Jim Ross – Fridays for Future: Ambassadors of Conscience

Jim Ross
Fridays for Future: Ambassadors of Conscience

Jim Ross writes: ‘I used a Panasonic Lumix camera (an entry-level SLR) from a fifth-row aisle seat, right next to the scrummage of reporters, who piled on top of each other in the aisle to take this photo. The event took place on 16 December 2019 in the Lisner Auditorium at George Washington University in Washington DC. It was sponsored by Amnesty International to honour the 2019 Ambassadors of Conscience, Greta Thunberg and the Fridays for Future Movement.
      The Ambassador of Conscience award is Amnesty’s highest honour. Its purpose is to “celebrate individuals and groups who have furthered the cause of human rights by acting on their conscience, confronting injustice and using their talents to inspire others.” Given annually, it has honoured individuals such as Nelson Mandela, Malala Yousafzai, Joan Baez, Harry Belafonte, and Alicia Keyes. Occasionally, it has honoured movements, such as the Indigenous rights movement in Canada.

Jim Ross, Amnesty International Ambassador of Conscience Award Presentation 2019, photograph, 2019

      Amnesty’s initial intent was to give the 2019 award to Thunberg as the founder of Fridays for Future. However, at her insistence, Amnesty agreed to give the award to Fridays for Future at a more grassroots level. These awards were given simultaneously to Fridays for Future in cities around the globe as Thunberg received her award in Washington DC. Five other American students and one Canadian student received the award on stage alongside Thunberg. Pictured here are Kallan Benson, who was greatly involved in coordinating Fridays for Future in the United States, Thunberg, and Kumi Naidoo, then Secretary-General of Amnesty International.
      Upon receiving the award, Thunberg said: “This award is for all of those millions of people, young people, around the world who together make up the movement called Fridays for Future. All these fearless youth are fighting for their future, a future they should be able to take for granted. But as it looks now, they cannot.”
      My reporting of this event led to a major article, accompanied by 15 photos, in the December 2019 issue of Friends Journal and another in the March 2020 issue of UU World.’   AQ

Adrienne Stevenson – Too Many

Adrienne Stevenson
Too Many

we have already tipped, have you noticed yet?
violence escalates through nature, led by us
denial cannot make us unnatural—merely blind

take any population:
      a dish of bacteria
      a cage of rats
provide food, allow to multiply
observe the crash when food gives out

extrapolate to humanity
solve for how many planets we need
      to satisfy endless appetite and growth
divide our population by double that
(we deign to permit other species)
subtract the industrial age
      to calculate a stability point
aim for that

if we don’t act, we will be acted upon
our planet will slough us off
like so many dead skin cells
disappearing down the shower drain

Monique van Maare – Engulfed

Monique van Maare

I built a shelter on the island’s highest point. It’s not much for comfort, but it keeps me dry. When I moved up here, I could still see the reefs and the other atolls in the distance. Gulls would screech and brace against the strong East winds, swooping in to forage in the scattered bays. Now, there’s just water everywhere.
           I am the last one here. When the tourists stayed away, the young and adventurous among us packed their bags and sought out the cities. Then, when the first terraces flooded with sand and seashells, families gathered up their young and headed for the mainland, too. Slowly, the frothing white web lines connecting our little islets faded, as one by one the fishing boats and water taxis were left behind at their wooden docks.
           I stayed, out of a deep love for the turquoise of our waters, and the giant sea turtles that stop here every year on their long journeys to nest. Perhaps, too, out of love for the wind-beaten shape of her palms, the long empty stretches of her windswept dunes.
           She was always our provider. Pine, coconut and figs featured richly on our plates, and hollow coves protected the crops of hatching fish. Even now, there are hibiscus flowers growing up here that I can braid into wreaths, like we used to do on festive days. We’d dance on the stony beaches, and honour all her winged, leafed and finned species. I made one yesterday, but it unraveled from my head with my first sway, translucent yellow petals raining softly on my leathered skin. I can sense the day getting closer. I must remember to collect those nervine herbs I saved.
           The day the water reached the old graveyard, I cried until the purple dawn. I thought of the bones of our great-grandfathers and -mothers, our uncles and nieces and the little ones that died too young, roused roughly by the incoming waves, their spirits roaming the outstretched peninsulas and lifting angrily into the sky. Will they find peace again? Will the wind remember their stories, and strew them to our scattered hearths?
           Soon, porpoises and dolphins will nibble in her valleys. Sharks will mate in the shallow hollows of her ponds, which will no longer fill with lilies. The waters will get darker and wider, and the fierce pull of the currents will be deeply foreign to her soil. The nereids, with their bleached coral crowns and white silk robes, will swarm in and laugh at her discomfort, and at our hubris, our folly, our devastation.
           I feel I owe her this, to be with her as she is consumed by the waves. When the time comes, and my last sanctuary here disappears in the waves, I will grind my feet into the shifting sand of her last dune, and hold on to her with my curled-in toes as long as I can.
           When the cold water reaches my knees, and the gales pick up, the bones of our ancestors will call my name, tell me it is time to let go. I will remember how Perseus came for his sweet Andromeda, perched on her rock in the sea, but I know that he never held such promise here. My body will be thrown off the sand by the bashing current, and she and I will become one. Even if, against all odds, the wind guides his winged Pegasus to these waters, what else will he see but an endless blue-grey expanse of deeply heaving sea?     AQ

Joe Cottonwood – She grows bristlecone pines

Joe Cottonwood
She grows bristlecone pines

as house plants, drops little seeds
into paper cups with harsh soil
from Sierra mountainside,
sunburnt seedlings frosted,
parched, neglected for weeks
fitting nature’s plan,
her windowsill a forest
growing with the speed
of centuries.

Her bedroom is cramped.
She sleeps by the door.
Her love is prickly, remembers
wooly mammoths, survived asteroids.
She gets angry when I suggest orchids.
The landlord wants her out,
wants to build condos, turns up
the heat.

In cups her love grows
for grandchildren to transplant
to faraway years, unfriendly soil,
to ever struggle, never thrive.
Please, may they survive.

Imogen Wade – Wildfire

Imogen Wade

Last week’s wildfire burned the woods;
through the rain, I can see its absence.
Pillars of smoke bulldozed for days, like
a Kool-Aid cult’s gates to the afterlife.

We killed the lights at bedtime, Blitz;
windows thrown open in the heatwave
to scout the breeze—instead, our rooms
held the sound of fire hoses on the hills.

Above the city is a new planet where
nothing grows, its borders demarcated
by singed gold. Pine trees are looming
like Stonehenge sarsens around an altar.

Or like a fairy circle, which is a prettier
notion, and reminds me of the old stories
of my country. But when I step inside:
there is no other world, or other self.

Catharine Clark-Sayles – Degrees of Disaster

Catharine Clark-Sayles
Degrees of Disaster

we melt at one hundred and eleven, eggs fry on sidewalks,
bare feet blister, reports of heat stroke, usually foggy mornings
blaze up to hot at dawn as degrees mount into swelter.
Fans and ice water are not keeping me safe, one more risk
to this crumbling body with its tenuous balance of flesh.

The earth plays bad cop, sweats out my confession at night
when it cools to ninety-two and sleep remains in a distant valley,
I cough air smoky from fires and an orange moon near full
jacklights my bed, pins me to consider guilt: those lovely
long drives for the pleasure of driving, my fifteen-minute idle

while the windshield ice melts in winter, open-window idle
with car AC on blast until the steering wheel cools for comfort,
how many bottles of water have I purchased and casually tossed,
how many weeds have I sprayed. Confess: recycled bottles,
and cardboard is too little, too late. Meatless Mondays not enough.

Glaciers melt, seas rise, floods and drought and forest fires—
a roundabout of destruction—earth will find equilibrium
with sapien fossils for whatever comes next.

Matthew Friday – All the Storks

Matthew Friday
All the Storks

At Dandora landfill zombies stalk
a city of refuse stacked in the middle
of slums. They sludge the avenues
for plastic bottles, bags, metal slivers,

electronics to sell, scraps for lunch,
wincing with chest pain caused by
smoke seeping out of the heaps,
abdominal pain of kidneys kicked

by the rainbow flavoured waters.
Thousands of single mothers, young
men with sterile bulb eyes, wheezy
school children compete for life

expectancy with marabou storks,
all of them walking fossils amongst
Nairobi’s Anthropocene arcades.
At least the storks can fly away.

Heather Swan – History

Heather Swan

your body is a smooth body
your body is a desert drilled for petroleum
your body is a trout stream drying
your body is a splinter pulled from the tree
your body is a ferris wheel at the carnival spinning
you may not recognize this body
you did not remain silent, but still
your body is a jet plane carrying other bodies
your body is spent jet fuel
you may not understand the words
your body is an old story, your body is a tweet
your body is an orchard, a tendril, a ripened plum falling
your body is a wound
you may not remember the blades or the blasts
your body is an astral body, a celestial body
a body barely understood as body
but it is the only body you have
and it holds your honeyed secrets and it holds your lead
body of air, body of atoms, body of light

Gail Tirone – Prayer for a Warming Planet

Gail Tirone
Prayer for a Warming Planet

May the ice caps remain solid
may the permafrost stay frozen
reliably there
at the top of the world.

May the whales continue
to sing and spout
may fish still frolic in the seas.

May California return
as a basket of bounty
berries, figs and dates
arbors ripe with grapes
instead of scorched-earth wildfires
and biblical droughts.

May the waters of Venice calm
and not flood the cathedrals
may Piazza San Marco have
no need of planks
poised above rising tides
may tourists mingle
with locals in the cafes
over pastries and latte
watching the pigeons flutter
and children play.

H. K. G. Lowery – The Only Earth

H. K. G. Lowery
The Only Earth

Oceans, climbing
into clouds as land
loosens, realigns.
Chasms. Creeks. Craters.
Polar bears
and their offspring,
from dying ice.
on black water.
without their howl
in flamed forests.
like cocaine.
gripping skyscrapers.
in the madness.