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  • There is a tendency at every important but
    difficult crossroad to pretend that it's not
    really there.

    Bill McKibben, The End of Nature


    I am up here in my imaginary space capsule, off- planet,

    looking down, watching ash clouds over Iceland, wanting to write

    a love poem to our Home Planet, a poem that says how I feel

    about this amazing place we live, this big blue marble, this paradise.

    But while I am trying to write this love poem, I find myself distracted,

    wondering when the next volcanoes will blow, as the ice caps on them melt,

    watching the Deepwater Horizon oil spill start to curl into the Louisiana shore,

    with ongoing, unimaginable unintended historic consequences,

    watching the Cumberland River inundate downtown Nashville

    and sweep through residential neighborhoods like an urban tsunami.

    I want to write this love poem, you see, but the news is frightening.

    Meanwhile, there are screams from the tip end of Manhattan, called Wall Street,

    where the Dow drops 1000 points without warning, triggering panic worldwide.

    “He hit the wrong key,” they said. And the markets turn upside down.

    Meanwhile, in Battery Park, the pigeons don’t have a clue. I can imagine them,

    tiny little white dots, tiny white dots, and then they take off in a white storm,

    while the whole international financial system goes into cardiac arrest.

    Sudden tumultuous events like this are disconcerting, to say the least.

    These disruptions come upon us in microseconds and nothing,

    nothing is ever the same safe way it was again. The list grows.

    Pictures of a policeman burning on an Athens street become a symbol

    of the riots there: From my off- planet perch, I watch the flames, the flames,

    and remember Vietnamese monks who set themselves on fire. Those were the days,

    when thousands dared to protest illegal, unjust, and meaningless wars. Not any more.

    Bill McKibben doesn’t call it “Earth” now, because he says things have changed:

    He calls it “Eaarth.” He says we need to understand that extremes will become norms.

    It is high time for us to learn to love our home here. It’s the only one we have.

    Can poems help keep us sane, give us the courage to go on?

    I spend a lot of imaginary time off-planet these days. It is quiet up here and I can think.

    I watch the winds lift great clouds of sand off the Western Sahara, and send it to sea.

    I watch the slow shifting of huge icebergs in the blue-black Arctic oceans,

    I watch the pollution over China and India, where cars proliferate by millions.

    Even now, the skies here in California are veiled in amber smoke, smoke

    that travels thousands of miles to stain our skies, and there is no turning back.

    I used to think, “Oh, another wildfire.” But now I think, “Oh, industrial smoke from China.”

    Are we coming to the necessary Planet-love too late, too late?

    I wanted to write a love poem to our home Planet tonight,

    something passionate and pure, celebrating the vast beauty,

    celebrating the world’s peoples, cultures, ecosystems, ancient cities in jungles,

    I wanted to write that kind of poem. But instead, this is what comes out:

    My off-planet perspective, our history happening right now, on global TV,

    caught in the wide-angle lens of who we are and what we are becoming,

    the wide angle lens of all the shifts and changes going on. From shock to shock.

    We are all caught up in it, in spite of ourselves, and we have to realize this.

    The daily news, the upheavals, the dislocations, make it hard to write at all.

    How can we create hope for ourselves and future generations?

    How can we wake up, before it is too late?

    How does one write love poems anymore, to our planet, when so much is going on?

    (Photograph by Alex in the Inspire Space Park, in the 3-D virtual world of Second Life)
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