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2019 was the year of rebellion. It was the year nurses, poets, nine-year olds and grandparents came together to say: we know the truth about climate change – now it is time to act. But what words describe this crisis? What words can help our children come to terms with the future they will inherit?
Earlier this year, Culture Declares Emergency invited people from all around the world to find those words by writing 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 crisis. Letters of love, loss, hope and action were written by over 1000 people. Now published as a collection, Letters to the Earth brings together the voices of children and the public with authors, scientists and playwrights in the first creative project of its kind.
Alongside letters from the public, Letters To The Earth received submissions from artist and peace activist Yoko Ono, poet Kate Tempest, actor Mark Rylance, author, and illustrator of The Lost Words Jackie Morris, novelist Anna Hope, environmental writer Jay Griffiths and Green Party MP Caroline Lucas. Together they are an invitation to consider how this existential threat affects the way we live our lives and the action we take.
Lots of books consider the climate and ecological crisis from a political or scientific perspective, but Letters to the Earth is the first book to chronicle how humankind is collectively processing planetary crisis.
In February 2018 four women came together and dreamt of an opportunity for people to express themselves in response to this crisis. What was born was Letters To The Earth, a campaign which invites people to write a letter to or from the Earth, future or past generations, those who hold positions of power and influence, other species. The idea was open to interpretation: it could come from a personal place, be dramatic in form, be a call to action. The invitation was open to all – to think beyond the human narrative and to bear witness to the scale and horror of this crisis. The campaign is ongoing, with people all around the world still writing and presenting their Letters. The Letters To The Earth co-curating team are novelist Anna Hope, director Jo McIness and theatre-maker Kay Michael.
"As Sophocles and Shakespeare and Moliere and Ibsen and Brecht wrote plays as interventions into the major political crises of their worlds and of their time, so we now need our writers to record and reflect this probably biggest ever global challenge but, more than that, to help us understand what to do about it, how to prevent climate disruption from destroying so much that the west, the east, the north, the south have struggled to create over millennia. The time has always been now."
– David Lan, writer, producer and former Artistic Director of The Young Vic Theatre
"'The letters have moved, humbled and inspired us by their number, their depth of feeling, and their call to action. They do not shy away from the terrifying scale of the threat we all face, and offer no easy answers, but there is soul medicine in their words. We believe they constitute the largest creative response to the climate crisis the world has yet seen."
– Anna Hope, climate activist and author of Expectation
"We must make public space to amplify this emergency, and use our skills, visions and stories to help imagine an alternative future."
– Lucy Davies, Executive Producer at The Royal Court Theatre