For the 2013 Cupar Arts Festival I extended my series of images that ‘bring the over there into the here and now,’ making screenprints that were posted at six locations throughout Cupar. The prints follow a single imaginary chararcter as he goes about his everyday life in Cupar, weaving imagery of environmental health/illhealth into recognisable sites and spaces. What follows are some notes on the thinking behind the prints. (To read Duncan McLaren’s reflections on the Cupar Arts Festival which includes some of these prints see WWW.strangebundle.co.UK/styled-15/index.html )
The heavy rains of last winter brought floods to Cupar. Sandbags can still be found in corners and closes as if waiting for the next downpour. Globally both floods and droughts are becoming more of a problem as our climate changes. This is particularly true for Bangladesh. The houses in the foreground of this print are built precariously on the edge of Dhaka, the capital city of Bangladesh. Many people have moved to the city as environmental refugees, their houses and livelihoods swept away by floods, or made impossible by drought. Sea level rise and increased extreme weather events, both currently unfolding effects of climate change are a harsh reality of life in Bangladesh where the country is 80% flood plain – 75% of Bangladesh is less than 10 metres above sea level.
Incredible Edible Cupar
In response to the enormous environmental issues we face many communities in the world are looking to maintain or create less energy hungry ways of living. This has seen the emergence of some very inspiring local initiatives, including local food growing projects. One example is Incredible Edible Todmorden, set up in 2008 to facilitate the growing of food in all of Todmorden’s available greenspace. The project recognises that vegetable growing is one small step towards cutting carbon and that beds of vegetables can be as beautiful as ornamental planting. In Fife local food is promoted by projects such as the Fife Diet, and in Cupar orchards and food growing are being initiated and supported by Sustainable Cupar.
This is a triptych of prints – an unheard call from the character to a receiver without a listener, and a Russian drilling platform off Sakhalin Island in the North Pacific Ocean. The platform belongs to the oil company Gazprom and is similar to those being developed by Gazprom for drilling in the Arctic. 28 Greenpeace protestors are currently being held in Russian jails after they staged a peaceful protest at one of these Arctic platforms last month.4 They are being charged with piracy. The protestors were there to attempt to block drilling in the Arctic where oil extraction could be environmentally catastrophic – an oil spill would be almost impossible to deal with in such a remote area. The Arctic is already greatly effected by climate change – Arctic summer sea-ice is expected to disappear altogether this decade due to rising ocean surface temperatures.5
The electric shop window holds (perhaps contradictory) adverts for ‘banned bulbs’ and a ‘photo voltaic panel fitter’. In the left-hand foreground is Longannet coal-fired power station. Longannet can be seen as a local symbol of business as usual where power generation and the environment are concerned. Longannet, near Kincardine in Fife, is one of Europe’s largest coal-fired power stations. It burns up to 1000 tonnes of coal an hour. In 2003 Longannet was named as Scotland’s biggest polluter, producing up to 4350 tonnes of ash per day.3 In 2010 there was the positive news of plans for a trial of carbon capture and storage technology, as part of the recently rejected Energy Bill plans to decarbonise the power sector by 2030. Sadly funding for this project was pulled in 2011.
This print reflects on the plans to extract gas by igniting coal seams off the coast of Fife in an area close to Largo Bay.2 There are concerns that this process could contaminate water supplies as coal seam gas extraction dredges up carcinogenic chemicals and heavy metals. It is also a sign of continuing dependence on fossil fuels long into the future.
What’s in Store
In September 2013 the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate change) brought out a report that clearly states that the world has warmed as a result of human activity, and will continue to do so with disastrous results, unless we act urgently to curb our dependence on fossil fuels and stop pumping greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.1 What’s in store shows some of the expected global impacts of climate change.