Mary Oliver’s poetry is a profound meditation on nature and the interconnectedness of all life, reflecting an acute awareness of the natural world and humanity’s place within it.

Her work often evokes a sense of reverence and stewardship, urging readers to appreciate and protect the environment. This aligns closely with the contemporary imperative for individuals, governments, and corporations to embrace climate intelligence—a strategic approach to understanding and mitigating the impacts of climate change.

Oliver’s poetry is characterized by its deep immersion in the natural world, where she observes and celebrates the small, often overlooked details of nature. In her famous poem “The Summer Day,” she asks, “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

This question underscores a theme central to both her work and the ethos of climate intelligence: the need to recognize the intrinsic value of the natural world and our responsibility to protect it. By focusing on the beauty and fragility of nature, Oliver’s work encourages a contemplative approach that is essential for climate action.

Her poetry invites readers to consider their personal connection to the environment, fostering a sense of accountability and urgency that parallels the goals of climate intelligence.

Today’s urgent need for climate intelligence—a comprehensive understanding of climate data to inform sustainable practices and policies—echoes Oliver’s call for mindfulness and stewardship. Climate intelligence involves not just recognizing the symptoms of climate change but also actively engaging with solutions that mitigate environmental harm.

This approach requires a shift in perspective, much like Oliver’s poetic insights, which challenge us to see beyond the immediate and to consider the long-term health of our planet. Governments and corporations adopting climate intelligence are, in a sense, responding to Oliver’s poetic challenge by planning what they will do with their “one wild and precious” opportunities to effect meaningful environmental change.

Moreover, Oliver’s themes of interconnectedness and impermanence resonate with the principles of climate intelligence. Her reflections on the cycles of life and death in nature, such as in “When Death Comes,” highlight the transient nature of existence and the importance of making conscientious choices.

This mirrors the existential reality of climate change: the actions taken today will significantly impact future generations. Embracing climate intelligence means acknowledging the delicate balance of our ecosystems and making informed decisions that prioritize long-term sustainability over short-term gains.

In essence, the parallels between Mary Oliver’s poetry and the contemporary push for climate intelligence underscore a shared vision of reverence for the natural world and the urgent need for thoughtful, proactive stewardship. Both call for a deeper understanding of our place within the broader ecosystem and a commitment to protecting the intricate web of life that sustains us all.

The elements of creative works such as poetry can offer many parallels to climate intelligence needs. Here’s a few other genres to consider:

Climate Intelligence and Mythology

In mythology, climate intelligence mirrors the often anthropomorphic and narrative-based explanations of natural phenomena. Ancient myths frequently personified weather and climate events as gods or spirits, reflecting a community’s attempt to understand and predict weather patterns crucial for their survival and prosperity. For example, many cultures had deities specifically for rain, wind, and storms—each representing an attempt to explain and perhaps influence these vital elements. Similarly, climate intelligence seeks to decode the patterns of nature to predict and possibly mitigate the impacts of climate events.

Climate Intelligence and Sketching

Sketching, particularly in its observational form, is an artistic endeavor that requires a deep understanding of the subject at hand. It involves an acute awareness of subtle details and changes, much like the meticulous data collection and analysis used in climate intelligence. Artists sketch quickly to capture the essence of their subject in real-time, adapting to changes in light, movement, and perspective. This mirrors how climate scientists track shifting weather patterns and changing ecosystems, constantly adapting their models and predictions based on new data.

Climate Intelligence and Jazz

Jazz, with its improvisational nature, is perhaps one of the most fitting musical analogies for climate intelligence. Jazz musicians interpret a given melody and rhythm but innovate in real-time, responding to the contributions of their bandmates and the ambiance of their environment. This spontaneous creation within a structured framework echoes the dynamic way climate scientists must adapt their strategies and solutions as new information becomes available and conditions change.

Climate Intelligence and Filmmaking

In film, directors and cinematographers must adjust to varying elements such as lighting, weather, and actor performances, requiring a flexible approach to storytelling that parallels the adaptive strategies in climate intelligence. Films also have the power to visualize complex climate-related concepts and future scenarios, making abstract problems more tangible and emotionally resonant to the audience. This visualization is akin to climate modeling, which seeks to project future outcomes based on current data, helping policymakers and the public understand and prepare for potential changes.

Climate Intelligence and Literature

Literature has explored climate intelligence through narrative structures that allow for deep reflections on human interaction with nature. Authors have woven complex characters and plots that often reflect or respond to environmental settings and changes, much like how communities must adapt to their changing environments. Dystopian novels, in particular, explore the consequences of environmental neglect and the societal transformations that follow, offering critical insights into how humanity might navigate and adapt to future climates.

Let’s connect

I’m an ICF-certified and experienced professional, coaching authentic human leaders with a focus on organizations whose Director+ population is facing complex, nuanced problems. Use this link to schedule a call with me to discuss potential coaching services. You can also email me or message me on LinkedIn.

References

Oliver, Mary. “The Summer Day.” In New and Selected Poems, Volume One. Beacon Press, 1992.

Oliver, Mary. “When Death Comes.” In New and Selected Poems, Volume One. Beacon Press, 1992.