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Drunks and Gravediggers Wax Poetic about Climate Change


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Want to know what climate change really means to people? Emily Hinshelwood found out in a most unusual way.

For days on end the Welsh poet and writer walked the 121-mile train route known as the Heart of Wales Line and asked every single person she met the same three questions: What images come to mind when you think of climate change? How often does climate change come up in your conversations? Is there anything you, personally, can do to limit the effects of climate change? She got answers, as she notes on her Web site, from “all sorts of people, from eight-year-olds to 80-year-olds, from pilots to gravediggers, from men drunk by the side of the river, to prison wardens having a quick [cigarette] outside jail.”

Hinshelwood then mashed up the answers, verbatim, into a poem. When I first heard about it I thought, “Hmmm.” But as I read the poem I felt people’s emotions, from disdain to outrage. And I realized I was gaining some insight into what the average person, in Wales at least, thinks about the global issue on a personal level. “Without vocalizing our own thoughts, without experimenting with climate change vocabulary, and digging into our personal reflections, I feel that the process of readjusting our lifestyles will be particularly painful and isolating,” Hinshelwood explains on the Web page, which she posted after I asked her about using her poem in this blog.

So without further ado, here’s the poem, reprinted with Hinshelwood’s permission. See if it enlightens you too.

A Moment of Your Time – A Verbatim Poem

by Emily Hinshelwood

Fog. Fug. Smog

Cough. Smother. Choke

The planet in nasty grey-blue smoke from

factories with chimneys, from scratching out coal;

big lumps of ice falling off the North Pole, so the

sea levels rise,

the polar bear dies

the Houses of Parliament tip, then capsize.

Whole blinkin’ islands wiped off the map

and over here…. the summers are crap

it’s been pissing for weeks now, the drain’s overflowing

and the sparrows don’t know if they’re coming or going

the daffodil blooms  – then he shivers with cold

we do our recycling – we do what we’re told

but the haycrop’s all ruined, the riverbank’s burst -

d’you know

since I’ve recycled, it’s only got worse

hurricanes, tsunamis, the wreck of the land

and everyone everywhere with their heads in the sand -

me

me on a deckchair – with my head in the sand.

Me – with a Bacardi breezer,

suntanned – with my head in the sand

while the desert expands.

 

Dust. Thirst. Dry

Crops. Wilt. Die

Kids like sticks

African villages starve

but that won’t stop me from driving my car!

There’s so many people – we’ve all got bad habits

and countries where women are breeding like rabbits

and building more factories and digging more coal

and more and more ice falls off the north pole

so the water goes higher and we get more rain

and the desert moves further up into Spain.

But we do our recycling we do what we’re asked

it’s a blue bag for plastics and a green bin for glass

We separate cardboard, we clean out our pots

but how do we know they don’t landfill the lot?

Cos it’s not getting better, the seasons are screwed

the poor little bees just don’t know what to do

there’s Cameron on his bike – bla bla bla

with his briefcase coming after in his diplomatic car.

We know what we’re doing – we can’t seem to stop and

Society says – Don’t think – JUST SHOP!

 

So we buy more gadgets to plug in the wall

that need more electric that burns more coal

till the last lump of ice falls off the North Pole

and there’s more freak weather

and London’s drowned

and we knock up more houses on much higher ground

and we pour more concrete and we build more roads

and we keep our borders resolutely closed

till food is so dear and there’s nothing to eat

and it’s our grandchildren – like sticks – begging in the street.

 

Then – maybe then – we’ll stop

park the car

unplug the x-box

we’ll learn a bit of self-control

and then

maybe then

we’ll stop digging up coal

© Emily Hinshelwood

Photo of the Craven Arms Station courtesy of Ben Brooksbank and the Geographic Britain and Ireland project

Mark Fischetti About the Author: Mark Fischetti is a senior editor at Scientific American who covers energy, environment and sustainability issues. Follow on Twitter @markfischetti.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.





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  1. 1. babby 5:37 pm 11/19/2013

    . . . and here we are, rushing to end life as we know it!

    Link to this
  2. 2. bucketofsquid 5:31 pm 11/22/2013

    How delightfully Welsh in feel and tone.

    Link to this

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