A warning, a movement, a collection borne of protest.
In Watch Your Head, poems, stories, essays, and artwork sound the alarm on the present and future consequences of the climate emergency. Ice caps are melting, wildfires are raging, and species extinction is accelerating. Dire predictions about the climate emergency from scientists, Indigenous land and water defenders, and striking school children have mostly been ignored by the very institutions – government, education, industry, and media – with the power to do something about it.
Writers and artists confront colonization, racism, and the social inequalities that are endemic to the climate crisis. Here the imagination amplifies and humanizes the science. These works are impassioned, desperate, hopeful, healing, transformative, and radical.
This is a call to climate-justice action.
This anthology is not to be missed. The pandemic may have defined our year, but the climate crisis defines our time in geological history. See how this roster of talented writers and artists advance the conversation, put the crisis in context and call for climate justice.
Dear Tree, From Shadow
Bijarim-ro in Jeju Island is a two-lane road connecting two nearby towns, Songdang and Gyorae. With justifications such as high traffic for tourists using this road and the convenience of transportation for the residents of Songdang, the provincial government of Jeju unilaterally pushed for the “Bijarim Road Expansion Project” in 2018. Since then, 1,000 cedar trees had been clear-cut around Bijarim-ro.
Upon hearing the news, a small group of people came out to protect the forest. Sometimes with the support of the residents, other times with the extra help from the creatures living in Bijarim-ro forest, they’ve been protecting the forest for the last three years.
I also heard the news about Bijarim-ro, but I couldn’t run out to the forest like them. Perhaps because of their sound of resistance occupying a small corner of my heart, at some point, without thinking, I was out making work with stones by rolling them around in the Bijarim cedar forest. While working there, I met the “Bijarim-ro Cedar Forest Keepers” and was invited to participate in an art event that they organized.
I send this video letter to a tree once faced the light, and to a tree facing the light right now.
제주도 ‘비자림로’는 ‘송당’과 ‘교래’를 잇는 2차선 도로이다. 이 도로를 사용하는 관광객 교통 수요 증가와 ‘송당’ 주민들의 교통 편의를 명분으로, 제주도 도정道政은 2018년 ‘비자림로 확장공사’를 일방적으로 밀어붙였다. 결국 ‘비자림로’ 주변 삼나무 1000여 그루가 벌목되었다.
이 소식을 들은 제주 시민들은 현장으로 뛰어나와 ‘비자림로 삼나무 숲’을 지키기 위한 저항운동을 시작하였다. 때로는 시민들의 호응을 받으며, 때로는 비자림로에 사는 뭇 생명들의 힘을 빌어 3년 간 이곳을 지키고 있다.
나 또한 비자림로의 소식을 들었지만, 그들처럼 ‘비자림로 삼나무 숲’으로 달려가진 못했다. 내 마음 한 켠을 차지하고 있던 그들의 함성 때문 이었을까? 언제 부턴가 나는 작업을 한답시고 ‘비자림로 삼나무 숲’에서 돌멩이를 굴리고 있었다. 그러던 중 ‘비자림로 삼나무 숲’ 지킴이들이 진행하는 문화행사에 참여하게 되었다.
한 때 빛을 향했던 나무에게, 그리고 지금 빛을 향하고 있는 나무에게 이 영상편지를 보낸다.
고승욱/ Koh, Seung Wook
I was born and raised in Jeju Island.
For 20 years, I lived in Seoul, building my art career.
Even though I’ve been back in Jeju for over 10 years,
I’m still learning about the island and
I surprise myself for my ignorance of Jeju.
제주도에서 나고 자랐다.
20년간 서울에서 미술활동을 했고
제주 내려온지 10년이 지나고 있다.
늦깍기 제주공부에 매달리면서
제주에 대한 자신의 무지함에 새삼 놀라고 있다.
SOUTHERN GASTRIC-BROODING FROG
collected by David S. Liem
38.4 mm snout to vent
smooth, slimy skin
prominent eyes, black
with gold spots
round blunt snout
jaws close snap
streams, spend days
summer rains initiate breeding
fertilized eggs, tadpoles
develop in the stomach, are birthed
through the mother’s mouth
fully-formed froglets spew forth
1978 summer rains late
1979 rains very late
1980 & 1981 rains late again
last seen in the wild December 1979
last captive frog died November 1983
THE CALL OF THIS SPECIES
The grunting of a pig a hen cackling the bleat of a sheep
the low bellow of an ox a cricket singing near the water
a dog’s bark a duck quacking young crows cawing
a delicate insect-like tinkle a broken banjo string
a finger running over the small teeth of a comb
a squeaky door being slowly opened a carpenter’s hammer
the tapping of paddles on the side of a canoe a cough
a watch being wound a nasal snarl
a low-pitched snore two marbles being struck together
sleigh bells the clangor of a blacksmith's shop
P-r-r-r- pip-pip-pip-pip poo-poo-poo-poo-poo-poo
purrrreeeek cr, cr, cr cre-e-e-e-e-e-p, cre-e-e-e-e-e-p
pst-pst-pst queenk, queenk eeek! kraw, kraw, kraw
jwah, jwah ah, ah, ah, ah krack, krack, krack
ca-ha-ha-ac, ca-ha-ha-ac, ca-ha-ha-ac pé-pé, pé-pé
kle-kle-kle-klee cran, cran, cran, c-r-r-en, c-r-r-en
creck-creck-creck cut-cut-cut-cut ric-up, ric-up, ric-up
ru-u-u-ummm ru-u-u-ummm grrruut-grrruut-grrruut-grrruut
grau, grau gick, gick, gick, gick tschw, tschw, tschw
wurrk, wur-r-r-k trint-trint tr-r-r-onk tr-r-r-onk, tr-r-r-onk!
The call of this species has not been recorded
fragmentation of forest
clearance of cloud forest
movement of the cloud layer up the mountainside
ice in the montane grasslands
severe dry seasons
drought-related increases in evaporation
successive fires extending deeper into the rainforest
construction of a dam upstream
construction of a cable car
pesticides used in maize farming upstream
conversion of habitat into a golf course
invasion of mist flower
introduction of the Bullfrog
lack of genetic diversity
heavy parasite loads
exportation for the pet trade
stress due to handling for data collection
Kate Sutherland lives in Toronto where she writes poems, makes collages, and teaches law. She is the author of three books: Summer Reading (winner of a Saskatchewan Book Award), All In Together Girls, and How to Draw a Rhinoceros (shortlisted for a Creative Writing Book Award by the Association for the Study of Literature and the Environment). A new collection of poems, The Bones Are There, is forthcoming from Book*hug Press in Fall 2020. These three poems are part of a longer sequence about extinct frog species which will appear in its entirety in the new collection.
Watch Your Head is an online journal of creative works devoted to the climate crisis and climate justice.
New work is published monthly!
Check out our latest project: a print anthology published by Coach House Books!
Watch Your Head: Writers & Artists Respond to the Climate Crisis
Coach House Books
Sign up for our Newsletter