Yesterday I gave a poetry reading at a local library beginning and ending with thoughts about how Climate Change is affecting all living things. I am a naturalist who holds the radical belief that all living things are sentient. I also argue that we must not equate animal intelligence with that of humans.
Almost every poem I read was about my intimate relationship with some aspect of the natural world, for example, the changing seasons, my friendship with sagebrush lizards, steadfast trees, Sandhill cranes, beloved Black bears. Intimacy and inter –relationship are part of every experience I have with nature and by sharing these poems I hoped might draw others in to new ways of perceiving the earth and her creatures.
The whole point of my focusing on non – human species was to raise awareness that these animals and plants desperately need our help. Perhaps I wasn’t clear enough about how critical it is to bring animals, plants, trees, mushrooms into the picture in this age of the Anthropocene, that is, the period in which we live where a few men with power rule. Today, it is not an exaggeration to say that humans control every aspect of our fragile planet.
I repeat: Perhaps I wasn’t clear enough or perhaps almost no one was capable of listening? Maybe both. As soon as I concluded my reading one woman did actually bring up an incident involving a very difficult child who became attached to a lizard, so she at least, was on the track I hoped I had laid….
The Director, another insightful woman wrote to me afterwards that she thought that people were simply overwhelmed by what it means to be living Climate Change and they don’t know how to respond to what’s happening in their own lives, let alone to the non human world. This remark also struck a chord of truth, especially since almost instantly the conversation disintegrated into personal irritations and turned political, at which point the Librarian mercifully ended the afternoon gathering.
Initially I left the library feeling that I had failed in my mission to make a meaningful connection between the relationship between humans and animals experiencing, what for me, has become the usual despair over not being heard.
However, later, after listening to feedback and reflecting on the experience I realized that we have to start somewhere if we want to begin this Climate Change conversation. Maybe one way we could start to do this would be to meet weekly with one person leading the conversation like I tried to do, by connecting people to animals. For that one meeting the focus would need to stay with the relationship between humans and non – human species. Another meeting could revolve around ways to garden that support our pollinators and wildlife. A third could discuss the merits of traveling in groups rather than each person taking his own car. This way we could include and address everyone’s concerns.
Today I am feeling more hopeful, and perhaps I may have learned something important about working as part of community. I have already emailed the Librarian about my idea and haven’t had a response but I think I am on to something!
And I will continue to raise the same questions:
How do we continue to ignore the fact that we are in the midst of a catastrophic decline of insects on dry land and krill in our oceans. If these losses don’t seem serious, consider that humans are at the top of this food chain and without these creatures the rest of all life including humans will eventually succumb to death.
Consider toads and frogs who are the most threatened species on the planet; think about how they must breathe both water and air and they have been disappearing since the 70’s when Rachel Carson wrote Silent Spring predicting an ominous outcome if we continued to use pesticides indiscriminately. Like Rachel frogs and toads have been showing us that the lack of potable water and air pollution threaten each oxygen breathing creature on the earth.
Increasing cycles of extreme drought leave us with trees that are literally starving for water, and although we cannot hear the gurgling noise they make in their trunks because our ears are not sensitive to high frequency sounds they too are trying to alert us to the catastrophe on our doorstep. Trees are the lungs of the earth, but to breathe out precious oxygen they too must have water. Why is it that the youngest species on the planet barely 200,000 thousand years old can continue to ignore the cries of species that have been around for 450 million years?
I continue to ask these questions and write these truths not because I believe that the culture is paying attention but because writing is a last grasp (gasp) I have on saving my own life.
We are killing ourselves with our technology and our hubris. Realistically, it is too late to save the dying animals; too many species are functionally extinct. But perhaps if folks can begin to gather in small community conclaves we can begin to imagine a new way of being that will help us all to live more sanely, cultivating genuine humility and perhaps hope in the process as we turn to the natural world to look for the sustainable answers that Nature has been demonstrating for millennia…
I close this narrative with another supremely ironic/toxic personal experience. I have been away for the summer and on my return I discovered that someone – probably my neighbor – had left a can of RAID in the house. I was in a fury. I have animals and a bird and NEVER use toxic chemicals. Three days ago my dog was bitten by ants and had a life threatening reaction. If she is bitten again my vet says she could die.
We have been living with these ants ever since we moved in here a year and a half ago without any difficulties, co existing in peace. After the dog was bitten I went searching for answers. I discovered that my neighbor had destroyed a nearby ant – hill while removing debris although he refused to admit it. Naturally, he enraged the ants who had lost their home and who are now biting everyone who comes to the door (including me) and who can blame them? When I attempted address this issue with this stupid man after the reading (which he attended), he remarked that all I had to do was to put some ant killing capsules into the ground around the remains of the ant hill and the ants would be gone.
Oh my god – no one is listening.
Sara is a naturalist, ethologist ( a person who studies animals in their natural habitats) (former) Jungian Pattern Analyst, and a writer. She publishes her work regularly in a number of different venues and is presently living in Northern New Mexico.