Climate + COVID-19: A Community Conversation

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A Community Conversation


350Vermont organizes, educates, and supports people in Vermont to work together for climate justice — resisting fossil fuels, building momentum for alternatives, and transforming our communities toward justice and resilience.










A Community Conversation

© 2020 by 350Vermont The 350Vermont Zine Team COORDINATION AND EDITING

Gail Marlene Schwartz Lily Jacobson Marisa D. Keller Olivia Fay Box DESIGN AND ILLUSTRATIONS

Marcy Kass Questions and comments welcome to: 179 South Winooski Avenue Suite 201 Burlington, Vermont 05401


Welcome to 350Vermont’s first issue of Climate + COVID-19. There’s already a lot of great writing and art out there about climate and COVID; this zine is meant not to duplicate that but to share what’s in people’s minds and hearts here in Vermont. Our writers and artists have approached the subject from many points of view, many of which are particular to our state, and our team has already found meaning and learning while working with the creators. We’re hopeful these pieces will inspire you in your own journey.

polished. In our call for submissions, we asked for people’s best thoughts instead of their best work, deliberately focusing on getting images and ideas circulating around what we’re currently living. We envisioned a rich community dialogue and we’re hopeful that you experience the zine in that way. If you have thoughts you’d like to share, please feel free to send them to Also, we received enough material that a second edition is in the works, so stay tuned! Marisa, Gail, Olivia, and Lily The 350Vermont Zine Team

We deliberately chose the word “zine” because we felt the term has more permission for messiness, suggesting something more organic than



Mother Up! and 350 Brattleboro show up for Earth Day 2020

ISSU E 1, SU M M ER 2020

Day Seventy, May 23: Freedom Write by Emma Paris....................................................1 What Leaving Campus Early Taught Me About Climate and Coronavirus Grief by Grace Palmer................................................................................................ 2-3 Does NO2 Cause Blindness? by Bruce Lierman.....................................................................4-5 Bloodroot painting and poem by Ariel Burgess..................................................................6-8 Did You Get It? by Inez Martinez..............................................................................................................9 COVID-19 and the Climate Crisis by Brittany Beland...............................................10-11 Predator Summit by Jean Cannon.......................................................................................................12 Lessons from the Pandemic by Brian Tokar.....................................................................13-14 Progressions by Sandy Henneberger.........................................................................................15-16 Photo by Kate Adams.........................................................................................................................................17 Art by Jen Berger...........................................................................................................................................18-19 A Time of Reckoning by Alice Barbera...................................................................................20-21 The Strain of our Chain by Meredith Anton......................................................................22-25 Shipwreck, Mellow Mouth by Edyth Moldow...............................................................26-27 A Post-Pandemic Future by Jody Williams....................................................................... 28-31 The Wisdom of the Grandmothers by Juliet Cuming............................................32-35 Art by Amber Paris.......................................................................................................................................36-37 Humanity Is Not the Virus by Marisa Keller................................................................... 38-39 Labor On by Lissa Schneckenberger............................................................................................40-41

Day Seventy, May 23: Freedom Write BY EMMA PA RIS

Poems pile up along with every pain in my body. An eyesore they say, the state of my mentality. Everyday I pour my water to the plants springing up in my journals. At night: thoughts wiggle through the cracks where darkness should be unfolding in the sleepless black. Sleeplessness is my diagnosis. Zoom. We are guests. Participants in a world no longer willing to host. Mother Earth has sent you a private message. Corona has disabled chatbox. Corona has disabled screen share. Corona has turned off all videos. Corona has muted all participants. Corona has ended meeting for all.

Emma Paris is 14 years old and lives in Putney. She has been writing poetry for two and a half years and focuses a lot on climate justice, as well as other social issues/causes.




What Leaving Campus Early Taught Me About Climate and Coronavirus Grief BY G RAC E PA L ME R

This May I graduated from college, virtually. My degree was conferred through a livestream, and my cap and gown arrived in the mail after the fact. Early in March it had been announced that in-person classes would transition to virtual learning, and just two days before spring break, students were asked not to return to campus. I returned home in a rush, and never said a proper goodbye to the friends who were already on break when we received the news. It dawned on me while packing that my last walk to class, last meal in a dining hall, and last dance performance had all passed without my knowing. By the time students were informed of the need to vacate campus, the world I had come to love dearly was already only a memory.




I spent the remainder of the semester at home in Vermont, taking classes online. March and April, in a bizarre warping of time, felt simultaneously endless and nonexistent, and I felt as though I was barely processing anything at all. With May came both finals and the realization that the haziness I’d been feeling all along was, in fact, grief. It was grief not just for a semester cut short, but for the pandemic and climate change, too. Each new environmental rollback this spring caused a spike in my ever-present feeling of despair over the climate crisis. Had I been able to finish my senior year as expected, on campus with my best friends, I still wouldn’t have been ready to say goodbye to the place that has informed who I am and what the rest of my life will look like. When I packed up my dorm room for the last time I wasn’t just leaving people or a place. I was leaving, so much more suddenly than I had hoped, a world that I had built

on campus. I think of that world as a sort of context or container, a space in which I understood myself in relation to the people and ideas around me and felt supported in becoming my best and most authentic self.

Nylah Burton argues that due to the underlying causes of climate change, like white supremacy and settler colonialism, people of color experience a deeper level of climate grief than white people.

Mary Annaïse Heglar notes that when conversations about climate change focus only on the science and policy and economics, when they emphasize the facts about what’s going to happen where and when and to whom, they miss something very important. On a human, animal level, climate change is the deepest kind of unsettling. Here’s where I would draw the metaphor between getting booted out of college early and being forced to leave behind a familiar world in order to address the structural changes that climate change and coronavirus demand. Except it’s a little more complicated than that.

So, here’s my call to action, particularly for those with race, class, and other privilege: practice holding multiple truths at once. Your (my) grief over climate change and coronavirus is valid and real. And open your mind and your heart to additional truths. Only through leaning in to multiplicity can we reimagine and create a world that affirms life.

As I write this, I am sheltered and safe. I have never been on the front line of an ecological or health crisis. And as Abigail Higgins points out, there is a risk in overemphasizing experiences like mine. These words by Kyle Powys Whyte come to mind: “for many Indigenous peoples in North America, we are already living in what our ancestors would have understood as dystopian or post-apocalyptic times.” Similarly,

Much like coronavirus brought my world at college to a screeching halt sooner than expected, both the pandemic and the climate crisis are forcing a collective reckoning with the worlds we inhabit now and how we want to rebuild. Moving forward is not about hope or optimism but survival and care. How we individually and collectively grieve the world we’ve lost and imagine a better one will make all the difference.

Grace Palmer is a recent graduate of Barnard College and lives in Waterbury Center.

Does NO2 Cause Blindness? BY B RUC E L IER M AN

For the first time in years, Vermont is likely to see an annual decrease in transportation energy use and resulting greenhouse gas emissions. We’re likely to even approach this year’s annual goal on the way to our goal of 90% renewables by 2050. Furthermore, a study of China released two months ago based on these NASA satellite photos makes the case that many more lives were saved by the reduction in urban pollution than were lost to the virus. In the succeeding months, the same sort of pollution reduction has been observed in cities across the world. How is it that we as a nation and as a world community can mobilize billions of people, appropriate trillions of dollars, and involve our communities in a global campaign to limit the deadly effects of a virus, but remain essentially blind to the larger suffering and imminent catastrophe looming due to our reliance on fossil fuels, especially for transportation? In Vermont transportation is one of the two remaining economic sectors contributing most significantly to our




NASA, as reported in G-FEED, IMAGE SOURCE:

emissions. We have already made progress in limiting the atmospheric damage from electrical generation, even with the closing of a nuclear power source that contributed minuscule greenhouse gas emissions. We have begun to decouple emissions from the expanded use of our electrical energy system.

But we still drive cars too much. We drive too much in part because Vermont is a rural state. By our decades-old common conception, public transportation and other alternative travel modes won’t work here. We note with trite, glib dismissals that public transportation could only survive here

exacerbated by fossil fuel pollutants. It is as if another consequence of fossil fuel pollution is blindness; blindness to the day-to-day catastrophe of fossil fuel use. In this pandemic crisis we have shown we can, on very short notice, find ways to reduce travel, driving, and interstate contact and still get much of our work done, maintain personal contacts, get exercise and enjoy the out-ofdoors. We’ve recognized the vulnerability we face when our food and basic needs come from far away. We’ve taken note of how much our basic needs can be satisfied at home, and how little of what we might normally buy is really necessary. These are our new truths. Perhaps the reduction in the pollutant haze has enabled us to see the perils we have created. Yet we see these truths as somehow atypical, only a brief interruption before a return to an unsustainable, inefficient. and extravagant culture only justifiable as long as we are willing to ignore, to remain blind to, these truths.

with large government subsidies, ignoring the subsidies in infrastructure costs, tax incentives, human health and life expectancy penalties we pay for fossil fuel transportation. As a state we have accepted these anachronistic critiques as immutable fact. We assert our economy can’t risk the stress of restrictions on internal combustion engine use, even though we have been willing to risk this economic stress to limit the effects of COVID-19. At the same time we accept the rise of childhood asthma, COPD, emphysema, tuberculosis, and various forms of cancer

With the example of our COVID response fresh in our minds, are we so short of imagination, both individually and as a culture, that we cannot envision an enjoyable, satisfying, and rewarding future without the conspicuous consumption of fossil fuels? Will we be blinded again? Bruce Lierman lives in Bennington, where he serves as a member of the town energy committee and as volunteer commissioner-at-large for transportation on the Bennington County Regional Commission. He also teaches bicycling skills.

Bloodroot BY AR I EL B URG ESS


I the way it pierces through melting dusty pink to peapod green leaf emerges embracing its bud shielding from early spring chill delicate grace petals splaying open, quiet and soft yin opening to yellow, soaking up the sun leaves of snapping turtle skin undulating matte splendor feigning toughness, but succumbing to sunburn how long the winter cradled by Pachamama awaiting the perfect moment

II our winter has been long, not since October our winter has been persisting deepening since since social media—learn to fix a broken pencil, and watch a murder— network internet—connect with anyone, and lose connection— neoliberal economics—strive for efficiency, and lose your soul— nuclear destruction—win the battle, lose the war— internal combustion engine —go faster, risk everything, everyone— colonialism—explore, and ruin what you find— imagined superiority—disillusion, disconnection— domination—a fool’s errand. CL I MATE + COV I D 1



III skin as thin as peach flower ephemeral as a first crush passing in the silence of night giving way to the next yet staying with you forever IV brought to our knees all our weaknesses laid bare

forest duff grit —perseverance— generations linked together built upon each —other— pushing up through the mulch pile no regard for what stands in the way driving step by step out of cool, dark repose not through garbage, but through fertilizer, fuel

injustice to the earth each other —brother and sister all plant, animal, fungus, bacteria, mineral, wind, water, and spirit bleeding from our roots we cry out in communal agony “don’t let us return to normal!” Let us begin again, as in spring. Towards the sun, towards a new day. A better, more just, more beautiful, more loving way.

V we rise

Ariel Burgess is an ecological artist and educator from Winooski.




Did You Get It? BY I N EZ MA RT IN E Z

Sages, objectors, tree-huggers, all conscientious voices— some young, beseeching, others old, preaching, “we are bound to one another and the leaved, needled, and flowered, furred, finned, scaled, and feathered by air, water, and fire-fed earth cradling, nurturing, and finally receiving” can stop. Covid 19 rubs our noses in connecting you and me. Wordless, we begin to know no matter oceans, race, lives well or poorly lived, wealth at birth, beliefs, knowledge, or love, illness by illness, death by death. Now, for now, we get it. And we give it— in ironic separation stranger volunteers emerge, join healing heroes serving others as ourselves. Post contagion? We shall see. Planet failing, will we still get you in me?

Inez Martinez, lifelong scholar-activist-writer, recently has collaborated with artist Sowbel to create a haiku collection re autumn in Vermont, A Duckpond Season, and with artist Toby Needler to create Childful Moments, a book of poems re childhood for which Toby has created collages.


COVID-19 and the Climate Crisis Does Vermont have the answer? BY B R IT TA N Y B E L AN D


t first glance, a global crisis would seem to shift priorities from virtually any other task at hand. When hundreds of thousands of people have died across the globe and millions more infected, how can the world focus on anything else? Over the past several weeks, this question has played in the minds of climate activists all over the world, including many in Vermont. So which is it? Has COVID-19 been a wet towel to the climate justice movement, or has it stoked the fire? Before we dive into this, let’s acknowledge the pain, uncertainty, and anxiety you may be feeling. Give yourself a moment to withdraw from the chaos. Breathe in, hold for a count of four, and breathe out. Repeat until calm. There, now let’s talk.




It’s no question priorities have shifted; the surprising fact is how the pandemic has changed them. There is a lack of science surrounding how COVID-19 could be directly related to climate change, so I will not pretend to have facts. I will also not pretend there isn’t a larger picture forming in front of us — one that encompasses not only the climate crisis but social injustices as well. The system we all rely on is broken, and in moments like these, the faults become gaping holes allowing our planet’s health and millions of people to fall through them. Disposable gloves, masks, takeout containers, surgical gowns — the list goes on of single-use items we couldn’t make it through this pandemic without. Can we fault people for using them to stay safe, ask them to use better options or boycott? Can we ask people to eat only organic and local foods, to only shop at local stores or farms?

To do so would be detrimental to us all. In doing so, we are excluding the largest population of people and we need those very people if we are to address the climate crisis in a sustainable way. Many do not have the luxury to choose another option. So do we give up on the climate crisis for now? Can you guess my answer? No. We do not give up. We adapt, like the true Vermonters we are. But how do we adapt? We change our mindset. The climate crisis has become increasingly more prevalent. Younger generations understand the severity and older generations try desperately to understand and change so their children have a world to live in. The piece we have missed is that the health and well-being of people are at the forefront of this movement. We cannot pull from an empty well. For millions of people, surviving one day to the next is an undertaking. We cannot ask more of those people. So that means millions of people, who probably care about saving this planet, aren’t able to contribute to helping save it. Understanding perspective is critical. Understanding that your perspective is not the only one is paramount. Take a step back, look at the injustices of racism, the inequities around clean water, the need for health care for all. We cannot expect to be

successful in the movement to solve climate change unless we take care of the social injustices first. They are the foundation and currently, it is crumbling. We cannot build the house without the foundation. So connect with your neighbors, demand the creation of a system that treats everyone equally, demand health care, clean water, and food for everyone, and most importantly demand that those things are given not in packages, deals, or stipends, but in permanent, sustainable ways that guarantee these rights for generations to come. Only then will we have the understanding of the need for interconnectedness and community in solving the climate crisis. That is the larger picture COVID has painted for us, and as Vermonters, we know there is always opportunity in hardship, so let’s take this opportunity to adapt and make lasting positive change.

Brittany Beland is an outdoor industry professional based in Burlington.

Predator Summit BY J EA N C A NN O N

ARTIST’S STATEMENT I was finishing up this piece when the pandemic hit. It should be self-explanatory in its relation to climate change. It could relate to COVID-19 in that it has to do with our relationship to the earth and other living beings. All living things transmit and absorb particles through the air from our breathing and, in the case of humans, from our machinery. All beings are interdependent. Let us respect and not destroy other life forms.

Jean Cannon teaches drawing, painting, art history, and design at the Community College of Vermont and is represented by the Canal Street Art Gallery in Bellows Falls and Main Street Gallery in Windsor. Visit for a glimpse of her range.

Lessons from the Pandemic BY B R IA N TO KAR

We are living in unimaginable times. It started, perhaps, with the worldwide pro-democracy protests that swarmed the streets of cities from Hong Kong to Santiago, Chile, just a few short months ago. The protests were all shut down by the pandemic, as a largely unprepared world was forced to resort to the crudest of disease mitigation measures: the virtual lockdown of public spaces. Then, here in the US, we witnessed several of the most blatant acts of police brutality and white supremacist violence in some time, and a public outpouring of frustration and outrage—compounded by over two months of lockdown—led to what has become a nationwide and even global uprising against an increasingly brash and authoritarian social order. For climate justice activists, the pandemic lockdown felt almost like a compression in time of some potential consequences of the accelerating global climate crisis, including the exhaustion of hospital capacity in many cities and the shutdown of

much of the global economy. Hypermilitarized policing in the US reflects a long legacy of racism and also echoes decades-old warnings of what a military state unprepared for climaterelated disruptions could resort to. But the air and water around major cities were also suddenly cleaner during the lockdown, climate-altering emissions were down by as much as 17 percent in April, and people experienced the sudden miracle of major urban thoroughfares no longer dominated by cars. Wholesale oil prices even went negative for a couple of days, as consumption fell so dramatically that producers were running out of space to store excess output and their May futures contracts became less than worthless. The price of oil remained so low that the bottom began to fall out from under the US fracking industry and other once-lucrative modes of fossil fuel extraction. Some cities greatly expanded the number of car-free streets to allow for more socially distanced pedestrian spaces, and a




more lasting makeover of our urban centers started to appear possible. One overarching lesson of the pandemic is that once-unimaginable changes in the social order are indeed possible. As the pioneering energy economist Charles Komanoff recently wrote, “we may be shaking loose the defeatism that nothing can be done quickly.” We have seen new community-based forms of social solidarity and mutual aid appear all around the world. But as the most acute phase of the pandemic (hopefully) subsides, more sustained forms of organization, solidarity, and lasting grassroots alliances will be needed if any of the more hopeful signs that emerged this spring are to be sustained over the longer term. We will need more coordination from below to continue to satisfy people’s basic needs where the official responses are failing, and will need to overturn the profitdriven model of the pharmaceutical industry that threatens to continue




undermining the public health response, especially in the US. We will need unprecedented bottom-up coordination of efforts on the ground and a resurgence of radical democracy in the face of rising authoritarianism. Burlington resident and founding social ecology theorist Murray Bookchin wrote nearly forty years ago, “If we don’t do the impossible, we shall be faced with the unthinkable.” In our time, this is not only prophetic, but it has become a near certainty.

Original version published by ROAR Magazine (, June 23, 2020. Brian Tokar’s most recent book is Climate Justice and Community Renewal: Resistance and Grassroots Solutions, coedited with Tamra Gilbertson (Routledge 2020). A 50 percent discount on online orders is available through August (Code CJCR20).

Progressions BY SA NDY H EN NE B E RG E R

1. They are going to kill the pussy willow, oh yes congeal robin’s blood. till the earth is a charred, vast meatball spinning on the axis of the iron earth wheel. 2. Always only stay alive Bury your hope. Bury your desolation. Hang on. Talk to a friend. Talk to the wind. Find shelter. Imagine shelter if not. Remember, Not all silence is stolen Not all rain contaminated. Keep breathing. Only keep breathing. Wait for the rain. Always only stay alive, do no soul murder. Let the other breathe in another’s eyes. Live. That’s what she heard, inside. Skating along she felt a lightness, the lake bitterly cold but windless. Ankles strong from lots of practice, she explored up the frozen creek, back again out onto the lake’s glassy surface. She looked at him, eyes smiling. He loved to race. Every time their hands touched she felt the lightness. As time passed, she began to see the bird that flew between their outstretched arms, she was just touching its wingtip feathers. Later she realized the bird was also a colt. And the flying was in her. So was the rain.

3. Spring Rain, and the Ocean


The robin curved its shoehorn tail, spread its black wings for a moment in mid air.

And finally, I think it is important that we focus on where we want to go from here—real life metaphors: Riding a motorcycle—look where you want to go, up ahead, to avoid accidents. Horseback riding—the horse goes where you look. And finally, playing hockey, aiming a puck to score— Don’t look at the goalie, the obstacles blocking your way— however ugly and scary—look where you want to aim.

Weightless. Then it fell, swooped, to put down on the branches of a glittering pear tree. Oaks and maples billowed against white-grayed sky. Blurred in the rain, new leaves melded together. Trees as mobile, puzzle pieces, rinsed-green forms, merged into seawall horizons. Fog breathed out an illusional ocean, lime green, sunfish green, bark green, orange green. Hunched, the bird’s smoke-shoulders banked the red glow in its belly. It shook water off its back, as it listened: The walls of sunfish, out in the ocean, green music, more birds calling.




Sandy Henneberger is a longtime writer and retired speech therapist who lives in Colchester.

KAT E ADAMS ARTIST’S STATEMENT The sacred mountain, Mt. Ascutney, where I live is in constant motion with the changes of seasons ... weather ... cloud formations ... winds ... ice, snow, hail. … The winds off the northwest slope barrel down into the valley where my cabin is nestled in the overflow from the glacier age and scattered rocks that spewed from its volcano core. The Abenaki, People of the Dawnland, lived in this area of the hemisphere, caring for the Earth and creatures with ways of wisdom focused in community and respect for all living beings.

The pandemic has confined me to my farm yet propelled me out into creation … seeking solace, wisdom, guidance. Kneading my fingers into the soil as I plant a larger garden for self care and to share soothes my anxiety. I whisper, "Teach me..." I seek to learn new the old ways that sustained this place and people for centuries before the invasions of killer plagues and greedy control. Wisdom, compassion, respect from deep depths and wide skies await our

willingness to grow into a new season that leaves behind the debris of the past and embraces a compassion for all life.

Kate Adams has enjoyed cultivating curiosity of learning as an educator in public and private schools. Now retired, she shares the beauty of creation and her horses as teachers/ healers at Ascutney Mtn Horse Farm, Ascutney, Vermont.


J EN BE RGE R ARTIST’S STATEMENT I chose the theme of the whale in Montreal for a number of reasons. One is that at the beginning of COVID there were multiple reports of wildlife returning to urban spaces, and not all were true. But it did give us the opportunity to see how directly humans have an impact on climate and climate change. There was hope in this fact and seeing what could happen if humans did take a step back. The return of wildlife, the reduction of pollution, all of it was inspiring. And then here comes a whale! In a large urban area. The oddity matched the oddity of the world we are living in, and the uncertainty of the existence of the whale, and its future, matched our existence. And, again, there was hope. The visual was also stunning. To find out, shortly after its arrival, it was killed and by a death that could have been prevented, a death caused by humans, connected to the deep ecological grief many of us have experienced over the years because of the impacts of climate change. Once again, an undeniable event about humans’ impact on ecology. This one event connected all of the joys, hopes, fears, uncertainty, and oddness of COVID and humans’ relationship to the planet.





Global News, “Montreal’s rare humpback whale sighting draws crowds and concern.” The Straits Times, “Whale that swam 400km upriver to Montreal found dead.”

Jen Berger works as an interdisciplinary, community and socially engaged artist and educator. Jen creates community engagement opportunities through her new project “At the Root,” and is currently adjunct faculty at the Community College of Vermont and Champlain College.

A Time of Reckoning BY ALIC E BARB E RA

I’m in my car hoping to find any semblance of human activity. Some people are walking 6 feet apart, others are not. Risky, I think to myself. I drive on. I’m headed down a road that leads to farmland and open sky. Even though it’s the beginning of spring, it still looks like January on a cloudy day. The Vermont grass is brown, and the cows are huddled together. I’m looking to nature for comfort from endless stories about the coronavirus. Businesses closed, sports activities banned, and most human interaction has ground to a halt. Only supermarkets and pharmacies for us, then back home we go under lock and key. Raindrops begin splashing against my windshield. The Earth is crying. The perfect backdrop to a frightened and upside down world not knowing what to do or where we go from here. Our top leaders give me little comfort, sending mixed messages, further confusing an already dumbfounded nation. “Stay home,” “Go to work.” “We’re killing the economy.” “By summer this will pass.”


My short escape doesn’t last long and in less than 20 minutes I’m back in my driveway, at home, heeding the advice of our beleaguered yet prudent governor to limit our homebound excursions to short distances. *** I sit in my favorite chair, where I will plant myself for the next several hours. My computer sits comfortably on my lap, as I wonder if my incessant screen staring will deteriorate any further my less than 20/20 vision. I’m seeing double. I keep staring. Which website will I open next? An Excel tutorial Level 3? A new way of baking bread? Or should I start deleting endless emails from cyber recruiters telling me they found the perfect job if I just click here… I don’t. My worry continues. So does the virus.

economies. Invisible killers of those we love, purging and sweeping our planet with biblical proportion because we failed to heed the warning signs of a climate in crisis. This is no evolutionary joke, or God waving his almighty finger in our faces, telling us to wake up before it’s too late. This is the Earth turning its back on us for deforesting the land, and rendering hundreds of plant and animal species extinct. This is the Earth gasping for breath.

Alice Barbera works for Lumunos, Inc., and has written numerous essays for their monthly e-news publication. Since they deal with helping people find their true calling, their themes always revolve around personal experiences and human connections.

Pandemics wear no political hats. They travel unencumbered and hold no passports. They carve deep divisions between rich and poor, caring nothing for humanity, stock prices or global




The Strain of Our Chain COVID-19, Industrial Agriculture, and

an Appeal for a Dietary Shift BY MER EDIT H AN TO N

As we contemplate the end to the worldwide lockdown in response to COVID-19, we should acknowledge that without significant transformation in the ways in which we feed ourselves, there will be more emerging viruses to come. “All human viral infections are believed to originate in animals” (Gregor, 2020). So even if one condemns or avoids consuming animals from wet markets, one must contend with the diseases that come packaged in the “products” of industrial animal agriculture. As someone who has not eaten animals in almost thirty years, I am attuned to the vast and worsening environmental effects that come with factory farming, from deforestation to pollution of air and water to GHG emissions to species extinction to world hunger. But never have I felt such a strong warning from Nature that the continuation of our habits will be our demise than in the form of COVID-19. If we do not change our diets, our sicknesses, as well as the planet’s, will worsen in scope and variety.

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Gardeners often talk about invasive species, but we humans rarely call ourselves one. Yet that is what we are. When humans invade/raze animal ecosystems for profit or consumption, “benign animal microbes” become “deadly human pathogens” (Shah, 2020). “At wet markets, crowded cages of animals, including exotic animals, are contaminated with the feces, urine, and blood of different species mixed together, and animals may be slaughtered. The conditions lead to the perfect storm for zoonotic (animal-tohuman) disease transmission” (Gregor, 2020). Yet, although much negative publicity about wet markets has materialized since COVID-19 has spread — from the threat to public health to the moral justification of slaughtering and selling wildlife — less discourse has explored the concurrent health and environmental dangers of the industrial practice of animal agriculture. To my mind, it is the pathogens, viruses, and antibiotic-resistant bacteria lurking in the billions of cows, pigs, chickens, and turkeys humans slaughter and

ingest that pose an even greater direct threat to human health. “The livestock industry’s expanse, some 4 billion hectares, encompasses 40 percent of the world’s inhabitable surface, making it the greatest interface between humanity and nature, and thus the primary portal for new diseases” (Pendergast, 2020). A famous quote by Paul McCartney is often presented in the subculture forums of the plant-based tribe to which I happily belong: “If slaughterhouses had glass walls, we would all be vegetarians.” While I do believe that a full transparency of the details of confined animal feeding operations (the chronic egregious treatment and conditions of animals) would cause many a carnivore to question the ethics of their diet, the verdict is still out on whether presenting transparent facts about diseases from factory-farmed animals gives meat and dairy eaters as much pause. Take antibiotic resistance. “The surge in drug-resistant infections is one of the world’s most ominous threats, and public health authorities say one of the biggest causes is farmers who dose millions of pigs, cows, and chickens with antibiotics to keep them healthy” (Richtel 2019). In order to meet the demand for meat and dairy and remain competitive in a capitalistic market, animals are pumped full of antibiotics to force bigger and faster growth as

well as to stave off diseases from other animals. It is as unnatural a way to raise animals as is the way they are slaughtered, yet the population seems undeterred from consuming antibiotic-laden animals. “An analysis of government data by the Environmental Working Group … found that 71 percent of pork chops at supermarkets in the United States carried resistant bacteria, second only to ground turkey at 79 percent” (Richtel, 2019). The demand and the barbecues continue. “Stressed animals, immunologically compromised and crowded together in unhygienic conditions, create ideal conditions for the propagation of disease” (Warden, 2020). This is true whether we are considering pangolins in a wet market in China, or pigs at a Smithfield Farms farm. “Increasingly, coronaviruses are emerging and circulating among farm animal populations, and the more that novel coronaviruses mix in greater numbers of animals, the greater the likelihood that strains with the potential to spark a pandemic may emerge” (Gregor, 2020). If we want to decrease the conditions that cause disease in our food consumption, we must see the unifying cause of disease-creation. “Activities related to the captivity, handling, transport, slaughter, and consumption of … animals enable diseases to jump to humans” (Warden, 2020).


The more I study the health and environmental effects of consuming animals and their products, the more I am convinced of the need for education regarding the havok we are wreaking through our food choices and farming methods. Let us consider the climate crisis, beginning with deforestation. “To sate our species’ carnivorous appetites, we’ve razed an area around the size of the continent of Africa to raise animals for slaughter. The problem is the way cutting down forests and expanding towns, cities, and industrial activities creates pathways for animal microbes to adapt to the human body” (Shah, 2020). Deforestation causes harm in the form of diseases, GHG emissions, and many other environmental degradations. “The production of animal products generates the majority of food-related GHG emissions (72-78% of total agricultural emissions)” and is the “major driver of climate change” (Springmann, 2018). “Between 2010 and 2050, as a result of expected changes in population and income levels, the environmental effects of the food system could increase by 50-90% … reaching levels that are beyond the planetary boundaries that define a safe operating space for humanity” (Springmann, 2018). Although in most situations, I am hesitant to attribute blame to one cause and one cause alone, nor to find an

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absolute panacea through one solution, humans’ perpetual and widespread demand for eating animals and animal products is, to me, by far the most glaring culprit. “GHG emissions cannot be sufficiently mitigated without dietary changes toward more plant-based diets” (Springmann, 2018). A couple of winters ago, I became certified in plant-based nutrition through an online program from Cornell. I had a broad-based education already on the link between our top leading causes of death — from heart disease to cancer to type 2 diabetes — and our animal-heavy diets. But I learned in more detail how “animal-based foods lack antioxidant shields and tend to activate free radical production and cell damage, while plant-based foods, with their abundant antioxidants, tend to prevent such damage” (Campbell, 2006). It is at times unconscionable to me that we are not more aggressively educating our public about the reasons we should be shifting our diets away from animals and toward plants. “It’s important to note that the major comorbid conditions for COVID-19 severity and death — obesity, heart disease, hypertension, type 2 diabetes — may all be controlled or even reversed with a healthy enough plantbased diet” (Gregor, 2020). “The US livestock population consumes more than seven times as much grain as is consumed directly by the entire American population” (Springmann, 2018). So why, if it is far healthier

for our populations, for animals, and for the environment, are we not cutting out the middle man, or rather, the middle cow? Are we willing to roll the dice on the demise of our environment, increase the odds of contracting a food-borne or food-related disease, in exchange for habit, tradition, and/or taste? “An important first step would be to align national food-based dietary guidelines with the present evidence on healthy eating and the environmental impact of diets” (Springmann, 2018). It is hard to argue with the facts. Perhaps the most entrenched obstacle to a solution is understanding that just because something is legal does not mean it is moral, healthy, or sustainable. It will take facts, but it will also take a change in consciousness. I believe this can only come through further education. “Eating high on the food chain can be seen now as a kind of vicious circle, in which the chemicals we inflict on the environment and other life forms mount exponentially, and in which we ourselves as consumers become progressively more vulnerable to them” (Macy, 1987). While we are all in quarantine so as not to catch a deadly virus for which there is no current cure, we might want to finally admit that we are ingesting our own afflictions and we should change course.

Meredith Anton received her MFA in Creative Nonfiction from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. She is at work on a collection of essays questioning the nature of intelligence, human capacity for empathy, and potential for behavioral change amidst an environmental crisis fueled by a profit-driven food system that triggers disease.

REFERENCES Campbell, T. C., & Campbell, T. M. (2006). The China study: The most comprehensive study of nutrition ever conducted and the startling implications for diet, weight loss and long-term health. Gregor, M. (2020, April 8). How not to die in a pandemic [Webinar]. Retrieved from takeaways-from-my-webinar-oncovid-19/. Macy, J. (1987). Foreward. Robbins, J. Diet for a New America (pp. viii-xii). Walpole: Stillpoint. Pendergrass, D. & Vettese, T. (2020, May 31). The Climate Crisis and COVID-19 Are Inseparable. Jacobin. Richtel, M. (2019, August 4). Tainted pork, ill consumers and an investigation thwarted. The New York Times. Shah, S. (2020, February 18). Think exotic animals are to blame for the coronavirus? Think again. The Nation. Springmann, M., Clark, M., Mason-D’Croz, D. et al. (2018). Options for keeping the food system within environmental limits. Nature 562, 519–525 . https://doi. org/10.1038/s41586-018-0594-0 Warden, L. (2020, March 19). A palate for pestilence: ominous links between COVID-19 and industrial animal farming. Sentient Media.


Shipwreck, Mellow Mouth BY E DYT H MO L DOW

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In my mind, The world is like this: Spooling and unspooling Wound ropes And rigged sails And a hull jagged edge Tipping its hat to the Sea. This year, the rope has Caught fire The carved wooden caravan Carting us On anxious tides, Lost against the water, And a captain blinded By his Self-contained canister under The deck. Now the crew stands in Different corners, some Spewing salt, And some standing,

Pulling, Throwing their own backs against the tide Higher and higher with each moonlight. In the absence, The silence, The neglect and the waiting And the reminiscing, A new captain emerges—whispering To the sea Instead of slashing aimlessly Calmer waters beckon those Who notice And carries those safely Who understand What it means to be safe.

Edyth Moldow is a Denver, Colorado, climate activist and lover of turning feelings to poetry. Edyth is studying biochemistry at Middlebury College and is an active member and current outreach co-coordinator of the Middlebury College Sunrise Hub.

A Post-Pandemic Future Human Security & Environmental Justice BY J ODY W IL L IA M S

Despite decades of warnings about probable pandemics, the novel coronavirus, Covid-19, caught the world unprepared. As the virus spread and people became increasingly aware of its deadly touch, few would have anticipated the complete breakdown of “normal” life. With millions infected and hundreds of thousands dead and collapsing economies leaving increased numbers of people without work, most of us are facing a frightening future of multiple uncertainties. The pandemic has starkly and immediately demonstrated that national borders mean nothing when it comes to pandemics of all sorts. Covid is an immediate global crisis that should make us even more keenly aware of the longer-term crisis of our own making — climate change, the destruction of nature, and species collapse.

Covid has clearly demonstrated the linkages between human health and environmental health and dramatically spurred conversation about issues many of us have been talking about for years. National and international systems at every level are in desperate need of change if there is to be a future for human beings on this planet. In my view, those changes must be built around the notions of human security and environmental health and justice. Representative democracy and faith in government entities must be rebuilt. Government must be understood as an active, positive force in all our lives and not just those of the rich and powerful. Global crises often upend people’s view of the world they are living in, and a lot has already been written about what a post-Covid world might look like. One of the most poignant challenges for change comes from Indian writer and activist Arundhati Roy in her article, “The Pandemic as Portal,” which appeared in the Financial Times on April 3. In describing this portal, Roy wrote: “We can choose to walk through it,




dragging the carcasses of our prejudice and hatred, our avarice, our data banks and dead ideas, our dead rivers and smoky skies behind us. Or we can walk through lightly, with little luggage, ready to imagine another world. And ready to fight for it.” To make that possible we must be able to imagine a different world. We need a vision of what we are striving for in order to figure out how we get there. That must be combined with bold policies, multilateral leadership, and long-term civil-society commitment to fundamental change. Without that, Covid’s long-term impact will be far greater than the public health emergency we are muddling through now. Inevitably the impact will be felt most severely by those living in poverty and marginalized communities, and women and children will bear the brunt of the violence engendered by a world that doesn’t seem to care much about them at all. Building the world I see must revolve around human security and just environmental policies. We cannot continue to accept corrupt political systems and the politicians that populate them, promoting and protecting globalized economies that revere the mega-rich and exploit the

exploitable. Economic systems must not exist that allow a relative few to control more resources than everyone else. Businesses and corporations that rape the planet, focusing on their returns now and the future be damned, must be held accountable. We cannot participate in the wanton destruction of nature, which threatens one million species with extinction. We can no longer pretend that militarism and wars and all the horrors that they bring and leave in their wake do not affect us all in one way or another. We need serious change to end entrenched and increasing extreme poverty. Changes must be formulated around ending racism, sexism, gender inequalities, a pandemic of violence against women and children, and promoting and exploiting fear of “the other” to divide and conquer and maintain the grip on power of a few. Thinking about all of this can feel overwhelming and disempowering, but if change were easy, we would already be there. Let’s look at this through the prism of one aspect of US policy and actions and what needs to change to affect the whole. One way of starting to do this is by looking at the country’s discretionary budget, which leaves no doubt that the top priority here is the military. This rests on the theory of “national

defense,� which holds that if the nation is secure, its people are secure. The corona pandemic demonstrates that all the weapons in the world are useless in making us secure. I believe that the real premise of national security is defending the power structures of the state itself, not meeting the needs of people

themselves, which is fundamental to ensuring a healthy planet for all — human security. If the United States focused on human security, the country and the world would look very different. But it seems that most people don’t look seriously at how our taxes are spent and especially turn a blind eye to the grotesque cost of national defense, which has translated into endless wars,

new and “improved” nuclear weapons and the overall weapons industry here, and hundreds of US military bases and installations in scores of countries around the world. In her opinion piece, “We Don’t Need to Raise Taxes to Have ‘Medicare for All,’” in the New York Times on October 17, 2019, Lindsay Koshgarian of the National Priorities Project looks at cuts in the defense budget to redirect that money for human security needs. After her analysis of various cuts, she concludes, “Remaking our military as a truly defense-based institution, rather than a war machine and A.T.M. for private contractors, will require major changes. It’s a project that can’t happen overnight, and it will need serious planning. … That’s no excuse for continuing to spend hundreds of billions in ways that make our world more dangerous and deny us the ability to seriously invest in things like jobs, health care, education, nature and all that makes our lives better.” In thinking about such “major changes” through the lenses of the pandemic and climate change, it is starkly clear that we must provide health care for all with a system that is prepared for all contingencies — unlike what we have been living with. With the current economic instability and loss of millions of jobs, policies must be developed to create green jobs — those that will

move us away from fossil fuels and toward energy production that will help the environment thrive instead of destroying it. Recreating a modern version of the Depression-era Civilian Conservation Corps could also provide jobs while rebuilding and conserving the environment. Education in this country should be free, of equal quality no matter where one lives, and paid for through the federal budget. From the moment they enter school, children must begin to learn that human beings are one part of our shared environment and we all have a responsibility to promote and protect the health of the entire planet. The coronavirus pandemic revealed the systems failures everywhere. A global crisis cannot be met with piecemeal responses. As the world slowly stabilizes, we must not be lulled into complacency and let things return to status quo ante. We must help change the world. Alone we cannot manage the climate change crisis. Together, we might have a chance.

Jody Williams is a 1997 Nobel Peace Laureate.




The Wisdom of the Grandmothers BY J UL IET C UM IN G , A KA Q U E E N O F THE FROZEN NORTH

This piece is a parable. It uses age and gender in stereotypical ways to comment on how we have gotten stuck in a particular stage of human development. The author of this parable understands that gender is on a continuum. *** In the time before time was tamed, the elders, who were, of course, the Grandmothers (the wisest elders of all genders), sat in a circle. One of the Grandmothers was feeling out of balance. She was feeling frustrated that the boy children were causing such a ruckus. Always wanting to go out hunting, always wanting to collect the biggest tree limb to make the biggest spear, not wanting to come and help with the tasks that needed to be done for the people to continue surviving as they had for millennia. So the Grandmothers were discussing what to do with all this energy, all this rambunctiousness, and one of the Grandmothers had an idea. She




suggested using a strategy that had been used successfully on many occasions: taking the most troublesome member of the group and making them the leader for a short period of time. The belief was that if this young person could see how important it was to make decisions that were healthy and sustainable for the people, the charismatic upstart would be changed by the experience and this would impact their fellow children. The young ones would see and understand their place in the world. But another Grandmother was concerned that sometimes the young children did not remember the important principles that had kept the human animals living so comfortably and peacefully upon the earth for so many millions of years. She was concerned about gratitude, foresight, and compassion, which sadly sometimes seemed lacking in these energetic young souls. But other Grandmothers assured her that there was no way that the children, who had been raised with

these important principles, would forget them when one of their group became a temporary leader. And so the decision was made that the young charismatic troublemaker would become a leader for a short while, and the Grandmothers would observe his progress and end his reign when he had learned his lesson. But then unexpected weather came and caused great upheaval for the people, and in the ensuing pandemonium, the circle of Grandmothers was broken. Many of the Grandmothers perished and the few Grandmothers who were left were busy tending to all the people who had been injured in the great storms. For as all knew, tending to the injured is the first mark of civilization. And during this troubled and frightening time, the young boy tried to lead the people as best he could. And all the other young children gathered around him and tried to help him lead and, in some cases, fought bitterly between themselves about what was most important and the best strategies to use. Many months, and then years, passed, and the young boy, who found the burden of authority quite exhausting, became anxious and isolated from the nurturing and love that had always been available to him, and in his isolation he became selfish and grew rigid and unyielding.

And after many years of this, the ways of the young boy, and his similarly confused companions, became accepted as the laws of the destabilized community. The old principles, which had kept the world in balance for millennia, seemed to have been forgotten. Generations passed, and the people began to think that the ruling of the young boys (for it was now young boys, regardless of their actual age, who always ruled) was how it was meant to be. This new type of leadership revolved around the things that young boys have always found interesting: constant hunting, the piling up of treasures, war games that make one person a victor while another is a slave. These childish games became enshrined in law. But even more disturbing, many of the people began to believe that these boyish obsessions were appropriate values and that the boys’ games were a legitimate way of living. And, most disturbing of all, the women began to lose their own sense of power and began to believe the taunts and silly comments of the thoughtless little boys. The boys were, of course, terrified of the women, because the women were the only ones with the power to create life. And so, in their terror, the boys tried to diminish and control the women.

Many generations passed in this way, but there were still a few Grandmothers who carried the original beliefs forward. Hidden, and in many cases persecuted, the Grandmothers kept the memories alive, the old ways, the old values, the old principles. These Grandmothers knew that there would come a time when their Mother, the Earth, would finally take back control of the planet they all called home.

And yet a mythology has been created that if people only work “hard enough,” they will be rewarded. But the system has been created to serve the wealthy and powerful, and even those who beat the odds are still prisoners within a value system that has become twisted and unsustainable. In many cases, the wealthy are not even people, but rather entities called corporations whose only purpose is to constantly create more wealth despite the costs.

But Mother Earth is not the kind of mother who snatches the child’s hand away from the fire before they get burned. Mother Earth is the kind of mother who lets the child experience something, even something quite unpleasant and painful, and possibly deadly, because for many, that is the only way they learn.

But often the wealthiest are people, and they are so hungry for kindness and connection that they require more, and more, and more, and more to fill the empty caverns inside themselves, as if multiple homes and endless possessions could ever replace a sense of belonging, of being connected to Mother Earth.

Right now, Mother Earth is giving us an experience that we need in order to learn the lesson that our home, Planet Earth, is not here for humans to rape and pillage.

These wealth mongering few sow discord and confusion by pitting one group of starving workers against the other. They privilege one group of slaves and give them permission to exploit and subjugate another group, and as long as the spoils go to the wealthy, everything is tolerated, even the killing of innocent children.

Mother Earth has sent one of her handmaidens, Coronavirus, the Viral Queen, who is stripping away all the explanations and justifications to lay bare the reality that the human animals have created a so-called “civilization” that is very far from civilized. The world has become imbalanced. Some humans must work constantly without rest just to have enough food and adequate shelter, whereas other humans have so much wealth that they have more than they, or any of their descendants, could possibly ever need.




Random signifiers are used to designate who have an advantage: those with penises, those whose skin is of a lighter hue, those who practice one form of worship, those who speak a particular tongue. And while the starving workers and the managers who keep the trains running on time are distracted by the increasingly difficult task of living, the wealthy continue to pillage their Mother, the Earth, extracting all that they can.

The Corona Queen now shows us the grim reality of this situation. And we cannot hide or look away. Because even as the carcasses mount up in great towering piles, the wealthy continue to make more and more gold. And so, the workers who service this rotting and antiquated machine are now dying in great numbers. But others have a rare break from the endless work. They are quarantining themselves in an effort to keep their neighbors safe which, like tending to the injured, is the first mark of civilization. And thus, some humans now have, for the first time in their lives, the opportunity to look around. And they are beginning to see the mythology for what it is.

Mother Earth is burning and she is holding our hands to the fire so that we, too, can feel the heat. Will we change our ways before it is too late? Will we wake up and grow up and learn from our mistakes? In the end, will the wisdom of the Grandmothers prevail?

Climate Justice=Social Justice=Racial Justice. We are all One. In Solidarity with Mother Earth. Learn more at Juliet Cuming is a former fashion designer and music video director who moved to Vermont in 1995 to become a homebirther, lactivist, archivist, unschooler, and off-the-grid natural builder. Now entering her Crone years, she has become a Climate Queen, a climate, racial, and social justice warrior, who is currently writing a memoir entitled Earth Sweet Home.

And now the true leaders, the Mothers and Grandmothers, are rising again. We can see, in some places where these leaders are already in place, that the Viral Queen has not taken nearly as many. By acting with gratitude and foresight and compassion, lives have already been saved. We are in the fire right now, and the fire will get stronger and more destructive if we do not heed the wisdom of those who know the old ways to live on this planet.


Both pieces measure 4.5 inches square and are linen, cotton thread, fabric, and watercolor on watercolor paper.




A MBE R PA RI S ARTIST’S STATEMENT These are two pieces from a collection I have been working on nearly daily during the Covid pandemic. I’ve come to think of these as a visual journal. Some questions I’ve been pondering about this work, this current health crisis and the varied social justice crises, including climate justice, we find ourselves in include:

How do we think about dualism and boundaries? Where do those ideas break down? Microcosm vs. macrocosm Interior vs. exterior In my circle vs. outside my circle Affects me vs. doesn’t affect me Where do we find oneness and break down dualism? Where do boundaries blur where we see points of connection?

How is this affected when we are told to clarify our boundaries and tighten our circles? How do we affix our existence to the linkage with the health of all who/ that exist around us? Affix • stitch • harmonize • connect

Amber Paris lives in Putney. Learn more about her and her art at

Humanity Is Not the Virus BY MA R ISA D. KE LLE R

Do not simplify this. Do not shake your head grimly and say we are finally getting what we deserve. It is not your story. Yours is a piece of it, yes, and should be, but only a piece — that’s why it’s complicated. It’s not your story, it’s not not your story. I know narratives of punishment come easy for our species, but stop. Punishment is the artificial weighting of the scales that measures justice in lashes, in dollars, in years. But what about the other, hidden equations? Trauma + addiction = arrest. Poverty + anger = life in prison. Black skin + America = death. You really think that math is working?




Do not simplify this. Take your hand off the scales. Justice is not the balance of just one thing against one other but a whole ecosystem of actions and connections. What we’re facing is not punishment; it’s consequences. If a billion people die of coronavirus, extreme weather, and violence, the rest of us will not be absolved and good to go for another hundred and fifty, two thousand years. To change the consequences, we must change the cause: a country, a system, an ideology built on the right to profit, the right to control, the right to exploit.

You know the powerful take the profits and escape the repercussions. The consequences will be felt most by those least responsible. Do not simplify this. Being human is not the new original sin. It’s not your fault. It’s not not your fault. We were all born into this system. It is nobody’s responsibility to die for humanity’s sins against the Earth. Our responsibility is to pull the emergency brake on this runaway train and build ourselves another track.

You are desperate for justice but you don’t know how to stop a train, so you say, Serves us right for inventing trains in the first place. But we are the train. We are the emergency brake. We are the tracks and the railroad ties and the crushed rock underneath. We are the passengers. We are the whistle blowing. Marisa D. Keller is a writer, editor, climate activist, and lifelong Vermonter.

Labor On A song about working together as a community to mitigate climate change BY L ISSA S C H N EC KE N B U RG E R When the darkness overtakes you and you shiver in the cold When disparity wakes you, and you know you must be bold When you put your body on the line don’t hesitate in fear We know the train it is coming, it is near Labor on my children, labor on my friend Labor on my children, we will not let this be the end When they dig the earth and turn it into dollars to be made You can’t help but try to save her, for her sake don’t be afraid While the fire it rages onward, burning everything it sees And destruction consumes our decency Labor on my children, labor on my friend Labor on my children, we will not let this be the end When the powerful corrupt us and complacency sets in They’ll distract you, they’ll placate you, but we can not let them win With each step we take together, we are stronger by the hour And we are rising, we are shining, we have the power Labor on my children, labor on my friend Labor on my children, we will not let this be the end

ARTIST’S STATEMENT As a musician and activist I’m especially interested in how personal stories are connected to largescale systems in our country, and what choices we make as a culture. COVID-19 has exposed gigantic inequities that have existed in our society for a long time, and made it brutally clear that we have a lot of work to do in building an equitable and healthy future. The work is just beginning, and this song is meant to appreciate those who have already been fighting for our health and safety, as well as to inspire us to keep working for a better day, even when we’re discouraged and it seems impossible.

Special thanks to Write for Climate: Abby Mnookin, Becky Karush, Rebecca Jones, Marisa Keller, and Robin MacArthur. Learn more about Lissa Schneckenburger and her music at