Three Photos

Sarah Leavesley


a space as wide as the sky

“Being outside with a sense of space and open sky reminds me that my part in this world may be small but that I am part of it”


city frowns

“It can be easy to vilify cities in environmental terms when they may in fact play some positive roles (reducing long commutes and some transportation pollution). Important questions remain though: are our cities as environmentally friendly as they could be? And are those at the helm paying enough attention to this?”


before whole worlds disappear

“William Blake saw “…a World in a Grain of Sand | And a Heaven in a Wild Flower” (‘Auguries of Innocence’). Each small creature reminds me of how many worlds we could lose through climate damage and species extinction”


Sarah Leavesley is a prize-winning photographer and writer, whose current work draws heavily on nature and environmental concerns. See more on her website.

Hotel Extinction

Julian Bishop


A view to die for from any of our last resorts: whether
remote island or sapphire lagoon, the outlook is
unremittingly the same. We’re frighteningly easy
to travel to, our portfolio global. Another branch
opens daily. Most guests are driven here. Many fly.
All animals welcome. We apologise for the poor air
conditioning. We guarantee a good sleep. Beware
of a sudden proliferation in insects – rest assured
we are committed to total elimination. Everything
in the Ice Breaker Tavern is on the rocks, 24/7.
We don’t do a Happy Hour. Think Hotel California:
check out any time you like but you can never leave.
Daily wake-up calls are free. Sunset at the infinity
pool is unforgettable. Every room always has flowers.

“I’m calling my forthcoming book of eco poems We Saw It All Happen because I’m staggered at how the world can let catastrophe unfold in plain sight. I fret at the edges, cutting out meat and unnecessary travel but I like to think, as a writer, that I have a more important role to play. Auden’s famous (mis)quote that poetry makes nothing happen perhaps needs to be counterbalanced with a lesser-known quote from the master:

But once in a while the odd thing happens,
Once in a while the dream comes true,
And the whole pattern of life is altered,
Once in a while the moon turns blue.

(Once In A While The Odd Thing Happens)

And that’s precisely why I write.”


Julian Bishop is a former television journalist who’s had a lifelong interest in ecology and worked for a time as Environment Reporter for BBC Wales. A former runner-up in the Ginkgo Prize for Eco Poetry, he’s also been shortlisted for the Bridport Poetry Prize and was longlisted in this year’s National Poetry Competition. He is one of four poets featured in a 2020 pamphlet called Poems For The Planet

Project report

Angela van Son


Issue

Trees in danger of extinction

Problem

Nose swaps don’t seem to work

Counter measure

Huge field of facemasks planted

Doubt

Will they mature on time?

Status

Open

“Sometimes I wonder if it’s the planet fighting back, trying to get rid of the current top of the food chain. How to help this greediest of species make themselves extinct? Future aquatic archaeologists may wonder about those two legged creatures who once lived above the water surface. In ancient times, when land covered the seas…”


Angela van Son lives in Utrecht, the Netherlands. She writes poems and very short stories about the strangeness of being human. She likes to put a twist on things, whether it’s dark, humorous, philosophic or playful. As a coach she helps people change their life stories by making things happen.

Three Photos

Chlo


“We are currently living through the greatest mass extinction in history. Air pollution is already the biggest killer we face. I am a burden on the environment, and so are you, and I will never forgive either of us. There will never be an excuse for not doing more, or doing less – less animal products, less flying and less consumption. Don’t let apathy define our species, be the change. Our home is on fire and I refuse to bring a child into the blaze. For your loved ones and the other species who call Earth home, go vegan.”


The Hopeful Captive


But when it rains, it pours


Cows love, love cows


Chlo is a committed environmental activist and has been vegan for nine years. She is a PhD candidate in Chemistry, working on technology to mitigate climate change.

Embers of all

J.H. Hewitt


Your eyes were steady. I tipped my head and raised a brow. Straight at me, you said it again. A blink. And then, on my face, a small smile broke out, its flames crackling in the space between us. Licking at the chairs on which we sat, setting them ablaze, making embers of all.

The smile – hungry now – glanced at you. Your eyes unflinching. I watched it open the front door, and set out for the town, spreading as it went, razing houses, St Trinity, the Oak. Old style lamps flared then burst. It seared across the land, while you held your gaze. Up went hedgerows, trees, strangle-squawked crows. Billows of grey filled the sky. But the smile scorched on, boiling the oceans, blackening shoals and choking gulls. Soon, the plains were dust, the charred mountains bare, cities pluming final puffs. A whole sphere in cinders.

The smoke clung around us. I could hardly see you now – or breathe. Then, at last, you said, clear, like you’d never needed air anyway: “No, no, no, not like that.” And then: “What have you done?”

The smile fell away. Wordlessly, I searched for something to save. 


“Of course we can change our diet, fly less and drive less, but the single most important thing any one of us can do in the fight to save our planet is to communicate about it – whether that is directly to people in positions of power, through art, or in social conversations with those around us. The aim must not only be to change minds but also to win hearts. We mustn’t just argue using data, but also persuade using empathy. Let’s shine a torchlight on powerful governments and corporations who dodge accountability by trying to gaslight individuals. And let’s reward with loyalty those who show courage in putting the planet and its most vulnerable people first.”


J.H. Hewitt is a parent and writer – but most of her words get someone else’s byline.

Snellen Fractions

Bonnie Meekums


He takes his pleasure, then burns, leaving mile-wide scars. She trembles, drawing a vaporous cloak around her form.

Her sisters sing low, tending wounds.

He poisons the air. The sisters cry dissent to deafened ears, opaque eyes. She wraps her cloak more thickly, shedding acid tears.

And still, her man marauds.

Then, a virus whispers winds, unseen. One by one, the people sicken. Many die. It’s his turn to hide.

For two months, she flourishes, despite being parched. There is calm. Foxes strut, birds sing long and loud, their melodies soaring on purified air.

It is time, she says. Fecund, she unfolds her cloak, birthing young to sing and dance, jump, and play.

When he sees how powerful she is, he ventures forth. At first, she does not see the debris and destruction. The slow, almost imperceptible poisoning.

And finally, the burning.

Trees wail, as rivers drain away. And he revs up, lights up, turns the music up, ears and eyes closed.

Then, something unforeseen happens. His brothers join her sisters.

‘What is this madness?’ The brothers’ voices roar on the wind, as they fly arm in arm with the sisters in song.

It’s a long and laboured task. There are mountains to climb, pain-laden stories to tell, scars to honour.

The sisters ululate. Remorseful tears trickle falteringly down the brothers’ cheeks. A slow lament pushes past their throats.

And Gaia smiles a full moon, reflecting off every lake, river and sea. She dances with mighty trees, is refreshed by crystal rain, sighs on pure winds, shares her gentle fire.

And from underneath a freshly woven cloak, her young emerge.


“Climate change is the result of myopia and greed. Climate myopia means we don’t feel the visceral need to eat less meat, burn less fossil fuel, travel more kindly. If we could see our grandchildren losing lives and livelihoods, if we could see we’re all connected, if we could see the rich could tumble and burn – then maybe, just maybe we would change our ways. What the earth needs is for us all to feel gut-wrenching remorse for what we’ve done. And then, to hold hands and rise up en masse, with a peaceful determination to heal our home.”


Bonnie Meekum’s words are published in Briefly Zine, Bath Flash Fiction Festival Anthology, Reflex Press, Moss Puppy Magazine, Roi Fainéant, and Fly on the Wall Press, among other places. She lives in Greater Manchester, growing disobedient vegetables and grandchildren. She also travels alarming distances to visit people she loves.

Venus Knott

John Aberdein


Saddened raver, Venus Knott, on a swaying street,
crawed up from her rotten gut Jägerbombs and Jäger neat.

Whereas V. Knott used to nav on a tanker bridge
fragile brashy coasts that slid iffy ice-shapes from their fridge,

then sailed by in hotter climes Mauna Loa staff
grieving over CO2 zooming up the graph

due to deepest empires having coal and oil to burn
as folk with bare a whiff of it suffered out of turn

while at crapshoot, Exxon, lax,
sank a chilly flute with Goldman Sachs,

she first sobered, then rebelled––
glued her ass to glass to show-up Shell.

“Ezra Pound said Literature is news that stays news, but sadly the last line of Venus Knott is already out-of-date. After the shocking timidity of COP26, we are going to have to think far deeper and tougher about how we must come together and act. Fossil fuel majors throughout the world will ultimately have to be taken into public ownership and control, in effect nationalised without compensation, in order to save civilisation from runaway climate chaos. Just as Rosa Luxemburg said a century ago when the world was riven by murderous imperialism, the choice we face is socialism or barbarism.”


John Aberdein is a former scallop diver, sea kayak coach and Arvon tutor who lives in Hoy, Orkney, and has a couple of novels to his name.

time and time and time again

Fadilah Ali


never have I thought a fish could dance so well in the desert. time hands everyone a blindfold, and we swear that nothing shines brighter than the void. in my country, time is as random as a black shoelace. the perfect knot today, the tangled confusion tomorrow. sometimes, my feet fly high, and other times they lead to defeat. yet, never have I heard that a fish could drink up the ocean. my blindfold suits the volume of my tresses and never have I seen better, I swear to you. my heart beats for the silky thrill of time’s laughing voice but it only revels in my coquetry and mocks me all the same. in my country, they always discuss the fainthearted. in my dreams, I dance with those faint of body and soul, the toddling but ancient spirits who hear every feeling and feel every word. but never have I dreamed a dream as foul as mine. you just know that one day, a fish out of water would live just fine. my country crosses swords with me for a gift as flawless as time and my country crosses swords with time for a soul as flawed as mine. what should I do with the idea that when we count time in seconds, we start with number one? when they write the story of my undoing, they will say it started today.

“From rising sea levels to ozone layer depletion, the danger of rapid climate change grows stronger than ever before. It is no longer enough to seek comfort in convenient unawareness. From day to day operations to government bills, we as humans can and should come together to mitigate climate change. Because, it’s coming for all of us. And when it comes, no precaution or solution will count.”


Fadilah Ali is from Edo State, Nigeria. She’s currently studying for her MSc in food microbiology. She’s an editor at The Muslim Women Times. When she’s not researching for her thesis, she’s either reading a John Green book or singing the praises of Garamond. Find her on twitter at (@partyjollofism).

Spirit of the Loch

Creana Bosac


They gather with laughter, as birds
in bright plumage: t-shirts, flip-flops, 
denim shorts, one girl in a pink
bikini top, the boys loud, brash,
lighting portable barbeques. 

And after, the land is stippled
with cans of shining sharp metal,
incongruous in swaying grass,
and a scatter of food, plastic,
a broken chair, sprouts from brown earth:

detritus of the delusion
that some attendant, some assumed,
unseen spirit of the loch will,
in discrete customer service,
reinstate the wild.

“This poem was inspired by news reports of people wild camping and lighting barbeques in the countryside and leaving litter and destruction in their wake. I wondered if such people were so detached from the natural world that they viewed it as a kind of human society service, where someone would be along shortly to clean up after them. Whilst the amenity value of nature is enjoyed and appreciated by many, we also have a responsibility to leave an area as we find it and make minimal impact on the environment.”


Creana Bosac hails from the UK, where she has worked as an Open University Associate Lecturer and now edits and writes creative writing critiques. Since joining a writing group last year, she has had a number of pieces published and has authored a guide to giving and receiving feedback.

Amberised

Slawka G. Scarso


On our last day of living life, the sky was thick of orange-grey clouds. It mirrored the asphalt in the streets and the wildfires that had been surrounding the city for so long we considered it normal, unavoidable. We went on with our lives like any ordinary day. We had breakfast wrapped in single-portion plastic packs; we commuted to work, each one in a separate car, because we valued our independence, our flexibility, our time; at work, we chatted with colleagues over coffee, or a cigarette; we threw the cigarette butt with the others, on the pavement, and the Styrofoam cups in a bin so full of litter it fell out of it moments later; we turned the air conditioning on, even though it wasn’t that hot but we just preferred it that way.

By now we all felt the situation was so compromised there was nothing we could do to stop it.

So nothing is what we did.

I was the first to notice it, at least in my office block. The trees, the trees that were left in town because the mayor hadn’t had the chance to cut them yet – Trees are too dangerous, he said, When they fall, they kill people, – started releasing a gooey liquid, the colour of maple syrup, but thicker still. A resin. At first, it trickled, and then it started to pour, the way we left the water pour in our bathrooms while we did something else.

We watched it flood the streets. We watched it envelop the people out there: like a blob, it circled them, and then crept until it encapsulated them and solidified. Hypnotised, we spread our hands on the windows, tried not to blink not to miss the scene. We were so focused on what was happening outside, we didn’t notice the resin creeping in our building too. We didn’t notice it as it circled us, and then wrapped us as we were watching outside, as we were doing nothing to prevent it.

*

Years later they’ve moved us into a museum. We’re the amberised people, that’s what the tag says. Scientists compare us to fossilised insects. Historians to the people of Pompeii. They bring children to watch us too, when they’re old enough to understand.


“I believe that big changes start from small actions – like recycling, repurposing, or even finding creative ways to use leftovers when cooking. The worst we can do is expect others to take action while we do nothing”


Slawka G. Scarso has published several books on wine in Italy and works as a copywriter and translator. Her short fiction has appeared in Ellipsis Zine, Mslexia Bending Genres, Streetcake Magazine, and Spelk, among others. She lives between Rome and Milan and is currently submitting her first crime novel. You can find her on Twitter (@nanopausa) and her website.