Kate Sherren

Landscapes - People - Global change

Category: Built (page 1 of 3)

Coastal Zone Canada 2018

Typical St. John's streetscape with a cheering paintpot effect.

Typical St. John’s streetscape with its cheering paintpot effect.

Thanks to the organizers of Coastal Zone Canada 2018 last week in St. John’s, Newfoundland, where our NRCan project Making Room for Movement was launched. We ran a back-to-back special sessions to introduce the project and explore its conceptual and practical foundations, with presentations from SMU PI Danika van Proosdij, MPlan student Matt Conlin, Dal Planning prof Patricia Manuel and I. Postdoc Tuihedur Rahman and I put together a presentation on social aspects of nature-based coastal adaptation, as well as some of the conceptual foundations of this concept, proposing climax thinking as our experimental frame for the work to come. Despite an incredibly hot room, thanks to unseasonably warm conditions for Newfoundland, attendance was strong, in the presentations (below) as well as the subsequent workshop session.   It was wonderful to be among practitioners, consultants and public servants as well as academics for a few days to explore the challenges along coasts.

Hot ticket: question period at the Making Room for Movement special session.

Hot ticket: question period at the Making Room for Movement special session.

Unsettled

Unsettled

It was also special to have the opportunity to explore The Rooms at the Tuesday dinner event, including the wonderful Newfoundland Gallery and Museum. I rounded a corner in the gallery and was faced with a great portrait of my grandmother’s uncle, Captain Bob Bartlett by Margaret Fitzhugh Browne, and was also moved by the map of the taking of Demasduit, drawn by the last Beothuk, Shanawdithit (her niece), images of resettled island outports (right) and struggling livyers, and the brave young members of the Newfoundland Regiment in WWI.

Day 2 at ISSRM 2017

Hard to photograph a panel while you're on it: the ears of Stedman, Measham and Jacquet.

Hard to photograph a panel while you’re on it: the ears of Stedman, Measham and Jacquet.

1:30 am again so might as well reflect on another solid day at ISSRM.  A late start for me today thanks to that insomnia. First I had a fun mentoring session over lunch with two up-and-coming  female scholars, one finishing her PhD and one pre-tenure. I love participating in the mentoring program each year at ISSRM and appreciate folks like Paige Fischer organizing it.

Next I headed to an energy transitions panel (above) which was a bit of a follow-on from one I organized last year. This time Tom Measham (CSIRO) organized and chaired, and I served on the panel with Rich Stedman, Jeffrey Jacquet and keynote Neil Adger . It was a great turnout, and resulted in a really rich discussion about myths, subjectivity, governance and equity in the context of energy transitions. Lots of food for thought. We five started consuming that intellectual nourishment in barley form later at the ‘Pipes of Scotland’ bar which four of us closed down at midnight.

A subsection of the Norrbyskar scale model showing cable cars of sawdust heading for value adding.

A subsection of the Norrbyskar scale model showing cable cars of sawdust heading for value adding.

Immediately after the panel it was off to the field trips, mine to Norrbyskär, a fascinating island community that was designed around lumber production in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Ruled on principles of temperance, paternalism, and clear social hierarchies, the island was entirely engineered: saw and planing mill joined by raised railways, and lumber drying structures everywhere not taken over by regimented housing and other buildings. Today the houses are occupied by seasonal residents, but the island hosts a great museum and cafe with a delightful scale model (left), and a miniature set of buildings for kids to play in. They had skilled and knowledgeable tour guides, and offered a diverse dinner of traditional swedish fare.

A wonderfully quirky addition was an end-of-year art exhibit by Umea Academy of Fine Arts students in an adjoining room. It was not obvious that the art show was open because of a downed banner at the entry. Turned out that was one of the art pieces: Josefine Ostlund’s We’re Building Natural Habitat (material description: “Banner from construction site”). Students visited in May and describe that they felt ‘watched’ by the empty houses, so reflect on the place in terms of “power, architecture and dreams”. It was wonderfully uncommercial work. Neil Adger’s favourite was Suffering is optional, by Linnea Johnels, material description “Beds, gun holes”, which she describes as “working with the frustration and worry that forces itself on you at night”. I can relate. Godnatt.

Neil Adger with Linnea Johnels 2017 piece, Suffering is optional.

Neil Adger with Linnea Johnels 2017 piece, Suffering is optional.

 

The Cultivated Wilderness (1997)

Architect Paul Shepheard's (1997) volume, The Cultivated Wilderness.

Architect Paul Shepheard’s (1997) volume, The Cultivated Wilderness.

I was in Fredericton over Easter, for the usual egg-related festivities, and got a little time with my partner in its endless second-hand bookstore, Owl’s Nest. On and on we hunted, picking things up and putting them down. I had Feyerabend in my hand for awhile, and decided I’d never read it. Finally, way upstairs in a corner on natural history I found architect Paul Shepheard‘s (1997) volume The Cultivated Wilderness. Or, What is Landscape? I was not familiar with his name, but the title suggested it might be useful for my new project on climax landscape thinking. Another serendipitous discovery.

Shepheard writes conversationally but with great insight, and thankfully little tragedy, about “the ways in which we humans tussle with the wilderness and change it to suit ourselves” (p. 1).  Like many scholars he sees all landscapes as ‘cultivated’ to greater or lesser degress: as reviewer Christine Bucher observed, even the natural largely survives today “because of zoning, government regulation, and temporary and benign neglect”.

Unapologetically utilitarian, Shepheard reminds us that it is “easy to forget how beautiful utility can be” (p. 127). He reads in landscape – and describes for us –  a patchwork of shifting strategies at large scales: e.g. survival, reason, defense, economic exploitation, restoration. His epilogue is worth quoting at length (p. 233):

Cultivation—the work of humans—has a different sort of beauty [than Wilderness]. There is nothing else under the sun than what there has always been. Cultivation is the human reordering of the material of the wilderness. If it is successful, the beauty of it lies in the warmth of your empathy for another human’s effort.

Landscape is a huge subject, as big as the earth and its atmosphere and reaching out to the edge of the universe. The big moves in landscape happen very rarely. You will be lucky to see one during your lifetime and even luckier to be in the right place at the right time to be involved in the making of it. Incremental changes happen all the time, however. They gradually accrue to big changes in what there is in the world, and whatever you are up to, you will be involved in these already. My epilogue is: be aware of the strategy that governs what you do.

Mactaquac decision: prolong

The Mactaquac Dam spillway, New Brunswick, on a foggy morning.

The Mactaquac Dam spillway, New Brunswick, on a foggy morning.

NB Power’s preferred Mactaquac Dam decision was handed down near Fredericton this morning. That decision is the late entrant among the options: to prolong the life of the dam as close to its original 100-year life as possible through maintenance and replacement in situ. Discussed today as the cheapest of the four options ($2.9 to $3.6 billion), the project has been given the oddly Soviet title of the Mactaquac Life Achievement Project. A new web experience awaits the curious who visit mactaquac.ca today, including backgrounders such as a paltry two-pager on First Nations engagement, the first output we have seen from that consultation other than this under-the-radar announcement via the NB Media Co-op. Kingsclear First Nation, whose land is a long sliver pointing directly at the dam, is deeply disappointed. Improvement is planned in multi-species fish passage, though not to the satisfaction of WWF, but the problem of inadequate upstream flow will still challenge any fish that survive the trip. No new river crossing for vehicles will be required, as the dam wall will continue to serve as a bridge. Many upriver locals will be pleased at this outcome, though expect frustration to be voiced at the the stress and disruption of the debate given such a status quo result. Let’s watch the budget evolve, and do it all again in a few decades. There is unlikely to be much money available to invest in renewables until then.

.

Terroir

Melanie Colosimo's Transmission Tower I, at the AGNS Terroir exhibition

Melanie Colosimo’s Transmission Tower I, at the AGNS Terroir exhibition

One of the nice things about sabbatical is a little more time to enjoy my city and its attractions. I visited the new Art Gallery of Nova Scotia exhibition, Terroir, before the cottage week. Though I will need to return for a more fulsome look,  this open-call show of Nova Scotia art has a nice range of media and messages, each intended to connect to the local landscape and story. I saw some familiar artists, such as Steve Farmer‘s wonderful detailed photos of rust and abraded paint – what he calls “industrial documentation” – which I had previously seen at Pavia in Herring Cove, and one of John MacNab‘s mathematical machined wood sculptures. I also discovered some new artists, such as Wayne Boucher, whose large abstract Fall (2005) made me feel I was drowning in the work; when I later read that was an explicit aim I felt a little creeped out at its effectiveness. Finally, I enjoyed both pieces by Melanie Colosimo, whose air-mesh-constructed Transmission Tower I (2016) (see photo) is evidence of her artistic move:

…towards a preoccupation with traditionally masculine utilitarian imagery and themes of progress and construction … to explore memory, transitory states… thresholds between a previous state of being and the next phase.

This appealed to me based on some of my new thinking about energy transitions as the recycling of landscape from one use to another, something we probably need to get used to doing.

Older posts

© 2018 Kate Sherren

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑