Climate change poetry anthology inspires environmental action

Dr Sam Illingworth co-edited the multilingual A Change of Climate book

Dr Sam Illingworth, Senior Lecturer in Science Communication at Manchester Metropolitan University, co-edited A Change of Climate

Dr Sam Illingworth, Senior Lecturer in Science Communication at Manchester Metropolitan University, co-edited A Change of Climate

A new compendium of thought-provoking climate change poetry explores different perspectives on the environmental issue.

The collection, called A Change of Climate, was compiled from entries submitted to a global poetry competition run by Manchester Metropolitan University and the University of Edinburgh.

People were asked to submit poems of 40 lines or fewer about the subject of climate change and were purposely left to interpret this topic for themselves.

The result is a range of sad, angry and even comedic poems, the best of which made it into the compendium available in both a hard copy and a Kindle e-edition.

'Humbling experience'

Dr Sam Illingworth, Senior Lecturer in Science Communication at Manchester Metropolitan University and co-editor of the collection with poet Dan Simpson, said: “Putting together this collection of poetry has been a very humbling experience.

“The poems that were submitted reflect the individual experiences and personal narratives that I believe are necessary in order for us to take collective action against climate change, and to make a difference before it is too late.

“The poems that made it into A Change of Climate are the ones that we felt spoke to us on the most personal level, and which managed to do the very difficult job of localising a global problem.”

Contest atrracted more than 170 entries

The poetry contest was held this summer and attracted 174 entries from 23 countries in five different languages.

Judges selected their favourite 20 to appear in the multilingual A Change of Climate to give a flavour from across the world of people’s everyday experiences of climate change and to capture the shifting attitudes towards the issue.

Forewords to the collection have been written by award-winning poet Dr Helen Mort, a Lecturer at the Manchester Writing School at Manchester Metropolitan University, and by Valerie Masson-Delmotte, the co-chair of the Working Group 1 of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the UN body for assessing the science related to climate change.

The competition and the production of the poetry compendium have been funded by a grant from the Greenhouse Gas UK and Global Emissions (GAUGE) project from the Natural Environment Research Council.

Poetry gives others a voice

Professor Paul Palmer, the lead investigator on GAUGE based at the University of Edinburgh, said: “Working with Dr Illingworth has been a pleasure.

“With his poetry project he has given voices to people that aren’t necessary engaged with the scientific process.

“As citizens of Earth, which is now responding to human-driven changes in climate, they have something to say and should be heard.”

Proceeds to environmental charity

The poetry collection book costs £4.99 and all of the proceeds will go to the Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF), an organisation that protects people and the planet by investigating and exposing environmental and human rights abuses. EJF’s climate campaign calls for the legal recognition and protection of climate refugees - people who have been forced from their homes due to extreme weather.

Steve Trent, Executive Director of EJF, said: "Across the world millions of people are being forced from their homes, driven out by increasingly frequent and severe extreme weather events, from floods to fires, they are today's climate refugees.

“We need to communicate these threats and challenges, along with the solutions to them, solutions that are within our grasp if we act now.

“This superb collection of poems will help to engage, explain and inspire people to act, both for our own wellbeing, but also for those who are more vulnerable and unable to help themselves.”

Collective action through poetry

Dr Illingworth said: “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 this very second, responsible for the destruction of thousands of ecosystems, insects, animals, plants, birds, and humans.

“What was needed is something that can transcend cultural barriers, and which can contextualise and localise a global problem. What was needed was poetry.”

See more poets reading their poems on film on the Environmental Justice Foundation's YouTube channel.

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