Wednesday 16 December 2015

COP 1, 2 & 3 - From Paris to Swansea by guest blogger Phoebe Gauntlett

Its well known that theres a block in many peoples minds when it comes to discussing climate change, and the impact were having as a species on the planet we call home. Its a difficult notion to deal with - that unequivocally we are causing such destruction in so many ways. I am well aware that I mostly go about my day living a life that is contributing to this destruction, and as this is something I have to deal with every day, I have to put my hands up and say I do push it to the back of my mind and carry on. This is the case for most people, and is a hard burden to live with. 

The space created by COP3 I believe to be incomparable in the way that it allowed for those often suppressed emotions and fears to be brought out, explored and supported in a caring and trusting environment. The day led the thirty or so attendees through an emotional spiral. It was more than a film about climate change, and more than a discussion session and film about climate change. 

Initially, it gave people the time to settle into the room and connect with each other, getting to know the space and letting the fast pace of life calm a little. The focus of the day was then brought in, alongside everyones shared fears around this often disregarded topic. The One-Eyed Man very effectively brought these fears into the light in the form of the charismatic and passionate voice of Phil Ralph, who says everything were often all too afraid to think and say ourselves, and a whole lot more. At this point there was quite an agitated energy in the air, the effect of a bunch of people in a room with climate change on the forefront of their minds - buzzing with awareness, intrepidity, and spirit. 

The film carried this energy to another level, a mixed bag of emotions for my part  shock and anger laying alongside hope. This Changes Everything is a horror story in many ways, speaking openly and bluntly about the impact of climate change around the world, and how many lives and how much of the land it has destroyed, and will do in the future - bringing into reality all our fears. It goes on however, to tell the story of cases around the world where people have stood up against the destruction, have fought for themselves and for the land around them, and have WON. A much more uplifting message contained in the end. 

Nonetheless, the impact of the main message of the film, the destruction, left a firmer imprint on me, and I believe others too, and left me feeling that sense of hopelessness and despair Im so familiar with. This is why COP3 didnt conclude with the end of the film. The recognition of these feelings is of such importance, and having the time and space to express this and to form it into positive energy, imperative to it not consuming you. After the film, time was given to express those passions through the use of word, colour, images; whatever medium each person connected with, and space was given for each person to speak freely about how the film touched them. We let it all out.

After this, action was at the forefront; discussions on projects, initiatives, and organisations working to improve things and inspire change. People dedicating their time and lives to creating the change we want to see in the world, and opportunities and ways people can get involved. Any action, no matter how big or small, contributes to this movement. 

This knowledge that people are taking matters into their own hands, and that there are so many inspiring stories to hear, took precedence over the feelings of despair; the energy in the room had moved to a different place, one full of vigour, motivation and strength. 

All in all, I feel that the COP Swansea events were an incredible shout out to Paris and COP21 from the people of Swansea, especially as it allowed people who might have wanted to be in Paris for the climate summit to show their support at home. For me, it was also refreshing to be able to express my emotions on the subject, which at that time were particularly prevalent due to what was happening in Paris. COP3 created a space in which I could connect with my feelings alongside others, and move through them as a collective in a supportive environment, to a place of hope.

About Phoebe - "'I'm a London-bred country bumpkin with a passion for all things green and eco. I involve myself with the arts and environmental scene of Swansea as much as I can, as I fell in love with Swansea when I moved here a couple of years ago, and it very quickly became home."

Saturday 12 December 2015

Reflections on COP3 Swansea by guest blogger Peter Anderson

I broke all personal records travelling to town on Saturday 5th December. Sitting high in the saddle, arms outstretched, I was freewheeling most of the way, literally gone with the wind. Those coming the other way with painful grimaces on their faces and heads turned to the north as the sand blasted their skin like a sadistic exfoliator. Dunes were accumulating in front of cars parked in the side streets. I thought to myself how quickly parts of the city might disappear if weather like this persisted.

A fitting backdrop then for COP3, the third in a trilogy of 6 hour events focused on climate change in Swansea town centre. The venue was Volcano theatre who run a fantastic hot pot of arts and cultural events. Outside the door while putting some cream on my face I ended up in a conversation with a lovely girl, exchanging stories about the realities of our quite different skin conditions! Both somewhat debilitating in different ways.

I suggested that sharing some of the real issues we’re faced with on a daily basis as mortal beings clinging to the the fragile thread of life would be an interesting icebreaker at these kind of events. Fern Smith, the organiser and founder of Emergence, often talks about the positive stuff that can come out of holding that kind of space for a time with others. Too heavy maybe?

A lovely welcome on the door and invitation to keep my bike inside, it was then an assault on the senses by the fluorescents. It always frustrates me when basics like this are not attended to as good ambiance can make people feel so much more comfortable. After checking in with others who tell me they feel a similar way, I politely ask for some of them to be turned off which they soon were thankfully.

Not to dwell on this but I feel there are some key messages here about how many of us clearly choose to filter out and ignore things that are insulting our senses instead of speaking out. This gives us some perspective on either how desensitised or conformist we have become or how much fear we feel when challenged to speak our mind. How much do these traits contribute to the world we live in today? How many of us are suppressing the issues we see in the world today to a place where they can hardly be felt? How many are following the crowd and keeping quiet because of that fearful feeling inside?

Fern later referred to ‘Blessed Unrest’, a book by Paul Hawken, where the title is encouraging us to acknowledge that uneasy feeling we have inside, contemplate on it, get to know it well and use it as a signpost pointing to a place we need to go, somewhere we've never been and that quite frankly ‘scares the **** out of me’ as Phil often says quite openly.

Phil, Fern’s partner and co-facilitator is a very rare breed indeed! If all the the personality traits mentioned above are the chalk, Phil is indeed the cheese, and some tasty, mature, extra-mouldy blue cheddar he is at that! Phil has that rare ability to stand in the middle of a room of people and speak so openly, frankly and truthfully that it's totally compelling to watch. Most of us, certainly me, have never before seen such an eloquent and naked expression of the self laid bare for all to see.

“I'm feeling REALLY scared”, “I’m feeling REALLY angry”, “I'm in a REALLY foul mood” would be his opening gambit. Then he'd stand there and ask us if any of us feel the same way. Of course several resonated and acknowledged the mutual feelings and then he's off, the forthcoming pre-bottled rant now justified. But this was no ordinary rant. Phil managed to deliver in a way that encouraged participation from his listeners with emotive responses soon interjecting, making this a memorable show of many subjects from dealing with the seemingly hopeless nature of our situation to dodgy analogies involving slowly boiling frogs and quantum theory. As Phil would admit “I haven't got a clue where I'm going with this!”, and we subsequently all burst out laughing.

I really feel like I'm learning something brand new and exciting when I watch (and occasionally participate) with Phil in these sessions. It should be a class embedded at every level in our education system aimed at emotional intelligence, meaningful conversations,and confidence building. What a great antidote that would be to the prevailing British etiquette!

“The ice is behind us”, Phil would declare. Yes that's right folks the iceberg is already behind us. Meaning we've gone past the point where we can safely sustain not just human life, but many forms of life on Earth over the medium and certainly longer term. Between 30% & 50% of species are anticipated to become extinct by 2050!!!

Don't worry, life isn't going to just vanish when we reach some arbitrary tipping point, it's far more likely to be a slow and painful demise as catastrophic climate events increase in frequency and fury and take their toll.

I don't mean to be alarmist, but the reality right now is that there IS NO sustainable future for forthcoming generations. Any of us with kids should be as, if not a whole lot more, concerned than anyone else. The current trajectory, and there is little doubt about this if you care to immerse yourself in the data and evidence, is what some refer to as 6X. That being the sixth mass extinction of life on Earth. Shall we pause and reflect on that notion for minute.... 1, 2, 3, ...  (maybe just enough time for you to Google it) .... 59, 60.

Now the 21st COP (conferences of parties) currently being orchestrated in Paris is, as I understand it, trying to come to some agreement on how the world's nations will collectively keep the global temperature below that of 2℃ above what they call pre-industrial levels, meaning the 1880s. We're at about 0.8℃ now.

This seems TOTALLY crazy to me to be trying to avoid some target set well into the future as we already know 1987 was the last year that we stayed under safe limits to sustain life on Earth. I'm talking in terms of carbon in the atmosphere. 350 parts per million (ppm) to be precise. And where are we now? Depressingly, we celebrated the passing of 400ppm earlier this year. To really grasp the extent of this rise, take a glance at this graph.

‘This Changes Everything’ was the fitting title to the film we watched which documented the battle between Capitalism and the climate. In short, capitalism is based on the relentless pursuit of profit at all costs. In turn profit primarily looks at financial reward and unfortunately there is little or no accounting for the wellbeing of people or the planet! Consequently it's perfectly legal and normal (unbelievably!) for you and I to set up a business today that makes us a tonne of cash at the expense of people's health or a pristine natural environment and the habit of other animals

The film followed examples of local communities and their David & Goliath plight to protect their communities, ancestry, local economies, children's future and natural environment from massive industrial projects such as gold mining in Greece, electric power plants in India and the Tar Sands in Alberta, Canada, now the largest industrial project known to man and sprawling over 140,000 sq/km!

The inevitable devastation from these projects is clear to see and in each case fueled an uprising of coordinated collective action from local people, often with surprising results. Displaying our strength through “democratic cooperation” was one of the core positive messages I came away with and one I'd like to see more of and be part of in Swansea.

All this has given me renewed vigour to progress some democratic projects I've been involved with for a while now but also for some new seedlings that have emerged more recently around geographic cooperatives of citizens to take more ownership and responsibility of the places where we live.

These citizen's - or people's - cooperatives would provide a mechanism by which we can organise ourselves more effectively, share and replicate ideas and projects more efficiently and express our collective strength in numbers when necessary to lobby against damaging policy - or to crowdsource local initiatives such as services and buildings which can no longer be supported and threatened with closure.

It's clear to me that a core aspect of our evolutionary journey as humans finding our way on Earth at this time is one from centralised and closed power structures to new distributed and transparent systems that imbue us individually with a strong tangible feeling of empowerment.

We see this transition in almost every sector with new emergent services such as local energy coops (now over 1000 in Germany), Bitcoin and the block chain (with an estimated 7 million users), food coops (paying farmers approx 80p/£ where the supermarkets pay only approx 7p!).

As Fern pointed out at each of the workshops and while referring to much of Joanna Macy's work, the answers lie largely with systemic change and I wholeheartedly agree with this outlook. I'm confident the issues we face are not with the people themselves but with the systems we operate within as they have such a profound influence on shaping our behaviour. One chap piped up with the fact that the 5p charge for plastic bags had reduced their consumption by 80%!! Such a simple initiative clearly deriving massive impact.

Educating young kids, helping to reconnect them with the natural world and installing new ways of doing things that they will then naturally permeate into the world was also a clear priority in the room. Also acknowledged was the role of women and what incredible leaders of communities and healers of the earth they can become when empowered to do so. I believe we must do much more to nurture this.

To cultivate these themes of democratic cooperation, systemic change, empowerment, education and projects that will deliver both social and ecological benefit as a priority over financial, a grand plan has been hatching recently to take on the 6,000sq/ft space above the Volcano Theatre.

Coastal Housing, the landlords, have already been very generous in offering the space at a very modest rent so all that remains is for interested parties to express their interest and to crowdsource the space into existence. I'm massively excited about this prospect because it means I might get to see all those lovely people again that I've met over the past 3 weekends who I feel like I share a meaningful and common bond with.

Thanks to Fern and Phil’s decision to stay in Swansea and create a space to inspire local people through their Emergence initiative instead of stomping the streets of Paris, a community of kindred spirits has had a brief chance to get to know one another and some chemistry has been set in motion. Clearly this is just the tip of the iceberg and I don't think it'll be long before we experience some tangible alchemy.


Sunday 29 November 2015

Thoughts and feelings on COP2 Swansea by Guest Blogger, Bethan Cox

I am sitting in my warm, dry home with a sense of gratitude.  I have a lot to be grateful for - firstly that I live in the current era when my world has been relatively peaceful and easy.  I’m not sure how long I will have the ability to live a life with so many possibilities and choices.  I went to the COP2 Swansea event today to watch the film Age of the Stupid. Even though I had seen the film before I wanted to support Emergence with their Swansea based events around COP21.
I’m so glad I went. It felt like I really re-connected with people and the fragile world that supports us.  It was a beautiful start to hear Fern reading the poem Extinction by Jackie Kay, it set the tone to what I found a depressing but at the same time uplifting afternoon. 
credit: Eleanor Flaherty
We began by sharing with each other someone who had been an inspiration to us.  Chris Seeley was a huge inspiration to me, I met her through an environmental training course, where she introduced me to Joanna Macy and the importance of honouring my emotions as well as my actions towards living on this planet, within the looming crisis of climate change.  Chris helped to create a space to discuss deep environmental issues and explore our emotions linked with these issues.  Through this work I came to discover more about myself, and found out what nourishes me. Chris helped me to find the confidence and skills to make significant changes to my life and become self-employed.  Chris passed away almost a year ago, I know she inspired many people and her beliefs and creativity will live on through them.
credit: Eleanor Flaherty
Phil Ralph then led an interesting discussion/talk – this brought up lots of thoughts for myself and others in the group.  It made me think about how I blame others for the state our environment.  I realised that I can only truly know what I feel and think, not what others feel & think and that I am the only person who can act differently.   Although we can influence others, they are in control of their own actions and thoughts and have to make their own choices.  I’m sure other people picked up completely different ideas and feelings from this talk/discussion, only they would be able to tell you about what it brought up for themselves!

credit: Eleanor Flaherty
Then for the film - The Age of Stupid.

I felt complete despair when I was watching the film, there are so many images that stuck in my mind and other people in the group later described images that stuck with themselves…
Eleanor  - the African lady having to wash oil off a tiny fish with soap powder which they would eat, when in complete contrast the American guy caught a large fish and threw it back.
Jane - the anti-wind farm campaigner gloating that they had successfully stopped the wind farm at the same time as saying how she’s worried about global warming.  Anna wanting to the throw a mug at the screen when she watched that bit.
Jo - the images of the effects of oil consumption has had on villages in Africa and the stories told of murder by the government to prevent problems with oil extraction.
Pete - the graph showing the CO2 emissions when the film was made in 2009 climbing to reach a maximum by 2015, after which they would have to decrease rapidly, for us not to go beyond the tipping point of 2oC rise in temperatures. 
Several people felt haunted by the last image from space of the dead world surrounded by space junk.

I found the real footage from past news reports all documenting the way things are going really upsetting.  What I found the hardest to take in was that we knew all this seven years ago and the positive actions they suggested in the film haven’t happened.  The opposite seems true - consumerism is still the strongest driving force affecting people & the decisions of politicians.
I was left feeling hopeless and helpless and a massive part of the problem.  I was pissed off! How can humans - the amazing, inventive, creative species that we are - have created this path of destruction which seems unstoppable?
credit: Eleanor Flaherty
I’m so glad I stayed after the film, as I felt confused and despondent wondering what the point was.  As others shared their feelings I realised I wasn’t alone - people were equally as confused, upset, and left with feels of guilt.   There was also a strong sense of belief in the power of people coming together to share in the emotions of it all and finding support and solutions together.  I liked Phil’s description of the fact that two quantum states can exist simultaneously and somehow we can balance the dichotomy of feeling hopeless and hopeful at the same time.
We discussed ways we can go forth and take control of our actions and honour our emotions around climate change.  I’m really looking forward to seeing the final list of pro-active projects and actions out there that Anna compiles, as there were way too many projects for me to take note of them all.
I now feel after writing this that I’ve off-loaded even more of the mixed-up emotions the event brought up.  I’ll finish by quoting a few bits from the day with the derivations of words from Phil.  

I feel comforted (together strong) by the sense of community (one together) we shared today with people, who at the start were mostly strangers to me.  I am less apathetic (without emotion) I and know it’s ok to “feel the pain because I care” (thanks Dai).  I have a sense of gratitude to all involved with the event, Fern, Phil, The Environment Centre staff and all the other participants.  I feel reconnected with a deep compassion (co-suffering) for the people and planet I thrive on.  

Beth Cox - I’m passionate about deepening connections with myself, our environment and the people I share those spaces with. I was Pembrokeshire’s Biodiversity Officer for 10 years, I am now a full time yoga therapist in Swansea, I have been teaching yoga to individuals and groups for over 5 years.  (

Thursday 26 November 2015

Climate change on ice … and pallets! - reflections on COP1 SWANSEA by Anna Pigott

'Surprising' was the word that I chose when it was my turn to sum up my experience of COP1 as we reflected on the afternoon's activities at the end of the day. I chose this word because, from my point of view as a member of the organising team and someone who had arrived at the event with just a bit of trepidation in my heart, it turned out to be very pleasantly surprising day. People had turned up! Up to 40 people all in the room at one point, all giving up their Sunday afternoons, all with a shared concern about climate change and a desire to talk about it. That seemed pretty amazing to me, and I don't think I was alone in agreeing with one person's glowing summation at the end of the day which was simply, 'I love Swansea!'.

But that wasn't the only way in which I was surprised, it turned out. COP1 had other tricks up its sleeve for me. I'll come back to that later. First, perhaps you'd like to know what on earth we did for six hours in a room with climate change.

It began – as all good climate change events surely do – with trying to draw a complete stranger's face while looking only at them and not at the piece of paper. Well, it certainly broke the ice! (Get it? Sorry).  We spent some time getting to know our fellow COPers, lounging on the fabulous Cinema & Co pallet sofas, laughing, drawing, finding out what we had in common, and generally easing ourselves into the day.

Credit: Eleanor Flaherty
With a reshuffling of the pallets, we were ready for Philip Ralph to take the floor with his One Eyed Man performance/stand up/improvisation/dialogue (it defies definition!). The atmosphere was somewhat tense, and while some people needed to get some thoughts off their chest in response to Phil's musings, others simply needed to listen to him lay bare his own feelings about climate change, and about life, with remarkable honesty. As a group, guided by Phil, we grappled with issues about blame, about who's 'we' and who's 'they' and, most importantly perhaps, where's 'I' in all of this? I personally found it hugely affirming just to hear another person talk candidly about how climate change makes them feel, however grim that might be.

Credit: Eleanor Flaherty
It's not easy to know what to say after an experience like that (and I don't just mean Phil's impromptu George Michael impression), and so afterwards we dispersed, blinking, into a welcome tea and cake break, and a few more people drifted in from the street to join us.

Then we got to the film bit. Chasing Ice is a documentary which follows the attempts of photographer James Balog and his team to document the retreat of glaciers in Iceland, Greenland, Alaska and North America. It is both beautiful and distressing at the same time. Although I found the personal narrative a bit OTT at times, the imagery spoke for itself. The reality of man-made climate change is inescapable in this film and that was the difficult bit. I suppose there is always a tiny part of me that likes to cling to a hope that it isn't happening – that the earth is not loosing its wonderful icy landscapes and that there aren't a host of scary consequences for life on earth that go with that. It is easier not to be reminded. But the film reminded me that it is happening, and that I am nostalgic for ice I have never visited. In fact I am terribly sad about it. And so were other people, it turned out. In the small group of people I sat with after the film, some reactions included 'bleak', 'sad' and 'helpless'.

After the film and some time for us to reflect there was a lovely, peaceful, half an hour with a kaleidoscope of things going on in the room – some people drawing and writing their thoughts on the boards up on the wall, others choosing to stay huddled in their groups, mulling over the film, sometimes with visible emotion. Some people ate lunch, others browsed the reading material left out for sharing. Eleanor Brown played some much-needed soul-soothing music. This was certainly unlike any cinema experience I'd ever had before.

Eleanor Brown - Credit: Eleanor Flaherty
The final part of the day was spent turning our gaze towards action and inspiration. Sometimes a gloomy prognosis can be a perfect spring board for optimism – as long as there is space and time for that to happen. We had more flipchart sheets' worth of ideas and projects than can be shared here, but words flowed and connections were made between people and projects previously unknown to one another. We heard about local co-operatives and democracy initiatives, useful websites, inspiring philosophies, emerging campaigns and much more (watch this space for full details!).

So, back to the surprise. When I got home, despite COP1's optimistic ending, I was jittery and depressed. I didn't expect that. You see, I like to think I'm one of those people who 'gets' climate change. I know it's a big deal, and I make adjustments to my life and my work and so on .. so I know how to cope with it, right? And I know how to think about it, of course ... I mean, after all, this COP thing was more for other people than for me, wasn't it? Hum. That evening a cloud of gloom caught up with me – the one that I generally manage to avoid by not actually thinking about climate change too much and just trying to do stuff about it. And here's the melodramatic bit: I had an existential crisis. Yeah I know! An actual one, right there in the living room listening to Enya (don't ask – it was a coincidence). I was suddenly all adrift, and panic set in: what the heck does it actually mean to be human if climate change really does spell such terrible consequences for life and – perhaps more poignantly – what does it say about us as a species if we fail to do anything about it? If we are just living to eventually go extinct and cause horrible suffering and joyless societies in the mean time – well what's the point in that?! It's not exactly easy to figure out the meaning of life at the best of times, but the prospect of catastrophic climate change doesn't make it any easier!

This catastrophic view is not one that I necessarily think will happen (because I hold on to a hope we can turn things around, and in many ways already are), but the day's activities forced me to confront the 'worst-case' as a possibility and, I think really for the first time, meant that I allowed the full significance of climate change in. That's why six hours in a room with it was necessary. I couldn't go and distract myself, and I was confronted with the sadness and fear that other people feel about this too. There is nothing like witnessing another person's emotions to make an issue more real. But there is also nothing like shared emotions to feel solidarity with one another.  It was impossible to leave COP1 and and still think 'no one else cares about climate change'. While the existential crisis has (thankfully!) subsidised for the time being, I am left with a hugely liberating sense that it is OK to talk, and that other people do care. Let's see what surprises COP2 and 3 have in store!

Monday 9 November 2015

To COP or not to COP - that is the question... by Philip Ralph

You may well be aware that in the next few weeks there are some extremely important talks on the future of our planet happening in Paris. The COP21 Climate Summit is taking place with representatives from all the governments of the world heading to the ‘City of Light’ to negotiate a lasting settlement on global CO2 emissions.

To say these talks are important is like saying breathing is kind of handy for being alive. The science is in. The data is clear. And even if these two things weren’t the case, the evidence of our own eyes tells the story clearly enough. Floods, storms, heatwaves, forest fires, droughts, species extinction. Man made climate change is threatening the future of life on this planet – not just human life, all life. 

We have been playing with our giant chemistry set, the Earth, since the beginning of the industrial age and now, as we pass the milestone of 1°C of warming with no end in sight, we are entering ‘uncharted territory’. 2015 is the warmest year on record and temperatures are set to rise still further with 2016 predicted to be the first year in which the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere reaches 400 parts per million (ppm). It’s safe to say, no matter what we do, things are never going to be the same again... This is our new ‘permanent reality’, folks...

And I’ve lost you, haven’t I?

Let’s say you’ve got this far. Let’s say that you actually clicked on the link to this blog and read this far. I can pretty much guarantee that you are now thinking of something, anything, else. I can pretty much guarantee that, no matter how concerned you are by what’s happening, no matter how engaged you are in doing something about it, no matter how much of an eco-warrior you consider yourself to be – you’ve still switched off.

Because this is utterly terrifying stuff I’m talking about here. It’s so terrifying and so huge that it’s incredibly hard for us to stay engaged and not flee into our minds or bodies to anything that brings us comfort. And, believe me, I’m not writing this to make you feel guilty or to force you to change or become an eco-activist. I’m writing this because I care passionately and with every fibre of my being about what we’re doing to this beautiful planet of ours... and I want to run away too.

I want everything to be alright. I want to bury myself in DVD box sets and holidays in the sun and nice food and a warm house. I want everything to stay as it is. And yet, the way things are isn’t especially making me happy. In fact, most of the time, it makes me miserable. So, why don’t I want to change it? Because I know this life. I know this way of being. And the future... is really scary...

All of these issues and questions are with me on a daily basis. I imagine they are with you too. And I can’t talk about them because I feel like I’m bringing up God at an atheist’s convention. I feel like I’m committing some kind of social faux-pas even to mention the words ‘climate change’ or ‘global warming’. It’s just not cool (no pun intended...). It’s tantamount to talking about death. We just don’t want to think about it even though it’s the one absolute certainty that we all share. Only now, climate change and all it’s consequences are running death a close second and they may well catch up in the next few years. So, why the hell aren’t we talking about it?

Fern and I share these concerns. We are trying to live our lives by them. We are struggling to make our choices by them – not because it makes us feel virtuous and smug but because it makes us feel better. It makes us feel like we’re doing what we can. And also – and this cannot be overstated – it makes us feel so much happier than all the activities that the economic growth model of living wants us to partake in. So much happier and more connected to our own souls and to other people.

Because we share these concerns we wanted to go to Paris for COP21. We wanted to be there, with all the many hundreds of thousands of deeply concerned citizens from around the world who are making the trip to let their voices be heard. We wanted to be there so badly... but we can’t afford the trip. And we wondered what difference two more people would make. And we wondered if there were something we could do that was closer to home; something that might directly impact our locality here in Swansea; something that might connect us to other local people who feel deeply concerned and can’t make it to Paris...

And that’s why, in collaboration with many of our good friends, we are organising and hosting COP SWANSEA 1, 2 & 3. These three events are a space where, we hope, people will come together to talk about this huge issue that hides under our daily lives without being spoken of. We hope people will come and simply be with each other and allow their fears to be heard. So often, when it comes to activism or marching or protest, fear turns to anger. And as Yoda says, anger leads to hate and hate leads to suffering.

We want to provide a space where fear can be seen for what it is – and that fear can be shared and, together, we can find a way to use that fear for positive actions and change. We’re not stipulating outcomes, we’re not insisting that actions must come from these meetings. We know they will and we trust that they will help in some small way to alleviate the fears of those who attend.

We’re also going to show some films – three extraordinary documentaries about the current crisis. Chasing Ice, The Age of Stupid and This Changes Everything.

I don’t know about you but I usually avoid films such as these like the plague. Why? Because I’m terrified and feel powerless and so often films like this only make me feel worse. But we believe, in coming together and talking and sharing our fears, we can find our way to something that enables us all to move forwards.

The direct inspiration for showing films at the COP SWANSEA events came a few weeks ago when Fern and I attended a screening of the film HOME by Yann Arthus-Bertrand at Swansea’s Environment Centre – our venue for COP2. HOME is an extraordinary film containing stunningly beautiful images of our world and the damage we are doing to it. You can watch it free online in its entirety. See below. (I recommend watching it on the largest possible screen you can... and having some tissues handy...)

Fern and I – and our friends Jo and Yanis – sat and watched Home together with some forty other people. At times I could barely bring myself to look at the screen, so painful and heartbreaking was it to take in the images I was seeing. I found myself utterly devastated by the film and, even when it tried to offer some sense of hope and positivity in its final minutes, I remained locked in my grief.

When the film ended, the audience sat in total silence. And then we instantly launched into announcements about all the various actions and meetings we could go to in the coming days and weeks... But we needed so much more than announcements...

We needed space. We needed time. We needed to be together in our shock and grief. We needed to be able to cry. We needed to be able to talk. We needed each other.

And so, that is what we intend to do at COP SWANSEA 1, 2 & 3. We’re going to meet each other, show some films and then we’re going to be together with however they make us feel. And we know that out of that togetherness will come comfort, will come solace, will come action.

We couldn’t make it to Paris. That’s okay. We can still find ways to come together and let our voices – our fears and hopes – be heard. We very much hope you’ll join us.

Tickets are on sale now. These events are non-profit – all monies raised will go towards covering costs (film licenses and venue costs).