In response to our New metaphors for sustainability series, Chris Ballance wrote to us and agreed we could post his email. As a playwright, Chris was one of our earliest listings on the Directory. He was Green Party Member and Member of the Scottish Parliament from 2003 – 2007, and now works for Moffat CAN, (Carbon Approaching Neutral), a community-owned company and charity.
One of the ideas that’s concerning some of us here is ‘how do we tell the cultural story of how good it could be to go green’? It’s inspired by the recent success of the SNP who – helped admittedly by dreadful campaigns by their opponents – based their huge election victory by selling independence as ‘Be a part of better’; a direct reference to a literary quotation from the author Alasdair Grey ‘Live each day as if you were in the first day of a better nation.’
A quotation doubtless unknown in London, but well enough known here in Scotland to be inscribed into the stone walls around the Scottish Parliament. The phrase has passed into commonplace so much that I’ve even seen ‘Be a part of better’ used to advertise merchandise in a shop. The SNP are using a cultural story and cultural references to achieve independence. (That’s to say nothing about planning to hold their referendum shortly after the 700th anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn.)
How do we create a cultural story which can then be used to make sustainability attractive? So often it is seen as ‘sacrifice’, doing without, enforced change. (I often remember being on an election hustings with a UKIP candidate who told me “Look, we all know your green world is coming. It’s just that we don’t want it, and we’re going to do everything we can to put it off for as long as possible.”) How do we conjure up images of something that people will actually want?
Your exploration of metaphors is definitely a step towards this. It’s not just sustainability – the whole concept of environmentalism lacks it: the only metaphors to have attached themselves to environmentalism are those framed by our opponents; ‘yoghurt knitters’, etc. Thank you.
“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)
The editors are Robert Butler and Wallace Heim. The associate editor is Kellie Gutman. The editorial adviser is Patricia Morison.
Robert Butler’s most recent publication is The Alchemist Exposed (Oberon 2006). From 1995-2000 he was drama critic of the Independent on Sunday. See www.robertbutler.info
Wallace Heim has written on social practice art and the work of PLATFORM, Basia Irland and Shelley Sacks. Her doctorate in philosophy investigated nature and performance. Her previous career was as a set designer for theatre and television/film.
Kellie Gutman worked with the Aga Khan Trust for Culture for twenty years, producing video programmes and slide presentations for both the Aga Khan Foundation and the Award for Architecture.
Patricia Morison is an executive officer of the Sainsbury Family Charitable Trusts, a group of grant-making trusts of which the Ashden Trust is one.
Anyone who is sceptical about the power of social media should compare this from The Guardian this morning “Guardian gagged from reporting parliament” with the twitter stream for #Trafigura. Trafigura, you will remember, are the company responsible for dumping lethal toxic waste in Ivory Coast. The overwhelming sharing of information about the attempt to gag a newspaper from parliamentary reporting is now online here thanks to The Spectator who no doubt feel empowered by the fact that the genie is already out of the bottle on Twitter.
EDIT: At 1.00pm came this tweet from Alan Rusbridger, editor of the Guardian:
Thanks to all tweeters for fantastic support over past 16 hours! Great victory for free speech.#trafigura