Young Activists: Open Submissions Work

As part of the Shifting Tides festival, young activist poets and playwrights were able to create new pieces of work in response to the climate crisis. These are some of the submissions we received following an open call for work.

Dear water,

by Giacomo Roessler

I've got a secret
that I am dying
to tell you
I can't tell you
can't tell you
tell you that I'm dying
'cause I'm dying
the cause I'm dying
which I got nightmares
deeper than the ocean
that gets deeper
every day
deeper than the silence
been silent
for too long
have I longed to set foot
waiting for opportunities to
a rise
in water levels is all
that makes me
shudder now
makes my feet wet
why so cold
dear stream
I cannot feel my feet
where's my
lost dreams of
the future
is ripped from me
I remain in liquid
running out my eyes
I see faces rising every day
why so cold
dear eyes
I cannot
past horizons

what keeps me sane
tasted salty
every teardrop
is a human fall
I cannot stand more
is all we need
a silent solicitude
solemn perdition

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by Anastasia Manou

From the author: The poem Daffodils is about the last journey a man takes. A journey towards awareness. We hear him speak his thoughts in first person because he has a leading role in what follows after. The earth he tries to remember is not the same anymore. Tortured by his own actions he is shown the way to acknowledgement. Daffodils, his most vivid memory, the flower of the underworld, a bridge between life and death. They are his own perception, his own image, his own actions, drowning him.

How I miss the days in the country.
The sound of the moist grass
cutting the wind like the edge of a Fairbairn.
The same taste from blackberries under the heated sky
I went to the sea today
But there is no fear any more
Only the yellow colour of their petals
Leading me all the way to the sun
That daffodil is not the breath of all of space
The roots to hold me down
What discriminated me from the birds
Pulling me down, into the darkness
Where choices, my choices grab me by the throat,
Into the marshes my last memories launder
Spring on my half destroyed mind
Numb, I stayed in a corner and just watched
Sand whispering, from exhaustion, she loses
My meaning is not stable
My memory fading
There is no more.
We have destroyed.
Don’t know where I am but it does not matter
Flashes. Strong flashes.
The dying star is lifted up in the void
There is no more.
Il n’y a plus, only Daffodils

Transforming the piece into video art: Creating an electroacoustic musical piece from various of recordings, nature noises during the quiet time in the quarantined city of Athens, made me visualise what the poem’s man sees. In the video art, we see through his eyes his last memories on earth. A recording of the poem “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud” by William Wordsworth was used in the electroacoustic score since this poem constitutes a source of inspiration for this project.

Line Break

A New Play by Shashank Khemani

[A winding street in Paris. Enter Mathilde Martin, followed closely by Stuart McCarthy. The year is 2040.]

Mathilde: it's over! It definitely is. What was even the point of the meet? Why come all this way for nothing. Who the hell do they think they are? They'll let them die... we'll all die! Only if they could let them know. Only if I could go back home and think – wait! Who is that calling for me from behind? Come to tell me I'm fired, probably. No reason I should stop.

Stuart: Ms Martin, wait!

Mathilde: Knows my name as well, that's surely one of them. They'll do it in the middle of a street? That's what it's come to now?

Stuart: Well, hello!

Mathilde: Mr McCarthy!

Stuart: Goodness gracious! Never thought I'd be able to catch up with you before nightfall. You are walking faster than the ice-bergs are melting.

Mathilde: You left the meeting?

Stuart: I did. Though unlike your exit, I doubt anyone noticed mine. That was one fine way to make a point.

Mathilde: Uh – thanks.

Stuart: Haha... you didn't quite agree with the Committee's future course of action, I assume?

Mathilde: To be fair, I doubt there are any plans or course of action. Is there ever?

Stuart: Still angry about the whole thing, I suppose? And here I thought you'd be better adapted to it by this time after that one back in London last year.

Mathilde: Sorry. I don't mean to be rude, Mr McCarthy, but —

Stuart: — Stuart, if you will.

Mathilde: Fine. Mr Stuart, I —

Stuart: Stuart.

Mathilde: Alright then. Stuart, I don't know what to say, think or feel about it. The things have only gotten worse since the last time we met in London. Those people are at risk of possibly being wiped out off the face of the earth. And we are holding a meeting to discuss whether they should know about it or not?

Stuart: Can't say I am surprised to be honest. We're anthropologists, I'm surprised we were included in the meets at all.

Mathilde: But it doesn't have to do with anything! Is climate change only affecting the activists? Why are the scientists and politicians involved then? The people who are on the panel either don't know or don't understand the consequences. I believe it's better to be relegated forever than be a part of these decisions that don't help anyone.

Stuart: Pity. I was beginning to hope my pension would be sorted. There's no turning back now, however. Even they aren't dumb enough to not notice I left to join you.

Mathilde: You followed me here? Oh but why? You need not have – I'll think of something. You shouldn't worry.

Stuart: I must admit I might have been swayed by the sight of croissant in the bakery for a second back there. But yeah, other than that I followed you alright.

Mathilde: You do agree, then? The people on the islands should be informed of what's happening...

Stuart: I dunno about that... the people who need to know do know, don't they?

Mathilde: Why leave out others?

Stuart: I suppose the people you're talking about don't like to be approached or contacted. Remember you mentioning the Sentinelese and some of the Pacific Islands to the panel earlier. I always felt it was one good thing we did by deciding to leave them alone. It's the law isn't it?

Mathilde: What law are you talking about? The law is there to protect them! This isn't protecting them.

Stuart: The no-contact rule stops people of this world to stop bothering people of islands such as these. How long would they last without it?

Mathilde: At the cost of their life though? We will choose to leave them alone when they need us? When they need to be rescued out or there won't be either them or their island left.

Stuart: I don't disagree with you. But for one, we don't know the language. Imagine talking to the Sentinelese when we don't even know what they call themselves or their langauge.

Mathilde: The sea-levels are at an all time high! The other places barely survived. I don't know for sure how else are we going to ensure the tribes' safety.

Stuart: They did check on them after the Tsunami with drones and imaging. Maybe something similar?

Mathilde: Tsunami's aren't the same thing though. There are barely minutes to react to it, if any at all. Climate change is an ongoing phenomenon, one science has been studying for years. Are we just going to check in on them through drones after everything to see if they got submerged knowing full well we could have saved them? So maybe I am stupid, but I don't understand this strange logic. Either way, I don't think I belong in those discussions.

Stuart: You do have a point there. I wonder how it came to this. Remember, Miami happened first and all they did was relocate people. And we thought everything was fine, there weren't any casualties. Osaka got submerged merely a few months later, now the whole Pacific is endangered and maybe even the Indian Ocean soon. All in less than a year! Can't believe I felt 2020 was the worse year just because of staying home for some months.

Mathilde: Haha. I believed the same. I was in middle grade when the pandemic happened. That was pretty serious too. We even had to switch climate strikes online back then. Those were the early days of the widespread movement.

Stuart: You've been involved since middle grade? How did that work out for you: missing online classes for an online climate strike?

Mathilde: Can't say I was the most popular even back then. Speaking of young activists...

[A flurry of bicycles ridden by school-children went passed them, most of them with banners in front.]

Stuart: A school strike!

Mathilde: ... For climate change!

Stuart: Jesus! Why is this one pointing their banner in my direction? I just came out of a climate meet –

Mathilde: Come here. Better come closer to the sidewalk.

Stuart: Just because I look the type...

Mathilde: Haha. I think it must be your leather bag.

Stuart: Oh! Forgot all about that. Oi kid – it's my granny's! I am reusing it...

Mathilde: Never mind, Stuart, they are gone. It's good to see their activism, nonetheless.

Stuart: Indeed.

Mathilde: Only if the adults could think as much.

Stuart: Hold on a second, you guys are an hour ahead, right? I need to check something on my phone.

Mathilde: Yeah. That's correct. Are you checking your flight back?

Stuart: Just checking the football score. Oh sorry! About the climate then – in their age I used to think I'd succumb to the global warming. The global temperature would be the end of me. It wasn't till much later that I realised we had already attained the average temperature increase predicted for the end of the century. So I'd die because of the sea-levels much sooner.

Mathilde: I don't even want to think that far ahead, especially given the lack of action so far. It would be surprising if all communities get to know what's after them.

Stuart: In their shoes, I don't know what I'd do. To speak to the people who don't understand us and whom we don't understand; fancy trying to tell them to leave their land. Their sacred land. They won't leave it for anything, even if we could get the message across. Not in a million years!

Mathilde: Some would say we don't have a million years. We just let them die for something that isn't even their doing? Save ourselves while leaving them alone to fend for themselves – they didn't do this to the climate, we did. The least we could do is take the responsibility for our actions.

Stuart: But it's been ages since the last time proper contact was made with them.

Mathilde: Something we agree upon, Mr McCarthy. Given the the amount of damage we have since done to the environment, it really has been ages since things were right with the environment. The 200 or so years of the industries have created unforeseen challenges.

Stuart: What do you think needs to be done about it? How do we save the people.

Mathilde: I agree it won't be easy to persuade them to leave. But we might as well try. With or without the Committee's help if we have to.

Stuart: Sounds about right.

Mathilde: I might visit some places. Speak to the people who could help and get the word across to the governments.

Stuart: Let me come with you? Before flying here today, I told myself that this latest emergency was the last one I am going to bother about. Thanks to you, I don't think giving up is the right option.

Mathilde: High praise indeed! Thank you for your help, Stuart. I didn't think I could do this alone.

Stuart: None of us can. Although I must make it clear that I am not willing to wear headbands or fibres around my waist.

[Both exit]

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