Sunday, 25 May 2014

Magnification










Global warming bloody terrifies me. The mention gives me that pit-of-the-stomach, slightly panicky sense of helplessness. It rises on reading articles about food production, changing weather patterns, water shortages, rising sea levels. The just controlled panic filling my head with something beyond control. Yet, what do I do? I click off the analysis, move to safer territory. A blog, perhaps. The archives of the Paris Review. Often the quick sugar-hit satisfaction of Twitter.

That’s a privilege I currently have, that when reflecting on those personal responses – the self-interested reactions of ‘me’ and ‘I’ - there’s an awareness that, just for the time being, they are anxieties that can be dismissed. I can feel nervous about the future, caught up for an instant in questions of ‘what if’ and ‘oh shit’ and ‘why at this point in history?’ (and the inevitably selfish – ‘but there’s too much I want to do!’) Occasionally these queries will expand into conversation with friends or family. We’ll discuss newspaper reports or scientific studies. But then we slide back into security of the everyday. Books, work, creative projects, administration, meals, walks, excited midnight talks. The world around us.

But is that the problem? We can see plenty of tangible consequences, be it endless floods or unpredictable and catastrophic weather, but by and large it can be ignored – for now. Safer to focus on the immediate. But, although the phrase ‘act before it’s too late’ seems a bit Hollywood blockbuster in tone, the sentiment is right. Maybe we’ll be looking back on this time in fifty years, collectively kicking ourselves at our sluggishness.

I admit that it’s a subject I’m not hugely well versed in. I probably know more and take further interest than many, but there are hoards of others with extensive knowledge and understanding. Sadly none of them seem to be in government. I want to educate myself further, but, again, that panicky feeling arises and it’s easier to turn to other topics – or look at it through a particular lens, such as the environmental impact of ethical fashion.

Like many issues, it’s also a question of the individual versus governing bodies. What can we do on a personal level? How to be proactive? Or is it mainly up to the state and big global companies to enact change? Will those companies ever take steps to value anything above their profits, or this that just naïve idealism?

So many queries, so few tangible answers. It’s unsettling to think about. Engaging with the problem of global warming seems to expose the very fine, vulnerable threads that stitch our civilization in place. 

Those threads have also provided the basis for some compelling, terrifying novels. The texts that have had the biggest impact on me weren’t newspaper articles or commentaries – but fiction. The first, Barbara Kingsolver’s Flight Behaviour, is a stunning novel charting the fall out when a colony of orange monarch butterflies settle in an Appalachian forest owned by a poverty-stricken farming family. It’s a story concerned with marriage, social injustice, fragmented eco-systems, climate change and the corrosive role of the media. Both brutal and beautiful. The most powerful aspect is in that uncomfortable mix of imagination and reality. The premise itself may be fabricated, but the science isn’t.

The second is The Stone Gods by Jeanette Winterson – a startling, multilayered narrative imagining a repeating world (and a human race who mess up again and again and again). Winterson herself observed of the book, 'I have said many times that I believe our time to be unique in the history of the world…. Stone Gods isn’t a pamphlet or a docu-drama or even a call to arms, it is first and foremost a work of fiction, but I am sure that change of any kind starts in the self, not in the State, and I am sure that when we challenge ourselves imaginatively, we then use that challenge in our lives. I want the Stone Gods to be a prompt, but most of all, a place of possibility.'

Maybe we need more of those places of possibilities – ways of discussing and thinking about and opening up dialogues to address something growing ever more imminent. A place that we can access, but also switch off from when needed. A place where the terrifying can be tackled head on. And a place that isn't one's head at 4am when all thoughts are magnified. 

A green outfit in a green place - I know, not the most original. But it was partly the countryside around me that prompted this post, so these images felt apt. Photos were taken last holiday. My jeans and Paul Costelloe shirt are both second hand, the evening coat is vintage and the vertiginous heels were from eBay. All jewellery is vintage. 

13 comments:

Carlota Antolin Vallespin said...

It strange sometimes to talk about this topic. It is true that humanity is using much more of the planet than other beings. And that we can destroy a lot in short time. But I think that nature is always stronger and capable to reborn. If humans finally finish with everything that keeps them alive it will not affect to the rest of the planet. After any glaciation or desertification, life and new organisms will appear.
But is not naive to think that humanity will change to adapt. Humans also will change to survive in the world.

By the way, you are a goddess with this outfit. It is simply perfect. Each piece. You look magnificent in the photos.
Oh! and I also loved the post before.

Kisses!

www.smokercaterpillar.com

Lally said...

Again a wonderful post. I am so glad you are highlighting global warming, it is an issue very much ignored by many. My brother is currently writing his undergraduate philosophy thesis on the philosophy around global warming so it's an issue I have come very concerned and terrified by, if I'm honest, over the last few months. What is so worrying to me is the arrival of UKIP in the public consciousnesses; it not only diverts attention away from what is a serious and impending crisis but also their concentration on immigration fills me with dread as in years to come we, being in the Northern hemisphere, will be one of the few places to have not felt the full extremes of global warming. Thus we need to be strengthening our links with the rest of the world! I am very lucky to live in Cornwall which has a rather more enlightened view when it comes to saving the planet, there are countless schemes run here that encourage people to grow their own vegetables, learn about the land and live on a more local level. There is also a wonderful magazine called Resurgence published in Devon which has a big readership here and the Green's have a big presence. I just hope the rest of Britain might move forward slightly rather than backwards as it seems to be doing at the moment.

Anyway! Beautiful outfit, that coat is wondrous and perfectly complements this post.

Lally X

Zoë said...

The collective ignorance and attitude to 'green issues' terrifies me. I worked on a series of talks recently, and this one was particularly apt - outlining how global warming cannot be tackled at a local level, but must be tackled collectively, ie. globally. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1nexo8XsSdw

Sophie Jane said...

You summed up my consuming thoughts on this subject perfectly

Mei-li said...

I feel the same as some comments above me. Thanks you Rosalind to share your thoughts on the subject, and the books.
I ask my self the same questions. And it troubles me more and more, such as today when my sister and I went to Ikea and bought those cheap, but convenient and handy shelves, and ate the 60p hot dog (how does this meat is even made !). Its all related. Do I need to feel guilty ? Not really, but I possibly need to take action in some way. Sometimes I feel so revolted inside !!! But to who I need to turn too ? I don't know if this will be out of subject but there is a beautiful and striking movie-documentary called Samsara. A camera films some shots around the world, with no dialogue, just an appropriate soundtrack. and a very good french documentary point out the horrific actions of the big American company Monsanto ( le Monde selon Monsanto), I don't know if there is an English translation, but this documentary is so so scary !!!!
Thank you again for your wonderful pictures ! :))

Nadia Henderson said...

I completely relate to that 'pit-of-the-stomach' anxiety that thinking about climate change and its related issues causes. Often, with this subject, I want to find out more, but it makes me feel worried/upset/angry to realise the full extent of the damage that's being done. More than anything, I feel hopeless and helpless and useless.

Using fiction as a means of contextualising and dealing with our feelings around a subject as terrifying as climate change is a really interesting idea, and your post described it perfectly. Not to mention the beautiful accompanying images. Thanks, Rosalind!

Anupriya DG said...

Every minute we spend in this sweltering, sun-scorched hot & humid "tropical country" of ours, we are reminded that every drop of sweat escaping our body is a result of the increasing effects of global warming! Global warming is the reason why every summer we see a rise in the temperatures by around 5 degrees more than the last one; global warming is the reason monsoons have ceased to be a season and come & go as they please; global warming is the reason why an ancient temple carved high inside the Himalays was flooded by the mighty Ganges river resulting in a calamity accompanied by a high death toll!
We know it all....we see it all....but as you said, we choose to drive these unhappy thoughts from our minds and take shelter in everyday life.
In whatever small way we contribute, does it ultimately make that big an impact? I wonder...

P.S.: LOVING your coat! And whoa, those heels are HIGH!!

Melanie said...

I often think of global warming, and then I think of a new ice age, which for me is even more terrifying. I worry that as long as we are hooked on exchanging paper money for goods we are in trouble.

Moving on to happier thoughts, such as you in green and blue. A towering tree of a woman. I swoon when I see that vintage jacket.

FASHION TALES said...

We'd often talk about global warming and nuclear fusion in our family, you're right the subject is quite terrifying to think about, but something that impacts us all. Regarding your marvellous ensemble--well suited and such a perfect fit for the post. The vintage evening jacket is such an (beautifully) interesting piece.

Willow said...

Once again, I'm reading a post of yours and completely relating. The thought of global warming makes me feel like (this is how I can best describe it) there's something hooked around my intestines and tugging, while something else is sitting heavily on my shoulders. I feel a sense of panic and helplessness, a feeling of being too small to make change to such a big thing in a big world. I suppose ignorance really is bliss.

But we have to remember that small things put together can make huge things. That our voices are louder and our actions are stronger than we give ourselves credit for. Seeing the effects of Fashion Revolution Day this year really gave me hope, how we together can make change and how many people really do want to make a difference.
It's hard to see the hope sometimes, but it's there and we can make a difference.
Great piece. xx

Willow said...

PS It was your birthday recently, wasn't it? I remember seeing something on instagram around the...err...21st? 22nd? I hope you had a fabulous day full of lots love, good food, coffee, conversation and lovely spoiley things. Enjoy being 19 and I hope (and am sure) that your year is going to full of wonderful adventures.
I also can't help thinking that your birthday is around the time Emalina of Kiki and the Gypsy was due to have her twins!
Happy belated birthday!

Jean at www.drossintogold.com said...

I am blown away by this post. You describe the moment with exquisite clarity, and I also find myself looking, and then glancing away. I live in a very conservative part of the US where it's not uncommon to occasionally rub elbows with the minority here that want to believe the Bush-era proclamation that global warming isn't happening. They also don't want Darwin taught in the schools, or at the very least to posit it as a theory, whereas Creationism (as literally interpreted from the Bible) is the Truth.

It's terrifying to contemplate the impact of this anti-science bias, and to observe politicians that pander to this group; terrifying to be aware of all the corporate money that's behind the stasis.

I will take your book suggestions!! I love Barbara Kingsolver and will check out the other one as well. Another haunting book is Octavia Butler's Parable of the Sower.

Love you, and yes...the clothes and setting are lovely too. We need beauty for the strength to believe. XXOO

Ivana Split said...

Well, I think that most of the times when we think about global warming, we feel a sense of helplessness that probably arises from the fact that global warming has been happening for quite a while... The industrial society is the society we live in and escaping that fact is not simple. While it is true that the world is run by profit, changing our economical system quickly might not be so easy as some make it sound.

The doom that might await us makes many people want to be proactive...which is good, but there is a catch. Most people want to do something right now and filled with adrenalin they turn to activism. The problem with many activist is that they often come on quite aggressively and sometimes they don't get their facts right (not that there can be exaggeration when it comes to the fact of global warming, what I mean is that don't seem to think much about the practical issues- the how? of it all). Often they direct all their energy in making people do things like using recycle paper coffee cups. Hm, where I'm from that's kind of meaningless because we don't use them at all (there are only two types of coffee I acknowledge- homemade Turkish coffee or Italian espresso and I would say most of people feel the same here). Seriously, coffee cups will not save the world.


What we need to make a real change is a large population of people ready to dedicate their entire lives to ecology and study all the ways in which we can save our planet. How likely is that to happen? First of all even if there is (or could be gathered) a large mass of people willing to dedicate all their energies to this important task (and thinking ahead, planning the future for more than one generation was never a human characteristic )....there remains the question what would this large amount of dedicated individuals live from. Most of us struggle to make enough money for basic needs like food and drink (and most of us is not an exaggeration, the majority of people live under the poverty line)

That brings me back to the feeling of helplessness. Not that I don't think there is hope or that we shouldn't try our hardest to care for this planet...I just don't think we should feel very smug about recycling and so on...recycling is only the first step, we should have been doing that from the start. In connection to that I would recommend Biomanželka by Michal Viewegh...in her obsession to recycle things I have recognized my own behaviour ( does it really make sense to save up old bus tickets just to put them in paper bins?)...plus the novel is quite funny and I have enjoyed it a lot more than I did his first and more famous one.