Keynote address by W.S. Merwin at 2011 HCA conference

Many thanks to Melissa Chimera for the link to the Washington Post article about poet W.S. Merwin addressing this year’s conference of the Hawai‘i Conservation Alliance. Here are some excerpts.

Merwin said humans have a unique capacity to care for others, the planet and other life forms. Other species, he said, may grieve for each other and know each other, but they don’t show the same concern for the broader world.

“The concern for other species and other creatures is not central to their lives, but it is to ours. And if we abandon that, we abandon ourselves,” he said.

“We’re being untrue to ourselves as a species. And the result is dangerous. We’re minimizing and cutting down on our own chances of survival, as we do that for the rest of life,” he later continued.

Merwin spoke for nearly an hour before several thousand people gathered to hear him at the annual meeting, mixing his comments with poetry readings.

One poem titled “Rain at Night” described the destruction of a Hawaii forest by profiteers who cut down ohia, koa and sandalwood trees and then the forest’s rebirth as new trees take root.

The New York City native and two-time Pulitzer Prize winner moved to Hawaii in 1976. He has written more than 30 books of poetry, translation and prose.

Many of his poems touch on natural themes, and conference organizers described him as being dedicated to the restoration of Hawaii’s rainforests. On Maui, he has recreated a tropical rainforest on land that had been damaged by years of logging, erosion and industrial agriculture.

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