msb ~057 Creativity: a bright idea

Creativity: a bright idea   

Q&A? Not that simple

At The Conversation, Gareth Loudon argues for education for greater creativity as a bridge between silos of knowledge. This includes that famous ‘two cultures’ gap identified by CP Snow decades ago: the separation of sciences and humanities. Specialisation, of course, involves people becoming more expert in smaller areas (that unkind old joke: you learn more and more about less and less until you end up knowing everything about nothing). The separation is then reinforced in how we’re taught, how we expect the world to work and be managed. Continue reading “msb ~057 Creativity: a bright idea”

msb ~053 Finding Blake

Finding Blake  

The Lark, Finding Blake

Just as one project’s website launches — with Waterlight’s successful release into the world this week — another one marks a significant milestone. In six months, Finding Blake has clocked up impressive work, thanks to its driving force, filmmaker James Murray-White. As a mostly behind-the-scenes researcher and editor, I can sometimes overlook the scope of detailed work on the ground — until James sends in his latest project update for me to edit. He’s generated lots of footage of interviews, performance, craftsmanship and locations – even before we get to the recent unveiling of William Blake’s new gravestone at his London burial site. Continue reading “msb ~053 Finding Blake”

msb ~047 Climate grief

Climate grief

Climate grief, the emotional reality of global warming

I’m putting final touches to the next ClimateCultures post. Our latest author is writing on the topic of climate grief, and that’s sent me into other reading on the web in search of extra resources to support her post. I came across a graphic story from artist Perrin Ireland where, in a couple of dozen drawings, she captures some of the weight of anxiety, foreboding and, yes, grief that climate activists — even the simply ‘climate aware’ — can feel weighing them down. Reality is hardest for those facing dire times in the here-and-now, of course; but anticipated realities can be hard for the presently comfortable. Ireland finishes with a hint on how to take it head on: together, rather than alone. Continue reading “msb ~047 Climate grief”

msb ~046 “I hear those voices that will not be drowned”

“I hear those voices that will not be drowned”

I hear those voices that will not be drowned

I wanted to pick up where I left off in Evocative Objects, which omitted what I’d ‘brought’ for that ‘Show & Tell’ workshop on objects with personal resonance in our changing climate. Maggi Hambling’s massive, 4-metre high steel seashell, Scallop, stands on Aldeburgh beach in Suffolk, resolutely dividing opinion among locals and visitors. I love it, and wrote about it in ClimateCultures’ A History of the Anthropocene in 50 Objects: “Being in its presence was to experience very direct communication with both environment and history, and an unsettling encounter with the future. Aldeburgh has been disappearing from the map for centuries … the sea moving in by stages.” Where Scallop now stands on shingle, were once homes and streets, lives and livelihoods. Continue reading “msb ~046 “I hear those voices that will not be drowned””

msb ~045 Future forest, plastic tide

Future forest, plastic tide

Future forest?

So far, I’ve only managed to watch 30 minutes of the BBC’s excellent Drowning in Plastic: impossible to stomach the full hour-and-a-half at once. Footage of shearwaters dying from the plastics their parents unwittingly fed them is, appropriately, gut-wrenching: the animals as oblivious to their plight as we are to our hour-by-hour petrochemical churn that creates it. So – like the other recent BBC 90 minutes on landfill – I’ll be taking this in chunks. But the first viewing leaves me wondering how to respond to another plastics piece today, on a colourful ‘future forest’ made entirely from three tons of recycled plastic waste… Continue reading “msb ~045 Future forest, plastic tide”

msb ~024 Imagination, the key ingredient

Imagination, the key ingredient

Glad Day, or the Dance of Albion William Blake, 1794

In today’s post on the Finding Blake website I manage, our latest contributing author Kevin Fischer discusses the balance between reason, experience and imagination. Fischer explains that William Blake, radical artist and thinker of the early industrial age, “saw imagination as something profoundly different from fantasy. Contrary to common conception, this imagination is not about make-believe, the creation of the fantastical, nor is it wish-fulfilment. Blake regarded it as an essential part of life, a means of breaking out of the ‘dull round’ of the ‘ratio’ of abstract reason, of the already known, and through to that which is other than and beyond ourselves. It is a means of putting us more in touch with the world, acting as a bridge between the experiencing individual and that which is experienced.” Continue reading “msb ~024 Imagination, the key ingredient”

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 ~022 Waterlight

Waterlight

Exploring the Mel

Work continues on Waterlight, the new local community environmental website about the river Mel in Cambridgeshire. My role is to bring the inspired work of the project team to life on the website — going live in October. One advantage of behind-the-scenes work is spending time with both the overview and the detailed look at what’s going on. In this case, poet Clare Crossman, filmmaker James Murray-White and historian Bruce Huett are exploring the particular stories of people and places along the river, taking school parties out to make their own films, and delving into intriguing past associations, such as composer Ralph Vaughan Williams collecting folk songs among local communities. Continue reading “msb ~022 Waterlight”

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”