msb ~037 Mass annihilation

Mass annihilation

Ain’t nobody here but us chickens…

Looking for a headline that says it all? Humanity Has Killed 83% of All Wild Mammals and Half of All Plants: Study. That study being The biomass distribution on Earth. Confronting these annihilation estimates summons Friedrich Nietzsche’s famous: “And if thou gaze long into an abyss, the abyss will also gaze into thee.” Continue reading “msb ~037 Mass annihilation”

msb ~032 Mutually Assured Destruction

Mutually Assured Destruction

The 1980s: odd times

Scratching around the loft’s eaves today — on hands and knees, in torchlight, insulation dust and ancient spider webs as I hunted the cable to a dodgy switch in the bathroom below, I wasn’t thinking of the ‘good old days’ of Cold War claustrophobia. But reading just now about the network of nuclear bunkers that crisscrossed the UK between the 1950s and 1990s, I was almost taken in by the nostalgic tone of Kate Ravilious’ piece for Atlas Obscura. She visited abandoned, decayed outposts restored as visitor attractions: small spaces of uncanny normality projected into the most abnormal of all futures: post-thermonuclear meltdown. What they really represented, of course, was the seemingly infinitely extendable insanity of their present: planned-for Mutually Assured Destruction. Continue reading “msb ~032 Mutually Assured Destruction”

msb ~031 Shifting baselines, new normals

Shifting baselines, new normals

Rewilding Britain?

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.

Continue reading “msb ~031 Shifting baselines, new normals”

msb ~025 Magical thinking

Magical thinking

Image: Pixabay

An article for Uneven Earth provides timely illustration of yesterday’s reflection on imagination (rather than make-believe) being “a means of breaking out of the ‘dull round’ of the ‘ratio’ of abstract reason”. In Pulling the magic lever, Rut Elliot Blomqvist critiques techno-utopianism. “Ideas about the importance of the imagination in an age of political and ecological crisis are popping up everywhere: in the arts, in activism and other forms of politics, and in a wide range of academic disciplines and fields,” she writes. But without a critical view of these imaginaries, “we risk being trapped in the same old stories even as we see ourselves as thinking outside the old story box.” Continue reading “msb ~025 Magical thinking”

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 ~020 Terra Antarctica, terror incognita

Terra Antarctica, terror incognita

Antarctica: The Why Factor

What knowledge does land possess? Should we fear what unknown lands might discover of us? Of all the places I’ll never go, never know, Antarctica stands out. Coldest, highest, driest, windiest, least inhabited, most alien. One vast desert boasting half of Earth’s fresh water. A whole continent 98% under ice up to 3km thick. Untouchable? Far from unreachable by the global, heating and polluting human footprint.

Paradoxically, even its unknowability is now contaminated, eroded, domesticated by a human presence that travels there even when we don’t. Its alien knowledge of us grows: parts per million, year by year.  Continue reading “msb ~020 Terra Antarctica, terror incognita”

msb ~018 There is no away

There is no away

Trash Art, Jan Eric Visser at Groundwork Gallery 2018

Form follows garbage, a new film by friend and Finding Blake colleague James Murray-White for GroundWork Gallery, follows artist Jan Eric Visser. Visser transforms everyday garbage into art — and a new kind of environmental politics.

His assertion that “the story of more should end” comes up hard against the evidence of another excellent film: last night’s BBC documentary The secret life of landfill: a rubbish history. Continue reading “msb ~018 There is no away”