In his beautiful, stark contribution to Dark Mountain’s new collection,TERRA, Andri Snær Magnason takes us from his family’s Iceland home — “one of the harshest homesteads in Europe … you can only see the next house with binoculars” — into northlands of moss-covered lava fields and geothermal zones. Here, “it is like a window or a wound on the surface, you can feel the power that moves continents and you can feel the hostility.”Continue reading “msb ~072 “We will grieve the glacier””
Veteran environmentalist Tom Burke talked about inheritance on the BBC’s One to One this morning. As an unmarried man without children, whose wealth is mostly in the market-boosted value of his London home, he’s thinking about how to hand on something which benefits the natural world and people. “I don’t have a lot of trust in the priority that any government I’ve experienced is putting on preserving biodiversity. I understand that our future security, our future prosperity, depends on doing that. I’m not sure there’s anyone in politics very much who does.”Continue reading “msb ~070 Inheritance”
An unexpected pleasure to encounter my favourite philosopher on BBC’s Museum of Curiosity! Sadly, Donald Rumsfeld wasn’t a donation to the museum but Lord Butler, author of the (in)famous Butler Inquiry into Britain’s dodgy intelligence case for the Iraq War was a contributor, so Rumsfeld’s famous 2002 ducking of the absence of Iraq’s WMD or terrorist links got an airing. “As we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns – the ones we don’t know we don’t know … It is the latter category that tend to be the difficult ones.”Continue reading “msb ~065 On unknown knowns”
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.
Where do you feel safe? Interesting to learn about the changing meaning of ‘safe space’ on BBC Radio’s Keywords for Our Time. This phrase moved from its original 1940s business context — permission for employees to give feedback without fear of retribution — to feeling secure when revealing your innermost feelings to a counsellor, to a conference’s quiet space as refuge from overpowering social noise, into an agenda for personal protection from harmful speech and, by extension, ideas. A case of ‘freedom to’ shifting into ‘freedom from’?Continue reading “msb ~060 Safe space”
I’m looking into the various alternative names suggested for the Anthropocene. There are many views on whether or not that ‘official’ as-yet-unofficial name for our current planetary age is the right one, and why (not). One I’d forgotten summons the Age of Loneliness. It’s the suggestion of veteran biologist Edward O Wilson. Writing five years ago, he said: “Like the conquistadors who melted the Inca gold, [we] recognise that the great treasure must come to an end — and soon. That understanding creates the dilemma: will we stop the destruction for the sake of future generations, or go on changing the planet to our immediate needs? If the latter, planet Earth will enter a new era of its history, cheerfully called by some the Anthropocene, a time for and all about our one species alone. I prefer to call it the Eremocene, the Age of Loneliness.”Continue reading “msb ~058 The Age of Loneliness”
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”
Like The Moral Maze, I often ‘miss’ BBC Radio’s Any Questions. But last week’s 70th anniversary special — panellists all in their early 20s — was free of the usual grandstanding. Given the IPCC 1.5C report, climate change was first up. My favourite contributions were from Rizzle Kicks star Jordan Stephens. One of Defra’s young Climate Change Champions in 2006, Jordan spoke at the very last Climate South East conference I organised so it was great to hear him again. “One thing I find intriguing is the angle always seems to be ‘saving the Earth’ when for me the pressing issue is ‘saving us on the Earth‘. The Earth will adjust in some way to whatever poison we’re throwing at it, but ultimately we’ll be the ones who suffer … I feel as though there’s a disregard … that people can disconnect themselves from that, for some reason.”
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”
As the BBC reported before today’s IPPC special report, “for decades, researchers argued the global temperature rise must be kept below 2C by the end of this century to avoid the worst impacts. But scientists now argue that keeping below 1.5C is a far safer limit for the world. Everyone agrees that remaining below that target will not be easy.” Going for Gold in the Understatements Olympics?Continue reading “msb ~049 Last call?”