This exhibition emerges from the conceptual basis of Marcus Vergette's Time and Tide Bells, stimulating conversations about human relationships with the sea, past, present and future, mindful of the global warming and the social stresses that climate change and sea level rise may bring.
We look at crossing the sea, migrations past, present and future. We have some works by a German expressionist that will be used to tell stories about the migrations associated with the times of the Third Reich. From there we'll use new works to look at the current migrations in the Mediterranean and then forward to future migration driven by climate change and sea level rise.
If you feel inspired by this project you are invited to offer your art for the exhibition. Ideas and suggestions are very welcome, there is nothing yet set in stone. Please send us your proposals.
Doggerland IV, Tracks and Traces ~ Maxim Griffin
Towards the end of the last Ice Age much of the North Sea was dry land, an area we call Doggerland. Across this not-sea the first post-glacial human settlers walked from what is now continental Europe. As the ice melted so sea level rose, creating the British Isles. From thence on all new immigrants had to come across the seas. Maxim Griffin's drawing is inspired by the lost landscape of Doggerland.
The ocean will have us all - West Doggerland, looking north ~ Maxim Griffin
"West Doggerland - from Saltfleet to Donna Nook and beyond into the jaws of the Humber. There lies Ravenser Odd - a town last seen on the morning of 16th January 1362 - a day known as the Great Mandrake, or if you prefer our modern tongue, the Great Drowning of Men." ~ Maxim.
Along the coasts of Yorkshire, Lincolnshire and Norfolk, folk have moved, pushed inland and allowed to move outwards again, as the sea and our sea-defences have, over the centuries, allowed. Relative sea level changes have been slight but on flat land the safe place can shift by miles. In the future, though the rate of change is still uncertain, the fact of sea level rise that will result from global warming is undeniable. Land will be lost, cities destroyed, populations will migrate.
Some online resources concerning Ravenser Odd:
A poem by Paul Davenport
5000 year old oak, the raw material for a proposed sculpture that references changes of climate and sea level through the Holocene, the period when people migrated back to the Britain after the Ice Age. The present Lincolnshire and Cambridgeshire fenland was covered in oak forests but as sea levels rose and river drainage was impeded, soil water levels increased and the land became marshy, killing the trees, which then fell into the anaerobic conditions of the developing peat bog. There they stayed until modern agricultural drainage resulted in peat shrinkage and farmers hauled the tree trunks out to avoid snagging on plough-shares. The carbon captured by photosynthesis in these trees during the Holocene, and then by the sphagnum moss and other marsh plants that formed the peat, has now largely been returned to the atmosphere during the Anthropocene, the human-dominated geological epoch in which we are playing our part. We drained the swamp, allowed the peat to decompose and burnt the bog-oaks. These are the remaining fragments of a once great forest, upcycled and repurposed, to ensure their carbon remains sequestered.
At other times, across other seas, people have been moved by other people. Some folk like to tell other folk where they may or may not live, what they may or may not do. The slave trade was the epitome, the ultimate emodiment, of this tendecy for the powerful to determine the lives of the powerless. Tom Thompson in his sculptures and Harriet Bland in her assemblages, are artists who draw our attention to this dark aspect of humanity.
Slave Ship - Tom Thompson
A ship made out of nails hammered into an old railway sleeper. The sleeper had been creosoted and when planed the grain appeared like the waves of the sea.
The nails represent the number of migrants who lost their lives crossing the Mediterranean sea in one single day.
Approaching Vessel - Tom Thompson
"one day the white man came..." - Harriott Bland
detail - Harriott Bland
An old box from Sorrento with the Flight to Egypt on the lid. - Harriott Bland
"My 1st cousin 4 times removed, Jane Digby, a refugee in the 1800s black-balled by the rest of Europe, found a home and marriage to a Syrian. She is buried in Damascus (she died after 25 years there) Syria having given her a home." - Harriott Bland
Andrea Büttner included this quotation from Simone Weil in her works exhibited for the Turner Prize at the Ferens Gallery, Hull, in 2017. Most people, given a free choice, prefer to remain rooted and to be buried with their ancestors. The great flows of migration are invariably made under duress.
Felix Müller (1904 - 1997) was a German expressionist sculptor and painter, denounced as 'Entartete' or degenerate by the Third Reich in the 1930s. He represents for us the overwhelming mass of humanity who have little desire to migrate but would rather die in the land or their birth and be buried with their ancestors. Felix Müller never crossed the seas but spent most of his life in his native Bavaria. He settled in a village close to his birth place and was buried in a churchyard alongside his father, his mother and his wife.
Self Portrait ~ Felix Müller
Untitled woodcarving ~ Felix Müller
This carving of a loving couple was an early work by Felix Müller from the 1920s and represents a homely tranquillity with no hint of the terror and turmoil to come. The young sculptor had completed his artistic training at the technical college in Fürth and done his 'gap year', actually two years of 'wanderung', walking on foot around southern Germany, honing his skills with museum visits and working with artisan craftsmen and artists, he then settled to what might have been developed into a peaceful and productive career, exploring through his art, human relationships with Nature and God.
But it was not to be. Denounced by the Nazis, his life became precarious, but he was too rooted to his homeland to flee overseas and instead opted to keep his head low in an unremarkable village far from beaten tracks. In 1940, at the age of 36, he was conscripted into the army, joining a war effort he had no sympathy for. First in Poland, Ukraine and Russia, he witnessed that which should never have happened. Through it all he kept drawing, with whatever pencils and crayons he could obtain, the people and landscapes of war-torn and occupied Russia.
Transferred to the west, Felix Müller was captured by the French in early 1945 and held as a prisoner-of-war for three years. While held he was put to work - as a sculptor carving headstones. Some 120 of his works still stand in French graveyards.
Portrait of his Mother - Felix Müller
While serving in the army and then during his imprisonment years, Müller's mother remained at home eking out the meagre life that war-time and post-war Germany could offer in a small Bavarian village. She stayed but, along with her neighbours, welcomed in the fleeing masses of the great internal migration at the war's end. Thousands left the east and found a welcome in what was to become West Germany. Still today, there are plaques proudly commemorating the generosity of those who had so little towards those who had still less, the homeless migrants.
Portrait of Elizabeth Osemann ~ Felix Müller
Eilizabeth Osemann was another woman in Müller's life but her life was contrasting. Having seen at first hand in Spain in 1936 what fascism could do she fell out with the authorities and fled from Bavaria to England in 1938 leaving her homeland forever to start a new life across the sea. She took British citizenship, married an Englishman and raised a family. It was not until 1951 that she returned for a visit and sat for Müller's portrait. Through the war years she did not forget what she had left and when Müller remained a prisoner after the war ended she sent both him and his mother food parcels with little luxuries, keeping their hopes alive through dark times. Her husband, through connections in high places, was eventually able to help secure Müller's release, to his and his mother's lasting gratitude, a connection that has endured across time and space to following generations, across the sea but united by an unseen bond.
Heilige Elisabeth ~ Felix Müller
The scenes depicted in Müller's triptych relate to the medieval saint Elisabeth of Thüringen. Born a princess, she took pity on the poor and would go from her father's castle to distribute bread. One day her father stopped her and demanded what she had in her apron. Just roses, she replied. And opening her apron pockets her father saw no bread, only red roses. But the painting references his friend, Elisabeth, who fled across the sea, sends food parcels and works for his release from imprisonment. In a letter to his Mother, Felix Müller, writes that the real Saint Elisabeth is living in England.
Sunflowers ~ FelixMüller
Müller was an environmentalist before environmentalism was invented. Sunflowers were a recurring theme throughout his artistic life, this painting from the 1930s. He loved the natural world and hated its destruction. The hills, trees and ancient farmsteads of his homeland would be repeated subjects in his landscape paintings.
Poster for Die Grünen (Green Party) ~ Felix Müller
Müller's environmentalism was expressed through defence of his local countryside from damaging development and in a wider context through his support for the German Green Party, Die Grünen, for which he created this poster, rich in the symbolism that marked his many sacred works commissioned by church authorities.
In the post war period, as general affluence grew, Felix and his wife Gertrude continued to live simply. Although Müller was a member of the Nürnberg Kreis, a prestigious group of Bavarian artists, he made little effort to gain fame or fortune. Most of his sculptures and paintings were sold modestly, or sometimes given, to priests for their churches or to neighbours and friends. The Müllers never owned a car, a television or even a phone; Gertrude would cycle to the village centre each day for shopping of talk to a friend from the public phone box.
Their modest house, on the outskirts of the village, surrounded by cherry orchards, comprised a studio downstairs and a small kitchen cum living room and bedroom upstairs, their material possessions kept to the bare essential. These were people whose lifestyle was sustainable with a mere one planet, something that few people in the richer half of the world now manage.
Felix died in 1997 and Gertrude a year later, his widow bequeathing all the unsold artworks to their village of Neunkirchen-am-Brand. She also left a million marks to be used to build a museum to house the large collection of Felix Müller's works. It was a sum of money unknown to their neighbours, never spent but kept for art, for the benefit of future generations, after their deaths.
Other artists fled the Nazis in pre-war Germany, finding refuge in Britain. Kurt Schwitters was one such. He was the focus of an exhibition at the Tate in 2012, Schwitters in Britain Kurt Schwitters lived his last years near Ambleside in Cumbria, where he was working on his third Merz Barn at Elterwater. The following photos were taken there in November 2017.
Time and Tide - Unidentified vessel in the North Sea ~ Biff Vernon
Time and Tide
The Time and Tide Bell stands on the Lincolnshire beach while an unidentified floating object in the North Sea is spotted. This borrows from Ai Weiwei's series of photographs of an incoming refugee boat on the Aegean.
Since moving from China, where he was born in 1957, to Germany, much of Ai Weiwei's work has dealt with the refugee crisis in the Mediterranean. He wrote "There's no refugee crisis, but only human crisis. In dealing with refugees we've lost our very basic values. In this time of uncertainty, we need more tolerance, compassion and trust for each other since we all are one. Otherwise, humanity will face an even bigger crisis."Ai Weiwei. Law of the Journey was an exhibition by Ai Weiwei at the National Gallery in Prague in 2017 It is composed of a site-specific installation developed around the artist's concern with the refugee crisis, a powerful tribute to human tragedy as well as testimony to human desire for home and a sense of belonging. More at the National Gallery in Prague.
Ai Weiwei has made a film, released 2017. Here's the official trailer: Human Flow. and, for some background, here's a film about Ai Weiwei made by the BBC in 2010 Without Fear or Favour. He now works in Berlin and has, for the last two years, been using his art to address the Mediterranean refugee crisis. Here's a recent article.
Unidentified Floating Object in the Aegean Sea ~ Ai Weiwei
"My definition of art has always been the same. It is about freedom of expression, a new way of communication. It is never about exhibiting in museums or about hanging it on the wall. Art should live in the heart of the people. Ordinary people should have the same ability to understand art as anybody else. I don't think art is elite or mysterious. I don’t think anybody can separate art from politics. The intention to separate art from politics is itself a very political intention," Ai Weiwei told Der Spiegel in 2011.
Arrival and "Wir sind..." ~ Biff Vernon
'Arrival' was based on a photo by Achilleas Zavallis published by UNHCR. Fearful children are carried to safety by rescuers in control of the immediate situation. Their longer term future is unknown. "Wir sind..." - "We have not come for your money. We are fleeing from your bombs", after an internet meme circulating in 2016, author unknown.
From the exhibition by Ai Weiwei - Refugees and the New Odyssey, Istambul, autumn 2017.
See more from the Ai WEiwei's exhibition at the Sakip Sabanci Museum, Istanbul here
Read Ai Weiwei's press release about the exhibition here.
She Loved, Loved and Loved ~ Kate Genever
Genever's image, She Loved, Loved and Loved, was first shown at the Wakefield Art House Gallery's Migration, International Residency Exhibition, in 2017. All too often families are torn apart when people migrate, the hands reach out for that which is lost. We have to love those beyond our reach.
Venice, Funeral Vessel ~ Kate Genever
In Venice the final journey is across the sea; coffins are moved first to funerals and then to the island for burial.
Nets Nos. 1,2 & 3 ~ Anastasia Lewis
A visitor to Cyprus, on talking to men on the beach, had come away with a curiously disturbing story from some fishermen. They had explained how their lives had changed recently; how they were now fearful when they went onto the beaches and when they cast their nets from their boats, fearful that fish would not be the only bodies caught. Lewis's nets evoke the changing fortunes of fishermen, both in Lincolnshire, from whose coast these discarded nets were salvaged, and on Mediterranean islands, where fishermen have been at the front-line of refugee rescues.
Leave No One Behind - Biff Vernon
Referencing the cover of the report Leave No One Behind, but with different colours and different shapes.
In August 2017, devastating floods swept across South Asia and typhoons wreaked havoc in East Asia. These were stark reminders of nature's destructive potential. In Bangladesh, India and Nepal flooding and landslides killed hundreds of people. They destroyed homes, schools, businesses and crops, and exposed millions to hunger and disease. Such events are shocking, but not surprising. As clearly set out in the Asia-Pacific Disaster Report 2017, risk is outpacing resilience. Recent events are the latest in a series of catastrophes in Asia and the Pacific, the most vulnerable region in the world to natural disasters.
Natural disasters can destroy the outcomes of years of work and investment by communities, governments and development organizations. That is why the principle of the disaster resilience is central to the 2030 Agenda's Sustainable Development Goals. If these Goals are to be achieved, then all new infrastructure should be capable of withstanding extreme natural disasters to enable people to escape and survive. Yet the Sustainable Development Goals have another critical stipulation. They are to be achieved not just for most people, but for everyone. The objective is to 'leave no one behind'. This is particularly relevant in the context of disaster risk reduction. Planning for resilience should be both robust and comprehensive. Early warning systems should reach everyone likely to be affected. Food, water or shelter should be swiftly available, even in the most remote areas.
This edition of the Asia-Pacific Disaster Report considers what this means in practice. It looks at the relationship between the impact of disasters, poverty and inequality. Where inequality is concerned, the report highlights that each disaster in the region leads to a 0.13-point increase in the Gini coefficient. It explores how the impacts of disasters intersect with violent conflict. It argues that measures for disaster risk reduction should take account of the shifting risks associated with climate change, especially in risk hotspots where a greater likelihood of change coincides with a higher concentration of poor, vulnerable or marginalized people. Although interventions to reduce disaster risk cannot alone prevent conflict, they should be part of an integrated approach to conflict prevention and peace-building.
The report shows that future natural disasters may have greater destructive potential. The region could account for 40 per cent of global economic losses resulting from disasters in the years to come, with small island developing States and least developed countries experiencing annual GDP losses equivalent to 4 per cent and 2.5 per cent, respectively. It also highlights the scientific and technical advances in forecasting that can identify new risks and vulnerabilities, and help anticipate extreme events. I hope this report will help policy makers, in both public and private sectors, understand disaster risk and resilience better, so that decisive action can be taken across Asia and the Pacific.
Shamshad Akhtar, Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and Executive Secretary, United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific
Download the Report.
About the cover
The mosaic represents diverse communities and countries working together to create a resilient and cooperative system of disaster risk reduction that protects the most vulnerable and leaves no one behind. Cover design by Marie Ange Sylvain-Holmgren, Director of Image Ark.
The List, all 33,293 entries, on a 48-page pdf file is available to download here.
When Life is Left with Only One Pressure Mark
Dead people need names, like new-borns. Dead people need a name and a space, just as mourners need a place to grieve. The effort to create such spaces is at the beginning of civilization and culture. As part of this task, Banu Cennetoǧlu has created "The List". "The List" was published in Der Tagesspiegel, as 48 pages, unadorned, without comment, in print and online. It documents the names of asylum seekers, refugees and migrants who have died within or at the borders of Europe since 1993. Every person on this list, every dead person has a line giving their name, place of origin and date of death. The data is compiled and updated by United for Intercultural Action, the European network against nationalism, racism, fascism and in support of migrants, refugees and minorities.
Each entry a destiny, a lost life
The Greek newspaper "Ta Nea" published in 2007 in collaboration with Banu Cennetoǧlu a list with the names of 8855 dead. In 2010, at a poster campaign organized by the Kunsthalle Basel, "The List" covered 13,284 deaths. The list that Banu Cennetoǧlu presented on 9th Npvember 2017 has 33,293 positions. Each entry a destiny, a lost life. Banu Cennetoǧlu says it is only the "tip of the iceberg". In fact, many more people have died on the run, drowned in the Mediterranean. Nobody knows their number. Banu Cennetoǧlu wants people to read what's in the paper like a strange, disturbing find. “The List" is not an art event. She wants to protect the list from misunderstandings. The name of the artist is hidden somewhere in the smallest print. It should not be for her. It is not, as she has sometimes heard, not "Banu's list". Rituals are no less important than breathing air. People preserve the memory of the lost, fallen in the war, as the ancient playwright Aeschylus in the oldest surviving text in the history of theatre, the "Persians" from 472 BC shows. At Ground Zero in New York are the names of the victims of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 on bronze plates. The portrayal of the victims, the organization of the collective memory often leads to a bitter dispute, because it is an eminently political act. When the artist Ai Weiwei published lists with the names of the children who were killed in the great earthquake in Sichuan province In May 2008, this was a protest against the information blockade of the Chinese government. Anonymity kills a second time. And just as the intolerable seeks linguistic or artistic expression, the question arises as to what "The List" is. A monument? A memorial? But there is nothing fixed, it is just for the moment. What is written will tomorrow seem outdated as the numbers rise. It is possible, if you hold them in your hand, that you cannot get rid of the names, the places, the details of the cause of death. The list lives in a terrible way, not just because it's a mere statistic. As things stand around the Mediterranean, new tragedies are developing; hopelessly overcrowded dinghies capsize, the rescuers are overwhelmed, another group of mostly young people marching into their lives, misinformed and betrayed, are not back to. Those who are closest to the list.
Such a work can never be free from mistakes and mistakes.
"You have these printed pages in your hand, you read, it has a beginning and an end, but that is a deception. You are in the middle of the story" says Banu Cennetoǧlu. "It is frightening how the refugee catastrophe is finding general acceptance. It has a low priority in the political agenda. If it were a natural disaster, it would look different. In refugee camps, people kill themselves with a pair of shoelaces for fear of being rejected and sent back. This level of hopelessness is beyond imagination." She says that calmly, does not complain. What she collects, what she conveys, in this calm, matter-of-fact, and hence provocative form, speaks for itself. She asks, "Who has the right to speak for people who have no voice? Who decides that? " The list is also an attempt to avoid an inappropriate appropriation of human suffering. It is clear that such a work, such an incredible and hard-to-shoulder diligence, can never be free from mistakes. The objective difficulties in creating and researching again emphasize their urgency. If there were to be sufficiently reliable information that would be extensive enough to trace the path of a person from Africa or Central Asia to death in the Mediterranean, then the situation there would probably be completely different. Then there would not be many of those dead. Lists have something practical as well as philosophical. Sometimes they express a certain luxury. They shape everyday life, a useful tool: shopping list, price list, address list. Umberto Eco sees this as a human need. Banu Cennetoǧlu makes clear that talking about lists cannot have an end. Borders are always arbitrary. There is no reason to be proud of or to be attached to this work. It forbids itself. "Numbers are important, as important as names," she says. In 2006 in Amsterdam, she posted the first lists in public, in the city space; and then they disappeared the next day. She therefore sought other ways and forms through institutions. That's why working with a state theatre and a newspaper in Berlin meant so much to her. This would create readership and distribution. She has lived in New York, in Paris, and now lives in Istanbul today. "The List" accompanies her everywhere. She remembers coming in contact with the list for the first time: "I read and read and could not stop reading," in the hard, dry format. In the document every human being becomes a number and at the same time and finds a mention that was not given to elsewhere. For the artist, "The List" is a map of the wars, the conflicts, the political tensions of our time. It is a contemporary Sisyphean task. Banu Cennetoǧlu protects The List like something very precious. And that is when nothing of a human life remains but a tiny print trail in a pile of newspaper.
The text above is based on an article by Rüdiger Schaper, published in Der Tagesspiegel on the 7th of November 2017. It has been translated from the original German and slightly abridged by Biff Vernon. The original is available here.
The List (2017) created by artists Banu Cennetoǧlu & Nihan Somay in collaboration with UNITED
Temporary public installation by REDCAT and the City of West Hollywood through WeHo Arts
This iteration of The List was commissioned by Roy and Edna Disney/CalArts Theater (REDCAT), on view March 25 to June 4, 2017 and installed with the support of the City of West Hollywood through WeHo Arts. More photos of the installation are available here.
For Across the Seas at the Sam Scorer Gallery, we present a print-out of the 48 page document. We invite visitors to the exhibition to pick up the document, thumb through the pages, perhaps read a few lines. We question how we may stop the list from growing, how we may become part of the solution.
We are honoured to be able to welcome a brilliant poet, who came to us Across the Seas, from Iraq. She will read some of her works at our exhibition.
I am Malka
I am Malka, a person without papers, a bird without sky. In my poems, I visualize refugees as birds who are forced to flee, and give up everything for liberty. Birds symbolize the fragility of freedom in non-democratic countries. I stand and fight with them, for freedom.
I grew up in Iraq, in an artistic family. My father and older sisters are well known artists. My parents are loving and passionate, and taught me to be emotional and imaginative, free, open and genuine; to be strong and independent and get a good education; above all, to protect my freedom. I learned from them, that love is the most beautiful thing in life, despite living and facing obstacles in a very strict religious city and old traditional society.
After 2003, the Triangle of Death visited my beautiful country. I lost my homeland to invasion by the US, to ISIS and to religions which have a political agenda. I felt I no longer belonged to society and the culture of my wonderful country had collapsed.
My father taught me that freedom is not only to do what we want; that real freedom is to do what we should do. Without freedom, life is extinct. This inspires me to be responsible towards others, help and support those in need, and responsible towards our society, protecting our rights and our great culture. So, I couldn't be silent when I saw human rights violations, discrimination, corruption and sectarian conflict. I became angry and fought back: as a human rights activist, I published critical articles, and spoke publicly. I established the Women's Centre for Arts and Culture. These activities led me to be victimized in my homeland. I was forced into exile. It is not easy to be torn from the country and the people that you love and trust. I cannot change the world, but I can speak out through my poetry and through continuing my human rights work from here. Writing poetry helps me to release something previously unknown, to make it visible and tangible. I hope it gives the reader a perception about the experience of being a refugee from a country ripped apart by war. I hope it helps to bring people together.
Malka al-Haddad - United Kingdom, October 2017.
I'm from a country at war
I'm from a country that's bleeding
A country of anger
A country of martyrs,
I'm from a country once called Mesopotamia
I'm from the land of black gold
I'm from the richest land on the earth
I'm from the land of sunshine on a golden desert
I'm from there
But I'm not there
I had beautiful dreams
I had friends, brothers, sisters, sweet parents and pink hopes.
I had green gardens, tall palms and olive trees
I had a warm winter
I was born on land before the crossing of swords on the body
Turned into a banquet table
Before Bush and Blair turned our rivers to blood
Then they donated millions of tents instead of roofs for our houses
The rain has died in my homeland
They left graves in the green grass in our fields.
Only cacti remain laughing in the barren desert
The sun has become ashamed behind the clouds
Where is God?
Has even God become a refugee in His land?
Where is our ancient law?
Has even this been stolen?
I crossed the seas of death
Waves of grief have led me here
To the land of my usurpers in an old and narrow shelter
The victim cannot judge her executioner
I now speak in two languages, but I have forgotten in which one I used to dream
I have learned all the words to take
The lexicon apart for one noun's sake
The compound I must make:
No choice I came here
But I'm not here
You are a refugee and
Your choice is not your choice
Silence, Beat, Silence ~ Marcus Vergette
This bell was first shown at the Sainsbury Centre and Norwich Undercroft in 2014, an exhibition commemorating the First World War. Some seven million British troops crossed the sea between 1914 and 1918. The form of the bell is the same as the upper half of the Time and Tide Bell. The manufacture of bells and cannons had much in common, the same metal cast using the same technology. It is possible that the same bronze was cast and recast alternately as bell and cannon, depending on the prevailing fortunes of peace and war. Bells were held aloft and out of reach on a static frame, while cannons were mounted on a gun carriage at ground level. Vergette conflates the two by mounting his bell on wheels. This also makes the bell accessible, easily rung by anybody passing, for no better reason than a whim. The bell is no longer in the hands of authority, allowed to be rung only by permission and for the purpose of ordering the lives of ordinary folk or rung in celebration, or, on occasion, tolling for the dead or ringing out a warming. This bell, Silence, Beat, Silence, is normally kept at the Hanse House, Kings Lynn.
Poster by Dr Erica Thompson on Hawkmoth Effect, discussing uncertainty in global climate modelling.
Erica Thompson is a climate scientist at Centre for the Analysis of Time Series, London School of Economics. She is interested in statistics, uncertainty, climate change, and the appropriate use of mathematical modelling to support real-world decisions, as well as all aspects of the transition to genuinely sustainable ways of living and working. Her research interests focus on realistic evaluation of climate information for decision-making, communication of the inherent uncertainty, and improving robustness and usability of information that is relevant for decisions in mitigation, adaptation, insurance and business.
The well-known 'butterfly effect' coined by Edward Lorenz, is relatively benign, as befits its association with butterflies. The atmosphere is a chaotic dynamic system that makes weather forecasting beyond a few days forward impossible. Forecasts are sensitive to initial conditions that are imperfectly defined but the uncertainty is calculable so probabilities can reliably be ascribed to outcomes.
The Hawkmoth, subject of the painting, is an uglier beast. Climate models are built on equations that describe the global ocean and atmospheric systems. Not only are the scenarios produced by the models sensitive to initial conditions, the butterfly effect, they are also dependent on failures of the equations to accurately account for the system. This is the hawkmoth effect, it deal with the unknown unknowns.
The hawkmoth effect means that the forecasts based on the global climate models may be wrong. The particularly worrisome thing is that they are more likely to be wrong in a bad way than in a good way. To illustrate this think of a wind speed forecast. The wind might be gentler than forecast but it can't be less than zero. The forecast's error is limited in this direction. In the other direction the forecast could be infinitely wrong, there being no upper limit to speed. The error probability space is skewed to the bad side.
In an echo of Felix and Gertrude Müllers lifestyles, Thompson has spurned the material attractions of the financial service industry to work instead on climate science while pursuing a low-carbon life. She lives with her husband, Dr Chris Vernon and their young daughter on a One Planet Development in Wales. This is a scheme operated only in Wales whereby planning approval can be granted in rural areas for homes built with a very low carbon input and the occupants derive much of their needs from their land. One has to live as though we have only one planet on which we must live sustainably.
Dr Chris Vernon is also a climate scientist. His research produced the conclusion that the Greenland Ice Sheet was shrinking, the ice melting at a faster rate than new snow was accumulating. Others have since found similar conditions in Antarctica. The consequences for global sea level are profound. We have already reached the point that the great ice sheets are no longer in equilibrium with the climate. Eventually, perhaps over thousands of years, all the ice will melt and sea level will rise over sixty metres. There is great uncertainty over the rate of ice melt and consequent flooding but any further global warming hastens the process. For the younger generations alive today, we may see a couple of metres rise, enough to flood many of the most productive agricultural areas and most populous cities in the world. The migrations we have witnessed recently are nothing by comparison with what must be coped with through the 21st century.
Chris is the grandson of Elisabeth Osemann, the woman who fled the Nazis and whose portrait by Felix Müller we see.
Sequestered Carbon ~ Biff Vernon
Coal, stained glass and lead 16 x 16 x 8 cm.
If human civilisation is to survive, most fossil carbon must be left in the ground. These four pieces of coal are safely encased in cubes of hand-made, mouth-blown stained-glass from Poland. By keeping the carbon in the ground we can mitigate climate change, slowing down the rate of warmiong and the rate of sea level rise, giving more time for adaptation and lessening the impact of forced migration. The Hawkmoth Effect ensures uncertainty about the rates of change but we are sure of the direction of travel.
Lincolnshire Time and Tide Bell Community Interest Company is a not-for profit organisation, registered at Companies House. Company Number 10934941