Poem: Burning

We burnt gasoline and oil
Driving to work
Driving to school
Driving to stores, museums, the movies
Driving to gas stations
To buy more gasoline

We burnt diesel
Driving trains
Driving tractor-trailers
Moving coal, lumber, sheet metal
Moving cars to people
To use to burn gasoline

We burnt, burnt, burnt
Until the offspring of our burning
Burnt the ground in Africa
Killing plants
Killing animals
Killing crops, crops, crops
Until millions of people starved

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Background:

I wrote this poem after watching a science show that discussed the drought in northern Africa in the early 1980s. You see, the rains usually travel from southern Africa to northern Africa once a year, and people in such countries as Ethiopia depend on the rains for their survival. The seasonal rains stopped in the early 1980s, and the subsequent drought killed millions of people. Then, in the late 1980s, the seasonal rains returned. For the longest time, we didn't know why.

Then, some scientists stumbled across the reason while researching the effects of particulate pollution. To sum up their findings, the air pollution generated in the US during the 1970s and early 1980s traveled across the Atlantic Ocean, and disrupted the rain cycle in Africa.

After watching this show and thinking over their evidence and conclusions, I sat astounded for several minutes. Who knew that the world was so interconnected? Who knew that Americans had accidentally killed millions of Africans simply through driving cars?

I felt sickened at the thought, and a little guilty because I love driving around. So I wrote this poem, to capture the mood.

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