climate change cartoon

In honor of Earth Day (April 22), I’m sharing this amazing poem by Andrea Gibson. I’m not a huge poem person but this one spoke to me and I wanted to put it out there so all of you could enjoy it too.  

My favorite quote from the poem is, “We need so much less than we take. We owe so much more than we give.” Powerful, right?

And she does this thing where she gives interesting little-known facts about nature. Here’s one, (yes I fact-checked it). “Do you know fish are so sensitive snowflakes sound like fireworks when they land on the water?” The visuals when I read that, wow!

Ok, enough about me, read on, then tell me how great it is.  😋


In the fifth grade, I won the science fair
with a project on climate change
that featured a papier-mache ozone layer
with a giant hole through which a papier-mache sun

burned the skin of a Barbie in a bikini
on a lawn chair, glaciers melting like the ice cubes
in her lemonade. It was 1987 in a town
that could have invented red hats,

but the school principal gave me
a gold ribbon and not a single bit of attitude
about my radical political stance
because neither he nor I knew

it was political. Science had not yet been
fully framed as leftist propaganda.
The president did not have a Twitter feed
starving the world of facts.

I spent that summer as I had every summer”
“before, racing through the forest behind my house
down the path my father called the old logging road
to a meadow thick with raspberry bushes

whose thorns were my very first heroes
because they did nothing with their life
but protect what was sweet.
Sundays I went to church but struggled

to call it prayer if it didn’t leave grass stains
on my knees. Couldn’t call it truth
if it didn’t come with a dare to crawl
into the cave by the creek and stay there

until somebody counted all the way to one hundred.
I thought one hundred was the biggest number
there was. My mother absolutely blew my mind
the day she said, One hundred and one.

One hundred AND WHAT!? 

Billionaires never grow out of doing that same math
with years. Can’t conceive of counting past their own
lifespans. Believe the world ends the day they do.
Why are the keys to our future in the hands

of those who have the longest commutes
from their heads to their hearts? Whose greed
is the smog that keeps us from seeing
our own nature and the sweetness

we are here to protect? Do you know
sometimes when gathering nectar, bees fall asleep
in flowers? Do you know fish are so sensitive
snowflakes sound like fireworks when they land

on the water? Do you know sea otters hold hands
when they sleep so they don’t drift apart?
Do you know whales will follow their injured friends
to shore, often taking their own lives

so as not to let a loved one be alone when he dies?
None of that is poetry. It is just the earth
being who she is in spite of us stamping
barcodes on the sea. In spite of us acting

like Edison invented daylight. Dawn
presses her blushing face to my window,
asks me if I know the records in my record collection
look like the insides of trees. Yes, I say,

there is nothing you have ever grown that isn’t music.
“You are the bamboo in Coltrane’s saxophone reed.
The mulberries that fed the silkworms
that made the slippers for the ballet. 

The pine that built the loom that wove the hemp
for Frida Kahlo’s canvas. The roses that dyed her paint
hoping her brush could bleed for her body.
Who, more than the earth, has bled for us?

How do we not mold our hearts
after the first spruce tree who raised her hand
and begged to be cut into piano keys
so the elephants could keep their tusks?

The earth is the right side of history.
Is the canyon my friend ran to when no one else
he knew would echo his chosen name back
to him. Is the wind that wailed through 1956 Alabama

until the poplar trees carved themselves
into Dr. King’s pulpit. Is the volcano that pours
the mercury into the thermometers held under
our tongues. The earth takes our temperature,

tells us when we are too hot,
even after we’ve spent decades denying
her fever. Our hands held to her burning forehead,
we insist she is fine while wildfires

turn redwoods to toothpicks, readying the teeth
of our apocalypse. She sends smoke signals
all the way from California to New York City—
ash falls from the sky. Do you know the mountains

of California used to look like they’d been set on fire
because they were so covered in monarch butterflies?
Do you know monarch butterflies migrate
three thousand miles using only the fuel

they stored as caterpillars in the cocoon?
We need so much less than we take.
We owe so much more than we give.
Squirrels plant thousands of trees every year

just from forgetting where they left
their acorns. If we aimed to be just half as good
as one of the earth’s mistakes,
we could turn so much around.

Our living would be seed,
the future would have roots.
“We would cast nothing from the garden
of itself. And we would make the thorns proud.”

Andrea Gibson

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