Tag Archives: solidarity

Reasons to Care

Wiki Commons

This evening I heard some young people from the Just Stop Oil coalition speak, powerfully stating their case for civil resistance and direct action to demand that the UK government award no new fossil fuel licences. Our unelected Prime Minister has initiated 100 new oil and gas developments, when just one – Jackdaw, off the coast of Aberdeen – will already create more carbon emissions than the whole of Ghana.

Mothers Rise Up

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The speakers reminded us that a year ago at COP26 the cry was Keep 1.5 alive! And we have now reached 1.3 degrees of global warming. The IPCC has warned that if we reach 2 degrees, which seems highly likely, it will result in 700 million climate refugees, nearly the entire population of Europe.

These young people are willing to be arrested; some have dropped out of University, seeing no future for themselves in following that path, preferring instead to do all they can and whatever it takes to end our reliance on fossil fuels and make a meaningful difference to the climate emergency.

Samye Ling Buddhist Monastery

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Tim Morton spoke in encouragement, evoking the spirit of William Blake (who he called an early maker of memes in his Songs of Innocence and Experience) – ‘the way you say something is what you’re saying’. He saw the Van Gogh soup protest at the National Gallery as ‘weaponised harmlessness’, citing Adorno, who claimed that Proust destroyed the aristocracy with his ‘remorseless gentleness’.

Being a big fan of ‘remorseless gentleness’, I was deeply moved by this intergenerational conversation about climate justice and the failure of democracy. George Monbiot, another member of the ‘Guardian reading, tofu-eating wokerati’ (Braverman), has commented, in the aforementioned publication, on the action, bringing some perspective to the knee-jerk outrage and blame (do read the whole article if you haven’t already – it’s full of good points):

I don’t seek to deny the value of art or the necessity of protecting it. On the contrary: I want the same crucial protections extended to planet Earth, without which there is no art, no culture and no life. Yet while cultural philistinism is abhorred, ecological philistinism is defended with a forcefield of oppressive law.

The soup-throwing and similar outrageous-but-harmless actions generate such fury because they force us not to stop listening, but to start. Why, we can’t help asking ourselves, would young people jeopardise their freedom and their future prospects in this way. The answer, we can’t help hearing, is that they seek to avert a much greater threat to both.

Newcastle University Campus

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Autumnal


Just past the Autumn Equinox and there’s that beginning of term feeling in the air, a quickening as the seasons slip down and along, a new coolness in the air.  It’s been a strange not-quite-there summer with more work in it than play.  But the fruits are ripening with a number of events connected with my Writing the Climate residency coming up I hope you might have time, space and inclination to check out.


At Durham Book Festival on October 12th at 7pm you’ll be able to tune into Dawn Chorus, this year’s collective poem project I’ve curated and orchestrated with artist and film-maker Christo Wallers. 115 people from all over the world sent in their audio clips in response to our open call and we’ve gathered all of them together in a very special collaboration that captures the spirit of the birds’ waking up to renew our commitment to positive climate action, however that may play out in our individual and collective lives.  You can find the details here – and there’ll also be an essay available soon about the making of the piece. I look forward to hearing how you find it in the comments box in the online space on the night – especially all those who contributed.  Thank you for your inspiring words.

Straight after the premiere of Dawn Chorus, you’ll be able to stay and watch a conversation between myself and Kate Simpson, editor extraordinaire of the powerful new anthology Out of Time – Poems from the Climate Emergency (Valley Press, 2021).  We’ve called it Beginning Again and, as well as discussing Dawn Chorus, we’ll be putting our heads together to think about what poetry can bring to a climate crisis that it’s hard to find the right words for Full Stop.  You can see all the details here.  Both events are free, and a link will be available soon.  

Once Dawn Chorus is launched, our podcast series In Our Element will also start airing.  As well as being broadcast on Resonance FM and several other local radio stations nationwide, two episodes will be released on New Writing North’s sound platform every week leading up to the COP26 summit in Glasgow in November.  Produced by Sonderbug, there are ten altogether and each one focuses on a particular element as a way of exploring different perspectives on the climate and ecological crisis.  I’ll write more about this and all our wonderful contributors in more detail later, but for now I just wanted to let you know it’s on its way.

There’s also a chance for the over-50s to take part in an online reflective writing workshop, offered on Friday October 8th (1 – 2.30pm), as one strand of the Older and Greener initiative from Newcastle Elders Council, Newcastle City Council and Equal Arts.  It’s called Waking Up to Climate and you can find out more about it here.  Again this event is free, but booking is required as numbers are limited.

I’d also like to say thank you to the Journal Culture Awards for voting me Writer of the Year. It was strange and very moving to back among the region’s cultural community for the first time in 18 months at the prize-giving event in Durham Cathedral. A bat flying between the pillars all night was a memorable highlight. Congratulations to all the shortlisted artists, performers and organisations.

This sounds like enough to be going on with – but do join me for one or all of these various events, nicely timed for the growing dark and this beautiful wild time of year.

Be well.

L

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