On Climate Justice by Clare Duffy


6 Mar 2019

News Story

After bringing artists and activists together to talk about climate change at The Fierce Urgency of Now in December 2018, we were galvanised to dig deeper into some of the issues and ideas the workshop raised. Playwright and director Clare Duffy will be chairing our panel discussion With Fiercer Urgency at Just Start Here 2019 to explore what artists can do about climate justice. As she prepares for the discussion, Clare reflects on what climate justice means.

Here. It’s where you always have to start to create anything, isn’t it?

At the beginning of writing or making anything I always feel excited and nervous. I have to create a space where I can connect the whole of myself to the task at hand, to find a focus where how I feel, what I think and where I am all flows together. This sunny morning, for example, I have circled my way towards this moment when I sit to write this article. I’ve taken my boy to nursery, I’ve said ‘hello’ to some neighbours and other parents, I’ve climbed the hill to buy some paper. I’ve had a shower. I’ve had two cups of tea and an egg sandwich. I’ve lived a bit of mundane life, knowing I’m moving towards this moment, sitting cross legged on a sofa typing.

But that mundane life is really quite extraordinary and filled to the brim with social history, politics and emotions.

The sun that makes the crystals in the pavements sparkle. The wind that whips the plastic and paper, spilling from dustbins to dance above our heads. The roar of the cars make my heart thump hard, as I hold the hand of the little person in my care and grab up his scooter quickly, in case it rolls into the road with him dashing after it. This world is the result of hundreds of years of industry and invention that makes life easy, beautiful, free and entirely unsustainable. Climate justice is a question that sticks to and flows through the extraordinary, really weird, but still everyday life of western civilisation.

Every tonne of sun sparkled concrete we make releases a one tonne of CO2. The Guardian reported a week ago that the 4 largest construction projects in Britain this year will emit (if completed) more than 10 million tonnes of CO2. “The same amount as a city the size of Birmingham, or 19 million Malawians in a year”. That egg sandwich… well I buy free range eggs, but it’s still part of a livestock industry responsible for 51% of all worldwide greenhouse gas emissions.

And that hard thumping heart of mine … it’s not just the cars, or the speed of their hard, impressive shells, or even the pace of a culture that wants me to answer emails, keep up with social media feeds, get-on, be successful, earn more money, be true to myself, but not be over-weight, or depressed, or anxious. The question of climate justice beats in my body, in my mental health, in the sickening feeling of vertigo that it is too big, too stuck-to-everything, to be able to do anything about it.

And then I wonder how would my everyday life change if there was climate justice for all? Real climate justice would create a radically different culture: new systems of work and play or of family and community. Maybe there wouldn’t be these divisions in a world where the relationship between human beings, other beings and the environment, the sun and the wind were sustainable and respectful. There would have to be other words, other rhythms and other ways of being here.

It’s important that artists use their skills to help navigate our way to this new culture. It’s time to start creating ways of working towards climate justice, and sharing what that means emotionally and practically.


Clare Duffy is a writer for stage, radio, television and is increasingly working in new story telling platforms such as digital games and virtual reality. She is also a co-director of Unlimited Theatre which she co-founded in 1997.