Thursday, December 27, 2018

Carbonfish Blues Published with 78 Poems by Scott T. Starbuck, and 12 Artworks by Guy Denning

I and English artist Guy Denning have a new book from Fomite Press in Vermont combining 78 of my climate change poems with 12 of his works of activism, refugees, human vulnerability, and realism known throughout Europe. The book is available at,,,, (Russia, Ukraine, South Korea, Hong Kong, Turkey), or can be ordered by your local bookseller. Art has always been the global language. The Kindle price is $4.99. Denning made cover art, and three works in the book are pasted below. Thanks to ASLE for posting five poems from my book, promotion in San Diego Reader, and to Amsterdam Quarterly for the review.

I'm grateful for permission to use intro quotes by Dahr Jamail, winner of the Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism, and author of The End of Ice (The New Press, 2019), and Jeff Goodell, Rolling Stone contributing editor and author of The Water
Will Come: Rising Seas, Sinking Cities, and the Remaking of the Civilized World (Little, Brown and Company, 2017), noted by Annie Proulx in The Guardian as one of "the best books to understand climate change." 

Jamail's words, taken from “Sixth Mass Extinction Ushers In Record-Breaking
Wildfires and Heat,”, August 20, 2018, are "I’ve spoken to prestigious scientists both on and off the record who believe that sooner rather than later, global population will be reduced to around 1 billion humans."

Goodell's words, from his above book, are "Fish will school in classrooms. Oysters will grow on submerged light poles."

My book is about this war planetary life is losing to oil companies, and an appeal to all to help reverse this while we can. The text reports local and global scenes of climate breakdown most affecting the silenced least responsible. Thomas Jefferson's warning about injustice of slavery resonates in the book's words and images: “I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that his justice cannot sleep forever.” Join my friends with "organic carrot cupcakes / and Dry-Erase pens" fighting big oil and imagining "The night before the stone in his forehead, Goliath had a terrible dream." 

I'm also grateful for kind words from Sandra Alcosser, "Kairos, sudden insight, gifts Scott T. Starbuck's poems with lightning-quick vision." and Craig Santos Perez, "Carbonfish Blues explores today's urgent environmental issues with soulfulness, humor, irony, and wisdom. Throughout, Scott Starbuck speaks in a profound human voice imploring us to listen closely to the Earth for guidance, to act conscientiously of our connection to all things, and to sing our common heritage of light." 

In a related essay, my “Manifesto from Poet on a Dying Planet” is online at Split Rock Review

More of Guy Denning's art can be seen at 

I enjoyed the book launch May 11, 2019, at Broken Anchor's event in Meraki Cafe in San Diego.  About 30 people attended, among them many fine poets.

If you like our book, please ask your local or university library to order it. Thanks to the following libraries for adding our book, or sending notice they will add it: Cornell University Library (Ithaca, NY), UC San Diego Library, W.E.B. Du Bois Library at University of Massachusetts Amherst, Washington State University at Vancouver Campus Library, San Diego State University Library, University of Arizona Libraries, Multnomah County Library, Fort Vancouver Regional Library District, and Jackson County Public Library (Oregon).

Requiem # 2 (for the now forgotten), Oil on Canvas, 2009
Watching, Just WatchingConte, Pastel and Gouache on Canvas,7 9/10 × 9 4/5 in; 20 × 25 cm, 2017

Until after the dusts of a million suns, Oil on Canvas, 27 x 41 cm, 2014

Monday, December 24, 2018

A Secret Fishing Spot on the Oregon Coast

Yesterday I remembered Slim Bracken, lifelong logger and one of my best fishing buds who died recently after falling off his bike.  Slim was one of those rare anglers who combined great jokes, local knowledge, and uncommon generosity giving me "first casts" through new water. Last year, at age 79, he drove Suz "on a quiet ride through the hills" over 100 miles an hour which made her scream like a banshee.  Another time he took me on a cliff edge to his secret fishing spot high above rapids where one wrong step meant instant death. "You're not afraid of heights, are you?" he laughed.

"You go ahead," I said.  "I'll try that shallow spot upriver in case one makes it past you."

Slim did not share my concerns about climate change, but he helped me balance those concerns.

I thought of him yesterday at another secret spot. "How's your wife?" asked one angler.

"She drowned netting a big salmon for me on the Columbia," said the second. "But I got the fish!"  That was pure Slim, one of the finest spoon anglers Oregon produced, or ever will.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

With Joy and Sadness I Write This . . .

Joy: Northwest Fishing Reports published my latest article, "The Slide Technique," and between now and April 30 I should catch another 20 to 30 steelhead if it's a normal year.  After that is spring chinook season, my favorite fish and time of year.

Sadness: Bob Lackey, Professor of Fisheries at Oregon State University, emailed me a few days ago: “In a 100 years wild salmon runs south of Canada will be reduced to remnant runs.”

This is why I spend time fishing, and as an activist.  It's worth repeating the title of my piece in The Columbian June 25, 2016, "Letter: We must become climate activists."  The first sentence is "By now it’s obvious, saving climate from catastrophe means saving salmon [and steelhead] from catastrophe."

Yesterday in class, one of my students said Mt. St. Helens could erupt soon taking out part of the western U. S. "You think that's bad?" I asked, "What's worse is how it could destroy my salmon and steelhead rivers!"  A fishing student smiled, but others looked like maybe it was time to call the crosswalk guard to get me under control.

I greatly enjoyed the film Low & Clear tonight, mainly because of how Alex "Xenie" Hall reminded me of some of my best fishing buddies, alive and still at it, or gone to where there is no closed season, and no limit.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

The Guardian: "'Our leaders are like children,' school strike founder tells climate summit"

July 10, 2019, I updated this story here.

June 24, 2019 Update: 60 Minutes posted a longer video of the story The climate change lawsuit that could stop the U.S. government from supporting fossil fuels.

January 2, 2019 Update: UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE NINTH CIRCUIT Finds in Favor of Trump Administration Against Children's Trust Climate Lawsuit "in certifying the case for interlocutory appeal, noting that it did 'not make this decision lightly.'"  The Juliana v. United States No. 18-80176 filing continues, "FRIEDLAND, Circuit Judge, dissenting: 'I think the district court’s statements prevent us from permitting this appeal.'"

There is an excellent article in today's The Guardian about 15-year-old Greta Thunberg's solo school strike in Sweden joined by "20,000 students around the world [and spreading] to at least 270 towns and cities in countries [ . . . ] including Australia, the United Kingdom, Belgium, the US and Japan."  The article quotes her "I will not beg the world leaders to care for our future. I will instead let them know change is coming whether they like it or not.”

Thunberg continued, "Since our leaders are behaving like children, we will have to take the responsibility they should have taken long ago. We have to understand what the older generation has dealt to us, what mess they have created that we have to clean up and live with. We have to make our voices heard.”

The article notes Thunberg is a descendant "of Svante Arrhenius, the Nobel-prize-winning scientist who in 1896 first calculated the greenhouse effect caused by carbon dioxide emissions." World leaders at the The UN climate change summit meeting for two weeks in Katowice, Poland, would be wise to listen.

According to The Guardian, Thunberg, who met on Monday with UN Secretary General António Guterres, had her words complemented by presenter Sir David Attenborough:“the collapse of our civilisations and the extinction of much of the natural world is on the horizon.”

Attenborough told "delegates of almost 200 nations," "Right now we are facing a manmade disaster of global scale, our greatest threat in thousands of years: climate change."

In a related matter, many around the globe are waiting to hear if the Children’s Trust Climate Lawsuit,  Juliana v. US, that was set to begin in Eugene, Oregon, October 29, 2018, will be allowed to proceed.  As a reminder, in July the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of Juliana v. US going forward. In October, 10 days before the trial, "Chief Justice John Roberts signed an order freezing the trial." In November, Robert Barnes and Brady Dennis reported in The Washingon Post "the Supreme Court on Friday night refused to halt [the . . .] lawsuit." However, the Supreme Court decision did not block a lower court from considering the U. S. government's request to stop the trial. Sophie Yeo of the Pacific Standard reported on November 27, 2018, "Although a permanent stay was subsequently denied, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit then granted another stay, in response to another government request, and, as of November 21st, was deciding whether the case would go to trial."

The U. S. Supreme Court sounds like a confused child while 15-year-old Thunberg sounds clear and confident.

Thanks to visitors this week from United States, Russia, Ukraine, Germany, France, Portugal, Bangladesh, Canada, and South Korea, and recent visitors from Colombia, Cambodia, Austria, Brazil, and Australia.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

"Born Was the Mountain" by Chelsea Steinauer-Scudder in Emergence Magazine

This morning I read one of my favorite articles about Hawai'i which is also a podcast. It reminded me of when I worked for Greenpeace, and helped San Carlos Apache fight telescopes from being placed on Mt. Graham in Arizona. Here is an epigraph from a poem I wrote about it "Later, when I ask Corbally if he would want to baptize aliens, the painful conflict of the interventionist duties of the Jesuit versus the detached objectivity of the scientist is visible. Corbally knots his legs into rope and wraps both his arms behind his head. His soft voice almost disappears. I must lean forward to hear him murmur that, yes, he would try to baptize them." The part that isn't in my poem is the next sentence in the article "But Corbally adds dolefully, 'I would first want to examine the theological data of their beliefs.'"

My poem "The Tale of Lucifer, an Old Man, and The University of Arizona and Vatican Telescopes on Mt. Graham" notes:

I recall how my fellow Greenpeacers howled with laughter when Tucson Bishop / Moreno allegedly wondered how to baptize outerspace aliens if the new telescope discovered any. / "If they live on planets without war, and where everyone is fed, they should baptize us," I offered.

My poem ends:

Over 20 years ago, on a drive through San Carlos Apache Nation, an old man offered me his house so that I could live with him. “You won’t learn about us with books or videos,” he said,
“but only by walking with us in these mountains.”  I continued to Mt. Graham then back home

because I had papers to grade, and classes to teach, without much time to contemplate gaps between / knowledge and ignorance, patience and force, spirit and money, life and Lucifer, clean water and coal, / respect and desecration, health and uranium, sustainability and oil, people and policy, blood and gold, / song and silence, and what in our time and place remains wholly real, partially real, barely real, and just / plain bureaucratic illusion.

Here are memorable excerpts from Chelsea Steinauer-Scudder's article about Hawai'i:

"Hawai’ian intelligence, Paul says, is from the na’u, the stomach. Technology has its place, but there are other, more reliable ways of knowing and being; the mind is only a database. Na’u is felt, intuited, learned over time through interaction with the surrounding world. It is about coming to understand the signs around you and aligning your practices and lifestyle accordingly. Development on Mauna Kea, for Paul, is symptomatic of placing too much emphasis on the intellect, forgetting to be in a felt, reciprocal relationship with what is around us. In this sense, astronomy is part of the same mindset that led to the overthrow of the monarchy in 1893. 'You come here, you steal my country, you ban my language, you tell me my church, my religion, is not worth a piece of shit, you put a flag up on a pole and call me yours,' Paul says. 'See, when you’re on that side—when you’re on the telescopes’ side—you don’t know the abuse, because you’re not feeling the abuse. They’ll even say, 'Oh, we agree Mauna Kea is sacred.' Really? Can you please tell me what your interpretation of sacred is? What does sacred mean?”

“'You need to become the place, not expect the place to bow down and become you,' says Lanakila. 'You fit into the natural cycles of the place, you fit into the flow of that land. The land, the way the river moves, the way the wind blows, the trees that grow there, the animals that live there: they are what makes that place alive. Aloha is to love. Aloha is alo he alo, face to face, to know the ha, the breath of life … to recognize individuality, but in individuality, understand connection and responsibility…. It’s not that we don’t know how. We all know how. All of our ancestors, from all walks of life, from every corner of this planet—they knew how.'”

"KEALOHA PISCIOTTA is in the middle of a thought when an eerie, mournful sound fills the room. She apologizes. 'That’s my phone. It’s the lonely whale.' The 52-hertz whale is an unidentified species of whale that sings at an unusual frequency. Kealoha made his song her ringtone. 'I’m not sure what’s happening with him, but I want him to know that we hear him.'" [This sadly reminded me of President Trump's recent decision "to allow seismic blasting harmful to marine creatures."]

"The Kumulipo tells the story of the unfolding of creation, eons of time in which life came into being. 'It’s showing how all things exist and derive from that darkness, from the ocean and from the first coral polyp, or uku, on down to every complex mammal, and then humans. And so nearly everything—every plant and animal—was created before man. It sets up the dynamics of our Creator and the regenerative gods and goddesses that propagate throughout the world along with man…. Mauna Kea represents that po, the entrance way.'"

"Hawai’ians and scientists alike have marveled at the parallels between the Kumulipo and the theories of the Big Bang and evolution. In both cosmologies, everything begins in an infinite darkness with the potential for astounding energy. Much later, life on earth slowly emerges from the depths of the sea."

"Many have argued that the Kumulipo is evidence for the coexistence of astronomy and Hawai’ian culture on Mauna Kea. Kealoha sees it differently." [ . . . . ]

"For Kealoha and the other hui, the telescopes on Mauna Kea have come to represent progress and modernity again overstepping their bounds, trespassing into places they should not go, and asserting rights over something that does not belong to them or to any human being. '[It’s] the machine clanging, attempting to drown out that song of creation … [the] battle going on between the songs of modernity, trying to suppress the very ancient, older songs of our creation and of our reverence for—and the joyousness of honoring—creation.'"

* Excerpts are used with permission.

Steinauer-Scudder's article also reminds me of a challenge from a professor long ago about whether I would save van Gogh's The Starry Night or old woman in a burning museum, and I could only save one.  Many bureaucrats would waste precious time searching for a direction manual while soulful people would save the woman. In other words, in the eyes of the Creator, the way we treat each other is more important than human creation.