Republic of Learning: Little Earths, Mythical Objects and Human Stories

By 8th December 2021 Creative Practice, Musings

I attended the above workshop on Eventbrite this event, hosted by the Republic of Learning and facilitated by Giles Lane (artist, researcher), Dr Rachel Jacobs (artist, researcher) and Dr Aideen Foley (lecturer, researcher).

“In this workshop we will make our own Little Earths, stewardship objects that combine craft making, intimacy, scientific data and stories. A mythical object to keep in our pocket, have in our home or gift to others.

Through the act of making these objects we explore what we can gain from qualitative data (experience) as well as quantitative data (numbers) and how this can then be translated into acts of love, care and protection. Not seeking easy explanations (or judgements) but finding ways to pay attention and share what our own senses and understanding of place, responsibility and change can bring.”

In a nutshell, we creatively reflected on how we understand the Earth on a Global, National, Local and Individual level, reflections of which nested in each other.

We looked at some data and research on each of those four levels, some resources of which are really interesting and could probably contribute to my lit review (hurrah!). They were explaining how data is important and illustrates points, but its not relatable, it doesn’t help people connect to the issue. And that was kinda the point of this workshops approach… translating that data into something material and meaningful. This embodiment of data is explained here on the Manifest Data Lab page. There’s also this thing about how science wants to simplify and stratify data, but then you miss the nuance and differences in the process… of which are important. Here’s a practice-based project – Lifestreams – exploring that disparity.

I liked this approach – facts and information might feel like trump cards in an argument (the climate argument?) but in reality, they’re ‘dead’ and sometimes alienating. It’s stories and personal narratives that change hearts and minds, it really is. I think that if I do some sort of participatory work on environmental themes in future, I’ll adopt this approach to participation.

Another thing I really appreciated was how they shared links to everything they were sharing and talking about – you don’t always catch what is said or explored in the moment. I really valued this small facilitational gesture. It also helps me to document what I did/learnt/looked at during the workshop without trying to remember (and subsequentially forgetting!) everything!

GLOBAL

Climate Time Machine – NASA
This makes me feel really sad when I look through these. I note how there’s steady change and then it turbo charges in the 2000s… I was too young to remember a cleaner planet… that’s depressing.

CO2 emissions – Our World In Data
This breaks my heart as well. It’s just anger inducing about how much damage has been done. They were talking about dangerously increasing CO2 levels in the 1960s, and look where we are now.

The 20 firms behind a third of all carbon emissions – The Guardian
Profit over planet. Profit over people. Exploitation and degradation of the land… and for what? Unnecessary travel and commercialised junk? Bitch, please.

I felt like freewriting (possibly because I’ve been doing a lot of writing lately what with the literature review and because I was already exhausted and just wanted to keep things simple) so that’s what I did.

How do you imagine the Earth?

What are your cares for this layer of your little Earth?

NATIONAL

UK temperature, rainfall and sunshine time series – MetOffice
We can see that everything reflects global trends, in that it’s all heading in the wrong direction instead of remaining stable. (also the month I was born was particularly sunny… I mean, what can I say.)

UK Climate Projections – MetOffice

Things are looking grim in all honesty. Which is bonkers really as we’re in a place of relative climate safety. I’ll be 80 years old by the time these predictions come into fore… how the hell is an 80 year old supposed to contend with this kind of extreme weather?

Historic Station Data – MetOffice
All the old atmospheric data you could ever hope for. Too many numbers for my brain however.

How do you imagine your country?

What are your cares for this layer of your little Earth?

I noted how as I was writing, I almost wished I wrote this on the smallest paper… because I don’t actually care all that much about things on a national scale – the UK feels basically the same as it does globally… although perhaps even less so because, like I wrote, I find my country problematic.

LOCAL

UK Climate Averages – MetOffice
I’ve looked at Hull, obviously… the changes reflect global and national trends, of course. Look at the maps, it’s stark. And on that map, look at London and the South East in particular.

Check the long term flood risk for an area in England – gov.uk
Apparently my house is at very low risk for surface water flooding but at medium risk for flooding as a result of the rivers and the sea: ‘Medium risk means that each year this area has a chance of flooding of between 1% and 3.3%’

 

So this really captured me. This is a Micronesian navigational chart from the Marshall Islands, made of wood, sennit fiber and cowrie shells, and was shared in reference to how knots are indicative of local stories and how locality is mapped and communicated through material. I really, really like this as an object, as a map, as an item reflective of space. It reminds me a lot of the rhizomes I make with which I map ideas… I wonder if there’s something to learn from this?

How do you imagine your locality or commons?

What are your cares for this layer of your little Earth?

This is easier to relate to, because I’m more clued up about things on this level – I can situate thoughts in place. I also care for my community, seeing it almost as an organism too.

(a better photo will be taken when I remember to)

PERSONAL

I admittedly kinda missed this bit… I was having to take a phonecall, but continued with the theme!

How do you imagine yourself/family/kin in relation to the Earth?

What are your cares for this layer of your little Earth?

CONTAINERS

Bilum Bags
This was in reference to how the patterns and designs on bilum bags are reflective of locality in Papua New Guinea, but h.ow these bags are containers for literally everything.

How do we love, care and protect our little Earth?

What action will this involve?

What holds our little earth together?

How does each layer nest within the other?

What stories bind the different elements?

How do we bring our little Earth to life?

And so these were my layers, my responses to the questions.

They nested like so:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Resulting in a thing in and of itself:

This scruffy little object has so much intention and compassion embedded with it. I almost want to bury it in the ground as some sort of offering or meaningful demonstration to the Earth that I actually give a massive shit about it. It’s what feels right to do.

This link was shared as documentation from previous workshops: https://bookleteer.com/collection.html?id=31

These links were also shared by other participants: https://www.utopiasbach.org/ and https://www.versobooks.com/books/3706-care-manifesto – both of which are really interesting!

It’s been useful to think about these things from four different perspectives: global, national, local and self. It helps to situate elements of my practice within a ‘geographic’ space. I feel like there’s bits I may consciously or subconsciously draw out and use in time, but I couldn’t tell you what just yet!

 

 

 

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