WRITE A LETTER TO THE EARTH: A short-term climate writing project

Betty Tisel is a Climate Generation volunteer and was a participant in our Talk Climate Institute in Duluth in March 2019. 

What is WRITE A LETTER TO THE EARTH?

Write A Letter To The Earth is a short-term climate project inspired by a similar initiative in England. The Letters to the Earth crew asked Brits to write letters, then held public readings. They are publishing a book of the letters due out in November, featuring an introduction by actress Emma Thompson. Their slogan: Creation is the antidote to despair. Their instructions and description emphasized grief and climate emergency.

Write A Letter To The Earth participants write using a simple form in prose, poetry, or pictorial, in any language, and often incorporate the following themes: Gratitude, Apology, Praise, Promises, and Grief.

To participate online, go to: Bit.ly/EarthLetter and submit yours by Sept. 30, 2019.

How did you develop your version of this project? 

I am a big fan of the Open Streets days in Minneapolis, and I wanted to participate this year with a climate-related activity. I was very inspired by Climate Generation’s climate storytelling training in Duluth. I decided to keep the project as simple as possible and keep the focus on the writing.

Rather than point participants to a future product or event, I encouraged them to focus on sitting down, thinking what earth means to them, and writing that letter on the spot. I also made sure to point out gratitude, praise, and promises as possible themes, in addition to apologies and grief, because I felt the British project was a bit heavy on the sad side.

The equipment needed: a table, a chair, a piece of paper, and a pen.

I made banners using thrifted sheets and paint and already had a tent so the setup was easy. I also provided markers, crayons, and colored pencils.

I’ve been inspired by Climate Generation’s creative outreach and training, specifically the engagement of climate story work and the climate trivia events. I have been processing my own “climate grief” and other feelings about the climate crisis over the past year.

I wanted to find one way to help others get in touch with their feelings for the earth, and express those in words or pictures. More than 60 participants have written Letters to the Earth, around the themes of great gratitude, great sadness, apology, and commitment to act or “do better”.

What surprised you? 

The biggest surprise was children’s response. Plenty of adults and teens wrote letters, but children really wanted to write these letters and sometimes pulled their parents’ towards the booth to make them stop. I did not envision an all-ages event, but the age of participants ranged from 2 to 85 years old.

What’s next? 

I learned how challenging it is to do a one-person project (I did have help with setup and teardown at each event). I want to move on to work that is more part of a group. I must admit, I like the control I have in doing a one-person thing, but I learned that it is not sustainable for me to work that way longer term. I plan to stay involved with Climate Generation and a few other MN climate groups.

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