Sheffield Climate Writers: The Future is Safe in his Little Hands
A few weeks ago I attended the launch of the Sheffield Climate Writers. When I first heard about it, I didn’t hesitate in supporting the event. River Wolton and Suzannah Evans are two of my favourite people and supporting writing is what I do. I wasn’t sure that I would go along myself though. I’ve never quite seen myself as an activist and I’d hesitate to call myself an environmentalist; sometimes, if the peanut butter is really stuck at the bottom of an empty plastic jar, I’ve been known to throw it in the wrong bin and, at Easter, I took my children on a long-haul flight. My eco-credentials are average at best, even though I do generally walk if I can and I’m mostly vegan and I voted Green and when the men came with saws to chop down the trees, like a lot of Sheffield people, I felt angry and violated and called to do something.
Anyway, I went because writing is what I do and the poets leading the meeting are my friends and because, when I thought about it, like lots of us, I’m finding increasingly that green issues are no longer the domain of radicals or hippies but something that affect all of us, something that require all of us to come out from the comfort of our privileged Western homes and be held accountable for. And I came because I have kids and I have recently heard people talk about the possibility that the world I know might not even exist when those kids are my age and the thought of what they might have to face is unbearable. Of course, you don’t need to have children of your own to find the destruction of the earth horrifying but there’s nothing like the lives of your offspring being threatened to bring home how terrifying the reality that we face is and how untenable it is to do nothing. So, I guess, I came because I need to do something and words are what I turn to in times of trouble. Words are the only useful tools I have.
And that night Union Street was full of words: words of concern, words of doom and gloom and words of hope. In the end what I was left with though, were the words of hope. It was heartening to hear the words of the assembled writers and heartening to see the impressive turnout and to feel the support of the group. There was no judgement. We are all of us culpable, fallible. But everyone there had brought themselves out on a Tuesday night because they felt compelled to do something. Though we’re not sure yet where the connections will lead, the collective energy itself gave me hope.
One of the things we were asked to do was to write about what gives us hope in the current climate. Because without hope, it’s all too desolate. Without hope, there is nothing we can do. And there has to be something. And we all know that there are, in reality, many things we can do if we come out of our houses and join together to make changes, if we all become activists.
Here’s what I wrote when I was asked to write about hope.
I have hope every time I see my eight year old packing his ‘Bee Revival Kit’ on the way to school, the plastic syringes from his hospital-spent childhood now recycled and filled with sugary water. I have hope every time I beg him, ‘Please, Douglas, we have to get to school’, as I wait for him to pick up a new leaf or marvel at the way the fronds of a plant are smooth one way and sticky if he strokes it in the opposite direction. The way he stops to take in the colour and texture of bark, as he counts the puffs of the dandelion clock and wonders how far the seeds will fly and how many flowers they will spawn and why do people call them weeds when they are so beautiful and the engineering so perfect that it almost makes him concede that there might be a God after all?
I have hope when he picks up the snails from the path and repositions them on walls and verges, as he rushes to fetch them fresh leaves, as he says that he doesn’t care what his stepmum says about her plants, that slugs have their place too.
I have hope when I watch him walk the beach at sunset, loaded with buckets full of the detritus that others have left behind, knowing that the future is safe in his little hands and that in his footsteps I must follow. I take one of his buckets. Help him to carry the load.