“What have they done to the rain?” (Malvina Reynolds)
Take a look at the images. The installation artwork is called Tears of the Angels and consists of hand made clay bowls, each imprinted with the chemical equation for rain or acid rain. These were displayed with crystal drops and a video piece showing moving thunder clouds and petrol floating on water. The simple message of the piece was that, like the subtle difference in the equations, climate change is happening, but it is not always obvious and so it’s easy to ignore it. The artwork was made in 2015 and exhibited as part of Leeds Light Night, just ahead of the Paris Climate Summit. At the event, I partnered with Christian Aid to encourage visitors to lobby their MP to pressure the government to agree to reduce carbon emissions. Five years later, and it is becoming increasingly difficult to ignore climate change, even here in the UK. Flooding, which has seen a large part of Leeds under water most years since then, and other parts of the country devastated, has stopped being a one- off freak event, and become a regular winter worry. And in other parts of the world, rainfall is also a worry, but not because of the excess of it but the lack of it. Interestingly, the word ‘pula’ for ‘rain’ and ‘blessing’ – and for paper currency are the same in Botswana. We save money ‘for a rainy day’ but their money is literally rain.
I was talking with our neighbour about that great British conversation topic, the weather, the other day, and he mentioned ‘miracle clouds’. This term is a reference to clouds which suck up moisture from the sea and then rain it on the land. I remembered the water cycle from Geography at school, but I had never considered it a ‘miracle’ before. Like all the processes of nature, I guess I just took it for granted that this is how the world works. And maybe that is part of the problem, that we have all taken the wonderful world we live in for granted.
For me our recent lockdown showed the reality of climate change in stark clarity. For several weeks there were reduced air flights and car travel. Suddenly the birds sounded louder, the skies cleared, and the air was luminous. During lockdown, I also experienced something that I had forgotten from childhood. Several days in a row, the weather was beautiful, the sun temperate and when I woke up in the morning, it had rained in the night. We received the rain we needed, but overnight, and it dried up as the sun came up. I was shocked to realise that this was a regular childhood memory which I had not experienced for a long time: in fact, I had almost forgotten it.
What else are we forgetting? How many plants, species and ecosystems are we happy to allow to disappear forever? And how much of what still exists are we taking for granted? In our hurry to go back to ‘business as usual’ have we ignored the emergency that requires urgency? As the Extinction Rebellion slogan says, time is up.
Much of what this pandemic period has taught me has been about slowing down and being in the moment. There is something to be said about this slower pace of life which allows a gentler approach to nurturing nature. But I can’t slow down the melting ices caps or depleting ozone layer, not unless I and the rest of humanity chooses to take action. And perhaps one of the (less glamorous) ways we can make this happen is through our inaction. Through flying less, travelling less, consuming less.
Take time to look at the pictures and consider these questions:
- How do we affect climate change for good?
- How do we slow down?
- How can we live more gently?
You will need yourself and a rainy day.
- Take yourself for a walk without an umbrella or raincoat
- Find somewhere to sit
- Enjoy the rain
- (Make sure you get thoroughly warm and dry when you get home!)