REVIEW – ANNA CATHENKA, THEY ARE REALLY MOLLUSCS

By Laura Potts

A real literary personality runs through the poems Anna Cathenka has cleverly curated and carefully linked in her new book they are really molluscs, recently published by Salò Press. In producing this collection, Cathenka notes that she drew on three Observer’s Pocket Books, and as a result each poem stands as if it could belong to a passage from a textbook, with references to strange organisms and a scientific rigidity of structure. We are offered an insight into the world of the Anna Cathenka, and a number of other strange worlds, through the unfamiliar and occasionally confusing lens of biological ocean life.

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BACK FROM THE BRINK?

by Stu Lucy

Cooped up in an office in Uganda, inputting into what seemed like never-ending columns of cells in Excel spreadsheets, I would often ruminate about other jobs I could be doing which at that moment would be relatively more fulfilling and life affirming. One of the jobs I kept ending back at was as a member of one of the security teams responsible for the protection of the last northern white rhinoceroses: Sudan, Najin and her daughter Fatu. While in reality I knew my poor grasp of Swahili and lack of weapons training made it unlikely I’d ever work with the rangers responsible for the security of these magnificent animals residing within Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya, I became interested in their plight, following their turbulent existence ever since.

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THE 100FT TALL CANARY

by Stu Lucy

Back in the day, before Maggie had her way, there used to be a thriving northern powerhouse built on the foundations of a mining industry that provided thousands of jobs to people across a vast expanse of our fair isles. It was a dangerous job with the risks of explosions, cave-ins, and noxious fumes overpowering the brave men and women that dared descend into dark depths. One of the tools the miners had to protect themselves from some of the dangers of this perilous job was a tiny little yellow bird in a cage: a canary. When levels of noxious gases began to amass, this small bird would croak it, indicating to the miners it was time to get out. While hardly the most humane method of protecting themselves, it served its purpose and saved countless lives. The mines have now closed and canaries no longer employed to keep the miners safe, the metaphor however lives on, albeit in a somewhat larger capacity.Continue Reading

AGAINST POPULAR ENVIRONMENTALISM

by Scott McLaughlan

The earth is facing major – and quite possibly irreversible – environmental catastrophe and ecological breakdown. No need to panic. The Paris climate agreement was a resounding success, was it not?

On the one hand, one set of researchers estimate that at our current trajectory, we have about a 5% chance of remaining below the 2C threshold set out in the Paris agreement in 2015. On the other, a recent audit of the agreement conducted by the United Nations (UN) made it clear that even if the Paris agreement was to be met in full, it won’t be enough of a shift to avoid a total planetary clusterfuck of epic proportions. In his statement on the matter, head of UN Environment Erik Solheim suggested that “if we invest in the right technologies, ensuring that the private sector is involved, we can still meet the promise we made to our children to protect their future”.

What if the “private sector” is the problem? In order to decode the question we need to be clear what the private sector is, what its objectives are, and the kind of power it has over environmental policy.Continue Reading

MARY SHELLEY’S FRANKENSTEIN AND THE POSSIBILITIES OF ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE

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by Justin Reynolds

Frankenstein: or The Modern Prometheus, the classic novel by Mary Shelley that stands at the pinnacle of the gothic tradition and looks forward to the new genre of science fiction, was first published 200 years ago this month. Shelley’s visceral tale of the terrible consequences that follow the failure of brilliant young scientist Victor Frankenstein to take responsibility for the strange new life he creates, is both of its time and utterly contemporary.

It can be read as a high Romantic fantasy set against a background of electric storms, shimmering Alpine peaks, Rhineland forests and Arctic wastelands, and as a subtle meditation on themes of knowledge and responsibility that resonate with today’s hopes and fears for the possibilities opened by artificial intelligence (AI) and synthetic biology.Continue Reading

THE GIFT: DYSLEXIA

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by Alice Thomson

Igminae a wlrod wree the wetrtin wrod is as hrad to raed as tihs. Imagine that written word is in your first language, not a second or third. Imagine the difficulty it presents every day, how others perceive you, how exhausting it is to read, and understand. Some of you reading this won’t have to imagine. This is the world of a dyslexic.

Often people think of dyslexia as word blindness, or even attribute it to a low intelligence score. When I was a Primary School teacher I often heard people referring to dyslexia as a “nice way of calling middle-class children slow”. This attitude horrified me. Many attitudes in school staff-rooms towards learning horrified me. As a child, I remember my mother would explain out to my teachers my dyslexia at every parents evening. The same teachers, every year,  and it was always a surprise to them. As an adult and an educator, I had hoped attitudes had changed, but in my experience this is not the case.Continue Reading

A GREEN REVOLUTION?

by Gunnar Eigener

The election of Donald Trump and the result of the Brexit referendum have thrown the prospect of a greener future into doubt. Trump’s threat to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement and promise to boost the ailing US coal industry overshadow the current surge in renewable energy. The UK government’s decision to sell the Green Investment Bank (GIB) has been attacked amid fears of asset-stripping.

Social media is full of individuals and climate groups recoiling in horror at the potential of such actions pushing back the advancement of environmental progress. Many are counting down the days until Trump’s inauguration and the eradication of environmental regulations that is predicted to follow. Yet is the future really as bleak as many would have us believe?Continue Reading