msb ~028 Metamorphosis

Metamorphosis

David Malone, Metamorphosis

No one does interesting, thoughtful science films quite like David Malone. So it’s great to see again 2013’s Metamorphosis: the science of change. There’s the familiar but fascinating science of insects shape-shifting from one form to another — caterpillar to butterfly — or taking on completely new behaviours — locusts switching from loners to swarms. Explanations of tadpoles interpreting environmental cues to trigger their transformation into frogs. And there’s the disturbing, radical story of creatures that are two life forms simultaneously: genetically identical but morphologically distinct, radically different. Continue reading “msb ~028 Metamorphosis”

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 ~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”

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 ~019 Tell it slant

Tell it slant

Florida, by Lauren Groff

In this Edge Effects interview, Lauren Groff offers perspective for any ‘climate fiction’ writer feeling environmental despair even while celebrating nature. “My only talent is as a writer. That’s the only thing I can do. So now I feel as though I am being immoral if I am not addressing it somehow in my work. Of course, I write literary fiction, so it can’t be polemical. If it’s polemical, I’ve failed. I need to do something more scalpel-like, something a little bit sideways.” Continue reading “msb ~019 Tell it slant”

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”