Colton is now a director at Coral Reef Alliance, a nonprofit dedicated to protecting coral reefs. And corals need all the help they can get. A third of reef-building corals are in danger of extinction, and their growth rates have plummeted by 40 percent since the 1970s. They have been pummeled by hurricanes, disease, and pollution. Acidifying water makes it harder for them to create their rocky reefs. Rampant overfishing kills off the grazing fish that keep competitors like seaweed and algae in line. Rising temperatures force them to expel the symbiotic algae in their tissues, which normally provide them with both food and vivid colors. Without these partners, the corals starve and whiten. Once-lush ecosystems full of kaleidoscopic fish become spectral wastelands, where scuzzy green algae grows over the bleached white skeletons of dead and dying corals.
The continuing desecration has taken an immense toll on the mental health of people like Colton who have devoted their lives to studying and saving these ecosystems. How do you get up and go to work every day when every day brings fresh news of loss? When everything you are working to save is collapsing, how do you stop yourself from collapsing, too? Maybe everything isn’t going to be fine, after all. Maybe we can’t do this. “Are we going to lose an entire ecosystem on my watch? It’s demoralizing. It’s been really hard to find the optimism,” she says. “I think Miss Enthusiasm has gone away.”
The financial crises of the past two decades, and our failure to predict them, have wreaked havoc on more than just the global economy. The bursting of the dot-com bubble in 2000, the Enron scandal and the global financial crisis of 2008 have led to a loss of faith in economics itself.
But these crises and scandals do not mean that the science of economics is inherently unreliable. Most of them occurred because we ignored what we knew.
I set about learning to type. It was hunt and peck, with intervals of trying to pick up touch typing, via a chart and no peeking at the keys. Those intervals never lasted long: I got blisters, and also there were—already!—too many things I needed to type. The little white vial with the little Wite-Out brush became my friend. My typescripts were messy but legible. It was in this way that I sent out all my early manuscripts, with my name at the top—“M. E. Atwood,” because I didn’t want anyone to know I was a girl—and, endearingly, “First Serial Rights Only.” As if.
This collection is a pick-me-up – fresh, upbeat and sympathetic. The tone is partly a matter of temperament. Jackie Kay writes about the past with uncommon spirit. She makes you realise how often poetry that looks backwards is written with a dead hand, how often, in memorialising verse, the unsmilingly elegiac obtains. She, by contrast, is loving, non-reverential and interested in the human predicament – in being quick not dead. Remembering the novelist Julia Darling in Hereafter Julia she exclaims: “Why – even dead, Julia, you’re still the life and soul.” And if you read the Guardian obituary Kay wrote about her friend, this is confirmed as she quotes Darling declaring she was “in no pain unless she tried to dance the hokey cokey”.
The richest contribution of this edition might be in its juxtaposition of the notebooks with “The Lover,” and how it enriches our understanding of Duras’s best, most beloved work — that acrid novel of sexual transaction so often and unfortunately read as a grand love story of crossing class and color lines. A starker, sadder picture of the affair emerges in her private papers, where she wrote about it first, and with venom.
For these writers, home is much more than a set of coordinates. As the editors suggest in their introduction, home is where we were made, where we are most ourselves. It’s our mother tongue, our homeland; it’s our people, or just one person. As Emily Dickinson wrote, “Where Thou art — that — is Home.” It’s the place we go back to. In the words of the irascible Robert Frost, “Home is the place where, when you have to go there, / They have to take you in.”