Some stories bear repeating. This one’s a nightmarish scenario worthy of the direst Sci-Fi blockbuster: a planet’s species controlled from birth in machine technologies, enduring rapid growth beyond natural limits, shunted to mass-engineered death for meat harvesting. Flash forward to a distant future: the hidden enslavers have gone; only countless bones, in vast graves scattered across the planet, tell that the enslaved creatures were ever there. Fantasy? Maybe not so much — if you’re one of the 23 billion chickens alive at this moment. ‘Dominant species’ might be a stretch, but maybe in the eyes of the mythical alien archaeologists – landing on Earth after humans have gone, shaking tentacled heads at the wonders in the rocks – chicken bones will dominate their reconstructions of what ‘on Earth’ went on here.Continue reading “msb ~097 Reading the bones”
Titling your Physics World post ‘This article is based on fictional events’ does make it stand out. And David Boyt describes an event I’d wish I’d been to; as part of London Mathematical Laboratory’s Science on Screen series, statistical physicist Valerio Lucarini discussed how Lars von Trier’s 2011 Melancholia “inspired in him a new way of thinking and provided the missing piece of the puzzle for his research.”Continue reading “msb ~085 On edge and in-between”
Early on in the introduction, she describes her day job at a manuscript dealer prior to her artist’s residency in Greenland – a formative experience for the book. A photographer bearing a box of transparencies of an abandoned and ruined family house invited Nancy to write for the exhibition. “How do you write about that kind of loss?” Nancy wondered and found herself researching the science of photography as a way in.Continue reading “msb ~069 Loss, light and ice”
When I was looking into boundaries between ‘experts’ and ‘public’ on local coastal change, I explored ways to classify expertise. One typology, proposed by Michael Carolan, suggests that most of us can usually contribute abstract (e.g. scientific) or practical (e.g. local) knowledge. He described this as ‘contributory expertise’, but also identified an additional category: ‘interactional expertise’. Individuals use this to help bring together those with different forms of knowledge: essential when the issues are contentious and the debate can be confrontational.Continue reading “msb ~067 Expertise”
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.
At The Conversation, Gareth Loudon argues for education for greater creativity as a bridge between silos of knowledge. This includes that famous ‘two cultures’ gap identified by CP Snow decades ago: the separation of sciences and humanities. Specialisation, of course, involves people becoming more expert in smaller areas (that unkind old joke: you learn more and more about less and less until you end up knowing everything about nothing). The separation is then reinforced in how we’re taught, how we expect the world to work and be managed.Continue reading “msb ~057 Creativity: a bright idea”
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”
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”