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We Are Learning

We are learning how fragile we are.
One day hopping a plane for a couple of weeks on a sunny beach,
A week later quarantined at home, realizing how deeply frightened we are.

We are learning how alike we are, us folks from America and Russia and Iran.
Us folks from New York City and from the Amazon Rainforest.
Us folks from Tromsø, Norway in the Arctic and from Fiji in the South Pacific.
Us folks from war zones and refugee camps and prisons and slums.

We are learning to look at a stranger on the street, two meters away as we pass,
And to give her—somebody’s grandmother— a small wave and a smile.

We are learning how beautiful—how upliftingly beautiful—a clear blue sky can be.

We are learning that people with lungs damaged by dirty air
Are more likely to become sick from the corona virus.

We are learning that the bumbling, mumbling, stumbling politicians
Who give us cheerful sound-bites and inadequate information, inadequate supplies,
Are the same politicians to whom we looked for guidance
As the climate crisis crept up on us and then pounded on our doors.

We are learning that the corona crisis is a final warning from Mother Earth.
We cannot live in our cesspool any longer.
This summer—the Summer of 2020— the nightly news may bring into our homes
Not only surges of new infections . . . but also heat waves with record temperatures:
The double punch of Covid Crisis and Climate Crisis battering us at the same time.

The sun and the wind have been waiting for a long time to go to work with us.
They will give to us—they will bestow upon us—a multitude of gifts.
Solar panels powering a desalinization plant can turn sea water into fresh water
For washing our babies, boiling our noodles, irrigating our beans and our grapes,
And for drinking . . . after we raise our glasses to toast the sun.
Wind turbines floating far out at sea can provide us with not only the electricity
That powers our cities and our villages and our farms,
But also the green hydrogen which will power the engines of tomorrow.

Yes, we can build a green energy grid that reaches around the planet,
Bringing clean electricity to each child, equally.

The building of this grid will create a growing multitudes of jobs,
Jobs which will lift our economies up from the corona virus wreckage,
Jobs based on a source of energy far more stable than unrelentingly erratic oil,
Jobs that will enable every child of every worker to go to school.
Jobs that will provide the foundation for growing equality,
And thus growing democracy,
And thus growing peace.
Yes, peace shall be the gift bestowed upon us by the sun and the wind.
Oil, one of the major causes of war after war for over a century,
Shall no longer enable the old men to send the young men to their deaths.

We must bring the sun and the wind into every classroom around the world.
We must weave our schools together,
So that students in Siberia who live near the raging wildfires in their dry forests
Can email and skype with students in California who live near the raging wildfires
In their dry forests.
As they share their pictures, their research, and their music,
They will learn that the number of weapons in their nuclear arsenals
Is far less important than their strategies for cooling the planet.

The students shall invite into their network the climate scientists
Whom the politicians have so long ignored,
The clean energy engineers whom the politicians have so long hindered and hobbled,
And the indigenous peoples whom the politicians have so long
Targeted for assassination.

Yes, the time has come for a Bold New Education, so that young people today
Can become the Architects of Clean Energy, the Architects of Prosperity,
The Architects of Democracy, and . . . the Architects of Peace.

* * * * *

Maybe we don’t need to be dropping barrel bombs on sleeping children.

Maybe our scientists and engineers should get out of the war business
And into the clean energy business.

Maybe the time has come for scientists from their labs and research vessels
To meet with indigenous peoples from their biospheres where they have lived
For thousands of years.

Maybe the time has come for the young people, who have inherited
This sickened planet where they must live their lives,
To meet with clean energy engineers and visionaries who have already launched
The Green Renaissance of the 21st Century.

Maybe the time has come for the kids in their blue jeans
And the scientists in their white lab coats,
For the indigenous peoples wearing feathers
And clean energy engineers wearing hard hats,
To organize a Climate Conference that does not end with empty promises.
A conference to which politicians and Oil Boys are not invited.
A conference at which bankers are met by bouncers at the door.

Maybe the time has come for women,
With their ten thousand years of wisdom,
To plan the agenda.

* * * * *

Yes, we are learning how fragile we are.
And how capable we are. How heroic we can be.
We are learning that while the politicians see little more than new opportunities
To lie and steal and grab a bit more power,
The nurses of the world are the new heroes.
The doctors of the world form an international network which functions far better
Than the ditherings of presidents and prime ministers who are children
Lost in the storm.
The people, each one a hero, who keep the shops open so that we can eat,
Who drive the trucks so that we have potatoes and green vegetables and bread,
Who work in the pharmacies that long ago ran out of face masks,
Who drive the buses and the trains and the subways so that some of us can work,
Who drive the ambulances filled with human tragedies,
Who sit at home sewing as many face masks as they can make in a day,
Who check on the old people in the neighborhood,
And who teach the students, stuck in their homes, their daily lessons by internet.

Yes, these people and many more are the heroes who have shown their strength,
Their courage, their dedication, their big hearts,
Knowing that they might not survive this siege of bewildering sickness.

Don’t you see? We have everything that it takes
To build a far better world, once the Covid Crisis is over.
There is no need to restart the old wars.
There is no need to drill for oil in the Arctic.
There is no need to cut down one more tree in the Amazon.

We need entirely new courses in our schools.
We need to give the clean energy industry the investments they deserve.
We need, in our churches and our mosques and our synagogues, to talk about Peace.
We need to reach deep inside and find the best that is in us.
We need, on our epic human journey, to take long bold strides toward becoming
What we could be, if we would only believe in ourselves.

Wear your mask. Give your neighbor a little wave and a smile.
And get ready for the most exciting century in all of human history.
The last Renaissance began in Italy in 1500, half a millennium ago.
The time has come, don’t you think, for the Renaissance of the 21st Century?

In fact, we have already started.

* * * * *
John Slade

Sunday, April 5, 2020.

Ås, Norway