Blog, Our Voice

“Midnight” – a creation by CVF Ambassador for Culture Kathy Jetñil-Kijiner

“Midnight” – a creation by CVF Ambassador for Culture Kathy Jetñil-Kijiner

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Kathy Jetñil-Kijiner

Poet, Marshall Islands Climate Envoy and CVF Ambassador for Culture

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This December marks the 5th anniversary of the signing of the Paris Agreement, a crucial global climate treaty. The Pacific played a pivotal role in pushing countries to adopt more robust commitments – and has continued to lobby for necessary climate measures. However, many industrialized countries are failing to take the climate action needed to keep the planet at a liveable temperature of 1.5°C above normal.

With the COP26 negotiations cancelled this year, we still want to make waves about key climate truths. Created by artists across the Pacific, this film series showcases the emotional weight of the climate crisis, the urgency of action, and the way forward. 

CVF Ambassador for Culture Kathy Jetñil-Kijiner contributed the second chapter of this trilogy, a project which was led by 350. The remaining two chapters can be consulted on: https://350.org/survivalfilm/

The full text of the poem reads as follows:

Midnight – by Kathy Jetñil-Kijiner

For Tony, we’ll say
For Tony

Corals are resilient I’ve been told
and so are we – we’ve survived worse. Just ask
your elders they’ll lift their shirts, show you
bunker scars, typhoon tent towns, atomic nightmares
of lost irradiated islands. So this
is just another incoming tide to shore up against

Hence seawalls
Hence foreign aid
hence consultants, terms of references,
a framework for asking each other: Which island
will we move to? Which island will be hit first?
Which island is worth salvaging?

The wreck – a slow moving accident, the Ultimate
Disaster. Atollic oblivion.
As if we haven’t experienced this before
As if we haven’t been told that evacuation
is safer.
You’ll come home
Some day

2030, 2040, long term versus short term
we debate this around the table
We do the work, submit reports
but we are short on time. Before
the clock strikes midnight,
before the pumpkin rots
before our glass island shatters

are we so easily broken?

Maybe we need flags
to tell us how afraid we should be
We have flags for covid threat levels:
yellow for safe, yellow for prepare, yellow for
complacency, yellow worth celebrating. Covid free.

The US is celebrating, part of it
anyway, they are dancing in the street and
kissing babies because celebrations are worthy
because the US will be back in the Paris treaty
because it feels like multiple breaths taken at once,
like bubbles bursting through reefs

We reassemble ourselves
We gather the calcium carbonate to grow
our coral skeletons into sunlight

Look –
up ahead –
a lush marine garden awaits

For Tony, we’ll say
For Tony

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