Posts from Thursday 25 Sep

A Message from the Prime Minister, Gordon Brown


There can be no doubt that climate change is already having significant impacts on the Arctic, the region that many scientists consider to be the ‘canary in the coal mine’ for global warming.

Temperatures in the Arctic have risen almost twice as quickly as in the rest of the world, and there has been a long-term decline in summer Arctic sea ice which has accelerated over the last decade, with some experts suggesting that summer sea ice may disappear completely by the mid 2010s. We have this year seen significant loss of ice from two of Greenland’s glaciers — a piece of the Petermann Glacier about half the size of Manhattan broke away in July, and the Jakobshavn Isbrae glacier, one of Greenland’s largest, has retreated further inland than at any time in the past 150 years. These changes are already affecting Arctic ecosystems and communities, as well as increasing global sea levels.

Climate change is not just a scientific or technical issue, but a cultural one. It is about how people and governments all over the world live with the reality of global warming, and the issues it raises about fairness, poverty and changing lifestyles. Artists and writers have an important role to play and it is vital that they are fully engaged in the debates about these issues. I am therefore delighted to be able to extend my support to the Cape Farewell expedition to Greenland.

Gordon Brown

Almost ready to go

Tonight we head north after 9 months of very detailed planning with the Cape Farewell team. We are collectively relieved, excited and somewhat proud. Vicky, Hannah, Kathy, Nina, Lisa and I have lived and breathed this reality and now we voyage north with what I believe is a quite outstanding group of highly creative artists, musicians, comics, poets, architects, craft based artists, film makers, writers… I’ve been speculating about whether such a powerful creative group has every been assembled before to address what is a culture and life threatening future truth. We will spend ten days together in the High Arctic working with the scientists and crafting our own response. As Vanessa Carlton has put it, ‘to challenge a stubborn world’.
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Shit. I am in Iceland,  with photographers, painters, composers, lyricists, musicians and scientists. We are all  travelling en route to the Arctic to experience Climate Change.   Fifty percent of us know exactly why they are here. They have projects to work on and numbers to crunch. And the other fifty percent? Guess which one I am in? But am I missing something, it’s climate and it’s changing.  Don’t we experience climate change wherever we are:  Paris, New York  or London.  Nature is by virtue, everywhere, so why the Arctic and why artists?

David Buckland explains it much better than I. It has something to do with Cultural Change. “Artists are a on the front-line of cultural change” he says “Think the 1960’s and  the influence of the artists”. I think of the Andy Warhol exhibition at The Hayward Gallery. The Arctic exemplifies the effects of Climate Change as  the edge of a  shadow exemplifies the sharpness of  light.

We slept overnight in a hotel in Iceland and flew another three hours to Greenland where the ship awaits off the coast. Zodiac dinghy boats speed towards us skidding off the top of the waves:  We’re off.

Departure: New York – Destination: The Arctic

Hail, hail, the gang’s all here:
Vanessa Carlton is suffering from the same cold I am.
Feist checked her guitar (Robyn Hitchcock requested that everybody who has one bring it for a little Arctic jam).
History of Love author Nicole Krauss is here at the gate, looking absolutely adorable with her five-month-old baby bump.
Academy Award winning filmmaker Peter Gilbert is saying good-bye to his kids via cell-phone.
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Outward bound

Jarvis Cocker and KT Tunstall checking in at Heathrow

Jarvis Cocker and KT Tunstall swap travel stories at the check-in at Heathrow.
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Last chance to write on dry land – Part 2

ARGO float launch

We still don’t know if we can expect anything else to be in our container than toothbrushes but we hope to find our ARGO float somewhere in there.

Let me tell you a little more about these fantastic pieces of kit. Observing the ocean is a costly and time consuming business. As our crew will soon find out, dangling a temperature and salinity probe over the side of the boat then hauling it up again takes a while and gives us one single profile of temperature and salinity – a speck in the ocean and a snapshot in time. ARGO floats are like self contained profilers, sinking to whatever depth we tell them to and then travelling along with an ocean current and popping up when we tell them to, transmitting temperature and salinity information back to the ARGOS satellite array, then sinking again for another cycle.
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Record in Reykjavik

With only a few hours to go before uniting with the first of the crew to arrive here in Iceland, and only a few more hours again before heading off to our launch point, we are down to the wire. Expectations are still unclear, although one of my soon-to-be crew mates’ blog posts reads “expectations set to the sun”. That seems about right.
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A rare exchange between science and the arts

Later today I’ll travel with a group of musicians and other artists and a team of scientists to the west coast of Greenland. The Cape Farewell project has been taking creative people to the Arctic since 2004, and this trip has a particular emphasis on musicians (the crew list reads like a CD collection). The charge of ‘climate tourism’ is never far away, but at the launch event at the Science Museum KT Tunstall did a tidy job of explaining why she felt it was important to get to grips with the science, to see some of the evidence first hand, and to see what being holed up for ten days with 40 creative people would do to inspire her own work.
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