Thought for Today: Climate Change Displacement in America


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Front Cover: The Great Displacement: Climate Change and The Next American Migration by Jake Bittle
Photo Credit: Simon & Schuster (USA, 2023)

At the most fundamental level, displacement begins when climate change makes it either too risky or too expensive for people to stay somewhere. The disasters discussed in this book bear little resemblance to each other on the surface, but they all exert pressure on governments and private markets, whether through the financial costs of rebuilding or the strain of allocating scarce resources. As this pressure builds, it starts to push people around, changing where they can live or where they want to live. Sometimes this looks like the government paying residents of flood-prone areas to leave their homes; sometimes it looks like fire victims getting priced out of an unaffordable state; other times it looks like fishermen going broke as the wetlands around them erode. It may seem reductive to think about a planetary crisis in terms of financial risk rather than human lives, but that is how most people in this country will experience it—through the loss of their most valuable assets, or the elimination of their job, or a shift in where they can afford to live.

Excerpt from The Great Displacement: Climate Change and The Next American Migration by Jake Bittle, Simon & Schuster, New York, USA, 2023 (Introduction, p. xvii).

Note: The title of the book is an oblique reference to the Great Migration in American history (1920s to 1970s) when more than six million Black people left the South and moved to northern cities like New York and Chicago, fleeing an economic and humanitarian crisis.

JAKE BITTLE, a journalist based in Brooklyn, New York, is a staff writer at Grist, where he covers climate impacts and adaptation. His work has appeared in The New York Times, The Guardian, Harper’s Magazine, and a number of other publications.

The Writer’s Life: Is my creative writing mojo back?


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Auction of African Slaves on Arrival in the Dutch Colony of Novo Zeelandia, later known as Essequibo – Undated
Photo Credit: Images Guyana Blogspot

On Monday, May 22nd, I revisited Chapter One of my two-year-long neglected work in progress. As I revised the chapter, the familiar thrill of creating images with words surprised me. Once again, I was eager to engage with the creative process. I woke up in the mornings with ideas for improving or adding to the text. What a joy!

Since last working on this chapter in January 2020, I found it easier to “kill [my] darlings”—words, phrases, sentences, and even entire paragraphs. While maintaining the purpose of setting the stage of the world in which the featured women fought for agency in their lives, I found it challenging to cut and tighten critical historical information. Although the players in our own time have changed somewhat, women and minority groups are still fighting the same battles.

To establish the author as a participant-observer in the lives of these women, the narrative also contains autobiographical information. The author, like all the players on the stage, shares their legacy of severed ancestral roots.

Regardless of the efforts of some among us to rewrite or erase America’s brutal history, the legacies of slavery and colonialism continue to impact our lives at home and worldwide.

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“Horror, Too, Has a Heartbeat” – Poem by Caribbean American Poet Lauren K Alleyne


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Caribbean American Poet Lauren K Alleyne
Source: Poet’s Official Website (Photo by Erica Cavanagh)

My Poetry Corner May 2023 features the poem “Horror, Too, Has a Heartbeat” from the poetry collection Honeyfish by Lauren K. Alleyne, first published by Peepal Tree Press (UK, 2019). Born in the twin-island nation of Trinidad and Tobago, the poet arrived in the USA at eighteen years old after receiving a scholarship from St. Francis College in New York City, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts in English. She also earned a Masters Degree in English and Creative Writing from Iowa State University (2002) and a Master of Fine Arts Degree in Poetry from Cornell University (2006).

In 2022, the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia recognized Alleyne with an Outstanding Faculty Award for her work at James Madison University, where she serves as a professor of English and executive director of the Furious Flower Poetry Center. She currently resides in Harrisonburg, Virginia.

Honeyfish, her second collection of poetry, won the 2018 New Issues Press Green Rose Prize sponsored by Western Michigan University. In the first of three untitled sections of the collection, the poet-persona bears witness to the relentless horror of white oppression and murder of black bodies: Aaron Campbell (Oregon, 2010), Trayvon Martin (Florida, 2012), Tamir Rice (Ohio, 2014), Sandra Bland (Texas, 2015), Charleston mass shootings (South Carolina, 2015), and Charlottesville white supremacist protest (Virginia, 2017). In contrast to such violence, the elegies and poems of remembrance hold no malice. Instead, we experience the tender and painful images of the innocent lost.

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Reflections on Compassion


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Flooding in the Upper Mississippi Valley – Stillwater – Minnesota – USA – April 18, 2023
Photo Credit: Weather Underground

This is the first in my series of reflections on the “c-o-s-m-o-s remedy” proposed in opposition to the “ideology of e-s-c-a-p-e” by Jem Bendell in Deep Adaptation: Navigating the Realities of Climate Chaos (UK/USA 2021).

In contrast to the habit of Entitlement in e-s-c-a-p-e ideology, which involves thinking ‘I expect more of what I like and to be helped to feel fine,’ Bendell proposes that Compassion, in this context, involves sensing that ‘I feel an active responsibility for any of my contribution to your suffering, without expecting to feel right, better or worse’ (p.146).

What is compassion?

In her book Atlas of the Heart: Mapping Meaningful Connection and the Language of Human Experience (USA 2021), American research professor Brené Brown defines compassion as “the daily practice of recognizing and accepting our shared humanity so that we treat ourselves and others with loving-kindness, and we take action in the face of suffering” (p. 118). Buddhist Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh (1926-2022) describes it simply in Zen and the Art of Saving the Planet (USA 2021, p. 109): “Compassion is a powerful energy that allows us to do anything we can to help reduce the suffering around us.”

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Thought for Today: Communicating With Each Other


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Front Cover: Zen and the Art of Saving the Planet by Thich Nhat Hanh
Photo Credit: HarperCollins Publishers (USA, 2021)

If you want to save the planet and transform society, you need brotherhood and sisterhood; you need togetherness. Whenever we speak about the environment, or peace and social justice, we usually speak of non-violent actions or technological solutions, and we forget that the element of collaboration is crucial. Without it, we cannot do anything; we cannot save our planet. Technical solutions have to be supported by togetherness, understanding, and compassion.

In order to collaborate, we need to know how to listen deeply and how to speak skillfully, how to restore communication, and how to make communication easier so we can communicate with ourselves and with each other…. Restoring communication is an urgent practice. With good communication, harmony, understanding, and compassion become possible between individuals, different groups, and even nations.

Excerpt from Zen and the Art of Saving the Planet by Thich Nhat Hanh, Edited and With Commentary by Sister True Dedication, HarperCollins Publishers, New York, USA, 2021 (pp. 187-188).

THICH NHAT HANH (1926-2022) was a world-renowned Buddhist Zen master, poet, author, scholar, and activist for social change. He was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1967 by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He remains a preeminent figure in contemporary Buddhism, offering teachings that are both deeply rooted in ancient wisdom and accessible to all.

SISTER TRUE DEDICATION is a former journalist and monastic Dharma Teacher ordained by Thich Nhat Hanh.

“Bless This Land” – Poem by Native American Poet Laureate Joy Harjo


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Native American Poet Laureate Joy Harjo 2019-2022
Photo Credit: Joy Harjo Official Website (Photo by Shawn Miller)

My Poetry Corner April 2023 features the poem “Bless This Land” from the poetry collection An American Sunrise by Joy Harjo, Poet Laureate of the United States 2019-2022. (The following excerpts of poems are all sourced from this collection.)

Born in 1951 in Tulsa, Oklahoma, the first of four siblings, Joy Harjo is a poet, musician, playwright, and author. Her father was Muscogee (Creek) Nation and her mother of mixed ancestry of Cherokee, French, and Irish. Her mother exposed her to poetry at an early age, but painting was her first love.

My mother was a songwriter and singer, Harjo relates in her poem “Washing My Mother’s Body.” My mother’s gifts were trampled by economic necessity and emotional imprisonment. // My father was a dancer, a rhythm keeper. His ancestors were orators, painters, tribal chiefs, stomp dancers, preachers, and speakers… All his relatively short life he looked for a vision or song to counter the heartache of history. Her father’s drinking and abuse ended their marriage.

At sixteen years of age, Harjo’s abusive and violent stepfather kicked her out of their home. She moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico, where she received her high school education at the Institute of American Indian Arts. After graduation, she returned to Oklahoma, gave birth to a son, and returned to New Mexico to pursue a life as an artist. After earning her BA at the University of New Mexico (UNM) in 1976, Harjo moved to Iowa where she completed an MFA in 1978 at the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop.

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The Writer’s Life: When the Voice Within Falls Silent


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In all the years during this life, my voice within has never fallen silent. Until now. It was an imperceptible change. The moment of realization came as a surprise, but I did not panic. Only an inner calmness.

No inner voice telling me I was not good enough. No inner voice telling me I had deserved every punishment suffered for one failure or the other. No inner voice telling me what I should or should not do. No inner voice criticizing my decisions and actions. No fictional or real-life character demanding to be heard.

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Thought for Today: Weapon of Mass Destruction


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Victims of the Covenant School Shooting – Nashville/Tennessee/USA – March 27, 2023

What does it say about us as a nation where the right to own a weapon of mass destruction is more sacred than life itself?

Poem “A Dream” by Brazilian Poet Sérgio Vaz


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Brazilian Poet Sérgio Vaz
Photo Credit: Laysla Vasconcelos

My Poetry Corner March 2023 features the poem “A Dream” (Um Sonho) by Brazilian poet, writer, and cultural agitator Sérgio Vaz from his 2007 poetry collection Stone Collector (Colecionador de Pedras). He is known across Brazil as the “Poet of the Periphery.” Born in 1964 in Ladainha in the interior of the southeastern State of Minas Gerais, he was five years old when he moved with his family to Taboão da Serra in the outskirts of the City of São Paulo where he completed high school.

With his father’s encouragement, Sérgio developed a reading habit from an early age. He grew up roaming the back streets of the city, observing its cultural roots, habits, and customs. After an invitation to write lyrics for friends who had a musical band, he began exploring poetry. During an interview with Katia Marko and Fabiana Reinholz for Brasil de Fato in November 2021, Sérgio said:

“Poetry for me is when it comes down from the pedestal and kisses the feet of the community. I had to take off that elegant outfit, that sophisticated word. Poetry presented itself like this, in a humble way for me, fighting against the [military] dictatorship [1964-1985], against tyranny. That’s how I became interested in poetry, knowing that it could be an instrument of struggle through words.”

Taboão da Serra – Greater São Paulo – Brazil
Photo Credit: Zé Barretta

During the same interview, Sérgio said that his poem, “Stubbornness” (Teimosia), defines him a lot because one must be stubborn to be Brazilian today.

It is of no use
should they break my legs
pierce my eyes
or talk behind my back.
What sustains my body
are my ideas.
Arms uncrossed,
I have a brain with wings
and I am all heart.
If they should forbid me to walk on water,
I swim over the land.
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Remembering Winifred Gaskin: A ‘Political Woman’ in a Man’s World


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Guyanese Politician Winifred Gaskin (1916-1977)
Photo Credit:

Radical social change is possible. I saw it unfold as a teenager growing up in Guyana, a former British colony caught in the tight grip of the rich and powerful white sugar plantation owners. Such change demands courage, persistence, and self-determination. It means pushing upstream against the flow, ignoring the voices of naysayers, and not succumbing to discouragement and hopelessness when faced with setbacks and defeats. Winifred Gaskin (1916-1977) was a woman who displayed such traits to the fullest measure.

Winifred was born of humble origins on May 10, 1916, into a world engulfed in the First World War (1914-1918). Born in the village of Buxton on the East Coast of Demerara, eleven miles (18 kilometers) from Georgetown, the capital, Winifred shared the indomitable spirit of her African slave ancestors. Seventy-six years earlier in 1840, a group of 128 ex-slaves had pooled their savings to buy an abandoned 500-acre cotton plantation, New Orange Nassau, for an inflated price of $50,000. They renamed it Buxton in honor of Thomas Fowell Buxton, an English parliamentarian and abolitionist.

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