One of my greatest passions in life is sustainability and protecting the environment. Luckily, I found two other Humesters who share this passion: Kate Cross and Grace Calvert. In October, we all attended a conference called Cultivating Climate Justice. We learned about environmental racism and how minority communities are disproportionately affected by climate change and the effects of global warming. After the conference, we decided to center our collaborative project around environmental injustice. Kate and I both wrote poems, and Grace drew visual representations of each piece.
My poem was inspired by a documentary I watched in my Environmental Social Science class called There’s Something in the Water. This documentary highlighted three minority communities in Novia Scotia facing severe environmental crises: an African American community whose well water (and air) was toxic due to a waste dump located right outside the neighborhood, an indigenous community whose main water source was polluted by a Scott paper waste plant, and another indigenous community whose water source was threatened by the Alton Gas pipeline plan. I learned that environmental injustice is not isolated; it is connected to other social ills, such as racism and sexism. This documentary is incredibly powerful and educational (available on Netflix)!
I face an eternal ombré of blue— Skies on top of streams flowing into seas. Eternal? Once a certainty, now a question. Darkened rivers, whitened corals, blackened future. Things I don’t see... So how can this be true? I quench my thirst with water as clear as glass. I swim in rivers as blue as the sky. I drive by endless fields of green, stretching for miles. I climb the trees in my years, mow my grass. So how can this be true? In black communities, they hydrate their bodies with tainted water— Toxins from the waste dump seep into the well-water. In indigenous communities, they nourish their bodies with toxic fish, If the fish haven’t already been killed by chemicals dumped in rivers. In many minority communities, their bodies are flooded with harmful chemicals released into the air from toxic waste facilities, increasing the risk of cancer and long term harm to their bodies. Environmental injustice— this is how it can be true.
I WOULD LEARN THE RIVERS BLEED UMBER
The heartlines in our hands all echo the cracks in the dirt Paths we drew ourselves The devastating beauty of the manmade as our mirror And so there are bodies holding up the soil by their deathbeds Dirt, dirt, and redlines filling with thick smog Judge, jury, and executioner silent in the spring My world different than theirs, these brown and black bodies Closer in color to nature than I ever could be Watching their faucet drip umber from my ancestors’ papery hands