Saturday, June 09, 2012

For sale: neglected planet; one previous, careless, owner.

And This Global Warming cover

Yesterday I went to a special award ceremony, to celebrate the winners of a poetry competition, that has been judged by Britain's Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy and Elin ap Hywel. It is on the theme of climate change.

Many of the winning poets were there, there were readings by Susan Richardson, Elin ap Hywel, Dafydd Wyn and Emily Hinshelwood, and a collection of 40 of the poems, entitled And This Global Warming, was launched. The picture above is on the cover. It is the second year of the competition, and it attracted a whopping 672 entries.

Carol Ann Duffy said that the quality of the entries “was fantastic, especially the children's entries" (there is a separate section for children).

The poems describe anger at politicians, the desolation of forest fires, a poignant memory of ice, the absurdity of an estate agent's spec on the earth, and the personality of thunder. They make you laugh, cry, smile and, of course, they raise anger at what is being done to the Earth in our name and our seeming incapacity to do anything about it.

Sadly, one of my own poems is not included! I console myself at the thought that I can praise the work of these other poets, who all deserve to be widely read.

And I want to mention especially the organiser of the competition, Emily Hinshelwood and her partner Dan McCallum. The battle to preserve communities, fight climate change and support renewable energy has many unsung heroes around the world, and this couple are among them.

For, 14 years ago, they began to set up what quickly became a thriving community project, Awel Aman Tawe, to regenerate a former coalmining area in the Swansea and Amman valleys in South Wales. They have fought and won many battles, not the least of which is to build a community-owned wind farm on the hillside overlooking the town.

It has taken over 10 years to get this through planning, and it is still not quite there. The project has shrunk from an original six turbines to just two, despite strong grassroots support. The perseverance and commitment to achieve this is awe-inspiring.

Emily believes in the power of art in its widest sense to inspire people. She knows that touching people’s lives can never be done with technology or economics alone, or even at all. So Awel Aman Tawe has run a broad programme of arts activities specifically themed around climate change. She sees the arts "as an opportunity to engage local people in what can be a controversial and unpopular subject".

The programme encouraged people to imagine the reality of many different aspects of climate change using a range of media including film, animation, poetry, printmaking, design, collage and performance. The performance was a play called Nine Meals from Anarchy, themed around food transport. Another project was Postcards from the Future in which participants in different communities were invited to design postcards depicting their image of the future to send to people in the present.

Climate change can be a difficult subject to get across. It feels impersonal, distant both in time and place. How can we make it relevant to people's lives? How can we break through the filters of indifference, ignorance and cynicism?

I feel that the best efforts come when you cut straight through to the emotions, the things that people hold precious in their lives, or when you can make people laugh, because laughter bypasses our normal, cynical, so-called rational prejudices. Art helps to shock people into seeing things in a different light.

So, I'll devote the rest of this column to someone else's words, one of my favourite poems from the collection, by Richard Foreman. It's called 'For Sale'.

quiet location on spiral arm of the Milky Way
well presented, detached planet
seven spacious and charming continents
set amidst rolling, cerulean oceans
heating system in need of some renovation

ideal first time investment for extra-terrestrial species
with suitable technology and know-how
to stem a rampant excess of carbon dioxide
methane, nitrous oxide, ozone...
the whole, roiled gamut of greenhouse gases
fantastic opportunity to restore
depleted, misused, natural resources
scattered fragments of once vast rainforests
homelands engulfed by rising seas
and the vestigial remains of polar ice-caps
potential to update and extend
vastly depleted wildlife species
compromised attempts to establish
sustainable industries, renewable energy supplies
and responsible agricultural development
this planet enjoys an elevated position
with outstanding, panoramic views of the universe
an elegant world, with versatile accommodation
previous owners
now deceased
You can probably buy copies of And This Global Warming here, and support this valuable project.

1 comment:

Scotts Contracting said...

I found your site via Twitter and am now a follower of your Blog. Keep it Green,Scotty