My Life On Our Planet: How Writing Has Helped Me Find Positivity In My Thinking About The Climate Crisis
Tales from the Anthropocene by Jessica Kashdan-Brown
In my last blog post, I invited readers to participate in creating the latest poem for the Predictive Text Poetry Project. I set you the challenge of finding out what your phone thinks you think and talk about. Using the prompt, “my life on our planet”, I asked you to add to this starting phrase using your phone’s predictive text; letting it reveal the inner truths of the conversations you conduct via your mobile phone. This is the poem that came out of your responses.
I have found so much solace and comfort in the responses I have gotten from the prompts I have set over the last six months. There is something very comforting in seeing the mundane, the unexpected, the fearful, and the hopeful all lined-up side by side in one poem, and knowing that this is a perfectly reasonable way to experience the current moment. It’s a very powerful thing, knowing you are not alone in what you are thinking and feeling, and in being able to see this kind of overview of the conversations we’re all having and to draw out the links and parallels between them. It has helped me to feel like others care about the things I care about and to steer clear of the kind of climate defeatism that my climate anxiety often veers towards.
This poetry project has allowed me to reach out to people — the close and familiar as well as total strangers — and feel a sense of connection. Through every poem, I have felt my perspective on the climate crisis and nature shift and evolve all because of the people who have helped me write them, who have shared their experiences with me through their words. I’m hoping many who read the finished poems find this to some extent too and know how grateful I am for it. I have also worked throughout these poems to highlight the positivity in some of the responses I get, showing how these positive sentiments are what can help pull us through the darker experiences. In many ways, that’s what this project is all about for me — finding a positive approach to how we think and write about crises.
Writing as a response to times of crisis
Throughout this pandemic, I have come to understand how important writing really is to me. It has been an invaluable way for me to alleviate the worst and most immobilizing parts of my climate anxiety. Through writing, I have embraced my personal experience of what has been happening, both in terms of the pandemic and in terms of climate change — finding a way to make sense of those things that are beyond my control and to focus on finding things that are. I have kept a journal and started writing poetry again, after a fairly long spell of creative dryness, as well as starting up a family blog and this experimental poetry project. In many ways, writing has been a way for me to start the process of manifesting my desire to do something into a physical reality.
I felt initially like my climate anxiety was exacerbated by the pandemic. I worried that the climate emergency might be buried by the more obviously immediate emergency the pandemic posed. I worried about increasing volumes of single-use plastic and that national climate action initiatives would be put on hold. These were, and still are, all valid worries; but through my writing, I documented so many positive experiences too. I have seen that, despite the darker experiences, crises can also pave the way for positive transformative change and creativity. My writing projects have revealed moments of hope and adaptability. I have found myself and others reflecting more on our relationships with the environment we live in — taking the time to notice the trees and plants, the flowers and features that make up our sense of home. I have noticed also that the pandemic has given privileged people, like myself, time to think about the change we want to see and make in the world as well as the time away from busy modern life needed to start planning for, and acting on, those intentions and visions.
“I’ll come back and see / The world, the park, the house / The garden, you, the dogs / Are all home / A living network” — A Love Letter to Walking, from the Predictive Text Poetry Project
Historically and psychologically speaking, there is a strong link between creativity and crisis. When our lives and the world we live in changes beyond recognition and ‘normality’ no longer holds true to the description we might once have given it, possibilities open-up. There is loss and hardship, but people get creative as a response. We adapt and innovate, we believe in new ways of doing things, we rebuild structures and assumptions, and we are more open-minded about alternatives we might have never considered before. In a journal article on psychological posttraumatic growth, Tedeschi and Calhoun (both researchers in the field of psychology) use the analogy of an earthquake to make this point. They suggest that in the wake of a highly stressful event like an earthquake (or, equally, a pandemic or an event caused by the climate crisis), people are forced to reexamine their core beliefs. Crises crack open our assumptions about the world asking us to reassess what they are founded on, whether there is a better way of doing things, and how we intend to rebuild afterwards.
We’ve seen a huge amount of creativity already in the response to the pandemic. Immediately the world has come up with an assortment of creative adaptations and innovations, some of which might be permanent improvements on our way of life:
- Virtual events have seen a massive increase in accessibility
- New virtual platforms and data collection systems have been developed
- Vaccines have been fast-tracked
- Home-life, the value of nature and access to it, and personal wellbeing have been given greater priority in many people’s day to day lives
Seeing and documenting through writing how these things have come about, I see a future of possibility and positivity in how we deal with the climate crisis. We have seen a lot of innovations emerging already in response to climate change and the climate emergency, but given everything we have achieved in the face of a pandemic, I feel that there is much more to come. I know the pandemic isn’t over yet, but that means we still have time to shape the world we want to see emerging from the other side of it. From the smallest shifts in personal attitudes towards climate action, to the largest scale of global innovation — positive change is coming and I intend to be a part of it. Do you?