Botanic Gardens Conservation International
BGCI provides a global voice for all botanic gardens, championing and celebrating their inspiring work. We are the world's largest plant conservation network, open to all. Join us in helping to save the world's threatened plants.

Hard Rain - Hard Reading

Number 11 - May 2006

Sarah Dixon

REVIEW: Hard Rain: Our Head Long Collision with Nature  
Mark Edwards, Lloyd Timberlake, Bob Dylan

Hard Rain

Bob Dylan's poem-song of 1962, written at the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis, is often thought to be a protest song about nuclear war.

But Dylan refuted this in an interview saying "It's not atomic rain, it's not fallout rain... I [just] mean some sort of end that's just got to happen".

And photographer Mark Edwards shows us a new ending in no uncertain terms with his piercing, disturbing images of the ghastlier aspects of human experience in a damaged environment. Part of the poetry's wonder is that it can be interpreted in so many ways, including as a protest against racism, but it really does seem to speak very clearly of environmental damages. More importantly it expresses so beautifully the rage and pain we must all feel at all kinds of injustice and wanton destruction, and in the early 21st century, humanity's bashing of the planet's natural resources is forward in our minds.

The song's structure was based on a European ballad, Lord Randall, in which a young man is poisoned by his sweetheart. Dylan took the question-and-answer pattern and turned into a lament for the end of the world and demonstrated a burning insistence that he would not remain silent and passively accept the horrors he saw, but shout it to the rooftops:

"And I'll tell it and think it and speak it and breathe it,
And reflect it from the mountain so all souls can see it,
Then I'll stand on the ocean until I start sinkin',
But I'll know my song well before I start singin'

Full lyrics of Hard Rain plus audio samples

The book has been sent to world leaders, journalists, businessmen, anyone with influence, along with a letter from the authors appealing for true leadership in a time of huge and complex poverty and environmental damage.  Yet the message in the letter, and above all in Lloyd Timberlake's essay, is that it is already too late, that the Hard Rain is already falling, as shown by the striking cover image.

Proceeds from the book are going to the Eden Project in Cornwall UK, and while the book was produced sustainably there was some remaining carbon debt that has been offset by a donation of land to the Gurukula Botanical Sanctuary in India.  They've also set up a website where responses and debate can start -

Mark Edwards' photographs set to Bob Dylan's 'Hard Rain' form a very powerful impression of a world in crisis. Lloyd Timberlake's essay leaves us in no doubt of the desparate message that we have already left it too late to prevent environmental disaster on a massive scale. Get a copy... if  you're hard enough.

You will surely be compelled to "tell it and think it and speak it and breathe it" after experiencing this.

Explore the links below for ways to act for a better world: