Thursday, 10 October 2013

Umbrella post

"Climate change and the art of memory" was an opaque title for what turned out to be the stimulating event I attended last evening, at the Literature Festival.

There was more about memory than art though. Mike Hulme - founder of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research - spoke of us being inducted into the weather from an early age. "Who doesn't remember what it was like on their wedding day?" Weather provides the bookends round which we can safely navigate the rest of our lives, he said: an envelope of stability. So, how might we find a way to embrace weather weirding and the jumbling of seasons?

Greg Garrard, eco-critic, asked how we can widen the discussion of climate change from just the scientific. Shouldn't we be talking about human racism, he asked: the assumption that our future matters above all else. Climate change "dramatically impacts upon our culture." He offered the ambiguous role of children: we are saving the planet for them, yet we might be better off not having any. And ignoring the importance of biodiversity will lead our grandchildren into an age of loneliness. The challenge is so enormous, yet there seems so little each of us can do: the challenge is so urgent, yet the effects of climate change will only be felt over the long term. The huge number of people on Earth "dilutes our agency", and by flying everywhere we treat the world's oceans as if they were so many puddles.

I am not familiar with the work of Maggie Gee, the only "artist" who spoke. Her novels, she told us, are about threatened nature. More people read them, possibly, than the IPCC Report, which - though vital - doesn't begin to engage with our human experience. Perhaps, I reflected, there is a parallel with Richard III. Historians are only now beginning to retrieve his reputation, over which so much water (or worse) was poured by Shakespeare. And maybe Jonathon Porritt is onto something with his new fictional autobiography, now out.

For supper afterwards, Caroline had cooked the mushrooms I picked on the walk earlier, St George's and Chanterelle. I photographed - but didn't pick - these huge ones: they looked iffy. But when I looked them up, I see they were edible - Parasols.

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