Tags: Joe Smith

New songs and shifting practice

David Buckland and KT Tunstall discuss personal responses to the voyage, being in an Arctic environment, new songs, shifting practice and engaging with climate change as an artist.

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Paradise Lost in the Restaurant

Crew perform Paradise Lost on a global warming expedition
Leslie Feist, Lemn Sissay and Ruth Little performing Paradise Lost.

We’ve spent the morning popping in and out of the restaurant for a read through of Paradise Lost – everyone read a few lines. Not looked at the text for more than a decade but feels the natural thing to do here and now as we sail south back to port. A couple of my posts have referred to people’s anxieties about the Baffin Boot sized carbon footprint that coming on this trip entails. Sin and redemption are so woven into western culture that we shouldn’t be surprised that we frame these questions about individual responsibility in terms of sin and the pursuit of redemption. A few years ago Patriarch Bartholemew (leader of the orthodox church) announced that environmental harm was a sin (the Pope followed suit soon after). Of course they have a natural advantage over science and policy people when it comes to finding a language that seems to have the right kind of scale: they’ve been phrasemaking on the big questions for centuries.
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Arctic land grabs – from King Arthur to Putin

The Argo buoy is launched – might seem banal to scientists, but it really helps the rest of us to visualise science as a practice rather than a set of reported results. Think the winning entry for naming it was ‘Disko(very) Bob’, crafted by Jarvis Cocker.

Climate change is just one of the reasons why there is more oceanography and geology going on in the region. Sovereign states in the region are investing a good deal in trying to establish the best evidence to support resource claims. There has been a flurry of news stories over the last year or so about a scramble for Arctic resources by the countries of the region. The planting of a Russian flag by a mini-sub on the seabed at the North Pole was interpreted in reports around the world as a form of land grab. In practical terms it was meaningless and there are due legal processes for working out sovereign rights over the seabed. The reporting was a little shrill (that was the point for Putin I guess, above all domestically). But there will be jockeying for position for the mineral resources that will become more easily accessible as higher temperatures melt the sea ice.
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Precious resource

For almost everyone on board time is a very precious resource – to take ten days out to make this expedition is a big investment. But the sense I get is that we’re all pathetically grateful to have had the chance to come to this place, and to do it in this eclectic gaggle with enough time to absorb the place, to learn something and to cross-pollinate. To be in the Arctic is inspiring but the responses and needs vary widely. Some want to engage in some slow careful thinking about new work (ceramics, opera, theatre, writing), others want to work out how they can do their environmental housekeeping and understand the issues well enough to help engage their huge audiences in the topic (musicians).

Read on and more of Joe’s posts, and his colleagues’ responses, on the Science, Technology and Nature Blog.

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Ship of Fuels

A trip to a glacier edge in small rib boats. At last geology lessons of decades ago make sense. Film and photos can’t begin to capture the scale.

Plenty of talk on responsibility and how (and whether) people manage to justify our own ‘climate tour’. I could do with some help from my colleague Stephen (that’s Stephen Peake: for the non OU readers – Stephen is a climate change policy specialist who used to work with the UN’s policy body the UN FCCC).

Read on and more of Joe’s posts, and his colleagues’ responses, on the Science, Technology and Nature Blog.
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North of the Dog Line

Greenlander guide Ludvig’s home town of Uummannaq. Houses sprinkled across a rocky island. In Jan-feb the sea ice in these parts will be very thick, and you won’t see the sun for 2.5 months. Spring is 10-15 deg below zero. The first thing people talk about if you ask what they miss when if they’re away in Denmark to study or work  is driving a dog sled and sleeping on the sea ice.

Read on and more of Joe’s posts, and his colleagues’ responses, on the Science, Technology and Nature Blog.

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Breaking Up

Walk along the edge of the icefjord at Ilulissat and stand staring out at the ice field and calving icebergs. The weather and appearance of the landscape change completely four times in the space of our three hour walk. People here live in a very dynamic environment, and cope with some unique hazards. A sign on the approach to a little beach warns ‘Extreme danger: Do not walk on the beach. Death or Serious Injury may Occur. Risk of Sudden Tsunami Waves Caused by Calving Icebergs’. We giggle a little at finding such an alarmist sign on a seemingly innocent little stretch of sand and rock. People up here know from toddler age upwards that their environment is always changing – and dangerous.

Read on and more of Joe’s posts, and his colleagues’ responses, on the Science, Technology and Nature Blog.

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Take Me To Your Fisherman

Pass through the icebergs coming off the Ilulissat glacier – it produces the largest icebergs in the northern hemisphere. The glacier’s retreat has been accelerating markedly across the last fifty years, making it one of the easy reference points for climate change storytelling. This is one of the place journalists practice the green virtue of recycling as they re-tread the same stories time and again.

Read on and more of Joe’s posts, and his colleagues’ responses, on the Science, Technology and Nature Blog.

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Sunday

Stop in Qeqertarsuaq (Big Island) on Disko island for walks to warm springs (1 to 6 degrees? – warm a relative concept), and a chance to walk in the town and surrounding hills and black basalt beaches. There are a couple of Greenlanders with us as guides throughout the trip, Karen and Ludvig. Both are Greenlanders who have a Danish education. Karen works in tourism, but also has a geology background. A good contingent head for church (L’s grandfather is the Pastor). The big draw is that the Lutheran service is in Greenlandic – a rare chance to engage directly with Greenlanders on the trip, though the turnout per head of population turns out to be not much over the average English midlands C of E crowd. But engage we do with a perhaps misplaced have-a-go attitude to singing along with the hymns.
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Saturday

In a morning briefing the science teams (html to Disko Bay science on CF) sketch out their own ambitions for the trip and plot the place of their own work within global climate science. It’s fair to call understanding climate change the most ambitious and important intellectual project of the last 50 years. For the artists and musicians, but also for those of us that work on the political, social or design side of the climate story this direct experience of science practice is one of the big payoffs on the trip. Carol, Simon, Dave and Emily are working long long days to prepare their kit and get the experiments under way. For us onlookers there’s the satisfaction of getting to the base of the pyramid of evidence that underpins this enormous topic.
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Friday

Musk ox burgers are one of the faster moving offers in the Kangerlussuaq airport café. A butchered deer and freshly shot Arctic hare were piled in the back of a pick up on the quay. The closest we’ve got to fauna and a good reminder of the fact that the Arctic wildlife that to date I’ve known only as the subject of natural history films and photos is a (fresh, tasty, free) resource for Greenlanders. Hunting for it is a job for some and a favoured pastime for most.
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The all important safety briefing


Joe Smith and Suzan-Lori Parks


No time to be fussy about personal style

The all important safety briefing
Jarvis Cocker dons life-jacket

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