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Berkeley's Trees

Humor is often an effective way to get our attention and convey a serious societal message, as Lindsay Brown illustrates in this poem read at the November Hoot:

BERKELEY’S TREES

 

 The sky is falling.

I am Chicken Little

pecking at your toes,

clucking in your ear.

Is anyone listening?

 

The ocean is drying up.

Tuck your plastic bib under your chin.

Dig in,

enjoy.

You can worry tomorrow.

 

The forest is disappearing.

One by one,

Berkeley’s trees are falling.

Is anyone listening?

 

  – Lindsay Riggs Brown

Part of what makes this poem so witty and fun are the allusions to “Berkeley” and the fable of “Chicken Little” that we heard as children. “Berkeley” is a reference to the very interesting Irish philosopher and Anglican bishop, George Berkeley, who lived from 1685 to 1753. He is well known for his argument that it is impossible to conceive of a material object (for example, a tree) as existing until the sense perception or thought of it appears in our mind. This may have given rise to the popular philosophical conundrum: If a tree falls in the forest, with no one around, does it make a sound?

Whether we believe the moral of “Chicken Little” --  who warns all of her friends (with their wonderful names: Henny Penny, Cocky Locky, Ducky Lucky, Loosey Goosey, …) that “the sky is falling” after an acorn falls on her head -- is to bravely speak out, or not to believe everything you are told, it is clear that Lindsay’s passionate poem is reminding us of the environmental crisis we should not ignore.

                                                                                            – Harvey Shepard, hshepard@gmail.com

 

Berkeley’s Trees” copyright 2006 by Lindsay Riggs Brown. Lindsay writes:I live in Portsmouth and am an avid reader and writer of poetry. Special thanks to my college professor, friend, and mentor Dr. Michael Jackson whose love of poetry is wonderfully contagious.”