For Skins actor and climate justice campaigner Freya Mavor, COP26 comes close to home. Born in Glasgow, the host city for the event, Freya felt driven to join celebrities, CEOs and climate activists to read letters to the Earth, encouraging ambitious action from delegates at the conference.
In her letter, she writes: “We exist together, inevitably tethered to one another. So why don’t we try, together, to strive to be better? For in the darkest of hours we can still smell the flowers, connect with others, share bread, bring love into our beds, hold space for all revelations of grace, in all of life, all manner of matters: we can change.”
Talking to Smiley News, she elaborates on these words. As a 28-year-old, she expresses the same eco-anxiety felt by many of her generation. “Climate change is itself such a vast ‘hyperobject’,” she says. “This is a term coined by the writer and philosopher Timothy Morton to describe climate change, the idea being that it’s something so big it’s almost impossible for us to comprehend its full reality and impact.”
As a result, she feels almost helpless in confronting climate change, saying, “There’s so much fear and anxiety nowadays.”
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But her words, spoken from the literary sanctuary of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, also offer a source of comfort. Because thankfully, she has discovered an effective coping mechanism. She says: “When addressing the reality of the climate crisis, I find that being able to respond creatively offers a tool to deal with emotions that come up around climate change, whatever medium you choose. To approach it creatively can introduce hope and tenderness.”
She believes in the power of such art to trigger positive discussions, adding: “I’m under no illusions that people responding creatively to the climate crisis will solve anything. But stories and narration are vastly important because it’s how we understand things as human beings. So I think it has an incredibly important place in shifting the conversation.”
A wish for the world
With global delegates flocking to her birthplace for COP26, Freya is intensely aware of the event’s significance. “It is a vastly important event and I suppose there has to be a level of hope, albeit naive hope, that it will succeed,” she says.
But what does success mean to her? “Ideally, this event will lead to conversations about how climate justice is interlinked with social and racial justice and substantive action towards the kind of change that’s required in order to address climate change,” she explains.
To achieve this, her primary wish is that the conference will lead to systemic change. It’s no easy task and she knows it. “Tackling climate change involves creating an entirely new world. It means building an anti-capitalist, anti-patriarchal society, which is by no means a small feat.”
Hope in collective action
Having participated in climate action with groups such as Extinction Rebellion, Freya puts her hope in the power of everyday people united as one.
“There’s a lot of onus put on individual actions when I think we actually need global, institutional and societal change on a mass scale, so inevitably we need collective action,” she says.
“But individual and collective action are two sides of the same coin. Individual action helps people learn about the tools to move towards a sustainable, greener world with less suffering, even though we’re locked into a certain amount of warming, regardless of what we do.”
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In her everyday life, she attempts to adopt more sustainable habits herself, changing her diet, routines and means of transport to lower her impact on the climate. But she’s not one to blow her own trumpet and she adds: “I’m reluctant to do any back-patting or virtue signalling myself because I realise I’m in an incredibly privileged minority. Living in the UK, we are so much more responsible for taking the action that is required than those who are marginalised or those in the Global South, where people are least responsible for this crisis.”
To follow Freya’s advice, unleash the power of creativity to tackle the climate crisis by donating to the arts charity Letters to the Earth here.