Sunday 30 August 2009

the bitter bit

Bitter climate truths are fundamentally bitter cultural truths. more ...

Tuesday 25 August 2009

project prize

Last chance to enter: to celebrate the release of Artists Project Earth’s third album, Rhythms Del Mundo – Classics, APE has announced a $100,000 award to a single project judged most likely to make a significant impact in the struggle to prevent dangerous climate change. Deadline for applications: 31st August. more ...

Friday 21 August 2009

just doing what cary grant did

If, as predicted, direct action over coal-fired power stations and airport expansion increases (and the number of arrests rise), there will be more and more effort on the part of defendants to use the defence of 'necessity'. That is, the defendant's conduct was necessary to prevent a greater harm taking place.

The defence of necessity rarely succeeds in English law. What was so interesting about the cases of the Kingsnorth Six and the Drax 29 was the degree to which the judges did or did not allow the defendants to explain their motivation.

The Wiki entry on necessity uses the example of the drunk driver who had to escape from a kidnap - just what Cary Grant has to do early on in North By Northwest. Half a pint of bourbon is poured down his throat, and then he himself is poured into a car, and the car heads towards the edge of a cliff.

Cary Grant could justifiably claim that he had no reasonable alternative, he ceased to break the law as soon as the danger had passed, and that he did not himself create the danger that he sought to avoid. more ...

Wednesday 19 August 2009

more than laws and patrol boats

Two almost incidental remarks stayed with me after seeing The End of the Line last night. The documentary charts the crazy path we've taken since the 1950s with the large-scale industrialisation of fishing. Plenty of gloomy graphs back up the science. Many fish are on the verge of extinction.

At one moment in the film Charles Clover, author of the book on which the movie is based, discusses the oceans and finite resources and says what is needed is 'a new philosophy'. Our idea of oceans needs to be rethought.

In the Q&A afterwards, the movie's producer Claire Lewis described the importance of bluefin tuna to the Japanse in cultural terms. She said it was easy for us to underestimate the part that bluefin tuna plays in Japanese culture.

Yes, overfishing is often illegal, and we need tough laws and more patrol boats. But it's also cultural and philosophical, and that's the area, traditionally, where writers and artists have had influence. more ...

too busy

In her review of Oh, My Green Soapbox - which we blog here - the Guardian's Lyn Gardner makes a point that this blog has been making for years: 'Theatre has been a late adopter when it comes to climate change ...'

Then Gardner adds:

'It has sometimes felt as if theatre has been too busy thinking about art to think about the planet.'

Wow. The planet! That's quite a big subject to ignore. more ...

Tuesday 18 August 2009

lightbulbs and sex

Last night the author and environmentalist Bill McKibben got to tell American comedian Stephen Colbert about the campaign.

McKibben said, 'It's past the point where we can make the math work one lightbulb at a time.'

'It's all over,' said Colbert, 'We should all have end-of-the-world sex.'

McKibben later tweets that he thinks he survived with at least 40% of his dignity intact. Video. more ...

Monday 17 August 2009

upbeat's downside

In her new book, Bright-Sided, the American author Barbara Ehrenreich blames positive thinking for causing the economic downturn. more ...

Saturday 15 August 2009

fighting talk

The sci-fi author Tobias Buckell, acclaimed for his action sequences and fast-moving fights, wants to write something that deals with the big environmental issues.

'There's not as much engagement with it in science fiction as I've been hoping for. That's why I want to do a James Bondesque adventure with climate change. I love adventure. What I hate about polemical novels is two characters talking to each other.' more ...

Friday 14 August 2009

a new ending

Novels have a new type of ending. It's more complete.

The New York Times reviews Far North, Marcel Theroux’s postcollapse novel about global warming, which 'has reduced civilization to largely pre­industrial levels of technology and made sparsely populated areas like the Siberian tundra safer than lawless cities.'

In the novel, Theroux writes:

'Everyone expects to be at the end of something. What no one expects is to be at the end of everything.'
more ...

Thursday 13 August 2009

from men in black to man in green

The L.A. Times reports:

In a classic Hollywood twist, No Impact Man, about a New York family struggling to live without refrigeration, electricity and even toilet paper, is being reworked as a possible drama for Will Smith. more ...

Wednesday 12 August 2009

sensing trouble late

Bill McKibben salutes the outpouring of artistic work around the subject of climate change. He writes:

Artists, in a sense, are the antibodies of the cultural bloodstream. They sense trouble early, and rally to isolate and expose and defeat it, to bring to bear the human power for love and beauty and meaning against the worst results of carelessness and greed and stupidity.

It would be nice is this were true. But it isn't. Very few artists sensed the problem early, or, even if they did sense it, very few did significant work on the subject until the last two or three years.

(Many of the exceptions - within the performing arts - are detailed on the Ashden Directory.)

The fascinating question is: why was that the case?

See also climate-change works for the stage, first climate change opera, finally, a good play about climate change, instinct for the times, and why theatres don't touch climate change. more ...

Monday 10 August 2009

grasping for what to say

The reason the arts have a central role in any discussion about climate change is that climate change presents questions that go to the heart of our ideas about value, faith, and identity.

Put simply: it's through the arts that these dilemmas can be most richly imagined. Yes, climate change is complex scientifically, but it is also complex socially.

The arts are not there merely to publicise the threat of climate change. They're not a marketing tool. They're not in the problem-solving business. But they are in the problem-stating business.

In an interview Jonathon Porritt gave us, several years ago, he discussed the almost-impossible relationship between environmental campaigning and the arts.

'It's difficult because a lot of these things - many people would say - are pretty black-and-white frankly. What's the point of leaving people to make up their own minds. It's obviously bloody wrong!'

But leaving people to make up their own mind is what the arts do. The point was made again this week, in another context, in a discussion of Barack Obama's two books.

The reviewer remarks that many readers have found Obama's first book Dreams From My Father, a personal memoir, far more interesting than Audacity of Hope, a campaign book. One book is about questions, the other about answers.

'An interesting writer is grasping for what to say; if he has his message on point, he’s writing advertising copy.' more ...

Friday 7 August 2009

who accepts what

Wild Muse writes about the reintroduction of the Mexican gray wolf in Arizona and New Mexico and the months she spent interviewing the ranchers, wolf advocates and government employees in their kitchens, offices and cafes:

'Livestock producers were comparatively less likely than the wolf conservationists or the government employees to accept scientific information about Mexican gray wolves, especially if the specific information, study or survey ran counter to what they themselves had directly experienced or believed to be true …'
more ...

Thursday 6 August 2009

a sort of osmosis

Richard Overy's new book The Morbid Age: Britain Between The Wars offers some interesting parallels to public attitudes today towards climate change.

Overy sees the specific mood of the interwar years as 'a presentiment of impending disaster'. This was keenly felt by an articulate minority of writers, activists and policy-makers, but the mood did not infect the wider culture. As Eric Hobsbawm, in his LRB review, puts it:

Gracie Fields, George Formby and Bud Flanagan did not live in the expectation of social collapse, nor did the West End theatre.

Hobsbawn's review suggests that certain ideas can spread by

a sort of osmosis whereby a few radically reduced and simplified concepts – ‘the survival of the fittest’, ‘capitalism’, ‘inferiority complex’, ‘the unconscious’ – somehow enter the public or private discourse as recognised brand names.

Today, those concepts might be 'climate change', 'sustainability' and 'low carbon economy'. But Hobsbawn concludes:

Only where public opinion spontaneously shared the fears and reactions of elite intellectuals can their writings serve as expressions of a general British mood.
more ...

Wednesday 5 August 2009

colour codes

Bad news for the Green Party's sense of identity: many Asian languages have no word to distinguish blue from green. Which also means that:

Muddy Waters played the greens. Children have to eat their blues. Adults movies are green movies. I write a 'going blue' column. more ...

Monday 3 August 2009

Top 10 types of green tweets

This blog has notched up its 150th tweet today (and that's nothing: Stephen Fry has done 3,531). So, while still a newbie, there's one thing this blogger has learnt. Twitterers love lists of Top 10 Things.

Here's a list of the Top 10 Types of Green Tweets that have appeared on Twitter so far today:

1. The Killer Stat: Global poll: 73 percent want to make climate change a top priority (cop15)

2. The Dire Piece of News: Scientists claim planet is heading for 'irreversible' climate change by 2040 (RainforestSOS)

3. The Quote from Someone Famous: 'Any dictator would admire the uniformity and obedience of the U.S. media.' Noam Chomsky (philosophytweet)

4. The Hefty Plug: Listen to the hit environmental live Radio Show Earth Matters shows are awesome (ZEROGreenhouse)

5. The Classified Ad: green_tv is looking for anyone interested in social media campaigning upto and around #COP15 to support unep & wwf (green_tv)

6. The Did-You-Know Question: Did you know oceans provide about 170 times as much living space as all the Earth's other environments-soil, air & fresh water-put together? (NHM_London)

7. Very Local News: Birds on site today include: 2 green & 1 common sandpiper, 1 kingfisher, 1 hobby, 2 sparrowhawk. (wwtlondon)

8. The Useful Tip: Recycle your mattress and rest easy (saveourfuture)

9. The Bright Idea: A great new folding bike concept from a London inventor (LDN)

10.The Top 10 List: The Top 10 Stories Of The Week On Greenopolis (Greenopolis) more ...