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  • Writer's pictureKate Morley

Weaving Words Workshop

Updated: Mar 28

This winter has been a frantic time with the Devon Wildland Tree Hub team planting over a thousand trees across the landscape and in my 'academic world' I've been knee-deep in my ethics application to the University of Exeter Medical School ethics board. The whole ethics process has been an exercise in reflection and writing- and rewriting- my project in a way that is understandable for an academic audience.


However, yesterday I was really lucky to spend some time with a great group of people, not only discussing my PhD but learning skills to articulate my personal thoughts, feelings and concerns in relation to the climate and biodiversity crises. The workshop was facilitated as part of the University of Exeter's Environmental Intelligence Art Lab with Dr Sally Flint from 'We Are The Possible' encouraging us to reflect on our own feelings of loss and eco-grief about climate change. Sally reflected; "In a story there is conflict of some kind, something changes working towards a resolution - so they are the perfect form to share climate facts, findings and feelings. Research shows scientific data and doomsday narratives don't work in provoking positive climate action... we can use stories as a catalyst to create new narratives that show how 'despair' can shift to 'hope' in our fast changing world".


In the afternoon we worked with Sally and the brilliant Fine Artist Harriet Poznansky to create a handmade small visual art piece that pulled our discussions and reflections together.


I was hoping to condense down some of the 'natters' we've been having in the Tree Hub, as well as weave in some of the themes that have been flavouring my reading surrounding Disability Justice and Environmental Justice over the winter. I have also recently particularly enjoyed the series of seminars facilitated By Dr Sarah Bell and the Sensing Climate team with a selection of 'Conversations with...' wonderful activists and academics that aims to "embed the expertise of disabled people in new strategies to navigate a changing world."


During the Weaving Words workshop, we discussed the need to widen the debate beyond our echo chamber to include those people who do not have the privilege, time, energy, connection or money to participate in the current debates, particularly in issues relating to Nature's decline.


This workshop is part of a wider project that We Are The Possible is running, which is co-creating 12 stories for 12 days of COP29, with the idea to present climate-themed narratives at the next COP meeting which is being held in Azerbaijan. As with most recent COP meetings, there has been scrutiny of the host nation and their reliance on fossil fuels and concerns about greenwashing. This year a spotlight has fallen on the human rights record of Azerbaijan. A scramble to add 12 women belatedly to the organising committee which had previously been only all-male, has done little for COP's recent reputation of being unrepresentative of a climate transition that will be inclusive, just and fair. It will certainly be interesting to see whether disabled people from Azerbaijan and around the world are at the table. Let's hope the embarrassing multiple access failures seen at Glasgow COP 26 are not repeated. As Lynn Stewart-Taylor, founder of 'Where Is the Interpreter' said: “It’s another day feeling empty, forgotten, feeling we are not worthy of knowing this vital information". Time will tell if this will be the year where the urgent rapid action that is needed by decision-makers transfers to meaningful change on the ground.


So amongst all the noise, it was refreshing to step away from the laptop. I thought I would share my creation here with insights on my thinking behind it as a way of reflecting on my developing PhD, but more widely how this helps me articulate my eco-grief and approach to Nature recovery, and how my new ways of knowing my self and the land here are a work in progress...


Please excuse the rough around the edges finishes (and typos)!

More Just, Liveable Future for All.


Picture of a red phoenix with the words More Just, Liveable Future for all spread across wings emerging from flames with Hope, Urgency, Action, Working Together, Learning from varied knowledges and Collaborative solutions emerging from a fire pit with Climate and Biodiversity Crisis held up by Capitalism and Individualism

The first image is of a red Phoenix with the words 'More Just, Liveable Future for All' spread across its wings.


I chose to draw a Phoenix as it is a mythical being that rises from the ashes and is a symbol of hope and new emergence.


It is emerging from flames with Hope, Urgency, Action, Working Together, Learning from Varied Knowledges and Collaborative Solutions emerging from a fire pit. Azerbaijan is known as the Land of Fire and the Yanar Dagh, the burning mountain, is a natural gas fire that is of significant cultural and historic value to the people of Azerbaijan. The fire pit which is labelled with the Climate and Biodiversity Crises is held up by Capitalism and Individualism. A 'More Just and Liveable Future for All' encompasses the need for change for both human and non-human nature's futures.


The Interconnectedness Chain

A paper chain across the book with words on each lnk of chain. This includes the words: Interconnectedness, Human Nature, Limitedness, Reciprocity, Environment, Human Health, Disability Justice, Environmental Justice, Embodiedness, Non Human Nature, Cross Movement Building, Anti-capitalism, Mending Not Healing, Intersectionality.

The words across the chain read:

  • Interconnectedness,

  • Human Nature,

  • Limitedness,

  • Reciprocity,

  • Environment,

  • Human Health,

  • Disability Justice,

  • Environmental Justice,

  • Embodiedness,

  • Non-Human Nature,

  • Cross Movement Building,

  • Anti-capitalism,

  • Mending Not Healing,

  • Intersectionality.


Disability Justice is a social justice movement that was developed in response to ableism and how this intersects with other forms of oppression such as race, gender and class. Disability Justice centres: "disabled people of colour, immigrants with disabilities, queers with disabilities, trans and gender non-conforming people with disabilities, people with disabilities who are houseless, people with disabilities who are incarcerated, people with disabilities who have had their ancestral lands stolen, amongst others." The key principles that were created by Sins Invalid a group of disabled activists who encountered racism within the 'disability activist' space and ableism within the 'racism activist' space. I have written before on the ideas surrounding Disability Justice and Environmental Justice and I'm hoping that my PhD will explore real-world impact on those with lived experience of disability and multiple oppressions. As part of the Weaving Words Workshop, I depicted the Earth with ears and two hands holding it and wrote:


"Climate change and the biodiversity collapse is driven by injustice. In order to challenge and come up with solutions to these 'wicked' problems we need to learn from the themes of Disability Justice, some of these include:


  • Interdependence

  • Anti-capitalist politics

  • Cross movement solidarity

  • Sustainability

  • Recognising Wholeness

  • Leadership of those most impacted

These are fundamental principles that are built on Intersectionality and commonalities of injustices. "We do not live single issue lives" (Audre Lorde), so there should be "Nothing about Us, Without Us" to move towards collective solutions, collective access and collective liberation."

Natural Limitedness

Rolling Hills with the words 'Myth of the Wilderness, Allowing Nature Space and Time to Thrive, The Importance of Edges, Being Present with Damage and destruction, Learning from the Small Stuff, Finding Solitude, and Nature is not just over there, it's everywhere. With Trees and scrub in the distance and a slow worm, glow worm and lizard on the edge of the path
The words read: Natural Limitedness is the title. Everyone has a different was of knowing and being in Nature, Everyone's connection to Nature is valid, Everyone can feel Nature's loss acutely. Everyone is connected through Nature. Everyone's health depends on Nature. Nature has it's limits and so do we.

"Nature is not just over there..."


"Nature is not just over there- it is everywhere."

"Nature is not just over there- it is inside me."

"Nature can cure..."- Can it?

"Nature can kill."

We have high expectations for nature.

Nature must pay for itself.

Nature must be a '-based solution.'

Nature in a capitalist culture is only valued as to what it can do for us...

But Nature is Us. "Nothing About Us, Without Us."

We must reciprocate. It is time to give back and allow it and Us to mend.

It is time for us to value all life for its intrinsic LIFE.


Languages of Nature


The final page was a reflection of some of the ideas around connecting to Nature with a hearing loss and how the missing sounds of Nature such as the howl of the Wolf can be indicative of a gap in the functioning ecosystem.


But to also explore ideas of language and how we communicate with Nature and how we communicate Nature. Robin Wall Kimmerer explores this extensively in her book, Braiding Sweetgrass as well as her essay; "Speaking of Nature- Finding language that affirms our kinship with the natural world." She talks about how the language of Indigenous people was suppressed as an act of colonisation and so too the ways of knowing and connecting to living beings in their landscapes. The language is one of reverence; "Birds, bugs, and berries are spoken of with the same respectful grammar as humans are, as if we were all members of the same family. Because we are. There is no it for nature."


There are real parallels with the oppression of British Sign Language (BSL). In 1880 the International Congress of Educators of the Deaf passed a resolution banning the use of sign languages in schools around the world with the aim of eradicating the use of sign language in educational settings. What followed was a century of language deprivation including physical abuse where some Deaf children had their hands tied or slapped if found using sign language and parents discouraged from using signs with their children leaving many Deaf people in 'limbo land' unable to access a hearing world but forbidden from forming their own cultural landscape driven by a shared language.


There is still much work to be done here and there have recently been calls for Audiologists to up their game in suggesting the use of sign language to complement the use of hearing technologies, rather than thinking that hearing technologies are the only answer. There has also been a campaign to help parents of all deaf children rapidly access funding for BSL lessons.


The passing of the BSL Act in 2022 means that BSL is now legally recognised alongside English Welsh, and Gaelic. It is now up to the Government to embed BSL in all of their department's work, something which they have so far been slow to do. However, the proposal for a GCSE in BSL to be introduced in 2025 may well be a real game changer.


There has also been some really exciting work from the Scottish Sensory Centre expanding the glossary of the scientific and environmental curriculum for British Sign Language (BSL). Not only will this save time for BSL users not having to finger spell long-winded words but the signs themselves are descriptive and offer a window into the natural world for those BSL users who want to explore it and/or pursue a career in Science or Nature's recovery. Similarly, the proposed GCSE in Natural History, long-championed by Mary Colwell, (which will hopefully be introduced in 2026) has the capacity to rewrite our relationship with Nature.


As Robin says; "Can we unlearn the language of objectification and throw off colonised thought? Can we make a new world with new words?"



Here is my piece of reflection for the Weaving Words piece:


Title is The Celebration of the birth of new British Sign Language for the biodiversity crisis. As the middle finger strokes the chest, and the index finger strikes up and down we have a sign for biodiversity. As new words and language are born, the debate grows. MOre people notice, more people care, more people take action. The language may not have been there but now the concepts have signs. Now the complexity is expressed. Silently the rage from our beautiful Earth swell. To gesture and expression shows the world we care.

The Celebration of the birth of new British Sign Language for the biodiversity crisis.

As the middle finger strokes the chest,

and the index finger strikes up and down we have a sign for biodiversity.

As new words and language are born, the debate grows.

More people notice, more people care, more people take action.

The language may not have been there but now the concepts have signs.

Now the complexity is expressed.

Silently the rage from our beautiful Earth swells.

To gesture and expression shows the world we care.


Green coloured Brimstone butterfly on brown bracken

Thank you to all of the other workshop participants, and Dr Sally Flint from the We Are The Possible project.

Thank you to Margaret Bolton and Harriet Poznansky for facilitating the University of Exeter Environmental Intelligence Art Lab.

Thank you to Prof Hywel Williams for allowing science to be blended with art in these times of crises.


Further Information and Links:




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