Literature

Collapse,How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeedby Jared Diamond, 2005, 2nd ed. 2011. Pulitzer Prize-winning author looks at several societies in history (Easter Island, Greenland Norse) that collapsed, mostly as a result of misusing their natural resources.  It raises the urgent question, "How can our world best avoid committing ecological suicide?" 

 

The World as We Knew It: Dispatches from a Changing Climateed. by Amy Brady and Tajja Isen, 2022. "Nineteen leading literary writers from around the globe offer timely, haunting first-person reflections on how climate change has altered their lives." The essays "grieve what we've already lost, honor what we still have, and prepare us for whatever may come next."  Gets a full 5 stars on Amazon.

We are the Middle of Forever: Indigenous Voices from Turtle Island on the Changing Earth, edited by Dahr Jamail and Stan Rushworth, 2022.  "Interviews with people from different North American Indigenous cultures who share their knowledge, experience, and dreams of maintaining the best relationship possible to all of life. A welcome antidote to the despair arising from the climate crisis, We Are the Middle of Forever brings to the forefront the perspectives of those who have long been attuned to climate change and will be an indispensable aid to those looking for new and different ideas and responses to the challenges we face."

The Atlas of Disappearing Places: Our Coasts and Oceans in the Climate Crisis, by Christina Conklin and Marina Psaros, 2021.  A guide to global warming's impacts on specific coastal communities around the world, illustrated with unique ink-and-dried-seaweed-technique maps. "A beautiful work of art and an indispensable resource to learn more about the devastating consequences of the climate crisis--as well as the possibilities for individual and collective action."

 

Arctic Dreams: Imagination and Desire in a Northern Landscape, by Barry Lopez, 1986. Acclaimed National Book Award winner, now considered 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.

Gun Island by Amitav Ghosh, 2021.  Combining action-adventure, Bengali folklore, climate change, refugees, and endangered species, written with the author's usual "exuberant style and extraordinary linguistic facility. This important novel is an account of our current world, the one few writers have had the courage to face."(Annie Proulx)

The Drowned World by JG Ballard, 1962. Prescient science fiction set in the year 2145, in which global warming has melted the polar ice caps and abandoned cities are overrun with Triassic-era jungles.  "Both a thrilling adventure and haunting examination of the effects of environmental collapse on the human mind."

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.”  Now that I've had the pleasure of reading it, I want to emphasize my recommendation---read this book!   It's a wonderful story by an amazing storyteller.

The Carbon Diaries: 2015, and Carbon Diaries: 2017 by Saci Lloyd, 2009 and 2010. Young adult novels. 

Laura, a student in London, keeps a diary as the UK imposes carbon rationing after weather-related disasters. She attempts to stay grounded as the stresses of rationing and extreme weather tear at the social fabric of her world.

 

The MaddAddam Trilogy by Margaret Atwood, (Oryx and Crake 2003, The Year of the Flood, 2009, MaddAddam, 2013).  (Being adapted into a TV series by HULU).  A "bio punk" post-apocalyptic world that "shows us how a new world can come from something which seemed always destined to break."  The conclusion points towards the ultimate endurance of community and love.  

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

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?

An Earth Song by Langston Hughes, 1925

It's an earth song,—
And I've been waiting long for an earth song. 
It's a spring song,—
And I've been waiting long for a spring song. 
    Strong as the shoots of a new plant 
    Strong as the bursting of new buds
    Strong as the coming of the first child from its mother's womb. 
It's an earth song, 
A body song, 
A spring song, 
I have been waiting long for this spring song

 

 

 

 

Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Glacier (after Wallace Stevens) by Craig Santos Perez, 2016 (poets.org)

I

Among starving polar bears,

The only moving thing

Was the edge of a glacier.

II

We are of one ecology

Like a planet

In which there are 200,000 glaciers.

III

The glacier absorbed greenhouse

gases.

We are a large part of the biosphere.

IV

Humans and animals

Are kin.

Humans and animals and glaciers

Are kin.

V

We do not know which to fear

more,

The terror of change

Or the terror of uncertainty,

The glacier calving

Or just after.

VI

Icebergs fill the vast ocean

With titanic wrecks.

The mass of the glacier

Disappears, to and fro.

The threat

Hidden in the crevasse

An unavoidable cause.

VII

Oh vulnerable humans,

Why do you engineer sea walls?

Do you not see how the glacier

Already floods the streets

Of the cities around you?

VIII

I know king tides,

And lurid, inescapable storms:

But I know, too,

That the glacier is involved 

In what I know.

IX

When the glacial terminus broke,

It marked the beginning 

Of one of many waves.

X

At the rumble of a glacier

Losing its equilibrium,

Every tourist in the new Arctic

Chased ice quickly.

XI

They explored the poles

For offshore drilling.

Once, we blocked them, 

In that we understood

The risk of an oil spill

For a glacier.

XII

The sea is rising.

The glacier must be retreating.

XIII

It was summer all winter

It was melting

And it was going to melt

The glacier fits

In our warm-hands.

 

 

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. 

Maura Dooley, Still Life with Sea Pinks and High Tide, 2016

Thrift grows tenacious at the tide’s reach.
What is that reach when the water
is rising, rising?

Our melting, shifting, liquid world won’t wait
for manifesto or mandate, each
warning a reckoning.

Ice in our gin or vodka chirrups and squeaks
dissolving in the hot, still air
of talking, talking.

 

Matthew Olzmann, Letter to Someone Living 50 Years from Now, 2017

It begins with,

"Most likely, you think we hated the elephant,

the golden toad, the thylacine and all variations

of whale harpooned or hacked into extinction..."

For entire poem

 

Lynna Odel, November, 2020

It begins with,

"If I can't save us

then let me feel you

happy and safe

under my chin..."

For entire poem

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

Molly Fisk, Particulate Matter,2018 (about the CA wildfires)

 It begins with,

“If all you counted were tires on the cars left in driveways and stranded beside the roads…” 

For entire poem