David George Haskell’s Sounds Wild and Broken (2022) seeks to establish sound as a new vital sign for the environment. It takes on more than it bargained for.
by Grace Field | Tuesday 1st November
Nordic Mining admitted that it had no backup silt curtain and had so far failed to fix the leak in a leaked email on Friday evening. The incident puts further pressure on the company after a major investor sold its stake over environmental concerns.
by Jay Richardson | Tuesday 11th October
A bog’s curious, ordinary, delicately explosive sounds belong in our narratives of climate crisis just as much as landscapes of epic disaster.
by Lara Weaver | Tuesday 20th September
One year on from some of London’s most severe surface flooding, comparative photography can help us trace the cycle of shock, cleanup, and forgetting that surrounds environmental disasters.
by Jay Richardson with photography by Paul Reinhard | Monday 25th July
Getting to know a place takes time, even with methods like a randomised sound survey. It also takes the courage to throw away your map.
by Jay Richardson | Monday 13th June
Not even laser imaging can tell you as much about your material surroundings as rain can.
by Jay Richardson | Saturday 10th April
Street recordings from the UK’s first coronavirus lockdown tell a tale of quietness, crisis, and the presence of absence.
by Jay Richardson | Sunday 3rd April
The way we hear traffic sounds reveals what we think of as worth hearing.
by Jay Richardson | Wednesday 23rd March
There’s much more to a chiffchaff than meets the ear.
by Jay Richardson | Wednesday 25th May
Rain makes some of the world’s best-loved sounds. They’re even better coming from a giant plywood recorder.
by Jay Richardson | Thursday 21st July
At 37 degrees, the airy lawns of an East London park have dried into arid emptiness amidst a potentially lethal heat wave.
by Jay Richardson | Monday 18th July
When you describe the sounds of protest as “noise” you deny its democratic function—and admit how much it bothers you.
by Jay Richardson | Wednesday 13th July
Rainfall might be stable from year to year, but the story is very different day to day.
by Jay Richardson | Wednesday 29th June 2022
The safety violation marks the start of a multi-decade mining project that plans to deposit toxic waste in a protected salmon fjord.
by Jay Richardson and Sally Raudon | Thursday 12th May
An attitude of ‘duty’ to undertake classical music education from ‘expertise’ arguably demonstrates paternalism under the guise of community care.
by Georgia Dawson | Monday 4th April
A London Plane tree stands outside the Home Office building on Marsham Street during protests against the government’s new asylum policy.
by Jay Richardson | Monday 25th April
If you didn’t know about the news section on bins in the Independent, stop what you’re doing right now. Its recent highlights include local-versus-central government waste management disputes (centre-periphery relations, anyone?), public displays of contempt, labour and immigration (of course), energy policy, and fire safety—in other words, all of journalism’s noblest themes, except perhaps the aesthetics of bogs. Elsewhere, the cult podcast Trashfuture (not to be confused with Don’t Trash Our Future, a campaign by In Your Area and the dubiously named Clean Up Britain) has discussed bins extensively, and the political candidate known as Count Binface has run against both Boris Johnson and, in his former incarnation as Lord Buckethead, against Theresa May. For serious news coverage of bins, though, the Independent is hard to beat: it also has sections tagged ‘recycling bins’ and ‘rubbish.’
For more academic bin-related content, I recommend Tim Cooper’s chapter, ‘Modernity and the Politics of Waste in Britain,’ in Nature’s End: History and the Environment, edited by Sverker Sörlin and Paul Warde. It’s a brilliantly written and thoroughly contextualised account of British waste politics. Indispensable.
Jay Richardson | 18 December 2022
I might be the only one who didn’t know about this, but the 1991 ‘Summers memo’ story is absolutely wild. Larry Summers, the World Bank’s Chief Economist from ’91 to ’93, signed off on an internal memo arguing that exporting pollution to countries with lower wages would reduce “foregone earnings from increased morbidity and mortality,” so that “the economic logic behind dumping a load of toxic waste in the lowest wage country is impeccable and we should face up to that.” A 1998 New Yorker profile, published while Summers was Deputy Treasury Secretary, reported that a young economist at his World Bank office had written the memo, that Summers had given it a “cursory review” before signing, and that he disowned its “basic sentiment” as “obviously all wrong.”
Even viewed as a provocation “to stimulate internal debate,” as Summers put it, the memo cut a little close to the bone given the World Bank’s track record with ‘structural adjustment programs,’ which required countries in economic crisis to accept free-market policies in return for financial aid. After the memo was leaked to the press in early 1992, its statement that “under-populated countries in Africa are vastly under-polluted” especially angered readers: the feminist scholar Peggy Antrobus sent a written objection to the 1993 Senate Committee on Summers’ nomination as Treasury Undersecretary for International Affairs, stating that his appointment would “raise very serious doubts … about the new [Clinton] Administration’s sensitivity to issues of equity, human rights and environmental sustainability.” Post-1987 Brundtland Report, and especially post-1992 Rio Earth Summit, definitions of ‘sustainability’ took a decidedly economic turn, but despite the political vogue, Summers didn’t get the job. Yet.
Jay Richardson | 17 December 2022
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