Thursday, November 15, 2012

Holocene Extinctions, Poems, and Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls

Last night, after talking with a colleague about the endangered status of full-time Humanities teaching jobs, I came home to read a bit more of Craig Childs' Apocalyptic Planet, which continues to fascinate with its tales of lost cultures of the past.

Then, after my spouse came home from making music on old-fashioned instruments and with his voice, we looked at the catalogue from the World Wildlife Organization.  For certain amounts of monetary donations, we get plush stuffed animals.  I started thinking about how many of those cuddly creatures are rapacious predators in real life.

I wondered how many of them could survive as a species for the next decade or two.  Some will surely go extinct.  For that matter, we all might.  We're in the middle of one of the great mass extinctions, after all.  We don't really see it, because we're in the middle of it.

Childs says, "The postapocalyptic scenario of people living in the fresh scrap of their own collapsed societies is more Hollywood than reality.  Collapses tend to take time, an evolution in themselves.  Rome wouldn't have known it was falling even as poverty and decay spread, aqueducts failed, schools dissolved, and armies stretched untenable distances.  The city was still standing, still occupied, the whole while" (p. 120).

We're in the middle of such a collapse, perhaps a much larger one, but we still don't see it, at least not on a daily basis.  This morning I ate frozen raspberries:  raspberries in mid November!  I don't dare calculate the fossil fuel costs in getting me my breakfast.  If I start looking at my food through that social justice lens, what will I eat?

This morning, I worked on a poem.  At first it wanted to be a preachy poem, all about corn and how it permeates all of a toddler's diet, from the chicken feed to the fuel used to get the chicken nuggets to the store.

Michael Pollan did this so much better in The Omnivore's Dilemma.

So, I tried again.  The first stanza still had a bit of way too much preachiness:

In the midst of the 6th great die off,
she orders Christmas presents for the children: 
plush toys that support
a fund to sustain
wildlife habitat.  She wonders
if these creatures are doomed
already.  She imagines a plush
toy that makes humans cute
and cuddly, instead of rapacious predators


Again, I started, and this time, although I'm not done, I'm closer to satisfied.  I told myself that I couldn't use the words Holocene or extinction or fossil fuel footprint.  The speaker adds cashews to her raspberries and yogurt as she orders Christmas presents.  Some readers will understand the implications (hey, raspberries aren't in season at Christmas!  hey, cashews come a long way for your breakfast!), but some won't, and that will be fine.

Now it's time to start thinking about the day ahead.  I have pumpkin cinnamon rolls rising (from a Smitten Kitchen recipe found here).  There will be meetings later in the day.  I may need sweetness.

But more importantly, Thanksgiving comes in just one week.  It's going to be 84 degrees here today.  Clearly I cannot rely on the weather to put me in an autumnal mood.  Maybe cinnamon-scented baked goods will.

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