The work of creating Agam: Filipino Narratives on Uncertainty and Climate Change began with only one certainty: that science and policy alone could not move people to engage with our new, precarious realities. We needed to talk with people rather than at them. For this, we harnessed art, both image and words, to share felt fear but also to affirm that the world referred to in all the chatter, is our world.
The team distributed photographs to some 30 writers to use as prompts. The writers were given a list of prohibited words: climate change jargon and buzzwords that they were not allowed to use in their contributions. Until the very end of this process, the outcome was unknown and unpredictable. The result was a powerful collection of 24 narratives and 26 images, using eight Philippine languages and unique literary forms such as the su’al maka jawab.
The people who, outside the world of experts, thought about climate and worried about it, welcomed the book. In it, diverse readers saw themselves and each other, and the beginnings of new ways of speaking and communicating the changes afoot. Agam garnered three Philippine book awards: A National Book Award for Best Anthology, and two Gintong Aklat (Golden Book) Awards for Design and English Literature respectively.
Agam is as much about what we don’t know as it is about what we think we know. Now a question we continue to ask is, can we look to the future with something other than foreboding?
And so we embark on a new journey on three continents, seeking answers and further questions as we go. The Next Book reignites Agam’s creative collaboration process, this time with diverse voices, images, and words from Asia and the Pacific, Africa, and Latin America.