Summoning the Will for Climate Action

Summoning the Will for Climate Action September 20, 2018

For My Grandson on Fall Equinox

September 23, 2015

you watched the pears closely
all summer
and one September day
it was time
you climbed the aluminum
ladder snapped one—
a green hanging pear—
in your five-year-old hands
bent down to release it into

the basket I held for you
and we heard them
the geese!

we looked up at their honking
and saw them taking the sky
maybe they’re going to South America
you said eyes shining

I’m not going to tell you
you’re inheriting an earth
where geese may forget to fly south
where people are dying
because oceans are rising
storms and droughts and starvation
our legacy to your generation

we’ve lost long ago our sense of balance—
on this equinox when
light bends neither left nor right
equal time for day and night
no matter north or south
balance is fraught
teetering from tons of poisons
we’ve spewed into the sky
where the geese row on
calling out their innocence

but you dear Eli
your face struck by wonder
at the honk-honk-honk-honk
turn back to the hard green pears
your curly brown hair scented

still with baby shampoo
brushes my cheek as you bend
to drop another and another
heavy pear into the basket
you are trusting me to hold
Thank you to Connecticut River Review for first publishing For My Grandson on Fall Equinox


“People of Earth, you are careening toward the edge of the abyss.”

If an alien from space were broadcasting those words from a space ship hovering just outside Earth’s ballistic missile range, would people listen?

Perhaps even that much drama wouldn’t capture the world’s attention. The quote, “We are careening towards the edge of the abyss,” came instead on Sept. 10 from United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres.

Speaking at the UN in New York, he said: “If we do not change course by 2020, we risk missing the point where we can avoid runaway climate change, with disastrous consequences for people and all the natural systems that sustain us. That is why, today, I am appealing for leadership — from politicians, from business and scientists, and from the public everywhere. We have the tools to make our actions effective. What we still lack — even after the Paris Agreement — is the leadership and the ambition to do what is needed.”

Nations are falling way short of their 2015 Paris Agreement goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and the Trump administration has pulled the U.S. out of the accord entirely. December will see the next phase of climate negotiations in Poland.

“The time has come for our leaders to show they care about the people whose fate they hold in their hands,” Guterres said.

Guterres will convene a Climate Summit a year from now.

“We will bring together players from the real economy and real politics, including representatives of trillions of dollars of assets, both public and private,” he said.

To read his speech and see the agenda he has laid out, go to

Meanwhile, this is the news emanating from the Trump Administration:

  • Plans to roll back rules reducing oil and gas industry leaks of methane gas, one of the most powerful greenhouse gases.
  • Plans to freeze fuel economy standards for cars and light trucks after the year 2020 even though scientists say better fuel economy is the most effective way to combat the effects of climate change.
  • Plans to gut the Endangered Species Act and rachet up the risk of extinction of more species even as biodiversity is threatened by climate change.

Are we headed then for the cliff like lemmings?

“Warnings are necessary,” Guterres said. “But fear will not get the job done.”

Where is the hope?

The UN chief speaks of “enormous benefits” awaiting humankind “if we can rise to the climate challenge.” He calls the idea that climate action will harm economies “hogwash.”

A Global Commission on the Economy and Climate Change report shows gains of $26 trillion to a green world economy by 2030. Conversely, studies show that fossil fuel burning in the past decade cost the U.S. at least $240 billion a year in extreme weather and health consequences.

We need to stop burning fossil fuels.

This November, we can take a few moments to research how incumbent state and federal officials have voted on environmental issues—not what they say but how they voted. And we can read the platforms of challengers to learn their stated positions. Do they call for climate action? Once elected, we can hold their feet to the fire.

Meanwhile, ordinary people—all of us combined—can make a big impact with simple things: vote wisely, plant trees, carpool, recycle, use mass transit, cancel print catalogues, consolidate errands, educate ourselves and our youth, conserve water and electricity, put up nesting boxes for birds, support environmental organizations, provide an example for our kids and grandkids.

Let’s do this.

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