Climate Inaction: We Need New Stories

Efa encounters Swansea in 2052. This is a still from Galwad, which presents a future left to deal with the consequences of climate inaction.

As part of our partnership with GALWAD, writer and poet Bethany Handley says the arts can create new stories to challenge climate inaction.

The Centre of Alternative Technology in Machynlleth CAT is a research centre founded on a disused slate quarry that has been proposing practical solutions for sustainability for decades. CAT produces its own energy on site via solar and hydro, generates its own water through solar thermal panels and biomass boilers, and has shown the world that sustainable living is both possible and achievable. 

During my stay at CAT as part of GALWAD’s Young Company residencies, I began to imagine what Wales’ future generations will inherit if we fail to act.  

For the last 45 years, CAT has been demonstrating that climate disaster is not inescapable. We have the knowledge. We have the expertise. Yet why, 45 years after CAT was founded, are we not seeing wider systemic change? 

Our reluctance to proactively protect our planet warrants an urgent shift in attitudes. The arts’ ability to challenge our attitudes and imagine our futures has never been more essential. 

We need new stories that convert climate inaction and anxiety to hope and action.  

Despite understanding the science and solutions, we continue to build houses on green belts without renewable energy sources or communal green areas and to remove subsidies for renewable energy and electric vehicles. We continue to respond to the stories of communities around the world being ripped apart as a result of climate change with silence and inaction.  

We also know climate change will exacerbate inequalities here in Wales. The scale of the climate crisis is so vast, so terrifying, that climate inaction must be challenged with new stories that imagine the impact of climate crisis on individuals. 

We need new stories that illustrate the proximity between our futures and climate disaster. 

We need new stories that speak to and with people, that make us challenge our projections for our own futures if we fail to act. 

We need new stories that convert climate inaction and anxiety to hope and action.  

My visit to CAT inspired me to envision the future of Wales and the questions we may have to face if we don’t act now. I addressed these concerns in a poem written during my stay.

Note to my Daughter

My flat is dry again
the sea has drained through the windows
the seaweed floated away
the sand brushed from my room
the floorboards flattened against the concrete
the glass is sharp again and united in the windows

the pavement is tarmacked, not bed rock
the Senedd’s roof not sleeping like a stingray 

horizons stones not silenced on the seabed
and I will have a daughter
who walks with me hand in hand
and I’ll point at the third floor
and say that was my home
before you came into this world
just as my parents used to drive around blocks pointing

to where they first realised they loved each other
or the first flat they owned

the one that trembled with the railway
or the flat with the foldaway kitchen counter

and we will walk through the wetlands 

and spot kittiwake and cormorants
and you’ll ask me
if I ever saw a whale
where I ate mango ice cream
and why we did nothing
as we walked by the sea in the evenings
feeling the suns closeness as it burnt through the seasons
but my flat is sunken in the darkness
fish gliding through open doors
and there’s no place for a child without gills

 GALWAD is part of UNBOXED: Creativity in the UK, co-commissioned with Creative Wales with funding from Welsh Government and UK Government. GALWAD was a week-long story told in real-time across social and broadcast channels which asked what if the future made contact with us. You can watch the full story at

All articles published on the welsh agenda are subject to IWA’s disclaimer.

Bethany Handley

Also within Voices