Literature

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:

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