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Imagine just for a moment that the Earth has a skin. A skin just like ours; a skin that feels, that breathes, and even though we cover it in roads and concrete, this skin can feel the caress of a foot, the weight of the weary as they rest, and even the pulse of a dance.


Imagine just for a moment, that the rocks, the bones of the earth are just below the skin, just like ours. They move and shift these tectonic plates, but that every so often, someone, or some society, pierces through the skin and removes oil and gas asking for the bones to rearrange themselves. And they do; but the more we take out, the more the Earth rumbles and shakes and lets forth fire....”


This is text I'm planning to use in work to begin creation in May. During COP26, like many people I'm sure, I just didn't know what to think, but something really struck me when an Indigenous leader from Central America spoke at Tramway and proposed that oil and gas under the ground lubricates the movement of the earth. Looking into this further, there really are propositions that the more we take from the Earth, the more earthquakes we will have[1]. So much of how our world is changing right now requires us to experience though time the differences happening, and to trust that which we we cannot directly see. Looking out the window in Glasgow gives me little to understand what's going on, but thinking about how this 17 degree day in very early Spring compares to my experience of the last 11 years here, well, it's easy to feel that something isn't quite right...


Over the past three years, I've been involved with a solo work 'Burnt Out' about the Australian Black Summer fires which is continuing to tour. However I'm struck with questions over once an individual in our society has deeply acknowledged the changes happening due to climate change; what do we do with this? We can protest and continue to raise awareness, but on a person level, at least for me, I go through cycles of despair, denial, guilt, frustration, and even hope. Frustration over phrases like 'Net-zero' which sound great but also reduce the situation to trade-off and calculations, and frankly, I don't know how to feel about a calculation... The term 'Carbon Footprint' literally came into popular use from a BP advertising campaign[2], and upon finding this out many things clicked into place, particularly that individual blame game. But the term is useful, and we should reduce our footprint, but ah, the blame, guilt and often a sense of hopelessness that comes with it, it's all been carefully manufactured and distracts us from more important ways to address the situation...


But yet, I do know how though I feel about being with like-minded people taking small steps, about feeling care for the ground underneath our feet, and I wonder, I wonder what it would be like to be motivated by love in all of this. Where can support come from in all of this? And maybe not just even support to continue, but a genuine engagement that gives back and helps us address climate distress.


So often this dialogue about climate change is told about what we're going to loose – the flights, red meat, fast fashion – but less attention is given to what we may gain and enjoy deeply as society. I'd like to be woken up again by birds in central Glasgow like the early days of Lockdown.

It's very early days of development for this new work, but I wonder if it could be that every step, every connection with the Earth taken really could be more symbiotic than we often give credit for, and that we could reclaim the climate change discourse to be one motivated by well-being and care, something after all we can really give our attention to feeling.



'Footprint' is supported by the Centre for Contemporary Arts (Glasgow), Dance Base, Surge Scotland, Creative Scotland and the RCS Innovation Studio, with a work-in-progress version being performed for Innovations Dance Platform, Edinburgh, June 3/4th 2022.


Penny Chivas is a freelance dance artist and 3rd year M.Ed student currently working a dissertation entitled 'Dance in an age of Crisis :Proposed ecopedagogical applications for a dance improvisational practice'.


[1]    CNBC (2015) Scientists certain that drilling is causing earthquakes, Available at: [Accessed 23 March 2022]

[2]            Solnit, R (2021) Big oil coined ‘carbon footprints’ to blame us for their greed. Keep them on the hook, Available at: [Accessed 23 March 2022]

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