Saturday, 15 September 2007

world weather impacts

A few days ago an email came from my Ghanaian friend Antoinette Ablordey, a former student. She had dropped by my blog and emailed to say hello and that she liked the idea of indigo and organic cotton. Here's my reply:

Hi Antoinette

Yeah, I'm fine - how are you? Are you still batikking - have you taken a
textiles or design course now?

Glad you found my blog and research interesting... as you'll be aware the
consumerist West has to make massive lifestyle and cultural changes in the
light of climate change. George Monbiot and Mark Lynas amongst others
predict we have to cut back by more than 90%, and soon. Of course it's
possible to live at that kind of consumption, many already do in the world
and I experienced it too, partially, when I was travelling and living in
other countries. But to live at that level in our existing culture (even in
Cornwall) is infinitely harder at the moment - it's still necessary to earn
money to pay local tax, building repairs, health care and dentist, and
unless you can put time into growing all your own food, to buy food. In the
west we all have to power down together... and this then impacts globally in
other countries with a lower consumerist (but more sustainable) lifestyle,
in connection with their exports to us of crops such as cotton, coffee,
cocoa, which traditionally have been traded for centuries and we can't grow
here. How will this change?

Where does this leave art? What role for batik in this new
soon-to-emerge-culture? Should art/batik lead, should it follow? Where art
has become elitist, and clothing is dominated by throwaway fashion, how can
the new art and the new batik reach out and be part of culture?

These are fascinating questions for me...What is the view from Ghana?

Cheers for now


The view from Ghana came yesterday not from Antoinette but from the BBC – floods across Africa.

Ghana is hit especially hard with around 400,000 made homeless in the north – the equivalent of 80% of Cornwall's population. The north is even more of an agricultural area than here and loss of crops and livestock will affect the whole country's supply... and doesn't everything in life revolve around food?

I often check the Met Office website for the local weather forecast. On the right hand side it has a section "World Weather Impacts" that highlights, well, exactly what it says. Storms, floods, hurricanes, typhoons, droughts, blizzards, lightning strikes, heatwaves, wild fires (due to...), power cuts (due to...), landslides, avalanches, earthquakes, sandstorms and so on. Is it gloomy reading? errr... no. It's sobering. Very sobering. The Met Office don't describe these happenings as climate change related, but the flavour left in your mouth is that they must be. I mean, can this many people be made homeless, destitute, starving by floods (or whatever) every year? I don't think so.

I read them because it otherwise is so easy to ignore natural disasters happening elsewhere, to live entirely isolated from them, safe in this cocoon called Cornwall. It is so easy to let go of the knowledge that we share a planet and her resources. That we need to share. Which in the West means having, doing, taking less (and giving, caring, being more).

I asked Antoinette, as I ask many others, what is art's role in – or for? – the new culture that will emerge to survive climate change. I sound people out because I am searching for the new direction for my own work. It needs a new meaningfulness, something beyond just observation of nature, or culture, or personal impression – or environmental statement.

I wonder whether, in the hour or so I've been writing this post, I have started to find it...

PS Northern India has had floods and landslides recently too. I have wondered whether this affected the organic cotton growers... I will find out.

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