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.
I may need to spend time tracking down TV classics from the 1960s to 80s. Adam Scovell’s excellent survey of British TV fictional alarm calls reminds us how Anthropocene warnings have been with us for almost as long as the Great Acceleration itself. “It’s not that these programmes were ahead of their time: it is more frustratingly, that we have moved on so little in how we deal with the monumentality of ecological issues and their increasing scarring of the strata of our planet; the danger has been growing but with far more fervour than our willingness to address it.”Continue reading “msb ~061 Anthropocene foreshadowings”
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”
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”
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?”
There’s an overfamiliar-yet-fresh feel to the film Earthrise, documenting the moment humans first photographed Earth appearing behind the moon. Familiar because, raised on images and imaginations of manned space exploration as it happened, I’ve seen this photograph so many times: the small, watery rock teeming with invisible life. Fresh because the film lets us see back through the eyes of three elderly men who were there then, alone: emerging from profound blackness never experienced before, after hours scanning endless, dead grey dust no one had yet walked on – and feeling their eyeballs flood with the only colour to be had anywhere: first sight of distant home. It moved them then, fifty years ago this December, and you can see it move them now, looking back.Continue reading “msb ~048 Earthrise, again”
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””
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”