Eleventh Hour: Uplifting the voices of the climate-vulnerable through the arts

The magnitude and intersectionality of the impacts of the climate crisis require an interdisciplinary collaboration on advancing climate action.


Science has already established that the world cannot go on business-as-usual and that we must re-think and re-calibrate the way we live. Poets and other artists, in particular, play a crucial role in opening up and advancing the conversation on the real systemic changes needed moving forward.

It is in this spirit that the Climate Reality Project, with its branches in Africa, Canada, and the Philippines, has joined forces with the Agam Agenda to support “When Is Now,” a global poetry and art movement that links together poems, visual arts, murals, and more forms of creative expressions that depict the realities of change.

The partnership birthed “Poets for Climate,” a program that aims to generate poems and murals that will highlight the need for world leaders to address the vicious cycle of loss and damage experienced by climate-vulnerable communities across the globe.

“We need the humanities and the arts to accompany us through the climate crisis. Our work in the Agam Agenda is to reimagine and widen the storytelling circles around the climate crisis so that more people can speak about it and more people can be heard,” Padmapani Perez, lead strategist of the Agam Agenda, said. “We are so thrilled that Climate Reality Project Africa, Canada, and the Philippines have responded to our invitation to collaborate.”

Since its launch last July 15, Poets for Climate has so far generated more than 60 poems from around 40 climate advocates from Cameroon, Canada, Kenya, Nigeria, Philippines, Sierra Leone, South Africa, and Zambia who attended the three pebble poem workshops conducted on Aug. 4, 11, and 18.

Pebble poems, a term coined by award-winning poet and essayist Jane Hirshfield, are short poems that point the readers toward the plight of the planet.

Mentors, including South African feminist, artist, and community worker Malebo Sephodi, guided the workshop participants in writing about the landscapes and places they live in, how these places are being undone and transformed by climate change, and how they re-imagine place-making in the climate crisis.

The poems that emanated from the workshops are either poem seeds (entirely new poems) or poem sprouts (poems that respond to published poems in the When Is Now digital space or poems created by other participants of the workshops). 

Whether a poem seed or a poem sprout, each poem paints the reality of the climate crisis on the ground. Altogether, they showcase the similarities, diversity, and connectedness of the lived experiences of the participants—both from the Global North and the Global South—on how climate change is rapidly changing the places they call home.

Climate Reality Africa, Canada, and the Philippines plan to bring the poems to the 27th Session of the Conference of the Parties (COP27) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change this November in Egypt.

Aside from an exhibit on the sidelines of COP27, the Climate Reality branches are also working with local artists in creating murals that respond to the poems.

To date, murals in the cities of Johannesburg in South Africa, Montreal in Canada, and Iloilo and Isabela in the Philippines have already been unveiled.

A mural in Baybay City in Leyte, one of the foremost coastal communities in the country affected by sea level rise and extreme weather events exacerbated by the climate crisis, is set to be created by local artists and climate advocates this week.

The mural painting will form part of a two-day event co-hosted by Climate Reality Philippines with the Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities and the Visayas State University that will also feature the presentation of the latest climate science information in Southeast Asia by Filipino scientist and Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) Report author Lourdes Tibig.

Moving forward, Poets for Climate will explore more opportunities and create more platforms that will foster and support the creative and imaginative work needed to address the climate crisis.



This article was originally published on The Climate Reality Project Philippines’ weekly column for the Manila Bulletin called Eleventh Hour.

This column serves a digital space to discuss our organization’s work on supporting the country’s just transition into a clean, affordable, and self-sufficient energy system; advancing sustainable urban mobility to highlight the issues of equity and democracy; and raising public awareness about the need to phase out single-use plastics. It also serves as a platform for Pinoy Climate Reality Leaders to share your stories, promote your climate initiatives, and provide critical insights to issues that matter to climate action, environmental protection, and sustainable development.