Alice Boyd and Laura Grace Simpkins


Germination: sound by Alice Boyd and text by Laura Grace Simpkins

“Germination is a sound piece based on Simpkins’ essay of the same name. In the piece, Simpkins explores the connection between taking medication and the consequences for the environment.

Lithium carbonate, commonly used to manage bipolar disorder, is mined from salt flats and causes untold devastation to the surrounding environment. After seeing photographs of Bolivian salt flats, Simpkins decided to explore the tension between her need for medication and the personal guilt she experiences as a result of its environmental and colonial impacts.

In this piece, Boyd combines her voice, synths, and field recordings of the London environment, to soundtrack Simpkins’ essay. The soundscape communicates the eerie beauty of the salt flats, and how they are directly connected to Simpkins’ own mental health. As Simpkins writes, ‘Lithium is toxic to the environment, as too much of it is to my body. I’m toxic with the lithium, I thought, but I’m far more toxic without it.’

While the essay itself delves into the upsetting environmental and colonial complexities of lithium mining, the fact that this contributes a new, intersectional perspective to the environmental conversation is, in our view, a positive outcome. Without facing these difficult revelations, we will never achieve climate and environmental justice that is so crucial for constructive change.”

About the artist

Hello! I’m Alice, I’m a composer and sound designer, using the voice, everyday sounds and electronic textures to tell stories about the world around us. I have produced the soundtracks for theatre shows, which have toured to Latitude Festival, Edinburgh Festival Fringe and beyond. My electronic composition for short film ‘Crisis' was shortlisted for #CreateCOP25, a competition for the UN’s COP25 Climate Conference in Madrid.

Hello! I’m Laura, I’m a creative nonfiction writer, aiming to articulate my mental health experiences using the description of colour, shape, and pattern. My writing has been published by Cambridge Museums, the National Eczema Society, Paper Nations, STORGY Magazine, and has been broadcast on BBC Radio Bristol.

How does this piece express intersectionality?

Written by Alice and Laura:
“Simpkins has atypical bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), sensory sensitivity difficulties, synaesthesia, and anxiety. As mentioned in Germination, her medication helps her to manage her mental health.

The environmental and colonial implications of the pharmaceutical industry are rarely mentioned in mainstream discourse. As Simpkins learns about the impact the lithium carbonate medication has on the environment, she uncovers a new dynamic between herself and a place over 9,700km away. Lithium is also contentious for its use in many green technologies, adding complexity to the use of electric cars and renewable energy storage.

Becoming aware of how medication production can ruin the environment as well as the physical health of workers around the world (often in developing countries) is essential for unpicking the ethical considerations of supporting those with mental health issues whilst reducing harmful capitalist practices on people and the planet.”

Alice’s and Laura’s work clearly shows the importance of climate intersectionality, of being aware of how each person approaches the Climate Crisis in relation to their own experiences of mental and physical health. If we are to create an inclusive movement which understands the nuances behind the crisis, rather than searching for a single solution, we must listen to and platform a multitude of perspectives.

This comes with knowing that we will only have the capacity to care and act if we make space to care for ourselves. Taking time to tend to our own mental wellbeing and whole health, will give us the energy to be fully activist and connect to others.

How can you act?

Take time to look after your mental health, including being outside and nature. Find support from charities such as Mind.

Learn more about how we can learn from nature to look after ourselves and stay connected through difficult times.

Follow and platform different perspectives of those who are neurodiverse, or talk about mental health , which acknowledge the nuances of the climate crisis

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