Earlier this year the group Culture Declares Emergency invited the British public to put pen to paper and write a letter to the Earth. The invitation was open to all – to think beyond the human narrative and bear witness to the scale of the climate crisis. Over 1000 people wrote letters of love, grief, protest and hope and these were read at 52 venues across the world and filmed in the run up to the International Rebellion. On the Rebellion’s ‘Day of Love’ on April 19th this year the letters took centre stage at Oxford Circus, and were performed by youth strikers and actors including Emma Thompson, who wrote the introduction to the book.
Occasionally I come across books that have the power to influence lives, and this I would count as one of them, not necessarily because of any individual letter included in the compilation, but of the overall implied message. Nobody can look into the future with exact precision, but when it comes to climate change the risk is surely too great to ignore? Yet, most of us make few changes to our lives. I know that I could do a lot more personally, shelving negative climate habits and thinking about how my lifestyle impacts on my personal climate footprint. Surely this is the least that we can all do?
Letters to the Earth is beautiful in its equalistic approach to publication. Letters from Yoko Ono, Richard Holloway, Rob Cowen and Caroline Lucas MP are set beside those from lesser known mothers, fathers and children. However, one thing that doesn’t descend is the quality of the letters written; the power of the message. Together, they invite us to reflect – on ourselves as individuals and as a society. It is not a book of negativity but a book of hope; a spur to action.
Here is my letter to the Earth:
To the people of the Earth,
‘We have never had it so good’. This phrase was made popular by Harold Macmillan in the 1950s and it might be, depending on your perception, still true today. In terms of material goods and healthcare, many of us, especially in the West, have never had it so good. However, our own reality is merely made up of the stories that we tell ourselves, the experiences we have and the people who we meet and speak with. Other people (and animals) will live through different realities, based on different geographies, economies and social norms. When it comes to climate change and a planet in crisis, some of us might expose ourselves to the issues more than others, and therefore it becomes more of a crisis for some people. People of the Earth, we need the climate crisis to be at the forefront of all of our minds. It needs to be part of all of our realities.
We are experiencing increasing fluctuation of climatic conditions around the world. For some people this will be more extreme than others, but don’t be complacent; all of us will be affected in the long run. It would be simply bizarre to look back on our generation in 100 years time and wonder why on earth we didn’t do anything about the problems, despite knowing the brick wall we were running ourselves into. Yes, our own risk of extinction is not immediately upon us, but that does not mean that we shouldn’t take it seriously. A single species lost is a failure on our part as conservationists. We turn our backs on other species at our peril. We continue to reap destruction wherever we go. ‘Not knowing’ is no longer an excuse. Blaming the media for not talking about the problem all the time is one thing, but in most, if not all, of our realities a basic knowledge of climate change impacts is there. The media have not failed in that, the message has been spread. Certainly those in power and influence have that knowledge, and yet they choose to push change forwards to tomorrow. This is where the irresposibility partially lies. It will be up to my generation of leaders to mitigate the impacts, and, from what we are told by the scientists, that will be far too late.
People of the Earth, please call on your leaders to change now. Continue to drum the message; look at what you can do yourself; organise a community climate project; share your copy of Letters to the Earth; use your money wisely; write to business and political leaders until change happens. Most importantly we must open our eyes and keep them open.
People of the Earth, I have confidence in you. I have faith. It won’t be an easy path, and difficult paths are often less enjoyable to tread. However, tread it we must. We must start to build good habits into our lives. We must act, for ourselves (if thinking selfishly), for our grandchildren and great grandchildren, and their great grandchildren, and for all the wonderful, awe inspiring species who we share this Earth with.
”The generation below mine is different. I feel it and read it in these letters. They know we have failed them and instead of wasting time blaming us or even trying to punish us they simply act…Plugging in to that energy will recharge even the most tired of batteries. Read this book and pass it on. Hand on your passion for the planet to the next person and never, ever give in.”
This is what I will do now.
I am passing my copy of this book on to the next person with a note to read it, absorb it, take inspiration from it and pass it on to the next person. My hope is that this single copy will impact many hundreds of people over time.
Letters to the Earth: Writing to a Planet in Crisis was published by William Collins in partnership with the climate movement Culture Declares Emergency and co-curated by Anna Hope, Jo McInnes and Kay Michael. It will be published on 14th November 2019 to coincide with COP25, the United Nations Climate Change Conference which will take place between 11th and 22nd November 2019. It is also available as an audiobook. All royalties will go towards ongoing creative campaigning for environmental justice.