Archive for October, 2007

Sober reading

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

From George Monbiot, who argues the recent commitment, by the UK Secretary of State for the environment, to a stronger climate change bill is pathetic. This is because of the get-out clause of carbon trading that won’t do much to reduce emissions. His article began with a novel he read, The Road by Cormac McCarthy, which he claims is the most significant environmental text ‘ever written’.

The only certain means of preventing runaway climate change is to cut emissions here and now. Who will persuade us to act? However strong the opposition parties’ policies appear to be, they cannot be sustained unless the voters move behind them. We won’t be prompted by the media. The BBC drops Planet Relief for fear of breaching its impartiality guidelines: heaven forbid that it should come out against mass death. But it broadcasts a programme – Top Gear – that puts a match to its guidelines every week, and now looks about as pertinent as the Black and White Minstrel Show. The schedules are crammed with shows urging us to travel further, drive faster, build bigger, buy more, yet none of them are deemed to offend the rules, which really means that they don’t offend the interests of business or the pampered sensibilities of the Aga class. The media, driven by fear and advertising, is hopelessly biased towards the consumer economy and against the biosphere.

The Wishing Trees are go!

Thursday, October 18, 2007


The Isles Project is go!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

isles-project-logo.jpg(The title for this post, by the way, is a take on that iconic line, ‘Thunderbirds are go!’, from the 1960s tv puppet series made more recently into a film; which is an all-good and fun – albeit technologised – omen: Wikipedia’s summary –

The series followed the adventures of International Rescue, an organisation created to help those in grave danger using technically advanced equipment and machinery.)

I launched a website for The Isles Project at the weekend (see this previous post). The idea for the project has been bubbling for six or so years, and friends have said I’ve talked about it for almost as long. Now seems a suitable time to progress it with more concerted activity – which means, at the moment, the posting and archiving of entries initially, and gradual ‘pattern recognition’ of themes and threads. Click here for the site.

Sometimes a picture gives its taker pleasure

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Magical treetops

Bergh Apton Conservation Trust woodland, Norfolk, UK.

Nearly an Impressionist painting

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Ethereal treetops

Norfolk, UK.

Cricket-bat willows

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Mystical willows

Norfolk, UK.

Revealed! UK High Court case against Gore’s film funded by corporate deniers

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

You may have heard that, in the UK, a case against the government for showing Al Gore’s Inconvenient Truth to schoolchildren was taken to the High Court by a school governor. Nine mistakes in Gore’s film were highlighted, but the basic science was adjudicated to be sound. Needless to say, the school governor’s action, it has been dug up, was funded by corporate interests –

The Observer has established that Dimmock’s case was supported by a powerful network of business interests with close links to the fuel and mining lobbies.

Full story here.

Barefoot autumn-forest walking

Sunday, October 14, 2007

I find it endearing that, when rural and left to our own devices, humans are more likely to meander –

field track

Pictures taken with my mobile phone’s camera in the Ashdown Forest (Winnie-the-Pooh country) on Friday – where we walked barefoot – and doctored with Apple Mac’s Preview application. The air was fresh, the ground was cold, and the silvery, clay soil was very wet and muddy in places. Lush.

ashdown forest

confluence of things

Dream-permeable cartography

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Robert Macfarlane contrasts two types of map: that of the grid and that of the story.

A grid map places an abstract geometric meshwork upon a space, within which any item or individual can be co-ordinated. The invention of the grid map, which occurred more or less coevally with the rise of modern science in the sixteenth century, lent a new authority to cartography. The power of grid maps is that they make it possible for any individual or object to be located within an abstract totality of space. But their virtue is also their danger: that they reduce the world only to data, that they record space independent of being.

[…] The grid map has proved an exceptionally efficient method for converting place into resource, and for devising large-scale approaches to a landscape. It is a technique that has brought uncountable benefits and advances with it. But so authoritative is the grid method, so apparently irrefutable the knowledge that it dispenses about a place, that it has all but eliminated our sense of the worth of map-as-story: of cartography that is self-made, felt, sensuous. The grid’s rigorous geometry celebrates precision, and suppresses touch, feel and provisionality.

[…] As the American poet Robert Penn Warren beautifully observed, ‘our maps have grown less speculative, less interested in the elemental possibilities of the Earth’s skin, and that suggests that the Earth has lost it capacity to keep secrets. We tend to look at them for what we want to avoid, rather than what, in good fortune, we might discover. There is not much mystery in a landscape we cannot enter.’

In contrast, story maps

represent a place as it is perceived by an individual or by a culture moving through it. They are records of specific journeys, rather than describing a space within which innumerable journeys might take place. They are organised around the passage of the traveller, and the perimeters of the sight or experience of that traveller. Event and place are not fully distinguished, for they are often of the same substance.

[…] They are deep maps too, that register history, and that acknowledge the way memory and landscape layer and interleave. They are living conceptions, idiosyncratically created, proved upon the pulses of a place, born of experience and of attention.

[…] Maps such as these, held in the mind, are alert to a landscape’s volatility as well as fixtures. They tell of the inches and tints of things. They are born of a sophisticated literacy of place, rather than aspiring solely to the neutral organisation of data. We cannot navigate and place ourselves only with maps that make the landscape dream-proof, impervious to the imagination. Such maps – and the road-map is first among them – encourage the elimination of wonder from our relationship with the world. And once wonder has been chased from our thinking about the land, then we are lost.

– from Robert Macfarlane’s The Wild Places (pp. 141-145); he adds a few examples of those who specialise in map-as-story, such as eskimos. There is also the classic, Bruce Chatwin’s The Songlines, that commemorates his experiences amongst Australian aborigines.