beauty

Poet Jane Hirshfield on bearing witness to the beauty of an imperiled world

Q. Many of the poems in “Ledger” suggest a deep concern for the present environmental crisis, a situation whose urgency seems increasingly difficult to ignore. Recently your own state of California has been burning with fires of historic proportion.

A. This Sept. 9 was world-displacingly wrong. I have not recovered from it. The morning began dark red, then grew darker. Streetlights never turned off. The neighbor’s cat clung to my side, as unnerved as I was. It felt as if the veil of normality had been torn away — as if, that day, you were seeing the world as it actually is: This is what we have done to the planet. Climate change is no longer a future crisis. I’m breathing its smoke now, still, today. In 2016, I waded its sea rise, on Captiva Island in Florida. The recognition stops you, silences. And still, you have to find a

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women

Opinion | Gina M. Raimondo, Mary Kay Henry: Women are bearing the brunt of the economic crisis. They have to lead our recovery plans.

Even before the pandemic exposed deep disparities in our economy and society, the gender wage gap persisted at every level of income and education. In 2019, two-thirds of minimum-wage workers were women. Women carry two-thirds of all student debt in the United States. Black women graduate with significantly more debt than White men and take longer to pay it off, as they earn just 62 cents for every dollar earned by White men. In 2019, nearly a quarter of female-headed households lived in poverty; for households headed by Black or Latina women, the rates were closer to 30 percent.

Only if our recovery is inclusive can we emerge from this crisis stronger.

Inclusivity requires state leadership as well as a comprehensive national strategy to ensure women’s economic security, health and safety. Front-line workers in the pandemic have struggled to keep patients safe amid inadequate staffing and insufficient protective gear such

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