We live in a hyper-aware family, it seems to me, sometimes ... hyper-aware with regard to Climate Change.

WarrenS, my husband, writes his LTE every day, and has made Climate Change the cause for which he's fighting.  He finds all the latest news on the subject, and through him, so do I.

I am one of two teacher-advisors for the "Green Team" at my school, and we do massive amounts of recycling.  We plan to do more next year, with regard to composting and greening up the place.

Our daughter, whom we home-school, is not immune to all this.  She is aware of, and upset by, things that threaten the world she loves -- the world of animals, birds, trees, rocks and beauty.  She loves to read about penguins and adores them.  She is crazy about polar bears.  She is deeply moved by whales and dolphins.  She has loved them since she was very young.  

My family and I live in the city, but near some lovely woods, and we take walks there in the winter, spring, summer and fall, and she has many favorite places that she likes to haunt in these woods.  We've seen the waters rise and fall in our favorite pond.  We worried about whether the trees would make it after a particularly dry summer.  We watched little snakes slither away, silently, when we chanced upon them in early summer.  We've trudged through piles of snow and crunched up slopes that were treacherous up to the (small) summit of a hill.  We love these woods.

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We knew the time would come when we'd have to tell her about Climate Change, and delayed the awful moment for a while.  Not that she was unaware of it all.  WarrenS and I'd make allusions to it from time to time while talking to each other.  She knew her Dad had been promoting concerts to help the cause of Climate Change awareness for the past three years.  The information trickled into her consciousness between the time she was about five and now, eight.

Our daughter's upset by it all, of course.  We're gentle about how we convey the information, taking care to always say something positive about how people are trying to help the cause of animals, to prevent over-use of fossil-fuels, and to help conserve water.  

She's doing her part in all this, and likes to pick up recycling and trash in the woods or the parks which we frequent, and put them in appropriate receptacles whenever possible.  She reminds me not to waste water, and likes to help with our vegetable garden when WarrenS plants seedlings in the ground.

She and I love going to the Aquarium, among other places, and she exclaims in joy over the penguins, seals and various colorful fish.  Once, we saw an IMAX movie about whales, and she was very distressed (even though there were no horrifying scenes) because the narrator kept on alluding openly to how threatened different species of whales and dolphis were due to human activity and Climate Change.  There was a particularly sad part about the manatees off the coast of Florida and how their waters are being terribly despoiled, ruining their food supplies.  My daughter was nearly in tears over this, and was waxing eloquent about what needs to be done about all this.  

That night, she couldn't sleep much, and came to me for consolation, but over the next week, she recovered.  

We didn't see any IMAX films after that for a while, but when we got two free tickets to see one, we decided that we would go.  We ended up seeing one about the Arctic.

Predictably, it had its sad narrative parts, but it was beautifully done, and this time, I'd prepared her adequately.  She was indignant about what was happening, yes, but we were able to have a thoughtful conversation about it.  I talked to her about adaptation (which neither of us really wanted, because we like our polar bears!), and Climate Change Action (but I had to work really hard to sound positive, because I didn't exactly feel it myself)!

Still, parts of it were really hard to deal with -- and I needed to process the experience we had.  So, I wrote a poem, and here it is (cross-posted on my blog as well).  Hope you find something of interest in it.

Yearning for Paradise
©Vijaya Sundaram
April 24th, 2013

For an hour, we went deep into the Arctic
My little girl and I, with stretched eyes
And beating hearts.
We watched, like gods,
Albeit with horror,
All that implacable ice
Dream-blue and impossible,
Melting in torrents
In magnificent cascades
Into a crawling sea below.
We saw, with awe and sorrow
The smaller ice-floes
And caves of sea-ice
Seeming smaller and smaller.

Once a "paradise" -  they said it was -
For polar bears and walruses
And seals and caribou, but now
We saw a place filled with magnificent
Desolation and hollow yearning.
If animals could show sorrow,
The place would ring with lamentation
From dawn to dawn.

We watched, in some amusement
The ponderous goofiness of
Colonies of placid and fierce walruses
Scudding and thumping along
Into the sea, and bumping into
A brave underwater Arctic
Photographer's camera, as if to say:
Back off, human, beware!
We watched, grinning and relieved,
As other walruses grunted and snored.
Reminds me of someone, I said
Mischievously to my daughter,
Who whispered back, I know who.

We watched migrating herds
Of majestic and desperate caribou
Fanning out on the landscape below us,
As we gazed from above, stunned
At the vista.  We sorrowed when
Mother caribou bore their young mid-route,
For some would not survive the journey
To a coast so far away from theirs.

We watched through slitted eyes,
Frightened that we might see death,
Raw and red, happen right before us,
For a brave mother polar bear
Nursed and trained and cuddled
And cradled her cubs, giving her rich milk
To keep them strong and survive
In a world that was shifting too quickly
For any creature to adapt.

After a seal was killed (off-screen, of course)
And eaten, the polar mother
And her happy cubs were sated, but
All the while, a male polar bear
Sneaked up on them, his nose telling him
That dinner was near, for he too was starved
In that unforgiving climate, which shifted
The ice under his heavy paws,
And denied him seal-meat.

We watched, mouths open,
Pulse quickening, hate and sympathy
For the male bear beating out a
malevolent drum-beat within us,
As the female splashed into the water,
Pushing her cubs ahead of her, away
From the male's alert nose, swam with them,
Then, desperate and ready to die,
She turned around to face
The bigger, scarier predator,
The male bear, who would have
Killed, for he too, was hungry
And suffered from no maternal
Or paternal instinct.  And he turned away!

And with relief washing over
The shores of our terror, we relaxed,
My daughter and I, for we knew that
For a while at least, they were safe,
Before the onrush of the
Next predator, which we,
Happily, did not have to watch

And just before we left the Arctic,
And light flooded back into our world -
The safe world of cars, people on sidewalks
And the smell of popcorn salting the air -
She turned to me and said,
I know the polar bear mother would die
To protect her young, and so would you,

(because I had told her so, in a whisper),
But I don't want you to die to protect me.
("Darling, I would LIVE to protect you.")

And, so, we emerged into the world
As we knew it, with no soaring soundtrack
And no predators of the tooth-and-claw
Persuasion, and no sense of our habitat
Receding into nothingness, into a vast
And rising ocean, an emptiness that
Tilted ever more into horror,
And no strange, unexplained question,
No troubling yearning for the paradise
That we once knew.

Or, perhaps we did.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~  The End ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Originally posted to Vijaya on Sun May 26, 2013 at 07:20 PM PDT.

Also republished by DK GreenRoots, Climate Change SOS, and Community Spotlight.

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