Martha Dillon is founder and editor of this independent magazine which provides a platform for detailed, critical and fresh writing about climate change.
Where did the wonderfully catchy title come from?
A Trump quote! In 2013, he tweeted, “Ice storm rolls from Texas to Tennessee – I’m in Los Angeles and it’s freezing. Global warming is a total, and very expensive, hoax!” We thought it perfectly captured the terrifying ignorance and willful disengagement with climate – while also being surprisingly poetic.
How has It’s Freezing evolved since its original conception?
We have changed, but our central mission of platforming detailed, critical and fresh writing on climate remains the same. We still find it strange that climate tends to be polarised into articles about how terrible it is, or remains a footnote to articles about wider topics. We want to get into the nitty-gritty of what this cataclysmic, all-encompassing topic really means.
But we have changed. We’ve grown and solidified our processes, for sure. That’s reflected in the tightening of the design and the articles, and the broadening of our team. And we’ve strengthened our voice: the articulation of climate as a unique product of capitalism has become much clearer over the last few years – both on our pages and in the movement more broadly. Not that it was never there, but it’s been absorbed into western environmentalism more clearly.
What impact do you think the magazine has had to date?
We’ve been part of this broader conversation, if in a small way. Not only for our readers, but we’ve been lucky to work with many emerging writers, artists and activists who we hope have found working with us and stepping into these spaces a useful thing to do. Certainly we, as a team, have learned a lot and built on new ideas, and all work in many different spaces.
But, mainly, we’re part of an ecosystem of people pushing for change. We hope we have also managed to record some of these conversations and ideas, in a permanent way, for the future.
For your new edition you have “asked writers and illustrators to explore the links between climate change and health”. What discoveries did you unearth?
It’s been a very passionate and personal issue. All areas of climate are, but of course health feels very tangible.
It’s never possible to pinpoint specific moments, but some highlights have been exploring what anti-capitalist, caring healthcare might look like; digging into perspectives on access to nature from people who experience disability, and how to wean ourselves off addictions to fast fashion.
“In the long premortem of global warming, climate anxiety is something of the opposite of clarity. It is a swirling and a rugpull; a gnawing and a mourning; a quickening and aberration of time,” writes Clayton Page-Aldern in an essay on Climate Anxiety in the new issue. What measures, do you think, can we take to lessen this or is it necessary to intensify to lead to collective action? What part might the concept of ‘citizen science’, as discussed by Alice Bell in another article, play in all of this?
Being part of a movement, a collective, or a group. Strength in numbers, but also strength in having support. Whether directly affected by the impacts of a changing climate, or building the energy to push for change, we all need people around us.
One fact which startled us is about cigarette butts being the most common form of plastic pollution worldwide, with an estimated 4.5trillion cigarette butts discarded every year. Is it somewhat baffling that the onus is not put on tobacco companies to create a biodegradable solution to this? How frustrating is the lack of resolve from minor to major regarding interventions?
Completely baffling! The absence of meaningful standards for production and material management is criminal. It’s a great example of the importance of systems change: by all means dispose of your cigarettes responsibly, but it’s not even half a drop in the ocean compared to the impact of individual companies producing responsibly. Whenever you see an advert by a manufacturing or fossil fuel company about all the ways you could save energy or recycle better, scream with rage and redouble your efforts to campaign for proper, root-to-tip, systemic change.
Was COP26 the start of something or a cop-out? Did you attend and what was your experience of it?
COP26 was always going to be different than was suggested by most commentators. It was about signing off the details of an agreement that was already largely in place, and encouraging countries to strengthen their targets. These headline targets are largely decided over much longer and broader conversations than COP itself.
The basic structure, that has been agreed already and signed off in 2016, whereby there are no rules as to the targets states must set, and a pitiful allowance for many of the most important issues like soil health, states needing to take responsibility for decarbonisation of countries they previously colonised or plundered – respecting Indigenous stewardship etc – is deeply flawed.
So, it was always going to be a COP-out, and even on its own terms was incredibly disappointing: we’ve not exactly felt the seismic shifts we need yet, have we?
Waste Colonialism is discussed by Dr Arianne Shahvisi who says, “Believing our rubbish is more recyclable than it is eases our consciences about the volume of waste we produce. An act of disposal is transformed, through self-deception, into a good deed.” She discusses our ‘magical thinking’ around this. Can you explain a little further?
This links to your reflection about cigarette butts and systems change. We feel an immense personal pressure to clean up our acts, even though we have very little power to change much of the infrastructure (which is run by the government, or a big organisation) around us. So for example, disposing of a cigarette butt carefully is not only a drop in the ocean but ultimately not really in our control, given we have little ability to influence our waste system.
But despite not having much control, we are made to feel like we do. From companies encouraging us to shift our lifestyles minuscule amounts, from governments and businesses doing little to combat climate so we feel despairing, from other green campaigners who don’t think about the deeper changes we need and make it into a personal responsibility. This guilt is extremely disheartening, and makes any possible route to making things better look attractive – even if its wishful thinking.
Are economic growth and a harmonious climate incompatible concepts, in your opinion?
Companies and states ‘grow’ by extracting and buying more and more materials. This is even true in the digital space: we need physical resources to create infrastructure to maintain new systems and transactions. It is not possible to have limitless growth on a planet of finite resources, and with finite capacity to hold pollution and waste. Circulating materials, organising our resources and buying and selling needs to look extremely different.
This is a ‘side project’ to the day jobs for all involved. What do these entail and is making this a full-time pursuit something you would be happy to consider if the resources were there?
We all have different jobs, spanning law, design, engineering, writing, science and more. It’s critical to the magazine that we can bring real-life experience of different topics and areas, so we would never want a full team full time. But maybe one day, for some people!
How positive/despairing are you about our willingness and capability to avert climate and ecological disaster?
This is probably the attitude that varies most across the team. Certainly, we are not on track to avoid catastrophe, and that’s the core premise of this project. But whether being a climate activist is desperation or constructive engagement is perhaps up for discussion!
Issue no. 9, Health, is out now, £7. 3 bundles, £15.