Saturday, May 25, 2024

“There was no sea ice this year” – Climate Generation

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In Savoonga’s realm, where ice once reigned,
Whispers weave a haunting tale, an Arctic refrain.
“No sea ice this year,” the villagers cried,
Their ancestral Yupik traditions, in climate’s grip, denied.

Savoonga’s heartbeat, a subsistence song,
Yet this year, the sea ice is gone.

Siberian Yupik, whispers on the wind,
A tale of struggle, of a way of life, like ice, now thinned.
Sea ice, a cradle for whales and walrus galore,
For thousands of years, now lost, and less abundant than before. 

Elders speak of walrus on the ice,
Whales, seals, seabirds, a hunter’s paradise.
But the climate shifts, the ice gives way,
A changing world, a price to pay.

Savoonga’s heartbeat, a subsistence song,
Yet this year, the sea ice is gone.

Seabirds, once guided by the ice’s calm,
Now search in iceless waters, a chaotic realm.
No icy lid to calm the ocean’s swell gone astray,
Foraging becomes a desperate, uncertain ballet.

Plankton pushed to depths unknown,
Auklets hunger, few eggs are sown.
Seas once neatly stratified, now in swirling disarray,
A shifting world, where uncertainty holds sway.

Savoonga’s heartbeat, a subsistence song,
Yet this year, the sea ice is gone.

No walrus on ice, a dire decree,
Savoonga weeps, the Walrus Capital in the Bering Sea.
Thin ice, unable to cradle and bear,
Mighty marine mammals of the deep, adrift, caught in a watery lair.     

Beached and weary, a tragic sight,
Relentlessly they swim, day and night.
Marine life seeks a changing tide,
A dance of survival, no place to hide.

Savoonga’s heartbeat, a subsistence song,
Yet this year, the sea ice is gone.

Whispers of whales and seals now fade,
A dance with Arctic sea ice, an ancient Yupik trade.
But ice has vanished, a ghost of the past,
Leaving hunters and whales in a dance miscast.

Human rights entwined in the icy plight,
A new battle for self-determination takes flight.
Water, food, culture, all rights now strained,
Yet a chance to salvage, an Arctic world to reclaim.

Savoonga’s heartbeat, a subsistence song,
Yet this year, the sea ice is gone.

The Paris Agreement, a plea for the Earth,
To mitigate causes, to prove the policy’s worth.
A Precautionary Principle, a call to heed,
To act now in our hour of need.

In Savoonga, where ice once stood tall,
The tipping point has cast its thrall.
The village has passed a critical line,
Nature’s plea, a desperate sign.

Yet, discussions linger in corridors,
As if the truth needs more time to explore.
Iceless waters, a stark reality,
Yet skeptics question, and defy the urgency.

In the heart of Savoonga, the truth is clear,
Change is already here, with impacts severe.
The UN echoes, climate migration’s underway,
Human rights must lead, our resolve cannot sway.

As Savoonga laments, its sea ice gone,
The Arctic weeps, a dirge for the dawn.
In the Arctic’s heart, a plea resounds,
For organized action, on hallowed grounds.

Build capacity, educate the young,
In the dance of climate, songs unsung.
Human rights and climate intertwined,
Mitigate the causes, curb the flame,
A chance to salvage, a world to reclaim,
A future secure, for all humankind.

Savoonga’s heartbeat, a subsistence song,
Yet this year, the sea ice is gone.

The following terms appear throughout the poem above.
They’ve been defined below for ease of access when reading.

A variety of seabirds known for their ability to dive underwater in search of food, typically found along coastal regions, nesting on cliffsides or under rocks. The particular ones in mind here are Crested Auklets and Least Auklets. Synonyms: avian marine species

The act of searching for and gathering food, often associated with animals seeking sustenance in their natural habitats. Synonyms: scavenging, hunting and gathering.

Paris Agreement:
A legally binding international treaty aimed at combating climate change by encouraging countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to the impacts of global warming. Agreed upon in 2015. Synonyms: climate accord, multinational pact.

Precautionary Principle:
A guiding principle suggesting that action should be taken to prevent harm, even without scientific certainty, to mitigate potential risks and protect both the environment and public health. Synonyms: preventive approach, risk-averse principle.

A remote Siberian Yupik village situated on St. Lawrence Island, Alaska, in the Bering Sea, characterized by its unique cultural heritage and traditional lifestyle,which is particularly reliant on marine resources. It’s actually closer to Russia than it is to the US! Synonyms: Yupik village, indigenous settlement.

Sea Ice:
Frozen seawater that forms and floats on the surface of the ocean in polar regions and other cold climates, playing a crucial role in regulating Earth’s climate, food webs, and ecosystems. Synonyms: polar ice, marine ice.

The practice of obtaining the bare necessities for survival, such as food, water, and shelter, often through hunting, fishing, and gathering. Subsistence lifestyle in Savoonga relies largely upon walrus, whale, seals, fish, seabirds, and reindeer.  Synonyms: basic sustenance, livelihood.

Siberian Yupik:
Indigenous peoples inhabiting regions of Alaska, Siberia, and the Russian Far East, known for their rich cultural heritage, traditional knowledge, and close relationship with the Arctic environment. Synonyms: Native Alaskan group, Arctic indigenous community.

Thrall: (the tipping point has “cast its thrall”)
Refers to a spell or control, indicating that the tipping point has had a powerful impact, perhaps leading to irreversible consequences or a shift in the state of existence. Synonyms: influence, authority, dominion.

Tipping Point:
The critical threshold at which a minor change can lead to a significant and often irreversible outcome, marking a pivotal moment of transformation or escalation. Synonyms: critical juncture, decisive turning point.

This poem was inspired by an NSF funded PolarTREC experience.

Wendi Pillars

Wendi Pillars, NBCT and military veteran with nearly three decades of experience teaching diverse learners worldwide, passionately advocates for expanding scientific curiosity and language as tools of progress and diplomacy. She champions environmental sustainability as an author, artist, speaker, and advocate for teacher and student leadership. Wendi is driven by a passion for expanding possibilities and an urgency to empower students through education to tackle the challenges of our changing climate. Connect with her on Twitter @wendi322.

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