To Write: As If the Planet Were Dying

It’s no secret. Heck, I have no secrets. I’ve blogged my heart out, my guts, my hopes and fears here, more or less–mostly less lately–for almost a dozen years.

It’s no secret that I’ve lost a sense of audience, of purpose and of that muse that once wooed me every morning as if my words  before the day began could change the world that day in some small way.

Still, I’m not dead yet. I’ve not stopped emoting or caring or noticing. I’ve just grown numb to the call to voice what I understand as the common good. There are so many who don’t want it–so very many and so very strident and angry–who don’t care that the world is dying–that it makes one want to just be silent and left alone. And yet…

It is the work of the moment, and this call to writers finds in me a raw nerve.

That there is an ember of fire in the belly is a matter I need to consider. Then, the so-what. How about you?

From 7 Ways to Write to the Future by Kathleen Dean Moore & Scott Slovic / Orion Magazine online September 09, 2013, excerpts restructured, forgive me, Kathleen and Scott…

We here issue a call to writers, who have been given the gift of powerful voices that can change the world.

For the sake of all the plants and animals on the planet, for the sake of intergenerational justice, for the sake of children, we call on writers to set aside their ordinary work and step up to do the work of the moment–which is to stop the reckless and profligate fossil-fuel economy that is causing climate chaos.

Annie Dillard advised. “What would you say to a dying person that would not enrage by its triviality?” Now we must write as if the planet were dying. What would you say to a planet in a spasm of extinction? What would you say to those who are paying the costs of climate change in the currency of death?

Surely in a world dangerously slipping away, we need courageously and honestly to ask again the questions every author asks: Who is my audience–now, today, in this world? What is my purpose?

Write to the future. Try to explain how we could allow the devastation of the world, how we could leave those who follow us only an impoverished, stripped, and dangerously unstable time. Ask their forgiveness. This is the literature of prayer. Is it possible to write on your knees, weeping?

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About

Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

4 Comments on “To Write: As If the Planet Were Dying

  1. I encourage you to read Barbara Kingsolvers’ newest novel, Flight Behavior. I feel she wrote it in response to the same urging. What is so wonderful about it is that it empathizes with and illuminates all the “tribes” of Americans in regard to their response to climate change and Earth’s preservation. The more we can understand the various “tribes” the more we will effectively communicate with them.

  2. Fred, my take on writing about the natural world is similar but somewhat different too. I write about my daily life at my cabin on Roundtop, what I see in the natural world and something of what I do. I do it to leave a record of what the natural world was like at the time I was alive at my small cabin in southern Pennsylvania. Perhaps it’s just because I want people to know what it was like here before the winters disappear, before the warblers diminish, before the mountains and forests become nothing more than another housing development. I don’t really expect people to stop their destruction of our beautiful planet. I wish I did.

  3. Fred,
    So many of us love reading your blog and would miss it greatly if you gave it up. You are our compass. One never knows when his writing will inspire a reader who has the power to change things. My daughter became an environmentalist because of an elementary school teacher! It is impossible, however, for any individual to work intensely everyday. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Take an occasional break.

  4. Quite a challenge. You’ve got me thinking. Among all the blogs I drop in on, yours is the most interesting and challenging; you are making a difference. Sorry I wasn’t part of the conversation in earlier yars.

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