Thursday, August 26, 2021

what the bear (of very little brain) does not know

School has started.  Not with kids yet, but the bustling around the building and the hefting of furniture and the PD sessions with masks and the PIVOTING this way and that and continuing the truly important work of building restorative justice culture in a district that has introduced THREE new highly structured/ scripted curricula in 18 well-rested and relaxed summer brain must be a little overwhelmed.

I know because I worked for several hours I didn't quite have on a ghazal for what I believed was the Poetry Sisters' August 27 challenge, and then came here to find that the #PoetryPals challenge is very different indeed.  Therefore, LaMiPoFri, except that I will also attempt the 8-line rhyming wisdom poem, "What the ____ Knows."   I've done it once, I can do it again.

Except I am very distracted by the desire to write a poem entitled "What the F**k Knows."  

But I'll resist, for now.


What the Fan Knows


What does the fan know?

To spin, revolve, to go go go.

To swiftly shift: high medium low. 

To move the air, to pull and throw. 


What does the fan know?

Just one season, summer throes.

Closet, basement when it snows.

Steady steady. How to blow.

                draft HM 2021


That's all I've got tonight. I think I'm envying the fan a little.  Elisabeth is our host this week at Unexpected Intersections, her first time, I think!  Looking forward to all kinds of wisdom, Poetry Pals!

Read the leaders here:


Mary Lee

Friday, August 20, 2021

doing the math for climate friday


Earlier this week I posted a series of climate education & action Tweets that ended with this one:

#ClimateAction Tuesday 6/6 So today you're busy, & every day *anyway* do your small personal #carbonfootprint actions AND one bigger systemic policy action.

Seems like good advice, right?  The next day I listened to an episode of the podcast "How to Save a Planet" with Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson and Alex Blumberg called "Is Your Carbon Footprint BS?"  (Listening will be better than reading this, but in case you don't have 47 minutes, I'm excerpting from the transcript.)

The episode begins with a debate between siblings that any of us who are paying attention have had, internally or with others. (By the way, there IS a poem at this end of this long post...hold out for it!)

Anna: My brother and I, we agree on a lot of things, but one topic that we always argue about is individual versus systemic, policy-based change. I know that we're not gonna recycle and bike and beyond burger our way out of climate change, but I do have a slightly more optimistic view that individual consumer choices can make a difference. So am I just a sucker, or can individuals actually do something?

Ayana: Yeah, and Anna says her brother thinks none of that stuff is actually gonna get us out of the climate crisis. That climate change is a huge, systemic problem, and the only way to fix it is with big, systemic solutions. 

In the first half, the hosts consider whether individual actions can have worthwhile impact, and they identify the top five actions that can have the greatest impact on your individual carbon footprint. 

1)Make fewer new humans. Also known as have fewer children.
2) Drive less. Or if you do drive, drive electric.
3) Fly less. Full stop.
4) Become more energy efficient, insulate your home. And if you can, install solar panels.
5) Switch to a plant-based diet.

And then we hear this:

Alex: So that's the list, or at least, you know, sort of generally what are the top five items on that list. But remember, we're arguing in this half of the episode that individual actions do not really matter that much.

Ayana: Because even if you do all five things on this list perfectly, you as an individual are a tiny, tiny percent of the overall problem.

Alex: [laughs] I love doing the math. We compared the average American's carbon footprint to the overall amount of carbon emissions globally. And remember, average American, pretty big footprint, 16 tons. Overall global emissions, 50 billion tons.

What this means is that the average American's contribution to the total global problem is 0.0000000003. That is a decimal point and then nine zeros and then a three. And statistically ...

Ayana: That's basically zero. [laughs]

Alex: It rounds to zero. [laughs] So individually, I think the math would suggest that we have zero impact on the larger problem.

Ayana: And as professor Dr. Leah Stokes, who's been on the show before puts it, even if you are the perfect, zero-waste, low-carbon footprint human being, that doesn't change the world unless you do something bigger than yourself. Because if you disappear tomorrow, we would still be facing exactly the same magnitude of climate crisis because you're just a rounding error to global carbon emissions.

Alex: And this might make certain people feel sad and maybe hopeless and defeated but, you know, Ayana, you and I talked with Katharine Wilkinson about this, and we actually think it is good news. Because it means, if you change the systems, then you're changing millions of people's carbon footprints without them having to do anything.

Katharine Wilkinson: My feeling is, thank goddess we don't have to rely on every individual getting everything right in their own lives, because New Year's resolutions don't even last a month, you know? [laughs]

Like, we'd really be in a lot of trouble. Like, more trouble than we're in if we were dependent on every single person on the planet doing every single thing right.

Alex: Yes. But this is what makes people throw up their hands, right? Like, that feels out of my control, right? Like, well, I can't change a coal plant to a wind farm. I can't, you know, make everybody drive an electric car or whatever.

Ayana: I can't put in bike lanes.

Katharine Wilkinson: Yeah. I feel like we have to quote Bill McKibben, right? He's like, climate change is a math problem, and the numbers are really, really big. And now the timelines are very, very tight. So we have to be thinking in terms of, like, our greatest leverage to get the biggest reductions possible.

Alex: And perhaps put it more strongly than she would have, but essentially my takeaway from our conversation, is screw your carbon footprint.

Ayana: [laughs]

Alex: Screw devoting all of this time and energy to sort of like trying to minutely lower your impact. Because when you focus all your effort on this, you're focusing all this effort on something that makes a pretty tiny difference in the grand scheme of things.

Leading me to a moment of crushing despair.  But then the team argued a second view, which is that individual actions can matter a lot, in a different, less mathematical way.

 Alex: But now we're gonna lay out the case for Anna's position, that our individual choices do matter. And Ayana, let's start here. Our guest, Katharine Wilkinson, who was just arguing that what we do as individuals barely registers against the total amounts of carbon in the atmosphere, when you ask her about her own personal choices, though ...

Katharine Wilkinson: So I'm vegetarian. I love composting. I'm chipping away at energy efficiency upgrades in my home, blah, blah, blah, right? And there's some research—all of which matter, tiny, tiny, tiny minuscule amounts.

Katharine Wilkinson: But, anything that keeps us focused kind of moment to moment on the world that we want to create is a good thing, right? Like, I can't vote three times a day, but I do eat three times a day. And I think every time we do these things, it gives us a chance to reflect on our values, reflect on our connection to the planet's living systems, to think about what it is that we're trying to do here.

Alex: You know, because If you're focused only on reducing your own emissions from, you know, I don't know, 16 tons to 12 tons a year, you know, being the best climate gold star sticker winner you can be, you're having a negligible effect.

Ayana: But if you instead think about your actions as a form of communication, as an invitation for others to join you, then your action can lead to other actions that can actually lead to change. One great example of this is the trend around flying in Europe.

Alex: Starting a few years ago, more and more people in Europe started making the conscious choice to fly less for the climate. Those people included Greta Thunberg, the very famous Swedish climate activist. She very publicly took a boat across the Atlantic to come to a UN conference in 2019 instead of flying.

Steve Westlake: And then in response to that, there's been a movement in Sweden and Europe and beyond, and I'm sure people in America as well, to also change their own behavior.

Alex: This is climate researcher Steve Westlake. he found that yes, 75 percent of the people he surveyed who knew somebody who gave up flying said they also changed their own attitudes about flying and climate change, and about half of them actually started flying less themselves.

Steve Westlake: That sends a message, sends a strong message, that this is what people want, more and more people want systemic change. And that has a ripple effect. And so support for policies, messages to politicians become stronger. So my view on individual change, it's a way of communicating. It's saying this is really important, it has influence on other people.

Anthony Leiserowitz: And that's one of the single most important things that anyone, anyone can do. When people say, "What can I do about climate change?" My answer first and foremost is talk about it.

Ayana: This is Dr. Anthony Leiserowitz, who runs the Yale Center for Climate Change Communication. They've been doing polling on Americans' opinions on climate for over a decade now, and what they have learned is that people assume there are more climate deniers out there than there actually are, because deniers are just louder. But actually, it's only about 10 percent or so of Americans who are firmly in denial about climate science, and the rest of us can team up and get some really cool things done.

Alex: Yeah. And Anthony's research indicates that, like, because we have this feeling that the people who disagree with us are in much greater numbers than they are, we clam up.

Alex: So talking about it? Super important. But also super important? How we talk about it.

Katharine Wilkinson: We have to be really careful because nobody wants to come to a finger-wagging party, right? And a lot of these, like, individuals ...

Ayana: That sounds terrible and kind of creepy. You're doing it wrong. You're not a perfect environmentalist.

Katharine Wilkinson: Right? And that's kind of been what the environmental movement has done. Like, you need to do these things and not do these things. And, like, if I see a light bulb that's not an LED, like, you are off the list, you know? Like, we need to be welcoming people in, inviting them in. And I don't want people consumed with shame and guilt when we should be thinking about how powerful we can be together, right? And what makes me feel courageous and powerful and keeps me in the work are the wins that we get when we do things together.

So there it is, folks.  Our individual actions DO matter, but not in a mathematical impact way--until we talk about them in a welcoming, inviting way so they can influence other individuals to participate in both the conversation and the work.  Here's my poem, and in the comments I invite you to talk about the miniscule actions--including raising your voice about systemic policy actions--that you are doing to stay focused on the world we want to create AND to bring others on board.  And do call me out if you catch any finger-wagging in my tone!





Our host today is Carol at The Apples in My Orchard, where she's posting about one of my favorite topics, writing poetry with kids. See you there, and if you think of it on September 3rd when I'll be hosting Poetry Friday, do consider a climate action post of your own, to let us know what's going right in your area, whether it's home, community, town, state or slice of the Planet!


Friday, August 13, 2021

no time to post #amreading

Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude - National Book Foundation


Don't ask why I thought it would be a good idea to attempt #TheSealeyChallenge (or as one Tweeter put it, #TheSealeyOpportunity) at the same time as I am receiving books almost daily for NCTE Poetry Notables list, but...

you KNOW why I thought that would be a good idea! Here's what I'm up to (along with some writing and submitting of my own):








Head first into the sea of words!  I forgot to send my line to Christie, who is hosting Poetry Friday with a delightful community spirit at Wondering and Wandering--but I think that one would do! 

Thursday, August 5, 2021

less swagger, more inkling

It's the first Friday of the month (learn about Poetry Friday here), and our critique group is answering a challenge set by Catherine Flynn--but first we thought we'd get around to picking a BETTER NAME for ourselves. We've been Sunday Swaggers for a good while now and it never felt write. So here we are, rebranding (and growing) as...

INKLINGS! That choice was harder that you'd have expected.

Catherine directed us to an exhibit at the Eric Carle Museum that I would LOVE to see in person--"Speechless: The Art of Wordless Picture Books." She asked for an ekphrastic poem, which is always fun to do, but I had some trouble choosing which image I would write about. Since they were all part of a booklength narrative, it was hard to look at the pictures as stand-alone artworks.

In the end I went with this one by Peter Sís. From the press release about the exhibition: "An Ocean World (1992) is a story about a whale searching for its place in a vast ocean. Sís echoes the shape of the whale to show how it relates to both the natural and man-made worlds. Although the whale is an enormous creature, Sís emphasizes its loneliness by keeping its size small within the picture frame." This description definitely influenced my poem.


I hope our friend Whale isn't so lonely anymore.  Please visit all the Inklings below to see what artwork they chose to ekphrase about, and thanks to our friend Mary Lee for hosting us today at A(nother) Year of Reading  with a brilliant retirement villanelle.

-Catherine at Reading to the Core -Margaret at Reflections on the Teche -Molly at Nix the Comfort Zone
-Linda at A Word Edgewise