Reader Views reviews Honor the Earth by Phil Bellfy

Reviewed by Megan Weiss for Reader Views (06/2022)

Phil Bellfy has collected together numerous insightful, instructive, and magnificently written essays in “Honor the Earth: Indigenous Response to Environmental Degradation in the Great Lakes.” This collection serves multiple purposes: 1. To call direct attention to how western capitalist initiatives have been dooming our planet from the early days of colonization and 2. To highlight how by collaborating with other cultures, populations and entering into constructive discussions about these environmental problems is the only way to come back from the brink of environmental disaster.

Honor the Earth” has a wide variety of essays covering a range of topics, such as Traditional Knowledge, Indigenous Responsibility, the threats of mining, capitalist schemes, and much more. One powerful aspect of this book is its power. As a non-Native reader, I know I will never be able to truly comprehend how destructive Western colonization and capitalist incentives have been to Native communities, throughout the country, throughout the history of the “New World.” It is not a secret that we are finding ourselves at a dangerous precipice in terms of climate change and environmental health, and we only have ourselves to blame. It was quite eye-opening, and revealing, how this collection of essays managed to both convey the trials and endeavors of Native and rural populations in the Great Lakes Basin and also explain in understandable terms just how and why various choices made by U.S. leaders have had so many consequences.

I think one of the most disturbing, stark realities revealed in “Honor the Earth,” was the effect of mining and pollution of lake waters on surrounding communities. I had never heard of having limits on how much fish someone, such as a pregnant woman or a woman who wished to bear children in the future, could consume as a result of the dangerous toxins that those fish were exposed to, and therefore ingested and became contaminated with. The idea that these communities cannot go through daily life without clean, safe food and even water, in this day and age, is a slapping reminder of how those of more privileged status seem to continually write off the struggles and dangers that those in lower economic classes are being forced to face.

One of the recurring themes throughout the essays in “Honor the Earth” was that despite the fact these Native and rural communities are the ones forced to suffer the consequences of environmental degradation at the hands of greedy capitalist regimes, they are often left out of discussions on how to actually help that same environment. For example, the fact that Native voices only made up a marginal percent of voices allowed to contribute at SOLEC conventions.

If we want to truly try and stop the ecological time bomb that we Westerners have set off, then we have to recognize that we cannot do that without involving those who admittedly know more about the land than we ever will. I remember being first angry, then saddened, at the revelation that even when allowed chances to voice their ideas, these ideas were often scoffed at or received outright hostile responses. I was angry, because it seemed so ridiculous that in this day and age the privileged white majority continues to both intentionally and unintentionally exclude other populations from important discussions, and saddened because even after over 400 years of sharing the same country we still have not made much progress in terms of accepting those with different ideas.

Honor the Earth” is a hard pill to swallow as a non-Native, white reader, but it is a necessary pill. I cannot contend to understand the nuances of nature and the land around me like Native populations can, because they have poured their blood, sweat and tears into it for tens of thousands of years longer. We cannot contend to understand the traditional ecological knowledge of the Native populations, but we can be allies. “Honor the Earth” is a powerful collection that would be a great addition to the bookshelves of those interested in ecology, anthropology, cultural studies and indigenous studies.


Phil Bellfy
Ziibi Press (2022)
ISBN 978-1615996254

Chlorophyll

SKU ‎ 978-1-61599-642-1
$15.95
Poems about Michigan's Upper Peninsula
In stock
1
Product Details
UPC: ‎ 978-1-61599-642-1
Brand: Modern History Press
Binding: Paperback
Audiobook: Audible, iTunes
Edition: 1st
Author: Raymond Luczak
Pages: 98
Publication Date: 09/01/2022
Join me on a journey to the unspoiled forests of Upper Michigan
A long time ago young men wishing to be tall
scaled the mast of my octopus arms
and scanned the horizon of Lake Superior
for a glimmer of Canada. Usually we were cut down ...
For many of those who've lived there, the Upper Peninsula of Michigan can seem like a magical place because nature there feels so potent and, at times, full of mystery. After having grown up there, Raymond Luczak can certainly attest to its mythical powers. In Chlorophyll, he reimagines Lake Superior and its environs as well as his houseplants as a variety of imaginary and historical characters.

Ghosts dress in only gray and white.
This is how they camouflage their volcanic selves.
Lake Superior is bottled with them.
You can't see them but they move like fish ...

"In Raymond Luczak's Chlorophyll, the devastating natural beauty of Michigan's Upper Peninsula is imbued with passions its reticent human inhabitants are loathe to express. Trees, lakes, and stones air their infatuations, their grudges, their mythologies and griefs. Through this forest of the otherwise unsaid, we catch glimpses of a speaker who knows there is no line to blur between 'person' and 'nature.'" --Emily Van Kley, author of Arrhythmia and The Rust and the Cold

Spring is a girl who's cried all night
only to find that morning easily forgives
the coldness of him having left her
stranded among the thicket of evergreens ...

"Giving voice to the natural world, Raymond Luczak allows the rocks, trees, lakes, insects, and flowers that are part of flora and fauna of the region to speak for themselves, and they remind us that we are human, living in a more than human world." --William Reichard, author of Our Delicate Barricades Downed and The Night Horse: New and Selected Poems

"Evocative yet personal communing with nature. One of my sons summed up poetry as saying a lot with a few words. This collection does that. There is a piece of prose smuggled in and the poems vary in length considerably. There are some poems with traditional rhyme (and assonance) and the main themes are nature, anthropomorphised and used as metaphor. Dependability of nature and changing seasons also feature. The author reveals much of his story and relationships as well as the geography he inhabits and appreciates. I would advise reading this in small sips, as I did. That way you'll be able to savor the poems and their messages. I have deducted a star as many have already been published previously - and for the inclusion of prose (albeit informative) amongst the poems." --Daryl P. Goodwin, M.D.

"Being born a Michigan girl and now living in Texas; I miss the seasons, the tall beautiful trees, the clear rushing water of the rivers, the many lakes, and of course the Great Lakes surrounding Michigan. This collection of poems paints the visuals into a picturesque moving picture of the landscape, Lake Superior, insects, trees, animals, flowers, grass, life and death, etc. You don't have to be a Michigander or an outdoorsman to appreciate nature's beauty coming to life in the spring, the lazy dog days of summer, the colorful and chillier days of autumn, and the frigid cold and stark white of winter. This collection provides escapism to ordinary day!" --Laura Spinnett

"Luczak has a fantastic command of language and human emotion. Get a box of Kleenex, a bottle of wine, and some uninterrupted reading time. I have already reread it, told people about the book, and am expecting this book will win many awards. Very impressive." --Carolyn Wilhelm, Midwest Book Review

Raymond Luczak grew up in the Upper Peninsula. He is the author and editor of numerous titles such as Compassion, Michigan: The Ironwood Stories. His book once upon a twin: poems was chosen as a U.P. Notable Book for 2021. He resides in Minneapolis, Minnesota
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