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12 April 2019 •

Letters To The Earth

We’re excited to be taking part in #LettersToTheEarth as part of Culture Declares Emergency. Here you can read the full letters from a diverse range of writers, and watch them read by our Young Associates.


This is an extract from a Letter to the Earth by Rebecca Solnit 
Read by Evangeline Cullingworth

 
Today you are standing up for people not yet born, and those ghostly billions are with you too

What I see all around me is what I call climate momentum: people from New Zealand to Norway stepping up their response to climate change. I see pipeline blockades in Canada and the US, I see investors backing off from fracking and coal, I see universities and pension funds divesting from fossil fuel, I see solar farms and wind turbines going in all over the world and engineers working to make the technologies better, I see lawsuits against oil companies and coal companies, I see politicians, newspaper editorialists, businesspeople and others who have power under the usual rules getting on board in a way they never have before. There is so much happening, in so many ways, to respond to the biggest disaster our species has ever faced.

It is not yet enough, but it is a sign that more and more are facing the catastrophe and are doing something about it. I don’t know what will happen, because what will happen is what we make happen. That is why there’s a global climate strike today. This is why I’ve started saying, Don’t ask what will happen. Be what happens. Today, you are what is happening. Today, your power will be felt. Today, your action matters. Today in your individual action you may stand with a few people or with hundreds, but you stand with billions around the world. Today you are standing up for people not yet born, and those ghostly billions are with you too. Today you are the force of possibility that runs through the present like a river through the desert.
 



This is a Letter to the Earth by Ann Lowe
Read by Roberta Livingston

 
anything
a poem for mother earth
 
there’s this moment
when you find out
 
you realise, that your mother could die
and you know, you know you’ll do anything
 
anything
 
to make it right
 
she’s sick
and her body, that gave life and joy and promise and futures
it has given too much
 
her body has no more to give
 
appointments, lifestyle changes, treatments and medications
operations
 
you do what it takes.
 
but soon,
there’s a moment
 
the moment when you find out
 
you learn
you accept
you know
 
that none of it will work
 
the choices are gone
 
everything. slows.
 
and all you can do is sit
 
and love her
until she isn’t here anymore.
 


This is a Letter to the Earth by Cate Chapman
Read by Catherine Chalk


 
I Don’t Know Where I’ve Got This Balance Wrong
 
I don’t know where I’ve got this balance wrong
 
- either a surfeit or a deficit of faith. Either way, all my
incredulous anger somehow elects to curl itself around, back inwards, sets
to something far more solid: I refuse (with a stubbornness I’ve been told
is unbecoming, unfeminine, inappropriate), right from the root,
to let this experience diminish me, to beat my heart down
 
back into the easy shallow peace of cynicism,
keeping pace with the mute, drowsy rhythm of our shitty broken
culture of forgetfulness, resignation. I know this poem
is like something a teenager might write, too raging and too earnest,
but so what? Why is it so embarrassing to allow ourselves
to feel anything? I don’t want to be inured, resigned, despondent
in the face of all the senseless destruction and injustice, the dull complicity. If I’m angry
 
then I have every fucking reason to be.
And that anger is beautiful: a great bright
thrust of energy, action, hope, confidence,
knowledge,
love.




This is a Letter to the Earth by Claire Rousell
Read by Amin Ali

 
What we do now matters

They are wanting to tell us something, the future people
The people of whom we are the ancestors
Yet they are the wiser
They are wanting to tell us that what we do now matters
They want us to know that they see the dismembered ways that we live and how difficult it is for us to re-member how to return to the family of all things
But their existence is testament to the fact that it is possible
They know we feel trapped by this system of entanglements and obligations and the amputations of our imaginations in a system that only ever intended to keep us blind to the bars of our cages
But they want to remind us that there was a time when we could not imagine a world order that was not based on the divine rights of kings
And before that even, there was a time when we knew what it was to belong When we knew we were Eland, Mantis and Dancer
When we knew we were the firefly and the ocean, the stuff of stars and the breath of birds
They ask us, stroking our hair and touching our faces, how did you know that something else was possible? Where did that idea germinate inside you? Show us, point to the place.
Tell us the story of summoning your brothers and sisters to revolt for a life of connection and dignity? For what dignity is possible if dignity is not available for all?
They ask us, how did you manage to build this world in the flames of capitalism, and yet all the while you were disconnected from your rituals, from the rhythms and songs of your people, the tiny sacred acts of care that ensure that the world is recreated with every dawn chorus?
How did you handle knowing all that you knew without becoming paralyzed with terror and despair?
What did you do with your despair, personal, collective, ancestral?
How did you carry its magnitude in your heart without being overcome with madness, or perhaps while carrying your madness, your addictions and your chronic sadness, never really knowing the full extent of your vitality?
Did you carry pieces of it everywhere you went, stuffed in pockets and purses like used tissues,
Pulling out every pot and pan as the house flooded with tears?
Did you feel it hanging in the air and walking alongside you, the ghosts of extinct creatures following you around reminding you of all that is at stake, suffocating you with the thickness of their memory?
Did you taste it in your food, forced from the soil and sea with chemicals and violence, food that no longer nourished but flared up in rashes and welts as it entered your body?
Did you feel the suffering as you dressed yourself in the forced labour of people and animals, their exhaustion stitched into the seams and hems of your clothes?
We see you, they say, standing on the shore with five hundred years of industry and environmental wreckage and slavery and torture at your back, gasping under its weight, with only the vast black sea in front of you.
We see you.
We see you holding the crumbling world in one hand and the germinating seed of life in the other.
We know you are listening. Listening to your children, to the wind, to the birds, to the voice the startles you from sleep just before dawn, to the harbingers of a new consciousness.
We feel how you allow your heart to be broken while every day preparing the house for love, making up her bed, setting a place for her at your table. All with no good reason for hope and every reason to despair.
We see what is to come for you. And what will remain when the storm, from which there will be no refuge, is over.
We see in you the thousands of varieties of potato and corn and wheat, the cornucopia of culture and craft, language and art, the compassion and commitment to the value of the life of the individual and the group. We know what you have known across time and species, across geography and incarnation. We know what you are capable of.
We salute you. Because what you do now matters.



This is a Letter to the Earth by Jo Baker
Read by Evangeline Cullingworth 

 
For Aife,
 
February and it’s too warm to wear a coat. We feed the groggy bees with sugar-water from a calpol syringe.
 
You say, I’m frightened; I’m frightened of this weather and I’m frightened of what the world will be like when I’m older
 
And I’m frightened too. My body’s frightened of this little summer; it’s out of time and out of tune. I’m frightened of what the world will be like for you.
 
I say hopeful things, that humanity can do better; that we will get our act in order. That we will have to.
 
We get our own small act in order. We take the train, go vegan, refuse plastic, buy less and less.
 
But that is tiny. We are tiny. We watch parliament cut itself to pieces. We watch the cars belt past our house, planes tear across the sky. We feed the bees. And we are afraid.
 

 
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This is an extract from a Letter to the Earth by Rebecca Solnit 
Read by Evangeline Cullingworth

 
Today you are standing up for people not yet born, and those ghostly billions are with you too

What I see all around me is what I call climate momentum: people from New Zealand to Norway stepping up their response to climate change. I see pipeline blockades in Canada and the US, I see investors backing off from fracking and coal, I see universities and pension funds divesting from fossil fuel, I see solar farms and wind turbines going in all over the world and engineers working to make the technologies better, I see lawsuits against oil companies and coal companies, I see politicians, newspaper editorialists, businesspeople and others who have power under the usual rules getting on board in a way they never have before. There is so much happening, in so many ways, to respond to the biggest disaster our species has ever faced.

It is not yet enough, but it is a sign that more and more are facing the catastrophe and are doing something about it. I don’t know what will happen, because what will happen is what we make happen. That is why there’s a global climate strike today. This is why I’ve started saying, Don’t ask what will happen. Be what happens. Today, you are what is happening. Today, your power will be felt. Today, your action matters. Today in your individual action you may stand with a few people or with hundreds, but you stand with billions around the world. Today you are standing up for people not yet born, and those ghostly billions are with you too. Today you are the force of possibility that runs through the present like a river through the desert.
 



This is a Letter to the Earth by Ann Lowe
Read by Roberta Livingston

 
anything
a poem for mother earth
 
there’s this moment
when you find out
 
you realise, that your mother could die
and you know, you know you’ll do anything
 
anything
 
to make it right
 
she’s sick
and her body, that gave life and joy and promise and futures
it has given too much
 
her body has no more to give
 
appointments, lifestyle changes, treatments and medications
operations
 
you do what it takes.
 
but soon,
there’s a moment
 
the moment when you find out
 
you learn
you accept
you know
 
that none of it will work
 
the choices are gone
 
everything. slows.
 
and all you can do is sit
 
and love her
until she isn’t here anymore.
 


This is a Letter to the Earth by Cate Chapman
Read by Catherine Chalk


 
I Don’t Know Where I’ve Got This Balance Wrong
 
I don’t know where I’ve got this balance wrong
 
- either a surfeit or a deficit of faith. Either way, all my
incredulous anger somehow elects to curl itself around, back inwards, sets
to something far more solid: I refuse (with a stubbornness I’ve been told
is unbecoming, unfeminine, inappropriate), right from the root,
to let this experience diminish me, to beat my heart down
 
back into the easy shallow peace of cynicism,
keeping pace with the mute, drowsy rhythm of our shitty broken
culture of forgetfulness, resignation. I know this poem
is like something a teenager might write, too raging and too earnest,
but so what? Why is it so embarrassing to allow ourselves
to feel anything? I don’t want to be inured, resigned, despondent
in the face of all the senseless destruction and injustice, the dull complicity. If I’m angry
 
then I have every fucking reason to be.
And that anger is beautiful: a great bright
thrust of energy, action, hope, confidence,
knowledge,
love.




This is a Letter to the Earth by Claire Rousell
Read by Amin Ali

 
What we do now matters

They are wanting to tell us something, the future people
The people of whom we are the ancestors
Yet they are the wiser
They are wanting to tell us that what we do now matters
They want us to know that they see the dismembered ways that we live and how difficult it is for us to re-member how to return to the family of all things
But their existence is testament to the fact that it is possible
They know we feel trapped by this system of entanglements and obligations and the amputations of our imaginations in a system that only ever intended to keep us blind to the bars of our cages
But they want to remind us that there was a time when we could not imagine a world order that was not based on the divine rights of kings
And before that even, there was a time when we knew what it was to belong When we knew we were Eland, Mantis and Dancer
When we knew we were the firefly and the ocean, the stuff of stars and the breath of birds
They ask us, stroking our hair and touching our faces, how did you know that something else was possible? Where did that idea germinate inside you? Show us, point to the place.
Tell us the story of summoning your brothers and sisters to revolt for a life of connection and dignity? For what dignity is possible if dignity is not available for all?
They ask us, how did you manage to build this world in the flames of capitalism, and yet all the while you were disconnected from your rituals, from the rhythms and songs of your people, the tiny sacred acts of care that ensure that the world is recreated with every dawn chorus?
How did you handle knowing all that you knew without becoming paralyzed with terror and despair?
What did you do with your despair, personal, collective, ancestral?
How did you carry its magnitude in your heart without being overcome with madness, or perhaps while carrying your madness, your addictions and your chronic sadness, never really knowing the full extent of your vitality?
Did you carry pieces of it everywhere you went, stuffed in pockets and purses like used tissues,
Pulling out every pot and pan as the house flooded with tears?
Did you feel it hanging in the air and walking alongside you, the ghosts of extinct creatures following you around reminding you of all that is at stake, suffocating you with the thickness of their memory?
Did you taste it in your food, forced from the soil and sea with chemicals and violence, food that no longer nourished but flared up in rashes and welts as it entered your body?
Did you feel the suffering as you dressed yourself in the forced labour of people and animals, their exhaustion stitched into the seams and hems of your clothes?
We see you, they say, standing on the shore with five hundred years of industry and environmental wreckage and slavery and torture at your back, gasping under its weight, with only the vast black sea in front of you.
We see you.
We see you holding the crumbling world in one hand and the germinating seed of life in the other.
We know you are listening. Listening to your children, to the wind, to the birds, to the voice the startles you from sleep just before dawn, to the harbingers of a new consciousness.
We feel how you allow your heart to be broken while every day preparing the house for love, making up her bed, setting a place for her at your table. All with no good reason for hope and every reason to despair.
We see what is to come for you. And what will remain when the storm, from which there will be no refuge, is over.
We see in you the thousands of varieties of potato and corn and wheat, the cornucopia of culture and craft, language and art, the compassion and commitment to the value of the life of the individual and the group. We know what you have known across time and species, across geography and incarnation. We know what you are capable of.
We salute you. Because what you do now matters.



This is a Letter to the Earth by Jo Baker
Read by Evangeline Cullingworth 

 
For Aife,
 
February and it’s too warm to wear a coat. We feed the groggy bees with sugar-water from a calpol syringe.
 
You say, I’m frightened; I’m frightened of this weather and I’m frightened of what the world will be like when I’m older
 
And I’m frightened too. My body’s frightened of this little summer; it’s out of time and out of tune. I’m frightened of what the world will be like for you.
 
I say hopeful things, that humanity can do better; that we will get our act in order. That we will have to.
 
We get our own small act in order. We take the train, go vegan, refuse plastic, buy less and less.
 
But that is tiny. We are tiny. We watch parliament cut itself to pieces. We watch the cars belt past our house, planes tear across the sky. We feed the bees. And we are afraid.
 

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