For the past two years, Jamie Mathews, an Imperial PhD candidate funded by the EU’s Horizon 2020 program, has been part of a collaboration between artists, scientists, and local authorities to develop Línte na Farraige. Using light installations created by Finnish artists Timo Aho and Pekka Nittyvirta, Línte na Farraige is designed to visualise the risk of rising seas and storm surges. In this blog, Jamie reflects on the local changes due to climate change, and how this will shape us as people.
Ever since joining Línte na Farraige, I have been thinking about how to communicate the realities of climate change, and how scientists can translate scientific data into something meaningful for the public. Often, my attempts to talk about climate change result in confused faces, hopeless remarks, or even defensive volleys; sometimes all of the above. However, this changed when I came across the term ‘solastalgia.’
Mourning the transformation of a homeland
Solastalgia is a term used to describe the loss and distress felt following the destruction of a homeland. This is a feeling I have felt a number of times throughout my adult life and brings up the question; why do we love a place?
I grew up in Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown. This site has been one of many backdrops to my adolescence, whether it be playing in the park as a child, commuting on the DART (train) line as a teen and adult, or more recently, shocking myself with the cold sea water as a means of stimulus during the COVID 19 lockdown. This is a place that has nourished me. The ocean has sustained me, the land has strengthened me, and the people have supported me.
One of many answers to the question, why do we love a place, could be that we all feel a sense of dependence on the place that we grew up. The environment has had both a direct and indirect effect on us, shaping us into the people we are today. In this sense the hometown is almost parental, we have inherited something from the land, for better or for worse, and that is a kind of love that is unconditional.
Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown is home to the final installation of Línte na Farraige: a strip of solar powered LEDs sits on the Blackrock Park Martello tower in my hometown, signalling the height of the sea level as predicted for the year 2100. This line completes the Línte na Farraige project and joins the already established sites in Galway and Wexford. These sites resonate with each other, bringing the climate crisis into a local viewpoint, while also resonating with the people. What starts as an appreciation for a stunning visual, quickly transforms into a stark realisation for what these lines represent. These lines removes any vague interpretation of scientific data. They do not leave us asking, what does 2oC warming really mean? They tell us, this is where we are going, this is what we will lose, and we must turn back.
Pouring from an empty cup
As any farmer knows, overworked land goes barren. Constantly pulling high yields from your plot without leaving the land fallow, turns it infertile. This does not apply only to agriculture, but to every industry, and our culture is no exception. Athletes become injured without sufficient rest, artists burn out when constantly pushed to produce and employees strike without fair work hours or pay. Modern day culture has been centred around high consumption, but this consumption has a cost. Our wants have pushed the globe onto a trajectory that will lead to a planet that cannot sustain us. We are already seeing signs of this, from the devastation caused by extreme weather, to the destruction of ecosystems, food scarcity and the alarming rate at which species are going extinct. With every season that we strain the earth, the yield we receive becomes worse. The relationship we have with the land does not flow in one direction, but back and forth. The land gives and we reply. And the land gives.
Biologically speaking, we have a symbiotic relationship with the planet. The more we take from the planet, the less it is capable of giving. But in the same vein, the more we give to the planet, the more it gives in return. This positive feedback does not only affect the planet, but it affects us too. Depending on what side of the see-saw we are on, this could accelerate us into oblivion, or send us soaring to a utopia. As I was born in the 90s, for my entire life we have acted as an antagonist with the planet, yet still this place has raised and nurtured me with the little it had. The possibility of growing up in a world where the land is protected, the oceans are healthy, and the air is clean would only have the effect of making us better in every regard. Our bodies would be healthier, our minds calmer and we would live in true abundance. Looking at the lights on the Martello tower reminds me of what my hometown has given me. It is time to pay that forward.
For more information on Línte na Farraige, check out their website.
Meanwhile, The Grantham Institute will be running the 2023 Grantham Climate Art Prize to draw attention to the climate crisis, with a chance for young people aged 12 – 25-years-old to design a mural envisaging a future sustainable world. The event will be sponsored by Octopus Energy and more details will follow soon.
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