Words are precarious things. When we combine them in the right order, we can create meaning that can reverberate across the page, across the newspaper column, or in my case, even across the page of a book. But lately I’ve been thinking a lot about my words, their actions, and what they might have the power to do.
I’ve been writing books about my life since 2016. To date I have written three detailing my return to Ireland, my return to farming family and the rural world I now live in, but over the past few months I’ve been thinking a lot – great thinking so to speak for We are about to biggest problem of our lives – climate change.
Yesterday, while looking at our weaned cows, I encountered some hawks flying over the farm.
They were in harmony with the earth, hunting, living and creating new life through these fields. There was a sense of harmony with nature at the farm, and it reminded me – even if I didn’t already need it – that the environment around us is our most precious asset.
I care about the health of these creatures, our wild and domesticated creatures. Caring for another creature on this planet, in my opinion, requires a certain semblance of love and affection. That is the basic requirement of being a shepherd or a rancher, as I have learned in this intimate learning season.
Pope Francis wrote in his climate encyclical that the fate of creation is tied to the faith of all humankind.
Even the spiritual leader has spoken about the health hazards of pesticides and other irresponsible waste that cause illness in children. He said we are mortgaging our future as we get sicker and sicker because we are not in unity with our homes.
So I came up with a new manifesto – a personal manifesto for the times we are in. The world, my world and yours needs more stories from earth.
Every choice we make on this earth is an ecological choice – from eating meat to choosing to recycle our waste. Health – true, real health – is a wealth that I want to give to these livestock and wild animals.
For this reason, I think I’ve been thinking that writing ecological works is the best course of action for me as a writer and as a person with a voice.
A few months ago I traveled to northern Spain to document the Atlantic salmon’s journey up the rivers of Asturias, but the salmon were no longer in the rivers, they had been fished out of the waters.
Throughout my research trip there, fishermen and local residents told me they were crying over the loss of the salmon. A part of her world was missing. This vacancy discouraged me at first.
Sadness haunted my days there, but then something else happened. I have been radicalized.
As American writer Wendell Berry says in his Jefferson Lecture, “It’s all about affection.” The soil, the farm, the animals. Our parents, I see now, teach us affection for the world and, if we’re lucky, affection for the world. For example, my mother taught me how to take care of the animals. Less is more in this project. And that our relationship runs deep. That, in short, we must not withdraw from the business of life. We have to be part of it.
I suppose that’s why I found myself reading more environmental works, watching environmental films and documentaries. Because I feel like we need stories from the contested Earth.
Having finished writing about myself and unpacked a lifetime, I now see that I must take up pen again to write about something bigger, something that is calling us all to action – the cry of the earth.
Protecting the environment is still a choice we have in the developed west, but that choice has already been taken away from people in other parts of the world. The environment around the Horn of Africa, for example, has already turned away from growth and renewal.
Consecutive rains have not come. Crops and animals have died. Now people are dying too.
Not seeing these fish in these rivers made me concerned about our common home and taught me that this is the most important battle to be a part of.
Seamus Heaney, who is no stranger to nature and animals, once said that there is “a poetry of the living present”. These verses and lines can only be written on an earth that is not on an ecological edge.
If I write now, I will write about this environment in which we live.
As I was traveling down my local river for my last book, I saw a river full of animal life – a river that needed to be protected for the next generation.
I want my children and their children to see the kingfishers, see the brown trout, know the intimacy of the water, and also know that we are not above this world. We are part of it.
Chief Joseph, the Native American chief Nez Perce said, “The earth and I are of one mind.” I come to this great man’s understanding that the measure of the land and the measure of our body are the same.
As he said, “Good words don’t last long unless they lead to something.” We are called to act to truly participate in the earth.
We are all called now to play our part in the song of life. For me it will happen through my books. Whether in fiction or fact, I want to document this world we live in and make sure we can all be radicalized through these words in this new earth manifesto. I hope you join me. Time has never been so important.
https://www.independent.ie/opinion/comment/i-am-heeding-the-cry-of-planet-earth-and-will-wield-my-pen-in-the-war-on-climate-change-41893279.html I follow the cry of planet earth and will wield my pen in the war on climate change