Wednesday, December 30, 2020

World Sustainability and COVID

"Fog at Overpeck County Park" December 2020 (photo/Jan Barry)

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

Biden and World Sustainability


By Jan Barry

“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 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

Raising Butterflies


Holding hands (photo/Paula Rogovin)

Raising Butterflies

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—

Before bed—

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

Peace in Korea demonstration, Teaneck, NJ 7/23/20

The Korean War broke out in 1950 amid simmering hostilities after World War II, killing three million people including more than 34,000 American troops. It ended in July 1953 in a stand-off truce with armies still deployed on each side of the Demilitarized Zone poised to resume fighting. Military maneuvers over the years have periodically created havoc on both sides. A demonstration was held at the NJ National Guard Armory in Teaneck, NJ on July 23 calling for a peace treaty to finally be signed by the warring parties. This is a poem I read as poet laureate of Veterans For Peace. Thanks to VFP member Soobok Kim, a news story in The Korean New York Daily on July 25 included the poem in Korean and English.

Peace in Korea

By Jan Barry

One day, there’ll be peace in Korea,
Cherry blossoms will bloom all over the DMZ,
Hibiscus will twine with magnolias
Across the war-wary land.
Goshawks will fly with magpies,
Gunfire transformed into bird songs.

Thursday, July 2, 2020

Summer of Death

Self-portrait  (photo/Jan Barry)

By Jan Barry

Summer of Death 

Summer of my 77th year
The gear for us ancients to wear
Is face masks—
I live surrounded by death
From invisible corona virus spittle,
Which has decimated nursing homes
In spring-lush suburbs—
The veterans home in Paramus
Was particularly hard hit,
But also the town where I live—

Is it safe to go for a walk?
To the food store?
The post office?
To visit my son
Who works in a supermarket?
Dare I go to the VA
For a doctor’s appointment?

What a life—
To have to consider virus risks
Just going out of the house—
Remember to take a face mask
On a walk around the block—
And what should I do if classes
Resume on campus in the fall?

I hear that nurses have PTSD
From trying to cope with so many COVID cases—
Now I’m getting more PTSD on top of old PTSD
Just thinking about all the virus risks

Memorial Day 2020

Bury ‘em six feet deep
Or stand six feet apart—
Clutch your heart,
Adjust your face mask—

Memorial Day is very
Different this year—
COVID deaths surpassed
War dead in weeks—
Body bags stacked
In corridors, backs of trucks,
Hastily bulldozed graves—

Never such a death storm
Since World War Two—
Casualties in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq,
Afghanistan topped in three months—

Shouldn’t we fly
The flags at half-mast—
Display gold stars in the windows
Of those so suddenly lost?

Obits jammed into newspapers—
So many lives snuffed out
Like candles at a nursing home
Birthday party—
Can you count them all--
Blazing in their 20s, 30s, 40s,
50s, 60s, 70s—
Virus sweeping through
Veterans’ homes
Like silent machinegun fire—

May Day, May Day!
The high flying life is crashing—
Fly overs by war planes
Won’t raise the dead, the dying—

Saturday, June 20, 2020

Southern Heritage

"War's End" by Jan Barry 

Southern Heritage

By Jan Barry

After Lee surrendered
The South smugly won the Civil War—
Blacks lost voting rights, civil rights, every rights
In a reign of terror by hooded Confederates,
US Army posts were commandeered
And named for Confederate generals—

A hundred years after the War Between the States
Yankees were still the enemy in Southern parts—
A Michigan mother assisting voting rights activists
Was shot dead by the Ku Klux Klan in Alabama:
Viola Liuzzo was targeted as a white woman aiding Blacks—
New Yorkers Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner
Were murdered with Black civil rights worker James Chaney
By the KKK assisted by police in Mississippi—

Half a century and more to this day, the Confederate legacy
Still leads the charge in Black-disdaining hearts—
In the hip 21st century, after a Black president was elected twice,
Black people are shot dead, choked to death
By police across America—
Women and men are assaulted by police in city after city
For marching in inter-racial Black Lives Matter protests—

Lee and other Confederate leaders were West Point grads,
Welcomed back into the fold after the hostilities—
Not so with Black folks emancipated by Lincoln
And the Union forces—

The first “colored” graduate of West Point
Was “silenced” by classmates for four years—
The Southern heritage is a long tradition
At the US Military Academy and in the Army—
Ten US Army posts are named for Confederate generals:
Benning, Bragg, Beauregard, Gordon, Hill, Hood, Lee,
Pickett, Polk and Rucker—

Nothing was named for Henry O. Flipper,
Class of 1877, born into slavery,
Court-martialed for corresponding with a white woman
After serving as a Buffalo soldier—

But times are changing:
African-American men and women are mayors in
Montgomery Alabama, Atlanta Georgia, Washington DC
And cities across America—
Across the South, Confederate statues are being torn down
After all this time—

Saturday, April 11, 2020

Warrior Writers NJ Salute to Perry Rosenstein

"Back to Nature" by Jan Barry
Puffin Cultural Forum Calendar Feb. 2018

Week three of Warrior Writers NJ’s coronavirus-quarantine, online workshops on Zoom, on Sunday, April 5, reunited several veterans and military family members peering into laptops and cell phones at their homes and, in one case, sitting beside a spring-showered river. The main focus of this gathering was the grievous loss of a major supporter of progressive artists, writers and musicians, including our veterans’ arts programs: Perry Rosenstein, the founder of Puffin Cultural Forum in Teaneck, NJ.

A World War II veteran, Perry provided a welcoming place for O wow! sorts of thought-provoking art about the horrendous consequences of war and survivors’ and supporters’ on-going struggles for peace and community harmony. Perry and his wife Gladys Miller-Rosenstein supported with Puffin Foundation grants a wide range of progressive groups, including The Nation magazine; instituted the Puffin/Nation Prize for Creative Citizenship, awarded to Americans who do conspicuously courageous social justice work; and founded the Teaneck Creek Conservancy, a local environmental jewel they and scores of enthusiastic volunteers crafted from a trash dump.

This is a selection of our writing workshop meditations.


By Jan Barry

The first time I saw a Puffin
Was a painting on a chunk of concrete
In a wooded former dump site
That somebody had turned into a
Nature preserve off I-95 in Teaneck—
That somebody was a retired business guy
Named Perry Rosenstein
Who turned his corporate offices
Into a community culture center
And spread his transformational actions
Across Teaneck, New York City, and the world—
Perry died the other day, at 94
Struck down by coronavirus,
As it has ravaged places he loved

RIP, Mr. Rosenstein

By Tara Kraus

RIP, Mr. Rosenstein
I thank you for your creation,
your precious vibrant container,
Puffin Cultural Foundation
petri-dish artist skunkworx
of duende and social justice.
Where creativity Sparked, Forged, Trussed,
buttressed soaring truths
for our imaginal human rights futures, manifests in real time.
Your container called us forth, our Frontline Arts
brothers and sisters’ Armistice show on Veterans Day 2018,
I created my large
Trump nuclear abolition pop-up.
You called us
To go large as artists to stretch our craft
To raise our voices from a strangled whisper through a gasp of possibility
to full throated reverberating.
You call us forth to create the undeniable.

The Puffin

By JoAnn Drozd

A place for all to gather
Memories of an endearing evening of art, writing, and music by a multitude of artists
My son’s emotional poem about the war machine & his girlfriend at the time, now wife’s
heart-wrenching rendition of Pink’s, ‘Dear Mr. President’
Bob was there beaming with pride & awe.
A beautiful night filled with solidarity & gratitude.
Thank you, Perry, for your everlasting donation to the Arts!
Such moving & historical subject matter to preserve with the community.
And how crucial a place it is, especially now, to record & keep alive
the bizarre days the world is experiencing today.
Rest in Peace, Perry, knowing what a legacy you left behind.
Thank you….


By Sarah Mess

Perry, he gave us time, space,
And let our stories and our voices
Echo off walls of the Puffin
I read my first poem out loud there
When Jan Barry made a poet out of me
Perry was my butterfly in the wind
Who changed the trajectory of my life
And my regret is that I never got to tell him
May he rest in the peace
That he left behind in so many compromised
And marginalized voices
Peace that for some of us
Took a lifetime to find

A Salute to Perry Rosenstein

By Paula Rogovin

The puffin
a bird almost extinct
Pollution, overfishing, climate change
Diminishing food supplies –
They’re tasty
Perry Rosenstein - what a tasty choice
to name, to house your dream, Puffin Cultural Forum here in Teaneck, NJ,
to give voice to
Progressive artists, musicians, pets, veterans and military families, news media, nature lovers,
and filmmakers
Perry Rosenstein - your vision will never go extinct.
Perry Rosenstein - Present

Monday, April 6, 2020

Warrior Writers NJ Online Writing Continued

"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.

Overflowing Hospitals

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
Field hospitals—
This war I can relate to—
If I were younger and able
I’d volunteer
Like Walt Whitman
To help the hospitalized

The Call-up

 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.

Monday, March 23, 2020

Warrior Writers NJ Workshop Goes Online

"Weathering a Storm" by Jan Barry

Warrior Writers NJ’s scheduled workshop for Sunday, March 22, 2020 took place via the web application Zoom from 12 noon-2pm.  The group adapted this virtual format in response to the social distancing measures directed by government and health officials to help curb the spread of the coronavirus known as Covid-19.  
Some of the work that was created is posted here. It not only demonstrates the continued creativity of military veterans and their families, but it also serves to document how this community is using creative writing, poetry and the arts to deal with the situational concerns and lifestyle changes that have come along with the outbreak of Covid-19.  
We encourage others to write, share and post literary pieces of their own, created during this period.

James Yee

Prompt: Spring

Never Doubt Spring

by Tara Krause

Yesterday the croci shot forth from the leaf mulch,
purple truth ascendant.

The neighbor’s forsythia yellowed their welcome
along the fence.
One fussing wren showed up, marking his territory,
while a titmouse began his song for companionship.
The night before the spring peepers broke into chorus,
while Bodhi my service dog barked her first bark, hackles up,
to run off the piebald doe prepping the corner of the
garden for her annual birthing rite.
All phenology of the signs of spring renewal.
It is time.
To plant peas and spinach,
to sow clover for the bees and
to shore up the slopes.
To direct sow the hardy annuals of
poppies, larkspur, calendula, cleome and cosmos.
The roses are already pruned,
now to be fertilized.
Maybe it’s too late for winter sowing the native perennials of
echinacea and rudbeckia, but worth a try.
It is time
to start the lasagna tins of seeds.
Never doubt spring.
Even in pandemics, quarantine & panic.

Spring in a Time of Pandemic

By Jan Barry

Will this be the last spring
For many of us—for our way of life?
So we’d better savor every flower,
Every bird song, every dawn—

I cried yesterday to see a Facebook post
By high school students singing
A choral song, each from their homes,
Spliced together in an incredible concert
Of “Over the Rainbow”—

Young voices singing joyously
Into an uncertain future,
Using the latest technology
To share the soaring beauty
Of the human voice
With amazing creativity—

A wondrous display of spring
Popping amid a winter of deadliness

Prompt: Who do you appreciate now?

Who do you appreciate now?

By James Yee

Two, four, six, eight!
Who do we appreciate?
Me. Me!
Yay Me!

I think I’m comfortable in my own skin.
I have to be, especially in this life, if I’m going to win.
Satisfied with my inner and outer self,
I’m no slouch, sittin’ dusty on somebody else’s shelf.
Happy with who I’ve become,
And proud of where I come from.
That being said, still got some ideas up in my head.
Continuing to improve myself in ways for the better,
Makes me even stronger to handle any kind of weather
Being myself is something I will define.
And it’s my choosing where, when and how to shine.
Or shine not at all, ‘cause that wouldn’t make me small.
I might listen to you, but ultimately I’m going to do what I want to do.
And if I don’t, then appreciating myself I won’t.
Be who you want to be.
And I’ll go on just being James Yee.

Who Do I Appreciate Now?

By Paula Rogovin

We know the doctors, nurses, and EMT’s
But let’s look behind them
to the layers and layers and layers
of – what should we call them?
The unnoticed frontliners

Let’s start with the farmworkers –
many forced to work to grow our food
so they can feed their families

Factory workers who make the things
we all need or think we need

Truck drivers, train engineers

Teachers remotely teaching the children
or those struggling to teach the children
whose reality is real, not virtual

mental health workers
restaurant workers
delivery workers…

Thank you
to the unnoticed frontline workers
Thank you for your service.

Wish your bosses would
thank you, too
with higher pay
   paid sick leave
       and medical care

Who Do I Appreciate Now?

By Tara Krause

The frontline:
first responders
as always
suit up on a daily basis
“Thank you for your service,”
as said to veterans.
Yet now the seemingly invisible,
though ever present and giving,
step forward into the breach of pandemic:
The nurses,
the doctors,
the teachers,
the babysitters,
the home health aides,
All who bring the reality and risks of caring
into our imposed social distancing and virtual reality.
And the new “essential” frontliners:
The mail lady, who lugs up the porch stairs my emergency ration packages
of expresso, dark chocolate and cigarettes in quarantine;
the supermarket aisle restockers, who risk all for minimum wages
and no medical benefits;
the butcher, who scraped the last pound and a half of ground sirloin
off the grinder machine so that my service dog could continue her raw diet at least for another day;
the new workers at the Paterson plant, who now make the toilet paper to replenish the nations’s empty shelves.
The veteran in me almost heartbreakingly envies you:
“You do not have to kill to serve.”

Who Do I Appreciate?

By Nancy Nygard

I thought I would write about my garbage men, so under rated in our lives. 
But as day 8 of social distancing comes to an end, the thing I am appreciating is being able to be a part of my grandchildren's lives.  
We used to be with our grandson Zeke, 4 years old, every day, 5 days a week and at times
I would long for the carefree easy retirement days I'd heard about.
Now I have that time to walk and smell the roses, which I do and I love. 
But I face timed my son Sam and into the picture walked Zeke and he took my breath away!
So I most appreciate the human touch, especially of my 6 grandchildren.
We need to touch each other.
Peace and Love.

Prompt: Your own thoughts

Dear Coronavirus

By James Yee

Dear Coronavirus,
Thank you for cutting carbon emissions and reducing greenhouse gases. You’ve shown us that it can be done.  Our environment, right now, is better because of it.  If we could just figure out how to maintain and build upon this beneficial change.

Thank you for bringing families together, and for putting parents back into their children’s education and school work.  I’m glad you’ve help take those heavy backpacks off the shoulders of these kids.

While you don’t discriminate, thank you for pointing out that we as people still do.  You’ve shown that some of us are OK with calling you the “Chinese Virus”.
Thank You for forcing us to be more creative.

Hunkered Down

 By Jan Barry

Hunkered down in quarantine bunker—
The winter returns when I was
Shut in with double pneumonia—
No playing in the snow with my friends
Waving outside the window—

Somehow I survived that season,
That childhood scourge
In the time of TB isolation hospitals,
Chicken pox scaring kids’ faces,
Polio-withered legs—

I pushed myself as a scrawny, sickly kid
To run, play baseball, football, basketball—
Rather than lay around in a sick bed


By Paula Rogovin

When the president
rejects science,
that equals murder to me

How many will die
  when the president holds
  hateful campaign rallies
  instead of science-based
  press conferences for all to see

We must rise up
by the millions and millions
even if it’s virtually