Category Archives: Climate Change & Action

EARTH FIRST! 

GWP encourages our writers, artists, freelance staff, readers, and interns to send us their writing so we can put it out on our blog and publish it there for all the world to see (and our legions of followers!) Here is a powerful poem by GWP author, Irene Skyriver:

Irene Skyriver and her daughter Summer Moon at the kayactivism in Seattle.

 

EARTH FIRST!
(I named this poem after one of the few modern movements that made sense to me)

What will we do for the love of our Mother Earth?
I say it is not the time for silent retreats and meditations
Did, or do the victims of:
Climate change
Vietnam
Wounded Knee
The Klu Klux Klan
Did they have time to meditate on ensuing chaos or demise?
Did they have time to understand
Just before they were swinging from the limb of a tree?
Or just before their children were gunned-down or forced to cross barren deserts
Did they have time to contemplate
those “leaders”, or soldiers, or white supremacists
as perhaps being their miss-guided but lovable brothers?
Our Earth Mother is Black, she is Wounded Knee, she is a child gunned down in Viet Nam
She is a rape victim
Now is not the time to tread gently or to tippy toe
Now is not the time to try to understand the Hitler’s or the orange ones of our species
We need to be as unapologetic and powerful as the Earth herself
We need to be as relentless as the grind of a glacier
We need to be an earthquake to tumble the fortresses of greed
We need hurricane force winds of change
We need to be flooded with purpose
We need to be like the blaze of an incoming comet to turn this tide of suicide
We will recharge in the serenity of the Sun’s dip and rise
We will carry on with the knowing that others are dying for rhinos, elephants, butterflies, trees…
And by knowing there is too little time for meditation and silent retreats  

~~~

Irene Skyriver, Pacific NW Coast author/grandmother/farmer/activist
Because of the good life I live on my farm in the San Juan Islands, I must convince myself as much as anyone, to leave the comforts of our homes, families and life as we know it, to RIZE UP and fight for the Earth and Sky. Even our children know, we humans have our heads in the sand, as we blithely carry on in our consumptive, unsustainable lifestyles, leaving them to the wreckage of our defeatist inaction.
Although I am not a hardcore activist, I’ve taken action at important events and I’m readying myself for deeper involvement in our local environmental issues (which are profound) as we prepare to fight huge increases of Canadian tar-sand tanker shipments through our already decimated Salish Seas. With our local Orca whale population on the brink of extinction and salmon runs failing catastrophically, I see my life as a grandmother, best spent fighting, and dying if needed, for the dream that perhaps a sea swelling of hearts and minds will awaken and turn the tide. We need to step out of our comfort zones and fight for the environmental health of every biome of this planet and sky. •

You can order Irene’s book at your favorite, local independent bookstore, or here at Indieboud!

 

GWP’s Poem-a-Day from Greg Delanty

For our series “A Poem a Day,” we are honored to publish a sequence of poems from the editor of our climate change anthology, So Little Time: Words and Images for a World in Climate Crisis, Greg Delanty. About his upcoming poetry collection No More Time (due from LSU Press next August/September) where this sequence is taken from:

 No More Time as a whole, is showing, at the start of the 21st century, how we are all connected in so many ways.  The sequence ‘The Field Guide to People’ is arranged alphabetically and is a kind of integrated earthly heaven (thriving flora and fauna), purgatory (declining flora and fauna) and hell (extinct flora and fauna). The decline of the creatures and plants of the latter two is due in every case mainly to humans. The form of the poems in this sequence is the terza rimasonnet, both poems of the underworld and love poems to the natural world, connecting the past with the present in form and content. Since one of the greatest poems to portray humans in the Christian world is Dante’s underworld, Delanty has created a representative underworld for plants and creatures, rectifying the general centuries-old western attitude that humans are not apart, but part of the environment.

Chimpanzee

As a chimp, usually the adult male,

approaches and the roar of the

water booms louder, you see him,

without fail,

 

speed up. His demeanor starts to

alter, hair bristling. Arriving at the

fall,

he stands, sways from one foot to the other,

 

bows, genuflects. Answering some call,

he dips his hand as if in holy water, splashes

himself along the tassel border of the silk

wall,

 

climbs the bell ropes of draping vines,

lashes his body to several, takes flight

over the deafening water as it crashes.

 

He swings like a thurible above that veil of

white; the spray is the incense of the

monkey’s water rite.

 

Elephant

Sometimes you see something so

dreadful that the mind  snaps a shot

or shoots a video of the scenario,

 

lasers it into your retina on  the spot, 

impaled in you for as long as you live:

 a teacher thrashing a pupil — a crying tot —

or the elephant Dan and I saw given a

sedative so she could rest, sleep, that time

in Dublin Zoo. The aged female was

trapped in a repetitive

 

back and forth on her haunches,

unable to stop herself, a tormented

beast of Orcus.

Her attendant explained, feeding her bamboo,

 

“Twas her one way to move, trapped in the van of a circus

so long. Rescuing her was our onus and bittersweet bonus.”

 

Falls-of-the-Ohio Scurfpea

I feel like a student in my Environment

101, crushed by daily news: creatures

going or gone, the changing climate, the

planet under the gun.

 

In teacher mode I tell them: “For yourselves you

press on, your own wellbeing. You’re entitled to be

happy.

Action makes life fun. Good news: the Café Marron

 

and sage grouse are saved”. I say nothing of the scurfpea,

Orbexilum stipulatum? Its modest flower

blending with white-bearded cascades. A

century

 

or more and not a single sighting along the

river at Rock Island. It relied too much on

the bison. You know how one thing depends

on another,

 

with the jowled ones diminished, so went this

‘un; finally condemned with the building of US

Dam 21.

 

Ibex

In January 2000, the Pyrenean ibex (Spanish common name ‘bucardo’)
became extinct. Scientists cloned DNA from a last female.

In the end, no cliff or impossible

crag could save them from

plantation or gun. Their heads hang

on walls. Hunters brag.

 

Many were taken down for sheer fun.

The king pucks — their antler plumes

rising magisterially — plugged one by none.

 

Gone the clash of horn scimitars,

grooms battling to mate, the

bucardo of lore.

White-coated gods in lab rooms

 

summoned one back from the dark shore

of the underworld. They should have

known from the ancient myths what was

in store.

 

She returned after seven minutes, lone

clone, relieved to be back among the herds

of her own.

 

  Jellyfish Tree

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Kāmaʻo

Imagine a place, a zone, an

underworld which includes more

than our own kind:

the green and moving ones: ferns with curled

 

violin necks, gloaming players who

grind their wings together. And listen,

the music, the strain of this bird

lingers in the wind.

 

What flute-like notes, what warbling, what

a lick of trills and whistles. Can you hear

its song?

Heard melodies are sometimes sweeter. A trick

 

of the breeze, zephyr? Things went

wrong with land clearing. Hurricane

season intensified, uprooted trees, and

before long

 

mosquitoes multiplied in rain-storm

stagnation. The song: a figment of my

birdbrained imagination.

 

Northern Gastric Frog

This creature’s extinction is attributable to the human introduction
of pathogenic fungi into their native
range.

This one was a bit of an artist,

especially the female, so oddly

fecund.

At home in backwater rocky

 

cascades and riffles. Hard to

find, to spot even when

plentiful.

Its stone-hued skin and sepia behind

 

blending in. After the female

laid eggs, in vitro fertilized by her

groom, she swallowed them whole,

 

turned her stomach into a burgeoning

womb. Six weeks later she gave birth

within

and out of her own mouth. No more room

 

for lungs, she breathed through her own skin, 

spewed up her mites, each wearing a clown-

sad grin.

 

Oryza sativa

Something to behold, how this crop

succeeds in such diverse moraine. Best

of all, see row after row descend

gradually from the gods

 

down mountainsides to the valleys

below, tiers of a great amphitheater,

their heads craning to watch the show:

 

the traffic, rickshaws, the general

theater of our priceless world. On the

slow train to Kandy I was a passing

spectator,

 

watched locals kneeling to the god of

rain, lay offerings to the assisting

oxen and ant, petition the god of rice

for healthy grain.

 

I wanted to join them, genuflect, pray, chant

praise to the plant that’s half the world’s

constant.

 

Quagga

This chimeric beast, part zebra, part donkey,

—its name the phantom sound

of its supposed call—enjoyed the society

 

of ostrich and gnu, foraged remote grassland.

So comically mythical: the striped head

a kind of convict’s shirt, each band

 

fading until mid-body it bled

into a rufus rear, and on to a white tail.

(the last sad male to be found was bred

 

with a flummoxed horse, producing a female

striped in reverse, from waist to rear).

It’s as if a circus clown ran out of a final pail

 

of white paint. The only photo’d quagga, a mare, 

stares back from behind bars with an accusing glare.

 

Rafflesia arnoldii

The corpse flower, a flower straight out of hell

on earth, not one to give your wife or mother

come Valentine’s Day, or wear on your lapel.

 

Though the sight of this particular

flower’s measled, fleshy-skinned,

monstrous petal wouldn’t help you

any, what overpowers

 

is the stench of rotting flesh and organs:

Chanel de Cadaver, Bouquet Putrid,

Carrion Mystique,

Essence de Carcass, Versense Pew, Allure Impossible,

 

luring every bug in the vicinity to the

reek, unable to resist entering the

rank volcano

of this hotty, and presto, another sprouts in a week.

 

Meanwhile, the forests of Sumatra and

Borneo are being cleared. Ergo the corpse

flower also.

 

Saint Helena’s Olive

Far-fetched that plants feel pain,

but there’s evidence, the experts

say they can learn, process and

retain;

 

that they’ve intelligence in some

way. This one’s had it: St.

Helena’s Olive.

As soon as people settled to stay,

 

spread, this plant gave up the will to  survive.

Natural. But natural also that planters cut

all before them, needing somewhere to live,

 

to settle themselves. Too late 

by the time anybody got it together, 

grappled to keep the native alive, bust a

gut.

 

The seeds of this tree refused to flower,

their act of civil disobedience, flower

power.

 

Tarantula Hawk Wasp

Give us a break, man, you with your

inventory of whales crooning to one

another,

the society of bees, the scratched history

 

of bears, elephants mourning a dead

mother, the varying duet of the

babakoto,

the Saint Helena olives’ flower power.

 

You elect them denizens of a kind of

Paradiso. But consider the likes of a

particular wasp,

the Tarantula Hawk, straight out of the Inferno.

 

This one would make Hannibal Lecter gasp.

The wasp’s sting turns the tarantula into a

zombie, drugs and drags the spider off in its

relentless grasp,

 

lays an egg in the spider’s belly; the larva

methodically eats the host alive; more nature’s

norm than oddity.

 

Umbrellabird

You never saw anything like this

bird, black from coif to claw, with

looks to kill

(though ungainly in flight). But, what’s absurd

 

isn’t so much the unusual

hairstyle, which is less like a

man’s umbrella than an Elvis

quiff, driving many a girl

 

out of her tree, screeching for her fella,

nor is it his Elvis song, the testosterone

bass crooning longingly for his Priscilla.

 

But the instrument, and not just that, but the

place it arises from, his throat, a back-to-f

ront tail,

that opens into a feather duster when he plays

 

his well-endowed come-on, larger in the male,

a kind of didgeridoo, moaning, enticing the female.

 

The Voilá Grouse

“I’m pleased that we collectively continue to make great progress
on addressing threats to this bird, conserving
the sagebrush habitat
and providing a path forward for sustainable economic development.”
—US Secretary of the Interior, Sally Jewell, Sep 21st, 2016

You should see their fancy

costumes: white ruffs, spectacular

fanned tails. And o-la-la, watch the

gallant grooms

 

strut their stuff, the puffed-up lek males

performing their version of a pole dance,

tucking in their bills, vying for the

females,

 

eyeing up their prospects, their chance

of a future. The future has some hope

now, thanks to Secretary Jewell taking

a stance.

 

The grouse is saved, the end of a protracted

row. The whole sage-swaying sea is singing

Hallelujah, along with the elk, pronghorn,

mule deer, sparrow.

 

Good news for all sheltered under this

umbrella, been blown inside out. Folks

spoke up and voilà!

 

Wheat

The old gods are defunct, but not the old

necessity to give thanks. This god spread

from the Levant forgotten religions ago,

bestowing prosperity.

 

He is goodness incarnate, the Midas

plant without the Midas curse, t

urning a field

into plains of swaying gold. He is our constant

 

from dawn to dawn, strength

concealed within burnished stalks

of energy, grounded goodness

variously revealed.

 

This great shape-changer: the deity

of cereal, pasta, bread, the English

taco has more lives than Buddha. We

 

become him, where he grows we

grow, rising each morning,

leavened dough.

 

X 

Surely there are others in your life who

make you feel worthwhile, are a safe

haven. I am lucky enough to have a

staple few.

 

And now this other, a befriending

dolphin I swam out deep again to

meet. I can’t tell

even myself what I felt when I first saw the fin

 

slice through the surface, the swell,

then to see this undine, stock-still at my feet.

We looked each other in the eyes for well

 

over ten seconds (nay, millennia). Such a

sweet, kind gaze. I wonder what he made

of me

in only my pelt and goggles. What a treat

 

to be allowed kiss his grinning forehead before he

undulated back across Dingle Bay, the channel’s

Lethe.

 

Y

is the divining stick, wishbone, question 

why one y rather than another why:

the yak, the y tree, the yellow-eyed penguin

 

or the myriad y insects who crawl

and fly we know nothing of, nor will

ever know? The links break from

alpha, beyond why.

 

You mention the Yaque chub, a

minnow, or Yaque catfish sporting

Chinese whiskers, both Yaques

depending on the slow flow

 

of Yaque River. According to Surem elders

–the last to speak Yaque, Yoeme Niki,

Hiaki

(And where do languages go when they die, others

 

on the brink?)– the Surem’s goddess, Yumululi,

speaks for The Great Tree, divines our future

history.

Zanzibar Leopard

The descriptions of the leopard and its habits are characterized by the widespread notion that wavyale (witches) sent them to harm villagers and were thus killed on sight. After the Zanzibar Revolution of 1964 there was a leopard-cleansing campaign which sealed the leopard’s extinction. 

Kill Evil incatinate. Kill kill kill

the Zanzibar Leopard, this island devil,

this vampire vermin, obeying witch-will,

 

dispatched by the wavyale  to bedevil

villages. You know the old strategy:

demonize and the demonizer will revel

 

in playing God, the paw of the Almighty.

This leopard survived since the ice age,

slowly shrunk itself into dwarf-cat royalty,

 

even changed its spots, but couldn’t manage

to outwit human categorizing. Yes, it is daft,

but this cat’s hardly likely to be found in cage

 

or ruling the night-forest now. When statecraft

bands with religion there’s no better witchcraft.

 

Zayante

There’s something off about talk of the land

as a person. It’s more a moody personality

that you insecurely sense, project,

understand

 

via the osmosis of yourself, your

ability 

to shape change, the abracadabra

matching outside to within. Take Zayante,

 

home of the slender gilia, Bonny Doon mazanita, 

coast-horned lizard, band-winged grasshopper,

Ben Lomond spine flower, June beetle, ponderosa,

 

everlasting, kangaroo rat, all going without a

whimper. 

Folks’ needs, comforts, fears up the ante.

The development night by day grows grimmer.

 

Which ciao —hi or bye– will it be on Planet

Zayante?

Enough Gregorian cant. We are done. Adelante.

~~~~~~~~

Our Basin of Relations: The Art and Science of Living with Water

Vermonter Mike Sipe began photographing the pristine waters of the Lake Champlain region about fifteen years ago. His initial vision was a coffee-table book, sharing the beauty with the world with one hundred, sharing-quality images. He captured thousands of images, with thirty-five images to be included in OUR BASIN OF RELATIONS, The Art and Science of Living with Water, coming in early fall from GWP.

About five years ago a weightier purpose for the book, hit Mike like a brick—WATER QUALITY—the lake water quality is deteriorating with dangerously high levels of phosphorous, toxic enough to close swim areas, threaten drinking water, and maybe even harmful to breathe! Blue Green algae is not that good to look at, either. This algae bloom problem is not unique to Lake Champlain.

A few years ago, Mike got involved with the Vermont Clean Water Network, realizing that most of us aren’t aware of the issue, and he was eager to learn how to help preserve the Lake Champlain’s watershed ecosystem.

I believe we want to help protect what we love…. and we love…. and value, water. Knowledge and inspiration empowers us, producing resolve. —Mike Sipe

Editor Trevien Stanger on the shoreline of Lake Champlain.

A couple of years ago, after Mike joined the Vermont Clean Water Network, he became aware of an article in the Burlington Free Press, called Thinking like a Watershed. The article was written by environmental teacher, writer and poet, Trevien Stanger. According to Mike, he loved the article and knew he had to marry his photos with Trevien’s word wizardry—and do his part for clean water—albeit small. When Mike and Trevien came to GWP publisher Dede Cummings, she immediately jumped at the chance to publish the book but explained to the intrepid team of environmentalists that there was no budget for such an expensive book. After much discussion, the publisher came on board and will also donate the design and layout fee of $2,000 to the project. The book will be available in the late summer of 2019 if the fundraising goal of $10,000 is met.

Trevien Stanger is the curator of nearly fifteen articles by water quality advocates in OUR BASIN OF RELATIONS, The Art and Science of Living with Water. Trevien wrote the introduction to the book and it is reproduced on Mike’s website, www.MikeSipe.com, under the tab OUR BASIN OF RELATIONS.

Please help clean water
We invite you to read Trevien’s introduction, be inspired, consider some level of sponsorship to help publish OUR BASIN OF RELATIONS and have proceeds from the sale of the book go to clean water projects. Book sponsorship details are at the end of this article and there will be a list of sponsors in the book (and logos of organizations). GWP is a LC3 which means we can partner with nonprofits with no tax. Individuals wishing to send a tax-free donation, can contact us and we have an umbrella nonprofit/fiscal agent for this project.

OBOR COVER.jpg

If you wish to help us fundraise for printing this gorgeous book, we will mail you a 16-page BLAD (Basic Layout And Design) of OUR BASIN OF RELATIONS to help you decide about sponsorship of the book. you can also view the BLAD by clicking this link: Our Basin BLAD inside Dec21 lo res and downloading/viewing the PDF on your computer.

Thank you,

Dede, Mike & Trevien

Interview with GWP author Irene Skyriver

This interview was conducted by GWP associate editor, Evelyn Yielding, a student at Eastern Washington State University, formerly at Bennington College (where she was a GWP intern).

1.   Paddling with Spirits is your very first book. Was there a turning point in your life that made you want to write down this story?

A 2018 Nautilus Book Award Silver Winner.

Well, I’d never planned to write about my kayak journey, but then I decided it would be a nice thing for me to write down for my children’s sake. And doing so, I thought it would also be a good time to tell them as much as I knew about our family. Because my family and ancestors had so much to do with my journey in terms of how I was thinking of them as I paddled, the two stories went well together— that’s when I decided to do it. 

I started writing as my mother was dying, and that was also when I got my first computer. She was bedridden, but I was there in vigil and so I had the time to work on my ideas of my book then. This was a number of years after my actual journey.

 

2. When did you first start to write things down? 

Well, I kept a journal on my solo paddle but as for the book, 

I like to say, it has been a “dozen years of Januaries” because January is the only time of the year I’m not too busy with outdoor things.

3. What did you do to prepare for you kayaking journey? 

Well, because I live on an island, I’ve always thought it would be best to have a kayak, because, then I knew I could get away on an adventure at any time, without gasoline, without a car— just pull my boat into the water and have an adventure! So, a kayak was one of my earliest purchases, even though I was without a car at that time.

And then, as a result of having my kayak, I did get to explore the islands in our archipelago. Later, I got together with my husband, and we paddled up into the wild areas of Vancouver Island, on the west side, and that prepared me for the kinds of seas that I knew I would encounter in Alaska.

But, I couldn’t plan this solo journey until my children were grown up. I had been a single parent for almost twelve years, and I had a strong impulse to be sure, that if I died, they’d get along okay without me. So, that’s why I had to wait.

4. Do you still kayak today?

Yes.

5. Do you plan on going on any more kayaking journeys? 

Yes, we are planning a big journey next summer. We have a family paddle that we’re going to do on the west side of Vancouver Island. My second grandson is doing a Rites of Passage out there. We’re going to isolate him somewhere for three days, then reconnect and celebrate his Coming of Age on a wild beach out there.

6. What are the challenges of living on Lopez Island? 

I guess the tourists and the loss of waterfront areas to roam and enjoy. Decades ago it was quieter. The land now, is all bought up and so there are now challenges being able to be in the wild places we use to visit, without someone owning and fencing-off the property. 

Washington State doesn’t even allow its citizens access to beaches, most other states like Oregon, California and Alaska allow the beaches for everyone as a public domain, but in Washington, the wealthy can and do own them. All the places we used to go on Lopez for picnics, or walks are all privately owned now. There’s very few places left. And so, in the summer months when there are lots of tourists, the parks are always jam-packed with people. We locals don’t go to the beaches in the summertime. This is another reason why the kayak is important because I can get away from the shore and head off somewhere else.

Irene Skyriver on the state of Washington ferry to Lopez Island, her home. Photo by GWP editor, Evelyn Yielding.

7. How did you research your ancestors’ stories? 

Well, first of all, I had a lot of stories handed down to me from my family. I also traveled to the locations where my ancestors had lived to get a feel and understanding of them in their environment and so I did fly to Alaska to visit relatives in Cordova and also to the historic Native village-site of Katalla. It is completely wild in that location now, not a trace of the former village. I also stayed for a summer with the Tlingit’s of Yakatat, Alaska, where I lived among elders and learned more about my Tlingit culture.

Also, there were the National Archives at Sand Point area of North Seattle, where I obtained a lot of the archival information about the Indian school where my dad’s dad was sent, as well as all of his siblings. There were also letters in those archives where my grandfather as a child corresponded between his father and the Indian school through the years.

8. What have you learned journeying from Alaska to Washington? Is there anything you wish you’d done differently?

  No, I felt like it was perfect. I wouldn’t have done anything differently— everything went amazingly well. I felt like I had been well-prepared. I mailed myself packages of food along the way. I didn’t even need some of those— the kayak can carry a lot, plus I took a fishing pole. I was able to catch a lot of fish for my meals!  

In those days, I had no cellphone, or any form of communication at all, with the exception, that I occasionally got on a fishing boat and used their marine radio to call home. But, I didn’t miss any of that either— I was totally happy. The whole reason of getting away is “getting away”! I didn’t want anything more than reaching out to my family occasionally to let them know that I was okay and checking to see if they were okay.

9. You’ve obviously discovered some amazing family history. Is there anything that surprised you that you feel comfortable sharing? 

 What I was delighted and surprised about was the information I gathered from the National Archives, which, through letters, transportation receipts and other items, really gave me the actual words of some of my ancestors’. To see their words and understand their situation—these children being in an Indian school in Oregon after their Native mother died— those were real tangible bits of information that helped me understand more deeply. Also, travelling to different locations (where my ancestors lived)—such as Alaska and Alberta. Alberta being the place my mother’s mother was taken to from Neah Bay WA., as a child and just to imagine growing up in the evergreens of this state and suddenly being taken to the grasslands of Alberta, where it was incredibly different, I could better understand the difficulty of that for her.

And, some little tidbits of information about my great grandfather who manned the trading post up in Alaska. I found his military records and so it showed his service under George Custer and Nelson Miles during the Indian Wars because there was his payroll, before my very eyes! Also, there were some old magazine articles of his oil discovery days in Alaska.

10. What were the Indian schools? 

When the white people took over North America, of course, there were all sorts of injustices done to the Native people. They wanted the Indian children to go Indian schools to learn English and taught trades. They were forbidden to speak their languages. 

And in my Grandfather’s case, they were sent there by their father, because he couldn’t take care of all the children on his own after their Native mother died. Because my grandfather had a white father and a native mother, he and his siblings could speak English, so it wasn’t quite as traumatic for them as for most of the native kids that were forced to attend. 

There was a lot of pressure to send Indian children to boarding schools. They wanted to break the Indian and turn them into people that wouldn’t resist the white culture.

11. In Paddling with Spirits, you remark on the kindness of fisherman and other strangers. Have these positive experiences changed the way you think about people?

As I said in the book, my solo journey re-affirmed my love of people. I always liked people— I grew up in the small town of Port Townsend, Washington. You waved and smiled at everyone who walked past. That’s how Lopez has been too. But as time has gone by, populations have grown like crazy in these places, and things are going all sour in the world. So, the opportunity to put myself in a vulnerable solo kayaking situation actually was a re-affirming of the goodness of people. People are generally kind and want to help. 

I just also want to say that in having published my book, I’m experiencing that same thing again. Lots of years have gone by since my journey, I’ve been very blessed by the kindness of strangers, just sharing with me, sweet compliments about my book. I’m really shy— I’ve never really written before. And so I was insecure about my offering as a writer. To have people positively embrace it, was like a second reawakening to my love of people again. You know, I live a kind of cloistered life. I have a big family and I’m pretty content with just growing my garden and having my family near. So, to be thrust out into the public again and just seeing how wonderful people are— I’ve always known that, but you can get kind of caught up on modern society’s troubles and anguish.

12. You’ve been a part of different kinds of protests, can you tell us a little bit about that?

Kayaktivist, irene Skyriver at the Bay of Seattle flotilla in 2015 protesting Shell.

Since I’ve been involved with writing Paddling with Spirits, I really haven’t had the time to sink into other kinds of issues, but my heart is in the place of wanting to protect the Earth— I don’t care as much about any other issue. The Earth is our Mother, and if She doesn’t survive, nothing will! So, I think that’s of primary importance.

So, I’ve been involved in some kayaking protests in Anacortes (oil refinery town and our ferry terminal town) as well as down in Seattle to oppose the Shell Oil exploration platform’s plan for drilling in the Arctic. Also, I have gone to Standing Rock, which was the ginormous Native gathering aimed at preventing construction of the oil pipeline coming through their land in North Dakota. That was a deeply emotional and beautiful experience and I was so grateful to be a part of it. 

I would go again to stand with Native communities, because their heart and mine, are the same with regards to saving our Earth. We really need to be focusing our attention on producing less oil and more sustainability. I’m committed to that fight but not able to be very politically active as I promote my book.

13. What advice would you have for someone who is researching their family history? 

Most importantly, talk to their parents before they die. I tell that to everybody— ask every question you think of, because once they’re gone you can’t ask those questions anymore. And so, talk to all your relatives. Everyone has a different take on things— the more information you get, the better off you’ll be before they pass away. 

I’ve noticed from my own experience, even in my own large family, we all had different experiences. It’s said, you can never step into the same river twice and the same is true for families. Each child is born into a different and changing circumstance. So, it’s also good to speak with your siblings, because they may have had experiences or information that you never even imagined. 

There are also resources accessible online. I think it’s also important to go to the places where your family originated, so you really know what you’re talking about from a visual and visceral standpoint.

14. I’ve noticed that throughout your book, songs are often sang in times of adversity. This may not be intentional, but why do you think people through Paddling with Spirits go back to music in difficult times? 

Songs have always carried cultures and helped people through troubling times, such as the Civil Rights movement, and the songs we share as a nation through the ages— such as Pete Singer’s “This Land is your Land,” or the Vietnam War era songs of resistance.

We are moving away from the unifying experience of being held in a society by the sharing of songs. We’re more fragmented now. We’re not held by the common theme of certain songs that unify us as a people. Tribes had that. Songs told the stories and struggles of their people, particularly their mythological and origin songs. This was handed down generation by generation. As long as I’ve lived on Lopez, we’ve done Rites of Passage for young teens, which is one of the times we share our Circle Songs. The children know these songs from their toddler days. We sing these circle songs for birthdays, weddings, deaths, whatever. There are circle songs for every occasion!

It helps to live in one place and share traditions. As a society, we’re going off in different directions and we don’t stay where we’re born. People are starting to search for that— they’re beginning to understand that they want a community where everyone has known each other since they were babies. Sharing in struggles and sadness in good times and bad times as a group: a tribe. Songs can be powerful and bonding, a shared inspiration. You know, that’s something people innately want.

15. In your 700 mile solo paddle from Alaska, what was your most challenging stretch of water? 

So, it would be where I decided, after finishing the narrow confines of the Granville Channel—and it opens up into an intersection of waterways called Right Sound, I could have continued down a nearly identical waterway called Princess Royal Channel. However, at that point I decided instead to paddle where it was wilder, and so I struck out for the outer exposed coast. It was about a three or four-day part of my journey—and those days were probably my most physically challenging. That’s when I also failed to find a passage, which meant I had to spend more days in these very wild conditions. There were other points that were wild and really called on me to be very attentive, but that was probably the most challenging. But, as far as wildlife, I did not fear the bears, wolves or whales I encountered along the way. They were not threatening.

GWP associate editor, Evelyn Yielding, on the ferry to tiny Lopez Island with the author.

16. One thing that I was incredibly impressed by was the amount of fish you caught in Alaska. It’s half-impossible to catch anything in Puget Sound.  There’s nothing there! 

See, it’s the same here now. These waters look beautiful, but they’re empty. It’s really sad. Everything’s been overfished and mismanaged. It’s like a marine desert out here. Everything is just gone— it’s why the whales are dying: they need salmon, and there’s no feeder-fish for the salmon. Up there in Alaska, it’s still relatively wild and there’s still more fish. I wasn’t fishing for salmon, per say— I was happy enough with bottom fish.

Evelyn: At my high school, we had a fishing class: twenty-two kids out for a month on the water, and they never caught a single fish! 

Irene: Yeah, I know that’s sad for me, too. I take my grandkids out and obviously, there’s fun in just the act of fishing, but it’s a lot better if you catch stuff.

My eighteen-year-old grandson caught those Atlantic salmon that got loose from the farmed salmon pens. He started seeing all these salmon at the water’s surface and he ran home and grabbed his fishing pole and caught a bunch but that was before any of us heard about the disaster of the farmed salmon pen collapse.

18. So, your kids have obviously inspired you to write down your journey? 

Well, yes, my initial desire was to write this for them, but as I got further into the writing, it was suggested that it “could be a book.”  People are always curious about the journey when they hear about it, so it was fun for me to put it down in writing, but it was something I didn’t even know I was going to do for a long time, I just never really thought of it.

19. How do you get up in the morning? 

Well, morning is not my easiest. Not that I dislike the mornings— I get up fairly early. I milk the goats in the morning and that’s how I basically wake myself up and every morning as I milk, I sing to my goats— circle songs and any other songs that cross my mind. But I’m not the sort of person that gets up bright and bushy tailed and ready to run around and meet people and do things. I like to have a quiet morning— but once that part of my day is done, I’m ready for anything!

20. So, you have goats. Do you have any other animals? 

Irene with some of her baby goats on Lopez Island, Washington.

Well, I’ve had horses most of my life, but I don’t right now. I’ve always had a dog ever since I was a little child, but my last dog died a couple years ago. We’re kind of on a really fixed income, so even just the idea of buying dog food for a new dog— and I really don’t believe in junk animal food— I believe in organic food for myself and family as well for our animals. I buy or grow organic feed for my goats, cats, pigs and chickens and we sell our organic eggs. That’s a part of our income.

 

 

21. What do you garden? 

I grow about eighty percent of the food we eat— we have a freezer, and we usually raise a pig, too. So, we have a freezer with pork, chicken and venison. And I buy fish from our local fishermen when he brings it ashore and I smoke a lot of that.

The author at her garden on Lopez Island.

So, we have fresh and smoked fish. Aside from that— I have a really big garden and I sell produce all summer to the local gas station store. I’ve been doing that for decades. I make my own wine and cider— I grow my own grapes, we have a big apple orchard and I make hard cider from my apples. We put-up a lot of pears and apples and squash and potatoes, garlic— you know, things that keep through the winter. In the garden itself, here in the PNW, things tend to survive through the winter, like I have a garden right now full of greens like parsley, kale and chard. Nice, edible greens! I grow gunnysacks full of onions that keep through the winter until the next crop through the winter. Our land was bought in the 1960’s when it was very cheap, so we are land-rich but low income.

Mostly, what we spend our money on luxury items like coffee, and because I don’t have to buy any dairy, I make my own kefir and we have fresh goat milk. I don’t make cheese, but my neighbor does. We buy nuts and coffee and sugar and flour, butter, toilet paper— I always try to imagine what would happen if we were ever to be completely cut off, financially or otherwise. I would feel fairly comfortable, although I would certainly miss some things but, I’d still be able to kayak!

Watch the gorgeous book trailer by clicking on the photo above.

JOURNEY TO ZERO WASTE

By Maya London-Southern

Though the United States ranks third in the world for highest population, it generates by far the most trash. The nation produces over 250 million tons of waste annually, with the average American throwing out about 4.5 pounds of garbage each day (China, with a population four times that of the US, generates about 190 million tons per year). But for thousands of years, humans did not produce any trash, and people have proven that even in this era of consumerism, it is possible to live without generating garbage.

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A dramatic reading of one of our books!

Latchis Arts hosts dramatic live reading of Peter Gould’s
new novella, ‘Marly’  
Jonny Flood brings ‘Marly’ to life
on Sunday, February 7, at 4 p.m.; admission is by donation,
and proceeds benefit the Women’s Freedom Center

  

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Latchis Arts, in association with Green Writers Press, presents a dramatic reading of Peter Gould’s new novel, “MARLY,” starring Jonny Flood and directed by Gould on Sunday, Feb. 7, at 4 p.m., in the Ballroom Theatre at the Latchis.

This event, also presented by New England Youth Theatre, will benefit the Women’s Freedom Center of Brattleboro. Admission is by donation, all of which will go to the Women’s Freedom Center

Marly is dramatic climate fiction in a new literary form. To find out what that means, read it, or hear it read aloud, or both. Green Writers Press is a new Brattleboro-based publisher lighting up the New England literary landscape with high-quality books on ecological themes. Come to the reading, and talk with Dede Cummings, founder of GWP, and her Bennington College interns. Gould, author of three well-known published novels, is a professor in the Conflict Transformation Program at Brandeis. He’s the smaller, quieter half of the renowned theater duo, Gould & Stearns. Jonathan Flood has been doing theater non-stop with Peter since he was 12 years old. He’s the director of several “Get Thee to the Funnery” youth theater camps, and he’s also the new Education Director at NEYT.

The fictional female character, Marly, teaches at a small Vermont College, where she specializes in forestry, wildlife habitat, chainsaw technique and self-defense for women. She’s a survivor of domestic violence; strong and self-actualized as she is, she still suffers from the after effect of the attack.

Please come and enjoy the reading, support the Freedom Center, and join the discussion. You’ll be home in plenty of time to watch the Super Bowl, if that’s your thing.

Copies of the novel will be on sale. I hope I see you here at the Latchis,

Jon

Jon Potter | Executive Director, Latchis Arts Inc. | Latchis Corporation

50 Main Street | Brattleboro VT | 05301
802.254.1109×3  | jon@latchisarts.org
Preserving the Latchis | Promoting the Arts

A Climate Fiction/CliFi “Bromance”

Review of Love in the Time of Climate Change by Brian Adams 

by Sage Kalmus

  

 

Twice while starting Brian Adams’ Love in the Time of Climate Change I had to pause and review the book jacket to make sure it was indeed a work of fiction I was reading. Sure enough, there I saw it each time, on the cover in small print beside the author’s name, the definitive declaration: “a novel.” Yet mine was an easy mistake to make, as the book begins with an expository—if cheeky—primer on what’s later referred to as “The Issue.” Then again, isn’t this how so many novels start: by setting the scene for the tale to come? In this case it just so happens to be the backdrop of global warming.

The true start of the novel opens on Day One of the new semester at a small community college in western Massachusetts, as our narrator, Casey, an environmental studies professor, prepares to greet his new group of students. He begins, he tells the reader, the same as he has every previous semester: by revealing to his class his debilitating illness, Obsessive Climate Disorder (OCD.) Little does our quixotic narrator know that in this particular class is one student with the power to help him, if not cure his disease, then certainly ameliorate its symptoms. And it is these symptoms of Professor Casey’s self-diagnosed OCD that we witness him suffer through as he attempts to win hearts and change minds: one heart and mind, as he’s soon to discover, in particular.

An early clue that this book is more than just a thinly disguised sermon on the mount comes when two of the students in Casey’s extra-curricular group, The Climate Changers, get into an embittered battle over which of them is the more tenacious bicyclist. Clearly saving the world poses the possibly greater threat of ego annihilation (as in annihilating the world with one’s own ego.) It doesn’t take long to realize this story is far more about the struggle an individual goes through to live from day to day in the face of a damning reality than it is an attempt to educate an audience who likely already knows much of what he speaks. To simply say the author here is preaching to the converted would be disingenuous because he’s not preaching: he’s satirizing. He simply happens to be satirizing his own deeply held beliefs. This makes for some rather bold self-deprecating humor. For example, when a student comes to his office alarmed from her newfound awareness of our true environmental condition, Casey reacts at first  with self-satisfaction, thinking, “Yes! Got ’em!” followed immediately thereafter by, “Of course, what this really means is that they’re now doomed for a lifetime of extreme anxiety, possible depression, constant angst, and a whole host of other intellectual trauma…But hey, such is the price of education. Right?”

In such ways this novel often seems a case study on contradiction, on collateral hypocrisy, on trying to “walk the walk”, to “practice what you preach” in a world that makes such feats prohibitive. Thus we witness Casey forced by circumstance to patronize his Corporate Enemy #1: Walmart, only to create a self-fulfilling prophecy of humiliation while inside. Throughout Casey’s misadventures I was often reminded of the myth of Sisyphus, doomed to forever roll his boulder up a hill only to find that, just when he gets it near the top, it rolls past him all the way to the bottom again.

Likewise love, Casey finds, is not without its Sysiphusian hurdles, in this case that the object of his affections is also a student. Never mind that she is a peer in age, and even a fellow teacher, of youngsters, and at an entirely different school to boot. Casey’s professional moral code is as strict as his climatological one. Of course, all codes are meant to be tested, and indeed it is watching Casey butt up against these imperious standards of his that provides some of this novel’s richest humor—particularly when it’s his lust, second only to morals behind his steering wheel, responsible for such collisions. Case in point: when Casey ruins his chances of a sure-thing with a hot and perfectly available female when her apartment bears the unavoidable evidence of her environmental ignorance. Or when he takes his class on a field trip to an awe-inspiring earth friendly home only to have its message overshadowed when that special student he’s aiming to impress the most gets attacked by geese while he stands there paralyzed to help her. At times one has to wonder if this bumbling narrator can ever overcome his neuroses enough to land any woman, let alone the one of his dreams, and it’s both a torture and a delight to watch him trip over himself as he discovers, time and again, that all the science in the world can’t help him navigate the tides of love.

This novel is at its best, however, when it does precisely what its author seems clearly to have set out to do in devising it: using unexpected moments of mundane life to illuminate yet another way in which climate change affects us without us even knowing it. For example when Casey and the object of his affections visit an apple orchard only to discover the trees completely bare, as the unseasonable return of winter the previous spring killed off all the apple blossoms before they could flower. Or when Casey and his pothead roommate find their own moral boundaries tested in the face of their neighbor’s energy-sucking Halloween yard decor.

In short, Love in the Time of Climate Change is a light-hearted look at a heavy-hearted subject. But the love story embedded within the tale is far more than a literary device to keep readers entertained through the story’s teaching moments. In fact it proves to supply the missing ingredient in an adult child’s delayed maturation into manhood. Without the love story in our life we’re all doomed to the ravages we’ve wrought on ourselves, is the message.

The reference in the novel’s title to Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s Love in the Time of Cholera seems apparent. And while both stories detail an epidemic bound invariably to leave no one in its path unscathed, if I have to confront the imminent end of the world (at least as I know it) I would much rather take that ride with Casey and his manic band of Climate Changers, because with them at least I know I’ll go out laughing.

~<~

Book review by Sage Kalmus

 

Sage Kalmus is a freelance writer and editor since 2004. He earned a M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Lesley University where he was honored as student speaker at his graduation. He earned a B.S. in Film & Broadcasting from Boston University. His article “Believe in Magic” appears in the current issue (May 2015) of The Writer magazine. His short stories have appeared in Whisperings magazine, CARNIVAL Magazine, Rose Red Review, and he published an essay in The Hampshire Gazette.  

The Climate Rally & Our Fabulous Fall List

IMG_1889.JPGThe People’s Climate March
Green Writers Press authors and editors were down in NYC in full force with the rest of the world watching as 1% of Vermonters and almost half a million people marched for Climate Justice! We are proud beyond words to have been asked to carry the Vermont flag. Here are some photos from The March—one of Dede Cummings and Vermont-Irish poet from our book, So Little Time, Greg Delanty! Please share and keep the momentum going….March On!

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Summer Recap & The Climate Rally

-cbbf001afadaaa2fAs I sit on the Amtrak “Vermonter,” hurtling through the Connecticut countryside, I’m reflecting on how amazing the summer was for us at GWP: the Bread Loaf / Orion Environmental Writers’ Conference, Bookstock in Woodstock, the Greensboro Writers’ Forum and my poetry workshop — “Making the Global Personal: Using Poetry as an Activist Tool”—were just a few of the highlights of the summer, along with hiking, biking, swimming in Vermont’s rivers and gardening, of course.

GWP poet, Greg Delanty, had a beautiful poem published in The Atlantic, and under his name, they mentioned our book, So Little Time! We are so proud and honored to have Greg as one of our authors. He will be down in New York City with us, this Sunday, for the Climate Rally, along with thousands of Vermonters.
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A new day, a new dawn

As the Keystone XL pipeline clears a hurdle, we await word from the Obama administration. A New York Times article sums up the plan well:

Environmentalists said they were dismayed at some of the report’s conclusions and disputed its objectivity, but they also said it offered Mr. Obama reasons to reject the pipeline. They said they planned to intensify efforts to try to influence Mr. Kerry’s decision. For more than two years, environmentalists have protested the project and been arrested in demonstrations against it around the country. But many Republicans and oil industry executives, who support the pipeline because they say it creates jobs and increases supplies from a friendly source of oil, embraced the findings.

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Things just keep happening!

A busy time of year you ask?  
SoLittleTimeFrontCoverFebRelease. . . it is, but we are pretty excited here at GWP, with the launch of So Little Time: Words and Images for a World in Climate Crisis. The book just grew, and grew, at the end we added new poems and things got moved around, and the book emerged better and more beautiful than I could have imagined!
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Climate Talks in Warsaw begins with devastation

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There is no question: We are experiencing the effects of global climate change. According to the BBC, “Negotiators from around 190 countries are meeting in Warsaw to try to advance steps towards a global climate agreement.” The link above goes right to the major donation spots.
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