What We Talk About When We Talk About the Climate Crisis
Tales from the Anthropocene by Jessica Kashdan-Brown
Since the pandemic started, most of the conversations we might have been having with friends and family face-to-face have moved online — onto messaging apps and social media. Our fears and hopes, our day-to-day activities and thoughts, our worries and views about the climate crisis — these are all things we are using our phones to communicate about at the moment. So, what if there was a way to tap into these conversations we’re having — to understand, in some way, what it is we talk about when we talk about the climate crisis — and to make something insightful and beautiful from it?
Hello and welcome to the Climate Journal Project blog. My name is Jessica Kashdan-Brown, and through my blog series, ‘Tales from the Anthropocene’, I’m going to be exploring:
- how we can use writing as a tool for processing climate anxiety and environmental grief
- working towards wellness and a more holistic view of our connection with nature
- generally, how we can make positive and creative things out of those experiences
I am a writer and poet living just outside of Bath in the UK, which is a small city in the rural Southwest of England — made famous first by the Romans, then by Jane Austen. It’s also where I’ve lived my whole life, bar the years I’ve spent at uni (college) and living abroad for a while before the pandemic. I have a BA in English Literature and Creative Writing from the University of Warwick, where I became deeply interested in writing that focused on nature, place, environment, and ecology. I am, as a result of that, extremely excited by the ways that writing, poetry, and storytelling can influence and educate our perspectives on the climate crisis and nature.
Now, let’s talk about the climate crisis…
The climate crisis has been increasingly playing on my mind at the moment. Since the pandemic struck, it feels like there’s been so much more time to think about it, so much less rushing around to obfuscate it, and in isolation, there has been a beautiful kind of refuge to be sought amongst the natural world that our busy modern lives maybe led us to forget we are a part of.
I’ve been talking about the climate crisis more. In fact, my family’s conversations have led us to start a family blog, Our House is on Fire, which documents the climate action we’re taking. We were inspired by Greta Thunberg’s book. It’s special because it’s our household’s personal responses to the climate crisis.
It seems that every message I send to my friends has leaned towards the topic of the climate crisis as well. In many ways, my phone probably knows better than I do what it is the climate crisis means to me; what phrases I attach to it, how I describe it, how I respond to it, what I prioritise in my thinking about it. Every person with predictive text enabled on their phones will have this, to some extent, happening to them too. It’s not an invasion of privacy so much as a useful personalised tool (the information likely won’t be used by anyone other than you, or some probability algorithm calculating the likelihood of letter orders), but within this tool is a record of you — your conversations, what you talk about. Aren’t you curious to see what it can tell you about yourself?
The Predictive Text Poetry Project
Well, with this in mind, I set up the Predictive Text Poetry Project back in June 2020. Since then, every week or so, I’ve created a prompt (or the first few words of a sentence). I usually try to make them broad, so that they can be interpreted in a number of different ways, but more often than not they have an environmental angle to them. I then post the prompt on my website and across all my social media channels, asking people to type the prompt into their phones and complete a phrase or paragraph using only the words their predictive text offers them. Maybe you’ve seen these kinds of ‘predictive text games’ on social media before? They’re pretty fun and can surprise you in wonderful ways. Once I have enough responses, I collate all of the (usually fairly garbled, sometimes astonishingly profound) submissions, and I create a poem out of them. I don’t use a single word that isn’t given to me by the responses, which is tricky, but it holds true to the concept. Through this, I have seen so many different perspectives emerge on nature, ideas of home, the climate crisis, and more.
Creating something insightful and beautiful from something scary like this has helped me immensely in processing my anxiety and grief surrounding the climate crisis. It has helped me to see new ways of writing and thinking about it and has brought so much joy in difficult times. What’s even better is that everyone who has contributed a response to a poem has, in some way, written and created it themselves, and can share in this experience of manifestation and perspective-shifting, seeing their fragments in the context of other peoples’ words and experiences. If you follow the Climate Journal Project, you probably already know how helpful writing can be in processing your thoughts and feelings — it’s used as a form of therapy for good reason — and in this instance it has been a form of writing accessible to even the most writing-shy amongst us, bringing an unlikely collection of people together in its creation.
Find out for yourself
The poems from this project are an expression of the people who have helped make it, of what they’re talking about and what they value or consider interesting. So, I want to ask, will you help me create a poem? Are you curious to see what your conversations reveal about you and your thinking about the climate crisis? Are you brave enough to see how your conversations sit against the conversations of others? I’m going to set you a prompt. It will be posted on my website and social media channels too, so you can submit using your phone wherever you like.
Your prompt is: ‘My life on our planet…’
I can’t wait to see where this one leads, and I look forward to sharing the results of this prompt with you in my next blog post. Until next time!
You can comment your responses below, or send your creations to the Predictive Text Poetry Project. You can also follow the project and contribute via my social media on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter (@JKashdanBrown).