Aberystwyth Transitions Reading Group Blog


Living in the Future?

Rather than Living in the Future the film reminded me of China Miéville’s excellent novel The City and The City, and so could have been called The Future and The Future: A parallel way of living that cannot wholly be acknowledged or wholly acknowledge the Other living. [Maybe that’s pretentious bollocks – but I can’t recommend the novel highly enough!] Living in the Future was interesting on so many levels: Age – Lammas isn’t fuelled by youthful enthusiasm but rather mainly experienced disappointment; Gender – living differently didn’t seem to have engendered (sic) fresh questions of male/female roles? [men seem better at Gaian portentousness?] Politics – I wonder if undertaking the Lammas project ‘on the radar’ (rather than ‘under’, which Roundhouse guru Tony Wrench did, and numerous others persist in doing) and getting Low Impact Development legislation in place actually makes it easier or more difficult for future LIDers? (perhaps it’s an option for the more law-abiding or unavoidably conspicuous project but personally I’d only be tempted into LID without having to deal with that slippery conflict/co-operative relationship with the frankly repellent paternalism and blinkered bureaucracy of the modern state); Legislation – if LID is going to work with the state the question the film highlighted about needing LID building regulations is vital (mains powered fire alarms required on properties without mains electricity, for example, and structural requirements that are over-the-top and inappropriate for different materials used differently); Leadership – more than anything, for me, the film problematised leadership and Paul Routledge’s notion of the ‘imagineer’ (1996?) – the man Paul Wimbush is the obvious candidate for the leader/imagineer mantle but the complexity of how a convergence space like Lammas is socially mobilised was evidenced by the various essential roles of others (different sorts of leadership?), e.g. the need for Simon Dale’s skills and having the materiality of a completed house to give Lammas a working identity, and the wonderful pessimistic, humour-filled scepticism of the Lammas guy commenting from the Aberystwyth showing – I’ve forgotten his name – is this leadership of sorts, or a virtuous type of non-following participation?  (And I wonder, is there a different sort of leadership exhibited by Lammas women?). On another level, vis-a-vis the linked showings of the film, it’s interesting how tolerant we are of the inadequacies of modern technology? There’s obvious potential in a linking technology that works better – but can it work better through current platforms/media, are we at the limits of what the interweb can do? A set of human protocols would help. Last night’s showing hook up of five or six audiences had a resonance of early cinema… (can we look forward to advances the equal of colour , sound and 3D (not)?

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Programme for this term

Just to match up the dates with the papers, this is what we have coming up 🙂

28th Feb: Simon Springer ‘Why a radical geography must be anarchist’ http://www.academia.edu/2254767/Why_a_radical_geography_must_be_anarchist

28th March: Paul Wapener on sacrifice (to be circulated nearer the time)

25th April: Demaria F, Schneider F, Sekulova F, and Martinez-Alier J (forthcoming) What is Degrowth? From an activist slogan to a social movement. Environmental Values.

30th May:  People and Planet, Royal Society http://royalsociety.org/uploadedFiles/Royal_Society_Content/policy/projects/people-planet/2012-04-25-PeoplePlanetSummary.pdf


Chasing Ice

I was left a puzzled about what to make of this film. Okay, fantastic photographs and footage of ice – glaciers calving, time-lapse glaciers receding, and just big, blue beautiful shots of ice and Artic waters. And then there was the story of obsession: James Balog wrecks his knees and takes his – and other –lives in his hands to get these shots. But is this admirable or just foolhardy machismo? Obviously, as an obsessive, Balog believes totally in his Extreme Ice Survey project. But one has to ask what was the point of the project and this film? The film cannot on its own be evidence of the effects of climate change, nor indeed of anthropogenic climate change. It records ice melting at amazing rates but over a short period of time that falls into the category weather. Only together with lots more scientific data can the film stand as an illustration of anthropogenic climate change – which I guess is the point: Balog must know this. The illustration is dramatic in film and photos but surely the same effects could have been recorded by satellite – without all the risking life and very male limb? What the film did cleverly – even a bit slyly – was broadcast the self-damning media testimonies of climate change deniers without then needing to offer its own cohesive narrative. I’m sure that for the ‘lay’ viewer the juxtaposition of undeniably powerful images with very foolish words will work as propaganda for the cause of mitigating climate change. But then, what is anyone supposed to do about it anyway? Individual behaviour change – or even political lobbying – on any conceivable scale will be totally lost in the deafening drone of global (though patchy) economic growth, to which we are overwhelmingly committed/addicted at the expense of all else – climate, social justice, peace… Finally, I concur with what Bert Russell and Andre Pusey concluded: climate change is too remote and  complex to serve as an effective rallying call against capitalism (Russell and Pusey, 2012).

p.s. Thank goodness for the after-film Q&A with glaciologist Bryn Hubbard who made everything quite clear (NOT!). He did, though, I think serve to confirm Russell and Pusey’s assertion: politicall, climate change won’t work as an anti-capitalist strategy and much green thinking is still likely to fall into the crack between system change and survivalism.

p.p.s. I haven’t read sam’s blog about the movie/evenign yet – looking forward to it!

Russell, B. & Pusey, A. (2012) ‘Movements and Moments for Climate Justice: From Copenhagen to Cancun via Cochabamba’. ACME, 11: 1, 15-32.


Wales an Environmental Leader?

Shameless plug… I’m also involved in organizing this event. It’s open to the public so hope some of you can come. It has resonances with the Sustainability Transitions series and should be interesting for many. Details here:

Wales Environmental Leadership Conference



Next Meeting – 17th Jan – Paul Cloke on Post-Secularism

Our next meeting will be on Jan 17th, quietest spot in the Arts Centre as usual, and we’ll be discussing the following talk by Paul Cloke entitled: ‘Postsecular Stirrings? Geographies of hope in amongst neoliberalism’, available as vodcast or podcast from the link below:


Just to try and quickly translate this into everyday language, it’s basically about how faith-motivated (religious) charitable organizations represent a challenge or at least an alternative to the dominant system of ‘neoliberalism’ (which assumes that freedom of the market is the best way to meet all human needs). I haven’t listened to this all yet but I look forward to hearing why it’s faith-based charities in particular that are seen to be doing this as opposed to all charities. In any case it should give us plenty of food for thought about the role of religion and faith (and might be the most positive thing you’ve heard about religion in a long time).

Film Nights:

Also of note, several of us are planning to see the film Chasing Ice on the 16th. The film is about a photographer’s effort to capture evidence of planetary changes through filming changes in landscapes of glacial ice.


And on the 22nd, a film about the Lammas eco-village in Pembrokeshire, Living in the Future: Lammas will be screening at the Arts Centre followed by a live Q&A session with Jane Davidson, former Welsh Assembly Minister for Environment, Sustainability and Housing.