Today is Earth Day which was first observed world-wide with giant marches and rallies on April 22, 1970. It took the energy and activism of the peace movement and anti-Vietnam War protests and gave people a new purpose. It has generally been credited with reorienting somewhat stodgy and human-use focused conservationism into a dynamic ecology movement. It is still widely celebrated and has become a kind of semi-official holiday. But it has often been co-opted and is used both by polluting mega corporations and thumb-twiddling governments as green washing and providing support for band aid personal activities like recycling to avoid deeper changes which would cut profits, re-order economies, and fundamentally change how we live our lives.
The radical cutting edge of environmentalism is now the youth-led climate change activists inspired by Greta Thunberg which accept no excuses, demand immediate action, and are willing to employ mass disruptive direct action.
This year the ugly, brutal invasion of Ukraine also reminds us that war itself is an ecological disaster as if other conflicts involving non-Europeans like those in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Palestine, sub-Saharan Africa, Myanmar, and Central America were not enough evidence.
Still, Earth Day remains at least an important reminder for many people. Today we share appropriate poems for the occasion by Jane Yolen, Jerry Pendergast, the venerable but very dead Walt Whitman, and a still kicking Old Man.
Jane Yolen, born February 11, 1939 is an American writer of fantasy, science fiction, and children’s books. She is the author or editor of more than 350 books, of which the best known is the Holocaust novella The Devil’s Arithmetic. Her other works include the Nebula Award−winning short story Sister Emily’s Lightship, the novelette Lost Girls, Owl Moon, The Emperor and the Kite, the Commander Toad series, and How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight. She has collaborated on works with all three of her children, most extensively with Adam Stemple.
I am the Earth
And the Earth is me.
Each blade of grass,
Each honey tree,
Each bit of mud,
And stick and stone
Is blood and muscle,
Skin and bone.
And just as I
Need every bit
Of me to make
My body fit,
So Earth needs
Grass and stone and tree
And things that grow here
That’s why we
Celebrate this day.
That’s why across
The world we say:
As long as life,
As dear, as free,
I am the Earth
And the Earth is me.
—Jane YolenJerry Pendergast.
Jerry Pendergast is a working class Chicago poet and activist who frequently shares his work on the Chicago Revolutionary Poets Brigade Facebook group. He has been a regular at such city venues as the Guild Annex and Green Mill Tavern. He has been featured on this blog before. His work is often infused with music, especially jazz. He also draws inspiration from the struggles of working people and the oppressed. This piece was published recently in Blue Collar Review and Saving The World Anthology.
In Pleasant Falls Earth Day
snaps the camera
Marries images of
picked from the bar
at the Falls Inn
Each waiting for a table
In town for a conference
Both from out of state.
from town’s Image Bureau
Camera has captured
smiles on cue
of the river
a mile from the Falls Inn
drying, the water is low.
Is anyone inspecting
plants at Industrial Park
built with a loan
from Chemical Bank?
from thinning forest
five year tax exemption
for jobs vowed
bride and groom
Image of “couple”
in front of
in front of
Looking at the hired smiles,
could anyone imagine
The groom impotent?
The bride dry?
Pleasant Falls children
with mutated genes?
Or agents in the blood stream
of any towns people
taking a decade or 2 from lives?
Corporate agents, lawyers
of designated chemical agents
in streams and ground
Walt Whitman literally should need no introduction. This 19th Century poem takes a more personal and cosmic view reminding us of what Unitarian Universalists call the interdependent web of all existence.
On the Beach at Night Alone
On the beach at night alone,
As the old mother sways her to and fro singing her husky song,
As I watch the bright stars shining, I think a thought of the clef of the universes and of the future.
A vast similitude interlocks all,
All spheres, grown, ungrown, small, large, suns, moons, planets,
All distances of place however wide,
All distances of time, all inanimate forms,
All souls, all living bodies though they be ever so different, or in different worlds,
All gaseous, watery, vegetable, mineral processes, the fishes, the brutes,
All nations, colors, barbarisms, civilizations, languages,
All identities that have existed or may exist on this globe, or any globe,
All lives and deaths, all of the past, present, future,
This vast similitude spans them, and always has spann’d,
And shall forever span them and compactly hold and enclose them.
—Walt WhitmanThe Old Man.
And finally, another from that annoying Old Man.
The Fire Next Time is Now
August 27, 2019
For this they willfully forget: that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water, by which the world that then existed perished, being flooded with water. But the heavens and the earth which are now preserved by the same word, are reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.
—2 Peter 3: 5-7 The Bible New King James Version
Okay, so Biblical Prophecy is not my thing.
Mumbo-jumbo, mystic-tristick bullshit.
It gives me a rash and a headache.
But this creeps me out, you know?
Cripes look at the headlines!
Record Heat Wave Feeds Massive Australian Bush Fires
Wildfires Permanently Alter Alaska’s Forest Composition
Huge Wildfires in the Arctic and Far North Send a Planetary Warning
Siberia is Burning!
Lungs of the World Ablaze in the Amazon
More Fires Now Burning in Angola, Congo Than Amazon.
Maybe Peter, or whoever wrote in his name,
was onto something after all.
I don’t know exactly who is un-godly
—me probably, you maybe,
those guys over there,
but maybe the day of judgement and perdition
is on us all after all.
We failed somehow despite the warnings
of a thousand prophets, Jeremiahs, and Cassandras
who warned us over and over
to do something before it’s too late.
Is it too late really? We beg for answers from the Holy seers.
Hear our plea
Neil deGrasse Tyson
Gagged scientists of NOAA and NASA
Greta Thunberg and your children’s crusade.
Elders of the Alaskan Nunakauyarmiut Tribe
Can we wake up, you know, like Scrooge on Christmas morning
fresh and new, our eyes wide open
and throw open the shutters to buy the world
a turkey and a second chance?
Probably not that easy.
But you know what’s worse?
That Bible guy said no flood this time,
but he was wrong—
the oceans rise, the world sinks
Fire and Flood
Fire and Flood
Fire and Flood.