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 -
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 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
we’ll stop digging up coal
© Emily Hinshelwood