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Climate Change and Ecopoetry - Poems That Could Help Save The Planet

Updated on November 20, 2015
chef-de-jour profile image

Andrew has a keen interest in all aspects of poetry and writes extensively on the subject. His poems are published online and in print.

Jorie Graham, US Pulitzer prize winning poet, adding her voice to the future of the Earth.
Jorie Graham, US Pulitzer prize winning poet, adding her voice to the future of the Earth. | Source

Climate change and ecopoetry

Climate change is in progress and it could be getting out of hand. Many of the world's scientists now agree that human activity is causing the average temperature to rise and if we don't do something to halt the burning of fossil fuels the ecosystem could be in jeopardy.

How can ecopoetry help save the planet? If a 'word is a seed of sound' then it makes sense to sow as many ecologically positive words as possible. Some nature poets have turned to ecopoetry in an effort to give Mother Nature a voice.

This hub takes a look at why we need to take the future of the earth seriously and how an ancient art form can help.



Poetry Is The Life of Life

It's possible to follow the route poets have taken over the centuries as they try to express the human relationship with Nature. From the Greek creation myths and the Mayan Popol Vuh stories to the Chinese Chang Tsai philosophy, the common themes seem to be those of mystery, wonder and harmony.

It's only in the last 150 years or so that poets have begun to focus on the mindless destruction of wild places.
(see separate texts for examples)

Today the USA has the loudest poetic voice when it comes to ecology and the state of the planet. Poets such as W.S. Merwin, Wendell Berry, Gary Snyder and others provide a voice of protest against the actions of humans on the environment.

The hope is that this will continue and ecopoetry become a focus for environmental action.


This book by scientist Rachel Carson,published in 1962, changed the way we look at the environment. President J.F. Kennedy read it and ordered immediate investigations into the use of the pesticide DDT.
This book by scientist Rachel Carson,published in 1962, changed the way we look at the environment. President J.F. Kennedy read it and ordered immediate investigations into the use of the pesticide DDT. | Source

Ecology + Poetry

Ecopoetry is relatively new. You could say it's nature poetry with an attitude and one eye on the future. As one poet put it : 'the nature poet focuses on the bird and the nest but doesn't turn around to confront the bulldozer' ecopoet would probably write about the machine first and emphasise the damage done to the family of birds.

Ecopoetry tries to make things happen by suggesting to the reader that we are all responsible for the environment we live in, merely observing isn't enough anymore. It takes to another level the idea that nature versus machines is the issue of the age and is turning into a type of war.


Result of public survey 2011.
Result of public survey 2011. | Source
Click thumbnail to view full-size

If Not Science then God, if not God then Governments?

Over the next ten years an unprecedented number of top scientists from around the world will research into the risks of global environmental change. This initiative is called Future Earth, sponsored by the International Council for Science. They'll look at climate change, sea temperatures, weather patterns, global warming, ice melt and ocean life. The data they collect will then be analysed and the risk factors determined.

The scientists goal will be to work with governments and business to share knowledge and solutions - but recent history has shown that politicians and corporate suits don't always play ball!! They're very clever at avoiding their responsibilities, saying one thing but doing the other. The question of whether or not to pray for help from God is very much an individual's choice.

Practically minded ordinary people from all walks of life have helped to achieve remarkable things over the years - from saving the great whales to setting up green businesses like farmer's markets. Voices have joined together and achieved much. Poets too have added their bit, frustrated at the old saying 'poetry makes nothing happen.'

In thus hub I want to try to work out why we need ecopoetry, does it have value and will it make a difference?


McCarty glacier, Alaska
McCarty glacier, Alaska | Source
Click thumbnail to view full-size
What kind of future lies ahead for the polar bear?
What kind of future lies ahead for the polar bear?
What kind of future lies ahead for the polar bear? | Source

By all accounts, both scientific and personal, the climate world wide is changing. People from Scotland to Florida, from south Australia to Finland, are experiencing extremes of weather. Scientific data suggests that these changes will bring severe flooding and drought but just exactly which countries or continents will suffer most is not known.

Glaciers and permanent ice flows are melting at unprecedented rates and with it sea temperatures and levels are rising. These facts are undeniable. As the ice shrinks animals such as polar bears are struggling as their former seal hunting environments disappear. They're having to move inland for food, but exactly what they'll eat is a major question as yet unanswered.

What can we the ordinary folk do?


What Do You Believe?

1. The earth is ok by itself and doesn't need any help whatsoever.

2. Future generations will sort out the climate change problems, I'm just getting on with my life.

3. Crisis? What crisis?

4. I've no time for eco protests. The science shows that climate change comes in cycles so what's the use of protesting?

5. I do my bit for the planet locally. I recycle, compost, don't eat meat.That's enough, don't you think?

6. China, India and the developing nations are polluting like crazy. Why should we bother to save the planet?

7. We need to do more. Now. Write letters, demand change, question corporate decisions, question the politicians. Sandy convinced me we need to act and change our priorities.


In the Beginning

Poets have been writing about the natural environment and its importance for thousands of years. From creation myths to the Bible early awareness of our role in the scheme of things is apparent. Take this ancient Egyptian poem from roughly 1360 B.C.E.

How beautiful is this world,

with its millions of living creatures -

all people, animals and plants

whoever walks on the earth

or flies in the heavens above it.

The Hymn To The Sun



Answer: Mother Nature

She's precious to the rich, useful to the poor,

priceless and freeborn; of all things created

under the sky, on which the sons of men

have set eyes, she's the strongest.

a riddle from The Exeter Book (believed to be Anglo Saxon, 10th-11th century)


Crumpled earh
Crumpled earh | Source

How To Live. What To Do

We're all part of the future of the earth, there's no denying it! But what does that future hold for a planet that is without doubt under great environmental pressure, perhaps greater than at any time in it's wondrous history?

Once upon a time stargazers would look to the heavens for inspiration hoping to reveal secrets about individuals, families and even whole nations. Those who follow a religion now most often look to their God for answers and guidance.

But it's the scientists who have taken over the reins, using technologies and formulae to help predict our global futures. They've come up with some disturbing data of late with regards to the ecology of the earth; it's given rise to terms such as climate change, global sustainability and carbon foot print.

Can we ignore the issues? Should we dismiss any notion of a global problem? Why not enjoy the here and now, live for the moment and to hell with all that green nonsense!


Basho and Haiku

Basho, the Japanese poet of the 17th century, wrote many haiku reflecting his deep love of nature. He said 'It is the poetic spirit ..that leads one to follow nature and become a friend with things of the seasons.'

Skylark sings all

day, and day

not long enough.


There's a beautiful recent quote from a living poet - his name is Ed Roberson - which sums up nicely many of the environmental issues facing this wondrous planet we all live on. He says :

'that the world's desires do not run the Earth but the Earth does run the world'

By desires I presume he means everything that everybody wants most of the time and that this wanting is not really a sustainable way forward. The Earth however is the big boss of our world and if we mess around with HER she'll do something about it.

In 2012 we're at the stage where we've provoked her enough to stir things up - it looks like she's reacting.


More Questions Than Answers

What would the world be, once bereft

Of wet and of wilderness? Let them be left.

Gerard Manley Hopkins, from Inversnaid.


Is This A Battle?

Behind is a forest that goes to the Arctic

And a desert that still belongs to the Piute

And here we must draw

Our line.

Gary Snyder, from Front Lines (Turtle Island)


The health of the planet is in our hands?
The health of the planet is in our hands? | Source

Who Is Consciously Destroying?

'Earth too will fear the immutable

Laws of the universe.

Not us. We, rebellious progeny

With great brainpower, little sense,

Will destroy, defile

Always more feverishly.

Very soon we'll extend the desert

Into the Amazon forests,

Into the living heart of our cities,

Into our very hearts.'

Primo Levi, from Almanac, 1987 (translated by Ruth Feldmann)


Animal diversity - but where is the human?
Animal diversity - but where is the human? | Source

Copyright chef-de-jour@Hubpages

Help stop stolen content. Report plagiarists to the author of this original article.

© 2012 Andrew Spacey


Submit a Comment
  • chef-de-jour profile imageAUTHOR

    Andrew Spacey 

    6 years ago from Near Huddersfield, West Yorkshire,UK

    Many thanks for the tweety share and comment. There are so many wonderful poets out there doing their bit for the planet.

  • chef-de-jour profile imageAUTHOR

    Andrew Spacey 

    6 years ago from Near Huddersfield, West Yorkshire,UK

    Thank you KrisL, appreciate your visit and comment and share! I have seen some of SidKemp's work and it is inspiring. Poetry is one way of expressing concern for the environment - I'm happy you enjoyed the hub.

  • KrisL profile image


    6 years ago from S. Florida

    A beautiful hub! Shared and tweeted.

    By the way, you might want to check out some of SidKemp's recent hubs on ecology and going green

  • chef-de-jour profile imageAUTHOR

    Andrew Spacey 

    6 years ago from Near Huddersfield, West Yorkshire,UK

    Yes, I love to read Snyder - his observations - quiet, profound sentences - superb, especially when he's up in the mountains. Left In The Rain I haven't read as yet but thanks for the tip, the visit and comment.

  • SidKemp profile image

    Sid Kemp 

    6 years ago from Boca Raton, Florida (near Miami and Palm Beach)

    A beautiful hub. My favorite nature poet is Gary Snyder - one of the original beat poets, 10 years in a Zen monastery in Japan, one of the founders of Deep Ecology. Check out his book Left Out In the Rain.


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