The first time I ever took part in a climate protest action was with a group called Climate Rush, co-founded by the activist Tamsin Omond. Must have been about 2009. I still have a button badge from the event pinned to the strap of my camera bag, rusting slightly. Years later, spotting Omond’s name on the client list of a literary agency inspired me to approach them with my own project, successfully as it transpired. Entirely unaware, Tamsin Omond has thus been influential on a couple of occasions in my own story, and so I was pleased to see that they had a new book out: Do Earth – Healing strategies for humankind.
It’s the latest from the Do Book Company, who publish short how-to books that I rather like. If you’ve come across them before, you’ll know what to expect – positive, well designed pocket-sized volumes full of practical wisdom from inspiring people. Do Earth fits nicely into the series, and the author describes it as “my gentle encouragement” towards more earth-conscious ways of life.
The book begins with a sense of where we are, and how adequate responses to the climate and ecological crisis have been held back by the belief systems of patriarchy, capitalism and white supremacy. What these three have in common is the assumption that some people get to dominate others, and dominate nature. This sets people against each other in competition, jostling for position in the hierarchy, when better solutions would emerge if we related to each other “with abundance, resourcefulness, service, collaboration and trust.”
Omond looks at what we can do as individuals, and then moves beyond individual action to community. This is really important – it’s when we act together that we make a real difference, and it also makes space for friendship, belonging, and the joy of common purpose. It keeps people in the game, and when you act together the experience itself is worthwhile, not just the sense of ‘winning’ at the end. Community enables long-term action, where you look to the next improvement and not iconic victories. For Omond this was a lesson that emerged on the far side of burnout, and hopefully some busy readers will be able to learn from that and spare themselves a painful experience.
In its intersectional approach, the book owes something to black feminist writers such as adrienne maree brown or bell hooks, but Omond’s own experience and voice shine through too. As far as I’m aware this is the first book on climate change that I’ve read by a queer author, and that brings a distinctive perspective. “People who have been rejected by the status quo find so many creative ways to heal the trauma of not belonging” writes Omond. Knowing that they will not be the ‘winners’ in a world of patriarchy, capitalism and white supremacy, outsiders often re-write the rules in ways that everyone else can learn from. “Black feminists, disabled people and trans people are pathfinders to new worlds because when this world, that dominates the earth to survive, rejected them, they rejected the practice of domination.”
Rejecting the world’s warped sense of victory opens up new forms of activism, based on kindness and trust rather than winning arguments and crushing opponents. That’s an idea with spiritual resonance for me, the kind of thing I’d like to be part of. Or to use Omond’s guiding question – how can I be of service to that vision of community?
Do Earth is not a long book – I read it across two legs of a train journey. It’s nicely presented, with well chosen photos that make you pause and think about them. It’s written with humility and generosity, and a sense of welcome into a movement that needs each of us – “wherever you are and whatever you’re doing, there’s a role for you in this great transformation.”