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Lightning strikes: What writers were thinking about at Weatherfronts

  • By Sam Sedgman
  • 27th June 2014
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Last week, our hall and theatre were filled by scores of writers and scientists brought together to get thinking about climate change. Part of a collaboration between Free Word and TippingPoint, this two-day event was designed to explore new ways writers might use their craft to explore the greatest threat facing mankind today. [read more]

Throughout the event, we stole writers away to ask them which words of wisdom had made their mark – what big ideas had got them thinking? From owls to honour – here’s what they had to say:

“Pretty much everything can be a climate change metaphor.”

“I’ve recognised the dignity and honour of scientists. They’ve got tons of research, but they have been calling for us to stop moralising that research – morality gets politicised, which leads to all kinds of mess.”

“Reporting environmental journalism is exhausting: because you find you’re writing the same story every day.”

“People have always known they were going to die, and often through circumstances completely beyond their control, like the Black Death.”

“We spent a lot of time discussing utopia and dystopia. But it’s a lot easier to describe a dystopia, because there’s something wrong, than a utopia, where there’s nothing wrong. A something is a lot easier to describe than a nothing.”

“When writing about climate change, you have to try and do it without inducing terrified passivity.”

“'The owl of Minerva flies at dusk'  – Minerva was the goddess of wisdom, so this means that we only get smart at the end of days, or when it’s almost too late.”

“They showed us an astronaut, free and untethered in space. It’s the ultimate culmination of human scientific thinking, getting the astronaut to that point. We’ve reached unexpected levels of accomplishment in some areas – but are completely failing at others.” 

“When you’re writing about this, climate change isn’t the story – it is the context in which your story is happening.”

“Telling a good story about this is about putting small things next to big things – it’s about human detail and making connections.”

“Mostly, people don’t talk about this subject because they don’t feel they can.”

“I’ve been cheered by the optimism here.”

“We did an exercise about what we’d be willing to sacrifice from our lives. But in general, no-one wants to sacrifice anything.”

“It’s a relief not to have to be an activist in order to be authentic. The experience has energised us by taking away the challenge of having to be an activist to feel we are taken seriously.”

“We were asked to choose which genre we felt the story of climate change was. Is it a tragedy, a comedy, a documentary or science fiction? But I couldn’t decide. I’m interested in climate change and social justice. There is a privilege inherent in conversations about climate change. What genre is this story? Well, it depends who the protagonist of that story is. Who gets to call it a comedy? Whose interests are we representing when we make these decisions?”

“There’s been a paralysis of the will – we understand what’s going on but we don’t have the will to counter it. Like a patient etherised on the operating table.”

“Mankind – we’ve never been very good at thinking about the future.”

“You have to find your own way of writing. Whether it’s full of hope, or inevitable catastrophe – there’s no right way to do it.”

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