Losing One’s Land: Effects of Climate Change Expressed in Poetry

Two poets and climate activists, Aka Niviana from Greenland, and Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner from the Marshall Islands, teamed up to write and perform the poem Rise in the fjords and glaciers of Greenland, with the help of glaciologist Jason Box who travels to Greenland every year to take measurements of how fast the ice is melting there. Greenland loses 300 billion tons of ice per year, and as a result, Pacific islands including the Marshall Islands are disappearing under the sea.

“This science is uncontroversial. But science alone can’t make change, because it appeals only to the hemisphere of the brain that values logic and reason. We’re also creatures of emotion, intuition, spark – which is perhaps why we should mount more poetry expeditions, put more musicians on dying reefs, make sure that novelists can feel the licking heat of wildfire.”

— Bill McKibben

Excerpt from Rise by Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner and Aka Niviana

The very same beasts

That now decide

Who should live

And who should die …

We demand that the world see beyond

SUVs, ACs, their pre-package convenience

Their oil-slicked dreams, beyond the belief

That tomorrow will never happen

And yet there’s a generosity to their witness – a recognition that whoever started the trouble, we’re now in it together.

Let me bring my home to yours

Let’s watch as Miami, New York,

Shanghai, Amsterdam, London

Rio de Janeiro and Osaka

Try to breathe underwater …

None of us is immune.

Life in all forms demands

The same respect we all give to money …

So each and every one of us

Has to decide

If we




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