Thursday, 17 November 2011

New metaphors for sustainability: the Fetch (of a wavelength; to collect)

Our series of new metaphors for sustainability continues with Annie Cattrell's two meanings for 'Fetch'. A visual artist, born in Glasgow, living and working in London, Annie is a tutor at the Royal College of Art and a senior research fellow in Fine Art at DeMontfort University. She was on the 2011 Cape Farewell Scottish Islands Expedition.

I was first introduced to the oceanographic term the ‘Fetch’ while visiting I.C.I.T (International Centre for Island Technology) on Orkney during a residency I undertook hosted by the Pier Arts Centre in Stromness during 2010.

The Fetch (length) of a wave can be incredibly long. For example, it could stretch from the east coast of the United States, where it might originate, and travel uninterrupted by land mass across the Atlantic Ocean, arriving on the shores of the west coast of Scotland, in particular the Orkneys, where it would then be forced to break against the coastline.

The simple equation relating to this phenomena is that the length of a wave determines the power and energy of it.

As a consequence scientists and technologists based in Orkney are trying to harness the waves to create renewable energies for the future.

The uninterrupted ‘Fetch’ length of a wave seems like a strong natural metaphor for cause and effect. The behaviour of oceans, seas and weather generally would appear to override any political or territorial boundaries and constraints, reminding us of the larger rhythms of earth systems that can so easily be damaged and altered by different types of human made pollutants.

'Fetch' can also mean to go and collect and is to some extent predictive and about a future intention. Collecting and harnessing ideas and ways of living more sustainably would seem to be navigating in the right direction!

If not now, when?, Primo Levi

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