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Poetry as powerful art for climate change engagement


guest column:Peter Makwanya

Poetry, which can be described as a form of verbal art, in its powerful and pervading nature, remains one of the most important and sustainable tools to help articulate the climate change discourse, impacts and action strategies in highly informative and empowering ways.

In this regard, poetry adds its effectiveness to a broad network of green voices and messages designed to build community resilience, through sharing of knowledge.

Poetry is cross-cutting, it’s not age-group specific and it can be used from preschool (nursery rhymes) to tertiary level hence it is sufficiently inclusive and quite the exact tool to contribute to the sustainable development goals (SDGs).

Poetry is an empowering form of SDG 4 (quality education) which can be used to tame and manage SDG 1 (no poverty), SDG 2 (zero hunger), SDG 3 (good health, wellbeing), SDG 5 (gender equality), SDG 6 (clean water and sanitation) and SDG 13 (climate action) among other valuable goals.

Without quality education, one cannot achieve the SDGs highlighted above. Therefore, knowledge is not only powerful, but it is empowering and transformative too.

In its cheaper and versatile ways, poetry does not need funding from abroad for climate adaptation to be successful. In this case, poetry is a cheaper, but a very powerful resource and tool which requires creativity and imagination. These are qualities which even the poor and the marginalised also possess. As such, climate resilience can be achieved and realised without holding a begging bowl. Poetry is one of those locally and readily available resources that can be used for behaviour change and modification in line with SDGs.

Climate change adaptation has always been practised in the communities, it doesn’t need green funding because communities practised indigenous knowledge systems ((IKS)) ever since, until such a time when they were told that IKS were primitive and backward.

Despite all these drawbacks people held on to their poetry to communicate their cultures, norms and values including telling their own stories from their own perspectives and worldview.

IKS were revisited and revived. Today they have become a vital component in climate change mitigation and adaptation. These are knowledge banks which reside in community informal and formal libraries, ready to be tapped into and integrated with climate change for resilient livelihood options.

Poetry is a human friendly methodology, designed to transfer climate adaptation knowledge and skills.

In this case, any form of language is used to bring out the relationship between language and the environment through poetry.

The versatile and multi-purpose nature of poetry is that it can be recited, sung, read aloud and documented.

Poetry also helps to bring out the voice of the vulnerable and the marginalised communities to the fore, without segregation or restrictions.

As poetry is the work of creative art, verbal or written, it is carefully designed to express deep feelings and thoughts. It uses powerful tools and devices to induce moving effect in order to bring out memories, mental images on environmental degradation and climate change impacts.

In this case, people don’t just witness the environmental changes taking place but they can also visualise them too. Rhythm, rhyme and repetition in poetry help in bringing out the power of carefully chosen words to communicate climate resilience, including emphasising environmental degradation, deforestation, floods, hunger and famine and other related climate induced disasters. Through the use of comparatives, poetry seeks to communicate and bring out situations clearly and effectively.

Words in poems are not just thrown around but they are chosen carefully in order to communicate a purpose and in this regard, the purpose is climate change adaptation and resilience.

These words are designed to give the poem a strong character, impact and value addition to change lives.

The properly chosen words would enhance the poem’s ability to inform, persuade, influence and change attitudes of the audiences towards the environment.

In this regard, the communicative function of poems is central to resilience building and environmental stewardship.

Poetry is designed to appeal to and conquer the human mind hence the language of imagination should be used to instil critical thinking, resulting in corrective measures towards the environment.

Due to its nature and style, environmental poetry, transforms human behaviour, recreates their experiences and imaginations leading to the formation of new ideas on how to relate with the environment in reciprocal and harmonious ways.

From an array of global responses towards climate change, poetry is one of those vital and human friendly responses and interventions.

In this regard, poetry is not only educative and inspirational but it is also a sustainable tool for life-long learning.

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