8 Poems On The Environment That Will Inspire Sustainability

Beautifully written & highly thought-provoking!

Have you ever picked up a beautiful volume of poetry and fallen for the sensory overload of its pages? The carefully patterned stanzas and odes to nature will make you fall in love with words all over again. And to be honest, the natural world has been the heart of poetry for years and years. Long before climate change became an issue in politics, the media, and education, poets like Wordsworth and Blake wrote poems on the environment and the changes happening as industrialization began to take hold of the world.

This was a critical time in history because people were beginning to see how humanity could have a negative impact on nature. These poets helped point out those changes, educate people about environmental issues and advocate for a more sustainable future. Even today, these poems on the environment can open our eyes to see the world we live in, in new ways. So, if you’re looking to slow down and appreciate our planet once in a while, there are some great poems on the environment to start with.

8 Poems About Nature That Will Inspire Sustainability

This World Poetry Day, let’s check out some poems on the environment that are beautifully written and are highly thought-provoking. These verses are so powerful that they will surely inspire you to take small steps toward a sustainable tomorrow.

1. On The Projected Kendal And Windermere Railway By William Wordsworth

Poems On The Environment - William Wordsworth
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William Wordsworth was one of the most popular poets of the romantic era. He often wrote about nature and the effects of life on the human mind. On The Projected Kendal And Windermere Railway is an example of one of his poems on the environment. However, this is not one of his most well-known or celebrated poems. Instead, the poem is a satire on industrialization, as Wordsworth claims that the proposed railway would destroy the beauty of nature and rural life. Although Wordsworth accepted that railways had their uses, he worried about their impact on natural spaces.

2. Elm By Sylvia Plath

Poems On The Environment - Sylvia Plath
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The poem Elm by Sylvia Plath is split into two parts, the first in which Plath personifies an Elm tree, and the second detailing a dream in which the narrator is eaten by an Elm tree. The tree is described as a ‘tall watcher’ outside her window. This hints at foreboding and fear. There is also a suggestion of pollution and acid rain, foreshadowing the poem’s later referencing to ‘snaky acids’ that ‘hiss.’ It is written in free verse, which allows Sylvia Plath to create a sense of unease. There are no patterns or rhymes to calm the reader; instead, it has an irregular rhythm that mimics the speaker’s train of thought.

3. Water By Ralph Waldo Emerson

Poems On The Environment - Ralph Waldo Emerson
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The poem Water by Ralph Waldo Emerson is a beautiful piece of work. The poet uses poetic devices throughout the poem to bring out its theme. The poem describes the power of water and its ability to create and destroy. He says that water has an ‘undertow,’ meaning that it can have a destructive force. He also talks about how rain falls from clouds are like tears from heaven. This suggests that nature mourns when it rains.

4. For A Coming Extinction By W. S. Merwin

Poems On The Environment - W. S. Merwin
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For A Coming Extinction by W.S. Merwin is a poem about nature that laments the loss of an endangered species. The poet’s tone at the beginning of the poem is one of outrage and disbelief at the thoughtlessness of humankind. But as he writes, he seems to realize that we humans are dying. The poet begins with an image of a gray whale, which has been killed by humans, being eaten by sharks. This image is intended to shock the reader into realizing that man destroys much more than it builds, kills more than it saves, and ultimately will be responsible for its own extinction as well as that of so many other species on earth.

5. Webcam The World By Heather McHugh

Poems On The Environment - Heather McHugh
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Webcam The World is a poem about nature by Heather McHugh that calls upon humankind to capture and document everything before it all disappears for good. The poet has said that the poem is about climate change and how our world is becoming more virtual, and we are less able to touch and feel the ‘real’ world. The poem starts by describing the modern phenomenon of ‘bucket lists’: lists of things you want to do before you die. The poet takes this idea one step further by suggesting that we should list everything we want to see before it dies – that is, before it becomes extinct because of climate change.

6. The Tree Agreement By Elise Paschen

Poems On The Environment - Elise Paschen
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In the poem The Tree Agreement, Elise Paschen talks about a conflict regarding a tree on her family’s land. She talks about the value she sees in the tree and her desire to keep it. Paschen begins by describing the tree’s beauty. However, she quickly shifts to the tree’s value for her family and nature. It provides shade for her children and is home to a variety of wildlife. It may seem like she is being silly for worrying so much about a single tree, but she sees her relationship with this tree as an example of how humans should relate to nature overall—with reverence and respect. With this poem about nature, she wants people to have a connection with nature as meaningful as hers is with this tree.

7. London By William Blake

Poems On The Environment - William Blake
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Blake begins by describing the speaker’s walk through London in this poem about nature. Even though climate change was unknown to the poet then, we can clearly see the effects of industrialization and the changes it brings along in this poem. He talks about how industrialization transformed the economy, the environment, and the lives of people, especially those in London. London by William Blake is all about the ‘dark satanic mills’ coming up all around the country and the adverse effects it has on nature and society.

8. Goodbye, Goldeneye By May Swenson

Poems On The Environment - May Swenson
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Goodbye, Goldeneye by May Swenson is about the damage to nature and the damage done to the animal kingdom. The ‘goldeneye’ leaves its nest in the ‘pine tree,’ with its ‘wings spread wide’ and its ‘eye like a lamp.’ But in a few lines, we see that Swenson has used this bird as a metaphor for humankind. The poet describes how the bird flies over ‘the water,’ where it sees the rubbish left by humans. There are ‘slime-green drums hauled into mid-stream,’ and ‘rags of black plastic flapping on a snag.’ All of this stuff will stay in the water and cause damage to the ecosystem, so it is no wonder that Swenson says that the bird has been ‘murdered in mid-air by ugliness.’

Bottom Line – Poetry is a powerful medium of expression. We can connect to our emotions and discover the best in ourselves through it. This poetic tradition continues today, although the subject matter has changed since industrialization and climate change became an issue in modern society. We can’t read these verses without thinking about what we can do to protect our environment and preserve the world we live in.

We hope these poems have inspired you to read more, think more, and of course, act more. So, this World Poetry Day, pick up your favorite piece of nature poetry and think of ways in which you can reduce your carbon footprint today and every day. ‘Cause, in the end, it is always worth reminding ourselves that our best chance for a sustainable future comes from reducing our impact on the world around us.

If you are not much of a reader, then we have a great collection of podcasts on sustainability that you can listen to!

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