Burning Worlds’ Amy Brady interviewed filmmaker Nathan Kensinger about Managed Retreat, his documentary looking at “at the uneasy relationship between humans and nature in New York City” through neighbourhoods that are pulling back from the waterfront. Following Hurricane Sandy, residents “asked the government to buy their houses, so they could move to somewhere safer. Their homes are now being demolished and turned back into wetlands.”
Maps hold me. The collection I marked during my ‘sabbatical’ exploration of personal unknown England. My afternoon with the Hereford Mappa Mundi’s medieval worldview squashed onto a sheet of vellum. First Nations hunters’ dream-maps, recalled in Anticipatory history: “a piece of moosehide as large as a tabletop … ‘Up here is heaven; this is the trail that must be followed; here is a wrong direction; this is where it would be worst of all to go; and over here are all the animals. They explained that all of this had been discovered in dreams.'” My own dreams of floating above unreal landscape-map hybrids, still real years later.Continue reading “msb ~077 Landscapes written in the skin”
I’ve mentioned the book Anticipatory history and how I keep returning to it. The term also describes a loose collection of approaches that extend beyond the book’s collection of texts, each a means to open up conversations about change in places we feel deep attachment to, now facing uncertain futures.
To help us bring in new perspectives when we try to make sense of change, ‘anticipatory history’ approaches might include:
Looking imaginatively at past changes and at the contingencies which underlined (and could have undermined) the events and actions that shaped what it is now. Examples are reverse chronologies, timelines, oral histories and artistic representations.
Taking a fresh look at the language we use to talk about the natural and cultural processes at play. The book itself provides one way into this, as a form of glossary arising from a dialogue between specialisms.
Imagining and naming unfamiliar or new ways of living with change that might be adopted in this place.
I value my memory of the blistering critique I received when speaking to environmental experts about sometimes having to ‘let go’ of loved sites of natural or cultural heritage as the contradictions of trying to ‘hold back’ historic climate change become starker: “Wooly-minded fudge!” Particular scorn came when I mentioned ‘palliative curation’. Many of the ideas we’re going to have to explore are contentious, even provocative, so my only complaint is that I’d done a poor job explaining the possibilities. Continue reading “msb ~043 Palliative curation”
Following Philip Dick, here’s another favourite speculative writer: Christopher Priest. I just finished the Ordnance Survey ‘Britain’s islands’ quiz after rereading Anticipatory History‘s Dream-map entry, so it’s no surprise that Priest’s Dream Archipelago came to mind. There’s a slipperiness to his decades-long project of stories set on these fictional-but-familiar islands on a world (un)like ours. In a2011 interview ahead of The Islandershe’s asked, “Creating the climate, topography and various customs of the islands must have been quite challenging … Did you use a map or some other technique?” Priest: “No map is allowed. Not even to me … Living in the islands, or trying to travel through them, you almost always get lost. No one knows the way, everyone is a bit muddled.”Continue reading “msb ~039 The truth? Dream on”
On the Conversation website, Christopher Sandom discusses Shifting Baseline Syndrome. In the book Anticipatory History, National Trust ranger Justin Whitehouse described this phenomenon as “personal and ‘generational’ amnesia, due to relatively short life spans and memories.” Whitehouse was describing people’s tendency to imagine contemporary natural or cultural features (in his case, the harbour wall at Mullion in Cornwall; in Sandom’s, the wildlife of Britain) as the ‘natural’ state, set in time around their own childhood or maybe stories from their grandparents’ times. We discount longer-term trends (and our parts in them), underestimating the true scale of past – or future – change.
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”
A year ago on ClimateCultures, I discussed a book I’d first encountered in 2011 and have been using ever since. Anticipatory history arose from an interdisciplinary network, exploring possibilities in ‘looking back’ at environmental change to help us ‘look forward’ to what futures we might shape. I was doing my MA Climate Change at the time and, in the network’s latter stages, I was able to contribute some work on ‘storying adaptation’ to their final symposium. Continue reading “msb ~013 On anticipatory history”