Wales’ literature is deeply embedded in the landscape. From the hustle of Tiger Bay to the highest peaks of Eryri, our land is more than a background setting, it’s a character. Poets have been composing whilst working the land for centuries, our place names are intertwined with old legends and tales. Literature and language are in the land around us.
Literature Wales acknowledges and recognises the climate emergency and its devastating impact on our world and the lives of people, with the poorest hardest hit. We want to act where we can, to mitigate against further escalation of the crisis and raise awareness through our work. We cannot align our work with the Well-being of Future Generations Act (Wales) 2015 without recognising the destruction of our environment and climate emergency in everything we do. We will work with partners and our audiences to aim towards a greener, fairer, and more prosperous Wales.
What will we do?
We will amplify the calls for change:
We will support the growing network of laureates in Wales and other inspirational literary figures to use their voices to call for change. We will work with partners including Natural Resources Wales, the World Wildlife Foundation, and the Future Generations Commissioner to create high impact, national programmes.
We will practice what we preach:
Our Sustainability Action Plan outlines strict operational measures to limit our carbon footprint and details how some of our creative projects can address the climate crisis thematically. Whilst being mindful of digital poverty and those less fluent in technology, we will reduce literature events’ carbon footprint by running virtual or hybrid events.
We will encourage localism:
Renewed focus will be placed on working locally and we will assist the development of resilient communities by supporting local literature events and meaningful literature for health and well-being projects. Through piloting new and innovative community projects, we will contribute to finding solutions which demonstrate that returning to normality post COVID-19 does not mean returning to the way things were before the pandemic.
Why Prioritise the Climate Emergency?
The climate emergency is a growing crisis that is having an impact on the lives of people across the world. Locally, the Met Office reports that we are increasingly facing extreme weather conditions and change to the norm, noting that “recent decades have been warmer, wetter and sunnier than the 20th century.” This change in climate is already causing numerous problems including damage to homes, infrastructure and crops, transport problems, illnesses and deaths. Rising sea levels are posing a threat to our coastal areas. Globally, these problems are even more dire, with the IPCC’s most recent report on global warming warning that the predicted rise in global temperatures will be catastrophic for some islands in the Pacific, leading to loss of entire lands and ecosystems.
The climate emergency is becoming an increasing cause of anxiety for our younger generations, with campaigns inspired by protest started by the young campaigner Greta Thunberg demonstrating the depth of our young people’s passion but also anxieties about the destruction humanity is unleashing on the planet. Dubbed as eco-anxiety, the Force of Nature initiative aimed at helping young people realise their potential to create and call for change reports that over 70% of young people feel hopeless in the face of the climate crisis, and only 26% of young people know how to contribute to solving the climate crisis.
Inspired by organisations such as Julie’s Bicycle, an organisation mobilising arts and culture to act on the climate and ecological crisis, we will use our artform to do the same. Rather than focusing solely on the negative aspects of climate change, we will inspire children to feel empowered to act, starting at their feet by respecting their communities and their surroundings. A project run in partnership between Literature Wales and WWF Cymru in 2021 saw three giant poetry murals being created together with children from Treorchy, Cardigan and Rhyl – exploring the children’s desires for a brighter future for Welsh nature and tackling climate change.
“Caring for our world is a good thing to do and so important, we hope our poem helps people understand that. Our area is so beautiful” Mia, pupil at Ysgol Gymraeg Dewi Sant, Rhyl
“I enjoyed discussing WWF Cymru’s work and I’m excited to see how the mural looks. Hopefully it shows how much we want to protect our climate and the nature of the area” Alec, pupil at Ysgol Gynradd Aberteifi
Again, taking inspiration from Greta Thunberg and global literary idols including Amanda Gorman we will upskill the young people of Wales to use their voices effectively and creatively – to become fluent advocators whether in creative writing, composing lyrics, on social media, or performing onstage. Rooting our work in communities, we will be guided by the goals of the Well-being of Future Generations Act (Wales) 2015, aiming to work to create a prosperous, resilient, and globally responsible Wales.
Some of our writers are already leading the way in drawing attention to the climate emergency through literature. In the summer of 2021, poet Iestyn Tyne walked from Caernarfon to Pen Llŷn, intercepted with performances in communities along the way, on a literary pilgrimage exploring the challenges of climate change to the land and its people. Taylor Edmonds is using her role as the poet in residence for the Future Generations Commissioner for Wales to issue urgent warnings on climate action through her poetry. We will work with partners and champions who are already leading the way to refine our strategy on addressing the climate emergency through literature.
Participation: Our new participation project embedding Local Laureates in communities across Wales and training them to be leading literary facilitators will place the climate crisis at its core. Focusing on establishing local projects to encourage children and young people to engage with literature, emphasis will be placed on respecting and exploring local ecosystems and looking after the planet.
Writer Development: We will use the Nant Writers’ Retreat Cottage as a base to offer commissions for writers-in-residence to develop projects related to climate emergency. This will include poetry or prose commissions, creating workshop content and resources to use in an educational setting, and developing community projects.
Wales’ Literary Culture: Our three laureates (National Poet of Wales, Bardd Plant Cymru and the Children’s Laureate Wales) will place the climate emergency as a priority in their work plans – using it as a basis for campaigns, workshop themes, and poetry commissions.