I’m coming across the term cli-fi more and more these days, the new name for fiction that “highlights and intensifies the risks of climate change in a way that reporting simply can’t match.”
A brief history of cli-fi: Fiction that’s hooking readers on climate activism – Means and Matters It’s a truism that fiction teaches us about the world we live in: norms and cultures, values and beliefs, the complex interplay of external events and personal relationships that keeps us reading (or watching) until the end. Now, an emerging genre of writing known as climate fiction, or cli-fi, is teaching us about the world as we need to see it: a planet in the grip of a climate crisis that will shape our lives for as long as we inhabit Earth.
Here are a couple of books I’ve added to my to-read list, to get me started.
Of course they would: On Kim Stanley Robinson’s “The Ministry for the Future” – LA Review of Books The Ministry for the Future is thus a novel about bureaucracy, but it’s also about the possibility of a wide diversity of tactics in the name of a livable future that include fighting both inside and outside the system. Characters in the novel contemplate targeted assassination of politicians and CEOs, industrial sabotage of coal plants, intentionally bringing down airliners in the name of destroying commercial air travel, bioterrorism against industrial slaughterhouses — and they do more than contemplate them. How does it change what’s possible when we stop worrying so much about losing in the right way, and start thinking about winning in the wrong ways?
Neal Stephenson predicted the metaverse. His new book imagines something even stranger – Slate Stephenson’s fiction has never shown much—or any, really—faith in the efficacy of national governments. The characters in Termination Shock all seem to take an equally dim view of the agenda of mainstream environmental parties. They dismiss the Greens, a significant political force in Saskia’s kingdom, for such DOA policy goals as trying to “get China and India to stop burning shit tomorrow and crash their economies for the sake of Mother Earth.” What if, this novel asks, individuals with the daring and wherewithal to do something decisive about the problem simply went ahead and did it? Compounding the attitude that it’s easier to ask for forgiveness than permission is the titular phenomenon of “termination shock”: the uncertainty, as one character puts it, of “what the consequences might be of shutting the system off after it’s been running for a while.”
The most impactful actions at COP26 point to progress on climate change – UN News Ms. Donlon noted that the pact calls for a phase down of coal and a phase out of fossil fuel subsidies, “two key issues that had never been explicitly mentioned in a decision at climate talks before – despite coal, oil and gas being the key drivers of global warming”. According to the UN official, Glasgow signaled “an accelerated shift away from fossil fuels and towards renewable energy”.
Most City investors could not care less about ESG and sustainability – City A.M. With COP26 only weeks behind us, more than half of UK investors admit sustainable investing is not a priority for them, with just under 45 per cent saying it is important and it is a priority in their investment portfolio. In fact, less than a third of British investors say COP26 and the UK government’s stance on climate change have accelerated their ESG investment plans to pump capital into sustainable assets.
Broadly, India’s air quality suffers from its appetite for fossil fuels, which has only grown after two decades of rapid economic growth. Last year, India was home to 15 of the 20 cities with the most hazardous air globally, and health experts have detailed how such conditions can lead to brain damage, respiratory problems and early death.
Here’s a different take on the move to electric cars (complete with an unexpected reference to my sister’s favourite 80s boy band).
Norway is running out of gas-guzzling cars to tax – WIRED UK When it comes to sales of electric cars, Norway is in a league of its own. In September, battery-powered electric vehicles accounted for 77.5 percent of all new cars sold. That figure makes Norway a world leader by a long way—leapfrogging over the UK, where 15 percent of new car sales were electric as of October, and the US, where that number is just 2.6 percent. Norway’s electric dream has been credited to a series of tax breaks and other financial carrots that mean brands like Tesla can compete on price with combustion engines. But these incentives—and their success—have created a unique predicament: Norway is running out of dirty cars to tax.
Lots to unpack from COP26. Will subsequent generations see it as a decisive moment? It’s interesting to see how various aspects of the Climate Pact were strengthened and weakened through the first, second, third and final drafts.
Will the Glasgow climate pact curb emissions — or is it doomed for failure? – Wake Up To Politics Like the Montreal pact [the 1987 treaty that targeted substances responsible for degradation of the ozone layer], the Glasgow agreement also acknowledged these varying degrees of responsibility — but it did not provide any sort of financial incentive to follow reductions of greenhouse gas emissions. The Montreal agreement was also made stronger because of the nature of the problem it addressed: with a focus on a specific type of emissions, it was easy to ensure adherence to the protocol with transfers. The Glasgow summit’s target — climate change caused by greenhouse gas emissions — is much broader, and therefore harder to mitigate.
6 essential numbers to understand the Glasgow Climate Pact – WIRED UK A noteworthy breakthrough at COP26 was the pledge from Scotland to give £2 million ($2.7 million) to vulnerable countries for loss and damage caused by the climate crisis. No developed country has ever offered up such money before, so while the amount is small in terms of the actual cash on offer, it is significant in terms of its politics.
Loss and damage refers to the harms done by climate change which can no longer simply be adapted to, such as climate migration due to droughts or island territory lost to rising sea levels. The Paris Agreement acknowledges it as an issue, but rich countries have been extremely hesitant to offer up any kind of finance for it, including at COP26.
So Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon’s comments last week that “the rich developed industrialized countries that have caused climate change … have a responsibility to step up, recognize that and address it” were a surprise breakthrough. Her use of the words “reparation” and “debt” in this context are also significant, considering the huge resistance from many developed countries, especially the US, to use this kind of language.
That line above, “island territory lost to rising sea levels,” can seem a little abstract from where I’m sitting. But it must be terrifying for those in the thick of it.
To hell with drowning – The Atlantic In my corner, Micronesia, the facts are frightening. We are seeing a rate of sea-level rise two to three times the global average. Some scientists theorize that most of our low-lying coral-atoll nations may become uninhabitable as early as 2030. Faced with the prospect of climate-induced relocation, some leaders have contemplated buying land in other countries in anticipation of having to move some or all of their people.
Tuvalu looking at legal ways to be a state if it is submerged – Reuters “We’re actually imagining a worst-case scenario where we are forced to relocate or our lands are submerged,” the minister, Simon Kofe, told Reuters in an interview. “We’re looking at legal avenues where we can retain our ownership of our maritime zones, retain our recognition as a state under international law. So those are steps that we are taking, looking into the future,” he said.
Chennai, India. People wade with their bicycles through a waterlogged road during incessant heavy rains in Chennai. According to the intergovernmental panel on climate change, major coastal cities like Mumbai, Kochi, Visakhapatnam and Chennai could go underwater by the end of the century.
Another melancholic series of photographs documenting our changing environment, this time of the United Arab Emirates.
Depicted through poignant landscapes, the grim reality of consumption by Richard Allenby-Pratt – IGNANT The UAE is less than half a century old; before the formation of its federation, the region had only really changed on a geological timescale—“a timescale so vast that the human mind cannot even begin to perceive it,” he explains, “and yet, in one human generation, we have altered or in some way touched, almost every square kilometer.” In the series, Allenby-Pratt depicts exactly this disruption, with otherworldly scenes that seem both futuristic and as if time was standing still. He portrays structures that should appear totally out of context, if not for human intervention: endless fields of solar panels and carparks, nuclear facilities under construction, and power lines far out into the ocean, are just some of the creations humankind applauds as progress, while ignoring the more vitally important creations of nature.
It’s a good time for spaced-based sci-fi at the moment, with the latest Dune and Foundation adaptations on screens of various sizes. The former seems to be making a bigger impact than the latter, though. This article from the Long Now folks suggests a reason why.
“Dune,” “Foundation,” and the allure of science fiction that thinks long-term – Blog of the Long Now In a moment of broader cultural gloominess, Dune’s perspective may resonate more with the current movie-going public. Its themes of long-term ecological destruction, terraforming, and the specter of religious extremism seem in many ways ripped out of the headlines, while Asimov’s technocratic belief in scholarly wisdom as a shining light may be less in vogue. Ultimately, though, the core appeal of these works is not in how each matches with the fashion of today, but in how they look forward through thousands of years of human futures, keeping our imagination of long-term thinking alive.
Long-term thinking, that can only be a good thing, right? Longtermism, on the other hand…
Against longtermism – Aeon Essays Why do I think this ideology is so dangerous? The short answer is that elevating the fulfilment of humanity’s supposed potential above all else could nontrivially increase the probability that actual people – those alive today and in the near future – suffer extreme harms, even death. Consider that, as I noted elsewhere, the longtermist ideology inclines its adherents to take an insouciant attitude towards climate change. Why? Because even if climate change causes island nations to disappear, triggers mass migrations and kills millions of people, it probably isn’t going to compromise our longterm potential over the coming trillions of years. If one takes a cosmic view of the situation, even a climate catastrophe that cuts the human population by 75 per cent for the next two millennia will, in the grand scheme of things, be nothing more than a small blip – the equivalent of a 90-year-old man having stubbed his toe when he was two.
After reading about how Venice is planning to use technology to control its tourists, here’s an article on Paris’s plans to tackle noise pollution.
Paris will try using sound sensors to fine vehicles causing noise pollution — Quartz Similar technology has been used by police departments in US cities to determine the location of gunshots, but French cities have been pioneers in cracking down on noise as a traffic violation and public health hazard. Mayor Anne Hidalgo made reducing noise pollution part of her 2020 reelection campaign. Noise pollution is a top issue in France after air pollution. A study by Bruitparif found that in the greater Paris region, the health impacts of noise can cost a person an average 10 months of a healthy life, and July 2021 study estimated that the resulting social health costs from noise pollution—illness, hospitalization, lost years of work—could cost France €156 billion ($181 billion USD) per year.
Noise – WHO Europe Excessive noise seriously harms human health and interferes with people’s daily activities at school, at work, at home and during leisure time. It can disturb sleep, cause cardiovascular and psychophysiological effects, reduce performance and provoke annoyance responses and changes in social behaviour.
Traffic noise alone is harmful to the health of almost every third person in the WHO European Region. One in five Europeans is regularly exposed to sound levels at night that could significantly damage health.
It’s obvious, when you think about it. Of course not all Neanderthals were ‘cavemen’ — half were women.
Sheanderthal – Aeon Essays Archaeology is no exception to biases against women’s interests across science and the humanities. Since the early days, a tendency to conceptualise humanity’s deep origins as populated literally by ‘cavemen’ has led to presumed male activities being presented as most visible and interesting. … In fact, for most of the subsequent 160 years, female Neanderthals – if featured at all – tend to be fewer in number, peripherally located, and limited to ‘domesticated’ activities including childcare and skin-working. They are essentially scenery, in the words of the anthropologist Diane Gifford-Gonzalez, rather than active providers working on stone knapping or hunting and, in addition, they’re often fearfully lurking, hidden in dark grottos.
The world is a very different place now.
Why eye-catching graphics are vital for getting to grips with climate change – The Conversation One misconception about the climate crisis is that warming will be uniform across the world. Deniers cite cold fronts or blizzards as evidence that warming is exaggerated, or hark back to past heatwaves – such as that experienced by the UK in 1976 when temperatures exceeded 35°C – as proof that the scientists have got it wrong. Apart from this misleading conflation of weather (daily conditions) and climate (long-term conditions), this kind of argument misses the complex patchwork of effects that interact to create what gets reported in the headline figures. Maps can be an invaluable weapon against this misunderstanding. … [W]hat is needed are more universally accessible visualisations that are able to show where we’re heading in no uncertain terms.
How on earth would you protect future generations from something with a half-life of over 700 million years? Use your imagination.
The art of pondering Earth’s distant future – Scientific American We do not, of course, live in these imagined worlds. In this sense, they are unreal—merely fictions. However, our capacities to envision potential futures, and to feel empathy for those who may inhabit them, are very real. Depictions of tomorrow can have powerful, concrete effects on the world today. This is why deep time thought experiments are not playful games, but serious acts of intellectual problem-solving. It is why the safety case experts’ models of far future nuclear waste risks are uniquely valuable, even if they are, at the end of the day, mere approximations.
And then, floating over over a park in Japan, an image seemingly straight out of the pages of a Junji Ito horror story.
A giant head hot air balloon floats over a Tokyo park – Laughing Squid Japanese photographer Disc Yuri On used a Panasonic video camera from 1999 to capture the rather startling sight of a giant hot air balloon in the shape of a head that was trying to float high above Yoyogi Park in Tokyo but was hampered by the wind. When a siren sounded, however, the balloon spun around and faced the camera directly. The stuff of nightmares.
I think I’ve incorrectly conflated two separate topics when I think about cars of the future; electric cars and self-driving cars. The former doesn’t have to rely on the latter, right? Perhaps that’s just as well.
Now the pursuit of autonomous cars is undergoing a reset. Companies like Uber and Lyft, worried about blowing through their cash in pursuit of autonomous technology, have tapped out. Only the deepest-pocketed outfits like Waymo, which is a subsidiary of Google’s parent company, Alphabet; auto giants; and a handful of start-ups are managing to stay in the game.
Electric cars can sound like anything. That’s a huge opportunity to craft the soundscape of the future – Time Then there’s whatever BMW is doing with its i4 electric-sedan concept. At low speeds, the i4 sounds like an electrified orchestra warming up for a performance. But as it accelerates, the tone becomes deeper and lower. Then comes a high-pitched skittering effect, as if some kind of reality-bending reaction were taking place under the hood. “We conceived a sound to celebrate the car, intended as a highly complex performative art installation,” says BMW sound designer Renzo Vitale. Vitale, who worked alongside famed film-score composer Hans Zimmer on the i4, says it was his counterintuitive idea to make the noise deepen as the car gains speed. “It was a metaphoric way to say, ‘We are looking at the past,’” he says.
Perhaps, by the time all this is resolved, there’ll be less need for these crazy machines.
Commuting is psychological torture – Welcome to Hell World I can’t even calculate the savings in gas, wear on my car, etc. But I can tell you that with nearly two hours back in each of my days, plus the extra 40 minutes or so of making myself presentable to be in close proximity to others, I have been able to reinvest that time in myself. I have been eating better, I have time for the gym, I have time to give my dogs the exercise they need. I know this year has been mentally taxing on so many, but I’ve found these changes work so much better for me.
Do you remember the hype about Vantablack, the blackest black that absorbs 99.96% of light shone on it? I mentioned it a while back when BMW used it for one of their cars, though I could have sworn that I had shared these links too:
Can an artist ever really ‘own’ a colour? – The Guardian Painters are outraged that Anish Kapoor, the British sculptor who designed the blood-red Orbit tower for the London Olympics, has exclusive rights to the artistic use of this revolutionary new colour. NanoSystems has confirmed that he alone can paint it Vantablack.
Museum visitor injured after stepping into pit he thought was a painting on the floor – Boing Boing British artist Anish Kapoor licensed the worldwide exclusive rights to use Vantablack in art, which makes him kind of an asshole, but we’ve already complained about him on Boing Boing and that’s not the point of this post. The point is that Kapoor has a work of art at the Serralves Museum in Porto, Portugal called Descent Into Limbo. It’s an eight-foot deep pit and because Kapoor painted the interior of the pit with Vantablack, it looks like a two-dimensional black circle painted on the floor of the museum. You can guess what happened next.
Anyway, this was the link I wanted to share this time.
Whitest-ever paint could help cool heating Earth, study shows – The Guardian The new paint reflects 98% of sunlight as well as radiating infrared heat through the atmosphere into space. In tests, it cooled surfaces by 4.5C below the ambient temperature, even in strong sunlight. The researchers said the paint could be on the market in one or two years. White-painted roofs have been used to cool buildings for centuries. As global heating pushes temperatures up, the technique is also being used on modern city buildings, such as in Ahmedabad in India and New York City in the US. […]
Andrew Parnell, who works on sustainable coatings at the University of Sheffield, UK, said: “The principle is very exciting and the science [in the new study] is good. But I think there might be logistical problems that are not trivial. How many million tonnes [of barium sulphate] would you need?” Parnell said a comparison of the carbon dioxide emitted by the mining of barium sulphate with the emissions saved from lower air conditioning use would be needed to fully assess the new paint. He also said green roofs, on which plants grow, could be more sustainable where practical.
The sunglasses are a nice touch, but Parnell’s point high-lighted above definitely needs addressing, I think.
Carla Rhodes takes beautiful photos of strange-looking birds in an ugly situation.
A biologist, an outlandish stork and the army of women trying to save it – The New York Times After returning from India, I realized that my encounter with the greater adjutants had irrevocably changed me. Until then, I’d doggedly chased a career in New York City as a comedic ventriloquist while juggling mundane day jobs. Wildlife photography was relatively new to me; I had only considered it an enjoyable hobby. But suddenly I wanted to pursue conservation photography with every fiber of my being.
More Skeksis than stork, I think. But how they look is only half the story.
I quickly discovered the work of Dr. Purnima Devi Barman, a wildlife biologist who has dedicated her life to protecting greater adjutants. The founder of the Hargila Army, a local all-female, grass-roots volunteer conservation effort, Dr. Barman led her corps of women in protecting nesting sites, saving fallen baby birds and educating the Assamese community on the importance of these rare and endangered scavengers.
Needless to say, I’ve never seen anything like that round my way. Maybe I just need to keep looking.
I don’t remember adding this to my YouTube ‘Watch Later’ playlist, but I’m glad I did. A charming documentary on a bizarre, elegant, yet absolutely enormous cloud.
Secrets of a Strange Cloud – YouTube This is about the Morning Glory Cloud in the Gulf of Carpentaria, Queensland, Australia. It is an amazing atmospheric phenomenon. It is a shockwave which can be over a thousand kilometres long. Other meteorological terms for this type of formation is a shelf cloud, roll cloud or soliton. They can happen unpredictably in other places in the world but the Gulf of Carpentaria is the only location place where they happen with some degree of regularity around September and October.
Whilst we still have our heads in the clouds, ponder this strange notion — that we didn’t always know where birds went in the winter. They seemed to just vanish each year. Perhaps, rather than flying to different countries, they flew a little further.
When birds migrated to the Moon – The MIT Press Reader Morton rejected Aristotle’s widely accepted hibernation theory, and pointed out a major flaw in the theory that the birds simply migrated to another place on Earth: No one in Europe knew where they went. They literally disappeared. He argued that returning birds, like woodcocks, appeared to drop suddenly from the sky over ships at sea.
Their round trip to the moon took one month each way, taking the distance to the moon and the length of their absence into account. There was no atmospheric resistance to impede their flight (so he had taken on board that much of Pascal’s conclusions) and the journey between the worlds was aided by lack of gravity. They slept for much of it, living off their body fat. It was all logical enough, in its own way.
You must read that article for its charming account of Domingo Gonsales flying to the Moon on his swan engine.
It’s a good job he didn’t try that trip a few hundred years earlier.
In 1110, the Moon vanished from the sky. We may finally know why – Science Alert “On the fifth night in the month of May appeared the Moon shining bright in the evening, and afterwards by little and little its light diminished, so that, as soon as night came, it was so completely extinguished withal, that neither light, nor orb, nor anything at all of it was seen,” an observer wrote in the Peterborough Chronicle.
It was bright enough a week ago, spookily peering through the clouds, though this shot using my binoculars doesn’t do it justice.
Perhaps I need to take some pointers from the experts.
Taking good photos in bad light – Photography Life When the sky is gray or the sun is directly overhead, it can be tough to find inspiration for high-quality photography. My hope with this article is to share some tips that have worked for me when I photograph in bad lighting conditions – something which every photographer experiences at some point.
The of the year articles seem a little early this year. I wonder why we’re so keen to get 2020 behind us.
2020’s weather photography of the year doesn’t disappoint – Moss and Fog The Royal Meteorological Society Weather Photographer of the Year contest is now in its 5th year, and has some amazing entrants that show us 2020 wasn’t just about a raging global pandemic. Indeed, Mother Nature, combined with a rapidly warming planet has resulted in record storms, floods, droughts, and wildfires this year.
There are many more beautiful images on those pages, do check them out. And here are some more wonderful things of a different kind.
100 best inventions of 2020 – TIME Every year, TIME highlights inventions that are making the world better, smarter and even a bit more fun. … 100 groundbreaking inventions—including a smarter beehive, a greener tube of toothpaste, and technology that could catalyze a COVID-19 vaccine—that are changing the way we live, work, play and think about what’s possible.
Featured image White Pocket, Arizona — Felix Röser
Today marks a year of Covid-19 – Kottke According to an unpublicized report by the Chinese government, the first documented case of Covid-19 was a 55-year-old person living in Hubei province on November 17, 2019. That makes today the first anniversary of the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.
A year later, and 1,340,000 people have died. That might not be enough for some, though.
Hartmann was convinced this was the purpose of creation: that our universe exists in order to evolve beings compassionate and clever enough to decide to abolish existence itself. He imagined this final moment as a shockwave of deadly euthanasia rippling outwards from Earth, blotting out the “existence of this cosmos” until “all its world-lenses and nebulae have been abolished”.
‘Adani is at pains to stress it is not rebranding due to the Stop Adani campaign or because the brand is now globally toxic. This is despite the fact over 85 insurers, contractors and financiers have ruled out working with Adani on the destructive Carmichael coal project,’ said a Stop Adani spokesperson in a press release this morning.
Boshoff told the Australian Financial Review it was a good fit because the company “took a lot of courage to get where we are and we will stand up for what we believe in”. However, multiple Latin experts have pointed out that “bravus” does not mean “brave” and is more accurately translated as “crooked” or “mercenary”.
Here’s an interesting question to ponder after watching that.
How much does a cloud weigh? – The Conversation Summer cumulus clouds vary in size, but a typical one would be about one kilometre across and about the same tall. This means we can consider it to be a cube, with each side measuring 1km across. That means our cloud is 1,000 x 1,000 x 1,000 cubic metres in size – and this makes 1 billion cubic metres. Our cloud had only a quarter of a gram of water per cubic metre, but that’s going to work out as rather a lot now there’s a billion of them. The weight of the water in the cumulus cloud is 250,000,000 grams – 250 tonnes. This is about the same as two adult blue whales.
Looking for the next cloudburst? Perhaps start here.
Those maps (especially the vector map version) make you realise just how tumultuous and highly charged this globe of ours is — which isn’t the impression you get when looking down on Google Earth. “In prioritizing clarity and smoothness in its representation, Google Earth supports how we are consuming the planet.”
Springtime everywhere – Real Life As Covid-19 lockdowns were shuttering citizens indoors in April, for instance, Google Earth seized on the opportunity to launch a slew of themed virtual tours (e.g. the National Parks of the United States tour). It made Google Earth accessible in all browsers and added 2,500 new images to Earth View, a spinoff showcasing surreal and awe-inspiring landscapes from above. For all the feeling that Google Earth’s could be a helpful resource for learning about the climate crisis, its interface of zooming in and out and around the globe seamlessly in high-definition undermines its potential. The form comes to contradict the content: We may revel in the beauty and awesomeness of seeing the earth from the sky — and our ability to freely manipulate this view — despite the crises the imagery may depict. Deforestation on a devastating scale can take on the same aesthetic as any other “virtual holiday” on Google Earth.
Let’s have a break from all that, with news of an exhibition in London I’d love to see, Among the Trees: “By turns poetic, adventurous and thought-provoking, this group exhibition explores our relationship with trees and forests.” As we saw earlier, they can be remarkably eloquent.
Five things to know about Among the Trees – Southbank Centre
There are artworks that push at the very limits of the building, and celebrate the soaring scale of trees. Eija-Liisa Ahtila’s huge, cinematic portrait of a 30-metre spruce, for example, takes over almost the entirety of one of the lower galleries, while Guiseppe Penone’s Tree of 12 Metres (1980–82), a sapling painstakingly excavated from an industrially planed piece of timber, stops just short of the ceiling.
Among the Trees review – a knotty problem – The Guardian
Running the entire width of one floor at London’s Hayward gallery is a six-screen video which depicts, at about life size, a spruce tree swaying in the breeze in Finland. To accommodate its scale, the tree is projected horizontally, and at its foot stands the artist Eija-Liisa Ahtila, in a blue parka, dwarfed by the spreading conifer. The six projected sections of the tree tremble and sway out of sync with one another, adding to a growing sense of majestic befuddlement. You can’t take it in all at once, any more than you could if you stood before the real thing. Distantly, I hear the branches soughing and faint birdsong. Titled Horizontal – Vaakasuora, it makes you look and look some more.
Here’s some more artistic woodwork.
Trees at night: stunning Rorschach silhouettes from the 1920s – Brain Pickings
In his fifties, Young’s imagination fell upon a subject both wholly natural and wholly original — the expressive humanlike shapes, states, and emotions emanating from the silhouettes of trees at night. He began rendering what he half-saw and half-imagined in pen and ink — haunting black-and-white drawings full of feeling, straddling the playful and the poignant. These visual poems, replete with the strangeness and splendor of nature and human nature, become the kind of Rorschach test one intuitively performs while looking at the sky, but drawn from the canopy rather than the clouds.
Dancing twigs – Kottke
Artist Chris Kenny uses bits of twig from tree branches to make these interesting found art pieces that exploit the human tendency for pareidolia.
And finally, here’s a request for us to reconsider our view of trees within cities, and to appreciate the many benefits mature trees can bring to society. (via Sentiers)
Trees as infrastructure – Dark Matter Laboratories
[T]he ecological benefits of trees substantially start after 50 years of existence; we are currently building a deficient urban forest. Shifting our view to perceive public trees as assets rather than liabilities is an important aspect of maintaining and enhancing the benefits that trees provide in an urban setting.
I’m about halfway through William Gibson’s latest novel, Agency, and was very happy to read somewhere that it’s part two of a trilogy. Here’s hoping we’ll all be around to enjoy the third…
William Gibson on the apocalypse: “it’s been happening for at least 100 years” – New Statesman His characters call it “the Jackpot”. “It’s multi-causal, and it’s of extremely long duration,” he explains. Over many decades, climate change, pollution, drug-resistant diseases and other factors – “I’ve never really had the heart to make up a full list, else I’ll depress myself” – deplete the human race by 80 per cent. The Jackpot is the mundane cataclysm of modernity itself. It is hundreds of millions of people driving to the supermarket in their SUVs, flying six times a year, and eating medicated animals for dinner. “If the Jackpot is going to happen,” Gibson says, “it’s already happening. It’s been happening for at least 100 years.”
As well as bringing to life an all-too-plausible future, he has a keen grasp on the present. (All science fiction is really about the present, I guess. As he has said earlier, “The future is already here. It’s just not very evenly distributed.”)
Putin is the pre-eminent figure in the klept that Gibson sees emerging in the real world. He describes Russia’s reported attempts to influence the 2016 US election as “the most cost-efficient black op in human history. It was a long shot, but it did work, and every day since then they must have had a good laugh, and gotten ready to enjoy yet another day of watching this endlessly exploding grenade at the heart of American government. I doubt they’ve tried to control him very much. It isn’t necessary.”
This story caught my eye. Another artist inspired by a frustrating political situation to produce something positive.
“There’s never been a candidate I’ve been so excited about. And I’ve never done something so fangirl in my life,” she adds. “I don’t get the whole Bernie tsunami because he sounds angry to me. I like how measured and intelligent she is, and I’m on board with pretty much all of her positions.”
Using trees to make paper to write on, I get that. But writing with trees? Katie Holten, an artist-in-residency with NYC Parks, has developed a typeface to allow us to do just that. (via Futility Closet)
NYC is planting secret messages in parks using this typeface for trees – Fast Company
It would be fair to say that Holten is at least a little obsessed with turning trees into typefaces. Back in 2015, she developed her first so-called Tree Alphabet, made up of sketches of 26 different trees that each stood for its own letter. The project led her to publish a book, About Trees, typed in forests rather than paragraphs. “I’m interested in creating something that lets us translate our words into something beyond us,” writes Holten over email. “It forces us to slow down and think about what we’re writing, or reading.”
To see the typeface in action, head over to nyctrees.org and try it for yourself.
New York City Trees
The New York City Tree Alphabet is an alphabetical planting palette, allowing us to rewrite the urban landscape by planting messages around the city with real trees. What messages would you like to see planted?
These messages aside, it seems the trees are busy communicating by themselves.
The fascinating science of how trees communicate, animated – Brain Pickings
But trees are much more than what they are to us, or for us, or in relation to us. They are relational miracles all their own, entangled in complex, symbiotic webs of interbeing, constantly communicating with one another through chemical signals dispatched along the fungal networks that live in their roots — an invisible, astonishing underworld only recently discovered, thanks to the work of Canadian forest ecologist Suzanne Simard.