Along with everything else, there’s that deep sadness when you realise you’re never going to have a conversation with someone ever again. I learned the other day that Chris West, my old boss at UKCIP, died recently and I immediately thought of his humour, patience and enthusiasm. And of a short passage in Nancy Campbell’s The Library of Ice, which I’d read last month and where I’d rediscovered Chris in this perfect anecdote:
“At a climate conference in London a few weeks ago I paired up, during the one-minute speed-meeting session, with an amiable, bearded scientist, who told me that he’d held a piece of the Vostok ice core in the palm of his hand. Chris used up his whole minute describing the experience. ‘The thing is, it fizzed,’ he said. ‘It was melting with the warmth of my palm, and the air was under such pressure that it exploded out of its ice pockets. It fizzed,’ he repeated, ‘then it melted, and I just wiped it on my shirt.’ He passes his hand across the checked cotton covering his chest, an expression of mild bewilderment on his face as he relives his Keplerian encounter with a 20,000-year-old piece of ice.”Continue reading “msb ~088 Remembering Chris West”
Titling your Physics World post ‘This article is based on fictional events’ does make it stand out. And David Boyt describes an event I’d wish I’d been to; as part of London Mathematical Laboratory’s Science on Screen series, statistical physicist Valerio Lucarini discussed how Lars von Trier’s 2011 Melancholia “inspired in him a new way of thinking and provided the missing piece of the puzzle for his research.”Continue reading “msb ~085 On edge and in-between”
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”
A conversation today reminded me of a workshop I joined last year, where we created audio art from climate data. Climate Symphony Lab tapped into public interest in, but confusion with, science to make new ways to internalise what environmental change ‘looks’ (or sounds) like. Climate data: climate art. Actually being in on debates on what to include and exclude, which available technologies to use (instruments, laptops, voices, feet, breath, tearing paper?) was unusual, enlivening and unsettling. It brought a direct, participative responsibility to what can be seen as quite distant, individualist artistic practices — and even more distant, communal practices of science.Continue reading “msb ~076 Climate data: climate art”
When I was looking into boundaries between ‘experts’ and ‘public’ on local coastal change, I explored ways to classify expertise. One typology, proposed by Michael Carolan, suggests that most of us can usually contribute abstract (e.g. scientific) or practical (e.g. local) knowledge. He described this as ‘contributory expertise’, but also identified an additional category: ‘interactional expertise’. Individuals use this to help bring together those with different forms of knowledge: essential when the issues are contentious and the debate can be confrontational.Continue reading “msb ~067 Expertise”
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’ve been enjoying this post looking from the IPCC 1.5C report to the next intergovernmental climate conference, COP24 in Poland next month. I think Sarah Sutton’s choice of two words has impact: ‘ambition’ and ‘bravery’. COP21 agreed the goal of limiting the global rise to 1.5C; can COP24 agree a plan? As Sarah says, “for complex geopolitical entities, and highly-complex problems, setting goals while the path remains unfocused is how you establish ambition – the contagious desire to achieve more than ever before.”Continue reading “msb ~055 Brave ambition”
It’s a slightly nervous moment when you know that work you’ve just handed over is receiving its public launch, and you’re not there to see the looks on the audience’s faces, to hear their questions coming back! Today’s the day the Waterlight Project team showed off the website we’ve been working on for a couple of months now. I’ve been handling the impressive array of materials — articles, children’s films, poems, oral history transcripts, photos and blog posts — that the team have been generating about their local river and assembling this into an integrated whole, with room to breathe. And it’s a joy to take a step back and look at it all now as a ‘real thing’.Continue reading “msb ~051 Launching Waterlight”
A few years back, I helped novelist Clare George with some of her public writing workshops, Imagine There’s a Future. Speakers shared their climate change work, writers discussed scenarios and wrote new stories. For me, this was a powerful introduction to the value of creative work on our climate predicament, for writers and readers. Clare describes how the stories came from very diverse authors working together. “Climate change campaigners sat next to climate change sceptics and openly discussed their most heartfelt fears and dreams in ways that would not have been possible without the help of fiction.”Continue reading “msb ~050 Truth and story”