Julie Ward is an activist poet and theatre maker who became an accidental politician in 2014 by getting elected to represent the North West of England in the European Parliament. She served on the Culture and Education Committee for 5 and a half years and was on the Social and Environment Committee of the Africa Caribbean Pacific & EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly. She is currently working for the Commonwealth Games as Arts Lead for an international education project. Julie co-chairs Our Shared World’s Purposeful Policies Working Group and is also active in Culture Declares Emergency. She is a Director of Festival of Thrift and a Trustee for House of Fairytales.
At the second Our Shared World ‘Did You COP That?’ event on December 13th 2021 she closed the zoom with this beautiful poem. The responses to her powerful words were so overwhelming we thought it would be a good idea to share them here.
You always were the best teacher, the repository of ancient knowledge, the sage with a key to the future, the librarian of living things, the mistress of the micro and the macro.
I apologise unreservedly for all those who sat at the back of the class and did not listen to your wise words, for all those who forgot pen and paper and failed to do their homework, for the lazy and the arrogant, for those who feigned sickness and did not notice YOU were ailing.
We are all sick now.
Indeed we are found wanting – there is a gaping hole in the ozone layer, coral reefs are devoid of life, some rivers run dry whilst others break their banks and flood, parched forests burn, animals and insects perish, species die out, black oil spills, tubs full of coal still rattle to the staithes waiting to be shipped across oceans awash with pollution. The temperature is rising.
And all the while governments prevaricate, adding to the hot air with empty promises and pledges not worth writing in the shifting sand.
The Circular Economy is not a playground game.
Fossil-fuel free is not just an exercise in alliteration.
Tipping point is not an after school club.
Climate science is for everyone not just PhD students.
Climate anxiety is a real thing.
The SDGs are agreed targets not unmentionable diseases.
Pay attention class-mates!
Climate catastrophe waits around the corner like a school bully bent on destroying those who mocked and belittled, those who turned their backs on the brewing storms that have overtaken all of us.
So let’s get back to basics
Isn’t that what the government wants?
We need a new curriculum of kindness and care that places you dear Earth, our teacher, at the centre.
We need to see things in the round, a bird’s eye view, the perspective from the sea-bed and a focus on the polar opposites.
We need to know where we are from and remember that everyone is from somewhere else. They too want a brighter future.
The first lesson must therefore be the importance of ‘We’ not ‘I’
For in Our Shared World there will be no losers, no hunger, no war. We will learn real maths, sharing resources fairly. Arts and science will be of equal value. History will teach us not to make the same mistakes again. Geography will join up the dots between people and places, animal, vegetable and mineral. Technology will bring us closer together – not tear us apart through hate and division. Citizenship will teach us global stewardship. We will learn the language of compassion.
We will be life-long learners not shirkers of collective responsibility.
We will sit at your feet Dear Earth and this time we will pay attention.