Monday, April 22, 2019

Melancholy Earth Day

Three years before the first Earth Day underground cartoonist R. Cobb invented the omega symbol for the burgeoning ecology movement in 1967.
Today is Earth Day.  It seemed like a very big deal when it was introduced in 1970.  The Environmental Movement as we know it was still in its relative infancy having grown out the earlier Conservation Movement that emphasized the husbanding of natural resources for human use.  It seems in those early years when hundreds of thousands responded to calls to march or participate in some way that real change was possible.

And, of course, much was accomplished—the EPA and increased regulation of pollution, the hands-on movement to re-cycle and re-use, the on-going involvement of children which critics charge has now become a virtual secular religion.  But despite it all, the Planet is in more desperate shape today than it was then.  The Cassandra warnings about climate change have come true in spades, faster than anyone really expected.  
Yet resistance to real change to address the root causes has never been fiercer—or more successful—as it is fueled by billionaire exploiters and exploited by rabid right wing movements.  If liberals love the Planet, conservatives MUST attack it wrapping themselves in an ideology of unfettered capitalism  and apocalyptic Evangelical claims that the End of Days is at hand so humans can and should squeeze every ounce of value from the Earth that will be thrown away anyway. on the other.
All of that enabled by the Wrecker-in-Chief who has thrown hand grenades at international environmental cooperation, dismantled every Federal environmental regulation he can find including those that successfully cleaned American water and largely scrubbed the skies of pollution.  And in the face of incontrovertible evidence of looming irreversible disaster actively promotes increase carbon emissions from dirty coal and petroleum while attacking renewable energy like those cancer causing windmills.
R. Cobb always had a macabre side.  He always envisioned the destruction of the Earth by human greed and stupidity whether from nuclear war or environmental catastrophe.  That dark side captures the concerns of many today better than the sunny we-can-fix-it optimism of 1970.
Most of the early optimism of Earth Day has faded.  The environmental collapse predicted by Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth in 2006 is coming true faster than the most alarmed Cassandras of science predicted.  Most think the tipping point has come and gone.  Mass extinctions loom, violent weather disaster not only become routine but intensify year by year. Ocean temperatures and sea levels rise drowning polar bears and threatening low lying land across the globe.  Scorching heat and deforestation create deserts at a galloping pace.  Famine  stalks the world as changing climate destroys agriculture.  Some say a total collapse is inevitable now within 100 years—or less.
The Apocalypse may indeed be at hand—but not the one that will rapture believers and leave behind a ruined earth.  It may be the one that dooms the doubters and the increasingly frantic alarmists as well.
So today’s Earth Day poetry collections are not the rapturous odes to nature of nearly 50 years ago. 
The alarm is shared with a last desperate appeal in the perhaps naïve appeal by an obscure poet to an on-line poetry page.
Save Environment 
Earth comes to an end,
Save it my friends!

Pollution is going on,
In every city, village and town.

Stop this ghost of pollution,
There are many solutions.

Do not pollute; water and air,
Don’t throw garbage, here and there.

You can do something now, or never,
Let’s save Our Earth forever!

—Shiangi Gupta
The Environmental Movement rose in tandem with neo-paganism or Earth centered spirituality.  The goddess GaiaMother Nature embodied as the Earth—is now herself threatened.
Gaia, a sculpture by Lorenzo Quinn.

Gaia’s Demise
Mother Gaia, what have we done?
You birthed us from your benevolent womb.
You feed and clothe us, protect us;

gave us life but, we are left wanting when it,

comes to gratitude.

We have shredded and poisoned your land and seas;
over fished, over hunted; slaughtering even
the forests and for...greed.
Human ego is the genuine...Devil.

Existing to gain; loving money more than family;
a species of doom is the human being;

When it comes to our siblings, animal and plant;

to our mother, we exhibit indifference.

We have lowered our species to a level beneath the cockroach;

all we’ve touched has been destroyed.
We blame the cows for Global Warming

but, we humans are the guilty,

the depraved and mangled minds, who are to blame.

Forgive us, Mother, we do know what we’ve done to you.
What we don’t collectively realize is that,

what we’ve done to you, we do to ourselves, in the end.

William was right when he penned, “Lord, what fools these mortals be!”

The fools of the universe;

our great shame is that, we don’t work together enough to save you.

—M.L. Kiser
This poet grieves, but offers faint hope.
Once the World Was Perfect
Once the world was perfect, and we were happy in that world.
Then we took it for granted.
Discontent began a small rumble in the earthly mind.
Then Doubt pushed through with its spiked head.
And once Doubt ruptured the web,
All manner of demon thoughts Jumped through—
We destroyed the world we had been given
For inspiration, for life—
Each stone of jealousy, each stone
Of fear, greed, envy, and hatred, put out the light.
No one was without a stone in his or her hand.
There we were,
Right back where we had started.
We were bumping into each other
In the dark.
And now we had no place to live, since we didn’t know
How to live with each other.
Then one of the stumbling ones took pity on another
And shared a blanket.
A spark of kindness made a light.
The light made an opening in the darkness.
Everyone worked together to make a ladder.
A Wind Clan person climbed out first into the next world,
And then the other clans, the children of those clans, their children,
And their children, all the way through time—
To now, into this morning light to you.

—Joy Harjo
But perhaps Shelly had the clearest vision of all more than 200 years ago.

I met a traveller from an antique land,
Who said—“Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. . . . Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;
And on the pedestal, these words appear:
My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings;
Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.”

—Percy Bysshe Shelley

No comments:

Post a Comment