Hello, my name is Kate Lovell. My pronouns are she and her. I have a short, messy mop of hair. I wear round black framed glasses. I usually am sporting a goofy grin and I like to wear brightly coloured floral clothes. I come from the United Kingdom, and I have lived through the climate emergency for 37 years. Today is Monday, the fifth of September 2022. And the time is 12:09 in the afternoon.
I live in Hitchin, which is in a county called Hertfordshire, which is on the outskirts of London in the United Kingdom. It's a small market town. It's surrounded by rural areas of countryside, and small villages. Hertfordshire is close to London, but still has remote areas and the public transport is very limited and focused on travelling into London. Rather than focused on people's day to day more local needs. It's actually really difficult to travel across the county if you don't have a car. I grew up actually just a few miles down the road in a town called Welwyn Garden City. Just over my lifetime it's completely morphed. My mum got social housing, in a two bedroom, terraced house, a nice big garden out the back and a short walk to the town centre where there's lots of greenery and a boulevard of these trees that blossom in the summer in the spring. But now it's become a middle class commuter town. The rents and mortgages are completely unaffordable. Well for people like me, there's no way I could live in my hometown these days.
So where I live in Hertfordshire, which is close to London, I think I feel the climate emergency in a more subtle way than somebody who might live in a coastal region or in an area that experiences a lot of flooding. But the recent Heatwave, living in an urban environment and travelling into London really hit home, when we broke the record for the hottest temperature that the country has ever seen. It was sort of undeniable, you can't say that things haven't changed. When we're hitting those kinds of temperatures. I'm a disabled person. And I have lots of disabled friends in my community and disabled family members. People who live with schizophrenia, take a particular medication, which can make their body much more sensitive to heat. So it means that hitting temperatures like 40 degrees is dangerous. It's actually life threatening. That's just one that I know about. It's not just although it's a bit hot, it's actually dangerously hot. It's life threatening hot.
Here in Hertfordshire I think that air pollution is another way in which I feel the climate emergency and it's something that I worry about a lot. I have two children, and one of them still I push along in a buggy and obviously they're both at a lower height. And from what I've learned about air pollution, the closer you are to the exhaust fumes level, the more you're breathing in dangerous levels of polluted air. I remember when somebody in Lewisham, a child died, and the coroner ruled that it was because of the level of air pollution in Lewisham. That's the climate emergency happening right there killing people.
I find it difficult to pinpoint the moment that I became aware of the climate crisis. I actually had a passion and a bit of a deep interest in being green and taking care of wildlife and animals from being a young child. Perhaps when I was considering whether I would like to have my own children made me look more starkly at where we are. I did have an internal debate about how responsible it was to bring children into a world that we’re destroying. I guess I then came to the conclusion that I only have one life, I have the right to a family life as much as anybody, and that I wouldn't let the ills of the world and capitalism stop me from living the life I want to live. And also that we do need a future.
I'll give you an example of a time when the climate emergency felt really real to me. I was visiting a friend who'd moved to Malaysia, a few things struck me while I was there, there were jet skis absolutely everywhere. And I could see that fuel, and the kind of waste from the jet skis floating on the top of what would have been this sort of beautiful crystal clear water. Then we went on this little boat trip to do some snorkelling and look underneath the water. And I didn't see any fish, I only saw plastic bags and rubbish. I got very upset, and actually got out of the water, and stopped participating. And I just sat there and thought to myself, number one, I'm part of this, this is a tourist boat, there's tonnes of tourists here. We've paid to do this, they've got the fuel in the boat. What am I doing, and what are we doing, this place is decimated. We've come to see wildlife under the ocean, and there's nothing to see but rubbish. And I'm even mindful as I speak, that I'm talking about an experience I had which required me to take a flight to the other side of the world. My behaviour around flights has changed. I made a flight free pledge at the beginning of 2020, which sounds a bit "err that was an easy year not to fly". But remembering at the beginning of the year, I didn't have any idea that we were going to go into a global pandemic. And of course, COVID What more stark way to understand that we're in the midst of a climate crisis.
When I think about how climate conscious I am, I think that I have a reasonable level of awareness, but that it's probably quite surface level. And that I do get my information from probably mainstream media sources most of the time, which is quite ironic, considering that I actually distrust most mainstream media. I'm a disabled person and one of the main challenges I have is managing obsessive compulsive disorder, and huge anxiety that comes with living with that. I do find it very hard to stare directly into the eyes of the realities of the climate crisis. Because of the obsessive side of the way my brain works, I can start to obsess unhealthily about a particular aspect of the climate crisis. And it can cause me to have intrusive thoughts and compulsions. So I find this real difficulty in who I am, I want to be a responsible person, I want to be a part of the change for good. But I do find it extremely difficult going into the details. Because of the conditions I manage, I feel I am more susceptible to getting stuck in spirals. And to be honest, that doesn't help anybody. It makes me unwell. And therefore I can't do anything.
Making art about what's happening in the world is a more useful way for me to contribute and discuss. The weekend that's just gone by I had a show on at Greenwich and Docklands International Festival, which was outdoors inside a woven "O", so like a circle made entirely out of woven Willow and it was a play for families all about the importance of each part of the ecosystem. And it was looking at funghi and the way we underestimate the importance of fungi which is a phenomenal part of the ecosystem that allows trees to basically talk to each other. It provides a kind of underground fibre optic network connecting trees who can share water let each other know about particular pests. But of course, people tend to see fungi as ugly, disgusting. So my play was about looking out for all the parts of nature, the so called ugly pigeons or the funghi underneath the ground or the wasps everyone hates in the summer. It was about respecting everyone in their place.
My feelings about the future are complex. I have to have hope, and believe that we can change as a human race and that we can restore the planet. For instance, if you look at when we did have the lockdowns in COVID, and the quality of air improved dramatically, so fast. We can make change relatively quickly. I do worry, of course, especially as a parent, about the future. I have two young children. I'm thinking about what their world will be like. But of course, there are millions of children across the world. And some of them are living in the climate emergency right now. And we all are, but I mean, they're in immediate danger. Their homes have been destroyed, they're displaced. It's happening. In a way I feel like we have to focus on now in order to serve the future.
Acting on the climate emergency is important to me because we are animals, and we inhabit this planet, and we share it with other animals, plants, other creatures. I feel that we're caught up in a capitalist dystopia, where everything is about how productive we can be. And then suddenly, we have to create all these programmes encouraging people to connect with nature for their mental health, to take breaks away from screens. And it seems like we have forgotten how to live and we're having to reteach ourselves what it means to be human, be part of a community that humans aren't the only beings on this planet.
What makes me feel hopeful about the future is when I learn more about the fantastic resilience that plants, fungi and animals have and the way that they adapt, and the incredible way that they talk to each other and support each other. We have access to communication via language and all this technology and the ability to cooperate across the whole planet. Because of the technology we've created. We must also be able to come together and find a way of working harmoniously.