msb ~075 A feel for the place

A feel for the place 

Geoff Dyer: 'a feel for the place'
Geoff Dyer: ‘a feel for the place’

Am I wrong to want from a programme called ‘Travel: is it worth it?’ some focus on the climate implications of a lifetime travelling to write? I agree that, while we travel with our preconceptions, travelling opens them to disruption; travellers’ accounts shake and reshape my worldview. But what of my prejudice: mass travel wastes the world faster than it makes it? Who can deny there’s a mass of travel writers? Continue reading “msb ~075 A feel for the place”

msb ~073 Picture this

Picture this  

Picture Icelandic elements: a photograph by Gareth Goldthorpe
Iceland elements

As recent passages here — TERRA and The Library of Ice — hint, my reading’s had an Arctic preoccupation recently. I’ve never been north of 60o, so my polar regions are imaginary zones. Although reading is intensely visual, photographs still jolt my every-day, word-fed way of ‘seeing’ the distant world. I’ve dabbled in photography, but my brother does the real thing, and I’m envious of his skills and travels. I’d forgotten his recent Iceland trip, my anticipation of his new images and, checking his website, there they were: freshly discovered places that others’ words had been walking me toward. Continue reading “msb ~073 Picture this”

msb ~062 Connecting with change

Connecting with change 

Looking to pasts and futures…

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.

Continue reading “msb ~062 Connecting with change”

msb ~061 Anthropocene foreshadowings

Anthropocene foreshadowings  

Edge of Darkness: ‘stop the Anthropocene or the teddy bear gets it..’

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”

msb ~059 Only connect

Only connect  

Path: space to connect

Louisa Thomsen Brits’ Path narrates place and personhood through poems that make ‘a short story about reciprocity’. This small book treads lightly through wide scapes of spirit and land; beginning with a quote from Robert Macfarlane: “paths connect. This is their first duty and their chief reason for being.” Perhaps all beings (human/non-human) are also paths: expressions of particularity and process; routes and roots to our essential connections.

I am footfall and track,
trail and trace,
thread of passage and possibility.

Trodden-through with a region-specific ‘word hoard’, Path is both intensely local to those paths Brit walks and universally translatable to our own natural geographies, histories, biographies.

I offer to make sense of the world,
to unravel tangle to intelligible thread,
I am your next natural step,
a silent, sinuous course stretching ahead of you... Continue reading “msb ~059 Only connect”

msb ~058 The Age of Loneliness

The Age of Loneliness 

E O Wilson, The Age of Loneliness

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”

msb ~054 Regard the disregard

Regard the disregard  

Jordan Stephens: No disregard for climate change

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.”

Continue reading “msb ~054 Regard the disregard”

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 ~050 Truth and story

Truth and story  

Truth claims

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”