The stark white bar was laden heavily with cheese, cookies, crackers and tea cups. Heavy ochre curtains were tugged across the entrance way to the dim room, crowded with plastic chairs circled around a small, brightly lit stage.
Last night, I attended Green Team’s annual Climate Justice open mic. The atmosphere was warm despite the excited jitters that pulsed through the crowd like electricity. Green Team’s president, Siiri Bigalke, opened up the night with a moving story about coming to understand environmental injustices during her time abroad.
Another student read a chilling anecdote about her first time visiting receding glaciers. One sophomore, who had dropped by spur of the moment, recalled the various forms of pollution she saw affecting the environment and local residents during her 6 month stay in China. I read a poem about the constricting, overwhelming nature of the climate injustice conversation, or lack thereof.
As attendees became more comfortable, the pieces and stories being shared began to foster stimulating conversations. Students were discovering injustices within the injustices being spoken about; they were learning, listening, and opening their minds as peers braved the bright stage lights.
Perhaps we can look to this event and others like it in searching for ways to open up conversations about environmental (in)justices.
Footsteps reverberating, exponentially.
Around this hallowed space
and dripping ceilings, concrete
pressing and stretching
and acres of black and white tiles.
Drowning in uniformity
echoes of disparate voices
I, too, call out.
Deeper down, down we slide
grit, grime wearing as we accelerate; a
and yet there’s a way to
and it cranes our necks to look back at all.
Scraping at the only dust that remains
that would give our floundering feet traction
the void calls out.
Along the way, bulbs in dusty prisms
gleam dull and cruel; like
and insatiably hungry eyes, all framing an
and blinding us against the unknown.
The glow is warming inside these walls
the night never comes, but however stifled
we call out.
Billions of eyes focusing
forward through the chaos, reflecting
and cacophonous Springs
and rusting, silent chains.
Voices presently choked, almost muted
a technological compromise and no one need leave
but they call out.
Beaten bodies building
soils sown with poisons
seas roiling; a pot over flame
and yet we march
and we grow restless.
These tunnels were not built to burst
but the breath of the Earth beyond is rallying
the climate is calling.
-Lily Carlisle-Reske is a sophomore at Smith College from Alexandria, Virginia. She is studying environmental science and policy with a concentration in sustainable food and Italian. When she is not working she is probably in the kitchen stirring a pot of soup and baking bread. #veganchef