“If you want to write a song about the human race / Write a song about the Moon” sang Paul Simon, a decade after Neil Armstrong became the first human being to set foot on land beyond the Earth, and so begins the National Maritime Museum’s ‘Moon’ exhibition. Despite having much sympathy with Gil Scott Heron’s more contemporaneous lyrical critique (“I can’t pay no doctor’s bill / But whitey’s on the Moon”), I can’t help continuing a life-long fascination with the Moon and the 1960s Space Race, and so a trip to this exhibition was somewhat inevitable. And it was worth it…
This week has been all about oaks, Keats’ “green-robed senators of mighty woods”. In Richard Powers’ extraordinary novel, ‘The Overstory’, the collaborative endurance of the quercus genus is counterposed to the transient destruction of homo sapiens. I had been eking the book so that I could finish it on holiday surrounded by trees, rather than tower blocks, and so yesterday I allowed myself to turn the last page after a wonderful autumnal stroll around the Glanusk Estate in the Brecon Beacons, made all the more magical by being able to enjoy it with my parents.
I have become a regular visitor to Hamburg this year, as it is a convenient stopping off point on the train journey from London through to Copenhagen, Stockholm and Oslo, where work takes me frequently. Usually I arrive late and leave early, but recently I discovered what I had been missing, after an early doors trip to the Hamburger Kuntshalle gallery. Most exciting were the landscapes of Caspar Friederich, an artist I had never previously encountered, but whose ‘Hill and Ploughed Field Near Dresden’ now lights up my soul every time I turn on my iPad.
“We, the children of nature, fight for Mother Earth” said the young Brazilian climate activist at the FridaysForFuture rally in Manhattan last week. Earlier, New York’s Peace Poets advised the large crowd of which I was part to make common cause with indigenous leaders, whose ancestors have been fighting for environmental justice for hundreds of years. It was with those thoughts in mind that I returned to Battery Park the following day, enjoying an exhilarating cycle across the Brooklyn Bridge to visit the Museum of the American Indian.
Prior to the anthropocene, a daffodil’s message that it was ready to be pollinated might have drifted many miles, attracting thriving populations of bees and ladybirds from a wide neighbourhood. Today a flower’s range is likely to be restricted to a couple of hundred metres, as dirty air dampens their scent and mobile phone traffic messes up the subtle electronic signals that pollinators use to identify and map the right flowers to visit. This and so much more I learned at wonderful ‘Swarm: artists respond to the pollinator crisis’ exhibition at the little Vestry House Museum in Walthamstow this weekend.
Having the hills and mountains of Wales as a backdrop helps make Green Man the most beautiful of British music festivals, a visual winning card that was matched this year by a gorgeous programme of folk-influenced performers, surely the largest array of decent ales and ciders outside of a beer festival, and the ritual of burning the eponymous green man, taking with it to the skies hand-written messages of the festival-goers hopes and dreams.
This weekend’s British Sea Power curated Krankenhaus festival on the Cumbrian coast has been pure joy. Housed in a barn on the Muncaster Castle estate, it felt like a legal rave curated by a nature-loving art-school band. Where else would you get hear everything from folk to tree-people trance, alongside a reading from the poet laureate, late night DJ-ing from a snooker legend, and musically enhanced bingo from Japanese punk band?
A recent blog by my colleague, Luke Sherlock, comes highly recommended by markontour and is well worth a read for anyone still wondering if China is serious about building an ‘ecological civilisation’. Reviewing Barbara Finamore’s recent book, ‘Will China Save the Planet?’, Luke highlights that China’s federal government is quietly delivering something like the Green New Deal that a growing climate emergency movement is demanding in the USA and Europe (and is already being delivered in cities like Los Angeles and New York).
This year’s Glastonbury will be remembered for the sunny weather, for sure, but also the most extraordinary Pyramid stage show that I can remember in twenty-seven years as a Glastonbury regular. 2019 is the year that Stormzy headlined Glastonbury.
During a London Climate Week event at Chatham House* last week an audience member asked the panel of which I was a member “How are we going to make people pay for climate action?” Given that the questioner had introduced herself as representing the oil company, Shell, my flippant response was that I knew where to start – by taxing those who have done the most to cause a climate crisis, namely fossil fuel companies like Shell. In fact we should tax them out of business, because companies that continue to put short term profit before the continued existence of the human race don’t have a place in a climate-safe world.