msb ~037 Mass annihilation

Mass annihilation

Ain’t nobody here but us chickens…

Looking for a headline that says it all? Humanity Has Killed 83% of All Wild Mammals and Half of All Plants: Study. That study being The biomass distribution on Earth. Confronting these annihilation estimates summons Friedrich Nietzsche’s famous: “And if thou gaze long into an abyss, the abyss will also gaze into thee.” Continue reading “msb ~037 Mass annihilation”

msb ~034 Our Plastisphere future?

Our Plastisphere future?

Plastisphere soup

When I was an environmental student in the early 90s, I chose the Mediterranean for a study on transboundary pollution. From memory, oil pollution into that sea worked out at over 17 Exxon Valdez disasters every year. That Alaskan tanker spill was still big news back then, driving a lot of environmental awareness. In contrast, 17 equivalent marine disasters in the Mediterranean, year on year: barely commented on. Of course, oil pollution’s just one facet of what we’re now learning to call the ‘plastisphere’ – the planetary zone that encompasses the discarded petroleum-based products and packaging that’s smothering rivers and swirling in ocean eddies, but also the leaked, spilt and spewed fossil fuels with which we make the plastics and push them around the world. Continue reading “msb ~034 Our Plastisphere future?”

msb ~032 Mutually Assured Destruction

Mutually Assured Destruction

The 1980s: odd times

Scratching around the loft’s eaves today — on hands and knees, in torchlight, insulation dust and ancient spider webs as I hunted the cable to a dodgy switch in the bathroom below, I wasn’t thinking of the ‘good old days’ of Cold War claustrophobia. But reading just now about the network of nuclear bunkers that crisscrossed the UK between the 1950s and 1990s, I was almost taken in by the nostalgic tone of Kate Ravilious’ piece for Atlas Obscura. She visited abandoned, decayed outposts restored as visitor attractions: small spaces of uncanny normality projected into the most abnormal of all futures: post-thermonuclear meltdown. What they really represented, of course, was the seemingly infinitely extendable insanity of their present: planned-for Mutually Assured Destruction. Continue reading “msb ~032 Mutually Assured Destruction”

msb ~030 The call to paradox

The call to paradox

Looking home

Though social media’s pitfalls are well known, one of the unexpected pleasures of Twitter is to just have people drop in out of the blue. The latest person to follow @ClimateCultures is independent filmmaker Ross Harrison. When I spotted his article on Medium, I knew I could make today’s mini-post even shorter than usual: “What he said: paradox.” Continue reading “msb ~030 The call to paradox”

msb ~023 Technofossils, fuel for thought

Technofossils — fuel for thought

Technofossil, Jared Farmer

In his contribution to the fascinating Future Remains, historian and geohumanist Jared Farmer discusses ‘technofossils’. Our technological remains last far longer than our personal relationships with these relentlessly multiplying gadgets, structures and infrastructures. Will probably outlast current civilisations. Possibly our species. And technofossils will not be just our artificial constructions; our (re)engineering of the biosphere is also a technological feat that leaves its mark for future archaeology. So, while long-forgotten subway tunnels — “worm tracks of mammoth size — might become sedimentary molds for locomotion traces”, just as telling a marker will be the distinctive layer of fossilised bones of trillions of broiler chickens, a “proxy for the ‘Great Acceleration’ of postwar global change.” Continue reading “msb ~023 Technofossils, fuel for thought”

msb ~021 Tune in, all senses on

Tune in, all senses on

Fox and Woods

How many signals from ‘out there’ do we miss? Our animal senses — already selectively filtered to the exacting ‘survive-and-thrive’ demands of our species-niche within the more-than-human world — have become blunted by the restricted environment we’ve created for ourselves. Can our de-tuned faculties of seeing, hearing, tasting, touching, smelling still reach out beyond the ‘low bandwidth, high volume’ saturation of 70+ years of Great Acceleration? Very probably yes — with practice and attention. Imagination is the greatest technology we can deploy in our favour here, humility its renewable fuel. Continue reading “msb ~021 Tune in, all senses on”

msb ~020 Terra Antarctica, terror incognita

Terra Antarctica, terror incognita

Antarctica: The Why Factor

What knowledge does land possess? Should we fear what unknown lands might discover of us? Of all the places I’ll never go, never know, Antarctica stands out. Coldest, highest, driest, windiest, least inhabited, most alien. One vast desert boasting half of Earth’s fresh water. A whole continent 98% under ice up to 3km thick. Untouchable? Far from unreachable by the global, heating and polluting human footprint.

Paradoxically, even its unknowability is now contaminated, eroded, domesticated by a human presence that travels there even when we don’t. Its alien knowledge of us grows: parts per million, year by year.  Continue reading “msb ~020 Terra Antarctica, terror incognita”

msb ~006 Welcome to the snarge matrix

Welcome to the snarge matrix

Future Remains
Photos: Tim Flach / Cover Design: Isaac Tobin
University of Chicago Press 2018

I’m reading Future Remains: a cabinet of curiosities for the Anthropocene and one entry has collided with my imagination. Gary Kroll’s Snarge is a meditation on the impact – literally and metaphorically – between human and non-human in The Great Acceleration that is our age. 

Snarge, he explains is the term naturalists use for “the avian tissue that’s left over after a bird-strike … a horrible word that onomatopoeically conveys the peculiarly destructive violence of acceleration in the Anthropocene.”

Continue reading “msb ~006 Welcome to the snarge matrix”