In October I gave a talk on Robert Burns and geology to the Geological Society in London (see post below). It was a whole-day meeting on poetry and geology, and I enjoyed it enormously. In his closing address the Society’s President, Professor Bryan Lovell, made a plea for poets to write about climate change. He said he was looking for the new Tennyson, referring to that poet’s geological references in his epic elegy In Memoriam A.H.
On the train journey home, I was mulling over his remarks, and the remarkable slide he showed of a rapidly uplifted 55MYa land surface buried under the sediments and water between Scotland and Iceland. It was, he said, the last time the planet had experienced a massive, sudden dump of carbon into the atmosphere – 2,000 GTonnes in fact. It raised the global temperature by 7°C, an event named the Paleocene-Eocene temperature maximum. He didn’t speculate on the mechanism, but one suspects the melting of methane hydrates on a massive scale, possibly caused by the thermal flux from the hot blob which uplifted the ancient landscape. If readers want to follow the geological discussion, a good starting point is the piece by Caroline Williams in New Scientist, 12th March 2011.
The idea I’ve come up with is to publish a poetry anthology – Connecting to Climate – in 2012. I’ll post more details and invite submissions early next year, but here are my initial thoughts. I’m not sure if the final book will be internally structured, but off the top of my head I’ve come up with some possible categories:
- Hotting Up – temperature rise
- Drowning by Numbers – sea level rise
- Losing Our Cool – icecaps and glaciers melting
- Living Dangerously – effects on plants and animals
- Growing harder – agriculture
- Moving on – human migration
- Going Under – extinctions
- Drying Out – water resources
- Stormy Weather – extreme events
- Losing the Money – economic effects
- Modelling the Air – measuring and GCMs
- Air Conditioning the Planet – engineering
These are only suggestions, and I’ll probably alter them as things progress. I’m not sure that we’ll end up with an In Memoriam H.s., I hope it doesn’t come to that, but let’s make a start.