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Anne Douglas – Low Carbon Futures: what have the arts and humanities got to do with it?


How many lawyers does it take to make Scotland low carbon? How many artists? You might think it doesn’t matter – it’s the scientists, engineers and politicians who will make the difference.

But increasingly it is recognised that our addition to fossil fuels is as much cultural as it is infrastructural. Single occupancy car use is related to our western individualism as is the instant, always ‘on’ culture of 24/7 which leaves no ‘down time’ and means that everything is available always (including summer fruits in the middle of winter) . The overarching question throughout the two days whether explored philosophically, legally or in terms of journalism, was How have we constructed this culture?” Before we can change it, we need to grasp our entanglements.

Connecting with a Low Carbon Future, University of Stirling, Law and Philosophy Department 19th-20th April, 2017

This conference explored what the arts and humanities…

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Museum of Fossil Fuels

What would you put in a Museum of Fossil Fuels?

The Happy Museum invite you imagine what object you would place in a Museum of Fossil Fuels.

We invite you to ponder what object would best represent the shift from our fossil fuel dominated present to a more sustainable future and donate it to our new virtual museum.  Objects can be large and historically significant or small and personally resonant.  You might want to loan something from the museum where you work, volunteer or visit?  The virtual nature of the museum means size, scale, ownership and care of the object are not an issue so let your imagination go! (See below for details of how….)

To submit an object

Either post an image on instagram and tag it #museumoffossilfuels – ideally explaining what it is and why you have donated it to the museum

Or send us a few sentences describing an item and explaining your reasons for donating it and email these to You can either include a photograph or we will source a stock image or create an illustration.

Why a Museum of Fossil Fuels?

The Happy Museum Project considers the role of museums in a societal transition to a higher wellbeing and more sustainable future.  At the core of this is a transition away from the fossil fuels that have powered our human development for the past 150 years.   The ubiquity of these fuels lies in both the energy we use (oil, gas, petroleum, diesel) and the products we consume (plastics, fertilizers, medicines, cleaning products, lubricants, ashphalt and synthetic fabrics) and given that it is estimated that the world can afford to burn between one-fifth and one-third of proven fossil fuel reserves before there is a reasonable chance of tipping the planet over the 2C danger threshold of warming, the need for transition is clear.

The Fossil Fuel Museum comes from an idea of Paul Allen of Centre For Alternative Technology who spoke at the very first Happy Museum symposium in 2012.

In the spirit of Happy Museum we hope the collection will grow to contain objects which reflect the potential for the move away from fossil fuels to be a positive one for human wellbeing as well as a challenging one.

Electricity: The spark of life at Wellcome 23 February 2017 – 25 June 2017

The story of electricity is the story of life itself. From the structure of the atom to the functioning of our brains, this invisible yet vital force is intrinsic to human life. For centuries electricity has captivated inventors, scientists and artists alike, and in the modern era it has transformed our world.

From the first breaths of Frankenstein’s monster to the brutal simplicity of the execution chair, this exhibition contemplates the contradictory life-giving and death-dealing extremes generated by electricity, and traces the story of how humanity has striven to understand, unlock and gain control over this invisible yet all-encompassing force, which continues to mystify and amaze.

Three celebrated artists have been commissioned to create three new artworks for this exhibition: John Gerrard has taken inspiration for his commission from Luigi Galvani’s famous experiments into bioelectricity; Bill Morrison explores historical footage from the Electricity Council archive to consider the movement and networks of electricity and its profound interconnectedness with our daily lives; and Camille Henrot considers our energy-dependent lifestyles, as well as the relationship between humans, technology and the environment.

One of the commissioned works in ‘Electricity’ contains strobe effects. The rest of the exhibition can be visited without entering this installation. Please contact us if you’d like to know more.

‘Electricity: The spark of life’ is a collaboration between Wellcome Collection (London), the Museum of Science and Industry (Manchester) and Teylers Museum (Haarlem) and will be presented as a touring exhibition at each of these venues, beginning at Wellcome Collection in Spring 2017.

(Video includes ‘Looking up in Osaka K Minamisemba 1 cho-me’, by João Penalva, 2005-06. Courtesy of the artist and Simon Lee Gallery, London/Hong Kong.)

Call for papers: Sustainable Earth 2017 – 29 and 30 June 2017 – Rolle Marquee, Plymouth University

You are invited to participate in Sustainable Earth 2017 – a global forum for connecting research with action, taking place on 29 and 30 June 2017 at Plymouth University. 

We are inviting papers from the academic community on sustainability research and also organisations interested in highlighting their sustainability related activity and where Universities can help in the future.

If you are interested in profiling your sustainability research or initiative and connecting with like-minded people then this forum is for you!

Confirmed key note speakers

Keep checking the website for more updates – our full programme will be announced mid April.

Submission deadline: 5 March 2017

Sustainable Earth 2016 highlights video

2016 Highlights Video
To get a feel for the 2017 event, you can watch the highlights video from Sustainable Earth 2016 on our YouTube page. Watch the video

Paper themes
We are looking for papers on research or initiatives that fit within the following themes, however we also welcome innovative sustainability research and initiatives from outside of these areas.

  • Health and Hazards
  • Energy and Climate
  • Education and Communication
  • Water and Life
  • Cities and Communities
  • Planetary Change and Resources
  • Other

Please note that these presentations will take place during marketplace sessions. More information on these sessions can be found here.

Image from Sustainable Earth 2016

January 2017: open call for submission of abstracts
5 March 2017: close of call for abstracts
Mid April: notification of acceptance and announcement of full programme
29 and 30 June 2017: dates of the event

Sustainable Earth 2016
Sustainable Earth 2016 took place on 23 and 24 June 2016, and bought together researchers, businesses, community groups and individuals for two days of inspirational speakers, networking opportunities and creative workshops designed to spark and encourage collaborations for a sustainable Earth.

Our keynote speakers included Sir Mark Walport (UK Government Chief Scientist), Wendy Darke (former BBC Natural History Unit), Craig Bennett (CEO, Friends of the Earth), and Anthony Hobley (CEO, Carbon Tracker). Visiting organisations that also spoke at the event included the Salvation Army, Plymouth Energy Community, Westcountry Rivers Trust, Langage Farm and University of Iceland.

Find out more

The Deep Time Walk App is now available!

Welcome. You’ve arrived.

It’s taken about 4,600 million years since the formation of our planet for you to be here. That’s an unfathomable amount of time to comprehend. Even the very brief span of our species Homo sapiens (roughly 200,000 years of existence) is difficult to put into perspective within the vast epochal cycles of Earth’s big history. So, how did Earth come into being? When was the first spark of life? Where did life come from?

The Walk Of Your Life

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The Deep Time Walk is a 4.6km walking audio history of life. This unfolding takes you from 4.6bn years ago to the present day, with each metre representing one million years. During the narrated walk you learn how our planet evolved over this vast stretch of time, including the accretion of the Earth from a disc of rocky debris, the formation of the oceans and atmosphere, the appearance of bacteria – the first life, then the first nucleated cells, and, eventually, multicellular organisms. As you walk you begin to recognise the long geological processes and self-regulating patterns that have produced the conditions for the evolution of life.

“Deep time is not purely an abstraction to be calculated,
but a phenomenal experience to be encountered in the field.”

Richard Irvine, University of Cambridge

The final 20cm of the walk represent 200,000 years – roughly the time during which our species, Homo sapiens, has been on Earth. The last ice age (13,000 years ago) is represented by just the last 1.3cm. In the final 1/5th of a millimetre (200 years), you witness the miniscule time that has elapsed since the start of the industrial revolution. In doing so, you start to fathom your infinitesimal and unique place in time and space. We are caught in the last frame in the long unfolding dance of life on Earth. You realise how we humans have become a dangerous geological force during our very brief tenure on our planet.

In The Palm Of Your Hand

The Deep Time Walk App is a ground-breaking new project, which enables anyone, anywhere to experience a walking audio history of the living Earth. We have assembled a broad and experienced team to produce it. The scientific script is based on up-to-date knowledge gathered by renowned ecologist Dr Stephan Harding, from Schumacher College who has led the walk since 2007. The award-winning playwright Peter Oswald is writing the poetic script and the rich acoustic soundscapes are being designed by sound engineer Jo Langton. The production will be directed by Jeremy Mortimer.
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“Numbers do not seem to work well with regard to deep time. any number above a couple of thousand years— fifty thousand, fifty million—will with nearly equal effect awe the imagination to the point of paralysis.”

John McPhee

Why walk the walk?

Our hope is that the Deep Time Walk evokes a profound shift in perspective, awakening us to our magnificent ancestry and the vitally important wisdom embedded in deep time, as we humans struggle to deal with our self-created crises of climate change, degradation of nature, and social disruption. This change of perspective requires nothing less than a profound shift in worldview. A shift from seeing Earth as a dead rock, which we use as our pantry, our lumber yard and our waste dump, to seeing our planet as a self-regulating, living Earth – a beautiful planetary jewel from which all life has emerged. This new worldview is the fertile ground from which innovative solutions to the many crises facing humanity can grow.

Join us on the journey

Having assembled a great team and got a comprehensive plan in place for the development of the app and production of the content, we will be running a crowdfunding campaign to raise funds to complete the project. To be informed when the Deep Time Walk is available for iPhone (and later Android), subscribe to our newsletter, join our growing community on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Peter Erskine’s Solar Environmental Art

The information in this blog is taken from Peter Erskine’s website

Bringing Mother Nature into a Building

Can you remember a time you saw a rainbow glowing in the sky? How that first glimpse took your breath away, and brought a burst of joy? Now imagine stepping inside a twenty foot high solar rainbow beam you can actually reach out and touch – with colors so rich, no photo or video could ever hope to capture them.

Erskine Solar Environmental Art

As the Earth spins, circling the Sun, huge living rainbows slowly glide through an Erskine light installation, gradually changing shape and color with the seasons. The entire space becomes a giant prismatic sundial linking us to the cosmos. The architecture is experienced as a grand unified gesture, quietly resonating with the serene beauty of celestial light. We feel whole, serene, peaceful.

Solar Powered Sustainable Art

Peter Erskine’s solar environmental art is based on three big ideas:  1. Sunlight is energy.  2. All life is solar powered.  3. Everything is connected to everything else.  In Erskine’s art, our Sun is not only the subject matter of the work, but the medium and energy source as well.

Making History

In 1990 Erskine invented a new Solar Spectrum Environmental Art medium he named Secrets of the Sun: Millennial Meditations (S.O.S.). More than something to be looked at, S.O.S. is a immersive participatory experience. It is Erskine’s meditation on the beauty and dangers of human interaction with Solar radiation: The beauty of the rainbow, and the horrors of global warming, ozone depletion and mass species extinction. Secrets of the Sun uses the emotional impact of art to address the full range of Nature from its most elemental expression as pure light to its most complex expression as global ecology.

In 1992, Secrets of the Sun: Rome premiered at Trajan’s Markets, a two thousand year old architectural jewel in the ancient Roman Forum. Viewer/participants arrived at the provocative ancient site, donned a white jump suit, signed a “legal” damage waiver, then followed a ritual path into darkened rooms, where they actually stepped inside huge beams of natural rainbow color. Their white jump suits became living canvases, as millions of gradually changing colors flowed across their bodies, mixing and creating colored shadows on the ancient walls, marble carvings and other visitors.  And the entire ritual experience, including text and spoken word, was infused with a subtle, real-time, ambient sound installation created by sound artists Bruce Odland and Sam Auinger.  It transformed Rome’s fossil fueled traffic noise –  into musical harmony. Their pioneering work with Erskine in Rome created the deep inter-connectedness of Secrets of the Sun.

After experiencing the Rome installation, art historian and critic John R. Clarke wrote, “Erskine has developed a project that is more holistic than any site-specific installation… more thought-provoking than any conceptual piece… and visually more enthralling than any painting, sculpture, or light-installation work in the past two decades.”

A New Kind of Public Art

In 1993, Secrets of the Sun: Millennial Meditations traveled to Berlin’s Haus der Kulturen der Welt and in 1995 to Los Angeles’ historic Union Station. From the beginning, Erskine’s solar public art received extraordinary coverage in the global media, including seven magazine cover stories in four languages, over 100 press articles, and six global satellite broadcasts. TV and radio stories featuring Erskine’s  Solar art have been broadcast in over 150 countries. By the time the three year S.O.S. tour ended in 1995, Erskine was recognized as an international artist of light. Since then, he has leveraged what Dr. Salk might call “our genetic love of the rainbow” to create a new medium of serene and healing public art for hospitals, railways, libraries, ancient Roman sites, museums, police and fire stations, commercial buildings, environmental centers – and homes – in Europe and North America.

Sustainable Art for the Coming Solar Age

Each of Erskine’s light art installations grows organically from the Solar, cultural and architectural context of its Place. All of Erskine’s site specific environmental installations are powered by hundreds, or even thousands of watts of renewable energy. S.O.S. Rome employed a 10′ x 10′  heliostat solar tracking mirror that reflected up to 8,000 watts of Sunlight into darkened rooms of the ancient Roman Forum. Solar panels provided all of the electricity for the sound, the motorized laser cut prisms and the solar tracking technologies for this green art installation. And in 2000, the seventy two, roof mounted laser cut prisms of Erskine’s solar art installation CROMOS, in Milan’s Central Station, refracted up to 90,000 watts of solar spectrum light onto platforms and trains, creating moving rainbow beams 80 feet long and 150 feet wide. Quite possibly the world’s largest indoor rainbow. Experiencing an Erskine Solar Art installation is like walking into our Solar Future – today.


After Erskine graduated from Yale in 1963 with a bachelors degree in Political Science, he traveled to India on a Fulbright Fellowship. Fresh from completing two Graduate School studio art courses his senior year, he became enthralled with the play of light on the sensual relief surfaces of classical Indian temple sculpture. That formal vocabulary continues to influence Erskine’s work today. In the 1960’s and ’70’s his wood and fiberglass sculptures were shown in American galleries and museums, including New York’s Whitney Museum Sculpture Biennials. Later in the 1970’s, Erskine’s work moved from sculpture in the round, to subtle low relief, monochrome fiberglass wall panels, and works incorporating 23 karat gold leaf. Throughout the 1980’s, Erskine focused on Light and Space installations illuminated by combining Solar and electric light.  Then everything changed. He saw a giant rainbow beam on the wall of the Exploratorium in San Francisco – and had to make art out of it.

Rainbows to Nature

“In the beginning of the Solar Spectrum artwork in the eighties, I could only figure out how to paint with Nature in the darkened spaces of my studio, or in a darkened museum. Since then I’ve been evolving ways to work with Sunlight in the broader environment. Now my canvas stretches to the bright interior spaces of hospitals, libraries and railway stations – and even to gardens and parks.

Now my art meets the Sun’s – in Nature.
~ Peter Erskine

LUMINOTHÉRAPIE – Montreal Dec 8, 2016 – Jan 29, 2017

This winter, the Place des Festivals is shimmering with the mechanical poetry of Loop’s 13 giant zoetropes. The interactive, participatory work is sure to warm visitors of all ages, who will be asked to activate the cylinders in order to make fairy tale-inspired images come to life. At the centre of each zoetrope is a music box to provide accompaniment for the giant animated drawings.


With the devices activated, the 13 rings of coloured light will each present a story lasting a few seconds: a toad becomes a prince, the wolf blows the three little pigs’s house, scary eyes appear in the dark. These illustrations, as well as the video projection, are by Ottoblix and will spark the imagination and memories of kids and adults alike.