I’ve been on holiday, thinking about things more important than an utterly insignificant rise of average global temperature of several tenths of a degree – things like art and art history.
I was reading an article about Afghan sculptures recuperated by British Customs in the London Evening Standard 8/11/19 with a photo of a lovely headless Bodhisattva whose body was clearly modelled on a Hellenistic Apollo or Dionysos,which is temporarily on view at the British Museum..The article states:
The museum’s role in battling the black market trade is examined in its annual review published today which reveals it has identified almost 700 artefacts stolen from Egypt and Sudan. Museum directorHartwig Fischer said: “War, conflict, climate change, globalisation, poverty and migration all play a part in the threats to cultural heritage.”
Well of course they do. (And the same quote was reproduced in the Guardian the next day.) And making the point even mere forcefully was Ahdaf Soueif in an article at the London Review of Books
The British Museum is one of the world’s few encyclopaedic museums: it tells the story of how civilisation was built; it boasts seven million visitors a year and is committed to free entry; it holds a unique place of authority in the nation’s – perhaps the world’s – consciousness. A few days ago I resigned from its Board of Trustees. My resignation was not in protest at a single issue; it was a cumulative response to the museum’s immovability on issues of critical concern to the people who should be its core constituency: the young and the less privileged.
Public cultural institutions have a responsibility: not only a professional one towards their work, but a moral one in the way they position themselves in relation to ethical and political questions. The world is caught up in battles over climate change, vicious and widening inequality, the residual heritage of colonialism, questions of democracy, citizenship and human rights. On all these issues the museum needs to take a clear ethical position.
No it doesn’t. It is the Museum’s duty notto take up a clear ethical position. The museum shouldn‘t give a toss about “climate change, vicious and widening inequality, the residual heritage of colonialism, questions of democracy, citizenship and human rights.”That’s not what museums do.
In early 2016, I raised the issue of BP’s very high profile sponsorship of public exhibitions with the museum’s board, the chair of trustees and the director. It was an education for me how little it seems to trouble anyone even now, with environmental activists bringing ever bigger and more creative protests into the museum. The public relations value that the museum gives to BP is unique, but the sum of money BP gives the museum is not unattainable elsewhere. I can only think, therefore, that the museum, which has just reaffirmed its relationship with the oil giant, does not wish to alienate a section of the business community, and that this matters more than the legitimate and pressing concerns of young people across the planet – including the schoolchildren who are a target audience for the museum.
Sorry, but there is no evidence that “the legitimate and pressing concerns of young people across the planet – including the schoolchildren who are a target audience for the museum” includethe boycotting of BP. School children don’t drive, it’s true, but they rely on their parents to do it for them.
In its on-the-ground practice the museum cannot be faulted. Its curators are among the best in the profession;… Schools bring children to the British Museum – the same children who are now living in existential dread of climate change. How do they respond to BP’s logo on the museum’s headline exhibitions? … This is a museum of material objects that charts the way the world has been made and remade over history: will it be involved in making a world that is habitable, just, interconnected and open for the next generation; or will it continue to collaborate with those who are unmaking the world before our eyes? Iwas sad to resign; sad to believe that it was the most useful thing I could do.
Well so it was (the most useful thing you could do, you sad twat. Now go away and stop bothering us.)
Guardian: 1984 Style
Two months ago the Guardian updated its style guide in order “to introduce terms that more accurately describe the environmental crises facing the world.”
Instead of “climate change” the preferred terms are “climate emergency, crisis or breakdown” and “global heating” is favoured over “global warming”, although the original terms are not banned.
The article reporting this move, by environment editor Damian Carrington, goes on to quote their editor:
“We want to ensure that we are being scientifically precise, while also communicating clearly with readers on this very important issue,” said the editor-in-chief, Katharine Viner. “The phrase ‘climate change’, for example, sounds rather passive and gentle when what scientists are talking about is a catastrophe for humanity.Increasingly, climate scientists and organisations from the UN to the Met Office are changing their terminology, and using stronger language to describe the situation we’re in.”
Other terms that have been updated, including the use of “wildlife” rather than “biodiversity”, “fish populations” instead of “fish stocks” and “climate science denier” rather than “climate sceptic” [Sic sic sic – there’s no main verb in the original either] …Earlier in May, Greta Thunberg, the Swedish teenager who has inspired school strikes for climate around the globe, said: “It’s 2019. Can we all now call it what it is: climate breakdown, climate crisis, climate emergency, ecological breakdown, ecological crisis and ecological emergency?”
The Guardian’s newfound interest in precision, based on the vocabulary of a non-native-speaking mentally ill 16-year-old,will soon be extended into other spheres. Out goes “Boris Johnson”: in comes “the Fat Controller,” while President Trump will be referred to as “Putin’s Toy Boy,” the elected leaders of Iran as “turbaned rogue-state psychopaths,”and the leader of the Labour party as “Jeremy Goebbels.” A two-century-old bastionof British radicalism seems determined to go out, not with a bang but an Orwellian whining fascist whimper, and who are we to stop them?
We at Climate Scepticism will not be left behind. From now on, the Guardian’s journalists will be referred to as “climate arseholes” (except for American editor-in-chief Katharine Viner, of course, who is “climateasshole-in-chief.”)Already we have taken to referring to that valiant defender of the climate breakdown emergency AndThenThereWasPhysics as “Ken,” and his alter egoess Kate Hayhoe as “Barbie.”
I had a whole article of similar bile prepared. But what’s the point? Our Ben Pile recently tweeted that it was better to interact on Twitter with people that you agree with than to try and convince the unconvinceable. I don’t agree. I honk my foghorn into the fog, for whoever’s out there, and am pleased to see some “likes” from folks I’ve never heard of, who have never otherwise signalled their existence.
The Guardian’s courageous attempt to resurrect the best Stalinist tradition of linguistic corruption deserves a detailed response.Carrington’s article about the updating of its style guide contained a link to the said style guide
which hasn’t actually been updated since January 2016, and is illustrated with a photo of fat, healthy polar bears feeding on a Russian Arctic rubbish dump. They haven’t thought this through, have they? If the polar bear can be saved by opening up the warming Arctic to the kind of pollution that infects the rest of the planet, what’s not to like?
“Instead of “Catastrophic Arctic Warming, the Guardian will now refer to it as:
There is a difference between the Guardian’s adoption of Newspeak and the original (1948) version described by Orwell in “1984.” Orwell makes it clear that Newspeak could only be imposed with the threat of serious consequences, like having your face eaten by rats if you didn’t conform. The Guardian (NYT, Conversation…)is far more civilised. Environmental editor Damian Carrington will lick the arses of Michael Mann or Peter Stott willingly, without being threatened.
One day we will ask why.