Veteran environmentalist Tom Burke talked about inheritance on the BBC’s One to One this morning. As an unmarried man without children, whose wealth is mostly in the market-boosted value of his London home, he’s thinking about how to hand on something which benefits the natural world and people. “I don’t have a lot of trust in the priority that any government I’ve experienced is putting on preserving biodiversity. I understand that our future security, our future prosperity, depends on doing that. I’m not sure there’s anyone in politics very much who does.”Continue reading “msb ~070 Inheritance”
This old but excellent Discard Studies post demonstrates how, in transforming choices for greater sustainability, our focus should be on infrastructures that produce waste etc or lock in unsustainable consumer choices further down the line. In contrast, our usual focus on making individuals ‘aware’ – despite its merits – depends on many steps, reaches a limited number of people and has to battle against those same infrastructures. “Focusing on these systems for change actually scales up to the scale of the problem.” Continue reading “msb ~063 The problem with awareness”
I’ve mentioned the book Anticipatory history and how I keep returning to it. The term also describes a loose collection of approaches that extend beyond the book’s collection of texts, each a means to open up conversations about change in places we feel deep attachment to, now facing uncertain futures.
To help us bring in new perspectives when we try to make sense of change, ‘anticipatory history’ approaches might include:
Looking imaginatively at past changes and at the contingencies which underlined (and could have undermined) the events and actions that shaped what it is now. Examples are reverse chronologies, timelines, oral histories and artistic representations.
Taking a fresh look at the language we use to talk about the natural and cultural processes at play. The book itself provides one way into this, as a form of glossary arising from a dialogue between specialisms.
Imagining and naming unfamiliar or new ways of living with change that might be adopted in this place.
Just as one project’s website launches — with Waterlight’s successful release into the world this week — another one marks a significant milestone. In six months, Finding Blake has clocked up impressive work, thanks to its driving force, filmmaker James Murray-White. As a mostly behind-the-scenes researcher and editor, I can sometimes overlook the scope of detailed work on the ground — until James sends in his latest project update for me to edit. He’s generated lots of footage of interviews, performance, craftsmanship and locations – even before we get to the recent unveiling of William Blake’s new gravestone at his London burial site.Continue reading “msb ~053 Finding Blake”
It’s a slightly nervous moment when you know that work you’ve just handed over is receiving its public launch, and you’re not there to see the looks on the audience’s faces, to hear their questions coming back! Today’s the day the Waterlight Project team showed off the website we’ve been working on for a couple of months now. I’ve been handling the impressive array of materials — articles, children’s films, poems, oral history transcripts, photos and blog posts — that the team have been generating about their local river and assembling this into an integrated whole, with room to breathe. And it’s a joy to take a step back and look at it all now as a ‘real thing’.Continue reading “msb ~051 Launching Waterlight”
Following Philip Dick, here’s another favourite speculative writer: Christopher Priest. I just finished the Ordnance Survey ‘Britain’s islands’ quiz after rereading Anticipatory History‘s Dream-map entry, so it’s no surprise that Priest’s Dream Archipelago came to mind. There’s a slipperiness to his decades-long project of stories set on these fictional-but-familiar islands on a world (un)like ours. In a2011 interview ahead of The Islandershe’s asked, “Creating the climate, topography and various customs of the islands must have been quite challenging … Did you use a map or some other technique?” Priest: “No map is allowed. Not even to me … Living in the islands, or trying to travel through them, you almost always get lost. No one knows the way, everyone is a bit muddled.”Continue reading “msb ~039 The truth? Dream on”
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”
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”