Tuesday, February 23, 2021
By Jan Barry
A confluence of eagles
at a narrow bend in the river
lined with gnarled old branches
leaning over the water
flowing between snow-crusted
stretches of woods—
the silence broken by commuter
trains, truck engines, Canada
geese, mergansers foraging for fish
Saturday, February 20, 2021
My first vivid memories of Aunt Annie have to do with “slow poke passing” in our 1950s cars on a country road when I was a teenager. About that time, she joined the Air Force as a physical therapist. About a year later, I joined the Army and visited her on a weekend pass at her bayside place outside Langley Air Force Base in Virginia. Then I went to Vietnam and she went to Libya. Our lives went in different directions. But we stayed in touch over the years.
Home base was the Taughannock Falls area of New York’s Finger Lakes, where we occasionally met up at family gatherings. One summer Anne announced that she preferred living in Texas. When I swung by her place in Amarillo on a drive to California after I retired from newspaper work, I learned why. She liked the wild flowers, the wind-swept vistas, the wide open skies of the high plains. She had friends who’d turned an empty shopping center into an artists’ colony. She loved rambling out of town to the jaw dropping splendor of Palo Duro Canyon.
About a decade ago, she moved into a senior living complex, as various ailments cramped her hands and walking became progressively hazardous. She gave her kayak to younger relatives. She enjoyed entertaining visitors, venturing out to a favorite Mexican restaurant next door. Checking in on her during the Covid crisis last summer, I found she’d moved to a state veterans’ home.
Amarillo Senior Link magazine in 2019 profiled her in a special issue honoring military veterans. My favorite anecdote in this account tells how after graduating from college in 1957, “Anne took a job as a physical therapist at Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas. She drove from New York in a 1952 Ford with $100 in her pocket.”
Thursday, January 28, 2021
Monday, January 11, 2021
An insurrection in Washington
In January set off
An horrific new year—
Aiming to nullify the results
Of November’s election for president,
It gained added fury when a black man
And a Jewish man won a special election
For US Senate seats in Georgia—
The mob rampaged through the Capitol building
With nooses, Confederate flags,
“Camp Auschwitz” read one—
And broke into the House and Senate chambers
Seeking scurrying lawmakers—
Hate-contorted men and women shouted,
Hot on the trail of the vice president—
Breaking into House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office
With guns and plastic police handcuffs
Wednesday, December 30, 2020
The fall 2020 semester at Ramapo College opened in the midst of global crisis due to the Coronavirus pandemic. Only a few students and faculty were allowed on campus, primarily for lab courses. Most classes were held online. Despite precautions, COVID-19 swept through my World Sustainability class of 31 students and their families. Suddenly the concept of studying global environmental and social crisis was no longer theoretical.
The possibility of impending catastrophic climate change took on a new perspective, as within a few months the United States of America staggered from a once-in-a-century public health crisis that triggered economic collapse in much of the world’s trend setting economy. In many ways, our society seemed to be wandering in a fog.
An international cast of undergraduate students dug into what was happening around the world—researching and writing case studies set in India, Nepal, Thailand, Vietnam, China, Russia, Poland, Greece, Syria, Africa, Australia, Latin America, Canada, New Jersey, New York City and elsewhere.
Probing discussions were stirred up and guided by fellow World Sustainability professors Harriet Shugarman and Amanda Nesheiwat and environmental activists Paula Rogovin and Sam Difalco, who joined the class via Zoom. The entire class attended an online conference on youth climate activism and the presidential election hosted by Ramapo Green, a campus environmental group. Students were also encouraged to write about what they learned from their experiences.
Here’s a selection of their work in the midst of the COVID crisis:
Monday, October 19, 2020
“Vote as if the Climate Depends on It”
That’s the headline of a call to action by Bill McKibben in The Nation recently. This clarion call by the founder of 350.org to counter Donald Trump’s disastrous environmental policies in November’s presidential election also appeared in Rolling Stone and other publications.
Endorsing the Democratic ticket of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, McKibben stated “their climate plan is the farthest-reaching of any presidential ticket in history. More to the point, we can pressure them to go farther and faster. Already, seeing the polling on the wall, they’ve adopted many of the proposals of climate stalwarts like Washington Governor Jay Inslee. A team of Biden and Bernie Sanders representatives worked out a pragmatic but powerful compromise in talks before the Democratic National Convention; the Biden-Harris ticket seems primed to use a transition to green energy as a crucial part of a push to rebuild the pandemic-devastated economy.”
Furthmore, he added, “they’ve pledged to try to lead the rest of the world in the climate fight. The United States has never really done this. Our role as the single biggest producer of hydrocarbons has meant that our response to global warming has always been crippled by the political power of Big Oil. But that power has begun to slip.…”
Despite Biden’s reluctance to rein in the hydro fracking industry in his home state of Pennsylvania, his campaign platform endorses the goals of many states to phase out fossil fuels by 2050, with a major milepost “to achieve a carbon pollution-free power sector by 2035.”
Other steps in Biden’s proposed transition includes hiring former coal miners and other workers to cap old, leaking oil and gas wells, and safely close and remediate abandoned coal and uranium mining sites that are polluting local waterways and communities. “Biden will also hold companies accountable for the environmental damage of their operations, including by clawing back golden parachutes and executive bonuses for companies that shift the environmental burdens of their actions onto taxpayers,” his website added.
Another transition step, long sought by many environmental activists, would create a Civilian Climate Corps that would hire diverse people “to work conserving our public lands, bolstering community resilience, and addressing the changing climate, while putting good-paying union jobs within reach for more Americans, including women and people of color...” This plan would build on the pioneering work of the Civilian Conservation Corps during the Great Depression that marshalled an army of young men and military veterans to replant logged out forests and create campsites, trails and other infrastructure in state and national parks.
Addressing a major problem that many communities in cities and rural areas have faced for decades, Biden pledges to “ensure that frontline and fenceline communities are at the table when enforcement, remediation, and investment decisions affecting those communities are made. Biden will ensure working groups on these issues report directly into the White House, so that communities facing the dual threat of environmental and economic burdens have access to the highest levels of the Biden Administration.”
Bill McKibben’s call to vote for Biden and continue pressing him to deepen his environmental plan should be widely shared.
Tuesday, September 1, 2020
By Jan Barry
Raising butterflies takes work,
Fine motor skills and patience—
Start with finding a fly speck of an egg
On a milkweed leaf,
Put the leaf in a jar,
Cover it with mesh—
Wait a couple-three days
Until a tiny caterpillar appears
On the leaf—
Clean the tiny poop out of the bottom
Of the jar every day—
Drop in a fresh leaf
For the growing cat to munch on—
Repeat a few times—
One day a very large caterpillar
Climbs up the side of the jar
And creates a chrysalis
Hanging on the mesh cover—
Now you’re hooked—
Look it up—
This process of becoming
A butterfly takes a week or two—
Check it out every morning—
Lunch time—supper time—
See the chrysalis develop a gold ring—
And one day turn translucent,
Become a sack of water—
Oh my god—the next morning
A monarch butterfly pops out—
Flaps its wings—
Wants to go out into the world—
So—cell phone camera ready—
You release it
Into the stormy, dangerous world