Blog post

Telling stories about climate change

Oct 29, 2013 by | 2 Comments

The science and politics of climate change get all the attention – the human face of climate change doesn’t get much of a look in. And although social scientists have made progress documenting the sorts of factors that shape public engagement, the poets and storytellers have so far been relatively quiet.

Facing the Change: Personal Encounters with Global Warming is a new kind of book about climate change, featuring not the usual science and politics but rather an edited collection of literary prose and poetry that explore the personal, emotional, and spiritual dimensions of one of the major crises facing the world today. According to Steve Holmes, the editor of the collection, the book offers new and potentially helpful angles from which to approach climate change, using personal stories to foster personal and political empowerment.

One poet who has taken up the challenge of engaging with climate change – intellectually and physically – is Emily Hinshelwood. Emily walked across Wales asking every single person she met three questions about climate change:

1. What images come to mind when you think of climate change?

2. How often does climate change come up in your conversations?

3. Is there anything you (personally) can do to limit the effects of climate change?

The result, which we re-publish below with kind permission of the author, is a fascinating document of personal mental imagery about what climate change means to ordinary people. To find out more about Emily’s work, visit her website.

A Moment of Your Time

Fog. Fug. Smog

Cough. Smother. Choke

The planet in nasty grey-blue smoke from

factories with chimneys, from scratching out coal;

big lumps of ice falling off the North Pole, so the

sea levels rise,

the polar bear dies

the Houses of Parliament tip, then capsize.

Whole blinkin’ islands wiped off the map

and over here…. the summers are crap

it’s been pissing for weeks now, the drain’s overflowing

and the sparrows don’t know if they’re coming or going

the daffodil blooms  – then he shivers with cold

we do our recycling – we do what we’re told

but the haycrop’s all ruined, the riverbank’s burst –

d’you know

since I’ve recycled, it’s only got worse

hurricanes, tsunamis, the wreck of the land

and everyone everywhere with their heads in the sand –

me

me on a deckchair – with my head in the sand.

Me – with a bacardi breezer,

suntanned – with my head in the sand

while the desert expands.

 

Dust. Thirst. Dry

Crops. Wilt. Die

Kids like sticks

African villages starve

but that won’t stop me from driving my car!

There’s so many people – we’ve all got bad habits

and countries where women are breeding like rabbits

and building more factories and digging more coal

and more and more ice falls off the north pole

so the water goes higher and we get more rain

and the desert moves further up into Spain.

But we do our recycling we do what we’re asked

it’s a blue bag for plastics and a green bin for glass

We separate cardboard, we clean out our pots

but how do we know they don’t landfill the lot?

Cos it’s not getting better, the seasons are screwed

the poor little bees just don’t know what to do

there’s Cameron on his bike – bla bla bla

with his briefcase coming after in his diplomatic car.

We know what we’re doing – we can’t seem to stop and

Society says – Don’t think – JUST SHOP!

 

So we buy more gadgets to plug in the wall

that need more electric that burns more coal

till the last lump of ice falls off the North Pole

and there’s more freak weather

and London’s drowned

and we knock up more houses on much higher ground

and we pour more concrete and we build more roads

and we keep our borders resolutely closed

till food is so dear and there’s nothing to eat

and it’s our grandchildren – like sticks – begging in the street.

 

Then – maybe then – we’ll stop

park the car

unplug the x-box

we’ll learn a bit of self-control

and then

maybe then

we’ll stop digging up coal

 

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