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 ~066 Who speaks?

Who speaks?   

Who speaks? Cow sculpture“Hi, Selene. Thanks for this. How about a series on killing vegans, one by one. Ways to trap them? How to interrogate them properly? Expose their hypocrisy? Force-feed them meat?”

A good joke for William Sitwell, senior food editor, to make? Fellow journalist Peter Oborne thought so on BBC’s PM. ‘Vegan educator’ Ed Winters didn’t, but agreed Sitwell needn’t have lost his job; the sacking was “more to do with a business perspective than a moral perspective. Waitrose are worried about their profits dropping.”

Oborn fears that “if minority groups are going to create offence every time somebody jokes about them it’s going to mean we are all on edge … ‘identity politics’, it’s called and it’s suppressing free speech.” Continue reading “msb ~066 Who speaks?”

msb ~064 Beyond the background wild #3

Beyond the background wild #3  

Cat and bird, by Paul Klee
Cat and bird

Thinking about times I’ve really encountered wild animals, I realise there are very few true moments beyond the ‘background wild’

My landlord’s cat, years ago: a frequent hunter, whose humans shrugged and waited until her prey was ready to go under the flower beds. She sauntered in and dumped a large thrush on the kitchen floor. The bird flapped about until I threw a towel over it, waited a moment for its movements (and my heart) to quieten, and scooped towel and bird back into the garden. It sat dazed on the grass and, minutes later, was gone. Continue reading “msb ~064 Beyond the background wild #3”

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 ~045 Future forest, plastic tide

Future forest, plastic tide

Future forest?

So far, I’ve only managed to watch 30 minutes of the BBC’s excellent Drowning in Plastic: impossible to stomach the full hour-and-a-half at once. Footage of shearwaters dying from the plastics their parents unwittingly fed them is, appropriately, gut-wrenching: the animals as oblivious to their plight as we are to our hour-by-hour petrochemical churn that creates it. So – like the other recent BBC 90 minutes on landfill – I’ll be taking this in chunks. But the first viewing leaves me wondering how to respond to another plastics piece today, on a colourful ‘future forest’ made entirely from three tons of recycled plastic waste… Continue reading “msb ~045 Future forest, plastic tide”

msb ~044 The haunting

The haunting   

haunting presence

There are no natural sources of polychlorinated biphenyls only natural sinks, such as Killer Whales and other predators. As such, PCBs are part of the pattern of whorls and loops that make up the human fingerprints we’re learning to understand as the Anthropocene: spooky fingerprints that circulate around us within other living beings. Continue reading “msb ~044 The haunting”

msb ~043 Palliative curation

Palliative curation  

heritage beyond saving

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”