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 ~017 Rewilding the future

Rewilding the future

Rewilding the Future, 18 September 2018

Next month sees Climate Action North East’s conference, Rewilding the Future and I wish I were going. One of our leading naturalists, Chris Packham will be talking to businesses about opportunities for restoring our ecosystems. I worked with Climate North East during my time at the UK Climate Impacts Programme; so I know it will be a successful event. Not just a talking shop, it will feature three ‘mini-hacks’ to come up with perspectives, inspiration and action: Continue reading “msb ~017 Rewilding the future”

msb ~015 Tinker tailor soldier artist

Tinker tailor soldier artist

Alec Guinness’ classic portrayal

Yesterday’s post mentioned embedding artists in public bodies to stimulate cultural responses to climate change. The idea lodged in my mind, mixing with John le Carre’s Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, the classic tale of moles, sleepers and agents I’m rereading … What if climate-aware artists were smuggled into all central and local government, working in the shadows for a safer, fairer, better-connected ecology, economy and society? What art might moles make within policies, positions and forecasts? On the texts’ margins? Hijacking the headings, footnotes and charts? How long would it take for creative subversion to move beyond satire? A diverting daydream … Continue reading “msb ~015 Tinker tailor soldier artist”

msb ~013 On anticipatory history

On anticipatory history

Anticipatory history – edited by Caitlin DeSilvey, Simon Naylor & Colin Sackett

A year ago on ClimateCultures, I discussed a book I’d first encountered in 2011 and have been using ever since. Anticipatory history arose from an interdisciplinary network, exploring possibilities in ‘looking back’ at environmental change to help us ‘look forward’ to what futures we might shape. I was doing my MA Climate Change at the time and, in the network’s latter stages, I was able to contribute some work on ‘storying adaptation’ to their final symposium. Continue reading “msb ~013 On anticipatory history”

msb ~012 Problematic problems: predicaments

Problematic problems: predicaments

The Best of the Archdruid Report, John Michael Greer

I categorised yesterday’s post under Predicaments without actually using the word. Discussing climate change, I’ve favoured ‘predicaments’ over ‘problems’ (even ‘Wicked Problems’) since I read John Michael Greer’s definition. In the Archdruid Report, Greer described the difference: “a problem calls for a solution; the only question is whether one can be found and made to work … A predicament, by contrast, has no solution. Faced with a predicament, people come up with responses. Those responses may succeed, they may fail, or they may fall somewhere in between, but none of them ‘solves’ the predicament, in the sense that none of them makes it go away.” Continue reading “msb ~012 Problematic problems: predicaments”

msb ~011 Systems thinking: questioning boundaries

Systems thinking: questioning boundaries

The Sufi fable of the six blind men and an elephant

I’ve been enjoying this Ecologist post by Daniel Christian Wahl, Six key questions in whole systems thinking. As well as advocating the much-needed shift from “reductionist and quantitative analysis informed by the narrative of separation” to interacting with the world as if it were ‘more than the sum of its parts’, he highlights the danger of elevating system levels ‘above’ that of the detail. It’s in the detail that the diversity (also the devil) lies.

Continue reading “msb ~011 Systems thinking: questioning boundaries”

msb ~010 Back to Tyger School

Back to Tyger School

Catman’s Blakean View – unknown Year 4 artist

It’s a foolhardy non-artist who puts his childish art on public display. The great drawing on the left isn’t mine, but a real work by a real, talented child artist. But I’ve drawn my morning online ‘learning to draw’ exercise for one of three great courses offered by artist-coach Jane Beinart (thoroughly recommended to anyone who thinks they ‘can’t draw’ and wants an unpressured, relaxing way to ignore that inner voice).

This exercise was to ‘recreate’ a picture by a child. I chose one we featured on the Finding Blake site I edit, in Linda Richardson’s post about a school class she took as artist-in-residence. She read Blake’s poem The Tyger. Then they all drew something. Continue reading “msb ~010 Back to Tyger School”

msb ~009 Fitting our oddness into the scheme of things

Fitting our oddness into the scheme of things

Nature Cure, by Richard Mabey; wood engravings by Jonathan Gibbs

A passage from one of my favourite ‘nature books’, Richard Mabey’s Nature Cure. Pondering the ‘opposition’ of nature and culture and the role of human language and imagination:

“It is odd that the gifts of image-making and language are so often seen as the attributes which irrevocably alienate us from nature, are the cause of our fall from grace. We will never know the state of self-consciousness of another species, but it’s a reasonable bet that most don’t use language in the way that we do, or think metaphorically, or meditate their vivid sense-experience through such a complex net of associations and references Continue reading “msb ~009 Fitting our oddness into the scheme of things”

msb ~008 In search of dark skies

In search of dark skies

A wise son makes a glad father – Photograph: Robin Stuart

Eating breakfast today, I was looking at this month’s image in the Astronomy Photographer of the Year calendar: Robin Stuart‘s Highly Commended ‘A Wise Son Makes a Glad Father’. Stuart shot this at Maasai Mara National Reserve, Kenya. ‘The Maasai people are semi-nomadic, using the stars to navigate across the East African plains. My goal was to capture the moment when a father passes his knowledge of the stars down to his son, and how to use the Milky Way and their hut as compositional elements … It was a novel experience, but as the image shows, a fruitful one!’  Continue reading “msb ~008 In search of dark skies”