Updated: Feb 23
Back in February 2020 it was impossible to imagine what the year ahead had in store for us. I was already a couple of months into job-hunting, in a rather spectacularly ill-timed attempt at a career change. A year spent deeply at home with my family, lockdowns and home-learning was something I had not really planned on. Job hunting had to take a back seat as we all took on the work of imperfectly protecting the NHS, our elderly and vulnerable.
My close friend Hannah and I would whatsapp or occasionally stomp (at distance) around the marshes, venting isolation frustrations and discussing at length what our dream employment looked like, along with the ongoing wild climate news, our own ecological grief, and why these issues are so difficult to talk about outside our bubble of climate nerds and activists. Was it overwhelm, or gaps in knowledge, or the barbed and mountainous tangle of misinformation and ideology? Why does climate science communications seem to stay circling within a small set of media outlets and documentaries targeting the same audiences? What’s with that awkward glaze of boredom and fear that slides across so many faces when the conversation steers towards climate? And for those without that protective glaze, how do we move away from fatalist doomerism towards active and practical hope? Honestly, we are so much fun. Even at parties.
Parties, remember those? Oh to be in the kitchen at someone’s house party sloshing red wine about while emphatically explaining how it was actually BP, British Petroleum, that popularised and pushed the idea of the carbon footprint and thereby pushing their corporate responsibility away and onto you, the individual. And then we dance!
Our energetically irritated questioning began to shape itself into an answer. We know that the right response to the unfolding climate emergency is in building a beautiful world that is fair, safe, clean and wild. Wild as in space for nature, where our more-than-human cousins can thrive alongside us, along with wild as in joy, and dignity, empathy and creativity. The plans for that beautiful story have already been drawn up with many hands hard at work, but that story seems to get lost in translation or buried amongst the noise.
It’s the loud, eye-catching, heart-pounding drama of Dystopia that has been filling up our vision and imagination, with Distraction, Disinformation and Denial as the discordantly loud supporting performers. This terrible ensemble has used up almost all the oxygen in the room and it’s time to pull the plug, throw open the windows and clear the stage for a new story. One that uses clear language, beautiful art and honest, accessible information to paint a picture of where we are, where we need to go, and how we get there. This story needs to be lifted out from its online choir of the converted and placed into the public sphere, creating an island within the sea of business-as-usual to speak clearly and with compassion of what we have lost, risk losing and stand to gain.
Within 2020’s difficulties, an unexpected gift of the extended domesticity was time. With so many courses, convergences and meetings having to move online, another gift was the wealth of access to knowledge and ideas. Logging into the Permaculture Associations’ 2020 Convergence I listened to the inimitable Rob Hopkins of the Transition Movement speak passionately about imagination and the need for spaces for humans to dream up the future. Rob quoted Rilke -
“The future enters into us, in order to transform itself in us, long before it happens.”
Rob and Rilke’s words were the sparks that catalysed our questions and answers into a shape we could see enough to sketch out. Along with it also finally occurring to me that instead of waiting for our perfect jobs to arrive on environmentjob.co.uk we could try build them ourselves and apply for funding.
Pulling out my daughter’s art supplies, I drew this. Part information desk, part art installation, a mobile, roving space that invites imagination, sparking conversation, action and connection.
At its heart would be a directory and map of the wonderful groups, organisations and businesses already doing the work, and ways to connect with them.
A mobile hub of resources, resilience, repair, renewal, regeneration, reshaping. A flexible library of information that can be adapted to different audiences and co-created with diverse community groups, inviting in more voices and building a sense of wider community co-ownership.
In a case of perfect timing, seed funding became available through the Transition: Bounce Forward initiative and the National Lottery Community Fund. We were successful in our application and were thrilled to be awarded a grant of £3500 to build the foundations and first iteration of our Hub of Resilience. The first of what we hope will become a network of hubs, sharing stories and information, helping to bring the beautiful post-carbon world to life both in peoples imaginations and out in the lived real world. I had better sharpen my fund applications skills.
We have been busy mapping it out and now we are looking for artists, writers and researchers to help create the first set of informational resources, ideally from within Leytonstone or Waltham Forest, and particularly from people with identities that have been traditionally under-represented in the climate and environment movement. We aim to have our Leytonstone hub out and about for Summer 2021 (all things being Covid safe).
If you would like to get involved, learn more or ask questions, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.