Earlier Times

New metaphors for sustainability: the Kelo

This post comes to you from Ashden Directory

We resume our series finding new metaphors for sustainability with the Kelo suggested by artist and researcher Amanda Thomson

For a few years now I have been spending a lot of time in some of the remnant Caledonia pine forests of Scotland, learning about their ecology, and making an ongoing piece of work called Dead Amongst the Living, which is ostensibly about the dead trees of these woodlands. Scots pines can live to be up to 300 years old, and even after they die, can stand for years before falling. In the middle of these woods, they sometimes stand pale like spectres amongst the greens, reds and browns of the living forest, and sometimes on the hills and moorlands of the north an occasional single tree reminds us of forests now long gone or the tenaciousness it has often taken to have survived.

There’s a Finnish word a ranger told me, Kelo, which describes a standing tree which has died, dried out in the wind and yet remains standing, often for decades, only quietly and imperceptibly decaying. Like the shells of old croft houses in the far north west and on the islands, such trees stand to remind us of a different past, and are testament to earlier times.

Dead wood supports a huge amount of biodiversity when still standing, and once they have fallen they continue to form a crucial part of the living ecosystems of a pinewood; indeed, it is said they support more species when dead than they do when alive. These dead trees contain microhabitats for species which are not found elsewhere but which are vital to the ongoing health of the forest. They are havens for invertebrates, hold rare mosses, provide nutrients for lichens, fungi and liverworts. At each stage of their decay, they give something back to their surroundings and support different species at different stages of decomposition. When standing, they provide viewpoints for raptors and their holes and cavities provide nest sites for a range of woodland birds, including crested tits. Their rot holes are used by the larvae of rare hoverflies, green shield-moss grows on old stumps and capercaillie use the upturned root plates of the fallen for cover and for dust baths. Eventually, over a period of years, and by being broken down in a variety of ways, all of the nutrients which have been stored in the tree will make their way back in to the earth and replenish it.

For me, these dead trees contain an essential reminder about how in both physical and in psychic terms, things that seem no longer with us, things that might appear to be useless and redundant, and things that becomes invisible can continue to influence, support and nourish the present, and the living, in ways that we might not yet know, but will perhaps, in time, come to realise.

 

“ashdenizen blog and twitter are consistently among the best sources for information and reflection on developments in the field of arts and climate change in the UK” (2020 Network)

ashdenizen is edited by Robert Butler, and is the blog associated with the Ashden Directory, a website focusing on environment and performance.
The Ashden Directory is edited by Robert Butler and Wallace Heim, with associate editor Kellie Gutman. The Directory includes features, interviews, news, a timeline and a database of ecologically – themed productions since 1893 in the United Kingdom. Our own projects include ‘New Metaphors for Sustainability’, ‘Flowers Onstage’ and ‘Six ways to look at climate change and theatre’.

The Directory has been live since 2000.

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The Time Machine – Sustainability and Culture

Internationally-known Expedition Artist Presents:  “The Time Machine – Sustainability and Culture ”  in Santa Monica on February 15
Presented in conjunction with the LA Chapter of the US Green Building Council

Danielle Eubank, internationally-recognized Expedition Artist, is presenting a lecture on Tuesday, February 15 at the Santa Monica Main Library at 601 Santa Monica Boulevard in Santa Monica.  The lecture, scheduled from 6:00 to 8:00 pm, will focus on Eubank’s experience sailing – and painting – the oceans of the world.

“Sometimes in order to move forward in a more sustainable way, we have to look back and explore how things were done in earlier times,” said Eubank.  “The Time Machine in my lecture title refers to how Phoenicia is a floating time machine – living archeology – that brings the past into the modern era.”

Eubank was Expedition Artist aboard Phoenicia, a recreation of a 2,500-year-old Phoenician boat that recently finished a two-year journey circumnavigating Africa. Eubank’s work as an Expedition Artist has taken her to Indonesia, Seychelles, all around the African coasts and throughout the Mediterranean.

Eubank lectures widely throughout Southern California and Great Britain on the intersection of art, the environment and sustainability.  Eubank’s perspective on “what green means in the world of art” brings a unique voice to the discussion of sustainability, with her most recent opinion piece running in the Los Angeles Daily News on November 15, 2010 in association with America Recycles Day.

This summer, Eubank has an important solo show at Thompson’s Gallery in London’s West End opening July 6, which will feature the very latest work from Eubank’s travels aboard Phoenicia.

The February 15 lecture is open to the public.  For more information on the event, please contact Dominique Smith at (310) 902-2811 or e-mail dsmith@usgbc-la.org by February 12.