The Extinction Exhibition: Imagining Climate after Covid

Updated: Mar 24

By Lexy Foxley-Johnson

What is solitude but a human experience shaped by the loss of nature?

A faded mug on a windowsill, small striped insects adorn the breadth of it. They are no longer here. In history, now. The quiet without them is hollow. You search for their sounds online, play them as background noise as you used to the rain.

Image: Rosie Ablewhite

You reach for the mug and pour your tea. It doesn’t taste quite the same, but some things don’t change. It was drilled into you that routine is what your life should look like. A daily grind characterised by hot beverages, long work hours, online, always. The years have rolled by and you didn’t change anything. You watched the world warp around you. The last of a species disappeared and it was out of your hands. What is your impact, anyway? You are just one person. At least you got to see the extinction exhibition at the Natural History Museum.

Related: Solitude and The Sixth Mass Extinction

Each day, you log in against a vibrant, pre-lit background. Today, the screens show a lush rainforest, the image is still. You can set it to video, but it reminds you that it is just a digital memory.

You try to go out at least once a day. Your friends don’t understand it. There is nothing out there that you can’t get online, why would you even bother? You put on your mask, your glasses and pick up your walking stick anyway.


This world is full of colour, bright, artificial light. Full of tall concrete and glass building blocks vibrantly wrapped in digital screens and projections stand out against grey, grey and grey. That sky, you remember: it used to be so big, so blue, so beautiful. You don’t remember when you last saw the stars at night. When you last saw a bird, even.


You don’t remember when it started. Maybe it was after the first pandemic. The words green recovery were bandied about but the phrases economy and financial resilience drowned them out. Buildings sprung up with a ferocity that you couldn’t keep up with. Roads were paved, ground drilled into to exhaust and further damage once rolling fields. Consumerism accelerated after people became bored during the months at home. The carbon impact of postage and delivery became negligible in the circumstances. Reusables were tainted by lazy fear. The easier option was to purchase new things, disposable culture ever more rife.


It became easier for you, too. To negate your responsibilities as a guest on this planet. You bought in, desperate for an ounce of normalcy. And you let small climate actions become another unreachable thing - someone else would fix it. It wasn’t just your problem.


Things got worse and you absorbed them with apathy, with only a pang of shame.


Now, you walk slowly down the metropolitan streets amongst the sound of vehicles. A sea of faces surrounds you whilst you just look desperately for the green. You feel as though you are the only one searching for it.


You have never felt so alone.


What is solitude but a human experience shaped by the loss of nature?

Lexy Foxley-Johnson is a nature photographer, wordsmith and dapper queen working in communications and sustainability. Find her work over on her Instagram and Twitter.