CHRIS FREMANTLE

Adaptation and failure

Posted in CF Writing, Failure, Research, Uncategorized by chrisfremantle on February 3, 2020
Harrisons-South-Gallery-Installation-view-3-2009

Greenhouse Britain installed at the Feldman Gallery in New York City

Ten years ago I was working with the Harrisons on Greenhouse Britain: Losing Ground, Gaining Wisdom. They insistently focused on ‘adaptation’ although Defra, who were funding the work, wanted the focus on ‘mitigation’. Now public policy is addressing adaptation (cf Climate Ready Clyde) as well as the Cultural Adaptation project (which I’m helping to evaluate as part of my work as a Research Fellow at Gray’s School of Art).

Mitigation is easier to plan and measure. How much reduction in carbon dioxide emissions has this initiative achieved?

Adaptation might be based on strengthening infrastructure and systems, but the shape of the challenge is timescale for knowing whether it has worked or not – this might be a decade?

So understanding what failure means in this context is important. In particular the challenge is that methods and approaches with known outcomes can seem attractive (less likely to fail) but can only deliver what is already understood. Embracing change must mean also embracing failure as a possibility.

The voices speaking as the projection of sea-level rise onto the island of Britain plays out ask,

Will it be enough?

As the most extreme model suggests
to halt the juggernaut of the ocean
if carbon use is stopped
almost all at once
almost all over
in the next 10 years?

Later they ask,

Would it be enough?

To begin now
a transglobal discourse in which
the Global Domestic Output
is discussed
agreeing all efforts be directed to commit
1% of the Global Domestic Product
to the reduction of the carbon surge
to near zero
in order to reduce
the ocean rise?

And again later,

Would it be enough?

to transcend economic thinking
and begin creating
a domain
of ecological thinking
that regenerates
the great carbon-sequestering
world systems
that operate in the forests
and the oceans
while leaving
ancient carbon stored
as coal and oil
in their present inactive states?

This repeating pattern of ‘will it…?’ / ‘would it be enough?’ asks about how we imagine risk of the unknown, risk of failure.

The issue of failure and why it matters in experimental projects is explored in this blog from the Cultural Adaptations project (including more on failure from previous publications).

2 Responses

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  1. Jenny Brown said, on February 3, 2020 at 9:10 am

    Dear Chris, I would really love to see your evaluation when its done. What exciting work. regards Jenny


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