msb ~048 Earthrise, again

Earthrise, again   

Earthrise frame

There’s an overfamiliar-yet-fresh feel to the film Earthrise, documenting the moment humans first photographed Earth appearing behind the moon. Familiar because, raised on images and imaginations of manned space exploration as it happened, I’ve seen this photograph so many times: the small, watery rock teeming with invisible life. Fresh because the film lets us see back through the eyes of three elderly men who were there then, alone: emerging from profound blackness never experienced before, after hours scanning endless, dead grey dust no one had yet walked on – and feeling their eyeballs flood with the only colour to be had anywhere: first sight of distant home. It moved them then, fifty years ago this December, and you can see it move them now, looking back. Continue reading “msb ~048 Earthrise, again”

msb ~047 Climate grief

Climate grief

Climate grief, the emotional reality of global warming

I’m putting final touches to the next ClimateCultures post. Our latest author is writing on the topic of climate grief, and that’s sent me into other reading on the web in search of extra resources to support her post. I came across a graphic story from artist Perrin Ireland where, in a couple of dozen drawings, she captures some of the weight of anxiety, foreboding and, yes, grief that climate activists — even the simply ‘climate aware’ — can feel weighing them down. Reality is hardest for those facing dire times in the here-and-now, of course; but anticipated realities can be hard for the presently comfortable. Ireland finishes with a hint on how to take it head on: together, rather than alone. Continue reading “msb ~047 Climate grief”

msb ~046 “I hear those voices that will not be drowned”

“I hear those voices that will not be drowned”

I hear those voices that will not be drowned

I wanted to pick up where I left off in Evocative Objects, which omitted what I’d ‘brought’ for that ‘Show & Tell’ workshop on objects with personal resonance in our changing climate. Maggi Hambling’s massive, 4-metre high steel seashell, Scallop, stands on Aldeburgh beach in Suffolk, resolutely dividing opinion among locals and visitors. I love it, and wrote about it in ClimateCultures’ A History of the Anthropocene in 50 Objects: “Being in its presence was to experience very direct communication with both environment and history, and an unsettling encounter with the future. Aldeburgh has been disappearing from the map for centuries … the sea moving in by stages.” Where Scallop now stands on shingle, were once homes and streets, lives and livelihoods. Continue reading “msb ~046 “I hear those voices that will not be drowned””

msb ~043 Palliative curation

Palliative curation  

heritage beyond saving

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”

msb ~039 The truth? Dream on

The truth? Dream on

Mapping certainties

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 a 2011 interview ahead of The Islanders he’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”

msb ~038 “Let’s hear it for the vague blur!”

“Let’s hear it for the vague blur!”

Philip K Dick: no vague blur

I consumed Philip Dick’s novels by the handful as a teenager: just part of my science fiction diet. Many of his stories sit well with that other fare, but the shock of A Scanner Darkly, VALIS and The Divine Invasion comes into sharper relief away from the glare of rayguns, hyperdrives and aliens. Dick wrote his experience, not ‘fiction’. In BBC Radio’s Great Lives, actor Michael Sheen discusses Dick’s influence on him: “the moment where the central character begins to discover that maybe the reality he’s taking for granted is not what’s going on, maybe there’s something else going on behind it. That is a very frightening moment.” Continue reading “msb ~038 “Let’s hear it for the vague blur!””

msb ~033 Room for comedy?

Room for comedy?

‘Major Ramifications Ahead’

Googling ‘comedy in climate change’ produced just one result: this 2015 piece from Australian comedian Andrew Denton. ‘Comedy about climate change’ produced over 21,000 – still low, but we already knew there’s not a whole lot of laughs in the reality. But if you get one hit for a search you’d really better read it, and I enjoyed Denton’s article. Continue reading “msb ~033 Room for comedy?”

msb ~032 Mutually Assured Destruction

Mutually Assured Destruction

The 1980s: odd times

Scratching around the loft’s eaves today — on hands and knees, in torchlight, insulation dust and ancient spider webs as I hunted the cable to a dodgy switch in the bathroom below, I wasn’t thinking of the ‘good old days’ of Cold War claustrophobia. But reading just now about the network of nuclear bunkers that crisscrossed the UK between the 1950s and 1990s, I was almost taken in by the nostalgic tone of Kate Ravilious’ piece for Atlas Obscura. She visited abandoned, decayed outposts restored as visitor attractions: small spaces of uncanny normality projected into the most abnormal of all futures: post-thermonuclear meltdown. What they really represented, of course, was the seemingly infinitely extendable insanity of their present: planned-for Mutually Assured Destruction. Continue reading “msb ~032 Mutually Assured Destruction”

msb ~029 Beyond the background wild #1

Beyond the background wild #1

Fox time

Thinking about those moments when I’ve really encountered wild animals, I realise there are very few true moments. Beyond the ‘background wild’, I mean. Yes, crows call from trees as I pass beneath, a deer runs from me in the woods; or I spy a fox just sitting in the sunlit field, watching its world. The spiders and flies and (when there was a cat) fleas in the house. Very few true moments: encountering something wild encountering me, when we break through the veil and see each other across the divide. Continue reading “msb ~029 Beyond the background wild #1”