorses

but are relegated

to watching

behind fences

dreaming, dreaming

of Spirit

Migrations

James Franco, I Was Born in Into a World, 2016

I was born into a world 
Before recycling was a thing, 
Before oil wars, 
When the biggest world 
Threat was nuclear. 

The only extinct thing 
Was the Dodo, 
We consumed and junked. 
Then we were told about 
Droughts, and disappearing 
Rainforests. 
About melting ice caps, 
And we fought Iraq 
For a second time, 
Like father like son, 
We needed our oil 
Because we didn’t want 
Those electric cars. 
At one time there were 
Huge monsters that 
Walked where we walk, 
Nature swallowed them easy. 
Or maybe you believe 
It all started with Adam and Eve, 

But they too were kicked 
From the garden 
As are we, 
With our poison beaches 
Run down towns 
And our atmosphere 
That kills. 
I write a poem 

And preach to the converted. 
We send out loud messages 
To ourselves, 
That our world is dying: 
1984, Blade Runner, 
Armageddon, The Road. 
I’ve yet to read a book, 
Or watch a film about a future 
I’d like to live in. 
Fortunately for me, 
I’ll die before the earth, 
But I’d like a place for my 
Computer chip self 
To click and beep 

In bright, clean happiness. 

Camille T Dungy, A Massive Dying Off, 2011 

It begins with,

 “When the fish began their dying you didn’t worry

      you bought new shoes...”

For entire poem

poetry
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