Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner

a basket of writing from author Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner

Poem: 2 Degrees

11 Comments

Last month CNN reporter John Sutter came down asking me to write a piece about the importance of the 2 degree number to climate change, as a part of his series on 2 degrees:

http://edition.cnn.com/specials/opinions/two-degrees

I agreed to do it – with a little spin of my own, by challenging the 2 degrees estimate, which actually places more islands under water, than 1.5 (which is what our island leaders have been pushing for).

Here’s the video of the poem:

And here’s the full text of the piece:

2 Degrees

The other night my

1-year-old was a fever

pressed against my chest

We wrestled with a thermometer

that read

99.8 degrees

the doctor says

technically

100.4

is a fever

but I can see her flushed face

how she drapes

across my lap, listless

LiPeinam is usually a

wobbly walking

toddler all chunks and

duck footed shaky knees

stomping squeaky yellow

light up shoes across

the edge of the reef

And I think

what a difference

a few degrees

can make

Scientists say

if humans warm the world

more than 2 degrees

then catastrophe will hit

Imagine North American wildfires increasing by 400%

animal extinction rising by 30%

fresh water declining by 20%

thousands, millions displaced

left wandering

wondering

what

happened?

At a climate change conference

a colleague tells me 2 degrees

is an estimate

I tell him for my islands 2 degrees

is a gamble

at 2 degrees my islands, the Marshall Islands

will already be under water

this is why our leaders push

for 1.5

Seems small

like 0.5 degrees

shouldn’t matter

like 0.5 degrees

are just crumbs

like the Marshall Islands

must look

on a map

just crumbs you

dust off the table, wipe

your hands clean

Today LiPeinam is feeling better

she bobs around our backyard

drops pebbles and leaves

into a plastic bucket

before emptying the bucket out

and dropping pebbles in again

As I watch I think about futility

I think about the world

making the same mistakes

since the industrial revolution

since 1977

when a scientist said 2 degrees

was the estimate

On Kili atoll

the tides were underestimated

patients with a nuclear history threaded

into their bloodlines, sleeping

in the only clinic on island woke

to a wild water world

a rushing rapid of salt

closing in around them

a sewage of syringes and gauze

Later

they wheeled their hospital beds out

let them rest in the sun

they must be

stained rusted our people

creaking brackish from

salt spray and radiation blasts

so so tired, wandering wondering

if the world will

wheel us out to rest in the sun

or will they just

dust their hands of us, wipe

them clean

My father told me that idik

– when the tide is nearest an equilibrium

is the best time for fishing

Maybe I’m

fishing for recognition

writing the tide towards

an equilibrium

willing the world

to find its balance

So that people

remember

that beyond

the discussions

are faces

all the way out here

that there is

a toddler

stomping squeaky

yellow light up shoes

walking wobbly

on the edge of the reef

not yet

under water

Author: Kathy/Dede

Kathy Jetnil Kijiner is a Marshallese poet and activist. Her writing highlights the traumas of colonialism, racism, forced migration, the legacy of American nuclear testing, and the impending threats of climate change. Bearing witness at the front lines of various activist movements inspires her work and has propelled her poetry onto international stages. She has performed her poetry in front of audiences ranging from elementary school students to most recently over a hundred world leaders at the United Nations Climate Summit, where she performed a poem to her daughter, "Dear Matafele Peinam". Currently she lives and works in the Marshall Islands, where she teaches Pacific studies courses full time at the College of the Marshall Islands. She is also Co-Director of the youth environmentalist non-profit Jo-Jikum, which empowers youth by educating them on the importance of environmentalism and mobilizing them to work toward solutions for environmentalist issues. Check out their website: www.jojikum.org

11 thoughts on “Poem: 2 Degrees

  1. wise and powerful words. Thanks for caring and working to address climate change. blessings, Brad

  2. Moving, powerful, simply superb!

  3. Quite compelling……..stunning DENIAL places the Eaarth at this unbelievable precipice.

    Could these words by Dada artist Marcel Duchamp give meaning to ignorance, or to ignoring….the root of DENIAL?

    “As soon as we start putting our thoughts into words and sentences everything gets distorted, language is just no damn good—I use it because I have to, but I don’t put any trust in it. We never understand each other.”

    Marcel Duchamp (1887 – 1968)

  4. Pingback: 2 Degrees by Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner | Moving Poems

  5. Pingback: Road to Paris 2015: A Poet and Her Island Nation | Ontheland

  6. Is it okay to reblog this on my Ripple Poetry blog, and of course write something about you as well. https://ripplepoetry.wordpress.com/

  7. Pingback: We are not defending nature, we are nature defending itself | Paris Kirby

  8. Pingback: The Heart of the Paris Climate Talks (U2 Inspired) - Hanley Foundation

  9. Pingback: The Heart of the Paris Climate Conference (U2 Inspired) | Green Society

  10. Pingback: The Heart of the Paris Climate Conference (U2 Inspired) » Today's America

  11. I heard you read this on Democracy Now and found it deeply moving, well wrought and compelling. Yes, yes, Yes, do the necessary work of creating and inspiring, creating and reminding us of the threat and the possibility. Let us will good and make it manifest
    for ourselves and our posterity. Thank you for sharing your words and wisdom.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s