Authors for #ClimateVisionaries project

Aimee Nezhukumatathil on our Climate in Crisis

An essay for the #ClimateVisionaries Artists' Project for Greenpeace

by Aimee Nezhukumatathil

Someone at school said bees are going missing and if we don’t see any more bees, we’re going to go missing, too. Is that true? 

Aimee Nezhukumatathil, Author and contributor to our #ClimateVisionaries Artists' Series

Questions while searching for birds with my half-white sons, aged six and nine, National Audubon Bird Count Day, Oxford, MS

If we are going to look for birds all day, is anyone going to be looking for us if we get lost?

I thought you said God has his eye on every sparrow, so why are we counting if He already knows?

Is there a bathroom nearby?

Why won’t you let me bring my telescope? There might be birds flying way, way up there, but we can’t see them and then we’ll mess up The Count.

Why do lady cardinals look so sad and boy cardinals look like they are going to a party?

Someone at school said bees are going missing and if we don’t see any more bees, we’re going to go missing, too. Is that true?

I don’t want to be missing. But if I am, can I be missing with you, Mommy?

What about Daddy? I don’t want Daddy to be missing.

What is camouflage?

If I wear red and stand behind a cardinal, would you still be able to see the cardinal, or would you only see me?

But isn’t that scary for the boy cardinal? He can’t camouflage on anything except a red wall. Or my red shirt. Lady cardinals are lucky! You can hardly see them.

Mommy, you are like a lady cardinal because you are brown.

Why do you have better camouflage than Daddy?

Right now, I have medium camouflage.

Will I be brown or white when I grow up?

Why do some white people not like brown people?

Don’t worry, Mommy, you can hide in the forest from those bad people. You have good camouflage.

Can I have good camouflage even though I’m half and half?

At school we have to hide under our desks in case of bad people. We did that last week.

It’s called Lockdown! We have to be quiet like what we’re doing now while we wait for birds.

Why are there people who hunt kids?

If hawks are circling around us, does that mean they think one of us might be good to hunt?

Is there a bathroom nearby?

Why is the redbud tree not called a purplebud tree? All the flowers are purple.

Do hummingbirds ever get tired from flying and just want to swim and float in the water for a while?

Is there anything for them to snack on when they are flying above the ocean, or do they just snack on air and pretend it is a flower?

I think the blue heron is very suspicious. He’s so frozen, I feel bad for the frogs and fish that think he is just a bird statue.

If I saw a bunch of turkey vultures looking at the house with their wings out, I would think something scary was going to happen.

Remember when we watched that lady put a tag on a hummingbird?

I bet he didn’t like that, and when he got to Mexico, the other birds laughed and asked, “What’s wrong with your ankle?” Remember another lady painted a bird on my face at the festival and you made me wash it off at night? I was very sad.

Do birds have eyelids?

Do they ever close them when they fly?

Do they know how to wink at us? Because I think I saw a brown thrasher wink at me last week but I didn’t tell anyone.

Is there a bathroom nearby now?

What happens if there is a bird count when I’m forty and we don’t find any birds?

Will you be missing when I’m forty?

Will you be missing when I’m sixty?

Mommy! What if there were a hundred more green birds in the forest right now, and we just didn’t know it? And they were all camouflaged and watching us with our notepads, and we couldn’t see them, and they were giggling and telling each other our bird count is all wrong?

Birds don’t giggle.

What if they were winking at each other then?

As we begin this critical new year in the fight against climate change, Greenpeace is giving over space on our channels to authors and artists working within the climate crisis. Acclaimed author Lauren Groff prompted artists and thinkers to write essays and art about climate change for us, and so every day this month we’ll have a new piece from that project that addresses, in some form, what it means to create in the midst of this crisis. The forces fueling climate change have the most powerful networks in history pumping out their devastating propaganda at unimaginable scale. It’s going to take everything we have from all of us – imagination equal to the task – to create the climate we’ll need to stop the crisis.

We need these voices and these visions, but they won’t be enough. We need you, too. We encourage you to check back on the Climate Visionaries Artists’ Project every day to see what’s new, and to join the conversation by sharing your work on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram and tagging it #ClimateVisionaries.


Aimee Nezhukumatathil

By Aimee Nezhukumatathil

Aimee Nezhukumatathil is the author of four books of poetry, most recently, Oceanic, winner of the Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters Award. Other awards for her writing include fellowships and grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, Mississippi Arts Council, and The MacDowell Colony. Her writing appears in Poetry, The New York Times Magazine, ESPN, and Tin House. Her book of illustrated nature essays, World of Wonders: In Praise of Fireflies, Whale Sharks, and Other Astonishments is forthcoming with Milkweed Editions. She serves as poetry faculty for the Writing Workshops in Greece and is professor of English and Creative Writing in the University of Mississippi’s MFA program.

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