And you may find yourself living in an age of mass extinction



"And you may find yourself living in a shotgun shack." (David Byrne)


This week, I was talking with some of the UK's most prominent medics. In the jokey pre-meet conversation the subject of plastic waste arose; "Maybe," one of them said, "it wouldn't be so bad to have our insides coated with plastic micro-particles?"  The ironic laughter continued but I see that  the evidence against plastic waste is, in fact, controversial.

In other moments, I've been fascinated by Timothy Morton's 'Being Ecological' and suspect it will take many readings before I finally come to know the full depth of what he is saying.  I've borrowed the title of this blog from the title of his first chapter which many will recognise, in turn, as a riff on the Talking Heads' 'Once in a Lifetime' lyric.  One of the points Morton makes is that we need to change the way we talk about the degradation of the 'natural world.'  Information alone, he says, just giving people the facts, doesn't work in changing our relationship to the environment.

We say to folk, "Look! Can't you see...?!"

But they don't seem to be able to react to hard data.

Hitting us with the numbers about parts per million CO2 or 1.5 °C climate warming is confusing.  Whether I start my car or not tomorrow is statistically meaningless in terms of climate change data. It will actually make NO difference. And now we see that the evidence against plastic in our ecosystem is apparently inconclusive. 

And so, you may find yourself... avoids the assertion implied by the tough, clear, 'you are' proposition and offers us a more 'ungraspable', mysterious prospect.  

If, David Byrne were to view the scene in the picture above, he might respond with, "And you may tell yourself, "This is not my beautiful house."" And we are left wondering about the beauty of not only our houses but the decaying aesthetic of an unfinished multi-storey building in the Saudi desert. We engage differently with the provocation.

Checking back , I've often quoted James Hillman's view that the environmental crisis is a crisis of aesthetics.  Morton says that we feel differently about climate change when we realise that what it means to us is mass extinction.

And that we may be living in an age of mass extinction opens up an uncanny numbness;  an aesthetic response that I find I just can't ignore.

I relate to the claim in a way that is beyond the numbers and I feel a different relationship to the world.

How might you find yourself in the world?



Check out this article by Michale McCarthy shouting about the loss of half the wildlife in Britain.

Off the bookshelf, Laura Sewall's  'Sight and Sensibility - the ecopsychology of perception' tackles the blindness that separates us from finding our way in the world.

A ScienceDaily article on mass extinction. And we can already see the signs...



Steve MarshallComment