Feeling #climate change, knowing it, writing #poetry from it, and thinking about #Hume

What do we do? What happens? What should we do? Most every piece of good evidence points to the conclusion that industrialized humanity’s machines have changed most of the biosphere and altered the planet’s physical systems. Homo economicus has altered the climate enough that the atmosphere, the oceans, and the living Earth behave differently than they did 1,000, 100, 50, and even 20 years ago. 

We can list too many things to deal with, overwhelm ourselves, and fall over. The list is what we have done. The list would be what has happened. And some might say, the list is the byproduct of what we should have done. Is it collateral damage for the cost of doing business, an acceptable price but one we should work out a way to pay? Is progress destruction and the severing of our very natures from the things that have sustained us? For the 12,000 years preceding the Industrial Revolution, or the 10,500 years preceding Christianity in a form we recognize, or the 6,000 since the rise of the city state, or the moments before we domesticated dogs and cattle and we lived in bands, have we been doing what we ought to have been doing? What is we know. But what ought to be? What ought we to do? David Hume wrote about this conundrum and it often plagues me.

“Hume and the Anthropocene”

When Atlas slowly turns his heels, adjusting his posture,
glaciers melt like liquid clouds into the creek,
shoving shattered knife-edge rocks across the river’s bed.
tumbling akimbo across the cragged land
where they might rest by muskeg and midges’ broods.

This is what is. Who is to say what ought to be? 

Colorado and Idaho,
beetles bore into the Ponderosas
gorging in a bark and pulp orgy,
pines made into millions of effigies
of Ignorance and Want.

the shelf calved free,
leopard seals leapt through the icy brine,
smiling and mangling the chin straps.

a leather-skinned woman
remembers her girlhood
walking near the drunken trees.

They stood tall and brave,
soldiers, sentries of a northern watch.
Today the mud’s maw swallows everything.
It can’t wait to eat them,
to feed them to the sky.

This is what is. Who is to say what ought to be?

Farther north, the glacier’s siblings seep, they bleed
upon the tundra’s ground, staining it like a bandage,
so full of puss it can’t hold anything.
The stands of boreal pines grow dizzy and fevered,
veterans lost in pain, unable to stand to see tomorrow,
lost in their rooms, soaked in the stink of their piss and shit. 

This is what is. Who is to say what ought to be?


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