Saturday, 24 November, 2018 by
Writing: Claire Sandford
Illustration: Isi Williams
Glacier Girl aka Lizzie Farrell is paving the way for a new generation of Ecowarriors. Through art and design she raises awareness for environmental issues, and people are starting to listen. Having exhibited at Somerset House and working with fashion designer, Vivien Westwood, what started out as a school art project is now a career. We were fortunate enough to speak with her about her work, the role of students, and her best recommendations.
1. What made you choose to do your A-level art project on saving the glaciers and how did this become your calling?
At school, I was really into our geography module on glaciers & cold environments which lead to me to observe the links between mass consumption and the impacts that this has on the glaciers. I was angry that we weren’t really learning about how our lifestyles were causing mass destruction. In science we’d learnt about greenhouse gases and the greenhouse effect but this abstract scientific learning did not impact me on a personal level. I was really curious about why brands were so effective and why climate communication was so ineffective. I decided to take things into my own hands by voicing my concerns in my artwork in a more relatable and accessible way. I did this through breaking down nature-culture binaries that appear to be very central to perceptions and worldviews within our consumer culture. I was diagnosed last year on the autism spectrum so when I look back to before my diagnosis and when I felt very alien but did not understand why, I’m able to understand that my project was a way of me being really confused about life and my trying to understand the world, how it works and my place within it.
2. What impact has social media had on your campaign?
It gave me access and opportunity to be part of a community of like-minded individuals that I would not have come across in my ‘white middle class bubble’ where success is determined by your finances, your grades and whether your parents had the best gossip. The inclusivity that I found online really pushed forward what I wanted to do, because it was finally realised as acceptable, valuable, and possible. At school, my art teacher pretty much hated me and I got bad grades. Social media allowed me to share my work to a wider audience and it was at last appreciated. The most important thing it gave me was selfconfidence in knowing and understanding that whatever school said about me being ‘bad’ or ‘wrong’ had little to no significance on the value of myself and my work. This was all before Instagram was taken over by ads. I do think the dynamic of Instagram has shifted since I started and is now feels less community-based and more individual-focused with a shame culture that just doesn’t feel like the right space currently. So I don’t use it so much any more, but I still massively appreciate the impact of social media from my memories of using it when starting out.
3. Can you tell us what you've been working on recently?
At the moment I am focusing mainly on uni. I study Geography part-time. Sometimes I get pretty frustrated because I feel like I should be putting all my energy into Glacier Girl stuff but I’ve always talked about it and experienced it as a learning process. At this point in time, the challenge of education is really enhancing my learning and it makes a lot of sense to me to be focusing on at my education at this stage of my life. For me, I’m really slow, I’ve retaken first year three times…and finally passed! It has required me to slow down and learn to say no to some of the opportunities that come my way. I’m trying to stay on top of my wellbeing. About a year ago, I would say that my sea wall drastically collapsed, so right now, I need to focus on developing my salt marshes. But don’t worry, I have got a few things in the pipeline!
4. If you could recommend one other Eco-warrior to follow, who would it be and why?
@wilson_oryema for changing the language and conversation around climate change via creativity.
5. If you could recommend one film or book to encourage greater care of the environment, what would it be and why?
I’d almost always say This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. Climate by Naomi Klein because that has really pushed a lot of the ideas around my work. That book was extremely successful in not only shifting public perception but also within academia which is a pretty rare accessible quality. I also want to recommend Ecopsychology: Restoring The Earth, Healing The Mind by Theodore Roszak. I get that the title sounds like the book would be super wishy-washy, self-care vibes but its really not. I want to recommend it because I think, at this point in time, a lot of people do get that it is the Western lifestyle patterns that are creating this ecological crisis. What I’m really trying to get people to understand at the moment is how much these issues are not only social but also personal and I think this book really helps to gain a much needed different perspective. For me Ecopsychology just makes things make sense from the inside out.
6. What should students be doing to bring about change?
I think for a lot of people going to uni, particularly if you’re living on campus or halls, is your first piece of freedom - you have time and probably have student loans. So, despite the fact you feel poor, trust me, it’s the most money you’ll have for a while, particularly considering you don’t work for it. It’s a time where you can construct what you want and how you want your life to be. At home you may have been restricted to a certain routine or lifestyle due to your family. At uni you have the opportunity to make lifestyle changes such as reducing or eliminating meat consumption and even dairy, no stress about who stole the milk, and just the ability to make responsible consumption choices in general. I notice a lot of people have this internal conflict of being like ‘eugh I’m so busy I have so much work to do’ whilst simultaneously experiencing irritable boredom like ‘eugh I just dunno what to do with myself.’ This issue of having so much free time and not knowing what to do with the day aside from waiting around for your mates to come up with a plan for the evening can be fixed. Start projects, join environmental societies, get creative- start a movement!
My main advice, though, for students is that this is a time of privilege where you have access to education. Go to the library, read about how environmental issues are social issues also. Whatever subject you are studying you’ll get extra credit for wider reading and interdisciplinary writing so, think about how you can engage with climate and environmental issues in your next assignment. You’ll begin to understand how all- encompassing these issues really are and how they relate to each other, from large global systems to daily lived experiences. Finally, making these issues and the things that you’ve learnt part of daily conversation is so vital, we need to do this together.