Blue sea, wilt thou welcome me?

Emily Dickinson’s “My River” tells the comforting tale of the river running to the gracious sea:

My river runs to thee.
Blue sea, wilt thou welcome me?
My river awaits reply.
Oh! sea, look graciously.

I’ll fetch thee brooks
from spotted nooks.
Say, sea, Take me!

But as a recent article in The Economist (Sin aqua non, April 11-17, 2009, pp. 59-61) points out, many rivers no longer reach those welcoming waters:indus

An alarming number of the world’s great rivers no longer reach the sea. They include the Indus [at right], Rio Grande, Colorado, Murray-Darling and Yellow rivers. These are the arteries of the world’s main grain-growing areas.

Along with the rivers being depleted, the Aral Sea drying up. 

Fish stocks in lakes and rivers have fallen roughly 30% since 1970. This is a bigger population fall than that suffered by animals in jungles, temperate forests, savannahs and any other large ecosystem. [Moreover,] half the world’s wetlands…were drained, damaged or destroyed in the 20th century, mainly because, as the volume of fresh water in rivers falls, salt water invades the delta, changing the balance between fresh and salt water.

Of course, the seas won’t disappear. In fact they’re actually rising due to the melting of the Greenland and polar ice caps. Thus, the world will survive, but it may not be one with blue seas and “brooks from spotted nooks.” People may survive, too, but in what kind of world? What will our poetry become when we’ve destroyed the brooks, the rivers, the forests, the fish and other animals,  the plants, and the beauty of the planet?

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