Christchurch, New Zealand
2018, High School, Poetry
waves ebb and flow,
oscillating in absent patterns,
blaring the sounds of silent alarms.
factory fumes tease the waters
like a barista concocts latte art,
the product — a burdened atmosphere,
wrapped in a cover page aesthetic.
on the exposed coast,
footprints are littered with CO2 .
wrapped in a thick foam and salty tears,
waves brush against our feet, lapping at our ankles.
but we are still, watching
as nature’s artists paint our beaches,
tracks of convenience designed
with a greenhouse palette,
marbled on a changing canvas.
we watch, not as generation x, y or z,
not as pioneers, heroes, individuals.
we watch our climate’s skin burn and peel,
the waves, their guardians,
retreating as they hug the ocean floor. we watch as
the guardians of the waves, the climate, the earth —
our back turned to the ocean.
Earth is hooked to a monitor,
a mechanical ventilator,
tubes run through her diseased organs,
as she runs a fever
that continues to rise.
dials pushed to breaking point —
burnt fossil fuels, spent oil reserves —
the oceans seep through her many cracks,
the waves are surging now,
battering the climate with full force.
climate refugees swim
through the riptides,
as their homes are buried into darkness.
and here, in our isolation,
resources are stretched thin,
economies reshaped, nonexistent,
oceans drowning in their own water.
at a rapid rate, we lose carbon sinks
with global ocean cover, pH the only thing sinking
in our acidifying oceans.
though still, it’s quiet —
nature is louder than you and me.
the poles wiped of ice,
the Earth coloured sick,
her skin, her organs,
muted shades of brown and blue.
summer too hot, too long,
as her fever continues to rise.
internal conflict and wars
of her body systems
the seas, the land, humanity,
throttle any sign of resolution.
ten letters built in six degrees,
by eight million people and counting.
oceans cry in silence.
in just years,
everything, all life is
National Geographic (2008, February 1). 6 Degrees Warmer: Mass Extinction? [Video File]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O8qmaAMK4cM
Connor, S. (2009). World on course for catastrophic 6° rise, reveal scientists. Retrieved from
Sutter, J. (2015). On 6 degrees of climate change, Retrieved from https://edition.cnn.com/2015/05/21/opinions/sutter-6-degrees-climate/index.html
Pitman, S. (2018). Conflict and hazard at the coast: managing the human element [PowerPoint slides]. Retrieved from http://www.learn.canterbury.ac.nz/
Sky News (2015, November 29). Climate Change: What Happens If The World Warms Up By 2°C? [Video File]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9GjrS8QbHmY
Sky News (2015, November 29). Climate Change: What Happens If The World Warms Up By 3°C? [Video File]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xplesDv5hl0
Sky News (2015, November 29). Climate Change: What Happens If The World Warms Up By 4°C? [Video File]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HqgbR3UK0es
Sky News (2015, November 29). Climate Change: What Happens If The World Warms Up By 5°C? [Video File]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qWoiBpfvdx0&t=6s
For many, climate change is difficult to picture. It isn’t like a flood, a rapid onset hazard, one which we plaster with the patterns of destruction. Climate change is more than that, but it is also so much less. Somewhere between the evacuation procedures and frequent false fires, a part of us houses this desperation. The sort that wears fear in its bones and safety on its skin because it wants only to feel in control. Arctic sea ice coverage has shrunk every decade since 1979 yet it fails to draws media attention to the scale of one earthquake. 30 seconds beats 30 years, because unlike an earthquake travelling at ten kilometres per second, climate change is slow onset, somewhat predictable and accompanied by a fair warning. Unfortunately, it's a warning deaf to our ears. What if climate change was an illness, what then? If the impacts on our planet were personified, Mother Earth the victim? My poem is structured around a 6-degree global temperature rise, a rise that scientists recognize as the breaking point for our Earth. In the first degree, there is denial. The first layer of the science and social disconnect, a mismanagement of the human element and a lack of real understanding around the extent of the issue. In the second degree, ignorance—climate change, a wave we continue to surf. As the poem goes on, Mother Earth’s condition deteriorates. Ill and fragile, she runs a fever, global temperatures continue to rise. Only when we reach the sixth degree, we realize what we’ve done. I want my readers to experience climate change like they are the climate, the Earth, the waves. To understand what might happen, to look beyond the slow onset hazard and realize that change is beckoning. I want them to understand their individual importance, as a guardian of the climate, waves and Earth—to change before the climate beats us to it.