Category Archives: Reading

The Sky Watched

I don’t have the words to praise long enough and well enough what Linda LeGarde Grover has done in The Sky Watched: Poems of Ojibwe Lives (Red Mountain Press, 2015). How she so beautifully, realistically reflects the spirit of her people; how she bears witness to their experiences, their lives, past and present, their strengths and their vulnerabilities. Nor can one overstate the important and necessary way these poems testify about the Indian Boarding School era of American history, and about a people’s will to recover from that (and other) attempts at erasure.
sky watched

We know that one road to recovery –of oneself, of one’s people, of the world– is through the healing rhythms, repetitions, and reiterations of story, of memory. And LeGarde Grover is a marvelous and expert and trustworthy poet-teller and (even in painful places) a gentle, composed, and loving one.

With each telling of the story with each singing of the song
          we once again rise to break the surface and seek
          the finite beyond the grace of this merciful Earth
          the finite beyond the mercy of this graceful Earth
                    (from Redemption, the collection’s opening poem)


I am not new to reading fictional and non-fictional treatments of this unspeakable chapter of American (and Canadian) history which, of course, must be spoken about—loudly, and repeatedly, and especially by Native voices. (A number of favorite authors regularly address the subject of Indian Schools: Louise Erdrich, Kent Nerburn, Robin Wall Kimmerer among them. I encourage you to seek them out.)

But I had not experienced a sustained poetic treatment of the subject before; and LeGarde Grover’s The Sky Watched is a really profound one. Her Poems of Ojibwe Lives emerge in part from her own family’s experiences of boarding school and beyond (her grandmother, her aunties, other relatives, children and families they knew).

And let me tell you. The cumulative effect of multiple speakers, of bringing one voice after another to bear on a shared experience, is very powerful. Like any accumulation of voices (as in Our Town, for instance, or in a Spoon River-type anthology) each added voice, each story, each new telling fills in and layers onto what has been said. The combined effect is a truer truth than one over-arching narration could possibly provide, and a surer and more powerful knowing for the reader.

There are also poems in the collection that address another kind of erasure, which is what happens when the “gen-yew-whine” Indian Princess that is sought, commodified, and co-opted for a certain look, a style, a kind of spirituality is based on a hyper-romanticized version of Indian-ness.  “I know what you’re looking for / and that I’m not it,” the speaker insists. Her real reality is not only invisible, but undesired—not what is wanted at all.

But the prevailing iterations of this book are these: strength, the power of family, confidence in the natural world, and gratitude. The closing poem, Migwechiwendam Schaaganaashimowin, gives thanks for grandchildren “their sweet happy hearts” and for grandmothers, long gone but still “among us.” “And then I know I am blessed, a fortunate woman.”

Oh, how I hope you will read this collection! And be sure to read some of it out loud, including this postscript:

and today, Wazhashk, hear us breathe
a continuing song
a continuing song
long before the memory of mortals


Now Reading:

indian horse

I have just begun Richard Wagamese’s powerful novel, Indian Horse and at times I don’t dare / can’t bear to turn the page. I hold my breath, knowing another shoe will drop, and another, and another. I fear (rightly) that the varieties and levels of violence done to these young bodies (and minds and souls) at St. Jerome’s Indian ‘School’ have not yet been exhausted. But neither will I look away. None of us should look away — from inhumanity, from injustice, from atrocities past or present. Isn’t it the looking away (by those who are free to do so) that allows evil to continue?

My Earth Day Post: Drawdown’s Top 5

drawdownDrawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming, edited by Paul Hawken (Penguin, 2017).

Drowdown presents 80 substantive solutions to reverse global warming. They are based on meticulous research by leading scientists and policymakers from around the world. Project Drawdown’s global solutions are grouped by category: Energy, Food, Women and Girls, Buildings and Cities, Land Use, Transport, and Materials. And they are ranked from 1 to 80, with #1 having the most bearing on greenhouse gases, expressed in the gigatons(!) of carbon dioxide that would be removed between 2020 and 2050. And, in the section “Coming Soon,” another 20 forthcoming solutions are presented, some of which are very close at hand. There are also a handful of essays sprinkled throughout, by climate thinkers as various as Michael Pollen and Pope Francis.

The scientists, researchers, and policy-makers of Drawdown synthesized primary research from thousands of studies to determine the rankings of these solutions. And under each solution you’ll find plenty of details about what the problem is, how the solution works, the upsides and downsides, and the required financial investment or estimated savings.

This is not a book about ‘cap and trade’ or carbon credits or other band-aid type ‘solutions’ that allow us to go down the same wrong road, only at a slower pace. Rather, as in the military, drawdown here means a reduction and reversal strategy that changes the course itself. As hopeful as this book is in its arguments–that the reversal of global warming is still possible–it does not invite a “sigh of relief” or a Pollyanna-ish view that we will be “saved by technology.” Drawing down in this serious and determined way will take work, from every available set of hands—from national and international coalitions, from NGOs, from cities, towns, municipalities, and communities, from corporations and businesses and industries, from religious and tribal leaders, from educators, from farmers and ranchers, from individuals in their kitchens, their homes, their cars, their gardens. I hear it as a rallying cry and as an infusion of a much-needed sense of purpose. Drawdown does not dictate your personal role or roles; it does not tell individuals what they should do. But I will tell you, if you read this book—heck, if you read my postings about it– you will discover what your many contributions can be (maybe already are) to Project Drawdown.

Drawdown’s Top Five

1. Refrigeration (Category, Materials): The hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) used in 2airconrefrigeration and air conditioning have –gasp– a 1000 to 9000 times higher capacity to warm the environment than carbon dioxide. According to the Kigali agreement, a mandatory amendment to the Montreal protocol, HFCs are to be phased out beginning with high income countries by 2019 and in toto by 2028. Whether this can keep up with the fact that air-conditioning, once a luxury, is now commonplace worldwide is uncertain. But there are already alternatives to HFCs on the market, namely natural refrigerants like propane and ammonia. Dealing with refrigerants will be costly, but these costs are offset nine-fold, by solution #2’s net savings alone.

2. (Onshore) Wind Turbines (Category, Energy): Estimated to be the world’s cheapest energy source by 2030, wind has the potential to cleanly meet nearly all the world’s energy needs, particularly in conjunction with solar energy in areas of the world where wind is most variable and inconsistent.


3. Reduced Food Waste (Category, Food): It is estimated that as much as 30% of the global food supply is wasted, which means that 30% of all the resources (financial, human, and natural) spent in the production, distribution, and vending of food are also wasted. In poor countries food waste happens less on the individual level than from failures and inefficiencies at the level of transport, storage, and refrigeration. In high-income countries food waste is more a matter of vendor and consumer habit.

food waste

4. Plant-Rich Diet (Category, Food): Reducing meat consumption lowers methane emissions from cattle, reduces land use and the need to deforest additional land as pastures are worn out, shifts us away from a fossil-fuel heavy industry, and lowers water demand.

Healthy food in rustic wooden tray over grey background


5. Tropical Forests (Category, Land Use): I’ll summarize. Tropical forests are defined as those located within 23.5 degrees north and south of the equator. These forests have suffered extensive clearing, fragmentation, degradation and depletion. Their restoration (well in progress, both passively and by intention) is critical, since tropical forests have the world’s largest forest area and the highest carbon uptake. Likewise, when we lose forests, tropical or otherwise, high amounts of carbon dioxide are discharged into the atmosphere.  According to the World Resources Institute, 30% of the world’s forestland has been cleared completely, and another 20% degraded. Restoring these degraded forests, especially the tropical forests, is a crucial piece of drawing down.



What is my uptake from Project Drawdown’s top 5? What can I, Deborah, do to support these efforts?

  • I can plant trees, lots of them; and I can support those who do so on a larger scale, particularly organizations that work to restore tropical forests.
  • I can cut my food waste drastically; I know I can. And I can support local, community, commercial, educational, and national organizations who are committed to reducing food waste.
  • I can eat less meat. Definitely. And I can make sure the meat I do eat is local or grown in ways that are easier on the land, require less transport, don’t waste water.
  • I can keep my refrigerators and freezers up to date and properly dispose of broken or outdated appliances that use refrigerants. I believe I could live without air conditioning entirely. But my husband cannot. Still, I can turn that AC thermostat up a degree or two or three, in both the house and in the car. I can support and advocate for the organizations that are working to eliminate the refrigerants that increase carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
  • And I can be better educated about wind power, talk it up, promote it, support those who champion it and be more vocal to those in charge of energy subsidies which, at present, go almost exclusively to outdated and degrading forms of energy, namely coal and fossil fuels.

Wow. I guess there’s a lot I can do. And we’ve only gotten through the first five solutions. Stay tuned. I hope to talk about five Project Drawdown solutions each week or so.

Happy Earth Day. And, yes… I’ll say it. Why not make every day Earth Day?