msb ~093 Quantum worldviews

Quantum worldviews

Schrödinger's cat - quantum worldviews
Schrödinger’s cat

One aspect of ‘reality’ where the mind’s eye leads us astray is quantum worldviews. Quantum physics describes subatomic particles, but it’s contentious whether it goes much larger: microbes, cats, quantum physicists? People often look for analogies that seem to encompass consciousness, ecology and non-Western worldviews. I’ve found these attractive ever since reading Gary Zukav’s Dancing Wu Li Masters, though my physics degree then cautioned me to think inside the box. Part of the appeal? The quantum language — ‘duality’, ‘entanglement’, ‘many-worlds’, ‘non-locality’ — and the science’s radical forms of uncertainty appeal to the abstract mind and visual imagination: the paradox of Schrödinger’s cat-in-the-box, alive-and-dead-at-the-same-time (‘superposition’, not superstition), until the instant the curious observer opens its box and the cat becomes one-or-the-other. But visual imagination cannot go there, and the words don’t mean what they do in everyday talk. Continue reading “msb ~093 Quantum worldviews”

msb ~091 Shaped by stone

Shaped by stone   

Shaped by stone - Tegg's scalping, Image by Tom Baskeyfield
Tegg’s scalping, Tom Baskeyfield

Tom Baskeyfield asks questions about stone that “focus on relationship to place and the stuff of place” and contemplation of “the slow and the local.” In Dark Mountain’s TERRA, he considers both the stones in his hometown, Macclesfield – “a cobble protruding through tarmac .. drystone walls hidden between newer brick buildings .. weathered surfaces of paving slabs underfoot” – and the town’s Welsh slate roofs. The local stone also migrated, in this case from a hillside quarry. Hillside and town were familiar to each other; “like a trickling stream, it is not hard to imagine the flow of stone from this hill shaping the footpaths and roads on its meandering descent, and pooling in the medieval streets in the valley below.” Continue reading “msb ~091 Shaped by stone”

msb ~090 Realigning managed retreat

Realigning managed retreat 

The process of managed retreat in Oakwood Beach, Staten Island. Nathan Kensinger
The process of managed retreat in Oakwood Beach, Staten Island

Burning Worlds’ Amy Brady interviewed filmmaker Nathan Kensinger about Managed Retreat, his documentary looking at “at the uneasy relationship between humans and nature in New York City” through neighbourhoods that are pulling back from the waterfront. Following Hurricane Sandy, residents “asked the government to buy their houses, so they could move to somewhere safer. Their homes are now being demolished and turned back into wetlands.”

Kensinger says that few New Yorkers know “their neighbors are tearing down their own homes, to escape from sea level rise. I’m hoping the film will give audiences a better picture of what may be in store…” Continue reading “msb ~090 Realigning managed retreat”

msb ~089 Wasteland to wild land

Wasteland to wild land

wild land, self-willed land, waste land
rewilding at work

As the pre-plastics past becomes more remote, is it harder to imagine post-plastics futures? That’s the thought that struck me while catching up on some rewilding reading. The appropriately named Isabella Tree calls out our modern distaste for ‘wasteland’ in her concise critique of ‘managed reforestation’ plans for England’s new Northern Forest. In particular, our “demonisation of thorny scrub” means that we can only imagine forest regeneration as a task for humans armed with spades and plastic tree defenders. Continue reading “msb ~089 Wasteland to wild land”

msb ~086 Rooted, again

Rooted, again  

Rooted, Juhi Saklani
Rooted, Juhi Saklani

Another rich vein of discovery in Dark Mountain’s new collection, TERRA: Rooted is Juhi Saklani’s short essay on the heritage and fate of India’s trees. In response to displacement and distress at relocating deep into Delhi’s congestion after years living in its leafier areas, “I started photographing trees. It was the most meditative and ‘at home’ I felt in my unsettled life.” Her images accompany the text, revealing the deeply textured interplay of living tree and decaying stonework, of (as this small blog keeps returning to) nature-and-culture. Continue reading “msb ~086 Rooted, again”

msb ~084 Hurricane bells

Hurricane bells  

Hurricane Bells, by Peter Shenai
Hurricane Bells, by Peter Shenai

I just posted this moving radio programme to ClimateCultures’ Views from Elsewhere, but there’s more to explore in artist Peter Shenai’s hurricane bells and stories of Hurricane Katrina. Cast in shapes reflecting Katrina’s evolving wind speed, they bring dissonant and consonant voices that turn data into art: nature, recast by human climate disruption, in turn, reshapes human artefacts: nature-cultures powerfully entwined. Continue reading “msb ~084 Hurricane bells”

msb ~081 Out of range

Out of range   

Out of range: poems by Nick Drake
‘Out of Range’, by Nick Drake

Nick Drake’s powerful ClimateCultures post offers elegant object lessons in our Anthropocene derangement.

A light bulb looks back to our before (“the guttering candle, and the dish of oil / to thread the eye of a needle, read / or cast shadows on the walls”) and its after (“when with a quiet tick / the luminous spell of our filament broke / you cast us off; and now you wish / a light perpetual and free”), advising us in our bright exile: remember the banished constellations, “the antiquated powers of the moon.” Continue reading “msb ~081 Out of range”

msb ~080 Nature shock

Nature shock  

nature shock: wild applesJourneying further into Dark Mountain’s new anthology, TERRA, I reach Sara Hudston’s wonderful, powerful parable, Wild Apples. “Francis hated animals.” It’s not just animals. Francis — named ironically for that Assisi guy, of course — hates all evidence of the non-human, natural world. An ex-countryside refugee — “He’d escaped as soon as he could to the city where women liked to be looked at and men could talk intelligently of important matters” — he’s forced back into rural exile, singled out for unidentified duties by an unnamed bureaucracy with no apparent purpose. Continue reading “msb ~080 Nature shock”

msb ~079 The ghost of a flea?

The ghost of a flea?  

William Blake's 'The ghost of a flea'
William Blake’s ‘The ghost of a flea’

Of all the images William Blake produced, the strangest and most appealing to me is The Ghost of a Flea (1820). It’s on display at Tate Britain: a small, dark, oddly menacing object, tempera and gold on wood. As this short Atlas Obscura article recalls, Blake claimed the ‘ghost’ itself came to him in one of his visions and “posed for him as he sketched it. He was able to ‘communicate’ with the monstrous being, who revealed that all fleas were inhabited by the souls of men who were ‘by nature bloodthirsty to excess.'” Continue reading “msb ~079 The ghost of a flea?”

msb ~072 “We will grieve the glacier”

“We will grieve the glacier”  

Andri Snær Magnason: grieve the glacier
Andri Snær Magnason

In his beautiful, stark contribution to Dark Mountain’s new collection, TERRA, Andri Snær Magnason takes us from his family’s Iceland home — “one of the harshest homesteads in Europe … you can only see the next house with binoculars” — into northlands of moss-covered lava fields and geothermal zones. Here, “it is like a window or a wound on the surface, you can feel the power that moves continents and you can feel the hostility.” Continue reading “msb ~072 “We will grieve the glacier””