Bogs present and bogs past

I was just in Cambridgeshire, spending a week at Wysing Arts Centre. This was a huge amount of fun, and I’ve got a lot to reflect on from my time there that I plan on writing about here. But, one of the things I was really intrigued by (and had a great chat around with Rosie Cooper, Wysing’s director) was the history of the fenlands in the East of England. Now, this is something I am by no means an expert on, but it struck me as interesting to be in a famously dry part of the country, but up until the 16/17th Century was predominantly an area of wetland known as The Fens. Some amazing things came from the fen drainage, in terms of making the area incredibly fertile ground for food production (the East of England produces around a third of Britain’s fresh vegetables). But also, a huge amount of things were lost, with the drying peat soil releasing millions of tons of CO2, and with sea levels rising this area is incredibly vulnerable to flooding. Also, there’s something here about ‘productivity’, about fen drainage as an immensely violent process of enforcing anthropocentrism on the land, and it’s peoples (something that was fiercely fought against by the Fen Tigers in an inspiring period of history of working class guerrilla warfare). This idea of inefficiency is one I feel a strong sense of (admittedly ambivalent) kinship with. I often feel lazy, which I know is my own internal able-ism, but this makes it no less hard to battle with. Still, I persist to be at peace with the pace of my own rhythms, no matter their own circuitous and non-linear patterns of productivity.

A photograph of me and my girlfriend, Maria, with adorable matching black raincoats, smiling like a pair of fools, utterly drenched by the rain. The green of a field and some trees can be seen in the background.
Me and Maria, caught in the rain on our way to the closest shop to Wysing, in Bourne (which incidentally had great home-made curries in the freezer section)

On the first day at Wysing we went for a walk through the woods to the local shop, where we got drenched in rain as lightning and thunder crashed about above our heads. Brief expulsive rain storms happened proceeded to happen pretty much every evening we were there too. It felt kinda like the wetlands were trying to claw their way back to the soil by tooth and nail. And with rising sea-levels, it seems certain the East of England’s rich arid grave of bogs past will return to wet.

A super cute animation made by young people from Great Fen Greenwatch (a volunteering group for 12-18 yrs), Huntingdon Youth Centre and Great Fen volunteers.

So I’m now thinking back on my past obsession with depicting moments of spillage, which were always ways for me to talk about grief and the impossibility of controlling it. Grief as almost being definitionally a thing that exceeds all attempts to bracket it off, a thing that whether you like it or not will bleed out into every part of your life, colouring all.

‘The Pedal Bin of Cups (Grief Card #4)’ 2021, watercolour, pencil & fluorescent pen on paper, 56x76cm (image credit: Chelsey Cliff)

Environmental Issues in Game/ Sims

Apocalypse in games is considered the norm in the game industry, often focusing on first person shooters. Games that involve ethical dilemnas are not as common. However things are changing! I’m going to use this as a simple thread of collecting environmentally conscious and educational storylines in games and simulations.

U.S. Chemical Safety Board
/Discarded computer products in a municipal landfill. The majority of second-hand electrical goods that are imported to Ghana from developed countries are beyond repair and are either dumped or crudely “recycled”. Greenpeace is campaigning to pressurise the producers of electronic goods to remove the hazardous chemicals from their goods and to become more responsible for end-of-life products.

Next-Gen Gaming Is an Environmental Nightmare
A Bit like my game /project ‘Tuner’ Morphy stars Morphy, an alien who has crash-landed on an unknown planet and needs to find his missing crew members. Designed to teach players the fundamentals of animal adaptation, players must face a slew of challenging platforming obstacles that can only be overcome by scanning animals whose traits are specialized to their environments. The scanned traits can then be added to Morphy’s abilities, helping players better navigate the gorgeously illustrated environment present in the metroidvania-style game. Morphy is one of six digital STEM learning games created by Filament Games for the Smithsonian Science Education Center.

Survival games have been a long time in the making but as of late they have ..evolved 😛 . Rust is a good example of gaining trust with fellow players in order to stay alive but also brutal in its human betrayals 🙁

An expansive, open-world online survival game, Eco tasks players with collaborating with one another in order to build a sustainable civilization using only the resources available to them within the game’s simulated ecosystem. Faced with the threat of an impending meteor collision, players must work together to build a society capable of stopping the meteor without destroying the ecosystem in the process.