Published in Chain Reaction #139, national magazine of Friends of the Earth Australia, May 2021. www.foe.org.au/chain-reaction
By Eleanor March
'Threnody'1 attempts both to marry personal grief with the anguish of ecocide and our own complicity in it, and to live towards an answer to Bill McDonough's prophetic question: "How do we love all the children of all species for all time?"
Sometimes I hate the sky because it steals my children. I stand keening and floddered2 in the windy grass beyond Hobart airport as they're borne beyond the silky blue hills, and vanish as wholly as if they'd never been. The wrench is placental; the lochiae of mourning can last for weeks. Comings are short, and goings over-long.
During one quick, rare coming we spent a halcyon day on Bruny Island. Two Tree Point was once the home of the Nuenonne people. Captain Cook watered here. Then came whalers, forest-fellers, a murrain of shacks. While my tribe constructed a sand-city, I beachcombed, probing the disquiet within the idyll.
The sea, luciloquent and turquoise in this sheltered bay, was acidifying. Phytoplankton – a million of these exquisitely diverse plants live in every litre of sea-water – generate half Earth's oxygen; catalyse cloud formation, hence weather; are a major carbon sink and the basis of the marine food chain. Plankton cannot form skeletons in acidifying oceans; an invisible biospheric matrix, on which human wellbeing depends, is dying.
Acidification is caused by the very carbon dioxide pollution our excursion was generating: the true price of this day at the beach included one flight from Europe and two from Sydney; plus a hire car that embodied the violence, implicit and explicit, of our addiction to private, noisome mobility. We'd google Earthed to see where we were – instant knowledge based on rendering soil, air and water putrescent with radio-active sludge and hazardous chemicals generated by mining and processing the rare earths that are essential components of e-toys. The plastic enshrining those toys is oil-based, fuels ecological mayhem and war. Our e-excrement is traded by criminals and dumped on the poor.
We built driftwood boats, played French cricket, swam, ate home-made sourdough bread with salad and apricots picked in the garden that morning. While the tribe – ears and love-handles scarlet – gleefully diverted Resolution Creek into their moat, I rested, and wondered if our descendants would find our expedition as horrifying as we find colonisation, genocide and whaling, all culturally mandated in their own time. For we too were usurpers, treating not just less privileged humans but the 8.7 billion species with whom we share our only planet, and the entire future, as if they didn't exist, as if they were Terra Nullius.3
If most of humanity is in infantile relationship with Earth – exploitation and dominance – those of us who claim to be environmentally savvy are still adolescent. We push wantonly at the boundaries; are experts at self-exculpation and self-justification; own everything except shit and shadow; simultaneously embrace and maim the biosphere. I perjure myself with an iPhone (second-hand, I whine) which compromises the future of my grandchildren, while simultaneously enabling fluent communication with their stellar, hearing-impaired mother. Where's integrity in this schizoid straddling?
Integrity requires a radical commitment to living within one's carbon and ecological footprint, one's eight-billionth share of Earth's resources. My son works in human rights in Geneva; every day, his colleagues in Africa, Central Asia, Russia risk their lives – not just their egos, comfort zones and false entitlements – for truth and freedom. This is about truth and freedom too; the non-heroic, impossible, inevitable shift from the narrative of the lie to lifestyles recalibrated in ecological verities and adult accountability. And justice for all the children – whale calves, eaglets, tadpoles, Huon pine seedlings – in perpetuity.
I keen for the whole Earth.
- 'Threnody' is an ode or song of lamentation.
- 'Floddered' is irresistible. It means to have a face disfigured with weeping, or the marks left by a flood on a river-bank. From the Swedish flod-a to overflow. (Kacirk, Jeffrey. The Word Museum. New York: Touchstone, 2000).
- Terra Nullius is land legally deemed unoccupied and uninhabited – a term used by white colonisers to justify their invasion of Australia.
Eleanor March is a Tasmanian writer, crone, teacher, gardener, sailor and grandmother. www.butterflyschildren.com
First published in Australian Options.
What can creating stories tell us about the future?
By Sue Stack
I attended a wonderful series of workshops "Unleashing Alternative Futures" run by Lawrence Barriner II and Grant Williams for the "Wilds Beyond Climate Justice" online conference in June 2020. They invited us to create a character living in a future we desire and muse, dream, or write what that character might be experiencing. There were a range of exercises and sharings that I found powerful and exciting, particularly listening to the imagination of others. The stories didn't just generate intriguing glimpses of future worlds, but also dilemmas and the ongoing need of humankind to seek and perturb status quo.
This is an invitation to participate in one of the writing exercises:
Imagine a door is opening into a new world with a new story. It is 2080. This world is based on care. You have a descendent, 2 generations into the future, who is living here. You can choose your own adventure:
- a world where communications technologies have collapsed, making long distance communication nearly impossible, or
- a world where communication technologies have accelerated making virtual and in-person interaction indistinguishable.
Who is your descendent? What do they care about/for? What are their dreams and fears? What relationships do they have?
Imagine yourself in their shoes. You might write from their perspective, or about them. Allow for stream of consciousness to surprise you. You might like to have them to write a letter to you, or a journal entry of their day. Or consider a drawing. Any genre goes.
And now the exciting bit – encourage a friend to do this and share with each other. Consider submitting your character and some of their story to the next issue of Chain Reaction where we hope to have a gallery of characters from the future.
Before Long Now
By Suse Scholem
We made ourselves
they made us into islands.
Long before now.
It was only when we shored our selves,
No longer sure ourselves
That we realised
we had once been land.
... but in all this time,
Had we never thought
To question the inevitability
[...with seismic shifts and symbiotic gifts...]
... We'll start to become again.
more solid than ever before.
And that tide
and won't trick us anymore....
Before the moon,
Long the land
Now the water
within us all.