how steep is now?

This Collaboration emerged in response to the possibilities thrown up by participation in Steep Trail’s basecamp, hosted and originated by eca lecturers and artists Liz Adamson and Graeme Todd (Polarcap) Through input from Professor Huxham as a participant in Steep Trail’s Basecamp discussion, Polarcap have initiated a further collaboration in the How Steep is Now project, proposed to and supported by ASCUS and eca.

the project

Climate change is the quintessential global environmental problem and is usually discussed in science and policy circles using global and abstract language; greenhouse gases, radiative forcing, warming scenarios and tipping points. However, it will be manifest and felt in multiple different ways at local levels, as it proceeds at different rates and with different consequences depending on the latitude and the society affected.

This project will tie together perspectives on climate change from two very different communities, one in Scotland and one in Kenya. It uses spoken voice video pairings, linking people of similar age and occupation (elderly fisherman, middle-aged housewife, schoolchildren etc.) as they discuss their experiences of climate change (or climate related changes) and perspectives on the future. The project will use currently established links in Gazi, a Kenyan fishing village, and Dunbar East Lothian, Scotland and it will explore ways of illustrating shared aspects and differences in the experience of emerging climate change.

the team

Professor Mark Huxham : Edinburgh Napier University

Professor Huxhams’s biological work focuses on what controls the structure and functioning of marine ecosystems, including how carbon is cycled and how plants and animals interact with the non-living parts of the ecosystems. A particular interest is in mangrove forests – tropical habitats in which trees grow in the tidal zone and provide a unique mix of terrestrial and marine elements. These forests are under threat as they are cleared for fuelwood, coastal developments and aquaculture. Their destruction removes a wide range of services including the ability to protect shorelines against erosion and to trap and hold large quantities of carbon; both of these make them key habitats in the struggle against climate change and its effects.

Much of Professor Huxham’s work has been funded and supported by Earthwatch Institute, a charity that recruits volunteers for conservation projects. Hence his work in Kenya involves communicating and working with people from a wide range of countries and professions.

Professor Huxham is looking at ways of using carbon credits to fund community based restoration and conservation of these forests - “I am interested in finding new ways to conceptualise and communicate the very abstract ideas in climate change science and I hope that working with artists will help me do this.”

polarcap’s involvement

Polarcap will use their expertise and experience in bringing together disparate elements in curated art projects and their commitment to bringing Art to communities outwith city centre venues.

In working with Professor Huxham’s Gazi village project and fitting it within an international context they will help to work towards the goal of increasing awareness and debate of climate change.

Polarcap is filming footage in East Lothian and Kyoto, Japan and in collaboration with video artist Mike Windle will format, present and contextualise of the material resulting in split screen question and answer dialogues where the participants both ask questions and provide answers to issues raised concerning climate change and how they personally respond to an ever changing environment of which they are an intrinsic and active part.

The open ended collaborative format of the project can be seen as a development of Steep Trail’s aims of fostering dialogue between a cross disciplinary community involving the already committed – the climatologists, scientists, environmental artists, natural history experts and campaigners in combination with artists and writers, musicians not known for addressing environmental issues in their work.