Wednesday 6 July 2011

New metaphors for sustainability: the sailboat

We continue our series of New metaphors for sustainability with the sailboat, suggested by James Marriott, artist, activist, member of PLATFORM. 

The boat for me is a very powerful metaphor. Sustainability is a rather grey and unclear term, but if it means anything, it means that we have to live with the finite resources of the earth. We have to deal with this in our generation and pass it on to future generations.

It is this sense of the finite capacity that I find interesting and comes to me through the experience of boats. I mean boats which are driven by sail and by oar – that use the motive power of the wind and the tide captured through wood and flax and hemp and use that to move from ‘a’ to ‘b’.

I’ve been learning to sail, and it’s been a wonderful experience. It makes you extremely aware of the forces of nature – it makes it very intimate. You’re at the mercy of the winds. You have to work with the tides – the skill comes from using whatever is there, that finite amount of power.

The finiteness, too, comes from the space of the boat itself. You have to pack everything in it that you might need or want. The boat frames my needs and desires about where I can go and how long it’s going to take me.

It concentrates the mind about the nature of the space in which I’m in, and about the wind and the water and the movement of the tide and the flow of the river.

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