Tuesday, November 10, 2020

shifting baseline syndrome, by sophie anne edwards



desire paths cut across
generational gaps
I walk the path he walked
but it’s not the path he walked
without linking a to b
we continually rework the starting line
the falls are beautiful today 

the raised arm, the shadow,
like breath
I walk her path
and it is her path
b becomes a
paths shift imperceptibly
the falls are beautiful today 

the scale of experience
disallows extrapolation
statistical modelling flatlines
at yesterday. I dream
we all wake missing digits
without the ghost pain
the falls are beautiful today 

we start our days knowing
no differently
identification requires
generational memory
we don’t know the words
we have lost
the falls are beautiful today 

species shift to generalities.
we don’t know the worlds
we have lost.
the falls are beautiful today


our memories are
the projections of
what we expect
the falls but
not the river
the hook in
the mouth but
not the progeny
the thin underbrush
not the thinning
the melting snow
not the salt
(halite, lead, cadmium,
chromium, iron, aluminum,
manganese, chlorine, phosphorus)
progress requires collective
amnesia and master
classes in ‘now’
new myths make
coherent the incoherence
of climate change
decisions made with
one eye closed
the waters flatten
the incremental loss
what is common
is uncommon was
common it is
not natural but
socio-ecological extraction
economics are the
recurring baseline ‘ecosystems
do not rewind.’ 



Pauly, D. 1995. Anecdotes and the shifting base-line syndrome of fisheries. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 10(10):430.

Pitcher, T. 2005. Back-to-the-future: a fresh policy initiative for fisheries and a restoration ecology for ocean ecosystems. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B 360:107–121.

Soga, M,  and K. Gaston. 2018. Shifting baseline syndrome: causes, consequences, and implications, Volume 16, Issue 5, Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, pages: 263-263.




sophie anne edwards (she/her/settler) is a geopoet, environmental artist and community animator who lives on Mnidoo Mnising | Manitoulin Island. Her field-based practice has her installing poems by the river and in the bush for a more-than-human readership, as well as for humans through a range of lit mags and presses. Recent publications include a pamphlet and video with Blasted Tree, and a forthcoming project with Gap Riot Press.

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