Recently, I was lucky enough to speak at an event at the Hay Festival – one of the most famous literary festivals in the world. The Festival had paired up three environmental scientists with three artists and authors to produce a series of hour-long live events, and provided us with an opportunity to talk about science with a very different audience.
Two of the pairs produced animations – one about Antarctica (Emily Shuckburgh and Chris Haughton), and one about air pollution (Ally Lewis and Dan Binns), and their live events included discussions about the science and the process of producing these animations:
I was paired with Nicola Davies – a children’s author and poet. At our first meeting we discussed many different topics about weather, climate and communication, and decided that we would produce an event discussing how and why the weather is changing and how we know this, interspersed with poems reacting to the science.
Nicola was partly inspired by my climate visualisations. I produced a ‘warming stripes’ graphic for the town of Hay-on-Wye to highlight the trend and variations in local temperatures from 1878-2017:
Nicola also wrote and performed a poem motivated by the ‘climate spirals’:
We also discussed how the natural world was showing the signs of a warming planet, and Nicola read a poem about ‘the testament of species’. The graphics including one on how the flowering date of Oak trees has moved about a month earlier in the UK over the past 50 years:
In particular we highlighted melting ice, drawing on my experiences in Greenland in 2017, and how the summer sea ice extent in the Arctic has changed since the 1980s [animation], with Nicola reading another poem:
One segment of the event also discussed how we know about past weather, and particularly the role of Victorian weather observers such as those who lived on Ben Nevis:
You can download the full set of poems.
Overall this was a fantastic and rewarding experience – Nicola was amazing to work with and produced a beautiful set of poems which the audience seemed to enjoy. I hope that Hay Festival (and NERC, our funders) further these efforts to bring scientists and artists together to produce novel events and collaborations. Nicola and I hope to continue working closely and potentially finding other venues for telling the story of climate change with these graphics, words and poems.