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”

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 ~016 Naturalist

Naturalist

Naturalist, by Clare Crossman

In an introduction to their collection of ‘environmental’ poetry, the Poetry Foundation claimed that while Romantic poets often wrote about “beautiful rural landscapes as a source of joy, [and so] made nature poetry a popular poetic genre … contemporary poets tend to write about nature more broadly than their predecessors, focusing more on the negative effects of human activity on the planet.” That struck me as a bit odd because although the scope for contemporary poets may well be wider and there is undoubtedly much to be negative about when we witness our environmental crises, a good many poets continue to find joy there, and without necessarily going all ‘Romantic’ on it. Continue reading “msb ~016 Naturalist”

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 ~006 Welcome to the snarge matrix

Welcome to the snarge matrix

Future Remains
Photos: Tim Flach / Cover Design: Isaac Tobin
University of Chicago Press 2018

I’m reading Future Remains: a cabinet of curiosities for the Anthropocene and one entry has collided with my imagination. Gary Kroll’s Snarge is a meditation on the impact – literally and metaphorically – between human and non-human in The Great Acceleration that is our age. 

Snarge, he explains is the term naturalists use for “the avian tissue that’s left over after a bird-strike … a horrible word that onomatopoeically conveys the peculiarly destructive violence of acceleration in the Anthropocene.”

Continue reading “msb ~006 Welcome to the snarge matrix”