Persimmon Tree Forum

Ice Mermaid, from a selection of Self Portraits of Woman After Sixty,
digital images in ice formations, Charles River wetlands, Boston MA, by Kelly DuMar.

Challenges of Climate Change

Communities around the globe are now being pummeled by an ever-increasing number of environmental disasters: violent storms, floods, fires, unprecedented heat waves, melting glaciers, and disappearing species. We’re also being warned, via scientists’ reports and newspaper articles, about crises soon to come—including the draining of man-made lakes and aquifers vital to sustaining human life.

In this issue of our journal, Persimmon Tree devotes both “Short Takes” and this Forum to our readers’ and contributors’ thoughts on the increasingly evident consequences of what is now generally called “climate change” — much of which, most scientists agree, has been brought on by human action . . . and inaction.

The comments below are drawn from personal experiences and deep concern, and we thank all the contributors to the Forum. We invite all those who would also like to contribute to this Forum discussion to send a comment, via the “Leave a Comment” opportunity you will find at the end of the Forum.

 

The Editors

 

 

The debate over climate change is over. I’m 75. I made a trip a few years ago to see Mendenhall Glacier in the Juneau Ice Field; it’s retreated 2.5 miles since the mid 1700s. Amtrak goes by Glacier National Park – and it won’t be long before these glaciers are gone.

I lived for 45 years in Oregon – I looked forward to summers in my garden and volunteering at the Washington Park Rose Test Garden. But I moved to Vermont after too many summers of breathing intense smoke from the wildfires burning the forests.

In Vermont we’ve set dozens of records recently for cold. Minus 15 degrees in a winter setting a record for warmth. For summertime heat and drought. Our ski resorts focus on making snow when we have mostly warm winters like this one. The maple sugar industry knows that climate fluctuation plays havoc with the production of maple syrup. It is time to demand that  fossil fuel industries don’t keep taking record-making profits, to elevate climate chaos to the disaster that it is…as we watch a rapid succession of 100-year floods, hurricanes, forest fires, droughts, blizzards, and other extremes on television.
 
Tricia Knoll
Williston, Vermont

 

 

The house I grew up in was provided by my father. He paid for it, fixed whatever we broke. He even made it bigger, adding a bedroom and bathroom. Daddy cut the grass, shoveled the snow, unclogged the toilet, and uncluttered all gutters. Mama did her part, planting flowers and a little garden. Of course, her efforts were devoted to caring for the occupants of Daddy’s house. As kids, we were expected to keep our toys off the stairs, clean our rooms, and refrain from jumping on furniture or consuming food in carpeted rooms. To do otherwise, we were told, was to disrespect the one who provided our lovely house.

I am not religious, but I can see a metaphor when I make one. Humanity was given a beautiful, bountiful home called Earth. By whom is irrelevant. We can’t improve our home planet, but we definitely can trash the place. We have, and we do. I can’t imagine what Daddy might have done if one of us kids had set fire to the house or left the water running in the bathroom sink overnight. Apparently, Earthlings don’t fear consequences for spoiling their home or disrespecting its provider.
 
Marcia Calhoun Forecki
Council Bluffs, Iowa

 

 

I read Paul Ehrlich’s The Population Bomb when it was first published, and grew up with a father who believed you should only have two children. I bought my first hybrid in 2006, not to save money on gas, but because I thought it the right thing to do for the environment. Now the world faces extreme weather, drought, famine, and species extinction. People must accept we are a global community and act accordingly. If I expect corporations to sacrifice the bottom line to preserve the environment, I must be willing to sacrifice, too. For the planet to survive, every individual must assume accountability.

I dream of a world in which carbon footprints are easily quantified. I dream of a world in which responsible people consider their choices and how those choices impact the environment.

The Super Bowl provides a prime example. What was the carbon footprint generated by the thousands who descended on Glendale, Arizona to watch this sporting event? What if there had been a mechanism for carbon capture? For those who attended, will seeing the game in person matter as much as the cost to the environment?

The answers to these questions will determine our future.
 
Cynthia Stock
Garland, Texas

 

Patience, digital image
from Self Portraits of Woman After Sixty, by Kelly DuMar

 

Thursday mornings I teach chair yoga at the Robbinsville, New Jersey, Senior Center. With a show of hands on February 16, the majority of twenty-three seniors ages 60 to 100 believed climate change was having an impact on their lives. That morning the temperature hit 64 degrees Fahrenheit, 30 degrees higher than average. Since 1990, our growing zones in Mercer County have all shifted northward by half a zone warmer.

In Mercer County, 2022 set records for hottest days, with July 18 hitting 100.22 degrees, and a record number of days with temperatures 86 degrees or higher. Too hot to play pickleball or take a walk around the block.

Various class members remembered ice skating and ice fishing on the various lakes and ponds in the area, but no more.

When asked what we could do to mitigate the effects of climate change, someone yelled “Stop bringing disposable water bottles to class!” “Recycle when you can, grow your own vegetables.” “Be a role model, discuss climate change without arguing.”

Some take the transport bus to class, some drive Teslas, others carpool.

Education was the group’s consensus. Being aware of the problem is the first step in making a difference.
 
Ruth Mannino
Robbinsville, New Jersey

 

 

I rarely envy those of my contemporaries who have no children. How sad! I think. No kids to make you proud, no grandkids to make you laugh. But when I contemplate climate change, extreme weather events, and mass migration, I worry about their future and yes, I wonder if my childless friends may just have gotten it right.

Sometimes I think smugly of all the things I’m doing to save “this Fragile Earth, Our Island Home.” I recycle, drive a Prius, eat meat rarely. Since Covid, I have (but perhaps for the wrong reasons) dramatically reduced my carbon footprint by shunning cruises and avoiding air travel. I vote for candidates who support environmental issues, and I contribute to nonprofits committed to saving the planet and its creatures.

This is obviously not enough. My daughter’s home was flooded in September 2021 when Hurricane Ida caused a nearby river to overflow its banks.

What’s a mother and grandmother to do?
 
Mary Donaldson-Evans
Media, Pennsylvania

 

 

In 2006, former Vice President Al Gore, a climate change activist, released the film, An Inconvenient Truth, which emphasized an immediate need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Governments, industries, corporations, and American voters conveniently ignored the warnings. We are paying the price for our lack of action.
 
Peg Quinn
Lincoln, Nebraska

 

 

What used to be labeled “Global Warming,” with a threat that Manhattan would be under water by 2014, is now properly labeled “Climate Change.” Our careless use of our world may contribute to radical change, but change is inevitable no matter what we do. What we see as unusual changes, daily, are more frequent and will become the norm. We must adapt to it. It will not adapt to us.
 
Deborah Bogosian
Wilton, New York

 

Bird and Shadow, digital image from
Self Portraits of Woman After Sixty, by Kelly DuMar

 

I’ve lived in Santa Cruz county, California, for 45 years and grew up in the San Francisco area. I’m 75. California weather is the same as it’s always been—long periods of drought followed by huge storms and heavy rain. This was why the California reservoirs were built, so that the heavier rain up north could flow down south. Now that overflow is going to the ocean.

Forty years ago a school I was working in took kindergartners outside to see the rain because they never had. And does anyone remember the storms of 1982? Santa Cruz was declared a disaster back then too.

History is a good lesson.
 
Carol Murphy
Santa Cruz, California

 

 

Our lives are small slivers in the edifice of a mighty universe. Our impact should be small, but big-brained as we are we manage to reach beyond our normal borders of life. We don’t just affect climate change. We are climate change. I turn off lights, eat less meat, drive less, and see my carbon footprint much as Bigfoot. I am guilty; we are guilty. Let us acknowledge that guilt.
 
Christine Emmert
Valley Forge, Pennsylvania

 

 

For the Children

Plows scoop, lift the deepening snow on the parking lot beneath my windows. I’m on the sofa, propped by yellow and turquoise pillows, a throw blanket over my feet, reading Sunday’s Washington Post, occasionally glancing outside, where children are sledding on the hill above the lot. They don’t feel the cold. They topple, get up, brush the flakes off, start over. I recall my childhood sledding, rubber boots over my shoes. Wet mittens. Building snow families.

How long since we, in the middle of the middle states, watched a day-long snowfall that sticks, that piles up?  Morning flakes occasionally appear, not worthy of measurement, just a “coating.”

Extremes of temperatures, fire, and flood leave their legacy of dry river beds, rising seas, and loss of homes, vegetation, fish, wildlife. Springtime blossoms are appearing in February. Some celebrate. I worry. For the children, for the joy of creating from the land, snow creatures and sandcastles.

Is it too late? Have we lost the edge—of cliffs, forests, beaches—of time? We plough on, constrained by politics, fanaticism, ennui.

It doesn’t snow here much anymore. Just flurries. Nothing sticks.
 
Norma S. Tucker
Bethesda, Maryland

 

 

I try to live sustainably. I study our changing earth — realize that everything is in flux. The earth has always been evolving. We’re told that most change is human-made now. I try to keep up.
 
Nancy Shiffrin
Santa Monica, California

 

She Breathes, digital image from
Self Portraits of Woman After Sixty, by Kelly DuMar

 

We are a sea of trees surrounded by a wasteland of clearcut stumps. Our land is an oasis for animals and birds escaping the destruction of their homes—bear and bobcat, wrens and woodpeckers, a healthy population of threatened western gray squirrels and rough-skinned newts. When letters arrive from timber contractors begging to butcher our trees, we laugh at their ludicrous offers; when feller bunchers and log loaders denude another tract up the road, we grieve. When winds topple dozens of our vulnerable trees like toothpicks after logging operations steal their protection, we take action.

We know that trees breathe for us—inhaling and storing carbon dioxide and exhaling oxygen, keeping the air healthy and pure. When they’re killed, they release their poisonous gases which increase the greenhouse effect. So to offset the damage caused by local logging, we plant trees—acres of ponderosa and white pine, Douglas fir, stands of aspen and cottonwood, sequoia and cedar. We know our attempts are meager in the larger realm of global warming, but we also know that every tree we plant helps us breathe a little easier.
 
Shirlee Jellum
Lyle, Washington

 

 

Global Collapse with Happy Faces

It always seemed that the collapse of human civilization would come in some distant future. Then, in the mid-1980s, when scientific reports hit the newspapers predicting massive global warming, a history professor in Santa Fe, New Mexico, told me that he had indeed noticed the skies clouding over in never-before seen ways. We activists were already adjusting ourselves to the possibility of instantaneous nuclear annihilation, and this news seemingly tied the bow on a growing awareness of life’s fragility.

I now live in Bolivia. Again, I have read that so-called Third World countries were taking the brunt of global climate change, and—lo and behold!—here we be: inside the very tempest of Earth’s rage.

Hailstorms that rip the paint off adobe walls. Tile roofs caving in. Rains ripping to shreds the leaves of trees. Way too cold winters, way too stifling summer days followed by way too frigid rains. Floods. Droughts. Earthquakes. Poverty. Emigrations. Electrical outages. Invasions of mutant insects. Crops ruined. Cities without water. Gas shortages. Social turmoil.

And all the while, still, I hear that—despite the earthquakes and forest fires, the hurricanes and tornados in the U.S.—many of my colleagues still casually refer to a possible planetary breakdown in some distant future!
 
Chellis Glendinning
Sucre, Bolivia

 

 

Madrid (Not Winnipeg)

The year is young, vigorous, determined to bring it on. I live in Madrid, geographical center of Spain. On January 8, 2021, a new word arrives: Filomena. The word materializes through its own arrival: signifier and signified become one. Filomena.

Filomena appears softly, whispering her name quietly. Snow starts to fall. Light, tinkling, a gentle exordium.

I awake on the morning of January 9 to a world gone missing. Colors, barriers such as walls, gates, and doors, have vanished; they’ve become the snow itself, a flawless blanket. Never still, altering its shape and reach as the day progresses, it welcomes the falling white particles as the fierce wind scatters them. A stern meteorological rebuke.

The city is stupefied by the scale of the calamity, incapacitated, a world disarranged.

We take photos with our phones. I share one with friends. This is not Winnipeg, I say, this is Madrid.

Filomena assaults humans and also trees. Distraught maintenance workers speak of thousands damaged, some irreparably. The weight of snow has destroyed their center of gravity to rip branches from trunks, trunks from earth. Trees still standing are chastened by their injuries, white gashes on startling display. Residents leave flowers.

This is not Madrid.
 
Isobel Soto
Comunidad de Madrid, Spain

 

 

I live in Southern California. In January I went with a group from my church to visit a small migrant housing campus in Tijuana. POR AMOR DE DIOS (FOR THE LOVE OF GOD), is a very basic waystation for families awaiting a trial date with U.S. immigration authorities. We have been sending clothing and financial support there for a few years.  Started as a shelter for the homeless, it now houses refugees.

Climate change has devastated Mexico and South America’s farms and forests, spawning violent gangs and drug cartels that prey upon farmers, small business owners and indigenous communities. The victims flee, showing up in increasing numbers at our U.S. border looking for safety and stability.  Repeatedly we were told stories and shown cell phone pictures of incredible acts of terror by the cartels, police, and military. We learned how parents tried to protect their children with desperate choices and acts of courage. It was very hard to sit and listen. Though we told them we could not help them get into the U.S., they desperately wanted to tell their stories. There is a lot of confusion here, calling them immigrants rather than refugees. I told them we would share some of what they’ve said to create clarity, but also to acknowledge our common humanity. Who of us would not leave home to find safety for our families?
 
Suvan Geer
Santa Ana, California

 

Warrior Rising, digital image from
Self Portraits of Woman After Sixty, by Kelly DuMar

 

[Editor’s Note: In future Persimmon Tree Forums, we will be accepting only prose comments, reserving poetry for our Short Takes and Poetry sections. We’re most grateful to have received, for this Forum, the following three poetry contributions.]

 

I’m 71 years old. In the 41 years that I’ve lived in a rural residence outside the village of Winside, Nebraska, I have seen a lot of changes in the people and local community. When we moved here in 1982 this was a community of families. There were several large dairy farmers and one dairy that delivered fresh milk to our homes. Those are all gone. As farms were vacated, the houses were either moved to new locations or bulldozed for more planting space. Farms have consolidated, and only the really big farmers are still farming. Those of us left in the farm community are aging, with only one or two families with children living on farm sites. These changes are among the inspirations for my poem, “Clear Cut.”

 

Clear Cut

This whole crazy world is just too frustratin’,
And you tell me over and over and over again my friend,
Ah, you don’t believe we’re on the eve of destruction.
P. F Sloan

 

Politicians worldwide oppose clear cutting
and burning in Amazon rainforests to plant
more crops. Brazilian regimes vacillate
between farmers and trees.
Loggers clear-cut Congo River’s forests
to feed construction and themselves.
 
A near neighbor bulldozed a grove
of hundred-year-old ash and cottonwood,
sawed them into sections, loaded giant
slices onto a sawmiller’s truck.
Backhoe lifted, piled leftover branches
around old barn to burn, gained the farmer
places to plant corn.
 
Huge ash grew on a knoll across my lane.
Branches spread east and northwest,
threatened to tumble. We imagined a clear path,
sawed the tree and stacked it as firewood.
Cleared and piled leftover brush for a bonfire.
We burn ash wood for heat, never dreaming
we are part of global warming.
 
Every tree logged, legally or illegally,
contributes to planet-warming. There’s
record heat and drought in multiple locations,
major flooding on rivers like Yellowstone,
Missouri, Mississippi. How do we heat,
feed the growing world, yet
get off this vicious circle of ruin?
 
Lin Brummels
Winside, Nebraska

 

 

Wake Up Call

Every morning we woke
to a medley of gentle sounds.
Myriad birds chirped their messages,
voices mingled in comforting songs.
 
Our day began in peace, in safety.
Gentle music from the forest
told us the world was in order.
Begin your life again today!
 
Gradual, slow, mysterious at first,
annoying, erratic weather patterns,
fearful droughts, and fires emerge.
Waste fills oceans. Reefs die.
Innocent or ignorant, at first blinded
as destruction invades earth and sky.
Denial easier. The future upon us
too terrible to believe. Too difficult to change.
 
Fewer birds, animals, insects survive
while arrogant humans claim invincibility.
Earth says, “Wake up! Have another virus or two.”
Maybe endless, lethal pandemics.
 
Jody Woodruff
Ashland, Oregon

 

 

Radical Kinship

[Note: the non-English phrases in this poem are in Niimiipuutimtki, the Nez Perce language.]
 
1.
Headlines no longer rare
impoverish our response
cast in the spectacle of doom
 
rapacious insatiable greed exploits
profits at whatever cost
cost is irrelevant
 
2.
But not to the earth, sky, and water beings
the dramatic eloquence of the devastating storm
the voices of the raging flood
years-long drought
fire
mudslide
record-breaking heat
melting glacier
rising sea levels
tell us in no uncertain terms
 
Wá quin!
Wake up!
Mistálqsa talaqí
Listen! Pay attention!
 
“We are speaking in our own languages!
Hear our voices cry out!”
 
3.
The world needs light, ‘ilaka’wit
Our kin in the natural world suffer with us.
Each one carries medicine
Sáykiptatas
for healing
for balance
Each one is a teacher
 
‘imemeeseptequuyicix
“We are making ourselves known,”
they say. Will you listen?
 
4.
Can you hear them speaking?
Each one has personal power, their gift,
their wisdom.
They witness all we do as humans.
 
They can live without us
but we cannot live without them.
Without earth, without water.
Píhetewyuʔ
We will value each other, they say.
 
5.
What do we say?
Miscú·kwece. I understand by hearing.
Listen! Use your tim̉íne, your heart,
your waquiswit, your spirit.
Wéetmet ‘imamáayalwanoʔ
Don’t ever give up.
 
Ines Hernandez-Avila
Woodland, California

 

Reclining with Zest, digital image from
Self Portraits of Women After Sixty, by Kelly DuMar

 

In Any Given Room
Stories on the Indian Experience
by I. D. Kapur
  “Indra Kapur’s writing is illuminating, entertaining, and perceptive, gracing each topic with beauty and wit that leaves you both completely satisfied and wanting more.” Katherine Longshore, author of the Gilt series “Indra Kapur’s courage in embracing and committing her life to another culture is clear. Her stories delight, break our hearts, and show us an India most of us have never seen before.” Ann Saxton Reh, author of the David Markam mysteries. “These stories deftly capture the nuances and contradictions of their well-drawn characters, many from India, in a range of intriguing and dramatic situations.” Jack Adler, author of The Tides of Faith and other novels. Available on Amazon and from you independent book store.

Bio



Kelly DuMar is a poet, playwright and workshop facilitator from Boston. She’s the author of three poetry chapbooks, and her fourth collection, "jinx and heavenly calling," was just published by Lily Poetry Review Publishing, 2023. Kelly’s poems and photos are published in Bellevue Literary Review, Tupelo Quarterly, Thrush, Glassworks and more. Kelly teaches for the International Women’s Writing Guild and the Transformative Language Arts Network. www.kellydumar.com Go to ArtsMart to purchase her work.