Lauren Groff and Nicole Sands on our Climate in Crisis
A parting conversation for the #ClimateVisionaries Artists' Project for Greenpeace
by Lauren Groff
Lauren and Nicole talk about the origins of this project and their feelings about it as it comes to a close.
Lauren Groff is an acclaimed author and the editor of our #ClimateVisionaries Artists’ Series. Nicole Sands is the Deputy Digital Director of Greenpeace USA.
Lauren prompted artists and thinkers to write essays and art about our climate emergency. Moving forward, we hope it will serve as a catalyst for more conversation, art, and mobilization as we come together to fight this existential emergency that requires immediate action.
Lauren and Nicole talked about the origins of this project and their feelings about it as it comes to a close.
Lauren: It has been such a joy to work with you and the Greenpeace team on this project, Nicole. The project started, as far as I can tell, last fall, when we met for bagels because you’d had an idea for an authors’ takeover of the social media sites. Tell me where the initial seed for the idea came from.
Nicole: I’ve had the idea to do an author’s takeover for while. A lot of “environmental” writing seems to be read by a self-selecting audience—relegated to people interested in the “environment.” Of course, the environment is our home, and climate change is now a human experience. I liked the idea of original content with broader appeal. I knew I wanted it to be you after reading Florida. I was struck by your writing about characters responding to climate change. I was struck that, although I think about it all day at work and see it finally mentioned more in the news, I rarely read about it in popular fiction. You were writing about it. I wanted to read what you wrote.
I remember just giving my daughter a bath one night while also in a panic about climate change. That’s how my life feels these days: going about normal, everyday things with an undercurrent of panic about the state of the world.
And I felt it’s time for all of us to bring whatever we have to this fight. It was enough to push me through nervousness to reach out to you. It was my dream to have you write about climate change for Greenpeace—to takeover our website and social channels for your writing or to reach out to writers you liked. Was writing about climate change a conscious choice for you? Did it come from your own experience?
Lauren: So many of our preoccupations in the art world—particularly in literary fiction—are focused on the past, when we’re on the brink of the largest catastrophe in human history. It’s surreal. We’re whistling into a hurricane. The scale of the disaster is so large that it can keep us from action. I have tried to write about climate change, but not polemically; I tend to write about my characters’ climate anxiety and grief. When we decided on the format of the takeover—to try to focus attention on climate change in 2020—we put together a carefully considered roster of smart, diverse people, many of whom have already written about the climate in some way, and asked them to contribute, drawing on my friends and acquaintances and Travis Nichols’s also. We were delighted by the scale and brilliance of the responses.
But it’s time to go, alas. I’m sad to step away from this project, but I think it was important for both of us to end this month in a meaningful way. We struck on an idea to involve people we haven’t heard from yet; honestly, they’re the most important people in the fight. Can you give us an overview of what we’re about to see, Nicole?
Nicole: This project has meant so much to me. It’s given words to the grief I’ve felt during recent events like the Australia fires. It’s been more than I’ve hoped in the ways it’s presented so many angles and perspectives.
To see what’s happening in the world is so painful. These pieces are therapeutic in helping to process the pain of it. The words stay with me.
“I think maybe part of having a baby at this moment is a way to counteract that profound spiral of darkness. But this is an awfully big burden to put on a person who will have to bear the brunt of a crisis she had nothing to do with making.”
We’re ending with a look at art done by those most profoundly challenged by climate change—our own children.
We need these voices and these visions, but they won’t be enough. We need you, too. We encourage you to explore the Climate Visionaries Artists’ Project and to join the conversation by sharing your work on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram and tagging it #ClimateVisionaries.