Nature

Epic climate pilgrimage to COP26

The extraordinary odyssey of 500 miles begins in London this Saturday

This Saturday (September 4, 2021), a group of ordinary people will start an extraordinary odyssey, walking 500 miles from Tower Hill Memorial Gardens in London to Glasgow along a pilgrimage route running almost the entire length of the UK in order to urge world leaders to protect nature—and they are calling on everyone concerned about the health and future of nature to join them as they traverse the UK.

The group, called Listening to the Land, @listeningtothe.land, sets out to build the numbers, diversity and advocacy power of those speaking up for nature and to ensure those voices are heard at the UN Climate Conference COP26. The pilgrims will walk 10 miles each day for eight weeks, come rain or shine, connecting deeply with and listening to the land and communities they travel through.

The pilgrimage group’s first act of listening will be at an opening event from 10—10.30am on Saturday 4 September at Tower Hill Memorial Gardens when they will hear the written responses of urban, underserved and ethnic minority communities in Tower Hamlets to the threats of climate change, biodiversity loss, social injustice and our uncertain future, gathered in the first of a series of ‘deep listening’ workshops that creative campaign Letters to the Earth will hold with communities along the route.

The event will also feature the first ever reading/unveiling of a bespoke piece of writing from renowned illustrator and contributing author to Letters to the Earth, Writing to a Planet in Crisis Jackie Morris. In it, Morris writes: ‘It is the hardest thing these days to hold onto hope. But it must be done. We need to fight for [nature] with every talent you have, in whatever way you know best. There is no time to give credence to those who say ‘it’s too late’, ‘we are doomed’, ‘what difference can I make’. To do so is to continue to fail.’

At 10.30am the pilgrimage group will set off to walk the 3-mile Coronation Route, made by monarchs down the ages, from Tower Hill to The London Stone (Cannon Street), St Paul’s Cathedral and Westminster Abbey. On Sunday, they set out along an ancient pilgrimage route that weaves through many of Britain’s key historic centres of cultural, industrial, spiritual and political power, including Stratford, Birmingham, Manchester, Edinburgh, Winchester and Carlisle before arriving in Glasgow for the start of the UN climate conference in November.

With their walk, in their conversations with communities, and the artworks those will shape, the group is setting out to inspire multitudes to slow down, connect with nature and articulate their love for the living world, and to feel empowered to speak up for nature by making their voices heard.

The group will present the voices of the people and the land to delegates in Glasgow in three ways: through a co-created ‘Letter to the Earth’ - an artwork into which people will be invited to weave their dreams, fears and hopes for nature; through a performance based on all the magical and urgent things the pilgrims have heard from the land and its people, which they will present in Glasgow in an amphitheater made of pianos the Pianodrome; and the partners arts collective Still Moving will make the most powerful soundbites visible in light installations across Glasgow.

Members of the public are urged to get involved:

Our very lives rely on nature to give us food and shelter, now nature needs us to give back,’ says Listening to the Land co-founder Anna Lehmann, a global climate policy director with 20 years experience working with communities at the frontline of climate change. ‘The UK is uniquely positioned to lead on this: as this year’s COP host, and as a huge historic emitter with a substantial international land footprint, but most significantly, the UK has the chance to become an ‘indicator economy’ that might, in the adoption of the Climate and Ecological Emergency Bill, show how to give nature a seat at the table and inspire other nations to follow.’

‘As the scientific community has just stated in the latest IPCC report: we know exactly what causes climate change and why we are losing nature, and we absolutely know that we still can prevent the worst, if we act now. Together we can build a better future for all. This knowledge, and the supporting echo of millions of voices from around the world, gives us the energy for this epic journey.’

‘This is a truly once-in-a-lifetime moment, when we stand at the precipice as a species and as a planet,’ says Jolie C. Booth, co-founder of Listening to the Land and director of incubating arts company, Kriya Arts. ‘But it’s so easy, as ordinary members of the public, to feel powerless, given how big and impossible the environmental emergency feels—particularly when all the decisions are being taken on our behalf and behind closed doors. With this project, we want to flip that: and to give as many people on the planet as we can a chance to feel energised, inspired and empowered and to have their voices on climate, biodiversity and nature heard.

_'While walking for eight weeks will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for those that take part, we launched @Walkingthe.land and _#walkingtheland2021 for the millions of people who, because of circumstances or geography, would find it impossible to do something on this scale. Your voice is no less necessary and we hope that by the time we arrive in Glasgow tens of thousands of people will have uploaded a photograph of their own sacred walk and their own thoughts on nature. We want to include as many voices as possible in this beautiful, creative act of reverence for earth, and as we call on world leaders to walk the walk on climate.’

Listening to the Land is an independent civil society movement co-founded by Global Climate Policy Expert Anna Lehmann and theatre producer Jolie C Booth. It is funded by the Arts Council England, and Wildlife Works and is a co-production between Kriya Arts and No Planet B Initiative.