Social Justice Poetry

environmentalism poems

The Price of Life | A Social Justice Poem by Julia Hones

What price do they assign to the songbird who cheers our spirit every morning?

If everything has a number attached to it
then soon the oxygen will have a tag as well,
the grass, the clouds, the colors of the rainbow;
The body is a commodity to the greedy eyes.

One day they’ll find that bills and bonds
do not amount to food and water.
Each living being that vanished from the earth
will make their dogma wobble
and they will learn to grieve.

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Standing at the Edge of the World | A Social Justice Poem by Joan Leotta

I stand at the edge of the world.
You may think the world is round:
“What comes around, goes around.”
But in these last days, sinkholes
of horror have opened up.
High tides, high winds
fill the hole
until water spills out
racing across empty spaces
in my heart,
rolling across my flat, flat earth
stopping just before the fires,
just before spilling over the edge
where I stand, sweating in the
heat of the flames.
Other winds whip up the fire
exploding sparks that devour
greenery, turning air into hellish heat.
Flames race to where the water stops
threatening to dry up what hides in
those black holes.
Earth shakes with anger
at their efforts
spewing lava as argument.
How long will it stay
together? If it were round
it would burst apart
So I remain, alone
wondering if
all is truly flat while
listening to the wind
whose bluster tells me
he is sure that he,
alone, is in command.

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Tears | A Social Justice Poem by Diane Woodward Dorff

“Cry, the beloved country, for the unborn child that’s the inheritor of our fear. Let him not love the earth too deeply. Let him not laugh too gladly when the water runs through his fingers, nor stand too silent when the setting sun makes red the veld with fire. Let him not be too moved when the birds of his land are singing. Nor give too much of his heart to a mountain or a valley. For fear will rob him if he gives too much.”
Alan Paton – Cry, the Beloved Country

cry, the beloved country
weep for the rising oceans undefended
grieve for the freshness of the air unshielded
for the forgotten cost of the purity of rivers
abhor the leaders investing themselves in themselves
mourn the babies raised in uncertainty
but let not the growing children
safeguard their hearts in mistrust
let them give their hearts beating with wonder
to the silver-green bending grasses
to the branches of willows holding all their breath underneath
to the secret days that turn the wheat from green to golden
to the green sky holding the water that makes the rainbow
let the young ones cleave to their beloved country
unafraid of tears

Humpback | A Social Justice Poem by Allison Grayhurst

I give this flower,
these historic eyes
to the Atlantic whale, who will perform
for me a symphony of genius. Hungry, we will
rob one another of mistrust,
caress each other’s hairless skin,
holding things that gravity cannot forsake.
Once safe in the ocean’s dune,
we will open our eyes, our mouths,
swallowing moonlight like pirates
from a ship.
Together through
the salted plasma we will swim and hope
for the violence born by medieval fear,
promoted by division
and encouraged by judgement
to be terminated by an acknowledgment
of identical love
(which is not an accident).
Tenderly we will axe the human prejudice;
and the child and calf, rubbing wing and arm
will know the blessing of a marvelous unity,
which has been concealed to the point
of near extinction.

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Advertisement | A Social Justice Poem by Neil Creighton

For sale,
Planet Earth,
The Solar System,
Orion Arm,
The Milky Way.

This planet,
filled with abundant life
and suggestion of spirit-force,
is slightly used
but has great potential.

Prospective buyers will notice
some wear at the Poles,
difficulty with the air-conditioning,
considerable habitat loss,
coral bleaching,
and species extinction
due to short-term thinking
from the dominant species.

Repairable with care and planning,
the site retains much natural beauty.
In particular, the dome
remains largely untouched,
ethereal blue by day,
stained-glass beauty
morning and evening,
diamond-studded velvet quilt at night.
Other features include
snow capped mountains,
vast oceans that crash on cliffs
or curl and slap on sand,
rivers that rush, fall, roar, meander,
and a dazzling array of vegetation
too varied to list.

But hurry.
A myopic beast called “Corporation”,
caring little for plunder and greatly for profit,
is intent on consuming everything in the yard.

All responsible buyers are welcome.
Please organise inter-galactic
visiting rights before inspection.

The Earth Speaks | A Social Justice Poem by Neil Creighton

I gave you all, said “Come, lie with me,
on me, in me, by me, through me,
gaze upon me, caress me.
I give you life and beauty too —
all I have is yours to share
but please place me gently in your care.”

But you have torn my garments,
stolen my jewels, scarred my face,
besmeared and besmirched my skin,
groped and gouged my secret parts —
your rule, cruel, your treatment, rough,
so insatiable you can never get enough.

I writhe and cry out in protest.
I heave and crack,
send mighty tempests.
I stop the rain.
I send parching heat.
I must struggle and strive
and cry for help.

I plead too, say,
“Come, repent, be my friend,
be tender, gentle, make amends,
it is not yet too late to start again.
Think for a moment of the future.
Those children left will bemoan your folly,
and, despairing about their hope and fate,
curse your abusive misrule,
and you for being a short-sighted fool.”

O can we not live together?
I give you life and beauty.
Can you then not care for me,
love me, work with me
or must I, at last, finally, regretfully,
in deepest sorrow
turn my back and put you out?

When I walked beside the magnificent Aletsch Glacier in Switzerland, saw how much it had retreated, read about the speed with which this is happening, heard the glib pronouncements from politicians, I was moved by the idea of how exploitative we humans are and our need to act to protect the earth, the only home we will ever have. This poem and its abusive metaphor is the result.