by Becca Nelson '20
Eco-poetry is a genre of poetry that focuses on social-ecological issues, emphasizing interconnection between people and the environment. In the 21st century, climate change poetry emerged as a part of ecopoetry, examining how climate change and its consequences alter people’s relationships with the environment. Climate change poetry can make discussions of climate change more accessible to nonscientists, while also conveying the social and environmental consequences of climate change in a way that fosters empathy and inspires action. Climate change poetry can connect people with different backgrounds through creating a space for storytelling.
Here are some examples of climate change themed poems that I have been really inspired by. You can click on the hyperlinks to view the different poems.
1. "Yolanda Winds" by Isa Borgeson. Isa Borgeson is a Filipina American slam poet from Oakland, who uses poetry as a means to approach activism. Her poem "Yolanda Winds" tells the story of her mother's experiences surviving supertyphoon Haiyan (which was a locally called Yolanda), a devastating storm that hit the Philippines in 2013. In a description that accompanies the poem on You-Tube, Borgeson writes, "This piece, titled "Yolanda Winds" is dedicated to my mother, a survivor of the super typhoon, who struggles to forgive the sea. A reminder that we are a people of the sea. And for some of our families, sharing our stories about climate change, typhoon seasons, and rising oceans - is an act of resistance, necessary for our survival. "
2. “Dear Matafele Peinam” by Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner. Jetnil-Kijiner is a Marshallese poet and climate activist whose poetry focuses on environmental justice issues in the Marshall Islands. Her poem "Dear Matafele Peinam" is an address to her baby daughter. Jetnil-Kijiner expresses her concerns that her daughter will become a climate change refugee as floods occur in the Marshall Islands. She concludes the poem with a defiant and rousing call to action, emphasizing the urgency of enacting climate change mitigation policy. She performed the poem as spoken word in 2014 at a climate summit to an audience of United Nations delegates.
3. "Atlas" by Terisa Siagatonu. Siagatonu is a Samoan poet and community organizer. Her poems often address issues of social and climate justice. In "Atlas", Siagatonu draws parallels between how colonialism and climate change have affected island communities. In the poem, Siagatonu writes, "When people ask me where I'm from/they don't believe me when I say water." You can find more of her poetry on her website.
These poems have really inspired me to continue writing, thinking, and taking action on climate change. Poetry has a visceral power to share the stories of people who have been directly impacted by climate change. Climate change poetry can serve as a medium for artists and activists to broaden the conversation about climate change and environmental justice. Ultimately, climate change poetry has the power to inspire action and help build community-based resilience in response to climate change.
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This is a forum for students to share their writing on intersectional environmental topics, curated by Students for a Sustainable Stanford. Writers of all backgrounds, abilities, and perspectives are welcome.