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Newsletter May 2023

Hello again - Back in the swing of a monthly newsletter . . .

Do forward this to anyone who might be interested and they can sign up on the website.

Although I’ve been grounded for much of the last month (see below), it has been an intense time . . .


The Long Arc

Where are we?

How did we get here?

Where are we going?

WTF?!


The Long Arc is a live performance which addresses these urgent questions over the course of three pomes, with some visual images and recorded music. I will be performing this show over the summer. Find out more on my website


I am looking forward to reading my pomes out loud, but it’s rather scary! Luckily I will have Juliet Wimhurst’s beautiful pictures in support, such as ‘Elemental Woman' (right). See a taster in this short showreel (1.23 mins)


Arbor Vitae is a poetic version of my book 'Living With Trees', with images by Juliet Wimhurst.

cleave is a collection of poems tracing our estrangement from nature, our enslavement on the treadmill of 'progress', and how we might address this.

Invocation is words set to the famous music of Barber's Adagio, recited / sung by me. It is an invitation to the four elements, in their benign forms, to come to us and enrich our lives. It is also a warning to humans not to summon the elements in their destructive shadow forms.


Performances so far:

Sat 8th July – Timber Festival, in The National Forest

Fri 14th July – Frome Festival, in Rise Bakery, 4pm

Sat 22nd July – Shaftesbury Fringe, The Grosvenor Hotel, 11am

Thu 21st Sept – Shute Festival, St Michael's Church, Shute, 7pm

Currently looking for other festivals and events – let me know!


XR : THE BIG ONE

How it went: Well it was quite a large gathering and spirits were high, especially on the Saturday, but being intentionally non-disruptive it failed to disrupt the business-as-usual news round and was almost completely ignored by the media and government. One guy on a snooker table gets headline coverage but 60,000 gathered at the seat of power fails to register. XR gave this sober review of the event here


The highlight for me was the Writers Rebel event at 55 Tufton Street, home of climate-sceptic think tanks, such as the Global Warming Policy Foundation and Net Zero Watch. Particularly powerful was Zadie Smith’s speech: “Evil is not a word I use often – or lightly – but I believe the kind of pragmatism practised on this street falls within that category. No-one’s in denial on Tufton Street. Quite the opposite. They know the science is real. They know whose money they’re taking. They’re not lying to themselves. They’re lying to us.” Read the full speech here


We also had the opportunity to post our own work on the building, so I posted up ‘rebel’ (the pink one). Read it here


What next? XR are asking people where they want to go from here and offer 3 pathways: Picket (fossil fuels), Organise Locally (eg with Planet Shaftesbury), and Disobey (non-violent civil disobedience, as XR did before).










Grounded

Just as I was emerging from a bout of depression over the winter, I awoke on 6th April to a severe attack of vertigo – like I was completely hammered, reeling across the room and throwing up. The first day was hell and the worst of it subsided after that, but even now some six weeks later I am still dizzy when I walk about and I have had to cancel travel and work. I have been thoroughly grounded.

I was very fortunate to have Karen caring for me, literally spoon-feeding me mashed banana as I lay there incapacitated. The doctors are busy doing tests to find out what is going on.

Being prone to theories, imaginings and abstractions, I have to grudgingly admit this period of enforced home rest has enabled a more grounded outlook – a long overdue reckoning with my body, a new arena of writing, and a more sober perspective on where we are with climate breakdown . . .


Deep Adaptation

I have been aware of Deep Adaptation (DA) in my peripheral vision for some years, but hardly dared acknowledge it, like some bodily ache. It’s deeply disturbing. It takes as its starting point the likely failure of climate mitigation measures (like 1.5C, net zero, COP etc).

For example, The head of the next COP in UAE is an oil executive – would you want the head of a tobacco company to be in charge of your treatment for lung cancer?!

Even the UN declares there is ‘no credible pathway to 1.5C in place’, so you have to confront this possibility.


DA is also unconvinced by current adaptation measures (eg electric cars, flood defences etc) and therefore anticipates the collapse of civilisation as we know it. Yes, it’s a tough prospect. The Abyss.


The Deep Adaptation perspective dares to peer into this abyss, and in so doing discerns urgent choices and strategies to ‘navigate the realities of climate chaos’. It is very challenging, but I have come to regard it a bit like confronting a life-threatening disease – you do all you can to find a cure, undergo the treatments, take the pills, change your lifestyle, but at some point it is also sensible to consider the outlook if all this fails. It turns out some thoughtful and compassionate people have been doing just that, and it is well worth considering their findings. In particular, Dougald Hine sketches out ‘what is ours to do’, something we can all get to work on.


The good news is there is support at hand on this journey. The DA book devotes space to understanding the psychology that got us where we are (climate denial and disavowal), and to the psychology of addressing the situation. I found the Climate Psychology Alliance Handbook very useful (free download).

I may well write more about this, but for now, here are some links if you are interested:


Vitalism

As a counterpoint to deep adaptation, I have just read ‘The Nutmeg’s Curse’ by Amitav Ghosh. It offers a deep critique of the roots of climate breakdown in the centuries-old geo-political colonial world order, with its mechanistic world view – where nature is seen as resources for human use, rather than a living realm full of agency and meaning. It is challenging in a different way – can landscapes really act on us? Can we acknowledge indigenous wisdom as a path of planetary care?


. . . to be continued . . .


best wishes

Robin

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