Wednesday, 15 December 2010

four podcasts on culture and climate change now online


A new series of four podcasts on Culture and Climate Change is now online at iTunes U. The discussions bring together artists, writers, film-makers, scientists, academics and journalists with a comedian, a choreographer, a campaigner, and an entrepreneur.

The Mediating Change series is hosted by Quentin Cooper and contributors include Tim Smit, Marcus Brigstocke, Siobhan Davies (see pic), Roger Harrabin, Joe Smith and two of the Ashden Directory's editors, Wallace Heim and Robert Butler.

More details here.

The producer, Vicky Long, says:

Cultural activity in this area is gathering real momentum, with 'Greenland' opening at the National Theatre and 'The Heretic' opening at the Royal Court early next year. We feel it’s vital a critical framework is developed alongside this emerging work.

This series represents a first sustained exploration of culture and climate change in a publicly-available broadcast-quality format.


See also: Tipping Point launches first of four discussions
Tim Smit and Marcus Brigstocke join debate on popular culture and climate change

photo: from Endangered Species (2008), choreography by Siobhan Davies.
photo credit: Vicky Long more ...

what students are not protesting about

I didn't see one global warming placard in Parliament Square the other day. Protesting youth has other things on its mind.

Peter Preston more ...

Saturday, 11 December 2010

"we are not here to convert nature into a commodity"

We came to Cancún to save nature, forests, planet Earth. We are not here to convert nature into a commodity. We have not come here to revitalise capitalism with carbon markets.

Evo Morales, President of Bolivia

Grist: Bolivia, the Saudi Arabia of Obstruction more ...

Friday, 10 December 2010

sustainable is not a metaphor

We are the first people in history to live so surrounded by images that attempt to incite our desires, our appetites, our sense of a lack within ourselves; a lack which will be assuaged, an ache which will go away, if we can lay our hands only on that last, perfect, necessary, piece of stuff.

A system in which we all continually want more is not sustainable at our current levels of projected growth. When I say not sustainable, by the way, I'm not using a metaphor – "sustainable" is one of those words which is being hollowed out by overuse. I mean that we will run out of the resources to live like this.


John Lanchester more ...

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

new york meets norway

Funny and poignant eco-fable from New York theatre collective Wakka Wakka and Nordland Visual Theatre from Stamsund, Norway. more ...

Monday, 6 December 2010

the kindness of interviewers

An interview with Jonathan Franzen.

Q. There has been an enormous amount of response to Freedom, but almost no response to the environmental themes. Why?

A. I don't know why. Maybe interviewers are trying to do me a kindness and not scare away readers by making the book sound too environmental. more ...

Sunday, 5 December 2010

beavering away

Playwright Samantha Ellis welcomes the news that 20 beavers are on the loose in Scotland. more ...

the now-now show

Marcus Brigstocke returns to The Now Show (19 mins in) to explain to those (who prefer to think otherwise) that just because it's been snowing in Britain, it doesn't mean that global temperatures haven't been rising elsewhere. more ...

Thursday, 2 December 2010

don't write about sustainability, write about yourself

"If you improve the world, you have to start with yourself. Our idea was sustainability is always boring, but what if it's not about making the world sustainable, but making yourself sustainable? Then you become the protagonist in your own story, and you write about the obstacles in your way to becoming sustainable."

Dutch journalist, Joris Luyendijk, on writing a weekly column about electric cars. more ...

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

the birdwatcher's idea of heaven

Half a billion birds fly over Israel during the autumn migration.

A leading Israeli ornithologist tells the Today programme that Israel is at the junction of three continents: from the political point of view, it's a disaster (the airspace is crowded enough); from the ornithological point of view, it's heaven. more ...

Monday, 29 November 2010

links

Roger Harrabin on what went wrong in Copenhagen

Margaret Atwood on how the world is this big, and we can't make it any bigger

Professor David Livingstone on cultures of climate

Ursula Goodenough on congressmen who quote the Bible on climate change

Joris Luyendijk on how to talk about sustainability more ...

from writer to activist

New York Times columnist David Brooks contrasts Tolstoy, the writer, with Tolstoy, the activist. What changed, Brooks argues, was Tolstoy's ability to see. more ...

Friday, 26 November 2010

neuro narratives

State-of-the-art neuro-imaging and cognitive neuropsychology both uphold the idea that we create our "selves" through narrative. What happens when new narratives meet old brains? (Ht: A&L) more ...

leading climate blogger says it's time to modernise ibsen

In his Thanksgiving post, Joe Romm at ClimateProgress gives thanks for climate scientists.

They are like the hero of Henrik Ibsen’s classic 'An Enemy of the People' — which, come to think of it, someone should modernize into a climate science parable.

See also: Ibsen's Wild Duck first play to put a laboratory animal onstage. more ...

Thursday, 18 November 2010

national theatre to stage documentary drama about climate change

The latest National Theatre press release says:

GREENLAND, a new play about uncertainty, confusion and the future of everything, by Moira Buffini, Matt Charman, Penelope Skinner and Jack Thorne, will open in the Lyttelton Theatre on 1 February. NT associate directors Bijan Sheibani and Ben Power are the director and dramaturg respectively; the production will be designed by Bunny Christie, with lighting by Jon Clark, video design by Finn Ross, sound and music by Dan Jones, and movement by Aline David. The cast includes Michael Gould, Isabella Laughland, Amanda Lawrence, Tunji Lucas, Lyndsey Marshal, Peter McDonald and Rhys Rusbatch.


Seeking to understand a subject of great complexity, the National Theatre has asked four of the most distinct and exciting playwrights in British theatre to collaborate on a new piece of documentary theatre. The team has spent six months interviewing key individuals from the worlds of science, politics, business and philosophy in an effort to understand our changing relationship with the planet.


GREENLAND combines the factual and the theatrical as several separate but connected narratives collide to form a provocative response to the most urgent questions of our time.


(GREENLAND, Lyttelton Theatre, previews from 25 January, press night 1 February, booking until 2 April, further dates to be announced.) more ...

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

how he saw war

When propaganda meets art: Picasso's biographer, the art critic John Richardson, describes some of Picasso's works on peace as sentimental, kitsch, crude, simplistic and out-of-date. But not all.

'Jeux de Pages' depicts medieval page boys - their absurdly helmeted leader in spiky armor on a comically caparisoned horse - trying to look warlike. That was how he saw war, Picasso told a group of friends in March 1959: medieval children playing nasty, medieval games. more ...

Monday, 15 November 2010

it's more than venice that's in peril


John F. Kennedy famously caught the spirit of the age in 1963 when he said, “Ich bin ein Berliner.”

Now may be the moment for Barack Obama to announce, “Sono un Veneziano.”

For we are all Venetians now. And not just the inhabitants of the coastal mega-cities—Mumbai, Lagos, Tokyo or Buenos Aires—or those in Bangladesh or on the Pacific islands of Kiribati or Tuvalu. I also mean the other diners at my local Pizza Express in west London.

If you look it up on the map the Environment Agency has devised, you will see it is in one of the areas most vulnerable to flooding. Water follows the natural contours of the land: go five miles farther east, and it’s not looking good for the Pizza Expresses closest to the homes of the Queen and the prime minister.


At Pizza Express you can order a pizza for 'Venice in Peril'. My Going Green column in IL argues we need a new pizza on the menu for the rest of us. more ...

Friday, 12 November 2010

dumbing down

Kenneth Brower profiles the great physicist, Freeman Dyson (left), 'perhaps our most prominent global-warming skeptic'.

The question that phrases itself now, in the minds of many, is: how could someone as smart as Freeman Dyson be so dumb?

Brower surveys a number of theories from 'contrariness' and 'he doesn't really mean it' to 'educated fool' and 'old age'. The answer, Brower concludes, lies in Dyson's unshakeable faith in the technological fix.

The notion that science will save us is the chimera that allows the present generation to consume all the resources it wants, as if no generations will follow.

(H-t. AL) more ...

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

brain drain

The Daily Dish reports that in good universities across the United States, students flee the Republican Party. The better the university, it appears, "the more drastic the trend".

Meanwhile, Republican climate deniers vie to run House Energy Committee more ...

Monday, 8 November 2010

the little-me-against-the-world meme

The enduring ‘heretic’ meme – the plucky iconoclastic individual whose ideas are being repressed by the establishment – is never very far below the surface in almost all high-impact scientific profiles.

Gavin Schmidt on science, narrative and heresy
more ...

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

tectonic shifts in public attitudes

"It may seem far-fetched to compare the resistance to action on climate change to the slow progress toward the abolition of slavery or the recognition of the fatal effects of smoking, but a University of Michigan researcher says in a new paper that it will take just such a tectonic shift in public attitudes for society to begin to accept the reality of global warming and do something about it."

(Hat-tip: CK) more ...

Sunday, 31 October 2010

hockney turns pictures into a performance

The primary focus of this blog, and the website it's attached to, is environmentalism and the performing arts. That has largely excluded painting because a painting isn't a performance: you don't watch it unfold. Or didn't.

But David Hockney's been playing around with his iPad and has discovered it can replay every mark he makes.

'I've realised, I can do performances.' more ...

alpha email

This blog has just started subscribing to Daily Climate Links, a daily email from Skeptical Science, John Cook's invaluable blog that gets skeptical (OK, I'll spell it with a 'k') with climate skeptics.

Read ClimateSight on some cool developments. more ...

the rally for sanity

'The battle for the American mind right now is between talk show hosts and comedians,' said a 26-year-old doctoral student from Richmond, Va. “I choose the comedians.” (Daily Dish more ...

Friday, 29 October 2010

safely graze

The old Nationwide title sequence featured a delightful set of cooling towers, with sheep grazing in the foreground.  more ...

Thursday, 28 October 2010

those were the days

“The process is a simple one. Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has the effect of a pane of glass in a greenhouse".

The American senator, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, in 1969, a year after he joined Richard Nixon's White House staff. (New Yorker) more ...

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

no job for an arts graduate

The New Statesman interviews best-selling author Bill Bryson:

You've described yourself as a "cheerleader for science". Does it need cheerleading?

Science has been quite embattled. It's the most important thing there is. An arts graduate is not going to fix global warming. more ...

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

it's the story, stupid

The story of the drug cartels in Mexico is too complex for mainstream journalism. The story of the Tea Party works fine.

"What little we know cannot be explained in print media’s standard 800 words or less (or broadcast’s two minutes or under). And the story, like the murders, is endlessly repetitive and confusing ... The absence of understanding of these surface narratives is what keeps the story static, and readers feeling impotent."

Alma Guillermoprieto, 'The Murderers of Mexico'

"When attention is scarce and there are many choices, media costs something other than money. It costs interesting. If you are angry or remarkable or an outlier, you're interesting, and your idea can spread ... Thus, as media moves from TV-driven to attention-driven, we're going to see more outliers, more renegades and more angry people driving agendas and getting elected."

Seth Godin, 'How Media changes Politics' more ...

know hope

I love a bicycle and I haven't been without at least one since I was three years old ... The bicycle might just be the greatest of all inventions

James May, Top Gear presenter
more ...

Saturday, 23 October 2010

you can't call them environmentalists

"Planetarians", "decarbonists", "sustainablists", "transitionalists", "green patriots" ... David Roberts at Grist wants a new name to describe a significant group of people who support clean energy and action on climate change, but don't want to be called environmentalists.

As he sees it,

there are plenty of people who understand climate change and support clean energy but do not share the rest of the ideological and sociocultural commitments that define environmentalism as historically understood in the U.S.

He's come up with another term: "climate hawks".

(See the seven pages of comments that follow.)

[Crosspost] more ...

Friday, 22 October 2010

from prometheus to home help

The British Museum's director, Neil MacGregor (left), ends his History of the World with a solar-powered lantern.

"solar energy is a dream of the future that echoes the oldest and most universal of human myths, that of the life-giving sun. You could see our solar-powered lamp as an echo of this myth - the heroic fire-stealing Prometheus reduced to the humble role of home help."

See after today's 99th object, one more to go and solar lantern brings enlightenment more ...

Thursday, 21 October 2010

after today's 99th object, one more to go

The 96th object in A History of the World in a 100 Objects was a Russian Revolutionary plate. The 97th object was a David Hockney print showing two men in bed. The 98th object was the Throne of Weapons made out of guns. The 99th object was a credit card.

Tomorrow at 9.45am, and then again at 7.45pm, the British Museum's director Neil MacGregor will discuss the 100th object, the solar-powered lantern, and the future of renewable, non-polluting energy that has the potential to liberate the developing world.

(Crosspost with aab) more ...

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

from lakes to melting glaciers

Here we have the complex paradox which lies at the heart of the Cape Farewell project; we cannot look on melting glaciers as the Lakeland poets looked on the Lakes.

Theatre director Deborah Warner on her Cape Farewell trip. more ...

just don't mention al gore

In Kansas, Climate Skeptics Embrace Cleaner Energy (Ht: DotEarth)

See also: accentuate the positive more ...

not right, and not conservative

Bill McKibben on why climate-change contrarians are profoundly anti-conservative. more ...

Monday, 18 October 2010

solar lantern brings enlightenment

Last week Neil MacGregor, director of the British Museum, chose the solar-powered lamp, as the 100th Object in A History of The World in 100 Objects. In choosing the solar lamp, he explained, he was also reflecting the metaphorical power of light.

The idea of the series was about enlightenment, because when this technology develops to allow smartphone access from this kind of source of power, it will mean that everybody will be able to access the knowledge of the world.
more ...

Friday, 15 October 2010

easy to get lost

Freddy Johansen's photo from Madagascar posted on flikr
Water covers 70% of the Earth's surface. Since it's Blog Action Day - and the topic is water - co-editor Kellie Gutman gives a shout-out to the whale that has probably seen the most of it.

Thanks to a photo posted on flickr, scientists were able to identify a female humpbacked whale, pictured in a photo off the coast of Madagascar, as the same whale seen in breeding grounds off Brazil. The migration of 6,100 miles is almost twice the distance humpbacked whales normally migrate. It's thought the whale may have simply lost her way.

See also Whale travels quarter of the way round world to find mate
Our complete guide to whales onstage
Tune into live whale song network
Update: Moby Dick is the Classic Serial on Radio 4, adapted by Stef Penney, author of The Tenderness of Wolves (18/10/10) more ...

Thursday, 14 October 2010

is "junk" a celebration or a critique of waste?

In this guest post, Ashden Directory co-editor, Wallace Heim, questions the way "junk" is employed in the performing arts.

‘Junkitecture’ is a clever term, combining design and ‘waste’. But what if the materials used for buildings, for sets, for props, for puppets, for the vehicles and floats of parades, were thought of simply as ‘materials’? Of course, they would have a special value or feel if they had been used for something else. But to call them ‘junk’ is to share the attitude that separates the 'new' from what we think of as 'waste'. What is happening with the use of materials in the arts that have a history can often be more of  a valorisation of consumerism and excess, a celebration of trash as ‘trash’ or salvage, than a critique of waste or an affirmation of recycling.

What if no special claims could be made for using reclaimed or recycled materials because it was commonplace? Then, what would be remarked on would be the design, the space or object itself, and the qualities that the materials brought to it.

The Jellyfish Theatre building was enchanting for its design and for its transiency, a theatre space in a symbolic shape, assembled from what was to hand, played in, and then dispersed, the theatre becoming again the material that it was, maybe to be used again, having acquired another layer of history. more ...

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

WWF and others say "culture" has "central importance"

This blog follows on from yesterday's one not bothering to argue with people who don't want to agree with you, better to get on with doing something you like.

Mark Twain understood this kind of persuasion when Tom Sawyer got Huck Finn to help him paint the fence. Aesop also understood it (see pic) with the fable of the wind and the sun, where the heat of the sun succeeds where the force of the wind fails.

In his Guardian column yesterday George Monbiot praises Tom Crompton's Common Cause (pdf) as 'the most interesting report I have read this year'. The report shows (he says) that progressives have been suckers for a myth of human cognition that Crompton "labels the enlightenment model".

Psychological experiments have shown that humans don't behave entirely rationally, they behave in relation to extrinsic or intrinsic values. We hang onto stuff that confirms who we are. We frame discussions in terms of values. And that - of course - is cultural.

For this report, WWF-UK partnered with Climate Outreach and Information Network (COIN), Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), Friends of the Earth (FOE) and Oxfam. None of these is primarily an arts organisation. And yet, the aim was:

to explore the central importance of cultural values in underpinning concern about the issues upon which we each work.

To put this in six simple words, climate change is a cultural issue. Or, to add one more word, the environmental crisis is an aesthetic crisis. more ...

Monday, 11 October 2010

accentuate the positive

When it comes to popular culture and climate change, it emerged clearly from today's debate in Cornwall, the key idea is to break the subject of climate change down into its constituent elements. Otherwise it's too big, too divisive, and doesn't give people any sense of personal agency.

This closely echoed Mike Hulme's point last year that climate change was a Rubik cube that needed to be disassembled. Too much had become caught up in it.

The contributors at the discussion were Tim Smit, founder of the Eden Project, the comedian Marcus Brigstocke, Joe Smith, senior lecturer in Geography at the OU, and Vicky Long, arts producer, and formerly project director at Cape Farewell. The discussion was chaired by Quentin Cooper, presenter of Radio 4’s Material World.

The best way forward was to get stuck into projects you believe in, make them work, and lead by example. Tim Smit gave the example of Rebecca Hoskings and the successful campaign to ban plastic bags in Modbury, South Devon.

The discussion was recorded, appropriately enough, in a biomeme at the Eden Project.
Photo: copyright Pam Brophy, Creative commons more ...

Sunday, 10 October 2010

tim smit and marcus brigstocke join debate on popular culture and climate change

This blogger won't (unfortunately) be blogging about the 350.orgers at the 10:10:10 day at the Arcola as he's travelling to Cornwall for the second of four conversations on Mediating Change. It takes place tomorrow at the Eden Project.

The contributors this time are Tim Smit, founder of the Eden Project, the comedian Marcus Brigstocke, Joe Smith, senior lecturer in Geography at the OU, and Vicky Long, arts producer, and formerly project director at Cape Farewell. The discussion is chaired by Quentin Cooper, presenter of Radio 4’s Material World.

The first panel discussed the history of cultural responses to climate change. This second discussion is Publics: Popular Culture and Climate Change. The discussion will look:

at popular culture and mass media in relation to climate change, and consider the origin of this engagement, the outcomes, and the all-too-frequent absence of concern.

See also: TippingPoint launches first of four discussions and game-changer. The talks will be available soon on iTunesU. more ...

Saturday, 9 October 2010

mabey praises durer, shakespeare and clare

In today’s Guardian, the poet Andrew Motion reviews Richard Mabey’s new book Weeds. In Mabey’s book, Motion writes, the heroes are those who see beauty in the ignored and overlooked:

Dürer's Large Piece of Turf (1503), for instance, because it gives beetling attention to plantains, dandelions, burnet-saxifrage; Shakespeare for his celebration of everyday plants in A Midsummer Night's Dream; and John Clare for the care he lavishes on everything at ground level, including the

"simple small forget-me-not
Eyed wi a pin's head yellow dot
I' the middle of its tender blue".


See our 'flowers on stage' series: flowers on stage: the poppy, flowers on stage: the daffodil, flowers on stage: the lotus, flowers on stage: the lungwort; flowers on stage: ‘breath of life’, flowers on stage: kudzu and flowers on stage: snake's head fritillaries Follow-up comment: flowers and the curve of the eye See also: Mabey says "I'm a great believer in play"

pic: Dürer's Large Piece of Turf more ...

Thursday, 7 October 2010

how to make a theatre out of junk

Behind the scenes look at the construction of Oikos, Britain's "first recycled theatre", a 120-seat work of 'junkitecture' in south London.

See also  Most important conference you'll go toNew venue, new plays, old materialsDon't pour concrete and don't weld anything and Greenest theatre in Montreal more ...

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

$700,000 for climate change play

The National Science Foundation has awarded a $700,000 grant to the Civilians, a New York theater company, to finance the production of a show about climate change. 

The Great Immensity, with a book by Steven Cosson (“This Beautiful City”) and music and lyrics by Michael Friedman (“Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson”), tells the story of Polly, a photojournalist who disappears while working in the rain forests of Panama.

(Hat-tip: Tipping Point) more ...

Monday, 4 October 2010

new website drives sustainable actions

We welcome the website Sustainable Ability, a new arts project, that aims:

to help drive forward transformative responses to resource scarcity and climate change from individuals and organisations working in the arts.

It is intended as another point of connection in the growing network of support designed to help the UK’s cultural and creative sector.


Sustainable Ability has just launched a report by Hilary Jennings and Lucy Neal on the cultural sector's response to climate change, along with a Google map of activities, the findings of a survey, and a useful list of additional resources.

Pic: Lyttelton Flytower by Ackroyd and Harvey

(Crosspost from AAB) more ...

Friday, 1 October 2010

can you leave the water in the rivers?

The Booker prize-winning novelist Arundhati Roy (leftconcludes her trenchant essay about the crisis in modern India by suggesting the first step towards re-imagining "a world gone terribly wrong" would be to stop the annihilation of those who imagine a life that's outside capitalism and communism. This kind of imagination has:

an altogether different understanding of what constitutes happiness and fulfillment. To gain this philosophical space, it is necessary to concede some physical space for the survival of those who may look like the keepers of our past, but who may really be the guides to our future. To do this, we have to ask our rulers: Can you leave the water in the rivers? The trees in the forest? Can you leave the bauxite in the mountain? If they say cannot, then perhaps they should stop preaching morality to the victims of their wars.


Meanwhile this week's Economist features India's surprising economic miracle. more ...

Thursday, 30 September 2010

type in water

Following yesterday's announcement that the topic for Blog Action Day on October 15 was 'water', here - as a starter - is the list of companies, plays and productions on our directory database that pops up when you type in 'water'. more ...

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

blogging about the new oil

This blog is one of more than 900 that have signed up to join Blog Action Day.

On October 15 each blog will write about 'water'. Last year the topic was 'climate change' - 13,606 bloggers from 156 countries joined in the conversation.

Mary Robinson has said 'water is the oil of the 21st century, and waste is the gold.' So the topic, really, is the new oil. more ...

Monday, 27 September 2010

new views on climate change

The National Theatre's New Views programme is entering its fourth year. From 9 October, 96 young people, three from each of the 32 London boroughs, will meet up with NT staff who they will track across the rest of the academic year. This year they will be following

the investigations, research and development of NT writers creating a new production which explores climate change and humanity's role in creating, avoiding or ameliorating it.  more ...

Sunday, 26 September 2010

where do your interests end?

After Hillary Clinton's announcement last week of $50 million for clean cookstoves, one New York Times reader wrote on the Dot Earth blog (comment 6)that he didn't think Americans had a moral obligation towards people living in other countries.

Dot Earth's Andrew Revkin replied

This is one of the fundamental issues of our time: Figuring out where borders of various kinds end. When your pants are made in Bangladesh, your cellphone components require minerals from gorilla habitat in Congo, your next deadly flu threat comes from a poultry/pig farm in China and your (and China’s) emissions (slowly) influence the climate and coastal future around the world, where do your interests — and responsibilities — end?
more ...

Friday, 24 September 2010

join 350.orgers for 10:10:10 at the arcola

more ...

Thursday, 23 September 2010

autumn moon

September's full moon arrived on the same night as the autumnal equinox. This occurred at 03.09 this morning, marking the official start of autumn in the Northern Hemisphere, as well as the start of spring in the South Hemisphere.

The last time a full moon occurred on the same night as the autumn equinox was 23 September 1991. It won't happen again until 2029.

All that, and - as if on cue- the weather outside this blogger's window went overnight from sunshine to persistent rain. more ...

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

secret's out

Steve Waters, who wrote the first good play about climate change, has a new book out: The Secret Life of Plays. more ...

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

is the pentagon caught up in far-left groupthink?

DougCooper points out, in a Guardian comments thread, that:

Yes, climate change is a swindle perpetrated by such far-left groupthinkers as: international insurance and reinsurance companies (eg, and eg); NASAthe Pentagon. more ...

Monday, 20 September 2010

climate change art

In August 1883 the painter Edvard Munch witnessed an unusual blood-red sunset over Oslo. Shaken up by it, he wrote in his diary that he 'felt a great, unending scream piercing through nature'. The incident inspired him to create his most famous work, The Scream.

The sunset he saw that evening followed the eruption of Krakatoa off the coast of Java.
more ...

nonetheless ...

The legend is that when Galileo was forced to recant in front of the Inquisition in 1633 that the earth moves round the sun, he was heard to mutter eppur si muove or 'nonetheless, it moves'.

After a year in which climate scientists have been subjected to a tsunami of ignorant comment and abuse, it's worth recalling RealClimate's updated version of that line, eppure si riscalda, or 'and yet it still warms', which was accompanied by a link to this stark NASA graph above.

See Galileo links at Ashden Directory, and the Telegraph. more ...

summing up

The Daily Show's Jon Stewart explains the thinking behind his Million Moderate March, a rally in Washington, D.C., on October 30th that is meant to 'restore sanity' to public discourse in the USA

If we had to sum up the political view of our participants in a single sentence... we couldn't. That's sort of the point.

(ht: A&L) more ...

Friday, 17 September 2010

the labels don't fit

In her new blog Climate Etc., the American climatologist Judith Curry says she's through with labels. They don't help. In the last four months she's been called them all. So out with warmist, lukewarmist, sceptic, confusionist and denier. more ...

Thursday, 16 September 2010

beyond a single currency

The World Bank's new clean energy czar Daniel Kammen tells the New York Times that one big hurdle is getting economists to recognise the value of externalities.

Our economy is fixated on one metric, money ... we need to put a value on the quality of our energy systems, the ability to preserve nature, to preserve the oceans and the rivers.

I sort of liken this to the invention of money. We now need to [move] beyond our single currency value to one where the social and environmental parts of the story are equally represented. That’s the next challenge.
more ...

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

woody smells the coffee

When Woody Allen filmed a scene with Carla Bruni for his new movie Midnight in Paris, it didn't take 10 takes, and her husband showed up and was delighted. The press said Bruni had needed more than 30 takes and Sarkozy was furious. Allen told the New York Times:

the fabrications were so wild and so completely fake, and I wondered to myself, Is this what happens with Afghanistan and the economy and matters of real significance?

Well, with climate change ... YES. more ...

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

the soundbite war

The running schedule for today's edition of the Today programme includes these two items:

0823
The Chilcot Inquiry into the 2003 Iraq war will meet at Tidworth Garrison in Wiltshire today to hear the views of British veterans of the conflict. Veterans Colonel Tim Collins and Patrick Hennessy debate whether war was justified.
0827
The sports news with Garry Richardson.


This very balanced, very BBC approach, where two people are given very little time to wrangle over something that's very complex, has been an especially unhelpful aspect of its coverage of climate change. more ...

Monday, 13 September 2010

where to see a four degree world

At the first afternoon of the Tipping Point conference, Tom Burke gave a short briefing. In essence, he said (using Hadley figures) that we were now heading for a four degree world. If we wanted to know what a four degree world was like, he said, look at Pakistan.

Not everyone wants to. The University of Michigan history professor Juan Cole writes that the US press has completely failed to cover the events in Pakistan: The Great Pakistani Deluge Never Happened Don’t Tune In, It’s Not Important.

The great Pakistani deluge did not exist, it seems, because it was not on television, would not have delivered audiences to products, and was not all about us.

ClimateProgress runs the front covers of this week's Time magazine as it appears in the Europe, Asia, and South Pacific editions. All carry the story of the Pakistan floods (headlined 'Pakistan's Despair').

The American edition has a front cover story about US education, headlined 'What makes a school great?' (Well, learning about the world around you might be one answer.) more ...

Sunday, 12 September 2010

the game-changer

What lies behind these four discussions on culture and climate change (the first of which takes place this morning) is the idea that there is something unique about climate change, and the artistic responses that it calls for.

The likely impacts of climate change present a challenge - philosophical and cultural - to some of the most basic assumptions about who we are and what kind of civilisation we want. In doing so, it repositions humanity and humanity's sense of what it is to be human. It is, in short, a game-changer.

If we accept that position, which this blog does, then we see that culture is not an add-on to the subject of climate change or simply a means of communicating more effectively about it. Culture is the process by which we come to understand, and live through, its wider implications. Historically, culture and the arts have been one of the main ways in which people have tried to understand significant shifts in human values.

This is not to suggest everyone has to rush out and paint pictures or write plays about climate change. It is more subtle than that. In the 19th century, the publication of Darwin's Origin of Species affected artists' work in many areas, both explicitly and implicitly. In the 21st century, the bleak news contained in the IPCC reports may have an influence as far-reaching.

T S Eliot wrote that Stendhal, Balzac and Flaubert were "analysts of the individual soul as it is found in a particular phase of society". The IPCC reports have introduced a new "particular phase of society".

It's encouraging that more and more artists, writers and performers are finding ways of responding to this development. And they are doing so in many different ways. But there's a sense that the critical framework, within which this work can be discussed, is largely absent. That's the area these four discussions hopes to address.

(The content of the four discussions largely emerged at a meeting in Cambridge in the summer. Joe Smith and I would like to thank Renata Tyszczuk, Benjamin Morris, Bradon Smith, Wallace Heim, Vicky Long and Kellie Payne for their contributions. The discussions will be recorded and made available on the Open University iTunesU.) more ...

Saturday, 11 September 2010

caked in it


For this year's Feast on the Bridge, where Southwark Bridge is closed to traffic and long dining tables run either side of the road, the caterers Konditor and Cook created a giant cake that was an image of Southwark Bridge with all the people on it done in gingerbread. This photo was taken minutes before the cake made its stately progress across the bridge at 5pm.

(If you didn't fancy cake, of course, there was local, sustainably-produced pizzas and beer, storytelling and toasts, thatchers and bands, and much much else.)

More of FotB here. Last year's FotB here.

(pic. RB.) more ...

Friday, 10 September 2010

tipping point launches first of four discussions

At this weekend's Tipping Point conference, there’ll be a panel discussion on the first morning at the Examination Schools, Oxford (pic), which will examine 'A History of Cultural Responses to Climate Change'.

The discussion is chaired by Quentin Cooper (presenter of Radio 4’s Material World) and the panel includes Diana Liverman, Nigel Clark, Siobhan Davies and Wallace Heim, the Ashden Directory co-editor, and guest blogger here.

This is the first of four discussions on culture and climate change, organised by Joe Smith and myself. The discussions will be recorded and made available on the Open University iTunesU.

This blog will be reporting on the panel discussion and, more widely, on the two days of the Tipping Point conference. more ...

Thursday, 9 September 2010

taking question after question

The climate scientist Stephen Schneider, who died this summer, recorded a TV programme where he faced a roomful of climate sceptics and responded (with great patience) to many of the questions.

The programme was broadcast on Tuesday night in Australia. You can read the transcript here. (Ht: Skeptical Science ) Deltoid has more. more ...

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

trip to the edge

Cape Farewell’s ninth Art & Science Arctic expedition departs for Spitsbergen tomorrow.

A team of 20 artists and scientists from Russia, USA, UK, Australia, Spain and Canada embark on a three-week expedition, sailing north of the 80th parallel to the ice edge from Spitsbergen and east towards Russia.

The team includes the theatre director, Deborah Warner, the Moscow playwright, Mikhail Durnekov, a member of the New Drama movement of young Russian playwrights, and Ruth Little, former literary manager of the Royal Court. more ...

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

rhinos and economics

When President Theodore Roosevelt visited East Africa in 1909, there were about 300,000 rhinos in the area. Now, reports The Economist, there are perhaps 2,000.

The problem is not that the rhinos are half-blind, lumbering, and often infertile - which they are. It is economic ...


(Ht: The Browser) more ...

Monday, 6 September 2010

the not-completely sures ... and the fairly sures

"Uncertainty is what science is about." 2nd and final part of Roger Harrabin's absorbing Radio 4 series on reporting climate science.

Oldest continuously living organisms includes the 2,000 year-old welwitschia miribilis.

The Russian public doesn't believe in climate change. But Russian scientists do.

Bill McKibben on David Letterman. Letterman gets it.

New book says that climate-changed Britain is going to fare better than Spain, half of which will become semi-desert. (But Spain's problems will be nothing compared to Bengal's.)

"Progressive parties are always in love with their own emotional impulses." (Tony Blair)

Future generations are likely to view Obama’s choice of health care over energy and climate legislation as a blunder of historic proportions. more ...

Friday, 3 September 2010

tackling the range

When Athol Fugard attacked younger playwrights for not taking enough interest in politics, he could make an impressive claim:

In South Africa we had to work in small venues, but our dissident writers made a major contribution to the fact that dialogue eventually replaced bombs and bullets.

It would be hard for younger playwrights to rival that kind of impact. But no interest in politics? In the comments that followed, DaveSplendour suggested - with all due respect to a very distinguished playwright - that maybe Fugard hadn't been keeping up with the work of younger playwrights:

this doesn't even hold water even if you do look at plays which are more straightforwardly political – DC Moore, Lucy Kirkwood, Mike Bartlett, James Graham, Bola Agbaje, Lucy Prebble, and Matt Charman are all tackling a range of subject matters in their work including climate change, British foreign policy in the Middle East, the complicity of NGOs in African war crimes, sex traffic, as well as British domestic policy and social cohesion. more ...

Thursday, 2 September 2010

be ironic, be non-committal

Playwright Emma Adams responds on the Guardian theatre blog to Athol Fugard's remarks on Monday that playwrights are avoiding the political and writing for attention spans of 10 minutes between adverts.

Emma Adams' new play Ugly is about climate change. Even admitting this, she writes, means she will be suspected of being "too intense, and not a good laugh".

I guess other writers may also sense the prevailing mood out there is: "Keep it light: if you must be informed, be ironic, and most importantly be non-committal about everything, other than the fact that paedophilia is evil." more ...

success is when it looks like nothing

The Daily Dish is running a series where people write in and explain one thing people don't understand about their jobs. Today it's a computer programmer who worked on Y2K.

On December 31, 1999, I along with programmers around the world sat apprehensively in front of my TV watching the date roll starting in the far east. As each hour passed, and cities still had power, I became more elated. We had done it!

To hear people refer dismissively to Y2K as a disaster that didn't happen is a misreading of the event. It's actually a case of people in thousands of companies and many countries working together to avert a potential disaster, and the fact that it looked like nothing happened means that we were successful, not that we were just saying "the sky is falling" when it wasn't! I hate seeing "Y2K" used as a synonym for unjustified hysteria.

What you get, then, is the opposite of a self-fulfilling prophecy: Y2K is often used by climate sceptics as an example of a scare story that didn't turn out to happen - another bit of alarmism, just like global warming. One reason it didn't happen, of course, is that sensible measures were taken.

Similarly climate sceptics sometimes say, oh there was this big scare about the ozone layer or bird flu and that didn't turn out to be worth worrying about. Well, that's because each time experts and politicians have gone and done something about it.

Follow this logic through: if we end up taking all the right actions over climate change, and thereby limit the threat, the climate sceptics will be able to say, see it didn't turn out to be such a big deal. more ...

tough one

The wonderfully combative Climate Progress is four years old. In a recent post Joe Romm explains why he blogs. One reason:

I do hope that the reporting and analysis in this blog, which evolves over time, will be of use to those trying to understand just how it is that, as Elizabeth Kolbert put it, “a technologically advanced society could choose, in essence, to destroy itself."
more ...

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

reader of history

Playwright Tony Kushner on Karl Marx

he was an absolutely astonishing reader of history, and of class. His analysis of capitalism is being proved in America every day. more ...

a very young science

I missed this very apposite seven-minute interview from earlier in the summer, with Brian Hoskins, head of the Grantham Institute for Climate Change, on headlines and climate change.

It's a very young science and it's got a long way to go ... We have got to be able to highlight uncertainties and things we're not doing very well in order to say this is where we go next. more ...

Tuesday, 31 August 2010

the effects of entitlement

It's this blogger's view that Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness is the most influential 100 pages of the last 110 years. For those interested in climate change and culture, its special achievement is that it's a work of art that addresses an immediate moral concern - the slave trade in the Congo - but gives that concern a much wider and deeper significance.

Some credit for its current status as one of the most widely studied texts in our culture must go to others. T. S. Eliot took the epigraph for 'The Hollow Men' (1925) from the novella. Orson Welles and the Mercury Theatre did a radio version in 1939. (Welles' screenplay can be read here). In 1979 Francis Ford Coppola's Apocalypse Now introduced the story, in a very different context, to a new generation of filmgoers.

And now there's a graphic novel by Catherine Anyango. The graphic artist describes the book's relevance today in terms which will be familiar to those following the climate change debate:

It's about the idea of entitlement; [how] through the ages we enforce our feelings of entitlement in whatever way that age will allow from Leopold II owning the Congo as a private possession to the corporations involved with blood diamonds. The effects of entitlement have not so much gone out of fashion as out of sight. more ...

it's the book that's rare

In Jonathan Franzen's new novel Freedom - the book that Americans will be talking about in the coming weeks -  the husband, Walter, resigns from working for a mining company and moves into nature conservation. In particular, he tries to save a small woodland bird, the Cerulean warbler (left). A study of a marriage, Freedom also asks what exactly the cost is of Western affluence. The Economist says, 'Freedom is one of those rare books that starts well and then takes off.' more ...

Monday, 30 August 2010

how thatcher went green

In Radio 4's Uncertain Climate we learn how Sir Crispin Tickell explained climate change to Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher on a flight back from Paris to London.

Tickell had been at the same school, Westminster, with the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Nigel Lawson.

(Lawson, a doubter then as now, thought Tickell's exposition on climate change was just "Crispin being Crispin".) more ...

Sunday, 29 August 2010

what germaine greer did for the greeks

In OedipusEnders, the comedian Natalie Haynes considers what Greek tragedies have in common with soap operas.

One of the interviewees, Edith Hall, Professor of Classics and Drama at Royal Holloway, University of London, explains (11 mins in) that both put female characters at the centre of the drama. In the post-war period, there had been persistent efforts to idealise patriarchal values and the nuclear family. No-one could suggest that The Oresteia, Medea or Oedipus does that.

The revival of Greek drama in Britain, Professor Hall points out, coincided with the second wave of feminism and the publication of Germaine Greer's The Female Eunuch (1970).

(It's no coincidence that the early Seventies also saw the rise of environmentalism.)

Pic: Germaine Greer in 1970. more ...

Saturday, 28 August 2010

up and coming

The long list for the Guardian's First Book Award includes Steven Amsterdam's episodic novel Things We Didn't See Coming, which considers 'how we might retain our humanity in a future ruled by environmental and technological catastrophe'. The novel was published this month in the UK. The Sunday Times praised its 'mordant humour'. Extract here.

Amsterdam explains his approach:

For the narrator, the trouble isn’t the plague. The trouble is that he’s got this irresponsible girlfriend. The trouble isn’t the floodwaters. The trouble is where is he going to eat? Where is he going to sleep? When is he going to get laid?

(See also climelit, trueclime and climefiction, more climelit, still more climelit, tween verbs and vanishing act.) more ...

Friday, 27 August 2010

his concern back then

The Guardian's Tim Radford re-reads his 1979 edition of James Lovelock's Gaia:

it would be another nine years before global warming exploded as a political concern. In fact, on page 149, Lovelock is rather more concerned about the fate of the next ice age more ...

big smear, small apology

The Sunday Telegraph eventually apologises for lies about the IPCC chairman, Dr Pachauri.

Starting Monday morning on Radio 4, Roger Harrabin asks whether the arguments surrounding climate change can ever be won.

Pic: Ronald Reagan, or The Man Who Stripped the Solar Panels from the White House. (The links between climate change disinformation and the tobacco industry are detailed here and here.)

more ...

Thursday, 26 August 2010

the ambiguity bomb

The author Tom McCarthy believes car parks should replace theatres because:

Car parks are really fascinating spaces, full of geometry, technology and menace; anything could happen in them.

He also explains the degree to which his work is political:

All art is political inasmuch as it takes place within the space of the polis, and involves language and social relations and the Symbolic Order in general. But I never make work that's polemic, or that has a message. That's not what art's there for. What's genuinely radical about good art is that it detonates a kind of ambiguity-bomb at the heart of the polis. That's true from Aeschylus to Joyce.


(See also Zadie Smith on Two Paths for the Novel.)  more ...

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

a topical theme for the new york state theater

Two years ago this blog listed six reasons why theatres won't touch climate change. The final reason was: "Many of the leading fossil fuel companies are prominent sponsors of the arts."Things have moved on since then. Most recently the National has staged a climate-change play.

But Jane Mayer's remarkable profile of the oil and gas billionaires, the Koch brothers (blogged below), reminds us how deeply and persistently the richest fund disinformation about climate change.

David H. Koch has also given $100 million to the New York State Theater (above).

The David H. Koch theater presents the work of the New York City Opera and the New York City Ballet, but it would be very cheering if the New York State Theater demonstrated its artistic independence and staged a piece that was as urgent, well-informed and witty as Steve Waters' climate-change play The Contingency Plan.

No serious theatre - whoever's name it carries - should fiddle while Rome burns. more ...

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

the gift that keeps taking

The New Yorker profile of the billionaire Koch brothers who bankroll climate denial is a must-read.

Among many interesting aspects in Jane Mayer's article is the role that major arts institutions play as grateful recipients of their considerable largesse. The Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History has the David H. Koch Hall of Human Origins which shows how humans evolve by adapting to climate change:

An interactive game in the exhibit suggests that humans will continue to adapt to climate change in the future. People may build “underground cities,” developing “short, compact bodies” or “curved spines,” so that “moving around in tight spaces will be no problem.”

(Koch Industries has been named one of the top ten air polluters in the US.)

Joe Romm writes that the New Yorker profile is:

doubly devastating because the New Yorker remains one of the few major magazines that still fact checks line by line. more ...

Monday, 23 August 2010

tween verbs

MIL says the post-apocalyptic sci-fi novel The Hunger Games is "The Road for the tween set":

The operative verbs here are not “shop” and “text” but “maim” and “run”, and also “stab”, “gore” and “filter pond water with iodine droplets”.

More on The Road and post-apocalyptic narratives. more ...

Sunday, 22 August 2010

two words missing

Quite a feat: Will Hutton has managed to write 3,500 words in today's Observer about the troubled legacy the baby boomers have left the next generation without mentioning the words 'climate change'. more ...

Saturday, 21 August 2010

the ticking clock

Why is it, Frank Kermode asked, when the alarm clock by our bed goes "tick-tick", the brain insists on hearing "tick-tock"? The reason, he suggests, is our human addiction to beginnings and (even more addictively) endings. more ...

Thursday, 19 August 2010

buzz buzz

500 performers from the National Youth Theatre are swarming across London today presenting a series of performances to raise awareness about the plight of the honeybee. This blogger saw 100 NYT actors with yellow umbrellas performing the Fibonacci Sequence. (Someone at the end of the line was explaining to passers-by what was happening.)  More. Plus S_warm on twitter or hashtag #swarm. more ...

green thought for the day

Andrew Dobson, author of Green Political Thought, responds to Paul Kingsnorth's Confessions of a recovering environmentalist:

"environmental justice” ... is not an optional extra but an absolutely necessary feature of any commitment to a progressive transition to a low-energy world. more ...

bush playwrights go online

The Bush has a website Bushgreen (ht: Guardian's theatre blog) where you can submit plays and publish plays online.

It also has a bunch of interviews with Bush playwrights, including Steve Waters, who wrote the first good play about climate change. At the moment, he says, he's writing a screenplay of The Contingency Plan and a new play for the Donmar. (See our Steve Waters interview and googling waters.) more ...

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

flowers and the curve of the eye

In this guest post, Wallace Heim, co-editor of the Ashden Directory, responds to Franc's recent comment.

Flowers are the perfect size for imagining. In an essay on the vivacity of flowers and the imagination, the philosopher Elaine Scarry (left) finds that because flowers can be seen so completely by the human eye, they easily ‘sit in the realm in front of our face and migrate into the interior of what Aristotle called "our large moist brains".’

Scarry writes about flowers in poetry, daydreams, conversations and painting. They are so vivid in imagination because their size means the concentration of detail and colour is more intense than if looking at a landscape or large animal. The curve and shape of petals ‘breaks over’ the curve of the human eye. They move in an arc between the material and the immaterial, blooming and fading, like the imagination itself. ‘We were made for each other.’

With ‘Flowers on Stage’, we wondered what vivacity flowers have in theatre, whether seeing them at that distance and in that ‘landscape’ could have a similar intensity of imagination, while coming from a different kind of experience.

Thank you, Franc, for offering your vivid responses.

Scarry, Elaine, (1997). ‘Imagining Flowers: Perceptual Mimesis (Particularly Delphinium). Representations. 57: 90-115.

See our 'flowers on stage' series: flowers on stage: the poppy, flowers on stage: the daffodil, flowers on stage: the lotus, flowers on stage: the lungwort; flowers on stage: ‘breath of life’, flowers on stage: kudzu and flowers on stage: snake's head fritillaries more ...

in recovery

I was dealing with environmentalists with no attachment to any actual environment.

Paul Kingsnorth's Confessions of a recovering environmentalist (Ht: A&L) more ...

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

learnt behaviour

Climate Progress quotes Epictetus in relation to climate contrarians: 'It is impossible for a man to learn what he thinks he already knows.' more ...

cossacks on the champs-elysées

Even when people know about climate change, and trust the science, it still doesn't change their behaviour. This might be termed, as Earthquakes in London suggests - with its Cabaret-style setting - the 'Weimer effect'. (See recent comment from webcowgirl.)

There's no shortage of other examples of fiddling while Rome burns. In The Seven Ages of Paris, Alistair Horne writes about Paris in the early years of the 19th century as a city distracted by new galleries, buildings, promenades, theatre and opera.

Even the loss of the Grand Armée in the retreat from Moscow in 1812 hardly disturbed the rhythm of life in the capital. Only the actual appearance of Cossacks on the Champs-Elysées in 1814 could do that. more ...

Monday, 16 August 2010

one stop shop

The smart new aggregate website The Browser has excellent sections on Energy & Environment and Books, Arts & Ideas. In the 'Five Books' section, the BBC's David Shukman picks ones on environmental change. more ...

Friday, 13 August 2010

too crazy for cartoons

The Washington Post cartoonist Tom Toles tries hard to think of something as stupid as ignoring the conclusions of 98% of scientists who work in this field. His answer:

Gary Larson did a cartoon about two guys crawling across a desert, dying of thirst. They have come upon a drinking fountain. One is letting it run without drinking and saying he's going to let it run until it gets cold. That's about as sensible as the debate on climate change.

H-t: ClimateProgress

Update: ChrisD at CP points to Toles' climate change cartoon two days ago: “First climate change came for Russia, but I didn’t care because I wasn’t Russian…” more ...

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

pieces fit together

Science isn’t a house of cards, ready to topple if you remove one line of evidence. Instead, it’s like a jigsaw puzzle. As the body of evidence builds, we get a clearer picture of what’s driving our climate. We now have many lines of evidence all pointing to a single, consistent answer.

John Cook summarises the 10 indicators of a human fingerprint on climate change more ...

Monday, 9 August 2010

songs and roses

There are more songs about roses than any other flower. But check out songs on gardenias, cherry blossoms, poinciana ...

See our 'flowers on stage' series: flowers on stage: the poppy, flowers on stage: the daffodil, flowers on stage: the lotus, flowers on stage: the lungwort; flowers on stage: ‘breath of life’, flowers on stage: kudzu and flowers on stage: snake's head fritillaries more ...

Saturday, 7 August 2010

what sherlock would have concluded

The BBC's summer success Sherlock ends tomorrow night. In a very short time, the nation has once again fallen in love with the great detective's powers of deduction. If only that fascination could be taken a step further.

Two years ago, Chris Rapley, a passionate Holmesian and head of the Science Museum, told me that had Sherlock Holmes brought his forensic skills to the subject of climate change, he would have been in no doubt.

Sherlock Holmes used to have this adage that however unlikely and uncomfortable your conclusion may be, if all other possibilities had been ruled out, you were probably right. Nobody would be happier than me if tomorrow, or later today, it turned out that for some reason we had got it all completely wrong and actually we can carry on using fossil fuels and there's no problem and everything's great. It just isn't going to happen. Because all the evidence is that that is not true. And Sherlock Holmes would have concluded that quite quickly.


pic:  Benedict Cumberbatch as Holmes and Martin Freeman as Watson in 'Sherlock' more ...