Environment and Sustainability
Artist in Residence 2021
Art and Archaeology in Lincolnshire, UK
This residency offers me the opportunity to explore the sustainability of Lincolnshire’s coastline. Although this is a new theme and work for me it reflects a long-held understanding of the challenges that rising water levels pose to us all. The sustainability of today’s rural and coastal life in Lincolnshire is likely to change within the lifetimes of today's children. I believe that finding new ways of opening conversations about the fragility of human and non-human communities and ecologies in these areas is crucial.
'As sites for more-than-human dramas, landscapes are radical tools for de-centring human hubris. Landscapes are not backdrops for historical actions: they are themselves active. Watching landscapes in formation shows humans joining other living beings in shaping worlds."
Anna Tsing The Mushroom at the End of the World
Lincolnshire, UK (2021) Satellite Image
From this privileged viewpoint it is easier to appreciate the extent of the problem of protecting Lincolnshire's low-lying land and coastline from rising water levels. Around 40% of Lincolnshire is at or below sea-level so change (disruption, damage, displacement, danger…) is inevitable. I wonder if we are simply too 'out-scaled' to comprehend the urgency?
Liquid Matter: The Act of Living on a Damaged Planet (2021)
In sight and sound of the sea my brain, heart and spirit are relaxed. At this edge my skin and limbs are soft and calm, and my breath is strong. I remain attentive too however and am acutely aware that under my own thin-skin surface, I am weighing-up the likely dangers ahead. I realise that as we consider our options each tide cycle is just a little higher. The heavy weight water is always close to hand.
Our failure to co-exist with non-human creatures is in no small way connected to our habit of perceiving what is different to us as ‘less-than-human’. It is easy though, and more so now, to recognise that we can’t opt out of co-dependency. Intra-relations are part of the fundamental condition of existence. As I continue weigh likely dangers ahead, I wonder what I can learn from the more-than-human?
In the meantime, I prepare. I practice waiting and holding my breath.
Salt marshes are highly effective at sequestering and storing carbon dioxide and ‘pound for pound’, these blue carbon ecosystems can store up to 10x more carbon than tropical rainforests. Despite the important role of coastal habitats in the mitigation of climate change it is estimated that more than 50% of global saltmarsh areas have been lost or degraded. Ongoing loss is estimated at 1-2% per year making wetlands one of the fastest disappearing ecosystems worldwide.
NB: When an established wetlands habitat is damaged the carbon it has held onto in its soils., often for thousands of years, is emitted back into the atmosphere.
The potential of salt marshes to survive within the next 25 years will largely depend on whether they can move landward as the sea levels rise or not. Their migration may be prevented or slowed by man-made structures or management actions or, they may not be able to build up sediment fast enough to keep pace with rising water levels.