msb ~035 Ecosystems and Boundary Objects

Ecosystems and Boundary Objects

Boundary Objects

I wasn’t able to attend GroundWork Gallery’s Restore? Conserve? Rewild? but enjoyed ClimateCultures’ review. This exploration of different responses to environmental predicaments included contentious Ecosystem Services approaches. Although it’s common ground that ‘nature’ provides benefits to ‘society’, which government, business and populations undervalue and undermine, controversy arises when we’re asked to translate these into a common value: cash. Continue reading “msb ~035 Ecosystems and Boundary Objects”

msb ~034 Our Plastisphere future?

Our Plastisphere future?

Plastisphere soup

When I was an environmental student in the early 90s, I chose the Mediterranean for a study on transboundary pollution. From memory, oil pollution into that sea worked out at over 17 Exxon Valdez disasters every year. That Alaskan tanker spill was still big news back then, driving a lot of environmental awareness. In contrast, 17 equivalent marine disasters in the Mediterranean, year on year: barely commented on. Of course, oil pollution’s just one facet of what we’re now learning to call the ‘plastisphere’ – the planetary zone that encompasses the discarded petroleum-based products and packaging that’s smothering rivers and swirling in ocean eddies, but also the leaked, spilt and spewed fossil fuels with which we make the plastics and push them around the world. Continue reading “msb ~034 Our Plastisphere future?”

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 ~030 The call to paradox

The call to paradox

Looking home

Though social media’s pitfalls are well known, one of the unexpected pleasures of Twitter is to just have people drop in out of the blue. The latest person to follow @ClimateCultures is independent filmmaker Ross Harrison. When I spotted his article on Medium, I knew I could make today’s mini-post even shorter than usual: “What he said: paradox.” Continue reading “msb ~030 The call to paradox”

msb ~027 Breakthroughs from left field

Breakthroughs from left field

Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell

Wonderful to see Jocelyn Bell Burnell rewarded now; her ground-breaking discovery should have brought her 1974’s Nobel Prize. Her male collaborators received that, though she did the hard work on pulsars: supercondensed end-of-life stars that emit intense radio beams. Radically expanding our understanding of the cosmos, such breakthroughs also helped fuel my own interest; ten years later, I embarked on my astrophysics degree). Now she’s been awarded the Breakthrough Prize for her landmark work. Continue reading “msb ~027 Breakthroughs from left field”

msb ~026 Negative Capability

Negative Capability

John Keats life mask, by Benjamin Robert Haydon (1816)

In Why we believe in magic, novelist Philip Pullman discusses Negative Capability, poet John Keats’ famous recipe for creative approaches to “being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason.” For Pullman, “everything that touches human life is surrounded by a penumbra of associations, memories, echoes and correspondences that extend far into the unknown.” This ‘shadow world’ of human life is where Negative Capability is at play. Continue reading “msb ~026 Negative Capability”

msb ~024 Imagination, the key ingredient

Imagination, the key ingredient

Glad Day, or the Dance of Albion William Blake, 1794

In today’s post on the Finding Blake website I manage, our latest contributing author Kevin Fischer discusses the balance between reason, experience and imagination. Fischer explains that William Blake, radical artist and thinker of the early industrial age, “saw imagination as something profoundly different from fantasy. Contrary to common conception, this imagination is not about make-believe, the creation of the fantastical, nor is it wish-fulfilment. Blake regarded it as an essential part of life, a means of breaking out of the ‘dull round’ of the ‘ratio’ of abstract reason, of the already known, and through to that which is other than and beyond ourselves. It is a means of putting us more in touch with the world, acting as a bridge between the experiencing individual and that which is experienced.” Continue reading “msb ~024 Imagination, the key ingredient”

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 ~021 Tune in, all senses on

Tune in, all senses on

Fox and Woods

How many signals from ‘out there’ do we miss? Our animal senses — already selectively filtered to the exacting ‘survive-and-thrive’ demands of our species-niche within the more-than-human world — have become blunted by the restricted environment we’ve created for ourselves. Can our de-tuned faculties of seeing, hearing, tasting, touching, smelling still reach out beyond the ‘low bandwidth, high volume’ saturation of 70+ years of Great Acceleration? Very probably yes — with practice and attention. Imagination is the greatest technology we can deploy in our favour here, humility its renewable fuel. Continue reading “msb ~021 Tune in, all senses on”