The meek may inherit the earth, but what kind of earth will it be? Despite a UN Climate Report warning that we have only a decade to radically reverse climate change, too many people either act as if this is some kind of fiction or give up. Yet where do we all go when the home we call Earth becomes unlivable? What kind of world are we leaving the children who will inherit this?

In a dramatic change, those young people are no longer waiting for their elders to do something. They are taking matters into their own hands – and voices – largely through a rapidly growing environmental movement known as Sunrise.

Co-founder and Managing Director, Sara Blazevic, is a 25- year- old activist who is also an award-winning poet. She could have focused her life on poetry, but she wasn’t interested in ann ivory tower refuge from the reality of global warming. As she says, ever since she was a child there’s been a “heaviness” within her, because of what she heard and saw about a Nature gone berserk: floods, draught, tornados, fires. At 16 she volunteered to go to New Orleans to help the victims of Hurricane Katrina. Earlier she spent her childhood summers in her father’s homeland, Croatia, with grandparents she adored. But while she was in college a massive storm struck the Balkans. She saw a video taken from a helicopter flying over the flood, people standing on rooftops in a desperate attempt to survive. “They looked like my grandparents,” she says. Worried about her Croatian family, Sara tracked the storm for days. It didn’t end up striking her family’s village, “but it could have.” Even worse, she says, was the indifference of the rest of the world. It lit a fierce desire in her to do something about climate change.

She turned her sights on a major culprit: the fossil fuel industry. While still in college (Swarthmore) she began organizing to persuade “fossil fuel billionaires,” (s term she borrowed from Bernie Sanders) to divest from these toxic fuels and convert to 100% reusable energy. Courageously Sara led a 33-day “investment sit-in” at Swarthmore.

After graduating she continued her organizing work through the Students Divestment Network. Then – about a year a and a half ago – she got together with other activists to found the Sunrise Movement. Its mantra is A Green New Deal, for Sunrise isn’t solely about seeing the sun rise on healthier fuels, it’s projecting that converting would transform our national infrastructure, producing millions of new jobs, and helping to eliminate poverty in America.

A naive dream? Tell that to the thousands of young people who have joined Sunrise, not only in America, but all across the world. ”Some are as young as 12,” Sara boasts. They don’t speak of topics like melting ice floes and starving polar bears, but relate personal stories about friends and relatives who have lost lives or homes through floods and fires;, and young relatives developing asthma from the polluted air.

The Sunrise staff may be idealistic, but they’re also politically savvy. They worked during the midterm election for politicians sympathetic to their goals, and afterward 200 members of Sunrise staged a sit-in in Speaker Pelosi’s office. They’ve won the very verbal support of new Congresswoman, Alexandria Ocasio-Ortiz, who put forward a resolution to form a Select Committee For a Green New Deal. Sunrise has the backing, as well, of a growing number of other prominent Congressional figures, including Senator Bernie Sanders who originally inspired Sara.

All this activity hasn’t gone unnoticed. Sunrise has had thousands of PR ”hits” in major publications ,including “Time Magazine”: and “The New Yorker, and on TV.

Personally, I feel hopeful for the first time – doubly hopeful because our young people are leading the way. In what’s been called a “generational switch,” they’re joined by the Parkland students I wrote about previously, who reacted to the massacre in their school, not just with tears, but by creating a huge global demonstration for gun control.

As a Sunrise member said, ”It’s our future that’s being impacted.” Let’s not fail our children.

(Donations may be made to sara


BOOKS: WIDOW’S WALK, available through;TURNING TOWARD; TEN WOMEN OIF VALOR  and ROLE PLAY – and Amazon Kindle


When I heard the news about the death of poet Mary Oliver, I shouted “No!” at the TV. It was as if I’d lost a friend, one I turned to for inspiration and solace. The millions of readers who love Oliver’s work will understand. Those who don’t know her may wonder why she is so popular. Some critics have carped about her conversational style, her simple topics (an owl’s “binocular eyes,” a rabbit’s fur, the rocks and forests of her beloved Cape Cod). Yet Oliver, who disdained PR hoopla and shied away from interviews, became that rarity – a best-selling poet. The author of some 30 books, she also won the Pulitzer Prize.

It’s Oliver’s very simplicity that helped make her so popular. Her attention to – and ecstatic pleasure in – Nature. But that simplicity covers, like a thin veil,  haunting thoughts about the brevity of life, as well as its beauty. In a poem ostensibly about the delights of a summer day she asks, “Doesn’t everything die at last and too soon?” And she challenges us with what are perhaps her most famous lines:
What is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

I teach writing classes, with an emphasis on memoir. If I give students an assignment to write a nonfiction piece or to attempt fiction, they eagerly dive in. But if I challenge them to try poetry, they invariably draw back, daunted. Does it have to have a certain format, they wonder, unsure of poetic structures. And how can they rise to the eloquent verbal height they think is demanded? One woman raised her hand to ask timidly, “Is it okay if I don’t use rhyme?” Oliver, herself, didn’t rhyme. She wrote in blank verse, which is more freeing. And her “eloquence” lies not in lofty language, but the longing beneath the words.

Often I answer my students by referring them to Oliver’s work (and to Billy Collins, who is similarly accessible). These students are surprised to find that the language is like someone talking to them in ordinary speech. nothing flowery. As rhapsodic as her feelings were about nature, Oliver could also write with piercing directness about the parents who failed her, and about the loss of her beloved partner, photographer Mary Malone Cook, after some forty years together. ”She spoke to our hearts,” a reader says.

In class this week I will talk of Oliver, and how she found inspiration by walking in the woods or on the beach, always – I’ll stress – with a notebook! I will reassure my students that whether writing poetry or prose, they should speak not only to hearts – but from their own – with courage and candor, as she did.

One of my most talented students, Roberta Koepfer, is a retired science professor.She’s now venturing – and adventuring – into new territory by writing her first poems. Her lovely haiiku sums up our loss:
A poet has died
Although I never met her
We met every day
BOOKS: Widow’s Walk – available through; Turning Toward Tomorrow –; Ten Women of Valor and  Role Play available through and; also Amazon Kindle.