SixÂ years ago Professor John Schellnhuber (whoÂ hadÂ recently been appointed as Chief Government Adviser on Climate and Related Issues by the German Chancellor) talked at the RSA Art and Ecology Conference (2006) about the challenges in modelling the interactions between different critical points in global environmental systems â€“ gulf streams, sea ice, glaciers and snow on mountains, desertification, etc.Â He was addressing complexity, not looking at one thing in isolation.
The recent article, Extreme Weather, in the National GeographicÂ explores the increasingÂ extremeÂ weather â€“ flooding, storms,Â tornadoes,Â drought and fire.Â The article offers an interesting analogy: climate changeÂ has a similar effect to steriods â€“ you donâ€™t know whether the steriods enableÂ the batter to score this homeÂ run in particular, but you doÂ know thatÂ they increase the overall likelihood of scoring more home runs than someone not on steriods.Â So the point is not to ask whether climate change caused this storm or that heatwave, but rather to recognise that it is affecting frequency and intensity.
All analogiesÂ (and metaphors) have to be used carefully -Â steriods as a metaphor forÂ â€™enhancingâ€™ and making more powerful is probably not theÂ worst, but the other medicalised metaphor is â€˜cancerâ€™Â which engenders a particular sort of fear â€“ see Susan Sontagâ€™s Illness as Metaphor.
We are still learning about complex adaptive systems.Â Understanding that things are connected and that there are unintended consquences is only a small step along the road.
ecoartscotland is a resource focused on art and ecology for artists, curators, critics, commissioners as well as scientists and policy makers. It includes ecoartscotland papers, a mix of discussions of works by artists and critical theoretical texts, and serves as a curatorial platform.
It has been established byÂ Chris Fremantle, producer and research associate withÂ On The Edge Research,Â Grayâ€™s School of Art, The Robert Gordon University. Fremantle is a member of a number of international networks of artists, curators and others focused on art and ecology.
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