Popping up at TEDxExeter with ideas worth spreading

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TEDxExeter - Set-up in the Great Hall

Knit-your-own carbon dioxide

TEDxExeter - View of the Great Hall

Clare hand-waving at a group of school children
Photo: Sue Holden

Talking climate change and flood risk
Photo: Sue Holden

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On 15 April, Clare was honoured to be able to show Particulart at TEDxExeter.

For those who haven’t come across the TED talks phenomenon yet, do check out TED.com.  TED is dedicated to ideas worth spreading. It started as an annual conference, but is now much more. TEDx is a programme of local, self-organized, independent events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience.

TEDxExeter has been held each year since 2012. In 2016 the theme was “Dreams to Reality”, and it featured a wide range of wonderful speakers. Danny Dorling showed us how different ways of mapping the world can communicate many different hopeful realities. Alan Smith, data visualisation editor at the Financial Times, gave a really engaging talk about statistics are about Us – the community not the individual – and how they can highlight gaps in our understanding of the world, our country, and even our local area. TEDx events also show a few TED talks as part of the programme. Among others, we got Al Gore on “The case for optimism on climate change”. A nice lot of Particulart-relevant material!

The main focus of the day is on the speakers and performers, but there are generous breaks for coffee, lunch and tea, to enable speakers, performers, delegates, sponsors, stall holders, team, and volunteers to mingle and connect. Particulart was one of many stalls in the break-out areas. Others included sponsor stalls, the FabLab hosted in Exeter Library, the Met Office Informatics Lab, and an exhibition of prints from Al Mutanabbi Street Starts Here.

Clare had some great conversations during the day, especially with many of the school children and young people. She also took the opportunity to talk about her new artwork about flood risk, which was of particular interest to a group from Route 39 Academy in Clovelly, with memories of flooding on the north coast of Devon in recent years.

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The Great Hall during the breaks; we’re over on the right of the image
Photo: Tim Pestridge

Paris Agreement :: Climate action?

Today, 22nd April, is Earth Day, and the day 171 countries signed the Paris Agreement. Back in December, the agreement was met with muted approval.

Molly Scott Cato, Green Party MEP in the South West, welcomed it

What the Paris climate deal means is that the global economy has moved away from the fossil fuel era and onto a path towards a clean energy future. Making this transformation a reality will require widespread changes to the way we live and work, but before embarking on that endeavour we should take a moment to celebrate this unique and groundbreaking success for genuine global co-operation.

I am also delighted to see the ambition to keep temperature warming within 1.5° coming back into the agreement alongside a commitment to return to the targets set today on a regular basis to ensure that policies become more ambitious over time.

… but climate activist Bill McKibben of 350.org asked: “the pistol has fired, so why aren’t we running?”

At the moment the world … continues to pretend that merely setting the goal has been work enough for the last two decades. Its “training plan” – the text that negotiators agreed on in Paris – is a go-slow regimen that aims for a world 3.5C warmer.

So what is McKibben saying now? In an interview for Daily Kos, he spoke about the science and the rise of movements:

Less optimistic about the science—it’s happening much faster, and with more weight, than we thought it would. The last six months have been devastating—temperatures setting every possible record [see this NASA news release], … the highest wind speeds ever recorded amidst devastating cyclones, and new research indicating that we can expect the collapse of ice sheets on a much faster time scale than we’d anticipated.

More optimistic about the rise of movements. Since the policy response of governments has been so feeble, we’ve had to build globe-spanning movements to try and check the fossil fuel industry. And we have. The fight over Keystone has turned into a thousand other fights… And we’re winning a surprising number of them.

In other words, we all have power if we work together. You can take action on climate now.

Raffle for refugees

Artist aid for RefugeesThe fantastic folk in Fore Street Exeter are holding a Cheese and Wine Fundraiser for Refugees, to include a raffle of artworks and craft.

18 March at 7.30pm
Glorious Art House, EX4 3JQ

Donations from artists and makers still very welcome. Raffle tickets on sale now. See the Facebook event page for more.

Clare is donating a carbon dioxide molecule, also under the aegis of Free Art Friday Exeter. The label says:

This 3D knitted representation of a carbon dioxide molecule was part of an exhibition in the Glorious Art House in July 2015.

In “Particulart: Up in the Air”, the Glorious gallery became the Earth’s atmosphere, as greenhouse gases hung in space around an inflatable globe. But the gases were also hung according to three pieces of data, so the gallery was also effectively a 3D graph complete with axes.

Because climate change is happening over such a long time-scale and the potential impacts are so huge, many people switch off and pretend that there is no issue. Knitting is a way of bringing it back down to earth.

But the effects of climate change are already with us. There is good evidence that it intensified the prolonged drought in the Middle East in 2006-10. The collapse in agriculture was one factor that sparked the unrest in Syria.

There was a good article in the Independent that sifts the evidence with respect to climate change and the drought, and the relative importance of environmental, societal and governmental factors. It also looks at previous research into links between major ecosystem change and violence: “any major ecosystem change that would have a negative effect on agriculture could intensify social unrest”.

And then on 1 March came the news of this NASA study, which “finds that the recent drought that began in 1998 in the eastern Mediterranean Levant region, which comprises Cyprus, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine, Syria, and Turkey, is likely the worst drought of the past nine centuries.” From the report of the study on Science Daily:

“The Mediterranean is one of the areas that is unanimously projected [in climate models] as going to dry in the future [due to human-made climate change],” said Yochanan Kushnir, a climate scientist at Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory, who was not involved in the research. “This paper shows that the behavior during this recent drought period is different than what we see in the rest of the record,” he said, which means that the Levant region may already be feeling the affects of human-induced warming of the planet.

 

This Saturday… WAM Fest!

WAMFest

 

That’s nothing to do with the 1980s pop group, but the Festival of Weather, Art and Music. The 2016 event is all about “Extreme Weather and You”, and is happening in the University of Exeter Forum this Saturday 5th March from 11am to 5pm.

The “Particulart: Up in the Air” pop-up will be making an appearance, on the mezzanine floor outside the Alumni Auditorium. There will be the knitted greenhouse gases, games to play, DIY carbon dioxide pompoms, knitting patterns to take away for the more ambitious.

There will be loads of other activities there, from print-making to climate roulette. The full programme is available on the WAM Fest website.

And there will also be a chance to see some of Clare’s new work: “Winter Blues: A little colouring book of climate mindfulness” and “Green|Blue”.

Hope to see you there!

SWIMBY

“Something Wonderful in My Back Yard”, or “SWIMBY”, was originally conceived by producer Chloe Uden with the working title: “Transition Town – The Musical”. It tackles a very different subject to your common-or-garden musical: how do a motley group of ordinary, argumentative people persuade their make-do-and-mend, muddle-through market town to embrace community food and energy schemes and become more resilient? It was written by poet Matt Harvey and composer Thomas Hewitt Jones.

Early on in the process, I bumped into Matt at the Renewable Energy Marketplace show, and tickled his fancy with “Particulart” and the poetry of 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-para-dioxin. The idea was born for a character spending the musical on stage knitting carbon dioxide. And so “Particulart” and the pattern for knit-your-own carbon dioxide is featured in the SWIMBY musical songbook!

“Something Wonderful in My Back Yard: The Songbook”, Quixotic Press, 2015. “Something Wonderful in My Back Yard: The Songbook”, Quixotic Press, 2015.

Comments – “Up in the Air” pop-up at Exeter Cathedral

There were probably some comments at the first two pop-up appearances, but they were never recorded and so fade into the mists of time. Here are some nice ones from the appearance at Holy Ground in Exeter Cathedral, though.

Science in church – wonderful. You know it makes sense!

What an imaginative and informative display

Pretty impressive.

The 3D graph certainly adds to the experience of the data, and makes an impact, bringing it to life. And who doesn’t love walking within a 3D logarithmic graph?

It was a great display, and a really interesting and moving service too xxx

Pop-up in Exeter Cathedral

Holy Ground happens once a month in Exeter Cathedral, usually on the second Sunday. The format is a service of Holy Eucharist at 7pm, followed by refreshments, then from about 8pm there is a choice between a silent meditation and a talk or panel discussion.

The evenings very often engage in social issues, which is why this December it was moved to the first Sunday to coincide with the Paris climate negotiations, and why the “Up in the Air” pop-up made a special appearance.

The service started by celebrating the beauty of creation, but then highlighted our culpability in destroying much of the Earth we are supposed to cherish. The congregation had the opportunity to make a response, following footsteps around the Cathedral, considering our own carbon footprint, and engaging with the pop-up.

In the second part of the evening, Martyn Goss from the Diocese of Exeter and European Christian Environmental Network spoke about ecotheology and climate change. We had a live Skype link to a colleague of his on the ground in Paris who could give us a flavour of the negotiations.

It was a privilege to be part of it. Here are a few photos by Clare and Sara Traynor.

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Two 'suns' shining above the pop-up at the far end of the Cathedral

The view from the Lady Chapel

Engaging with the pop-up during the Holy Ground service

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Video installation in Exeter Cathedral

Exeter Cathedral is hosting an “Up in the Air” video installation for the duration of the Paris climate negotiations. I’m proud that it is part of ArtCOP21, the global climate art festival:

Climate change is often seen through a policy or scientific lens, and solutions are discussed only in political offices, boardrooms and negotiating halls. ArtCop21 launched ahead of the UN climate talks in Paris, aims to challenge those tropes. Climate is culture. What is required is the active engagement of citizens worldwide in the urgency, value and opportunities of a transition away from fossil fuels and the embracing of a greener, sustainable future economy.

There will also be an appearance of the “Up in the Air” pop-up at the Cathedral’s monthly Holy Ground service at 7pm on 6 December.

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Talk at Abingdon Carbon Cutters

Clare grew up in Abingdon, so offered to speak at one of the monthly meetings of Abingdon Carbon Cutters, the local low carbon group. As well as giving an overview of Particulart and climate change, she touched on craftivism more generally (some of the members were involved in knitting the 7-mile-long pink scarf between AWE Aldermaston and AWE Burghfield) and ozone depletion in particular (her first job was as a student assistant in a team researching ozone chemistry down the road at Harwell).

And she got a bit of publicity for it in the Oxford Mail. Particulart may feature again in Oxfordshire in 2016…

2015-11-18 ACC in Oxford Mail p16