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
Sunday, July 26, 2020
|Peace in Korea demonstration, Teaneck, NJ 7/23/20|
Thursday, July 2, 2020
|Self-portrait (photo/Jan Barry)|
Saturday, June 20, 2020
|"War's End" by Jan Barry|
Saturday, April 11, 2020
|"Back to Nature" by Jan Barry|
Puffin Cultural Forum Calendar Feb. 2018
Monday, April 6, 2020
|"Spring Flowers" by Jan Barry|
Week two of Warrior Writers NJ’s coronavirus-quarantine, online workshops on Zoom, on Sunday, March 29, featured literary call and response between and among five veterans and three military family members. The prompts included military medical call up—one of the latest government actions to assist beleaguered community hospitals overflowing with covid-19 patients—music, spring, and anything else one wanted to write about. It led to a lot of what Tara Krause called “spontaneous poetry” and spirited discussion.
By Jan Barry
The military has issued
An emergency call up for former medics
And other medical personnel
To help with the coronavirus crisis—
Things are getting serious—
Convention centers are being turned into
This war I can relate to—
If I were younger and able
Like Walt Whitman
To help the hospitalized
By Paula Rogovin
I’d rather see veterans
Called back to service
To build makeshift hospitals or work on hospital ships
To supply test kits, ventilators, and
N95s not M-15’s
To meet the battle needs
For this war -
The great global war for LIFE!
By JoAnn Drozd
Music - is my life blood, a savior in the midst of great grief.
Listening to Kembo doing America the Beautiful & Hauser playing Can’t Help Falling in Love on Facebook & Instagram provided me with some clarity and humility.
After taking in too much news, Bob’s 3500 songs on his i-pod helps me get through the day. It helps remove the stress from the political craziness of the day. Brings me some sanity, a retreat of sorts.
The music and songs seem so much more meaningful. Listening & hearing them in a whole new way. Hope it brings all those impacted on the front lines of this crisis the feeling that things will resolve and return to some level of normalcy. I also hope we will all be changed for the better & remember the importance of human connection after this disconnection.
Funny how so many of us spent many moments of our days attached to our phones or other devices and now we crave each other’s company.
Music - the GREAT connector.
Hits of the Sixties
By Nancy Elkin Nygard
My father told me, if it's true it's not bragging. This is true.
Walt Nygard is a AAA Star DJ !
At HIS right time he will get on youtube and boom!
I'm Blowin In The Wind to the Sounds of Silence.
And then, For What It's Worth, I wanna know
Who'll Stop The Rain?
His knowledge is amazing, a real student of
Rock n roll of the 60's.
So this Pretty Woman can Walk Like A Man and
This Wild Thing can Turn, Turn, Turn.
Can you Imagine going Downtown
But all you do is Wipeout!
Well, Don't Worry Baby it's Written On The Subway Walls
So Please Please Me Dear Prudence and stay home and dance!!
By JoAnn Drozd
Flowers to breathe in
Shrubs to admire
Trees to climb high
Soil to dig deep
Rain to boogie in
Sun to shine
Earth to save
What a stupendous gift we’ve been given. Let’s REJOICE in new growth and beauty. Let’s not waste another single precious moment. This world is ours to save….
Spring & Music:
Spontaneous poetry prompt’d
By Tara Krause
All complex systems in perturbation
Reach new states,
Equilibrium might be euphemistic,
But new states (un)certainly.
This week showed glimpses of
People’s hope in giving,
Across town, county, state, region, globe.
Our bioregions collapse into
Hot zones and faulty testing tracking scoreboards,
Wracking up bodies in the morgue.
Hope in giving as the mindful exhale
After the first reflexive intake of panic,
Triggers the neural cascade of altruism,
Solidarity and love in action.
The live streaming of jazz concerts, both
Unlocked from the archive vaults, and
Spontaneous jams streamed from bedrooms.
Notes and chord changes disaggregated into
pixels and bites, to meet our souls in
Neural new meanings.
My challenge, certainly trivial in the face of humanity,
Yet real to me at this moment:
Can hope in giving extend to self-love?
Can I allow my hope in giving to lead me into
The beauty of prepping new growth in the garden?
To the primal pleasure of thrusting
My hands into the thawing soil,
To give myself to life itself?
By James Yee
I reunited with an old friend this week. I hadn’t seen her for quite a while. I think the last time was when I was in elementary school. I saw her almost every day back then. It was like I couldn’t go a day without her. Interesting though, we parted ways, for the most part, once I graduated into junior high. And after that I never really thought much about her from then on out. But who would have guessed that it would be all the quarantine and shelter in-placed measures imposed on us that would bring us back together. I will admit, there was a direct action choice on my part. But to make a short story even shorter, once back in the seclusion of my own home, when I was ready and feeling very hungry, I whipped her up again and put her together. When we physically connected, now inside my kitchen, my tongue instantly told me that she was just as I remembered. She made me happy once again. I’m so glad I brought home the peanut butter, grape jelly and a loaf of bread. For her name is PB&J – or more formally, Peanut Butter and Jelly! Maybe you know her as well.
Thank You Coronavirus for bringing us back together.
A Haiku with Slattern Extra Syllables
By Tara Krause
James Yee rises, takes to the streets
To feed deep human need;
Cup cakes are indeed essential.