An Arts and Ecology Notebook

2nd Red Stables Art and Ecology Summer School at Bull Island Dublin

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It’s great to see all the events that were organised by the RedStables and Dublin City Arts Office for their 2nd Art & Ecology event.

The Red Stables Art and Ecology Summer School took place in St. Anne’s Park, Dublin 3 and North Bull Island, a UNESCO protected biosphere reserve. For further information and bookings contact red.stables@dublincity.ie or 01 222 7377.

‘Natural Kinds’
18 July, 2:00–5:00pm, The Red Stables, St. Anne’s Park, Dublin 3

Natural Kinds was an afternoon of talks and screenings at The Red Stables on Thursday 18th July (2–5pm), looking at notions of classification in the natural sciences and Philosophy, stemming from research artist Jenny Brady who has been engaged with the Red Stables Summer School.

The afternoon included a talk by orchid specialist Brendan Sayers on orchid hybridisation and the wild orchids on Bull Island, and a presentation on the ‘Species Problem’ in Philosophy and Biology by Dr. Niall Connolly, Lecturer in the Philosophy of Science, TCD. The short programme of screenings included Donna Haraway Reads “The National Geographic” on Primates (1987) by Donna Haraway and Paper Tiger TV, Les Oursins (1958), The Love Life of the Octopus (1967) by Jean Painlevé, and Carve Up, Jenny Brady’s new video work made for The Red Stables Summer School.

‘Carve Up’
18 –31 July, 2:00–5:00pm

Jenny Brady’s Carve Up drew on questions around the nature and conception of species with a focus on the wild orchids growing on Bull Island. The work was screened in The Red Stables Gallery between 20–31 July from 12:00–5:00pm daily.

‘The Interpretive Project’

20 July, 3:00–5:00pm, Bull Island Interpretive Centre, Dublin 3 *

The Interpretive Project was a collaboration between Rhona Byrne, Vaari Claffey and Ciara Moore. On Saturday 20th July, the artists hosted a live event at the Interpretive Centre. The audience was invited to attend a hybrid lecture proposing a re-imagined history of the island. This live presentation included readings, film screenings and other visuals. It wove together histories on the origin, mythology and ecology of Bull Island since its appearance 213 years ago.

The stuffed animals who permanently reside in the space played a role at this event. In the process of uncovering the ‘history’ of Bull Island as the site of production and conception of a number of seminal historical artworks, the animals adopted the personae and characters of figures from art history and literature and discussed and reviewed a selection of artworks, offering us new insight from the perspective of the non-human animal. They also shared memories and experiences of life on the island for some of the native species and visitors.

The project also included a participative performance based on the flocking patterns, foraging behaviour and flight formation of the migratory birds on the island and the island itself. This performance was informed by the behaviour and sounds of animals on Bull Island, reflecting the human occasions for such collective behaviours and mass gatherings around ‘feeding, mating and alarm’.

The Red Stables Summer School 2013 was curated by Seán O Sullivan and Denise Reddy.
THE RED STABLES SUMMER SCHOOL
www.redstablesartists.com
Image credit: Dublin City Council

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An Arts & Ecology Notebook, by Cathy Fitzgerald, whose work exists as ongoing research and is continually inspired to create short films, photographic documentation, and writings. While she interacts with foresters, scientists, and communities, she aims to create a sense of a personal possibility, responsibility and engagement in her local environment that also connects to global environmental concerns.

Go to An Arts and Ecology Notebook

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Eradicating ecocide to make sustainability legal

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“How can we move from a place of dependency to a place of interdependency? How can we create a world of peace?” 

Polly Higgins, ‘lawyer for the Earth’ at TEDxWhitechapel, founder of Eradicating Ecocide campaign, Feb. 2013

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“The environmental movement is a failure.

Whether its climate change or the health of our oceans, air, and soil, the planet is worse off now than it was 40 years ago, and rapidly declining. Yet, corporations have more rights than our communities or ecosystems and are doing just fine.

This is how we fix the situation.”

Thomas Linzey, lawyer, founder of US Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund organisation

This weekend I will be presenting a motion at the 2013 Irish National Green Party convention on ecocide; the post below explains why I’m trying to get the term ‘ecocide’ into the Irish political and public domains. If you are interested in measures against fracking and other environmental destruction, a law of ecocide and nature-based rights are developing in response. Please feel free to share this post.

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Could an ecocide law prevent environmental destruction?

One of the key concepts and terms in my PhD work  ‘Seeing and Tending the Forest: beyond ecocide toward deep sustainability‘ is – ‘ecocide’.

‘Ecocide’ is a term I kept coming across in my research and reading. In fact I first used ecocide almost without thinking. To me it so well conveyed the exponential accelerating ecological suicide that is occurring globally. Particularly the horrifying rate of destruction since World War II, that some are calling ‘The Great Acceleration’, that characterises our now globalised, extract-at-all costs, industrial growth society.

However, one of the fundamental principles in undertaking doctoral level research is that you fully define all terms and concepts. I had some years ago been alerted by one of my blog followers that I should look at the work of UK legal barrister, Polly Higgins. Polly Higgins’ work in organising high profile mock legal trials against corporate ecocide, her award-winning books on ‘eradicating ecocide’, her well received ecocide talks has developed quickly in recent years to become an international campaign; to have corporate ecocide recognised in international law as the missing 5th international crime against peace.

What is ecocide?

In March 2010 Polly Higgins proposed to the United Nations that Ecocide be the 5th international Crime Against Peace. This is the definition she proposed:

Ecocide is the extensive damage to, destruction of or loss of ecosystem(s) of a given territory, whether by human agency or by other causes, to such an extent that peaceful enjoyment by the inhabitants of that territory has been or will be severely diminished.

Screen Shot 2013-04-06 at 21.30.58Her website www.eradicatingecocide.com is a comprehensive resource for the history and current research into ecocide legal developments. It is also the site for the growing global campaigns to raise awareness of how we can all become involved in outlawing ecocide (taking part in the AVAAZ,  Wish20 Eradicating Ecocide and if you live in Europe  the endecocide.eu online petitions are a good place to start, you can also follow and share the posts from the Ecocide is a Crime Facebook Page too).

How can a law against ecocide work?

Polly Higgins and Thomas Linzey, a leading lawyer working in the US (quoted above), and growing numbers of leading international legal people and researchers, are arguing that in much the same way that slavery and disenfranchisement against women were perpetuated by seeing other races and women ‘as property’, that changing laws to overturn the erroneous idea that natural ecosystems be regarded as property, will powerfully and legally shift corporations away from committing crimes of ecocide.

This is not to underestimate that this is complex area (leading legal experts in universities,  particularly some University of London legal researchers, are working hard to address all the many legal details on this issue) and I have only briefly highlighted the key point here. Yet this key point, to extend a legal, enforceable ‘duty of care’ to ecosystems would be a paradigm shift for humanity, and the corporate world in particular.

Corporations are legally mandated to produce profits; this law would fundamentally change corporations actions and enforce eco-social responsibility and accountability. This will in turn legalise long term sustainability for the earth’s life giving ecosystems.

Ecocide legal frameworks already exist and has been enforced

Ecocide has since been recognised legally from the Vietnam war onwards, and some legal redress for victims of ecocide has and is occurring.

Oddly unsettling in my reading about ecocide, is that I found the term is exactly the same age as me.

I say this as the term evolved in the late 1960s from recognising the criminality behind the long term destruction and poisoning  of the forest and food ecosystems in the Vietnam war with industrial chemical herbicide agents such as Agent Orange (Monsanto/Dow Chemicals and other companies produced Agent Orange and an arsenal of other poisonous ‘rainbow agents’) used by the US military. Agent Orange in particular was noted for its disastrous long term residual poisoning of ecosystems and human populations with dioxins – lethal cancer and birth defect causing compounds, and other persistent effects of which health professionals and scientists are still realising and dealing with).

Ecocide law works: this is the card I have that gives me access to specialists doctors as my late father served and was fatally affected by the slow violence of Monsanto/Dow companies Agent Orange in the Vietnam war

Ecocide law works: this is the card I have that gives me access to specialists doctors as my late father served and was fatally affected by the slow violence of Monsanto/Dow companies Agent Orange in the Vietnam war

Ecocide since Vietnam is legally recognised in war situations

As I’ve mentioned before in a previous post, this affected my family as my late father was a New Zealand Vietnam veteran. It was through the hard work of the NZ Vietnam Veterans associations and the then Labour Government under former Prime Minister Helen Clark, that a Memorandum of Understanding sought acknowledgement, compensation and redress to the children of NZ Vietnam veterans by the ecocide caused by these long lasting poisonous herbicides. My sisters and I are now on a official NZ Vietnam Veteran’s Children’s Register (my NZ Vietnam Veteran’s Children’s card is pictured here) that gives some support to descendants affected by cancers/diseases attributed to Agent Orange and the millions of tons of poisonous herbicides sprayed across Vietnam and other parts of Asia in the 20 000+ US military air raids (see notes at end of article for more details on this NZ landmark case).

On a personal note, my father, a very quiet man, could never speak easily of America or its culture again and the destruction he witnessed to a beautiful country and the peoples of Vietnam. I grew up knowing him interested in these things; reading the paper, vegetable growing, his love of the wild forested West Coast of the South Island of NZ, horse racing and Labour Party politics. He often bribed us as children (with chocolate) to deliver Labour Party political leaflets in our local area and he would have been so moved that it was the Labour Party that worked hard to bring some compensation to his engineer army colleagues and their surviving families (NZ  sent 3,980 mainly non-combatant, engineer troops, to serve in the Vietnam war).

Nature-based rights development

Landmark nature-rights book, first published in 1972; now in 3rd edition, 2010, Oxford Uni. Press, USA

Landmark nature-rights book, first published in 1972; now in 3rd edition, 2010, Oxford Uni. Press, USA

While the NZ military situation above is an example of legal retrospective redress for gross war-time ecocide, developments since the 1960s to bring the crime of ecocide into non-military situations have evolved slowly. Surprisingly there was much talk and legal efforts in bringing ecocide forward as a crime in non-war situations in the early 1970s due to the huge public awareness of the situation in Vietnam (many scientists signed an international petition to try and stop Agent Orange use during the Vietnam war)  and the publication of Rachel Carson’s 1962 Silent Spring book alerted many to the long term environmental problems of pesticide/herbicide compounds. However such legal measures for non-war situations were stopped by several nations (see the eradicatingecocide.com website for more details). Even so, legal minds have for some decades further examined the idea of extending a legal duty of care to the non-human world, such as in the work and landmark book by US law lecturer and researcher, Christopher Stone, who wrote in 1972 Should Trees have Standing? – law, morality and the environment.

In recent years I have also noticed some nations in South America are leading the way for the ‘rights of nature’ to be legally recognised in their countries’ constitutional framework (for e.g Ecuador). Often such legislation is evolving with lawyers working with  indigenous peoples, peoples who have not forgotten their nature-centred worldviews that respects all life, fundamentally ensuring long term sustainability for all species. Also in South America, one of the most important cases against corporate ecocide is ongoing, the multinational petrochemical Chevron is facing $18 billion in redress to thousands of indigenous peoples whose livelihoods and waters were affected by Chevron’s disregard of the gross and poisonous pollution it was creating (see Amazonwatch.org for details of this case – Chevron has engaged 64 law firms trying to overturn this decision!).

An online book of my great Grandmother’s 1890s paintings of the New Zealand Whanganui River. A river ecosystem that since 2012 is now one of the first in the world to have achieved legal agreement that ‘recognises the river and all its tributaries as a single entity, Te Awa Tupua, and makes it a legal entity with rights and interests, and the owner of its own river bed.’

An online book of my great Grandmother’s 1890s paintings of the New Zealand Whanganui River. A river ecosystem that since 2012 is now one of the first in the world to have achieved legal agreement that ‘recognises the river and all its tributaries as a single entity, Te Awa Tupua, and makes it a legal entity with rights and interests, and the owner of its own river bed.’

And nature-based rights are developing in New Zealand. In fact, I was startled last August, while back in NZ to see that NZ’s third largest river, the Whanganui river, was granted legal standing from long years of work from Maori tribes and other river stakeholders. This river has a particular connection to my mother’s family as our Great Grandmother was an early European settler in the northern reaches of this river (I created a book on her paintings with my mother a few years ago – my great grandmother witnessed and painted both the beauty and the rampant deforestation by early European settlers way back in the 1890s near this river). Also last September I noticed online that the Green Party of England and Wales had invited Polly Higgins to their national convention and the Green Party of England and Wales unanimously adopted a motion to support a motion against ecocide. I made a promise to myself back then that I would at some stage attempt to bring it to the attention to the Irish and New Zealand Green Parties (NZer’s, please feel free to share this post) in a hope it would spread across the political and public domains.

Law against corporate ecocide and nature-based rights could prevent fracking, other ecosystem destruction

Land and water degradation – gas and coal extraction, sewage sludge, factory farms, massive water withdrawals, landfills, and more could be addressed

Over the last few months, I was busy with other aspects of my project but I was fortunate to come across a new book Earth at Risk (Dec, 2012)  from leading US author/activist/deep green philosopher Derrick Jensen. In it I read a fascinating interview by Derrick with US lawyer Thomas Linzey. While Polly Higgins has been tackling ecocide law at an international/UN level, I was excited to read Thomas Linzey also describe how modern law often legally enables ecocide and how despite the best of intentions, environmentalism has largely failed. I was even more excited to read how Thomas was working from the ground up, assisting grassroot local communities across the United States, to stop fracking and other forms of pollution or degradation in their areas etc by fundamentally changing the legal framework in regards to their local environments. Thomas Linzey is founder of the Community Environment Legal Defense Fund (CELDF), an organisation which since 1995 has been assisting and educating ordinary concerned citizens in towns and municipalities to fight for new nature/community based rights. In recent months, its been great to see on the eradicatingecocide.com website, both Polly’s and Thomas’s new legal ideas and work are beginning to influence local and international law. On the CELDF website you can also see how rights based successes are spreading across the US, with some communities having success in preventing fracking in their localities.

Here is a short video trailer from an upcoming documentary film from Thomas Linzey on the work that the CELDF organisation is undertaking (note, you’ll see the NZ Whanganui River rights case briefly highlighted in this trailer too). Thomas’ groundbreaking plenary 30 min speech from a US Bioneers conference is also worth listening to, see here) .

If you are involved in local politics, concerned about fracking or other types of environmental destruction, I would also recommend you watch the more detailed video below by Thomas on how this area of legal reform is developing swiftly across many US states.

Higgins and Linzey’s work acknowledges that ecocide is a crime and a move to install nature/community based rights are important and urgent. In my own writings I point out that ecocide isn’t just happening in the Arctic or the Amazon, that the slow violence of ecocide, in our culture and local environments, threads its way through our everyday lives. To me, short rotation monoculture tree plantations are a form of ecocide, leading to eventual soil fertility collapse and limiting severely resilient ecosytems from developing; the very opposite of an ecosystem thriving sustainably in the long term.  My work will continue to show alternatives to industrial forestry. Perhaps one day I might even fight for legal standing for the small forest in which I live, a living community that supports me and which I am interdependently connected to.

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I will be proposing that the following motion will be adopted by the Irish Green Party on 13 April 2013. My thanks to Carlow Law lecturer John Tully, former Green Minster for Equality, Mary White, Cllr Malcolm Noonan, Dr. Paul O’Brien, Martin Lyttle, Dr. Rhys Jones, Alan Price, Duncan Russell, Nicola Brown, John Hogan and others for enthusiastically supporting my proposing this motion.

‘The Irish Green Party supports the proposition that a crime of ecocide be created in international law, as a crime against nature, humanity and future generations, to be defined as ‘the extensive damage to, destruction of or loss of ecosystem(s) of a given territory, whether by human agency or other causes, to such an extent that peaceful enjoyment by the inhabitants (human and non-human) of that territory has been or will be severely diminished’; and that the proposed crime of ecocide be formally recognised as a Crime against Peace subject to the jurisdiction of  the International Criminal Court.’

Do take a minute to sign and share the petitions, click on the links above or the AVAAZ and also the End Ecocide in Europe (if you live in Europe) logos at the bottom of this page. If a million Europeans sign the End Ecocide in Europe it helps enforce an EU wide directive against corporate ecocide (170 000+ have signed so far).

Please feel free to share this post and comments are always welcome. Thanks for reading. (Please add the #ecocide hastag if you are reposting this article)

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Notes on redress for Vietnam veterans and their children in NZ

In December 2006, the New Zealand Government, the Ex-Vietnam Services Association (EVSA) and the Royal New Zealand Returned and Services Association (RNZRSA) agreed to, and signed, a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) following the recommendations of the Joint Working Group, designated with advocacy for Veteran’s concerns.[7] The MoU provides formal acknowledgement of the toxic environment New Zealand Vietnam Veterans faced during their service abroad in Vietnam, and the after-effects of that toxin since the service men and women returned to New Zealand. The MoU also makes available various forms of support, to both New Zealand Vietnam Veterans and their families.[8] New Zealand writer and historian, Deborah Challinor, includes a new chapter in her second edition release of Grey Ghosts: New Zealand Vietnam Veterans Talk About Their War that discusses the handling of the New Zealand Vietnam Veterans’ claims, including the Reeves, McLeod and Health Committee reports, and the reconciliation/welcome parade on Queen’s Birthday Weekend, 2008, also known as ‘Tribute 08′.[9]

From 1962 until 1987, the 2,4,5T herbicide was manufactured at an Ivon Watkins-Dow plant in Paritutu, New Plymouth which was then shipped to U.S. military bases in South East Asia.[10][11][12] There have been continuing claims that the suburb of Paritutu has also been polluted.[13][14]

See more at Veteran’s Affairs (VANZ) Website for NZ veterans and their children’s welfare

Related and recent articles on ecocide

Note: Apologies for cross posting, this article was published previously on my research site www.ecoartfilm too.

An Arts & Ecology Notebook, by Cathy Fitzgerald, whose work exists as ongoing research and is continually inspired to create short films, photographic documentation, and writings. While she interacts with foresters, scientists, and communities, she aims to create a sense of a personal possibility, responsibility and engagement in her local environment that also connects to global environmental concerns.
Go to An Arts and Ecology Notebook

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New Red Stables Art & Ecology Summer School publication

This post comes to you from An Arts and Ecology Notebook

Image: A meeting of the Belfast Naturalists’ Field Club at the Giant’s Causeway, 11 June, 1868. Photograph © National Museums Northern Ireland Collection Ulster Museum

Image: A meeting of the Belfast Naturalists’ Field Club at the Giant’s Causeway, 11 June, 1868. Photograph © National Museums Northern Ireland Collection Ulster Museum

I gave a presentation of my theory and practice research, and my video experiments to date (see video at top of my homepage), the Hollywood Diaries: screen reel 2008-12. There were contributions from many other diverse fields that were part of significant projects undertaken by Seoidín O’Sullivan and Geraldine O’Reilly. My video was shown along with films and videos by Seoidín O’Sullivan, Grace Weir, David Nash, Andy Goldsworthy, Christine Mackey, Toon.ie animations.A great legacy of the Dublin Red Stables Art & Ecology summer school, in which I took part in August, has now been produced. The series of events and projects have been reviewed and collated into a new publication created by the Dublin City Arts Office, edited by  Seán O Sullivan with an essay by invited curator and cultural geographer, Dr Karen E. Till.

All are welcome to attend the book launch, details below. I will putting a copy of the book into the National College of Art & Design for those that are interested. My thanks to Denise and the staff at Red Stables for creating such a important project and to Karen Till for reviewing what is becoming an important new area in fine art/visual culture and cultural geography.

The book  launch was this Saturday 15 December 2012.

The Red Stables Summer School: Jul – Aug 2012
St. Anne’s Park, Dublin 3

Edited by Seán O Sullivan

This Saturday, Dublin City Council Arts Office will launch a book entitled The Red Stables Summer School: Jul – Aug 2012, which details two major projects, Seoidín O’Sullivan’s Field Work and Geraldine O’Reilly’s Weeds Are Plants Too!. This year’s summer school included a rolling series of talks and field trips with invited artists, geographers, botanists and architects and an art & ecology summer school.

Alongside more than sixty full-colour illustrations, the book includes essays by Seán O Sullivan, Dr. Karen E. Till [Cultural Geographer, NUI Maynooth], and Dr. Declan Doogue, [Botanist, Dublin Naturalists’ Field Club]. It is printed lithographically on high quality book paper in an edition of 250 copies, and it is available free of charge.

This book which highlights art and ecology projects that took place in St. Anne’s Park will be launched by the Lord Mayor of Dublin, Naoise Ó Muirí, who will also switch on the Christmas tree lights.

Following on from The Red Stables Summer School and the theme of art and nature, there will be a ‘Winter Walk’ in the park with Botanist, Dr. Declan Doogue.

This project is supported by Dublin City Council Arts Office and the Arts Council of Ireland.

  Screen Shot 2012-12-12 at 21.33.02

Related links:

My talk online and video works at Red Stables Art & Ecology summer school,  17 July 2012

Art and Ecology at the Red Stables Summer School Dublin

Stories from the Field and Forest seminar at Red Stables Dublin

Please note:

Due to time demands, I am now posting a lot more regularly on my new phd website www.ecoartfilm.com which you are also welcome to follow. Just add your email to bottom of homepage. Here you will find info on experimental ecocinema practice and theory, my work and others in this small field.

An Arts & Ecology Notebook, by Cathy Fitzgerald, whose work exists as ongoing research and is continually inspired to create short films, photographic documentation, and writings. While she interacts with foresters, scientists, and communities, she aims to create a sense of a personal possibility, responsibility and engagement in her local environment that also connects to global environmental concerns.
Go to An Arts and Ecology Notebook

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Outlawing ecocide for global peace – why we must all stand with Polly Higgins, the ‘lawyer for the earth’

This post comes to you from An Arts and Ecology Notebook
‘Examples of ascertainable ecocide affecting sizeable territories include the deforestation of the Amazonian rainforest, the proposed expansion of the Athabasca Oil Sands in northeastern Alberta, Canada and polluted waters in many parts of the world, which account for the death of more people than all forms of violence including war‘ – Polly Higgins, Eradicating Ecocide, 2010, p.63

Polly Higgins and indigenous activist Raven Courtney 2012 working to spread news about ecocide in Canada and North America

Polly Higgins and indigenous activist Raven Courtney earlier this year working to spread news about ecocide in Canada and North America

The above statement is a startling statistic at odds in how we may conventionally view war. Yet acknowledging the enormous and accelerating violence and destruction to humans, non-human species and our sustaining habitats as war is a critical step if we are ever to halt such activities. It is this key concept that drives UK lawyer Polly Higgins in her work to make ‘Ecocide’ legally recognised by the United Nations as ‘5th international Crime against Peace‘. Polly and her organisation are working towards presenting these new laws at the upcoming June 2012 Earth summit and she has recently made an urgent call, particularly to the women of the world, who are often most affected, to understand this concept and to spread it amongst their communities and to bring it to the attention of their political leaders.

Ecocide, as Polly describes in her award winning book ‘Eradicating Ecocide – exposing the corporate and political practices destroying the planet and proposing the laws needed to eradicate ecocide’, is a relatively new term. It was first used to characterise the massive and ongoing environmental devastation that occurred in the Vietnam war with the widespread use of toxic defoliants to destroy local forests. Today it is a term that is growing in agency as the world is beginning to recognise the grave and now imminent global peril that humanity and other species face due to the mostly uncontrolled, unsustainable and ultimately suicidal behaviour of our local and global businesses and corporate industries. Ecocide literally means the killing and destroying of our habitats, and is derived from the Greek word oikos meaning ‘house, dwelling place, habitation, family’ and the suffix ‘cide‘ from the French and Latin words to ‘kill or slay’. For the purposes of international law and building on definitions of ecocide from previous war crimes, Polly defines ecocide as ‘the extensive destruction, damage to or loss of ecosystem(s) of a given territory, whether by human agency or by other causes, to such an extent that peaceful enjoyment by the inhabitants of that territory has been severely diminished’.

Building on her extensive knowledge of international environmental law, Polly has over a number of years built a very strong, credible case to firstly explain the history and the current situation about why legal compromise, recommended environmental policy and regulation all continue to spectacularly fail in preventing environmental destruction, as seen in the recent Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico. She likens the need to legally criminalise ecocide to the effects such similar laws that criminalised and led to the abolition of slavery. Polly’s aim is to eradicate ecocide at its roots, outlawing ecocidal activity in all business activity to the point that business is forced to radically change and move in the opposite direction. As she says ‘ we need business skills to be applied elsewhere and very fast..’

Youtube: Polly Higgins organised a successful mock ecocide trial in London in 2011 with leading human rights lawyers

While I’m often pessimistic about environmental actions and politics in general halting what I see as the unstoppable consequences of a society that promotes unlimited economic growth and profit over everything else, I have been encouraged by Polly’s work and the historical and recent examples she presents where such legal changes have made a difference. There are certainly enormous challenges in getting such legal changes adopted and then enforced. However, it is possible and one country, Ecuador, has in 2010 already enshrined these values into its national constitution. Perhaps this is because it is in Ecuador that the largest criminal prosecution against corporate ecocide, against the ‘big oil’ company TEXACO, has succeeded with a $27 billion of damages awarded to 30,000 Amazonian peoples (the 18 year struggle for this landmark case is the basis of the award-winning documentary Crude (2009)).

So if you have a few minutes, please visit Polly’s website www.thisisecocide.com, packed with information and suggestions on how to spread the word about ecocide and its need for its to be recognised at every level, locally, nationally and internationally as a crime, not just against the environment but against peace. Do share this article , particularly before the June 2012 United Nations Earth Summit at which Polly will be presenting this groundbreaking work.

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What follows are Polly’s 10 reasons why Ecocide is a crime against Peace

1. stop ecocide and we stop the mass destruction of the planet;

2. ecocide is proposed as an international law which applies to all people and all nations;

3. which will rapidly become a national duty of care as well when each country has to put in place parallel laws;

4. governments, corporations, organisations, and any person who has rights over a territory will have an over-riding legally binding obligationto ensure their actions do not give rise to damage, destruction or loss of ecosystems;

5. action can be taken against any human person, not the fictional person (the corporation). As an international crime against peace, no-one escapes liability;

6. we already have the international court structure in place to prosecute ecocide. The International Criminal Court was created in 2002;

7. ecocide creates a strong legal burden of responsibility to ensure prevention;

8. restoration will take precedence over simple payment of fines;

9. the Law of Ecocide will ensure a shift from personal interest to public, environmental and society interests;

10. Peace.

Ecocide sends a powerful global message to the world, not just to those involved in business or during war, to take responsibility for the well being of all life.

This article also appears on hercircleezine.com and ecoartfilm.com

An Arts & Ecology Notebook, by Cathy Fitzgerald, whose work exists as ongoing research and is continually inspired to create short films, photographic documentation, and writings. While she interacts with foresters, scientists, and communities, she aims to create a sense of a personal possibility, responsibility and engagement in her local environment that also connects to global environmental concerns.
Go to An Arts and Ecology Notebook

forest and stone reminders: the sculpture of eileen macdonagh

 Eileen MacDonagh with her Ogham Stones 2012

Eileen MacDonagh with her Ogham Stones 2012, VISUAL Carlow

This post comes to you from An Arts and Ecology Notebook

‘ THE QUARRY   This is where it all begins.  I love going there to see the stone in its most natural state.  Quarries are my cathedrals,  even when its raining I always come home uplifted.’ Eileen MacDonagh, 2012

Over the last year or so I have been very privileged to have been invited by one of Ireland’s leading sculptor’s, Eileen MacDonagh, to document her work process by film and photographs for her retrospective exhibition LITHOsphere. The exhibition opens today and continues until May 7 2012 and I’ve been editing madly for the 1/2h film I created for the show (I’ll post some of the links to film clips below).

Eileen is a great friend to my husband and I; Martin over recent years has taken up stone sculpture and he could have no better teacher or friend for that matter. Martin is a geologist so there are often lots of discussions on stones, grinding equipment and lots of excitement about the sculpture process in general. Its an odd contrast to my own practice but I want to mention aspects of Eileen’s work that touch me deeply too.

I really admire the attention to working with physical materials in Eileen’s stone practice; it echoes an earlier time when art was more deeply connected to the material world. In contemporary art, there has been a move, and I would say a dangerous loss of connection to the fabric of material life – much contemporary work has moved to virtual digital methods (my own included although I try to ground my work in a long term work with my forest outside my door). And then there are elements in Eileen’s work that serve to trigger profound reminders too; particularly in her  astounding 8m forest of her new breathtaking installation Cathedral and her new Ogham Stones. Her ‘cathedral’ forest towers above one; these papier mache forms reminiscent of highly remarkable and endangered baobab trees, many species of which are on the island of Madagascar. In recent weeks I’ve seen disturbing reports that we are losing our large trees all over the world. Centuries of relatively rapid forest loss over all continents and further degradation of forested areas by industrial forestry methods, ever encroaching intensive agriculture,  changes in climate, and competition from other invasive species  are having profound and irreversible effects. I know not everyone will be thinking about ecological loss when viewing Eileen’s work but I can’t help relate how forests have always been the ‘shadow of civilization’; how we treat our forests and relate to our forests tells us much about the state of our so called civlisation. Eileen’s forest came together with her incredible enthusiasm to bring people to the project too; forests are not just trees but a complex web of relationships and Eileen’s forest also grew from a complex web of relations of people in the local area.

Eileen’s new Ogham Stones are reminders too. In ancient Ireland, stone pillars around the country were marked with carved, indented lines on the edges to describe the species of trees in the surrounding and then much forested regions of Ireland. In the  stone cleave markings in Eileen’s work process, I see references here to trees too.

I am only referring to some of the works in this large exhibition; along with the 8 m forest in which you can walk through, there are over 50 tonnes of stoneworks on display. LITHOsphere opens today and continues for 3 months at VISUAL, the centre for contemporary art in Carlow. Please also see the Visual site for talks by Eileen over the coming months, I know the first talk will be a talk around all the pieces in the gallery and the work that went into making them.

installation of Cathedral by Eileen MacDonagh, 2012

A shot I took in the gloaming when Cathedral was being installed; installation by Eileen MacDonagh, 2012

Here are the links to my film clips that I created for Eileen’s work: there is a long slideshow about her two decades of sculpute work (this is a slow silent piece for the gallery as there will be activity sheets for visiting children about the stone works), a film about her new Stone Circle and clips on the community work behind the development, creation and installation of Cathedral.

installation of Cathedral by Cathy Fitzgerald 2012

Cathedral installed: Eileen and Martin running through the trees: a still from the Lithosphere film

An Arts & Ecology Notebook, by Cathy Fitzgerald, whose work exists as ongoing research and is continually inspired to create short films, photographic documentation, and writings. While she interacts with foresters, scientists, and communities, she aims to create a sense of a personal possibility, responsibility and engagement in her local environment that also connects to global environmental concerns.
Go to An Arts and Ecology Notebook

Deep sustainability and the art and politics of forests

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Internationally, the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) still classifies clearfell (clearcut) monocrop plantation sites, like the one above pictured, as a ‘forest’Internationally, the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) still classifies clearfell (clearcut) monocrop plantation sites, like the one above pictured, as a ‘forest’

‘I thought again of our fundamental inversion of all relatedness, of how we nearly always ask the wrong question -What can I get from this?–and so rarely the right one–What can I give back? Even when we try to learn from others, it is from the same spirit of acquisition: What can I learn from this forest ecosystem that will teach me how to manage if for maximum resource extraction? Rarely: What can I learn from this forest community that will teach me better how to serve it?

Derrick Jensen, A Language Older than Words, 2000, p. 319

Last December on the 30th celebration of the Irish Green Party and in the last few weeks of the UN International Year of the Forest, I presented on behalf of the forestry policy group, a comprehensive new sustainable forestry policy for Ireland. It was accepted that day!!! The policy development had taken several years with the input and hard work of a small number of committed members. It had involved wide consultation with forest and other environment/ natural heritage groups, professional foresters and policy makers from here and overseas.

My own personal involvement in policy development was propelled for a number of reasons: over several years my partner and I, with the help of a local sustainable forester, have been transforming our very small 25 year old conifer plantation into a permanent (non clear-fell) forest using Close-to-Nature continuous cover sustainable forestry methods. This is because I have a strong belief that we need to create radical new ways of relating to our natural environments, if we and those environments that support us all are to thrive in the long-term. I have spent considerable time too on a long term art & ecology project of which my forest is central to my work.

I also wanted to help introduce policy that would finally address the appalling irresponsibility of current Irish policy that ignores the devastation that we inflict on other human and natural communities when we continue to allow the importation of timbers and wood products from countries where unsustainable logging, often still from old growth forests, are occurring. As hidden behind the everyday headlines of economic collapse we are now living in an unprecedented age referred to as the age of the 6th great extinction. This Anthropocene age is where our own species actions alone are dramatically altering the very fabric of our finite biosphere. Around the world, the degradation of natural environments, the way we interact with our supporting land bases, has and continues to lead to unprecedented species, habitat and much cultural loss. This age of extinction, where we are losing 200 species every day,  mirrors the ecocidal growth-at-all-costs politics of our hyper-consumerist industrialised societies, the now globalised dominant cultural model that fails, in a mixture of blind ignorance and short-term profiteering, to understand the limitations and sensitivity of environments that supports all life. For example, short-term returns obscure the fact that clear-fell forestry that relies on serial plantings of monocrops, will lead, in 4 or 5 rotations, to severe soil degradation and ever reducing timber volumes. Such practices also limit and disrupt other species and dull the social and cultural values of our forests in the meantime.

On a global scale, we know our forested areas are critical in regulating our climate and storing carbon and are the most important habitat for most terrestrial species, but do we relate that every effort should be to grow more now, to sustain and create more resilient and diverse  (uneven aged and mixed species) permanent forests? Diverse forests, for instance, will be crucial to counter the effects of changing climate with its increased likelihood of tree disease. On a national scale and when other fuel costs are set to keep rising, local fuel independence provided by well managed, selectively harvested permanent forests must be part of the equation to support local economies and communities fuel requirements not to mention improving local  biodiversity. I now also understand why leading sustainable European foresters see such potential in transforming much of Ireland’s pioneer conifer plantations to permanent forests. I’ve long known we have the best tree growing conditions in Europe but I can now see that we have too long focussed solely on short-term economic returns of forest plantations forgetting the intrinsic ecological and cultural wealth that our ancient biodiverse Irish Forests once provided. In some small measure I hope ideas in the new Irish Green Party forestry policy will help enable a new expanded vision of permanent forests potential to circulate more widely in Ireland and elsewhere.

New Zealand old growth forest, South Island, photo Cathy Fitzgerald 2003

New Zealand old growth forest, South Island, photo Cathy Fitzgerald 2003

I am very fortunate that my thinking and practical knowledge about forests has come from both long associations with leading people from Crann (an Irish forest group), ProSilva Ireland and ProSilva Europe (sustainable forestry organisations) and from living within a small forest. In recent years on study tours I have experienced the vibrant mixed species, permanent forests in Hungary, Slovenia, Austria and the Netherlands that are managed carefully for ecological, cultural, as well as economic benefits. Fifteen years ago, when I first came to Ireland from New Zealand, I worked on a Crann Leitrim project and witnessed the largest Forest Service supported county-wide planting of broadleaf woodlands amongst local farmers and those interested in doing something different with their land. My friendships with leading forest practitioners from then continues to this day and some years ago I had the good fortune to go back to Leitrim to make a small film of the ‘local project’ as it had been called, where I interviewed the new woodland owners and the vibrant mixed woodlands that I had seen planted not many years before. Such projects were so important in practically illustrating the need for new policy then. We have come a long way in that broadleaf tree planting and increased afforestation are now well supported but we still have so much to learn that planting any species as crops is shortsighted and will never lead to longterm wealth or real forests.

Cathy Fitzgerald and her dog Holly in their small Hollywood forest                      Co. Carlow, Ireland 2010

Cathy Fitzgerald and her dog Holly in their small Hollywood forest Co. Carlow, Ireland 2010

On the practical side, my own observations of the small forest in which we live has been invaluable. Our tiny, 21/2 acre forest-in-the-making, comprising of 25 year old conifers undergoing periodic selective harvesting, now supplies us with over 70 tonnes of firewood every three years!  We have had to start selling firewood to our neighbours to cope with our clever, fast growing forest.  And as the integrity of our small forest remains intact, since we do not clear-fell, we have more and different birds every year and incredible range of fungi too. More valuable ash and some oak trees are self generating and growing quickly in the shelter of our large conifers (they’ll grow quicker and straighter in such company without us having to waste energy to prune them too). So from my window I can see our small acreage is a more vibrant community where the real wealth is embedded and accumulating in the diversifying, aging forest! Such forestry does require a long-term, slower mindset. Its one that attempts to respect all aspects of what makes a forest (which is very complex and dynamic when you think of it) and with it, thinking of new ways of relating to its living inhabitants so all thrive and survive. Its a type of slow-forest, interdependent management where one seeks to carefully observe and understand rather than quickly exploit and move on. So thinking and working in forests has for me been an important means to think about some very real aspects of deep sustainability in the wider context too. Where deep sustainability refers not only implementing measures for our own benefit but measures that ensure all aspects of a forest thrive. By the way, our small 2 1/2 acre site is now listed with a growing number of other sites around the country on the new Coford research database of forests undergoing transformation, or as they refer to it, being managed by implementing low impact silvaculture systems (LISS).

From a completely different view, as an artist I have long being fascinated and in turns equally concerned by what has created contemporary culture’s short-sighted ecocidal perspective. I have been influenced and inspired by artists and writers before me.  However I am often shocked and at a loss how too few artists today examine our relation to the living world in any depth. Perhaps my previous working background in the biological sciences means I have always been drawn to and feel more able to engage with ideas and concerns about our increasingly growing ecological crises. I have of course always been drawn to artists that have related to forests too.

I suspect that many members of the Green Party and the public in general would be unaware that some of the early formative material for the first Green Party in Germany evolved from ideas from the leading 20th century German artist, Joseph Beuys. Beuys was a  founding member of the first Green party and later unsuccessfully stood as a Green Party candidate for the European Parliament. A highly charismatic, self-professed shaman-like figure, Beuys was an outspoken artist attracting considerable media attention for his ideas about the central and essential role of art in society. He considered all members of society active agents in shaping society (he’s widely known for his claim that ‘everyone is an artist‘ and also that truly healthy societies support and understand that ‘art = capital’).  Beuys also had a deep understanding that a healthy environment is a necessity for healthy societies.  As an arts professor he had controversial ideas that the arts must be freely available to all, opening his classes to un-enrolled students. Although very popular with students and other artists such controversial ideas eventually lead to his dismissal as Professor from the Dusseldorf Arts Academy.  Though his political ideas about society, education and the environment were instrumental to the newly forming Green Party, his involvement in politics was not to last either, as he was frustrated by the slow democratic process of the new party and in hindsight, his own eccentric character seemed ill suited to connect with the general public. Even so, he carved a considerable public profile for his works and ideas, and to this day he is highly regarded in bringing art out of institutions and galleries to create projects that combined community actions, what he termed ‘social sculpture’, to address eco-societal concerns in the wider public domain.

Beuys at Kassel

While it is difficult to condense Beuys’ work into a short article, his final large scale project, 7000 oaks for the International Documenta Arts Exhibition in Kassel (1982) city left a lasting legacy for the German city and contemporary art. Creating a huge mound of 4 ft high basalt stone pillars outside the entrance of Documenta, he stipulated that each of the 7000 stone pillars could only be moved to be placed alongside a planted oak, both of which were to be put in the environs of Kassel city. After considerable city-wide debate, communities and individuals working with local government and other community institutions carried out his forced urban tree planting project over 5 years. Though initially greeted with much skepticism this new type of community art project eventually gathered wide and popular support and has been replicated in other cities. Beuys instinctive understanding of relational community art practice has also been immensely important to contemporary art.

Beuys’ idea of the oak each being planted along with a stone pillar also presented an intriguing means to project this artistic endeavour well into the future; the pillars act as permanent markers of the townspeople actions to future generations, reminding them of the long-term thinking and environmental actions of its previous citizens. Such deeply symbolic practical actions encompassing long-term thinking for society is much needed now but not only in our cities. In fact Beuys sought to have this project replicated all over the world. An important legacy of Beuys work continues now through the Social Sculpture Unit in Oxford and last year when I visited I heard that over 80 art and forest projects from around the world were connecting with their University of Trees network project. Of course, when you think of it, we have our own standing stone reminders in Ireland. Our ancient Ogham alphabet carved on our standing stones all tellingly describe our then high regard for our native forest species, each letter corresponding to a native tree or shrub. It might be that Beuys had remembered this as he a deep interest in celtic Ireland too.

Permanent forests, Slovenia 2009

A Slovenian permanent forest - where clearfelling (clearcutting) has not been performed for 64 years!

Postscript: when I started writing this article a week ago I received a short Skype message from a leading sustainable close-to-nature forester in Tasmania. He had discovered and enjoyed looking at my short, birdsong narrated film I had created about our forest practices, called Transformation but noticed an error under a photograph I took of fabulous permanent forests in Slovenia where I had noted that clearfelling in Slovenia has been illegal these past 25 years. He wrote, ‘Just noticed the comment under the photo from Slovenia. Clearfelling in Slovenia was ended in 1948! That is 64 years of changed thinking and planning and operating”

… I hope we too reach such longterm forestry practice in the very near future both here and Ireland and beyond.

 

Further Reading

Strangely like war: the global assault on forests by Derrick Jensen and George Draffan (2005), see also A language Older than Words, Derrick Jensen (2000)

Forests: the shadow of civilisation by Robert Pogue Harrison, 1992.

Beuysian Legacies in Ireland and Beyond: Art, Culture and Politics by Christa-Maria Lerm Hayes and Victoria Walters, European Studies in Culture and Policy, Lit Verlag, 2011

Note: This article was first published on HerCircleEzine.com on 20.1.12 and on my www.ecoartfilm.com site too.

An Arts & Ecology Notebook, by Cathy Fitzgerald, whose work exists as ongoing research and is continually inspired to create short films, photographic documentation, and writings. While she interacts with foresters, scientists, and communities, she aims to create a sense of a personal possibility, responsibility and engagement in her local environment that also connects to global environmental concerns.
Go to An Arts and Ecology Notebook

100 posts on art and ecology resource site grows alongside a slow art-forest project

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Museum of Nature, 2004 by photographer Ilkka Halso

This is my 100th post on my art & ecology notebook site – amazing! I’m as shocked as probably you are and its made me realise that I have created quite an archive of the different means where arts and ecology intersect.

new ecoartfilm site

What started out in 2008 as a small personal notebook has grown - it initially was a place to put inspiring art & ecology projects and resources that I came across in one place and also a means to house the beginnings of my own long term art & ecology project. From a small rural location the site has allowed me to gather and make visible projects that often fall outside the mainstream agendas of many galleries and it has allowed my own practice to travel to many unexpected destinations.  For newer readers my artistic work is about creating small audiovisual works that touch on the small forest that surrounds our house that we are transforming from a monoculture conifer plantation into a permanent mixed species forest. Mostly my own work is about how we engage with ‘nature’ in general and its led me to pursue the idea of whether audiovisual video works can be used in a  more ecocentric way, if that is possible (if you are interested my  research on this topic can be found here).  My art & ecology site been quite an odd jumble of  things and early posts were a bit random, but my readership has steadily grown even though my posts can appear a bit infrequently. Thank you for all the comments along the way too – you have no idea how this small site has enabled my work to develop and connect with others!

new archive page

Anyway, to mark this blogging milestone I’ve spent a little bit of time and created an illustrated Archive page  and  a new dropdown Category section on the home page where you can easily see all the art

disciplines for instance that I have written about; from film to dance, to music to policy papers on culture and sustainability. You are more than welcome to share any of these posts along.

Some of you might also be aware that I wrote a research paper on networking the arts to save the earth earlier this year. It was a whopping 8,000 words, designed to reach out and comment on how cultural practitioners of all types could best use online social media networks. Social media is something I’ve worked with for several years in a past job where I helped develop a  large online arts community.  A lot of the paper was me trying to figure out the potential or not of social media, amongst all the hype and suddenness in which these

a new article

technologies have now appeared in our lives, and examine their value for art & ecology practitioners. The paper seemed to have struck a nerve – I expect it was probably the  fact that many working in this field are both isolated geographically but also isolated on the fringes of contemporary art practice.  A much shortened form of the article was printed in the Aug 2011 Irish Visual Arts Newsheet. It was then picked up by one of the editors as a feature article on the international

site HerCircleEzine.com -  an online site that for the last 6 years has been dedicated to women’s socially engaged practice. I was surprised and delighted -  to tell the truth the research paper had been turned down originally for an academic journal (not that I was too surprised about this as it was my first attempt) but of course, a paper on social media, should be circulating on social media not stuck in some academic journal. I’ve created a resource page of the many various art & ecology networks too – please feel free to tell me about other networks not listed. There’s more too, I’ve also been asked to write a regular column on the HerCircleEzine site about art & ecology and my research practice, starting in November which I must say is a bit daunting as if you examine the site you’ll see the articles written are of a very high standard. 

holly dog looking proud

Hollywood - smallest close-to-nature forest in Ireland (pictured: Holly at the forest entrance)

You might have also noticed the blue forest image above – the Museum of Nature created by Finnish photographer Ilkka Halso. I found this image intriguing; its from a larger body of works by Ilkka called Restoration (2004). While I don’t like the idea of putting a forest in a cage I could identify with this artist’s interest with forests. I have also come across a  number of artists who describe their art & ecology works as ‘restoration’ environmental projects. It’s not a term I use for my own forest project; while restoration of sites is obviously important I think much more needs to be addressed. Undoubtedly we can learn much from restoring sites/habitats, but for me,  I think there is something more interesting in transformation; transforming the ideas and practices of how we relate to nature (a tricky area when one begins to examine it though) and hence, transforming how we behave on this one finite earth. You might be wondering why I’ve added this paragraph at the end of this post – I was saving the best for last :-) . My tiny forest, nick-named ‘Hollywood’ has been getting some attention. ‘Hollywood’ is now listed on the new Irish database for forests that are being managed in a permanent way – its the smallest plantation undergoing ‘transformation’ to become a forest, in Ireland. We manage the forest following close-to-nature principles ( a low impact management system that follows nature’s own dynamics). As it is an ecological type of forest management it means that the forest is sustainable not only for our use (we get firewood, birdsong, oxygen, sanity etc from it) but as it will never be clear-felled; the overall biodiversity, soil fertility and carbon-sink values on the site will only ever increase.

Funny, how this writing about transformation has slipped into this post, as I often have a lot of difficulty in talking about my creative work – in fact, I think its much better presented by the forest itself (click on the image below if you can’t see the film).

If you have any comments, do write in!

transformation 2011

 

An Arts & Ecology Notebook, by Cathy Fitzgerald, whose work exists as ongoing research and is continually inspired to create short films, photographic documentation, and writings. While she interacts with foresters, scientists, and communities, she aims to create a sense of a personal possibility, responsibility and engagement in her local environment that also connects to global environmental concerns.
Go to An Arts and Ecology Notebook

oil and tree cycles: art and activism – join global cycle day 24 Sept

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Image left: Bidon arme (Loaded Drum), 2004 Romuald Hazoume Right: Treebike – image from the International freecard alliance for World Environment day, 5 June 2009

An exhibition that I stumbled upon accidentally a few months ago has stayed with me. On a visit to the Irish Museum of Modern in April 2011 I came across African artist Romuald Hazoume’s very thought provoking and surprisingly enjoyable installations of ‘masks’, sculptures, documentary film and photography work.

Mon Général, 1992

"Mon Général", 1992 by Hazoume

Romuald Hazoumè, one of Africa’s most important visual artists, creates playful sculptures and masks made from discarded plastic canisters commonly found in his native Benin (a small country neighbouring Nigeria)  for transporting black-market petrol (known as kpayo) from Nigeria. As can be seen in his image (above left) these jerry cans are expanded over flames to increase their fuel-carry capacity, sometimes to excess resulting in fatal explosions. Hazoume’s work richly references mask making culture from his African heritage to commenting on his country’s predicament of being caught up in the day-to-day and often unacknowledged misery of the global fossil fuel industry.  His work is engaging on very many levels and to a wide audience; from children who love the use of his found objects to adults that can see the political concerns in his work, to others who see a continuation of identity expressed in local materials made into masks.  ‘Hazoumé has used the cans as a potent metaphor for all forms of slavery, past and present, drawing parallels with the vessels’ role as crucial but faceless units within commercial systems, dangerously worked to breaking point before being discarded (Tate Modern, 2007)

From across this side of the planet my own work attempts to touch some of these concerns too. My long term project the hollywood diaries to transform our conifer plantation to a permanent forest has real long term energy returns as we are very shortly to discontinue use of oil for our home heating (a common and increasingly expensive form of domestic heating in Ireland) and use our never-ending supply of forest thinnings. In fact, I was startled to learn recently from my forestry contacts, that our ongoing selective harvesting to keep the forest vibrant and encourage the native tree seedlings to flourish, will mean that we’ll have 70 tonnes of wood every three to four years from our small two acres!! Crikey!

The image on the above right, Treebike, is a pointer to this month’s global day of cycling, Moving Planet lead by Bill McKibben and his global 350.org organisation to invite us all to get on our bikes this Sept 24th, 2011. I’ve always been amazed at the huge response to these events and how often the arts help mobilise such activities.

Here’s the video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_ztEgLXSiek – as in the past you can goto 350.org and join in the fun but its also a serious campaign too

‘Circle September 24 on your calendar–that’s the day for what we’re calling Moving Planet: a day to move beyond fossil fuels…

On 24 September we’ll be figuring out the most meaningful ways to make the climate message move, literally. We’ll show that we can use our hands, our feet, and our hearts to spur real change. In many places, people will ride bicycles, one of the few tools used by both affluent and poor people around the world. Other places people will be marching, dancing, running, or kayaking, or skateboarding. Imagine the spectacle: thousands of people encircling national capitals, state houses, city halls.

But we won’t just be cycling or marching–we’ll also be delivering a strong set of demands that can have real political impact.”

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Note: some of you might be aware that I have returned to art college to undertake in-depth research on experimental film and ecology in the last year – if you want to follow along, my research site is www.ecoartfilm.com

I’ve recently created a small film sketch on how our small conifer plantation  is being transformed, comments welcome!!

http://vimeo.com/27704065

An Arts & Ecology Notebook, by Cathy Fitzgerald, whose work exists as ongoing research and is continually inspired to create short films, photographic documentation, and writings. While she interacts with foresters, scientists, and communities, she aims to create a sense of a personal possibility, responsibility and engagement in her local environment that also connects to global environmental concerns.
Go to An Arts and Ecology Notebook

a little girl and a big snake – can the arts connect us before its too late?

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Was just reading the following quote from a book The Care of Creation (2000) and thinking about this ecopoem entry into last weeks British Talent show that has gone viral on youtube

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UyYizYZKFtU

”When the greatest beasts before whom our ancestors shrank in terror is in danger of extinction, when the very biodiversity of the planet seems to depend on the implementation of a political treaty, the only thing to be in awe of is the dizzying power of human culture…. our problem today… is that our awe has given way to an exploitative and managerial approach to nature.”

save the humansI loved Olivia’s courage to present her ‘passion, which she knows is out of fashion’ but I couldn’t help but feel though that many in audience while applauding this audacious poetic gesture fail to see the bigger crisis that extinction is pointing to, ie that extinction doesn’t only apply to snakes! (I saw the polar bear image above earlier this week and thought, yep, the polar bears have got it – a friend of mine has it as his avatar on Facebook)

Other contributors to Care of Creation printed back in 2000, from scientists to theologians state that ‘the ecocrisis is so serious that scientists and political solutions alone are unlikely to address it satisfactorily’… which some of us are beginning to realise. One of the contributors quotes an earlier writer, Hamilton in 1993, who argued, ‘it is not the ecologists, engineers, economists or earth scientists who will save spaceship earth, but the poets (even small ones), priests, artists and philosophers’.

Here’s another creative work which dovetails Olivia’s piece above, don’t you think.

Olivia gets where science often fails and where artistic performance excels…. ‘if I say their Latin names will you listen more?’

An Arts & Ecology Notebook, by Cathy Fitzgerald, whose work exists as ongoing research and is continually inspired to create short films, photographic documentation, and writings. While she interacts with foresters, scientists, and communities, she aims to create a sense of a personal possibility, responsibility and engagement in her local environment that also connects to global environmental concerns.

Go to An Arts and Ecology Notebook

Deadzones in Irish seas; culture and climate soundworks

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Image: Recording with hydrophone in Killybegs

‘We, as many others, have been concerned about the world we live in and climate change ever since we started the Bliain Le Baisteach project over 10 years ago. In fact, most of our work has in some way been reflections and explorations of our relation to and understanding of nature, expressed as multimedia artwork and performances’, Softday (2010)
In 2008, Virginia Institute of Marine Science Professor Robert Diaz showed that the number of “dead zones”—areas of seafloor with too little oxygen for most marine life—had increased by a third between 1995 and 2007. Diaz and collaborator Rutger Rosenberg of the University of Gothenburg in Sweden found that dead zones are now “the key stressor on marine ecosystems” and “rank with over-fishing, habitat loss, and harmful algal blooms as global environmental problems.” The study, which appeared in the August 15, 2008 issue of the journal Science, tallied 405 dead zones in coastal waters worldwide, affecting an area of 246,000 km2, almost the size of New Zealand. It is currently estimated that there are 20 such ‘dead zones’ in Ireland and two were identified in the study at both Killybeg’s Harbour (1999) and Donegal Bay (2000). Geological evidence show that dead zones are not a naturally recurring event in marine ecosystems; dead zones were once rare, now they are common place and increasing, which poses a serious threat to indigenous marine habitats and the human food chain. It is currently estimated that there are 20 such dead zones in Ireland and two contested dead zones were identified in the study at both Killybeg’s Harbour (1999) and Donegal Bay (2000).
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I’m really delighted to have this guest post from Margaret Mc Lauglin on another of the remarkable Lovely Weather Culture and Climate Change projects in Ireland (Softday’s video-sound piece was my favourite at the opening). Margaret is an artist who is currently studying on the MA Art in the Contemporary Programme, National College of Art & Design, Dublin Ireland.

It’s Saturday 16th October 2010 and I’m standing in Mooney’s boatyard , Killybegs, Co. Donegal for the first time, even though this is the area where I grew up.  It is a space where I feel that I’m not supposed to be entering but I’m here today to watch a sound performance by two artists; Sean Taylor who is an art-scientist and Mikael Fernstrom, a computer-scientist; a collaborative partnership called Softday. Today they are about to realize a project that they have been working on for several months.  The project entitled Marbh Chrios which in translation from Irish means Dead Zone. This was an Artist’s Residency that was part of the Donegal County Council’s Lovely Weather Art and Climate Change Public Art Programme (2009-10). This project was co-curated by the Regional Culture Centre’s John Cunningham and Leonardo’s Annick Bureaud.

The Softday artists were one of five artist/s taking part in Lovely Weather Art and Climate Change project.  Other artists include Peter d’Agostino (USA), Seema Goel (CAN), The League of Imaginary Scientists (USA) and Anthony Lyons (UK). Below is the a fantastic documentary of all the projects directed and edited by Maria Mulhall and produced by Jeremy Howard and the Regional Cultural Centre under the Sharing Stories Project (funded by the International Fund for Ireland).

Softday have been engaging with issues of climate change and its global effects for the past 10 years. They have worked on projects such as Blain Le Baisteach,  which translates as ‘a year of rainfall’ (2000) – a soundvision project focusing on the  fluctuating annual rainfall patterns in Ireland; Coisir an Tsionainn which translates as ‘The Shannon Suite’ (2003), focusing on the four-year life cycle of the wild Atlantic salmon and the following effects of over fishing and pollution on the species.  Next was their Nobody Leaves till the Daphnia sing (2009) which looked at the contamination of domestic drinking water in Galway and West Limerick.

But today I’m about to witness their newest project; Marbh Chrios: Dead ZoneDead Zones are areas on the sea bed with too little oxygen for most marine life to survive. The artists worked with Met Eireann, The Marine Institute of Ireland, Dr Brendan O’ Connor of Aqua Fact International, Dr. Robert Diaz and Dr. Rutger Rosenberg, who have conducted the most comprehensive scientific studies of marine Dead Zones in the world and have identified two contested Dead Zones in Killybegs Harbour and Donegal Bay.  Along with Softday’s performance came a pamphlet with dead zone information so I am now informed of the background of their research, the meaning of a Dead Zone, and the unfortunate fact that my local area has two dead zones!!  Softday described the Marbh Chrios Dead Zone work as  a computer-generated music composition, constructed using eight years of related marine data mapping two ‘contested’ marine dead zones in Killybegs Harbour and Donegal Bay.  (A specially designed USB artefact in the shape of a fish containing a video and audio from the performance was recently launched in the Contemporary Music Centre’s new Platform for Performance space on 9 February 2011 and you can see an interview here ).

data points

Proceeding the performance, the Softday artists had collated sound information which they later turned  into algorithms, visualisations and sonifications. These algorithms, visualisations and sonifications were then carefully put together.  A projection of digital images was set up to be played throughout the entire performance.  The Boatyard was set up for a community performance of Softday’s compostions and included the local :

  • Youth Orchestra
  • a Ceili Band
  • and a Marching band that were later to appear (you can catch glimpses of the project in the video above)

As the space started filling up with eager spectators, an acoustic composition ‘Cuir glaoch ar Ghatar’ (distress call) was performed by the Softday artists to set the tone.  Onlookers were both apprehensive and excited.  Viewers were ushered to one side paralleling the orchestra and the artists which were wearing white lab coats, which highlighted the crossover between art and science. They then performed their second composition called ‘primordial soup no. 1’.  Some of the locals were unsure what to make of the music, which was a mix of electronic sounds.  This was followed by the traditional band playing Bathu Phrioclais ‘Drowning at Bruckless’, followed by Vattuskrack ‘fear of drowning’, a composition by Softday.

At this point a door to the boatyard opens and St. Catherines marching band pound forward,  passing the spectators, performing to marine themed songs; Ta na Baid, Fisherman’s blues and  the Boys from Killybegs.  They stay in the position between the artists and spectators for the duration of these songs, and then proceed to march out the opposite exit.  The door closes and the deadly silence consumes the space once more.  The spectators assumed a somber mood.  The orchestra, which have been in our view the entire time, then began to sound softly and become more and more dominant until the duration of the song was complete.  Boatyard workers were harmonizing with the orchestra, through the use of the machinery in the boatyard.  It’s mainly the sound of a saw that was resonating.  This was followed by Softday’s compilation, primordial soup no. 2. I look around the room, people start to mill out of the facing door.  The show is complete. Speeches are made and the artists and viewers go their separate ways.

After the show I wanted to know more about these dead zones and from talking to a few of the spectators they were equally intrigued.  I approached Mikeal Fernstrom, Softday artist, shortly after the show.  He described that ”Sean or I had been to Killybegs before when we started this project in October 2009.  We took the approach of explorers of an unknown land, and happily went about the place during several expeditions.  It took some time to get the inside stories from people, but at this stage we have so much material that we could probably do a couple of more Marbh Chrios works! One of our main data sources was the M4 buoy, located approximately 45 nautical miles (83 km) west north-west of Rossan Point, Co. Donegal. We analysed 8 years of data from the M4, including hourly readings of air temperature, sea temperature, wind speed, gusts, wind direction, wave height, wave frequency and barometric air pressure – a total of 648,800 data points”.

Mikeal also sent me on some interesting observations while working on the Donegal project:“it seems to be impossible to buy really fresh, locally landed fish.  The stuff sold from the fish van“ (a merchant selling fish along the Killybegs pier) “is from Castletownbere! It seems that all fresh stuff is loaded up on foreign trucks at night and exported.  He commented on the local music too.  “Everytime there’s something going on, Fish festival, Bank holiday, etc., the St. Catherines Marching Band plays, followed by a couple of local, very good, rock bands.”

 

An Arts & Ecology Notebook, by Cathy Fitzgerald, whose work exists as ongoing research and is continually inspired to create short films, photographic documentation, and writings. While she interacts with foresters, scientists, and communities, she aims to create a sense of a personal possibility, responsibility and engagement in her local environment that also connects to global environmental concerns.
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