12 Characters in Search of an Apocalypse

“What was Winston Churchill’s rallying cry in the darkest moments of WWII? “I offer you blood, toil, tears, and sweat!’ Not exactly an upbeat message. He wasn’t one to over-promise, and nor should we.”

— From the voice of: “I want a better catastrophe”, in 12 Characters in Search of an Apocalypse by Andrew Boyd

What is the project?

The 12 Characters project is a worldwide call for community dialog around one of the two most significant challenges of our uncertain times – the ongoing collapse of the web of living beings that supports all life on Earth – a collapse that with each passing day gains momentum. Our goal is to get people talking with one another about what is happening to them, their families, and their communities.

“12 Characters in Search of an Apocalypse is brilliant and important work. It is necessary work. I am grateful to Giraffe Social Enterprise for taking this on. If somehow we make it to a more sane way of living, it will be due to efforts like this one.”

— Derrick Jensen, author of EndgameA Language Older Than Words, and The Myth of Human Supremacy.

How did it come to be?

The morning the Brexit referendum results were announced I realized that I had told myself a false story. That because I was an American living in the UK and because I couldn’t vote, there was nothing I could do about the process. I quickly realized how wrong I had been. I realized that there had been a gaping hole in the referendum process. Where I lived (rural Wales) and in most other places there were no public gatherings for neighbors to sit down and talk with one another about how they would be affected by leaving the EU.

I decided then and there I wasn’t going to let that happen again.

I realize that the same gaping whole is happening around what is often called “global warming” or “climate change” – there are no public gatherings where neighbors can share with one another how their families and their communities are being affected by the unravelling of the web of living beings that supports us.

This project – 12 Characters in Search of an Apocalypse – is my effort to change that.

Cultivating conversations among neighbors

When I read the piece entitled 12 Characters in Search of an Apocalypse published in issue 11 of the Dark Mountain Project, I realized it could engage people with very different outlooks on the issues surrounding the issue of global warming and climate. So a group of us came together and began reading the piece out loud to groups of people and began using it as a seed for having a conversation.

This has now evolved into events around Wales and England. These gatherings bring together local people, to sit and listen, share a cup of tea and share with one another how we are being affected by the unravelling of climate.

The 12 Characters are read by a group of volunteers from our team or from your local team. In between the readings you will be invited take time to talk with your neighbors and share your reactions to what you’ve heard. After the reading of the Characters is complete we will have host the Big Conversation.

The Big Conversation

After completing the Characters, the hosts for the evening will assist a conversation for everyone to hear how the unravelling of climate is affecting each us. Each conversation is different but they can be opportunities for:

  • having a risky conversation with people whose life decisions impact your life
  • learning how each person thinks what is happening
  • making something known between us that isn’t normally spoken about
  • revealing things we share in common

Hopefully the conversation will plant a seed that has the capacity to grow into further conversations.

GSE and 12 Characters as a platform for ‘gritty’ conversations

The 12 Characters project leverages our years of experience in having difficult conversations into the area of the affects of unravelling of climate are going to have on us all, especially our capacity to stay engaged and connected to people in challenges.  The primary impetus for the project is in creating places to talk with neighbours about really challenging issues.  As with all our work we intend to host this in a ‘seeding’ fashion, encouraging others to to begin to host their own dialogues in their own neighbourhoods. To support this GSE are developing a Hosting Manual that enables people from all over the world to invite people to come together and share potentially risky and vulnerable conversations to discover how each other experiences the unravelling of our hitherto seemingly stable systems that they are living within.

Want a 12 Characters Gathering in your Community?

Email jason@giraffesocialenterprises.org.uk to have the GSE team come to your community.

Want to Host a 12 Characters Gathering yourself?

Email jason@giraffesocialenterprises.org.uk to recieve the latest edition of The 12 Characters Hosting Handbook – our collected wisdom from hosting events over the past 8 months.


To read more about what is happening in the 12 Characters project, you read our blog here.

Andrew Boyd’s Better Catastrophe website

The Dark Mountain Project