UN climate artist launches crowd sourced poem 20.04.17

Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner, who became known worldwide following her inspirational performance at the UN climate summit in 2014, has launched a new poem thanks to the help of UK festival-goers.

Titled ‘The Butterfly Thief’, the poem was inspired by visitors to the 2016 Hay Literature Festival who were asked to write down the precious things in their world which are at risk from climate change.


Messages ranged from health and livelihoods to green spaces, wildflowers, butterflies and bees.

Hay Festival sponsor Good Energy, the 100% renewable electricity and green gas company, commissioned Kathy to write the piece last year to show how the arts can explore the issue of climate change and encourage positive action.

Discussing the poem, Kathy said: “I live on the Marshall Islands in the Pacific. Our homes are under threat from climate change. My poetry is the most powerful thing I have to tell communities about the world.”

“I noticed that a lot of the responses I received mentioned the loss of bees and butterflies. That was interesting to me so I did some research and found out that there's actually a distinct connection between climate change and the decline of these species.

“That’s why the poem discusses their disappearance, along with islands like mine, as I’ve attempted to demonstrate the connections between seemingly separate beings and eco systems – their only connection being the devastating effects of climate change.”

Juliet Davenport OBE, CEO and founder and of Good Energy, said:  “Kathy is a wonderful poet. Her work is a fantastic blend of being both poignant and informative. Her personal experiences really bring the impact of climate change alive and should inspire people to have hope and take action today.

“Climate change is an issue that increasingly affects all of our lives. The arts have always been a way to discuss difficult and complex areas affecting our society and I’m really excited for everyone to hear Kathy perform this powerful new piece.”

Gareth Redmond-King, Head of Climate & Energy Policy at WWF, said: “There are few more important voices on climate change than those living on the front line. We talk here in the UK about climate change and how we’re starting to see its effects in extreme weather and serious decline in some of our native species. 

“In the central and south Pacific, those effects are rather more dramatic.  There, leaders are facing up to the wholesale loss of islands as sea levels rise and weather patterns change. Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner’s powerful piece is a moving and beautifully delivered reminder not just of the impact of climate change, but also of our responsibility throughout the world to take urgent action to tackle it.”

Donna Hume, Friends of the Earth climate campaigner, said: “Climate change can sometimes feel like a large, complex and faraway issue. But personal stories like Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner’s bring to life the true human cost of climate change.

“It's those people and countries least responsible for climate change that are already suffering the worst impacts. But Kathy is right, it won't stop with island nations like hers being devastated by tidal waves and the rising sea, it will impact on all of us.

“We hope that by sharing her story through this powerful piece of art, more people will support our call for the government here to stop causing more climate change by trying to get ever more fossil fuels, like fracked shale gas, out of the ground. We must move to a renewable energy future before it is too late.”

The poem has been launched ahead of Good Energy sponsoring Hay Festival for a fourth year. The festival runs from 25 May – 4 June 2017 in Hay-On-Wye, Wales.

Social media users are being invited to share the poem using the hashtag #HayGoodEnergy


Notes to editors:

  • To watch Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner’s performance of ‘The Butterfly Thief’ on the Marshall Islands, visit youtube.com/watch?v=LudU--_K6Uo
  • To watch her renowned performance at the UN Climate Leaders’ Summit in 2014, visit youtube.com/watch?v=L4fdxXo4tnY
  • For more information on Kathy’s other work visit https://jkijiner.wordpress.com/
  • Good Energy is one of the main sponsors at the Hay Festival for the fourth year running. The company will be sponsoring a stage and hosting a series of talks on climate change and sustainability during the festival.
  • Entry to Hay Festival is free. Tickets for each of the Good Energy talks can be purchased at hayfestival.com/wales

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