Larry Summers and the Toxic Memo 

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… Continue reading Larry Summers and the Toxic Memo 

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Sounds like a book

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.

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Calder Hall and British-American nuclear diplomacy

On 17 October 1956, Queen Elizabeth II opened Calder Hall, the world’s first commercial nuclear power station, at Sellafield, on the western coast of Cumbria. The two Windscale Piles preceded it in 1950 and ‘51. Both produced plutonium-239 for early British nuclear weapons.

Cassant et sec: Londres dans la vague de chaleur

La pelouse spacieuse d’un parc est-londonien, atteignant 37 degrés Celsius, se transforme en vide aride. Le bruissement sec des feuilles mortes se fait entendre partout. Elles se dispersent au parc, sur la rue que je prends en route pour le train, dans les caniveaux, et sur les allées. L’air chaud qui passe comme vente ne… Continue reading Cassant et sec: Londres dans la vague de chaleur

A southern English forest in pictures and sounds

For all the stories and statistics, woods can become distant from everyday life. Micheldever Wood is a mixed broadleaf-conifer woodland in Hampshire that contains many of the signature characteristics of a British forest.

London’s heat wave in sounds and pictures

Outside an electrical box with an active air vent to stay functional at 37 degrees. Several planes fly overhead, and around 1’12” you can hear a dry branch chrashing to the ground and dispersing a flock of pigeons. Vans and cyclists pass and you can also hear the incredibly dry ground underfoot. by Jay Richardson

July 2022 in sounds and pictures

Public space is contested visually and sonically17th July 2022 The soundscape is a vital refuge for protesters15th July 2022 Returning the gaze of police surveillance13th July 2022 Even before the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill began threatening protest rights, a red van with the license plate LB21 YNG began turning up at police-attended events… Continue reading July 2022 in sounds and pictures

Protest isn’t noise

When you describe the sounds of protest as “noise” you deny its democratic function—and admit how much it bothers you.

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UK rainfall variability: It never rains but it pours

In an era of disastrous storms and constant fear over coastal defences and flooding, you might expect rainfall to show reliable, multi-decade, climate-influenced patterns. Or at least to swing wildly, as seasonal temperatures do. The actual picture is incredibly complex: precipitation is in fact trending in certain directions and swinging wildly at the same time.… Continue reading UK rainfall variability: It never rains but it pours

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A field guide to open secrets

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.

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Tall tree, loud robin

What makes new recordings worthwhile is that they can tell us about our environment by showing how birds interact with it. With that in mind, today’s birdsongification features the humble robin.

Cherry blossom, Highbury Fields

Highbury Fields was bought for a public park in 1885 while various speculators developed the surrounding area into housing. Most of the park’s avenues are lined with London Plane trees.

Birch, Clissold Park

Birches probably appeared amongst the first trees in the UK after the last ice age: they spread quickly and grow well in a wide range of soils, including heathland and moorland. They improve biodiversity when mixed into conifer plantations, which now contribute most new woodland planting in the UK. Birch is particularly common in Scotland,… Continue reading Birch, Clissold Park

Cherry blossom, Islington

Warmer spring temperatures are shifting blossoms several weeks earlier than they used to be, so they’re already out during late spring frosts and sustain severe damage. Clissold Park’s blossoms were out nearly a month early this year. Losing blossoms to the late spring frost devastates fruit yields, like apricots and cherries, and the pollinating insects… Continue reading Cherry blossom, Islington

Remembering a crisis in sound

Street recordings from the UK’s first coronavirus lockdown tell a tale of quietness, crisis, and the presence of absence.

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Traffic isn’t noise

The way we hear traffic sounds reveals what we think of as worth hearing.

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