When I was asked to write a poem about science I had my usual self-doubt, and thought ‘What do I know about science? — I’ve got Year 11 biology and Year 9 maths’. And then I thought, perhaps that’s part of the problem: science is seen by many people as something remote, when it’s really more about close observation, and comparison, which we can all do. Science has moved to become a specialised industry, with its own language and ways, which may tie in with the fact that many scientific issues that are obviously important are widely ignored. My poem is about climate change, water use and possible extinction, and I found proper scientists’ work for the four quotes at the beginning:
‘Australia’s climate has warmed by just over 1°C since 1910, leading to an increase in the frequency of extreme heat events.’
‘There has been a decline of around 11 per cent in April–October rainfall in the southeast of Australia since the late 1990s.’
‘Streamflow has decreased across southern Australia.’
‘Oceans around Australia have warmed by around 1°C since 1910 …’
From: State of the Climate 2018, CSIRO and Bureau of Meteorology
Seventy or more years of muddy dreams
are sautéed in forty-five degrees.
Now he’s belly-up and floating,
the water too low to cool his bulk.
Cotton upriver diverts the water
and helps set something rotting,
as it’s cooked by climatic recipe
— and so the Murray Cod is lost.
Just younger than a city called Canberra,
this awesome fish, now bloating foul.
He swam around many traps and nets,
until we snagged him on hooked ignorance
and flipped him over —
a gambler’s desperate card.
Meanwhile the Irukandji, out to sea,
are floating south, and it may just be
that the smugness of those who deny
sufficient water for one living thing,
is quickly ended by a tiny other
warmly, with sharp, ironic sting.