Launch of an international anthology on climate change
The Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities (ICSC) and Milflores Publishing recently launched “Harvest Moon: Poems and Stories from the Edge of the Climate Crisis”, an international anthology about lived and imagined experiences in times of environmental crisis.
The 306 pages of this lengthy compilation are filled with images of people from climate-vulnerable parts of the world, and stories of fragility, human-caused devastation and generational values linked to climate change. And yet, the book is devoid of the tired and sometimes confusing jargon that often accompanies the subject.
“You won’t encounter the words carbon footprint, mitigation, finance or neoliberal in this book,” writer and anthropologist Padmapani Perez said at the online launch of “Harvest Moon.”
Perez, along with South African journalist Rehana Rossouw, Colombian poet Alexandra Walter and Filipino author Renato Redentor Constantino served as editors of the international anthology featuring award-winning photographers, established authors, climate scientists and voices emerging. The editors selected 30 photos – not exactly images of devastation, but those that “showed a place or space with people or traces of humanity”, which inspired the verses.
Stimulate the imagination
The images were then given to the writers, who selected an image that sparked their imagination, the basis of their work. Contributing authors also received a list of 32 words and phrases they weren’t allowed to use, such as “global warming” and “climate change.”
“The language around the crisis is riddled with cliches of jargon and popular keywords that we all use all the time. But the new works in this book counter that with language and stories that make the crisis readable and bring it back to those of us who are most vulnerable to its effects,” said Perez, who also directs Agam Agenda.
This is exactly what Harvest Moon is about, using the power of images and literature to communicate the urgency of the climate crisis, hasten the response, and engage ordinary citizens in this crusade. For Perez and the other collaborators who worked on the book, essays, poetry and images that evoke human emotions are just as essential as politics and science.
“[Literature] is not the only answer and cannot be the only answer, but it is an important answer because for so long we have been given the science and the policies regarding climate change and the climate crisis, which have been insufficient to move us and bring the crisis home when so many of us are already experiencing it,” she said.
“Many others are also in denial, and perhaps through the power of art, literature and poetry, we can tell the story as we live it these days. L art speaks to our emotions, literature speaks to our emotions, and often we are compelled to act and move by our emotions more than by reason or logic. That’s why this is one way we can respond added Perez.
“Harvest Moon” follows the groundbreaking anthology “Agam: Filipino Narratives of Uncertainty and Climate Change.” Where “Agam” was composed of verses in eight Filipino languages, “Harvest Moon” is a global undertaking comprising 30 works written in 11 languages (Zapotec, Turkish, Swahili, Kankanaey, etc.). The 30 images that accompany the verses were photographed in places like Latin America, Southeast Asia and Africa.
Among the contributed works is “I didn’t understand it”, an amusing short story by Leonardo Padura. The Cuban novelist was prompted by a photograph by Lisa Lorenzo: two men deep in conversation in front of Manila Bay. The story was about the surface of climate change, but also about the generational values that contributed to this global crisis.
Xiaojun Wang, a Manila-based Chinese journalist, was inspired by the moon visible over a Thai train station captured by Vinai Dithaijohn.
In her short story, Wang looked at coal mining and agriculture, as well as the risks low-income workers face to feed their families.
“[The photo] was just beautiful. I loved how quiet it was, how lonely it was, and immediately understood that life can be full of surprises. Life can be full of good surprises, bad surprises, heavy ones, light ones. But the moon is always almost predictable. And that’s pretty much what we want from our climate too,” he said at the launch.
Perez said they were in talks with other regional publishers to translate the book into Chinese, Bahasa, Spanish and other languages to expand the reach of “Harvest Moon.”
ICSC Executive Director Constantino added that ICSC will subsidize the book rate for as long as possible to make the material more accessible to readers. Their goal, after all, is to convince the public to take action on climate change.
“Science and policy making are essential to the whole enterprise, but they are insufficient. They haven’t turned out to be the fundamental things that move people to action. This falls within the realm of the humanities. History has shown that… the arts provide and fulfill the role. In fact, people don’t just participate, they derive meaning from trying to fix what they know there will be a bad future if they don’t do something about it,” Constantino said. INQ
“Harvest Moon: Poems and Stories from the Edge of the Climate Crisis” is available for the subsidized price of P599 at agamagenda.com, milflorespublishing.com, Shopee, Lazada, Solidaridad Bookshop in Manila, and Mt. Cloud Bookshop in Baguio City.