Sunday, 22 May 2011

Like Minded People

Isn't it lovely to meet people who are thinking about the same things as you are? Despite the prevalence of 'green' today, it's actually been a while since I really met anyone I could have a proper discussion with about the environment. I love my family and friends, absolutely, but 95% of them are hardened consumers. So: thank you Cape Farewell and Shortcourse/UK for introducing me to like-minded thinkers.

When I was invited to apply for Shortcourse/UK (see post below), I really wasn't sure what to expect. The launch evening, held at Newlyn Gallery, and with presentations by Sion Parkinson, Daro Montag and Nick Edwards, was intersting, but - to my mind - decidedly 'arty'. Now don't get me wrong, I'm all for arty stuff, I just find a lot of it to be beyond my understanding (or out of my zone of thinking, I guess), which means that I find it difficult to appreciate. But Shortcourse/UK sounded like such an interesting and unusual opportunity, I thought I'd apply for it anyway - and boy am I glad I did.

The truth of the matter is that firstly, despite being a writer (or attempting to be one, anyway), I've never thought of myself as an artist; and secondly, I found it hard to see how artists could really make a difference to environmental issues. I enjoyed the first two expeditions with Shortcourse/UK, but coming home each evening I wasn't really sure if I'd learnt anything or gained anything. This weekend, however, was the third and final expedition, a two day trip to the Isles of Scilly, and it rather feels as if everything has now clicked into place.

The beauty of Cape Farewell is that it brings together scientists and artists, enabling the cross pollination of thoughts. It changes artists' thinking by more concisely introducing the science behing environmental concerns, and it changes scientists' thinking by introducing the art and the beauty and - essentially - the naturalness of the environments around us. I think that without my even really being aware of it, being surrounded by artists for the last two days has got me thinking in a distinctly more 'arty' way. And where two months ago I would have been somewhat sceptical about this, today I feel really excited about it and I'm really, really hoping I can hold onto this feeling.

So what was so special about the Isles of Scilly expedition? Other than the Scillies being a pretty special place, it was immersion in the truest sense - immersion in the group of people I travelled with, immersion in the thinking and ideals of this group and its leaders, Sion and Daro, and immersion in the natural environment. After sleeping under canvas, right next to the sea, in a place with no light pollution, who wouldn't be thinking differently?

And as far as art and the environment goes, one of the best parts of the experience was listening to the presentations that the other students gave on their work, and discovering not only how art does communicate, but also how we're all like minded people. From Bryony, who is mid-way though a year rejecting consumerism, to Sonia's obsession with the sea, whales and plastic pollution, to Tom's research into the history of a field, generating some truly beautiful nature writing; Rob's investigation of ocean acidity, and Saffron, who is creating her own food range that highlights the absurdity of modern society's food attitudes. Each of them (and everyones else inthe group too) demonstrates that art and science do not have to be exclusive subjects. And I'm really looking forward to working with them more.

A bit of plastic here and there, but I couldn't find any nurdles (a good thing!). I imagine that the Islanders keepa close hold on the quality of their beaches. Interestingly, it seemed as if there was more glass than plastic around the beaches, though what that means, if anything, I don't know.

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