Updated: Dec 2, 2021
COP26 has come and gone but we are still in a climate and nature emergency.
Over 17 days of activity in Glasgow at the UN Climate Conference, Letters to the Earth was part of a sprawling alliance of artists, activists, delegates, business leaders, NGOs, community organisers and indigenous elders.
Letters sent to us from around the world were printed on recycled paper with vegetable ink, and they weaved and darted like swallows into conference halls and in delegate meetings, through arts venues and in business spaces and among people on the streets, reaching the hands of more than 3000 people.
As many reflect on ‘what now’, we share some of the urgent voices and messages from COP26 that have touched us and moved us, and which may help light the way.
Supporting the 'climate vulnerable'...
We were hosted by Scottish Power in support of The Climate Vulnerable Forum, an international high-level partnership of 55 countries highly vulnerable to a warming planet, chaired by Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina (pictured).
We supported the CVF in rallying more than 1000 signatories to sign an open letter to the UNFCCC for a Glasgow Emergency Pact to agree to reparations payments for the loss and damage that is happening right now as a result of climate change.
Many are feeling rage, sadness and disappointment at the final outcome of COP26. Some say that the COP process is a betrayal to countries already devastated by the effects of climate change. According to some climate scientists, ‘The goal of limiting global warming to 1.5°C has a pulse but is on life support’. Others say that despite difficult compromise, real (if slow) progress is being made and that there are grounds for optimism.
Listening to the "more than human" voices...
Artwork and photo by Still/Moving
On the eve of COP26, Sunday 31st October - also the Gaelic festival Samhain when the veil is its thinnest between the living and the dead - we supported A Council of All Beings where delegates, indigenous leaders, NGOs and activists gathered to step aside from their human identity, and see things from the perspective of other life-forms, giving voice to forests, fungi, birds, trees and more.
Co-curated by Letters to the Earth Director Kay Michael with environmental lawyer Farhana Yamin and Director of UNA Festival Isabella Noero, the scene was set with music and ceremony so as to strengthen our commitment to defend nature.
Bringing your Letters to life...
Watch highlights from Letters to the Earth Live
I walk to listen,
and in listening I realise
how hard it is to hear."
On the first Friday of COP, moments after the School Strike for Climate, we returned to the Encampment of Eternal Hope at the Briggait to present Letters to the Earth Live, a unique reading of Letters from around the world. Guests had an opportunity to write and share their own Letter to the Earth too.
We were joined by artists including actor Judith Williams, artist KMT Freedom Teacher (Ian Solomon), Gallic singer Ceolanna, poet and performer Zena Edwards, campaigner Natalie Fee and theatremaker Angus Barr, Walking Forest, Tron Theatre Young Company member Catherine Tausney, activist Safi Yamin, award-winning Scottish violinist Elisabeth Flett, dancers Zoe Solomons and Penny Chivas, and Scottish fiddle player Isla Ratcliff.
"Dear Earth, Now, as we finally face the consequences of our own violence, you have our full attention. Teach us your ways, help us remember who we once were – animals among others, giving more than they take." On Saturday 6th November's #GlobalDayofAction we arranged a live interview on Sky News for Tibetan activist Pema Doma with actor Lily Cole. Pema spoke powerfully of the experiences of climate activists in Tibet who are being persecuted in their attempts to defend the glaciers they have protected for centuries. Lily read an excerpt of a Letter we received from Jacek Szczerbak.
Listening to indigenous voices...
Watch a teaser trailer of our event at the House of Original Nations
"We're here to hold each other's hands.
We have to be hopeful.
We have to trust each other."
On Sunday 7th November, and in partnership with Grounded, Vivobarefoot, (ICE) Hub and La Minga Indigena, we joined a Walk of Solidarity with Indigenous leaders and youth which ended at the House of Original Nations at the Innovation for the Circular Economy (ICE) Hub, where leaders wrote and spoke their 'Letters from the Earth', to share the messages from their lands - many facing unimaginable peril right now.
For two weeks we staged a 'Letters Library' at the ICE Hub in partnership with Beauty Kitchen, where visitors from around the world received Letters and were inspired to write their own.
Photos by Verinder Sharma
"It is time for us all to listen to the call of indigenous people.
Not because they need our help, but because we need theirs"
Indigenous activists and leaders came to Glasgow not only to share their experiences of how the climate crisis is affecting their communities but also to offer their ancestral wisdom on how the world can live in balance and harmony with nature.
There was much frustration that despite the fact that indigenous peoples – about 5% of the world’s population – protect 80% of the world's remaining biodiversity, they were once again excluded from meaningful participation and inclusion in decision-making processes.
Journalist Stefan Simanowitz joined our event and many others across COP26 to amplify their messages.
Watch Mindahi Bastida's Letter to the Oil Companies
Over the course of COP26 we recorded messages from a variety of activists, artists and leaders and will be sharing them with you over the winter period as 'special deliveries'.
First is the video letter from Mindahi Bastida of the Otomi-Toltec Nation, Mexico.
"Mother Earth is asking us: behave.
This is the time to consume less.
Our dear Mother Earth that is crying.
This is our time to remember who we are as human beings"
Read more about Mindahi's work below:
Watch back our COP26 events...
We partnered with the Listening to the Land pilgrimage that walked from London to Glasgow and gathered people's messages along the way. Watch live performances, poetry and speeches inspired by their journey.
We partnered with the Tron Young Company and UNA Festival to set up a 3-month creative exchange between young Glaswegian performers and Colombian youth activists. The live event included special guest, Amalia Vargas, an indigenous elder from Ecuador, who shared her knowledge.
Artwork and photo by Still/Moving
We were part of the 'Kelburn Circle' where indigenous delegations were hosted at Kelburn Castle, just outside Glasgow, and where many exchanges took place. Watch Lord Glasgow speak in the House of Lords of the experience here.
The phrase TO BE HEARD originated from our joint G7 community workshop with Still/Moving that took place in Carbis Bay, June 2021, and is here installed during a Children's Fire that was lit for future generations by Mac Macartney.
A Special Thank You...
A huge and special thank you to our COP26 supporters who helped us deliver the final stages of our campaign. Their invaluable support enabled us to get more Letters into the hands of more people, both in person and in the press and on social media. You can read some of our business supporters' Letters to the Earth, in partnership with Business Declares here.
Letters to the Earth continues to invite a deeper listening and connection to the Earth, and to each other. In writing a Letter to the Earth we connect with our place in the natural world and our responsibility to defend it. In finding time to pause, we allow ourselves to dream a better future for us all - one of care, justice and harmony. As COP has shown, there is still so much work to be done. But, if we act today, that future is within our reach. Keep writing your Letters. Keep dreaming. Keep taking action.
"Bear with us, dear Earth. The age of restoration and respect is almost here." Farhana Yamin