Tag Archives: Timothy Morton

Reasons to Care

Wiki Commons

This evening I heard some young people from the Just Stop Oil coalition speak, powerfully stating their case for civil resistance and direct action to demand that the UK government award no new fossil fuel licences. Our unelected Prime Minister has initiated 100 new oil and gas developments, when just one – Jackdaw, off the coast of Aberdeen – will already create more carbon emissions than the whole of Ghana.

Mothers Rise Up

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The speakers reminded us that a year ago at COP26 the cry was Keep 1.5 alive! And we have now reached 1.3 degrees of global warming. The IPCC has warned that if we reach 2 degrees, which seems highly likely, it will result in 700 million climate refugees, nearly the entire population of Europe.

These young people are willing to be arrested; some have dropped out of University, seeing no future for themselves in following that path, preferring instead to do all they can and whatever it takes to end our reliance on fossil fuels and make a meaningful difference to the climate emergency.

Samye Ling Buddhist Monastery

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Tim Morton spoke in encouragement, evoking the spirit of William Blake (who he called an early maker of memes in his Songs of Innocence and Experience) – ‘the way you say something is what you’re saying’. He saw the Van Gogh soup protest at the National Gallery as ‘weaponised harmlessness’, citing Adorno, who claimed that Proust destroyed the aristocracy with his ‘remorseless gentleness’.

Being a big fan of ‘remorseless gentleness’, I was deeply moved by this intergenerational conversation about climate justice and the failure of democracy. George Monbiot, another member of the ‘Guardian reading, tofu-eating wokerati’ (Braverman), has commented, in the aforementioned publication, on the action, bringing some perspective to the knee-jerk outrage and blame (do read the whole article if you haven’t already – it’s full of good points):

I don’t seek to deny the value of art or the necessity of protecting it. On the contrary: I want the same crucial protections extended to planet Earth, without which there is no art, no culture and no life. Yet while cultural philistinism is abhorred, ecological philistinism is defended with a forcefield of oppressive law.

The soup-throwing and similar outrageous-but-harmless actions generate such fury because they force us not to stop listening, but to start. Why, we can’t help asking ourselves, would young people jeopardise their freedom and their future prospects in this way. The answer, we can’t help hearing, is that they seek to avert a much greater threat to both.

Newcastle University Campus

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Sentences on Ecological Awareness

Ecological awareness consists of infinite ongoing strands.  These include close looking, close listening, close touching, close smelling, close tasting – close sensing between and beyond all the conventional senses familiar to human bodies.  Close might also be slow or deep.  

Ecological awareness is an art, a creative act, a commitment to being alive, and therefore dynamic, transformative.

Walk outdoors and after half an hour point to the place where you end and the weather begins.

Nowhere are any of us alone, nowhere are we not part of the biosphere, or abandoned by the imagination.

In our climate, why would you not begin each day checking your own internal weather and preparing for what the coming hours might bring?

What we call Nature is a fiction, a wild and muddy one that won’t stay flat or still.  It will not be contained on a neatly labelled shelf in the bookshop.

Left to the wind, the dried pods of honesty (Lunaria annua) shed their skins and spread their seeds before glowing with the light of many moons, true to their word.  Bring the night sky indoors to remember the year’s passing.

Being in Nature suggests you were sometime out of it, perhaps in that mythical place Away.

Not looking at the clock involves not looking at your phone, your computer, all those other contrivances that divide your attention and devour your time.

The art of ecological awareness asks you to let there be a space between things and sensing and language – and to choose to live in that space.

A day without a tree in it is no day at all.

Whitman asks you to come, speak; says if you are large, if you contain multitudes, you will contradict yourself: will you prove already too late?

The space outside our walls is ready to give us what we have been waiting for; whatever time of day or night, a special kind of light.

Thinking with Timothy Morton and Ian Hamilton Finlay.

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