174 results for “Anthropocene”

How climate fiction novels allow us to imagine possible futures

Adeline Johns-Putra
January 16th 2020

Every day brings fresh and ever more alarming news about the state of the global environment. To speak of mere “climate change” is inadequate now, for we are in a “climate emergency”. It seems as though we are tripping over more tipping points than we knew existed.

But our awareness is at last catching up with the planet’s climate catastrophes. Climate anxiety, climate trauma, and climate strikes are now all part of many people’s mental landscape and daily lives. This …

This expo confronts a planet in a state of emergency

NextNature.net
December 12th 2019

Meet the 'Eco-Visionaries', these are the architects, artists and designers who respond to some of the most urgent ecological issues of our times.

This exhibition reveals how artists, architects and designers are responding to some of the planet’s most urgent issues - from land degradation, to food security and the extinction of endangered species. Each response aims to re-frame our relationship with nature to communicate a new urgency. We need confront environmental issues, now.

A variety of works, ranging from installations, …

Endangered animal species, in pixels

Ruben Baart
October 4th 2019

Today is World Animal Day, a day to put the spotlight on man's best friends in order to improve their welfare standards around the globe.

At Next Nature HQ, we honor this day by having dug up a brilliant 2008 campaign by WWF that featured photos of endangered animals, where the number of pixels in the photo matched the remaining population of the animal pictured.

It reminds us of the opportunity (for people of all ages - it's never too …

These are the ‘meltwater lakes’ of Antartica

Jennifer Arthur
October 2nd 2019

During the Antarctic summer, thousands of mesmerising blue lakes form around the edges of the continent’s ice sheet, as warmer temperatures cause snow and ice to melt and collect into depressions on the surface. Colleagues of mine at Durham University have recently used satellites to record more than 65,000 of these lakes.

Though seasonal meltwater lakes have formed on the continent for decades, lakes had not been recorded before in such great numbers across coastal areas of East Antarctica. This …

Three exhibitions that explore the relationship between humans and the environment

Freya Hutchings
September 20th 2019

As we go about our daily activities, we may lose sight of our connections with nonhuman life. Here are three exhibitions to encourage you to step outside of your everyday and recognize your interconnected existence within a more-than-human planet.

Discover the hidden natural forces that surround us

Meet the wonders of Marshmallow Laser Feast, an experimental genre bending arts collective. Their immersive works highlight the often overlooked natural forces that surround us in order to create landscapes that go beyond …

Iceland is mourning a dead glacier

Rupert Read
August 22nd 2019

Death certificates and commemorative plaques aren’t something you’d normally associate with a glacier. But that is exactly how Iceland recently mourned the loss of 700-year-old Okjökull, the first of its major glaciers to die.

This is just one early example of events we will encounter more and more often as the hot new world we are creating slowly destroys ecosystems and livelihoods. But acknowledging the growing emotional trauma and grief felt at present and future environmental tragedies may yet be …

This cool artificial reef was just deployed in Sydney Harbor

Vanessa Bates Ramirez
July 16th 2019

Earth’s oceans have seen better days. They’re inundated with plastic waste, both whole single-use plastics and tons of plastic microparticles that find their way back into our food and drinking water. Their water temperatures are rising due to climate change, causing coral bleaching and other harmful phenomena. Overfishing has depleted multiple marine species.

Organizations and individuals around the world have leaped to action to try to reverse some of the damage human activity has caused the oceans. The Ocean Cleanup …

Microbiocene: A microbiological archeology of the future

Linda Valenta
July 11th 2019

In configuring our next nature, artists and scientists explore new languages that move beyond the Anthropocene - the era of human beings. These semantics would bridge the gap between mankind and technology, but also between humans and other species, establishing a cosmological understanding of life. Within this endeavour, bio-artists Amanda Baum and Rose Leahy delved into more-than-human narratives by creating a monument for the Microbiocene: the age of the microbial.

The Microbiocene is an epoch we’ve always lived in and …

Curator Gène Bertrand on design for human needs

Meike Schipper
May 23rd 2019

Nature has always been a source of inspiration for many artists and designers, yet the urgency to connect to nature is more pressing than ever. Environmental issues such as climate change, food scarcity and plastic soup increasingly intervene with the world of art and design. Currently on display at both Cube Design Museum in Kerkrade (NL) and Cooper Hewitt Design Triennial in New York (US) is the exhibition Nature: Collaboration in Design. It wonders; can nature be our partner?

This …

The Coming World: Ecology as the new politics

NextNature.net
May 16th 2019

In science fiction and popular science, 2030 is often suggested as the year in which our planet will run out of oil. Similarly, 2100 will be the year that, according to predictions made by Arthur C. Clarke (in the 1960s), human life will be able expand to other planets and even entirely new solar systems. As 2030 is nearing, will we be able to trust our predictions? Or do we have to deal with the reality that there is no …

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Every day brings fresh and ever more alarming news about the state of the global environment. To speak of mere “climate change” is inadequate now, for we are in a “climate emergency”. It seems as though we are tripping over more tipping points than we knew existed.

But our awareness is at last catching up with the planet’s climate catastrophes. Climate anxiety, climate trauma, and climate strikes are now all part of many people’s mental landscape and daily lives. This is almost four decades after scientists first began to warn of accelerated global warming from carbon dioxide increases in the atmosphere.

And so, unsurprisingly, climate fiction, climate change fiction, “cli-fi” – whatever you want to call it – has emerged as a literary trend that’s gained astonishing traction over the past ten years.

Just a decade ago, when I first began reading and researching literary representations of climate change, there was a curious dearth of fiction on the subject. In 2005, the environmental writer Robert Macfarlane had asked plaintively: “Where is the literature of climate change?”. When I went to work in 2009 on one of the first research projects to attempt to answer this question, I found that some climate change novels were only beginning to emerge. Ten years later, the ubiquity of cli-fi means that the question of how many cli-fi novels there are seems irrelevant. Equally irrelevant is any doubt about the urgency of the climate emergency.

But the question of how to deal with such a complex challenge is paramount. The climate emergency demands us to think about our responsibilities on a global scale rather than as individuals, to think about our effects not just on fellow humans but on all the species that call this planet home, and to think about changing the resource-focused, profit-seeking behaviours that have been part of human activity for centuries.

This is where literature comes in. It affords us the headspace in which to think through these difficult and pressing questions.

Cli-fi has a central role in allowing us to do the psychological work necessary to deal with climate change. I am often asked to identify the climate novel that is the most powerful and effective and, just as often, I reply that no one novel can do this. The phenomenon of cli-fi as a whole offers us different ways and a multitude of spaces in which to consider climate change and how we address it.

Here, then, is our list of a range of novels that offer just such a diverse set of perspectives. These books provide readers with a range of thought (and feeling) experiments, from dystopian despair to glimmers of hope, from an awareness of climate change impacts on generations to come to vivid reminders of how we are destroying the many other species that share our planet.

1. The Sea and Summer, 1987

Australian novelist George Turner’s book is one of the earliest examples of cli-fi and is prescient in more ways than one. Set in Melbourne in the 2030s, skyscrapers are drowning due to sea-level rise: a setting for a stark division between the rich and the poor. Like many cli-fi novels, this novel’s dystopian future provides a sophisticated thought experiment on the effects of climate change on our already divided society. Turner’s book deserves to be reread — and reissued — as classic and still relevant cli-fi.

2. Memory of Water, 2012

Water has become a precious commodity in this cli-fi dystopia by Finnish author Emmi Itäranta. In Nordic Europe in the distant future, a young girl must decide whether to share her family’s precious water supply with her friends and fellow villagers and risk being accused of “water crime”, punishable by death. This tender coming-of-age narrative is thus also a meditation on the value of resources taken entirely for granted by the contemporary, westernised reader.

3. The Wall, 2019

At first glance, John Lanchester’s novel could be a comment on the rise of anti-refugee sentiment in Britain. In a not-so-distant future, every inch of British shoreline is guarded by an immense wall, a bulwark against illegal migrants as well as rising sea levels. But through the experiences of a young border guard, the novel shows us how this national obsession with borders not only distracts from the climate emergency at hand; it diminishes our responsibility to fellow humans around the world, whose lives are threatened by climate change and for whom migration is a desperate solution.

4. Clade, 2015

Australian author James Bradley’s novel chronicles several generations of one family in an increasingly devastated world. The day-to-day detail of their lives, as relationships hold together or break apart, unfolds against the backdrop of environmental and thus societal breakdown. The novel contrasts the mundane miscommunications that characterise human relations with the big issue of global warming that could rob future generations of the opportunity to lead meaningful lives.

5. The Stone Gods, 2007

Jeanette Winterson’s stab at cli-fi offers, like Bradley’s novel, a long view. The novel ranges over three vastly different timeframes: a dystopian, future civilisation that is fast ruining its planet and must seek another; 18th-century Easter Island on the verge of destroying its last tree; and a near-future Earth facing global environmental devastation. As readers time travel between these stories, we find, again and again, the damage wrought by human hubris. Yet, the novel reminds us, too, of the power of love. In the novel, love signifies an openness to other humans and other species, to new ideas, and to better ways of living on this planet.

6. The Swan Book, 2013

This novel by indigenous Australian author Alexis Wright is unconventional, fable-like cli-fi. Its protagonist is a young indigenous girl whose life is devastated by climate change but most of all by the Australian government’s mistreatment of its indigenous populations. Weaving indigenous belief with biting satire, Wright’s novel is a celebration of her people’s knowledge of how to live with nature, rather than in exploitation of it.

7. Flight Behaviour, 2012

Unlike the other novels on this list, this one, by Barbara Kingsolver, is a realist novel set entirely in the present day. A young woman from Tennessee stumbles upon thousands of monarch butterflies roosting on her in-laws’ land, the insects having been thrown off course by extreme weather events brought about by climate change.

From the scientists who come to study the problem, she learns of the delicate balance that is needed to keep the butterflies on course. Kingsolver’s rich descriptions of an impoverished Appalachian community are combined with her biologist’s training, so that reader empathy is eventually shifted from the likeable heroine to the natural wonder that is the butterflies. We are reminded of how climate change risks not simply human comfort but the planet’s ecological complexity.

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Meet the 'Eco-Visionaries', these are the architects, artists and designers who respond to some of the most urgent ecological issues of our times.

This exhibition reveals how artists, architects and designers are responding to some of the planet’s most urgent issues - from land degradation, to food security and the extinction of endangered species. Each response aims to re-frame our relationship with nature to communicate a new urgency. We need confront environmental issues, now.

A variety of works, ranging from installations, film, photography and architectural models will command the space, and makers such as Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg, Unknown Fields and Dunne and Raby will exhibit their work. Each component of the exhibition serves as a huge wake-up call, demanding us to be aware of our planet and how our actions are creating a rapidly changing world

What? An exhibition confronting the planet in a state of emergency
Where? Royal Academy of Arts, London
When? Now, until February 23, 2020

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Today is World Animal Day, a day to put the spotlight on man's best friends in order to improve their welfare standards around the globe.

At Next Nature HQ, we honor this day by having dug up a brilliant 2008 campaign by WWF that featured photos of endangered animals, where the number of pixels in the photo matched the remaining population of the animal pictured.

It reminds us of the opportunity (for people of all ages - it's never too late) to learn about the importance of protecting endangered species and everyday actions we can take to help protect them. Peculiar image.

African Wild Dog. Estimated between 3000 and 5500 remain
Amur Leopard. Estimated about 60 remain
Amur Tiger. Estimated about 450 remain
Asian Elephant. Estimated between 40000 and 50000 remain
Bengal Tiger. Estimated about 2500 remain
Black Footed Ferret. Estimated about 300 remain
Black Rhino. Estimated about 5000 remain
Blue Whale. Estimated between 10000 and 25000 remain
Bonobo. Estimated between 10000 and 50000 remain
Bornean Orangutan. Estimated between 45000 and 69000 remain
Borneo Pygmy Elephant. Estimated about 1500 remain
Chimpanzee. Estimated between 172700 and 299700 remain
Eastern Lowland Gorilla. Estimated about 17000 remain
Fin Whale. Estimated between 50000 and 90000 remain
Galapagos Penguin. Estimated about 2000 remain
Giant Panda. Estimated about 1864 remain
Green Sea Turtle. Estimated between 3000 and 5500 remain
Hectors Dolphin. Estimated about 7000 remain
Indian Elephant, Estimated between 20000 and 25000 remain
Indochinese Tiger. Estimated between 600 and 650 remain
Indus River Dolphin. Estimated about 1100 remain
Javan Rhino. Estimated about 60 remain
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During the Antarctic summer, thousands of mesmerising blue lakes form around the edges of the continent’s ice sheet, as warmer temperatures cause snow and ice to melt and collect into depressions on the surface. Colleagues of mine at Durham University have recently used satellites to record more than 65,000 of these lakes.

Though seasonal meltwater lakes have formed on the continent for decades, lakes had not been recorded before in such great numbers across coastal areas of East Antarctica. This means parts of the world’s largest ice sheet may be more vulnerable to a warming climate than previously thought.

Lakes affect ice shelves

Much of Antarctica is surrounded by floating platforms of ice, often as tall as a skyscraper. These are “ice shelves”. And when some of these ice shelves have collapsed in the past, satellites have recorded networks of lakes growing and then abruptly disappearing shortly beforehand. For instance, several hundred lakes disappeared in the weeks before the the catastrophic disintegration of the Larsen B Ice Shelf – when 3,250 km² of ice broke up in just two months in 2002.

Blue meltwater ponds cover the surface of Larsen B Ice Shelf in January 2002 (left) before its abrupt collapse two months later (right). Open ocean appears as black in both images. Via NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

The collapse may have depended on water from these lakes filling crevasses and then acting like a wedge as the weight of the water expanded the crevasses, triggering a network of fractures. The weight of lakes can also cause the ice shelf surface to flex, leading to further fracturing, which is thought to have helped the shelf become unstable and collapse.

Ice shelves act as door stops, supporting the huge mass of ice further inland. Their removal means the glaciers feeding the ice shelf are no longer held back and flow faster into the ocean, contributing to sea-level rise.

Melting the ice sheet surface

Scientists already knew that lakes form on the Antarctic ice sheet. But the latest study, published in Scientific Reports, shows that many more lakes are forming than previously thought, including in new parts of the ice sheet and much further inland and at higher elevations.

Since the cold and remoteness makes it logistically challenging to measure and monitor Antarctica’s lakes in the field, we largely know all this thanks to satellite imagery. In this case, one of the satellites used was the European Space Agency’s Sentinel-2 which provides global coverage of the Earth’s surface every five days and can detect features as small as ten metres.

Meltwater lakes on Sørsdal Glacier, Antarctica (red dot on larger map). Via Google Maps

My colleagues analysed satellite images of the East Antarctic Ice Sheet taken in January 2017. In total, the images covered 5,000,000 km² (that’s more than 20 times the area of the United Kingdom).

Because water reflects certain wavelengths very strongly compared to ice, lakes can be detected in these images by classifying pixels in the image as “water” or “non-water”. From these images we can pinpoint when lakes form, their growth and drainage, and how their extent and depth change over time. The largest lake detected so far was nearly 30 km long and estimated to hold enough water to fill 40,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools.

Cause for concern?

In a warming world, scientists are particularly interested in these lakes because they may contribute to destabilising the ice shelves and ice sheet in future.

Like a sponge, the more that ice shelves become saturated with meltwater, the less they are able to absorb, meaning more water pools on their surfaces as lakes. More surface lakes mean a greater likelihood that water will drain out, fill crevasses and potentially trigger flexing and fracturing. If this were to occur, other ice shelves around Antarctica may start to disintegrate like Larsen B. Glaciers with floating ice tongues protruding into the ocean may also be vulnerable.

Meltwater drains away. Via Sanne Bosteels

Meanwhile in Greenland, scientists have observed entire lakes draining away within a matter of days, as meltwater plunges through vertical shafts in the ice sheet known as “moulins”. A warm, wet base lubricated by meltwater allows the ice to slide quicker and flow faster into the ocean.

Could something similar be happening in Antarctica? Lakes disappearing in satellite imagery suggests they could be draining in this way, but scientists have yet to observe this directly. If we are to understand how much ice the continent could lose, and how much it could contribute to global sea-level rise, we must understand how these surface meltwater lakes behave. Though captivating, they are potentially a warning sign of future instability in Antarctica.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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As we go about our daily activities, we may lose sight of our connections with nonhuman life. Here are three exhibitions to encourage you to step outside of your everyday and recognize your interconnected existence within a more-than-human planet.

Discover the hidden natural forces that surround us

Meet the wonders of Marshmallow Laser Feast, an experimental genre bending arts collective. Their immersive works highlight the often overlooked natural forces that surround us in order to create landscapes that go beyond our daily experience. From an altered perspective, you are invited to explore your surroundings with a heightened sensory perception.

? Marshmallow Laser Feast at Odunpazari Modern Museum (TR), until 7 December 2019.

Explore the future of nature

NATURE is a trans-atlantic exhibition that includes over 60 projects where nature and design collide. The diverse range of projects in the expo is categorized within seven themes, all seeking to demonstrate how design may offer solutions for the environmental and social challenges that humanity faces today. From highly practical to highly speculative works, from physical to digital, all projects are united by a desire to show how —through design— we can become active agents in transforming the relationship we have with our world.

? NATURE at both Smithsonian (US) and Cube (NL), until 19 January 2020.

Hug & play with your surroundings

For Presence, the first largescale museal exhibition by Daan Roosegaarde, the artists has created an 800 m2 playful living lab in which multiple changes in perspective take place. You can roll around in luminous ‘stardust’, draw lines with light, and cast shadows that remain. In each room, human action leaves a lasting imprint, highlighting the traces we leave with the aim of empowering visitors to act differently, to connect with their surroundings in creative, playful and constructive ways. The immersive project is about questioning the world, who we are and what we want to leave behind.

? Daan Roosegaarde - Presence at Groninger Museum (NL), until 12 January 2020.

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Death certificates and commemorative plaques aren’t something you’d normally associate with a glacier. But that is exactly how Iceland recently mourned the loss of 700-year-old Okjökull, the first of its major glaciers to die.

This is just one early example of events we will encounter more and more often as the hot new world we are creating slowly destroys ecosystems and livelihoods. But acknowledging the growing emotional trauma and grief felt at present and future environmental tragedies may yet be the kick we need to limit their reach.

Grief radically differs in its logic from ordinary sadness over a loss. If sadness is the response to the removal of an object from the tablecloth that represents a person’s lived world, grief results from loss that tears the very fabric of that cloth. In order to repair this hole and emerge from the resulting pain and outrage, the lived world has to be reconfigured.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=omFZQseKK6I

To grieve though, one must acknowledge the tear in that world. This can take time, and denial is a common part of the process of accepting deep loss. This may at first take the form of a temptation toward out-and-out disbelief, and linger as sporadic thoughts and hopes that what was lost, wasn’t.

It may seem an irrational reaction, but it’s a completely understandable defence mechanism against life-shattering loss. The world without what’s been lost is so radically and qualitatively different that the psyche resists accepting reality.

While much climate denial owes itself to corruption and vested interests, the avoidance of grief may explain why many decent and intelligent people are also tempted to deny the climatic breakdown humans are causing.

It is, in a certain sense, unimaginable, even absurd, to think of us destabilising our very climate, or the scale and speed of change required to stop the slide. It isn’t surprising that so many people have been desperately hoping that the science must somehow be wrong, or that so many more act as if we can still hope for the continuation of our same old world, rather than the fundamental shift in the way we operate and organise that’s required.

From grief to action

It requires sustained strength and attention to gradually turn denial into acceptance and to build a new life. Actions like Iceland’s glacier funeral are a vital part of that process. As symbols of eternity, glaciers have great cultural significance on the Nordic island. They’re also crucial for tourism and energy. And at current rates of warming, all of the country’s glaciers will suffer Okjökull’s fate in the next 200 years, one by one. For Icelanders, emotionally acknowledging this can galvanise the associated grief into action.

Left: Okjökull glacier in September 1986. Right: the now dead glacier in August 2019. Joshua Stevens/NASA Earth Observatory

It’s not an easy process, of course. As marks of our recklessness, the grief in cases such as this is particularly potent and often laden with anger, akin to that of someone close to a murder victim. This glacier ecosystem wasn’t “lost” - to speak of loss here is euphemistic. It was killed on our watch.

Grief over climate breakdown and the degradation of our natural world is also notably different from grief at the death of a loved one, because it never lessens, let alone goes away. The anthropogenic climate emergency will define our entire lifetime, and deeply impact on all of us soon enough. Because of time-lags in the climate system, things will get worse for a long time to come, whatever we do.

Thus, while a healthy reaction to the death of a loved one is to grieve deeply and then gradually to recover, the only recovery from ecological grief that is possible at all is for us to change the world such that our actions no longer deteriorate it.

During Okjökull’s funeral residents reminisced, public figures such as Iceland’s Prime Minister Katrin Jakobsdottir spoke and presented a death certificate, and this plaque was laid. Grétar Thorvaldsson & Málmsteypan Hella/Rice University

This is how ecological grief – at the tearing from us of the natural systems we are neither willing nor able to do without – leads to the radical action necessary to bring about a new world.

Given how late the hour is, that means not accepting inaction any longer – and that’s up to us. In the words of Iceland’s commemorative plaque, laid at the base of the dead glacier as a message to the future: “We know what is happening and what needs to be done. Only you know if we did it.”

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Cover image: People gather to commemorate the loss of 700 year old glacier Okjokull. (via STR/EPA)

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Earth’s oceans have seen better days. They’re inundated with plastic waste, both whole single-use plastics and tons of plastic microparticles that find their way back into our food and drinking water. Their water temperatures are rising due to climate change, causing coral bleaching and other harmful phenomena. Overfishing has depleted multiple marine species.

Organizations and individuals around the world have leaped to action to try to reverse some of the damage human activity has caused the oceans. The Ocean Cleanup is using a two-kilometer-long screen to collect plastic waste. Origin Materials aims to make a new type of plastic that’s sustainable and renewable. The 5 Gyres Institute’s mission is to end plastic pollution, which it calls a global health crisis.

Last week another effort joined the ranks: a purpose-built artificial reef in Sydney Harbor. The result of a three-year partnership between the University of Technology Sydney (UTS), the Sydney Opera House, and the government of New South Wales, the reef was made by Reef Design Lab and consists of eight one-meter-tall pods, each containing three steel and concrete hexagonal structures. Half the units also have triangular tiles extending from the hexagons’ cores.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pj6oo8_VR-A

The reef was installed along the sea wall of Sydney’s world-famous Opera House. Over a thousand miles north sits the Great Barrier Reef; larger than Italy and half the size of Texas, it’s the world’s largest coral reef system, and it’s struggling. After mass bleachings caused by unusually warm water in 2016-2017, scientists found an 89 percent reduction in new coral growth.

Bleached coral doesn’t mean dead coral. Warm temperatures cause coral to eject the algae that live in their tissue, hence the change from colored to white. It’s possible for coral to recover, but it usually takes up to ten years—and that’s if no further bleaching occurs. Reefs in the Caribbean have also been affected in recent years. As in any ecosystem, cutting out one link reverberates up the food chain and impacts other species; in this case, the diversity of the fish populations near affected reefs drops, as does the reef’s overall ability to carry out the functions necessary for it to survive and thrive.

The hope for the artificial reef in Sydney is for sea life to take up residence within its structures, thus encouraging and hopefully restoring some of the area’s biodiversity.

“It’s amazing, after only a few weeks the pods are already attracting the interest of the types of species we hope will be drawn to this new habitat such as leatherjackets, bream and octopus,” said UTS Professor of Marine Ecology David Booth, who led the project. “We will continue to monitor the reefs and adjacent sites to document change and how effective adding small fish habitat structures is in enhancing fish life on seawalls. We hope it is a model for other cities on harbors.”

Artificial reefs aren’t a new concept by any means, and in fact, many of them around the world are far larger than Sydney Harbor’s—picture a decommissioned oil rig, aircraft carrier, or ship sunk to the bottom of the ocean becoming a teeming hub of marine life.

Where does the teeming marine life originate from, though? There’s been some debate about the effectiveness of artificial reefs at actually growing fish populations, rather than simply attracting them to a new location from the surrounding area. One study by marine scientists found a modest increase of 6.5 kilograms of fish per 10 square meters of artificial reef.

Artificial reefs also aren’t doing much to solve the larger global problems of ocean contamination and rising water temperatures (and they’re not meant to). While any effort to help the environment should be applauded, it’s crucial that we focus as much (or preferably more) on preventive solutions—such as cutting carbon emissions or reducing plastic waste—as we do on reactive ones.

In the meantime, we’ll see how the marine life in Sydney Harbor fares with its newly-provided living option.

This article is republished from SingularityHub under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Image Credit: Alex Goad.

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In configuring our next nature, artists and scientists explore new languages that move beyond the Anthropocene - the era of human beings. These semantics would bridge the gap between mankind and technology, but also between humans and other species, establishing a cosmological understanding of life. Within this endeavour, bio-artists Amanda Baum and Rose Leahy delved into more-than-human narratives by creating a monument for the Microbiocene: the age of the microbial.

The Microbiocene is an epoch we’ve always lived in and will continue to live in, as the vibrant matter on planet earth emerged and thrives through microbial life, e.g. bacteria. In collaboration with the Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research (NIOZ), Baum & Leahy dove into the deep time of the microfossil molecules Emiliania huxleyi, which are found in ancient sea sediment. The result is an award winning symbiosis between art and science, as well as an artefact for the ecologies that are yet to be embraced by the human species.

We caught up with the duo and spoke about the philosophical matter pushing their piece to emerge, and the microbial matter it is made of.

"The installation envisions a future archaeological site, thousands of years from now."

You created the ‘Microbiocene’ piece for the Bio Art and Design Award last year. Tell us about the creative process of the project; did you already have in mind this result or did it evolve from something completely different?

The Microbiocene as an overarching concept is something we’d been thinking about for awhile - over the past couple of years almost all our projects have become about mapping out the Microbiocene - the ancient, ongoing, and future era of microorganisms. We’ve explored this through various lenses; spiritual, material, ritualistic, ancestral.

When applying to the BAD Awards, we were immediately inspired by the research from the Department of Marine Microbiology and Biogeochemistry at The Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research (NIOZ). The scientists at NIOZ work with sea sediment containing microbial fossil molecules, which hold information about past environmental conditions, both recent and ancient.

NIOZ’s research combined with this cultural, philosophical framework gave birth to the idea of creating a form of ‘biological Rosetta Stone’ - a relic being found, and a language translated, to discover information about an ancient (invisible) civilisation.

Baum & Leahy, Microbiocene: Ancient ooze to future myths, 2018, Photo by Boudewijn Bollmann, MU ArtSpace

Inspired by the aspect of deep time, the installation envisions a future archaeological site, thousands of years into the future, where the Microbiocene monument is being found. It is inscribed with myths of the Microbiocene, a (re)telling of history and future on Earth as microbe-centric. These stories were based on information we unearthed from microbial fossils in sea sediment dating from the present to nearly 10,000 years ago. We then developed this data into narratives with our collaborating scientists, projecting different future scenarios.

The idea was to create a narration that was informed both by microbe and mammal.

You used ‘microglyphs’ in your piece —a microbe-centric language system co-created by the artists and scientists— how did you develop this language? Are the shapes imprinted on your works also literally found under the microscope?

The microglyphs were created with input from both scientific, cultural associations as well as free associations between us and the scientists. Some of the symbols are more literal —like a double bond in a molecule meaning cold, or Ehux being a graphic representation of how it looks, whilst some are more complex like the Microbiocene microglyph, which refers to life beginning on earth.

Whilst creating the microglyphs we discussed the multitude of forms that language takes,and the inherent human desire to traverse their boundaries – across cultures, disciplines and species. From the Rosetta Stone to art-sci collaborations to alien communication attempts, the wish to understand, and to translate is constant: we all dream of babel fish.

Baum & Leahy, Microbiocene: Ancient ooze to future myths, 2018, Photo by Boudewijn Bollmann, MU ArtSpace

By creating a visual language for the Microbiocene, we attempted to move towards a more multimodal form of communication with the potential to be interpreted in various ways by anyone encountering it. Each of the microglyphs has multiple meanings, which change responsively with the surrounding microglyphs. Different compositions of the microglyphs explore movements within the meaning of the sentences.

The microglyphs are an initial iteration into working with the materiality of language, which we continue to explore in workshops, and our other projects. By consciously molding language, or sign making, into new biologically informed structures, we begin to weave our mammalian minds into the Microbiocene.

What kind of scientists did you collaborate with?

We collaborated with biogeochemists from the Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research – Julie Lattaud, Gabriella Weiss and Laura Schreuder. They study the alkenone biomarkers, especially sturdy molecules, left by microorganisms in sea sediment. This sediment is collected in long cores, which have a cross section of earth from the seabed and below, with the top layer being the most recent, and the bottom being from the mostpast.

"We like to work with scientists as partners on an equal basis of passion for understanding."

Their lab work is wonderfully intimate with the sediment that is collected. The coresare opened from a long tube and these incredibly distinct lines are revealed along the earth core, indicating thousands of years of life being lived before turning to matter.

Do you think you could have created this piece without this collaboration? What role does and should science play in art? Where does science stop and art begin?

The idea of the piece itself grew out of and was continuously informed by the scientific research, so it would have been another piece without the scientific collaboration. Like any other relationship, the symbiosis between art and science can and should take many forms, from the abstract and experimental to the more systematic.

At this point in time, we see not only creative potential but also a certain urgency, in the point between ecological transformation, emerging technologies and increased sensitivity and awareness towards the planetary web of life.

We like to work with scientists as partners on an equal basis of passion for understanding, working with and caring for living systems - although with very different means of research and expression. Before restricting ourselves within established epistemological systems, we try and create a nurturing space of shared curiosity, where ideas and visions aren’t limited to our individual areas of expertise.

Baum & Leahy, Microbiocene: Ancient ooze to future myths, 2018, Photo by Max Kneefel, MU ArtSpace

Do you think that art is stuck in the anthropocene? Is art too much focused on human experience?

We think it’s important that art happens across many ‘cenes’- and that it’s also urgently important to reflect on our lives in the Anthropocene. Yet we are interested in exploring an alternative - one that is generative, slimey and messy, and optimistic about the adaptable forces of life. Microbiocene is just one. We continuously draw on inspiration from Donna Haraway’s ‘chthulucene’. Nurturing the diversity and moving away from dominant narratives of the Anthropocene is what we find urgently needed - within all fields, not just artistic.

Whilst creating Microbiocene we were thinking a lot about the magnitude of microbial experience that has come before us, and how this has had slow yet defining atmospheric and evolutionary impacts on the Earth, setting out the conditions for terran life to thrive. In contrast, human’s time on Earth is becoming very much defined by rapid changes, caused by a few, and resulting in wider impacts for all, and some much more than others. We believe a more microbial approach could trigger the emergence of new systems of adaptation and cohabitation.

"The monument is raised to mark and celebrate how humans learn to become more microbial in their planetary impact."

By looking at the history of time on Earth through the perspective of the Microbiocene, we hoped to condense this microbial evolutionary perspective into a material and sensorial experience able to inspire new ideas and trajectories challenging current anthropocentric worldviews. The Microbiocene monument is raised to mark and celebrate how humans learn to become more microbial in their planetary impact. Focusing on more-than-human adaptive strategies and experience as a worthy alternative. For us, drawing the narrative out of information in the material remains of microbial experience was a way to do this.

Baum & Leahy i.c.w. Sofie Birch and Pernille Kjær, Interterrestrials, 2019
Baum & Leahy i.c.w. Sofie Birch and Pernille Kjær, Interterrestrials, 2019

What role does materiality play in your piece and how do you elevate a materiality from human to more-than-human?

It was an incredible opportunity for us to use the sea sediment from our studies as part of the material in the sculpture.

The particular sediment we were working with is called calcareous ooze, meaning it contains a large proportion of skeletal remains of coccolithophores. This included Emiliania Huxleyi (Ehux) - the microorganism we were studying within the sediment - which has an incredible, vibrant materiality to it.

It is a single celled alga covered in calcium carbonate-rich platelets, which – with the help of deep time –transmutates into materials such as chalk and lime. The build up of these microscopic organisms on the seabed over long periods has an immense, macroscopic effect, as expressed in the White Cliffs of Dover and Møns Klint.

When understood as the material result of numerous coccolithophore bodies and existence, this coastal landscape becomes a more-than-human monument in itself. We wished to translate the immensity of this deep time within this lively material we had in the lab.

"Microbes are in a way a ‘gateway’ to the unknowns of the universe."

Part of what we find fascinating about the microbial world is the (to us) mysterious material liminality - microbes are in a way a ‘gateway’ to the unknowns of the universe, which we know makes up more than 90% of our perceived reality.

We can’t see the microbes with our naked eye, yet with electron microscopy technologies etc it’s revealed how alive, vibrant and ‘material’ they are. We see them as active, reproductive, communicative, busy organisms, just like ourselves.

This many faceted relationship between the microbes’ ubiquitous, ghostly presence and the very material reality of their lives, which resonates with our human experience, continues to puzzle and inspire us.

Even more incomprehensible invisible organic elements like bacteriophages, proteins, DNA, molecules, atoms, dark matter, down to the strange world of quantum mechanics, seems more ‘approachable’ when we think of them through the universal, microbial gateway.

Baum & Leahy i.c.w. Naja Ankarfeldt, The Red Nature of Mammalga, 2018
Baum & Leahy i.c.w. Naja Ankarfeldt, The Red Nature of Mammalga (detail), 2018

Philosopher Timothy Morton wrote that we have to think in terms of durations, meaning we have to create a ‘deep time’ to ‘think ecologically’. Are you perceiving the world differently in terms of temporality since you made this work? Do you experience a more cosmological time as opposed to a human history?

When working with material such as the sediment cores that have such an evident history, it’s impossible not to become incredibly aware of and sensitive to the vast periods of time on Earth that have preceded us.

Our collaborating scientists work with these kind of time scales everyday, and so are used to thinking about time on Earth in terms of epochs, rather than through the length of their own human experience.

This was intriguing for us, and something we were trying to approach in Microbiocene not only as an installation, but also as a framework. Indeed, we believe that if humans could enter a mindset of deep time, we would see a big shift in our ways of producing and distributing materials. If humans could think in terms of the length of time that that plastic bottle will be on Earth, rather than the length of time it was experienced it in our lives, we surely wouldn’t be producing and distributing them in this way.

Yet, whilst the Microbiocene entails this very cosmological way of thinking – we’re not sure we can claim to have transcended into everyday cosmological experience of time from this. Despite our best efforts, we’re still just too darn human for that.

Baum & Leahy, Cellular Sanctum, 2018
Baum & Leahy, Cellalur Sanctum, 2018

You both have a background in design - do you think different aesthetics in our everyday surroundings will amount to different environmental awareness? And if so, what’s the potential role of aesthetics in environment awareness?

In our work, we combine tactile, sensorial materiality with collective, ceremonial practicessuch as meditation, ritual and writing to practice and nurture a symbiosis between matter (microbial, mammalien, etc) and mind. We aim to bring focus to how internal and external realities are interrelational and constantly shaping each other. By materialising a speculative scenario, ongoing tendencies can be harnessed and the actual long term realisations can emerge.

We have both been inspired by biophilic design principles, how biomorphic form, aesthetic,and material can be used to strengthen, encourage, and practice our connection with other species and ecologies.

Recently we’ve been thinking about ‘microbiophilia’, and how to stir emotions for organisms we can’t see, yet live all around, on, and within us. In previous pieces such as Cellular Sanctum (2018), and The Red Nature of Mammalga (in collaboration with Naja Ankarfeldt, 2018), we created tactile biomorphic, microbial forms, microbial drinks, and written participatory chants, to create a tactile and sensual experience.

Through these aesthetic experiences we aim to seed a heightened awareness to the parallel microscopic world, within those who experience them.

More microbiocene ?

https://vimeo.com/322794918

Cover photo by Max Kneefel.

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Nature has always been a source of inspiration for many artists and designers, yet the urgency to connect to nature is more pressing than ever. Environmental issues such as climate change, food scarcity and plastic soup increasingly intervene with the world of art and design. Currently on display at both Cube Design Museum in Kerkrade (NL) and Cooper Hewitt Design Triennial in New York (US) is the exhibition Nature: Collaboration in Design. It wonders; can nature be our partner?

This ambitious project has been in the making for over two years, and has resulted in an impactful, transdisciplinary exhibition on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. Projects range from experimental prototypes to immersive installations, architectural constructions and clearcut consumer products.

We caught up with Gène Bertrand, curator at Cube Design Museum, about our human responsibility in taking care of our planet and the possibilities of design that may help us along the way.

Define nature

The human impact on our planet is undeniable. Climate change, synthetic biology, mass urbanization – ‘we were here’ echoes all over. However, we are not the anti-natural species that merely threatens and eliminates nature, but rather the catalysts of evolution. Nature is changing, and so are we. It’s a trend that deserves global attention and thorough exploration that the exhibition Nature is now providing.

The collaboration between Cooper Hewitt and Cube Design Museum around the theme of nature evolved organically. Due to the broadness of the theme, collaborating seemed the perfect way to offer a global perspective that reflects the diversity of ideas and projects. Curators from both museums worked closely together with a global advisory committee to select the participating projects and define its main theme and sub-themes.

This next nature animal is called Aquajelly 2.0. Design team FESTO transfers knowledge from the world of nature to the world of automation. The aquatic robots move themselves in water by mimicking the movements of jellyfish tentacles. They can be used data collection and diagnostics in water management.

“The theme is very urgent from a lot of different viewpoints," Gène explains, "the width of the subject makes it interesting,”

The title of the exhibition, Nature: Collaboration in Design, echoes a similar abundance. How does the exhibition define the concept of nature? “Of course, we had quite some discussions about that, because everyone had their own view and definition”, Gène laughs.

“Eventually, nature is everything at all times. If you speak to people about nature now, they will most likely talk about romantic green scenery. But in the 4 and half billion years of Earth’s existence, nature came in different appearances. So, to us, nature is a transforming phenomenon. And humankind is part of that. Everything we have, what we do and what we are, from smartphone to coffee, it all stems from earth. It is a closed system.”

Nature is a transforming phenomenon, and humankind is part of that.

Force of nature

The exhibition responds to anthropogenic climate change and the lack of proper cooperation with nature that characterizes our period in time. “We are now in an era in which our human impact is much bigger than it used to be, because we can encompass the whole earth with our actions. Before, our local actions only seemed to have local consequences. Right now, we are aware that our actions have consequences for people on the other side of the world. This gives us a certain responsibility, and I believe that we need to develop more sense of this.”

Ensamble Studio researched geological transformation processes — like sedimentation, erosion, weathering, and compaction — as methods to redesign the landscape. These interventions called Structures of Landscapes are born from the landscape itself, preserving the natural structures from which they have been cast.

“In the Anthropocene, humans are a force of nature. We have both the power to destroy and to (re)construct. We caused a problem, but we are also part of the solution. Finding this solution requires us to explore new paths and develop new methods. We cannot keep going in the same way, we need to find a new formula to live.”

Humans are a force of nature. We have both the power to destroy and to (re)construct.

Yet, Gène emphasizes the optimistic character of the exhibition and its spirit of celebration. “We want to offer an optimistic perspective. Of course, we have to make crucial behavioral changes, but there are also technological and scientific developments that can help us.”

Design is a verb

By combining design, science and technology, the distinction between the born and the made is fading. We are creating a ‘next nature’ which is unpredictable as ever: from aquatic robots and interactive landscapes, to regenerative architecture and shoes that are grown.

The sixty-two projects included in Nature demonstrate extensive collaborations between these disciplines. “Design can simply not be separated from technology and science anymore.” This naturally has its effect on the design profession.

Design can simply not be separated from technology and science anymore.

Gène explicitly focuses on design as a process and a verb; designing. “We want to show that the process is more important than the final output. Because the process of designing offers new perspectives and shows new possibilities. And if you follow the process, the outcome might be completely different from your initial expectations.” And that is exactly what is needed to find new formulas to live.

The abundance of man-made plastics in our natural world has created a new material called Plastiglomerate, which marks the shift from old notions of nature and culture towards new definitions. Designer Shahar Livne speculates about the future of this material within the context of craftsmanship.

The work of Shahar Livne functions as a good example. “She envisions plastic as a basic material for the future, because plastic material fuses with rocks over time. With traditional crafts, this new material can be shaped into new products. Her project mainly asks questions. Is our current perception of plastic correct?”

Design for human needs

Cube Design Museum propagates a specific definition of design: design for human needs and human ambitions. Yet how do our human needs relate to the needs of nature? “Human needs are nature’s needs”, Gène states, “because humans are part of nature. We all need oxygen and nutrition. If you take care of nature, you take care of yourself. And if you love something, you want to take care of it. It’s not just a necessity to nurture the earth - we do it because we are part of it, and because we love it.”

Does design have the power to bring nature and humanity back together? “It does not have to, because they are one and the same thing,” Gène responds. “It is about creating awareness that humans are already part of nature. We are not able to control the environment, but we do have influence, even if it is hard to see.” Nature aims to asks questions and start a conversation. What is nature, and how do we relate to it? “That is what we do at Cube Design Museum: start a dialogue with the visitors and encourage them to find their own position.”

Nature: Collaboration in design is currently on show until 19 January 2020 at both Cube Design Museum in Kerkrade (NL) and Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum in New York (US).

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In science fiction and popular science, 2030 is often suggested as the year in which our planet will run out of oil. Similarly, 2100 will be the year that, according to predictions made by Arthur C. Clarke (in the 1960s), human life will be able expand to other planets and even entirely new solar systems. As 2030 is nearing, will we be able to trust our predictions? Or do we have to deal with the reality that there is no planet B?

The Coming World: Ecology as the New Politics 2030–2100 is an upcoming exhibition at Garage Museum of Contemporary Art in Moscow you should know about. The expo zooms in on the future that we are already living – where we are forced to deal with the environmental challenges of our time. The exhibition highlights the uncertainty of our knowledge about events to come, while suggesting a performative understanding of the future as it is being constructed and shaped by our present activities.

The Garage museum brings together historical and new works by over 50 international artists. Historical works, such as seventeenth century Dutch landscape painting and the invention of land art in 1969, show humanity’s ever changing relationship with nature.

Contemporary artists, including Next Nature fellows Driessens & Verstappen and Studio Drift, reflect on the current state of environmental politics and invite the audience to renew our initial predictions.

Materialism by Studio Drift is an ongoing research project in which we explore the everyday ‘made objects’ that surround us. By deproducing the produced, Materialism makes the essential nature of the world visible again.

The Coming World brings out a more lived and felt experience of the world in relation to new notions of the “natural.” The concepts of environmentalism and ecology are used to consider nature as an expanded field with interlinking biological, technological, social and political ecologies. It’s time to to imagine a new future where nature, humanity and other-than-human entities co-perform.

The Coming World: Ecology as the New Politics 2030-2100 will be on show from 28 June to 1 December at Garage Museum of Contemporary Art in Moscow. The exhibition is curated by Snejana Krasteva and Ekaterina Lazareva.

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Every day brings fresh and ever more alarming news about the state of the global environment. To speak of mere “climate change” is inadequate now, for we are in a “climate emergency”. It seems as though we are tripping over more tipping points than we knew existed.

But our awareness is at last catching up with the planet’s climate catastrophes. Climate anxiety, climate trauma, and climate strikes are now all part of many people’s mental landscape and daily lives. This is almost four decades after scientists first began to warn of accelerated global warming from carbon dioxide increases in the atmosphere.

And so, unsurprisingly, climate fiction, climate change fiction, “cli-fi” – whatever you want to call it – has emerged as a literary trend that’s gained astonishing traction over the past ten years.

Just a decade ago, when I first began reading and researching literary representations of climate change, there was a curious dearth of fiction on the subject. In 2005, the environmental writer Robert Macfarlane had asked plaintively: “Where is the literature of climate change?”. When I went to work in 2009 on one of the first research projects to attempt to answer this question, I found that some climate change novels were only beginning to emerge. Ten years later, the ubiquity of cli-fi means that the question of how many cli-fi novels there are seems irrelevant. Equally irrelevant is any doubt about the urgency of the climate emergency.

But the question of how to deal with such a complex challenge is paramount. The climate emergency demands us to think about our responsibilities on a global scale rather than as individuals, to think about our effects not just on fellow humans but on all the species that call this planet home, and to think about changing the resource-focused, profit-seeking behaviours that have been part of human activity for centuries.

This is where literature comes in. It affords us the headspace in which to think through these difficult and pressing questions.

Cli-fi has a central role in allowing us to do the psychological work necessary to deal with climate change. I am often asked to identify the climate novel that is the most powerful and effective and, just as often, I reply that no one novel can do this. The phenomenon of cli-fi as a whole offers us different ways and a multitude of spaces in which to consider climate change and how we address it.

Here, then, is our list of a range of novels that offer just such a diverse set of perspectives. These books provide readers with a range of thought (and feeling) experiments, from dystopian despair to glimmers of hope, from an awareness of climate change impacts on generations to come to vivid reminders of how we are destroying the many other species that share our planet.

1. The Sea and Summer, 1987

Australian novelist George Turner’s book is one of the earliest examples of cli-fi and is prescient in more ways than one. Set in Melbourne in the 2030s, skyscrapers are drowning due to sea-level rise: a setting for a stark division between the rich and the poor. Like many cli-fi novels, this novel’s dystopian future provides a sophisticated thought experiment on the effects of climate change on our already divided society. Turner’s book deserves to be reread — and reissued — as classic and still relevant cli-fi.

2. Memory of Water, 2012

Water has become a precious commodity in this cli-fi dystopia by Finnish author Emmi Itäranta. In Nordic Europe in the distant future, a young girl must decide whether to share her family’s precious water supply with her friends and fellow villagers and risk being accused of “water crime”, punishable by death. This tender coming-of-age narrative is thus also a meditation on the value of resources taken entirely for granted by the contemporary, westernised reader.

3. The Wall, 2019

At first glance, John Lanchester’s novel could be a comment on the rise of anti-refugee sentiment in Britain. In a not-so-distant future, every inch of British shoreline is guarded by an immense wall, a bulwark against illegal migrants as well as rising sea levels. But through the experiences of a young border guard, the novel shows us how this national obsession with borders not only distracts from the climate emergency at hand; it diminishes our responsibility to fellow humans around the world, whose lives are threatened by climate change and for whom migration is a desperate solution.

4. Clade, 2015

Australian author James Bradley’s novel chronicles several generations of one family in an increasingly devastated world. The day-to-day detail of their lives, as relationships hold together or break apart, unfolds against the backdrop of environmental and thus societal breakdown. The novel contrasts the mundane miscommunications that characterise human relations with the big issue of global warming that could rob future generations of the opportunity to lead meaningful lives.

5. The Stone Gods, 2007

Jeanette Winterson’s stab at cli-fi offers, like Bradley’s novel, a long view. The novel ranges over three vastly different timeframes: a dystopian, future civilisation that is fast ruining its planet and must seek another; 18th-century Easter Island on the verge of destroying its last tree; and a near-future Earth facing global environmental devastation. As readers time travel between these stories, we find, again and again, the damage wrought by human hubris. Yet, the novel reminds us, too, of the power of love. In the novel, love signifies an openness to other humans and other species, to new ideas, and to better ways of living on this planet.

6. The Swan Book, 2013

This novel by indigenous Australian author Alexis Wright is unconventional, fable-like cli-fi. Its protagonist is a young indigenous girl whose life is devastated by climate change but most of all by the Australian government’s mistreatment of its indigenous populations. Weaving indigenous belief with biting satire, Wright’s novel is a celebration of her people’s knowledge of how to live with nature, rather than in exploitation of it.

7. Flight Behaviour, 2012

Unlike the other novels on this list, this one, by Barbara Kingsolver, is a realist novel set entirely in the present day. A young woman from Tennessee stumbles upon thousands of monarch butterflies roosting on her in-laws’ land, the insects having been thrown off course by extreme weather events brought about by climate change.

From the scientists who come to study the problem, she learns of the delicate balance that is needed to keep the butterflies on course. Kingsolver’s rich descriptions of an impoverished Appalachian community are combined with her biologist’s training, so that reader empathy is eventually shifted from the likeable heroine to the natural wonder that is the butterflies. We are reminded of how climate change risks not simply human comfort but the planet’s ecological complexity.

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