It Comes by Land and Sea
2022, Senior, Poetry & Spoken Word
One if by land,
Two if by sea—
After researching climate change,
I think we need three.
Paul Revere spread the message
That the British were near,
But the reporters of our time
Have worse news to share, I fear.
When the ocean suggested
“Do whatever floats your boat,”
We happily began stuffing
Greenhouse gases down her throat.
“Make yourself at home!”
Is what the forest floor said
Before we took it as a cue
To cut every tree dead.
We’ve even had the audacity
To find it surprising
That when we turned up the heat,
Ocean levels began rising.
It’s time we wake up
And accept the horror of basic science.
In this climate war,
The only foe we have is our compliance.
In the past, we’ve taken action
Against the contamination of meat;
We couldn’t stand the idea
Of having rats with our beef.
Yet if he saw our new Jungle,
Sinclair would’ve freaked—
Why aren’t we revolted
By the plastic in our sushi?
As the soil becomes rotten
From the carbon we leave—
As the fish begin floating
Alongside straws in the sea—
I ask, who are we waiting for?
Because the sea animals won’t be available
To speak up about their own despair.
The funny thing here
Is that we all seem to act
As if we’re unaware the climate
Won’t give us a second chance.
It’s time to light three lanterns—
To save the ocean AND the land—
Because Revere won’t be here to warn us
When the nondegradable waste hits the fan.
When my English class was discussing American life in the early 1900s, my teacher taught us about two muckrakers, Jacob Riis and Upton Sinclair. Riis’s book, How the Other Half Lives, called out the horrible housing situation in New York City, while Sinclair’s work, The Jungle, shocked people with its descriptions of the unhygienic meat-packing industry. As I compared people's compliance with climate change with the public outrage that resulted from those two works, I saw hypocrisy in what motivates people to cause change. The world that climate change is bringing about may be no better than the depraved living conditions and contaminated food of the 20th century—yet we're slower to recognize and become angry at the destruction we are causing. Though my poem does not go into great detail, I attempted to summarize the issues I learned about in a lighthearted way, and I hope it inspires readers to actively learn about their own roles in climate change that occurs both above and below the water. It's not that we need more Paul Reveres to ride through the world and warn us about the climate crisis— it's that everyone who hears these warnings should use the information for good.