Listening to the Land
Epic climate change pilgrimage to COP26 begins in London today
Published: 4 September 2021
This Article was Written by: Katie Hill - My Green Pod
Main image: Jackie Morris
Today (04 September), 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.
They are calling on everyone concerned about the health and future of nature to join them as they traverse the UK.
An 8-week walk
The group, called Listening to the 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, 10.00-10.30 on Saturday 04 September at Tower Hill Memorial Gardens. 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.
This will be the first in 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 Jackie Morris, renowned illustrator and contributing author to Letters to the Earth, Writing to a Planet in Crisis.
In it, Morris writes: ‘It is the hardest thing these days to hold on to 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.’
An ancient pilgrimage route
At 10.30 the pilgrimage group will set off to walk the three-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, the group will 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.
‘Our very lives rely on nature to give us food and shelter, now nature needs us to give back. 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.’
Listening to the Land co-founder a global climate policy director
Connect with nature
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 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.
There will also be 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 the Pianodrome, an amphitheater made of pianos.
The partners’ arts collective, Still Moving, will make the most powerful soundbites visible in light installations across Glasgow.