Tapping into Poetry’s Potential to bring us back Home to Earth

By Diana Gwen Woodcock.

Published by The International Journal of Sustainability in Economic, Social and Cultural Context

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Poetry, which from its earliest beginnings has been a form of relationship with the Earth, is a powerful tool to be used today in addressing today’s environmental issues. It has a vital role to play in environmental education, plant conservation, environmental justice, and highlighting our innate need to protect, cultivate and be nurtured by the natural world. Since it always has been a form of relationship with the Earth and a way of expressing this relationship, we need to explore ways to stimulate development of environmental sensitivity and expression of people’s creative potential through poetic endeavors. As an alternative to science, it can be an exciting way of discovering the environment and our place in it.
Starting from the premise that poetry is one way of learning about environmental justice and conservation issues in our endangered world, I will define ecopoetry and provide a brief history of it, present arguments for using it to develop ecological literacy, and suggest resources for finding and using it in environmental education.
Four questions will be considered: (1) What exactly is environmental poetry? (2) What are some convincing and logical arguments for using poetry to develop ecological literacy and a concern for environmental sustainability? (3) How exactly does poetry prepare the young to join the environmental movement? and (4) How does it instill in people a sense of responsibility for a sustainable future? I will provide specific pointers on how poetry can address environmental issues, and I will offer resources for finding and using poetry in environmental education. Finally, I will end with several poems to illustrate poetry’s vital role in developing ecological literacy.

Keywords: Environmental Sustainability, Eco-poetry

The International Journal of Social Sustainability in Economic, Social and Cultural Context, Volume 8, Issue 2, pp.161-166. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 277.082KB).

Asst. Prof. Diana Gwen Woodcock

Assistant Professor, Liberal Arts & Sciences, Virginia Commonwealth University in Qatar, Doha, Qatar

Diana Woodcock’s first full-length collection, Swaying on the Elephant’s Shoulders, won the 2010 Vernice Quebodeaux International Poetry Prize for Women (Little Red Tree Publishing, 2011). Her chapbooks are In the Shade of the Sidra Tree (Finishing Line Press), Mandala (Foothills Publishing), and Travels of a Gwai Lo—the title poem of which was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Currently teaching at Virginia Commonwealth University in Qatar, she has lived and worked in Tibet, Macau and Thailand.