Ecopoetics reflection and recording: environmental storytelling and climate resilience

On 31 May 2023 researchers, creatives and climate change campaigners gathered to explore the importance of experimental environmental storytelling in building climate resilience.

Screenshot of ecopoetics video start frame. Green background with black and white photo of wind turbine in centre. Features text ‘Reimagining climate resilience through ecopoetics; Green Tease event’. Click to play.

Watch a video of the event. Viewing tip: click on the two arrows in the top right corner to optimise experience.

The climate crisis is asking artists, activists and policymakers to reassess how they engage with audiences: “Every crisis is in part a storytelling crisis,” as the writer Rebecca Solnit recently reminded us. Together, we explored how ecopoets are creating innovative and immersive storytelling that push audiences to reflect and react to ecological issues by transforming our ways of thinking and living.

Ecopoetics is not limited to the written word, embracing performance, visual arts, and digital media. It is poetry of ecology and thinking with ecology. Bringing together poets, artists and researchers, this Green Tease provided a space for discussion and creative expression on how we might use ecopoetics to cultivate everyday resilience in the face of the climate crisis.

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This event was created in collaboration with Martin Schauss, a researcher in literature and ecology, at the University of Edinburgh who got us started by giving examples of ecopoetics from sunrise poems on the Isle of Skye, to poetry bus tours in New York City. He was followed by Alec Finlay, an artist and poet working with a range of media and forms, who gave examples of how his art encourages place-based awareness by mapping into the Scottish landscape a consideration of Scotland’s energy history.

We next heard from Yulia Kovanova, a Scotland-based artist and BAFTA Scotland-nominated filmmaker working across different media, and Patrick James Errington, a poet who recently published, the swailing, a poetry collection on human and natural loss in the context of Canada’s burning landscapes. Yulia and Patrick showcased their mixed media collaborations, focusing on ecological precarity, resilience, and multispecies relationships. As we watched excerpts from Yulia’s films, Patrick performed poetic companion pieces, drawing reflections on the relationship between spoken word and visual arts.

Finally, writer and activist Jessica Gaitán Johannesson, who currently organises Climate Camp Scotland, spoke to the sometimes conflicted relationship between storytelling and activism, and how they can nurture each other. Her provocative question, “and then what?”, interrogated how creative inspiration and writing should do more than help formulate new ideas, and instead lead us to act. Emphasizing how ecopoetics, environmental literature, and activism should feed each other, she asked participants to reflect on which stories have ever led them to take action.

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Re-imaging place through digital sound walks workshop

Following the inspirational talks, SCCAN Story Weavers Kaska Hempel and Lesley Anne Rose shared a hands-on taster on using digital sound walks to re-imagine the places we care about. In groups everyone set off to create their own ecopoetic sound walk using the walksy app.

To highlight the importance of local writing and reading communities, the event also included a bookstall by Lighthouse Bookshop focused on ecopoetics and environmental writing in Scotland and beyond.

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