Art can inspire us, frame issues, express the strength of the world, send messages that endure, give hope, and guide how we live.  Art can help us feel the urgency of the climate crisis and can be the bridge between the cold hard facts of climate change, and the emotions we need to feel to actually take action. Art can catch our attention and inspire us to care.

The way people and organisations speak about the planet is often very negative. Clearly, there is a reason for that, but the constant, persistent negativity can often drive people away rather than encourage them to take action.  Seniors for Climate Action Now (SCAN!) would like to encourage all forms of art that members feel can highlight climate change and fight for social justice.

Can artists work with scientists, engineers and community leaders?  They can and they should!  Different people have different skill sets and capabilities, and they can use those skills to help take action and solve problems.  Artists and creatives are no different. They can use their skills, professions and passions to help the world face the climate crisis.

As an example, the subject of increasing migration needs informed, constructive and balanced worldwide public debate.  As threats to human rights rise, solutions must also rise to ensure all human rights are respected, protected and fulfilled. The world’s aim must always be to nourish lives of dignity, learn to live in harmony, and keep all people free. The ability of poetry to help deliver this important message should not be overlooked.

Here is an Ode to Migrants and Refugees to frame this issue and send a strong message to people everywhere about the importance of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  It is followed by an Ode to Activists that helps to express the strength of the activist movements everywhere, large and small that give us hope.  Odes are poems that are serious in subject and treatment.  They do not have to rhyme.  They examine their subject from both an emotional and an intellectual perspective.  All forms of art can do this, and we need all the help we can get.  All forms of art can help fight climate change and promote social justice.


Ode to Migrants and Refugees

When millions of people experience disaster

    and are displaced from their homes,

    will you help them cope,

    will you help them move forward with hope?


As seas rise and land is lost

    throughout this century

   and fire, wind, rain and drought

   bring climate-induced displacement about

   will your community do its part,

   will it prepare and plan

   to share its cherished land?


When hunger, conflicts and climate change combine

    the numbers of migrants will grow

    and thousands more will then be seen

    in cities where they’ve never been.


Year by year, day by day there

    will be no telling when

    crops will die, homes will burn

    and roads will flow away.


Today our aim must be to pave a way for empathy

    to build more highways of hope

    to be ready to help the displaced cope

    with equity, equality and dignity.


These terms can be used interchangeably:

    disaster refugee, climate change migrant,

    environmental migrant, climate refugee.

    environmental refugee-to-be.


To help them all

    the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

    must never grow old, never erode,

    never melt, shrink or fade,

    it must not fail, it must prevail,

    it must stand the test of time.


The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted in Paris on 10 December 1948.  Since then it has paved the way for the adoption of more than 70 human rights treaties and it is now accessible in 531 languages and dialects.  Article 1 states: “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.”

The declaration has 30 articles, all of which are important according to our best human wisdom and article 30 states: “Nothing in this Declaration may be interpreted as implying for any State, group or person any right to engage in any activity or to perform any act aimed at the destruction of any of the rights and freedoms set forth herein.” In other words: No one can take away your human rights. All 30 articles of the declaration are important and overall it may be the wisest document ever written in human history.  If the world will respect and follow its wisdom our future can be the best that it can be.

In an effort to make this happen worldwide, activists fight every day to help the world maintain and follow this wisdom. These activists need the support of all humanity. To help celebrate their courage, dedication and wisdom, I offer this Ode to Activists poem in free verse.


Ode to Activists

Whenever leaders fail to lead wisely

    activists will step forward in the footsteps

    of the hundreds of thousands

    who came before them

    to fix the broken parts

    in the workings of the world,

    by demanding change

    organizing and lobbying

    and by fighting tirelessly

    to give voice

    to the voiceless.


Many generations of activists

    have resolutely set sail

    for the horizon of a common good

    with courage and faith

    and strength of heart,

    to secure rights and freedoms

    for marginalized people

    combating violence, oppression

    discrimination and injustice

    and fighting tirelessly

    to protect our democracies.


Now aging activists

    are handing forward the torch

    for today’s youth to step forward

    with similar courage and faith

    and strength of heart

    to continue the world’s fights

    for a sustainable future

    by non-violently using the tools

    of progressive activists, scientists, and researchers

    and by organizing in the ways they know best

    to guide the world’s shared ship forward.


With their courage and faith

    and strength of heart

    today’s youth will become heroes

    from the very start

    when they step forward

    to do their part,

    and whenever or wherever

    today’s leaders fail to lead wisely

    today’s young activists will

    and in the footsteps of all those who came before

    land us all on the shore of a better future.


Climate Change is the defining issue of our time, and we are at a defining moment – the most dangerous time in human history.  We climate activist seniors are joining in the creation of a mass movement to force governments at all levels to commit to and execute actions that fundamentally deal with the climate emergency.  We need and appreciate the help of the art world as an important part of this mass movement.

Everyone can participate.  To every child worldwide that paints a heart-warming picture of nature, to song writers, poets, artists, and creatives everywhere on earth that work to fight climate change and promote social justice, we say thank you.  Your works of art give us strength, and you help us fight indifference and complacency.  Your efforts put much needed wind in our sails that help push our shared ship forward to land us on the shore of a better future.


Robert Hicks is one of millions of activists on this earth that know that art can send us messages that endure, give us hope, and guide us how to live.  He is a member of SCAN!’s Education Committee.

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