In an Aeonessay on the (surprisingly early) deforestation of England, Hugh Thomson writes this about our national identity:
The myth panders to our need for a sense of loss. There is an undercurrent of regret running through our history. A nostalgia for what could have been: the unicorn disappearing into the trees; the loss of Roman Britain; the loss of Albion; the loss of Empire. We are forever constructing prelapsarian narratives in which a golden sunlit time — the Pax Romana, the Elizabethan golden age, that Edwardian summer before the First World War, a brief moment in the mid-1960s with the Beatles — prefigure anarchy and decay. Or the cutting down of the forest.
One only need look at the near-ecstatic reception given to Danny Boyle’s Olympic rendition of our ‘green and pleasant land’, complete with shire culture and hobbit mounds, to see how easily history elides with mythology. Britons are supremely comfortable with that blurring — with a mythic dimension that adds gravitas to our self-understanding, and that imbues the land with a kind of enchantment, a magical aspect that is echoed in our narratives of how we came to be a nation, but is as illusory as the Arthurian lake from which the Lady’s hand emerges to grasp the sword.
There’s a new documentary about David Hockney coming to the BBC, so he’s been doing media interviews. This morning he was on the Radio 4 Today Programme and last week he was in the Observer. Answering questions from fellow artists, he came out in support of… fracking! Why? Well, for the pragmatic reason that we need the energy… and he can’t abide the alternative, which is wind turbines. In 2011, feeding reactionary quotes to the Daily Mail Hockney said that modern windmills are “big ugly things… I certainly wouldn’t paint them”. I find the “beauty/ugliness” argument against wind farms incredibly odd. If we eschew renewable energy and burn more fossil fuels, as Hockney advocates, we will add to the problem of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere and accelerate global warming. This, in turn, will lead to the ruination of precisely the landscapes that Hockney and his fellow artists throughout history have enjoyed painting. Continue reading “Why doesn't David Hockney see beauty in wind farms?”
When it comes to the environment, there is an awful lot of rhetoric about how ordinary consumers should take action to change the way businesses operate. By choosing green products or services, the hope is that the capitalist system will eventually reward green products. The companies that work with, rather than against, our fragile environment, will eventually make money. This kind of incrementalism is noble, but it often seems ineffectual and weak. People have so many decisions to make every day about what to purchase, and the ‘green’ option is often the more expensive choice. In these austere times, it is naive to expect environmentally friendly products to prevail in the marketplace, by virtue of their sheer moral strength. With this in mind, the Ecobond from Ecotricity is – if you will excuse the apt but unimaginative metaphor – a breath of fresh air. The company has green credentials (and a reassuring green logo, too) but the Ecobond is a straightforward financial proposition. Ecotricity is raising money to build a new tranche of wind farms, and is asking investors to contribute to the enterprise. They say they will pay 6% per year for four years on your investment, then return the capital to you at the end of the term. I am not an energy analyst or a financial advisor, but in the short term, a business that makes money selling power to the UK national grid must surely be a reliable investment.
Its almost as if those people who are actually spending the money to make this work are participating in a leisure activity, rather than an everyday participation in a market that could sustain the local economy.
Cycling home on Friday, I was unwittingly caught up in the London Cycling Campaign’s ‘Flashride’ across Blackfriars Bridge. They want the speed limit on the bridge to remain at 20mph but apparently the Mayor of London isn’t heeding the request, and it will become more dangerous for cyclists later this year. In protest, several hundred cyclists rode together over the bridge, in full compliance with the Highway Code. I was able to take a little bit of footage of the happening.
Without wishing to boast or come across as some kind of syncophantic Mac fanboy, I must note how easy it was to capture and edit the footage. I was able to whip out my birthday iPad on the central reservation, take a couple of minutes of HD footage, and then cycle off down The Cut and homeward. It took all of ten minutes to edit the footage in iMovie and the longest part of the process was the HD upload to YouTube. The speed of ‘broadcast’ and ‘publication’ these days is truly revolutionary – causing a genuine shift in power away from elites.