Please note that the poems and essays on this site are copyright and may not be reproduced without the author's permission.

Friday 3 October 2014

Dwindling Domain (Nazim Hikmet: from Living)


A pair of white-faced ibis, left, and an egret forage for food in a rice field of the Montna farms near Yuba City, California, US. Severe drought has shrunk critical wetlands to one-sixth of their size, threatening the habitat of migrating birds along the Pacific flyway: photo by Rich Pedroncelli/AP via the Guardian, 19 September 2014

This earth will grow cold,
a star among stars
               and one of the smallest,
a gilded mote on blue velvet --
   I mean this, our great earth.
This earth will grow cold one day,
not like a block of ice
or a dead cloud even 
but like an empty walnut it will roll along
   in pitch-black space . . . 
You must grieve for this right now
-- you have to feel this sorrow now --
for the world must be loved this much
                               if you’re going to say “I lived”. . .

Nazim Hikmet (1902-1963): from Living, in Poems of Nazim Hikmet, translated by Randy Blasing and Mutlu Konuk, 1994

A group of wood ducks, Aix sponsa, paddling pretty on a rainy day in North Carolina, US. A study found North America's birds are at risk from climate change, some facing extinction: photo by Robbie George via The Guardian, 12 September 2014

A turtle makes its way to the sea on a debris-strewn Medano beach in Cabo San Lucas, in the aftermath of a hurricane that hit Baja California in Mexico: photo by Henry Romero/Reuters via The Guardian, 26 September 2014

A blacktail doe and fawn being steered away from backyard gardens by fencing in Langley, Washington, US: photo by Dean Fosdick/AP via The Guardian, 12 September 2014

Wild bear Daniza with her cubs in 2012 in the Trento province, Italy. A bungled attempt to capture her after an attack on a man led to the death of the animal, prompting calls for the country’s environment minister to resign: photo by AP via The Guardian, 12 September 2014

A painted stork carries a twig for its nest in New Delhi, India. Painted storks (Mycteria leucocephala) is a nearly threatened species found in the wetlands of the plains of the Indian subcontinent and extending upto southeast Asia. Their distinctive pink tertial feathers give them their name: photo by Arkaprava Ghosh/Barcroft India via The Guardian, 12 September 2014

Orphaned baby rhino in Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, Ngare Ndare forest, Kenya. The conservancy is hand-raising three orphaned baby rhino: Nicky, Hope and Kilifi. Rhino are becoming extinct as a result of the brutal poaching fuelled by an illegal international market for their horns: photo by Luca Ghidoni/Barcroft Media via The Guardian, 12 September 2014

A billboard in Hanoi, Vietnam, reads: ‘Rhino horns are just like buffalo horns, human hair and nail. Do not waste your money,’ to mark the World Rhino Day on 22 September. This year’s theme was ‘Five rhino species forever.’: photo by Luong Thai Linh/EPA via The Guardian, 26 September 2014

A vendor holds an owl for sale at Jatinegara bird market in Jakarta, Indonesia. Sale of endangered animals is a major problem in Indonesia: photo by Adi Weda/EPA via The Guardian, 5 September 2014

Vultures in Africa and Europe could face extinction within our lifetime, conservationists have warned. Veterinary drug diclofenac that wiped out 99% of vultures in India, Pakistan and Nepal, has been commercially available in at least two European countries. And in Africa they are facing increasing threats mainly due to poisoning: photo by Ramon Elosegui/BirdLife International via The Guardian, 12 September 2014

35,000 walrusess gather on the shoreline near Point Lay, Alaska. Pacific walrus unable to find sea ice on which to rest in Arctic waters are coming ashore in record numbers on Alaska’s north-west coast: photo by Corey Accardo/AP via The Guardian, 1 October 2014

This aerial photo taken on 23 September 2014, shows a gathering of 1,500 walruses on Alaska’s north-west coast: photo by Corey Accardo/AP, 23 September 2014 via The Guardian, 1 October 2014

Pacific walruses in the Chukchi Sea off the coast of Alaska in June 2014. Researchers are trying to improve their knowledge of the animal’s numbers ahead of an expected US Fish and Wildlife Service decision on whether they need special protection:
photo by USGS/AP, June 2014 via The Guardian, 1 October 2014

Female walruses and their young rest on sea ice between foraging bouts in July 2012: photo by S A Sonsthagen/USGS, July 20i2 via The Guardian, 1 October 2014

The skull of a sub-adult Pacific walrus lies on the rocky tundra near the shore of Wrangel Island in Russia, 2009: photo by Jenny E Ross, 2009 via The Guardian, 1 October 2014


TC said...

Excerpts from two news stories on the massive and unprecedented walrus dry-land haul-outs occurring in Alaska:


We are the Walrus: Clive Tesar, World Wildlife Fund Thin Ice blog, 1 October 2014

For people who have problems visualizing climate change, this is what it can look like in the Arctic – 35,000 walruses crowded onto an Alaskan beach, driven there by the loss of their preferred resting and feeding place on coastal ice. A similar scene is playing out on beaches across the Bering Strait in Russia. These enormous gatherings follow the warmest global June-August period on record.

The large-scale gatherings are deadly. There are at least 50 carcasses on the Alaskan beach, mostly smaller calves and females, trampled by males. This happens even in years (like this one) when the sea ice does not hit a new record low. The trajectory, and projections are the same – continued ice loss in the Arctic. Seeing the walruses on the beach is a tangible sign of that change.

Less obvious, but no less serious, are the changes in the global climate driven by the continuing loss of Arctic ice – the changes affecting a large proportion of the world’s population. Unusual weather patterns in the mid-latitudes of the northern hemisphere have been linked to the climate disturbance caused by Arctic ice loss. To put that in some perspective, one study estimated the costs on uncontrolled climate change to be $12 trillion by 2095. Another US study released in June projected large-scale impacts on coastal communities, problems with extreme heat, and massive crop losses.

This is not a problem confined to a few thousand walruses on a beach in Alaska. We are the walrus. We can do as they are, adapt the best we can, huddled together, or we can take action, and demand that our governments take action on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and ramping up renewable energy sources.

US reroutes flights around Alaska beach in attempt to avoid walrus stampede: An estimated 35,000 of the animals were spotted as summer sea ice fell to its sixth lowest in the satellite record: Suzanne Goldenberg, US environment correspondent, The Guardian, Thursday 2 October 2014

The plight of thousands of walruses forced to crowd on to an Alaska beach because of disappearing sea ice has set off an all-out response from the US government to avoid a catastrophic stampede.

The Federal Aviation Authority has re-routed flights, and local communities have called on bush pilots to keep their distance in an effort to avoid setting off a panic that could see scores of walruses trampled to death, federal government scientists told reporters.

Curiosity seekers and the media have also been asked to stay away.

An estimated 35,000 walruses were spotted on the barrier island in north-western Alaska on 27 September by scientists on an aerial survey flight.

The biggest immediate risk factor for the walruses now is a stampede – especially for baby walruses – but they have been facing a growing threat from climate change, the scientists said.

The extraordinary sighting – the biggest known exodus of walruses to dry land ever observed in the Arctic under US control – arrived as the summer sea ice fell to its sixth lowest in the satellite record last month.

“Those animals have essentially run out of offshore sea ice, and have no other choice but to come ashore,” said Chadwick Jay, a research ecologist in Alaska with the US Geological Survey.

Until 2007, it was unheard of for walruses to leave the sea ice for dry land for prolonged periods of time. But the retreat of sea ice has seen “drastic changes” in behaviour, Jay said. Walruses have struck out for beaches in six of the last eight years.

He said there was no doubt the migration – or “hauling out” as it is called – was caused by climate change.

“It is really a reduction in the sea ice that is causing the change in behaviour, and the reduction of sea ice is due to global warming,” Jay said.

TC said...

Earth has lost half of its wildlife in the past 40 years, says WWF

erin said...

tom, i grieve...

just discussing these issues over dinner, dismayed, horrified...

and on the one hand i want to lie down and grieve until we die, for we have done this.

and yet on the other hand, i look anxiously around for action, begging anyone who might listen for a radical paradigm shift, a fundamental and radical shift that must begin with tremors in the spirit that grow and radiate outwards shattering the current ways of the body and how it interfaces with the world.


vazambam (Vassilis Zambaras) said...

'pity this busy monster, manunkind'

pity this busy monster, manunkind,

not. Progress is a comfortable disease:
your victim (death and life safely beyond)

plays with the bigness of his littleness
--- electrons deify one razorblade
into a mountainrange; lenses extend
unwish through curving wherewhen till unwish
returns on its unself.
A world of made
is not a world of born --- pity poor flesh

and trees, poor stars and stones, but never this
fine specimen of hypermagical

ultraomnipotence. We doctors know

a hopeless case if --- listen: there's a hell
of a good universe next door; let's go

E. E. Cummings

TC said...

Many thanks, poet friends.

now, if only we could muster some reaction to our continued desecration of the ground we stand on and the air we breathe.

it's true, the world goes on for quite some time, forever one might say
but of course we'd be wrong, at least from our point of view

-- even haberdashers die too, from noun as verb, Saturday 27 September 2014

It almost seems at times that humans are sleepwalking into Progress unknowing or certainly at least unregarding it is a one-way highway leading to the burial ground of all species. And it takes so long to make a species. Yet we now learn species can be lost overnight. There remain "scientists" on the take from carbon producers willing to stamp their credentials on a vast deception about the consequences of carbon-emitting business as usual.

They'd be paid to say climate change isn't happening. Tell that to the deer running in the traffic lanes at night, down from the hills with the drought, risking their lives for a bit of moisture nibbled from somebody's bush.

And the sad and sombre fact is that the far north, once teeming with life, is now already irrevocably lost to the species that evolved there.

I find it interesting that a post like this would be addressed only by commenters who do not reside in the US. Americans don't want to know. They may say this or that, but in fact their "gut" tells them that it's a natural right to jump in the car and just pick up a couple of things at Safeway. Here there are 110,000 daily automotive circuits of the roundabout up the street, pollution thick enough to cut with a knife, conjoined with a perpetual choking flow of emissions from the mega refinery just up the road -- all this more intensive with each passing season.

We don't drive and live in fear of these Americans, even the ones who have not yet managed to run us over on their way to Safeway -- or no, changing their mind at the light, deciding to whip a quick right and stop for gas... though that gas station isn't even there any more...

While it's certainly doing nothing but harm to all those creatures who shared the planet more or less equably before the humans barged in, I suppose it's better for some people somewhere when the Americans are jumping into their car, because at least they aren't at that same moment jumping into their next bombing mission.

This species that developed from a warlike strain of chimps whose skill at setting ambushes set them off from the rest -- the greatest mis-step in evolution, one that may well soon enough prove fatal. I do not expect to be around long enough to have to mourn the loss of too many more species, but they are going at a great rate now, so who can really predict.

What probably can be predicted with some confidence is that business will go on being business, oil drilling in the Arctic will continue, accidents will happen, the Exxon Valdez never happened, people forget so fast when they're filling up for that weekend trip to the mountains or the woods or...

The walrus beachings have surprised a lot of people. It is not only Alaska where this is going on. Corresponding to these haul-outs glimpsed at Point Lay, with sea ice nearing minimum there are also walrus groups in the thousands being forced ashore on the Russian side of the water. Again, there it is mostly females and young.The sea ice has again disappeared over shallow feeding areas in the Chukchi Sea. Walruses must instead swim long distances to reach shores where conditions are far more hazardous than on ice. Five weeks ago Maksim Denisov photographed a crowd of c. 4,500 walruses hauled out along the Russian coast near Ryrkaipij.

All these beaches soon to be great boneyards...

Mose23 said...

Hikmet's "empty walnut" is an astonishing image.

Even the moves we make that seem ostensibly for good - the development of antibiotics, for example - carry a seed of our undoing.

Great to read that Cummings poem too, Vassilis.

Nin Andrews said...

All so sad. I think the immensity of the problem is so huge, I feel hopeless and helpless. The environmental online zine, Grist, does a phenomenal job of keeping me abreast of the environmental catastrophe:

TC said...

Duncan, Nin, many thanks.

I too fear that in every one of our industries there is a seed of our undoing -- not just the pharmaceutical, not just the petrochemical, but perhaps more insidious in the culture industry.

A sterile seed with a rogue disposition, in too many cases, producing a blight of identical units lined up to subscribe to the onrushing mass termination (with of course a cool work-around device hidden away for emergency purposes in the lead-lined funerary glove box --- but wait, is it bendable??).

On the other hand...

When you have a reader too good to be believed -- this amazing reader actually gets the point, when there is one to be got, and often too when you do not -- what can you do but feel unworthy.

Aram Saroyan made me understand that this post is an elegy.

"Beautiful. And resonates with Ed Dorn’s beautiful 'And if it should ever come'--from The Newly Fallen.

"And not to forget Esther Phillips:
'Tis Autumn"

In gratitude to Aram:

Edward Dorn: If it should ever come