A Homegrown Initiative Encouraging Climate Action Through Poetry

Love in the Times of Climate Change' is aiming to spread awareness about the threat of climate change.
Love in the Times of Climate Change' is aiming to spread awareness about the threat of climate change.Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW)

As the climate crisis ensues, the conversation around the important issue is alienating more individuals than mindfully engaging them in climate action. In the past year we have witnessed some truly bizarre tactics of vandalising age-old paintings in the spirit of advocating for the cause and we're everday bombarded with numbers and analysis that appears to predict the impending doom of civiliaztion as we know it. In such times, it is important to reflect on our own actions and vocalise innovative means of change through empathetic narratives. 

The Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW), in collaboration with UnErase Poetry, has come up with an exciting project called, 'Love in the Times of Climate Change' (LCC). They are seeking to dismantle the disingenuous ways of advocating for conservation and rather engage with young minds between the ages of 18 to 35, through moving narratives of love and human perseverance. The campaign brings together seven leading performance poets from across India to pen down experiences of love in in the modern era of climate change. 

The poems, written in Hindi and English hope and attempt to make climate action a dinner table conversation by personalising messaging and experimenting with fresh formats such as spoken word. The young poets also subtly weave in climate solutions such as electric vehicles, solar rooftops, and windmills as part of their storytelling; inspiring action towards a sustainable tomorrow. The inititiative believes that it is essential that young minds become the catalysts for change and that in the process they will be able to inspire like-minded peers to take action in their own lives. 

Homegrown spoke to Alina Sen, Senior Communications Specialist & Archivist, Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW), who told us a little bit more about what CEEW and UnErase Poetry are trying to create.

The discussion around climate change can often be polarising and tends to create panic; further fuelling nihilism. In this culture, how is this project seeking to create a fresh narrative around the issue and what inspired the makers to humanise the climate crisis using the theme of love?

Centring people in climate policies is one of CEEW’s key mandates. This means complementing citizen-centric research on climate with an effort to mainstream climate change examples and actions into everyday communications and art forms so more people understand and engage with how climate change is impacting our lives and relationships. Love is an intensely personal experience as well as a universally valued sentiment. It gave us the silver lining, that shines out from behind the looming clouds of climate anxiety. Combined with the medium of spoken word poetry, whose popularity is growing with the youth, we are happy that Love in the Times of Climate Change is doing its bit to bring climate discussions from conference tables to dinner tables, like the Prime Minister recently mentioned.

The collaboration aims to engage young minds between the age group of 18-35 years in climate change discussions through the power of poetry. This is also the generation that remains consumed by social media’s incessant urgency and fear mongering, how can the project present hope in such times?

Regret, resolve, delight, hope, a bit of humour and anticipation — it is these emotions that feature across the seven poems, not just fear. This was possible because we chose to tell stories from the point of view of love. As a sentiment we know that love does not allow you to only wallow. It has many uplifting and hopeful avatars that the poets have, through their own experiences, brought to the fore. Climate change adaptation and resilience need action, not apathy and despair. The poets shared this vision with us right from the start of the project since understanding, reflection, and conversation are what we wanted to trigger through this project.

The Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW) and UnErase Poetry are seeking to personalise messaging in order to highlight hope and human perseverance at a time of cautionary numbers and analysis. Could you speak about the fresh formats that the innovative young poets are experimenting with?

Spoken word poetry is a trending art form among younger audiences. We have this project and the one that CEEW co-led with the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) to create the Portrait of a Silver Lining. It featured through a music video poet Simar Singh’s artistic interpretation of the Scientific Report Stockholm+50: Unlocking a Better Future that was launched at the iconic Stockholm +50 event last year.

We understand that sustainability and climate are now something many of the poets are actively researching and following, and we hope this effort spurs other poets and artists to come up with their stories on climate. A lot in this direction has begun. 'Art for climate’ is definitely an idea whose time has come.

These poets are also subtly weaving in climate solutions as part of the storytelling to inspire action towards a sustainable tomorrow. What are some of these alternative means towards change and how are they making the conversation more accessible to the masses?

Art is experiencing many climate and sustainability embeds in the way it is being made. From TV series, sustainability cartoons, music, graphic novels, audio stories, data stories, games, films, podcasts, theatre — there is a heartening effort going on across the world and in India to weave climate and sustainability into everyday discussions, products and education. CEEW’s has just announced 'Sustaina', a first-of-its-kind initiative by Thukral & Tagra, a Delhi-based artist duo and CEEW to catalyse pollinations across art, science and policy-making through annual fellowships, exhibitions and public programmes.

We also have What On Earth!™ — our weekly cartoon series on sustainability, along with an award-winning short film project, Faces of Climate Resilience. They are helping to make climate discussions and actions more accessible to students, journalists, young professionals, artists — all influencers in their own right who can eventually become champions of sustainability.

Find more about the project here.

You can follow the What On Earth!™ series here.

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