Writing to a Planet in Crisis
In February 2019 Culture Declares Emergency invited the British public to put pen to paper and write a Letter to the Earth. The invitation was open to all – to think beyond the human narrative and bear witness to the scale of the crisis. Letters of love, loss, hope and action were written by over 1000 people worldwide - from 4 year olds to great grandparents, authors, scientists, nurses.
On a day of joint action they were read at 52 venues and community spaces across the world and filmed by actors Andrew Scott and Alex Lawther in the run up to the International Extinction Rebellion. A selection of Letters as well as a specially curated 20 minute performance text were made rights free and globally available for presentation during the Rebellion and School Strike For Climate, from 15th – 28th April. They took centre stage at Oxford Circus during the XR's ‘Day Of Love’ on April 19th, performed by youth strikers and actors including Emma Thompson, Paapa Essiedu and Lee Ross.
The campaign is still running, now worldwide. Keep writing your letters. Read them with others. Take them to your communities, to the streets. This website provides you resources to do so.
On 14th November 2019 an anthology of some of the letters will be published by HarperCollins, with an introduction by Emma Thompson. Notable contributors include Yoko Ono, Mark Rylance, Kate Tempest, Simon McBurney, Laline Paull, Richard Holloway, co-founder of UK Student Climate Network Daniela Torres Perez, co-founder of Extinction Rebellion Dr Gail Bradbrook, Joanna Macy, Polly Higgins, Matthew Todd and Caroline Lucas MP. The book will also include words and illustrations by CILIP Kate Greenaway prize-winner Jackie Morris. The book will be published on sustainably sourced paper (FSC) and all royalties will go towards ongoing creative campaigning for environmental justice.
Pre-order your Letters to the Earth here.
This is an open call. Anyone can write a letter - and you can share them in your own way. This is an invitation to self-organise your activity; there is no central co-ordination: we are just sparking the flame!
We are facing an unprecedented global emergency, the planet is in crisis and we are in the midst of a mass extinction event. Scientists believe we have entered a period of abrupt climate breakdown. Carbon emissions and temperatures keep rising; ecological collapse has begun. On this course we are likely to see abrupt and irreversible devastation. The time for denial is over – we know the truth about climate change. It is time to act.
This is an invitation to write a letter of response to this crisis. This can be a letter to or from the Earth, future or past generations, those who hold positions of power and influence, other species. The idea is open to interpretation: it could come from a personal place, be dramatic in form, be a call to action. The invitation is open to all - to think beyond the human narrative and to bear witness to the scale and horror of this crisis. This is an opportunity to pause; to ask how this existential threat affects the way we wish to live our lives and the action we take.
In putting this story front and centre and making space for this emergency we have the ability to shift the global narrative and generate the necessary political will to act. The time for action is now.
Letters to the Earth are meant for the communal space. Take them to your communities, your homes, the streets, to those in positions of power. Speak them, hear them, share them. Let your voices be heard.
All letters submitted in the February 2019 call-out were released for presentation on a day of joint action in the run up to International Rebellion - across theatres, arts venues and community spaces worldwide. Some venues opened their doors free of charge to the public, others live-streamed and others took to the streets to read the letters aloud. High profile readers alongside young people and local communities were involved in the presentation of these letters. Some venues held open conversation as part of the day's activity to bring people together in the face of this crisis; some wrote their own letters together.
The invitation is to keep doing so. To organise your own events and actions. Click here for banners and images for your promotional activity. Feel free to use any copy from this website, though we ask that you credit quotes and the campaign to Letters to the Earth and Culture Declares Emergency, sharing this website and using our social media tags and platforms to join the wider story.
Here is the list of venues who took part on Friday 12th April 2019:
Angora Poets, Paris
Arcola Theatre, London
Arts Admin, London
As It Is Theatre Company
Ashburton Arts Centre
Auburn University, Alabama USA
Baltic Climate Chain, Lithuania, Estonia, Latvia
Battersea Arts Centre, London
Bunker Theatre, London
Canada, via Zoom, hosted by Pegi Eyers in Otonabee Ontario
Centre for Alternative Technology, Wales
Centre for Contemporary Art and The Natural World, Dartington
Freedom Theatre, Palestine
Friends Meeting House, Canterbury
Fruits and Roots, Johannesburg, South Africa
The Harlow, Hallowell, Maine USA
Huddersfield Ukrainian Club
Kanyama compound, Mumbwa road, Zambia
Liverpool Everyman & Playhouse
Lucit, Pretoria, South Africa
Lyric Hammersmith Theatre, London
Museum of Liverpool
National Theatre Wales
North Wall, Oxford
Northwich Town Centre
ONCA Gallery, Brighton
Paddington Conservative Club, London
Pleasance Theatre London
Queen's Gardens, Nelson, New Zealand
Royal Court Theatre, London
Royal Exchange and Take Back Theatre, Manchester
Shakespeare's Globe, London
Shop Front Margate
St Augustines Parish Centre, Darlington
The Blue House, Mullumbimby, Australia
The Gate Theatre, London
The George Inn, Newnham
The Space, Isle of Dogs, London
Theatre Clwyd, Mold
Trowbridge Town Hall
Unit Four: The Cornucopia Room, Hawick Scottish Borders
University of St Andrews
UpStage (online platform)
Walcot Chapel, Bath
Young Vic Theatre, London
As part of this process, all Arts and Culture organisations and individuals are invited to declare a Climate and Ecological Emergency and take necessary action for justice. See here for more info and to register.
We are all on our own journey in meeting the climate and ecological crisis. We recommend hosting your own events, bringing people together to face the challenging reality of the emergency and to talk through what comes up for you.
Emergency Talks and your personal response:
If your group or venue is considering holding space to collectively write Letters to the Earth then we would recommend first looking at the reality of the climate and ecological emergency together.
Extinction Rebellion, the fastest growing environmental non-violent civil disobedience movement in history, delivers talks that look at the latest science, the risks, our current trajectory and our emotional responses to the crisis. The science that well trained XR facilitators communicate has been put together by world leading climate scientists who are supporting Extinction Rebellion's work.
To invite XR to facilitate a talk with you please email , cc'ing in email@example.com.
After a talk, we encourage breaking out into small groups to share responses to the climate and ecological emergency and how that might inform your letter as a written response. If you were speaking to people from this place, how would your letter begin; who could you write to or from what perspective? What would also capture a listening audience?
Toolkit for post letters to the earth presentations:
The Letters to the Earth team have put together a template Toolkit that facilitates time for reflection, a chance to talk and respond to the letters in a heartfelt way that drives action. This can be delivered after any presentation of Letters. See here.
In October 2018, the International Panel on Climate Change IPCC reported that we only have 12 years to change how we live, globally. It described the enormous harm that anything above a 1.5oC rise in global temperature would cause. It told us that limiting to 1.5oC may still be possible yet requires “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society.”
Yet with temperatures now heading towards 3oC, the warnings of climate and ecological breakdown are already here:
In the year since the IPCC report, there are more signs that tipping points are being reached. In December 2018 it was reported that the rate of Greenland’s ice melt has quadrupled. Soon after, NASA discovered a huge cavern has opened up under Antarctica, and that a polar vortex destabilised sending freezing Arctic weather over the American Midwest. Temperature records have been broken worlwide. In February 2019 the BBC reported how the Met Office have said that in the next five years’ we could break ‘safe’ thresholds, risking global climate instability and runaway climate heating. Also in February 2019, there were reports of a catastrophic decline in insect populations which will soon affect our food supplies. Increased disasters are now inevitable.;
The below resources give more information on the unfolding emergency and what can be done:
David Wallace-Wells, author and journalist: ‘The devastation of human life is in view’:
Jem Bendell, Deep adapation and navigating climate tragedy:
Dr Rupert Read, environmental philosopher: ‘This civilisation is finished: so what is to be done?’:
Stop Ecocide, become an earth protector:
Culture Declares Emergency:
global climate strike
Who we are
In the early spring of 2019 a small group of women came together around a kitchen table to talk. We'd not even met before. But we had been profoundly shaken by the increasingly dire news of climate and ecological collapse, and inspired by the work of Extinction Rebellion and the Global Youth Strike in bringing that news to the forefront of the public conversation. The founders of Letters to the Earth are Anna Hope, Jo McInnes, Kay Michael and Naomi Wirthner. In our working lives we are theatre makers and writers, and we felt strongly that we wanted to find a way to facilitate a creative response to these times of emergency.
We couldn't have launched this campaign without the support and dedicated work of so many, including Alice Malin, Tamsin Omond, Tamaryn Payne, Alice Haworth-Booth, Edward Nelson, Stephen Dillane, Irene Sinou, Molly Hughes, Sam Knights, Ronan McNern, Alanna Byrne, Lorna Greenwood, Lucy Neal, Ruth Ben-Tovim and the rest Culture Declares Emergency anchor circle and those venues and producers with whom we had initial conversations - The Bunker Theatre, Jack Gamble, The Royal Court Theatre, Daniel de la Motte, Shakespeare's Globe, Ellen McDougall and David Lan. Huge thanks too to Grace Pengelly of William Collins whose belief in the power of Letters to the Earth led to the published anthology.
Most importantly, Letters to the Earth is now in your hands. The campaign lives on in you and your own activities.