AHIMSA

Much of my music is composed as a means to encourage others to think about the possibility of world peace.” Stanley Grill‘s four-piece composition expresses the ancient Jain, Hindu and Buddhist concept of ‘ahimsa’ — ‘non-harm’ in our relationship with the rest of the natural world — in his learning not only from great historic figures but from the example of his own grandfather.


We cannot bring harm to other living beings without bringing harm to ourselves — and that makes ‘ahimsa’ not just a concept related to the peaceful resolution of conflict between humans, but a concept about our place in all of nature.

Stanley Grill is a composer of music that attempts to translate something about the nature of the physical world or promote world peace, sparking positive thoughts and inspiring change.

 

Much of my music is composed as a means to encourage others to think about the possibility of world peace. During the pandemic, undistracted at home, I wrote a large number of works, one of which included AHIMSA — music inspired by that ancient Indian principle of living in harmony with all living beings. The concept is broader than what I believe most people understand ‘ahimsa’ to mean — it is not just non-violence. It is an understanding that all living creatures on earth are connected. We cannot bring harm to other living beings without bringing harm to ourselves — and that makes ahimsa not just a concept related to the peaceful resolution of conflict between humans, but a concept about our place in all of nature.

The music is in four movements. It begins with music inspired by the principles I learned at home from my grandfather, who as a teenager, fled Poland by himself, to make his way to America. His basic philosophy of life was that every person should strive to become the best person they can be, to realize their potential, but without ever imposing themselves on or harming others. The music then progresses to the great guiding lights — Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King and John Lennon — all of whom died while in the pursuit of holding up the candle of ahimsa for all to see. It is hard to think of any who are their match today, but those with their intensity are sorely needed.

AHIMSA extensively uses quodlibets,  a technique that’s been used by various composers since medieval times. I researched melodies that were known to Gandhi and Martin Luther King (and in Lennon’s case, several of his songs) and then wove fragments of the melodies into the counterpoint in their respective movements.


AHIMSA (2022) was recorded in the Czech Republic, with Marek Štilec leading the Czech Chamber Philharmonic Orchestra Pardubice. You can listen to AHIMSA at Stanley’s own site — where you can explore more of his Music for Peace and Music for the Earth and his many other compositions — as well as on You Tube Music, Spotify, Amazon Music, and Tidal

Stanley previously contributed Remember to our Creative Showcase; his collaboration with choreographer and dancer Mariko Endo serves as a reminder of who we are by nature — part and parcel of the earth and all of the life around us. You can find this here in our archive.

Sustainable Stand Up – Tackling Climate Change with Humour

At times it can feel frivolous, or even treacherous, to keep laughing. But let’s not let the bastards get us down in the mouth, eh? Humour is forever a massive asset in the quest to maintain sanity and joy, and to speak truth to power.”

With her improv background and a course from the Sustainable Stand Up initiative, writer and editor Sally Moss created an online comedy routine with insights for how we can communicate climate change with humour and compassion.

“Even something as passive as watching TV can use loads of electricity … When I bought a TV, I made sure I bought the smallest one I could get. I feel really virtuous, but my film nights are screwed. Never mind Jaws, even Titanic needs a bigger boat…”

Sally Moss is a writer, editor and researcher exploring creative ways to encourage regenerative living.

 

 

I love comedy, intentional and otherwise. For those of us with a keen sense of humour, it’s vital we find the fun and trumpet the absurd in life.

This surely applies more than ever right now?

True, current times might best be described as an almighty car crash of converging social and environmental disasters. At times it can feel frivolous, or even treacherous, to keep laughing.

But let’s not let the bastards get us down in the mouth, eh? Humour is forever a massive asset in the quest to maintain sanity and joy, and to speak truth to power.

Humour formed a core strand of the Zero Carbon Improv pilot project I co-delivered in community contexts in Liverpool a few years back. Participants learned to improvise, in pursuit of…

Acceptance / realism 
- Accept where we are and work from there. Or rather, here. (‘Yes, and...’)

Imagination / inventiveness
- Find new possibilities, grounded in the new reality. (‘Yes, and...’)

Present-moment quality of life
- As a result, increase spontaneity, reciprocity, reward, fun.

And recently, I decided to go further: to (try to) write stand-up material that examines sustainability without making mass extinction feel like the better option. Or, as Belina Raffy puts it, ‘tackle ideas that matter with humour and compassion’.

Belina is the founder of Sustainable Stand Up, and she led the online course I opted for.

How was it? Great – high standards, but very accessible, and with huge amounts of encouragement. Yes, you could do it too!

The end result for me was just over five minutes of much-redrafted stand-up, delivered online to a supportive audience of course participants’ friends, course alumni and fans.

In brief, here’s what I learned from my first attempt at sustainable stand-up: 

  • Notice what’s delightful
 
  • Keep it personal
 
  • Don’t waste words
 
  • Don’t skimp on the set-up 
  • Find what connects us all. 

These insights transfer well to many other forms of climate communication (and just as often to our personal lives).

I’ll continue to look for ways to fulfil these comedy commandments in my work and play, and to connect with others keen to do the same.

You can watch my set on YouTube


You can find out more at Sustainable Stand Up, and about Sally’s work at Sally Moss Editorial – including the Zero Carbon Improv project. 

Art of Shading the Sun

“The project is a reflection on community and landscape and how these interact in space and within time.”

Art of Shading the Sun, a poetic film from Evgenia Emets, speaks from the perspective of the land 100 years in the future, of a community and a landscape moving from extractivist practices to more regenerative approaches.

My time is not your time
My time is wisdom
Coiled beneath the roots
My time is light
The one you know as food
My time is seed
That knows how long it’s due
My time is backwards
From the future towards you
My time is you
The fish within my stream
My time is soil
The keeper of your dream

Evgenia Emets is an artist intersecting land-art, sound and visual poetry through experiences, forests, artist books, calligraphy, performance, objects and community engagement, and whose ‘Eternal Forest’ integrates ecological thinking.

 

The film (1 hour 40 min, Portugal, 2021) was originally commissioned by Ci.CLO in Portugal as part of an art installation. The project is a reflection on community and landscape and how these interact in space and within time. The installation and film reflect on the centuries of human presence and the current efforts of the community of Mertola to help restore social and ecological balance in this area.

The film is told from the perspective of the land in 2121, a story of the future, with concrete actions in the present. From extractivist practices deeply rooted in our society to the regenerative approaches — through syntropic agriculture, reforestation, local food production, an education rooted in active participation, and the engagement of the whole community into the process.

The film, photographic prints and an installation based on the film in Portuguese and English in 10- and 14-minute video loops, was exhibited in Porto, Bienal 21 Fotografia do Porto, and the Municipalities of Évora, Figueira da Foz, Loulé, Mértola and with EDIA in Portugal, and Fotofestiwal Łódź 2021 in Poland during 2021-2022.


As well as the 14-minute English film above, with the installation poetry, and the equivalent Portuguese version, you can watch the full Art of Shading the Sun film (1 hr 14 mins) in Portuguese. And you can find more at Evgenia’s website and the site of the Eternal Forest project.

 

Trinity

“I see this as an anti-camera, one that does not strive for resolution and clarity … but instead seeks to capture the essence of place whilst also providing sanctuary for the artist.”

In Trinity, Oliver Raymond-Barker‘s camera obscura images combine with commissioned texts, offering complex, interconnected narratives of land and histories of spirituality, protest, control.


Martin Barnes: ‘Raymond-Barker’s photographs function as the opposite of photographic journalism for he knows that conventional visual description does not allow for the evocative and lingering impact he seeks. His subject is the atmosphere of the place, its spiritual history across time, and an uneasy combination of awe in nature with the nascent threat of an unfathomable destructive force’. 

Nick Hunt: ‘He wanders enraptured, ruptured. The sunlight breaks upon him. On the shore he falls to his knees with the immensity and stares upon the awesome light that floods the shadows of the world. The god of love is everywhere. It is all a marvel. He closes his dazzled eyes and the world appears in negative, the black sky and the white trees, the incandescent veins of leaves, the bleached water opening to some great revelation’.

Oliver Raymond-Barker is an artist using photography in its broadest sense – analogue and digital process, natural materials and camera-less methods of image-making – to explore our relationship to nature.

 

Trinity is a journey into landscape. It explores the complex layers of narrative embedded in the fabric of the land and engages with histories of spirituality, protest and control.

I made the work during residencies at Cove Park Arts on the Rosneath Peninsula in Scotland. The images originate from 20 x 24-inch paper negatives, exposed in a custom-built ‘backpack’ camera obscura — a tent-like structure designed to allow creation of large format images in remote locations. I see this as an anti-camera, one that does not strive for the resolution and clarity of traditional photo-mechanical devices but instead seeks to capture the essence of place whilst also providing sanctuary for the artist.

From early Christian pilgrims who voyaged to remote corners of the British Isles such as Rosneath during Roman times, to its current occupation as home of the UK’s nuclear deterrent Trident, this remote peninsula has been the site of diverse histories.

Amongst these is the story of St. Modan, the son of an Irish chieftain who in the 6th century renounced his position as an abbot to live as a hermit. He journeyed to this remote peninsula in search of sanctuary and sought to use the elemental power of nature as a means of gaining spiritual enlightenment.

Today, however, the peninsula is dominated by the presence of military bases HMNB Faslane and RNAD Coulport, the home of the UK’s nuclear deterrent Trident. Existing alongside these sprawling sites are the small, temporary constructions of itinerant activists protesting against the military presence — locations such as the Peace Wood bear traces of their occupation.

The project weaves together these disparate yet interconnected threads, to form an immersive body of work, made on the boundaries of the photographic medium.

From Trident by Oliver Raymond Barker

I walk through the darkness. The heavy straps of the pack bite into my shoulders, fine rain enveloping me as my head torch illuminates a tunnel through the gloom. Miles pass this way.

In the half light I weave an uneven path down to the shoreline. The slow process of unpacking and setting up is akin to a conversation with an old friend. As my body goes through the motions of pitching the camera the light is rising and the tide approaching.

I crawl into the dark void of the structure, leaving my damp boots and previous self behind. My senses become attuned to the new darkness. I reach up and pull back the crude shutter: the structure is flooded with light and the image begins to resolve itself.

All energy expended, my whole process, pivots around these precious seconds when light fuses time onto the latent canvas before me.

I stretch up and close the shutter, stowing the paper away in the now resounding darkness. Unnoticed in my reverie, the water has begun to lap at the edges of the tent. I swiftly pack up, my body and mind already occupying a new space, treading a path towards the next moment…’


Trinity (Loose Joints Publishing, 2021) is available for pre-order now, and will be published in December 2021 in a handmade edition of 200 copies: 68pp, 250 × 350 mm, with 35 photos and texts by Martin Barnes and Nick Hunt. Printed hardcover with black boards, comprising two stitched booklets with images and texts on six different papers.

You can read Beneath What Is Visible, A Vast Shadow, Oliver’s ClimateCultures post about the creation of Trinity, with extracts from the texts and some of his images.

Living with Trees

“Imagine these islands with large forests, small woods and a countryside dotted with trees, covering about a third of the land.”

Robin Walter’s new book, Living with Trees, traces our long associations with woodland since the Ice Age, noting what we’ve lost, celebrating our remaining ancient woodland and trees, and calling for a wooded future.


“Imagine these islands with large forests, small woods and a countryside dotted with trees, covering about a third of the land. Some of these forests are hard-working and productive, other forests might emerge from the return of wild nature and native trees; others might be small community woods gently managed for wildlife and people; each wood will make our land that bit more resilient to a turbulent world. Are we just dreaming? Is this sort of joined-up thinking possible?”

Robin Walter is a  forester and writer of nonfiction and poetic work on trees and the changes needed in the British landscape to deal with climate and ecological emergencies.

The impulse to write Living with Trees came in 2010 when the government tried to sell off the Forestry Commission forests, only to be met with determined resistance from people keen to hang on to ‘their’ woods. This passionate display of interest in our woods prompted the environmental charity Common Ground to explore this new upsurge of concern. So they invited me to revise their 1989 book In A Nutshell and we set to work visiting woodland initiatives around the country. In particular we sought out community projects with social and environmental agendas, such as mental health, education and conservation. This seemed an important aspect of woodland ‘ownership’ which the government had neglected, at their peril. The charity changed hands and work resumed in 2017 amidst a rising interest in trees and our natural world, aided by David Attenborough’s Blue Planet 2 series.

The book is ambitious in scope — tracing our long associations with woodland since the Ice Age, noting what we have lost, celebrating what jewels remain (in the form of ancient woodland and ancient trees), and imagining a future with more trees in our lives. We also consider a wide range of tree presence, from the trees in gardens and parks, to the trees in streets and towns, to the woodlands and plantations in the countryside. Throughout this exploration we find a strong bond between people and trees, passionate, caring and heart-felt. The book considers how we can use this affinity with trees as a portal to a closer relationship with the natural world, reclaiming our rightful place within it.


Living With Trees by Robin Walter is published by Little Toller Books and is also available from his website. Robin is giving illustrated talks on the book, online for now but in person later in the year.

Fifty Words for Snow

“The snow lay in waist-high drifts, and kept falling. I’d gone to Iceland to write about snow, but I found that snow had other ideas…”

Nancy Campbell‘s new book, Fifty Words for Snow, reflects on snow’s role in cultures around the world and the importance of linguistic and cultural diversity in a rapidly changing world.


Yuki-onna – snow woman (Japanese: 雪女)

Taoist philosophy suggests that when there’s an abundance of any natural matter, a life will come forth from it: the river will create its own fish when the water is deep enough and the forest will produce birds when the trees are dense enough. And so it follows that that a woman may be generated in the heart of a snowdrift.

Nancy Campbell is a writer and book artist interested in polar regions and water conservation, winning the Royal Geographical Society’s 2020 Ness Award for her research with Arctic and Scandinavian museums.

A few winters ago I rented a former Salvation Army meeting house in the north of Iceland for a few months. Since the snows of Siglufjörður don’t usually melt until April, I soon learned how the inhabitants of this small fishing town distinguish themselves from their neighbours in Ólafsfjörður, another small fishing town beyond the mountains. Folk in Ólafsfjörður do not clear the snow from the paths leading to their homes. In Siglufjörður the sweeping of snow is a social duty. I lived alone, and it was some distance from my front door to the road; the snow lay in waist-high drifts, and kept falling. I’d gone to Iceland to write about snow, but I found that snow had other ideas — it wanted me to do some physical labour. In his poem ‘Digging’, Seamus Heaney describes how his trade differs from that of his ancestors: ‘I’ve no spade to follow men like them,’ he writes, using instead a ‘squat pen’. Now I had to put down my pen and borrow a shovel from my elderly neighbour Kristján. Then, of course, I cleared his path too.

Fifty Words for Snow is a journey to discover snow in cultures around the world through different languages. The climate is a prism through which to view the human world — just as language can be. Inevitably, a book about climate also looks forward, considering what we miss, as every winter many countries see fewer snowflakes, and some years now, none at all. Just as the ecosystem is changing, so are the languages that describe it and the way they are understood. When I began to learn Greenlandic in 2010 I discovered the fallacy of the many ‘Eskimo words for snow’, a popular concept that was dismissed by linguists in the 1980s. More pertinently, that same year Greenlandic was added to the UNESCO Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger. While many of the languages in this book, such as Spanish and Urdu, can be heard spoken around the globe, others, such as the Inupiaq dialect of Wales, Alaska, are remembered mainly by elders in relatively small communities.

I started to write this book in September 2019 amid debates about Brexit and the climate crisis, while attending Fridays for Future marches in Germany. I finished it six months later, a week before gathering with other masked and silent Black Lives Matter protestors in the UK. The process of tracing a single theme across many languages new to me seemed a powerful way to overcome the borders that were going up around the world. Ironically, one of the first entries I researched concerned the photograph of boys in a snowball fight taken by Robert Capa in war-torn Hankou (modern-day Wuhan) in 1938. Within weeks, the location had become infamous for the outbreak of COVID-19. Even under lockdown in a pandemic, it was still possible to voyage around the world through dictionaries.

A snow crystal is part of the endless cycle of the water molecule: from its six-cornered solid state it becomes liquid and then gas, and thus a snowflake that falls on the glaciers of the Rwenzori peaks in Africa might melt and evaporate and later freeze again and fall in the apple orchards of Kashmir, and melt again and fall fifty times and more. Just so, a single unit of meaning — one word for snow — offers an approach to new places, a clear path of understanding to travel forwards along.


Fifty Words for Snow by Nancy Campbell is published by Elliott & Thompson (November 2020), richly illustrated with William Bentley’s early photographs of snow crystals. It is available from Hive or from your favourite independent bookshop

Follow @nancycampbelle on Twitter or Instagram.