29 January 2018
By Sam Illingworth
Climate change is real. It is happening now. It affects all of us. And the only way that we can mitigate its effects in a meaningful fashion is to take collective action. Part of the challenge that we face in mobilising this collective action is in convincing people from currently less affected areas that climate change is right now, this second, responsible for the destruction of thousands of ecosystems, insects, animals, plants, birds, and humans. What is needed is something that can transcend cultural barriers, and which can contextualise and localise a global problem. What is needed is poetry.
In the summer of 2017, my colleague Dan Simpson and I initiated a global poetry competition. A challenge to find 20 poems that spoke about climate change in different voices, and which would help to make real this global, interdisciplinary problem. The only stipulations that we set were that the poems had to be about climate change (however the author might perceive this) and that they had to be 40 lines or less. We received 174 entries from 23 countries in five different languages, and after a rigorous selection process 20 poems were chosen, the result of which is A Change of Climate, available from Amazon in both electronic and paperback formats, with all proceeds going to the Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF). Given the incredible work that the EJF do in both humanising climate change and providing aid to those humans affected by the changing climate we could think of no organisation more deserving of the proceeds from the book, which we hope will be plentiful and long-running!
In the following post, I’ll showcase a small sampling of the diverse poems on offer in the book, and would greatly appreciate your feedback in terms of how effective this approach is in developing dialogue around climate change and the science that informs it.
-Dr Sam Illingworth is a Senior Lecturer in Science Communication at Manchester Metropolitan University in the UK. His research involves developing dialogue between scientists and non-scientists, using poetry and games to help engender meaningful conversations and subsequent actions. You can read more about his research (and read some of his poetry) on his website: www.samillingworth.com. He is also one half of Dr Illingworth and Mr Simpson, along with Dan Simpson, who also acted as a judge for the selection process of A Change of Climate.
The organisation of this competition and the publication of the book were both made possible by funding from the NERC grant Greenhouse gAs Uk and Global Emissions (GAUGE). NERC Reference: NE/K002279/1