White Sky Thinking

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An article (login possibly required) has been doing the rounds that tries to anticipate the significance of an altered sky:

A report released last week by the National Research Council called for research into reversing climate change through a process called albedo modification: reflecting sunlight away from earth by, for instance, spraying aerosols into the atmosphere. Such a process could, some say, change the appearance of the sky — and that in turn could affect everything from our physical health to the way we see ourselves.

This last point encompasses both the night sky’s role in creating mythologies, and the sky’s capacity to evoke awe: the culturally various and the ubiquitously human. The visible night sky as a thing of cultural value is something I wrote about in the piece on space heritage I mentioned last year, but since the brief was to examine space exploration I included no discussion of, say, the ethics of light pollution. Perhaps it’s becoming a topic that needs another look.

Moderate In Any Medium

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What on Earth is Liberal Democrat Artwork?

Iceni Campaigns Ltd seeks an experienced art worker who has expertise in producing Liberal Democrat Artwork.

I think they probably want campaign poster specialists, but my first guess was that maybe it’s an ideologically determined aesthetic like Socialist Realism, only, of course, Liberal Democrat. However that might look. (I don’t think it’s the same as yellowism.)

Given the party’s pitch to be the moderating element of any coalition government, maybe Liberal Democrat Artwork could be a kind of appropriation art which takes existing works and applies softened edges and pastel colours to them.

A Childish Analysis

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Normally I’m wary of importing market-esque thinking into non-commercial policy spheres, but in the case of the interminable ‘Why aren’t younger people more inclined to vote?’ debate I wish more thought were given to the simple economic possibility that if you want people to buy, you have to be selling things they want. (Even an ‘entrepreneur’ appears convinced of the opposite, that people ought to vote for platforms they disagree with in the hope that future platforms will get more attractive as their reward for participation. As though, if you wanted wine but nobody was selling it, you should start buying beer from the local brewery, in the hope that your patronage of its beer would encourage it to plant vineyards instead.)

Instead we seem to get a lot of sociological speculation, such as an article that tries to be insightful about the possibly shifting nature of adulthood in the modern world, but basically ends up insulting people by suggesting they’re just too immature to be interested in voting. In its analysis, many people now incur delays in entering ‘the world of work as full adults’ because of such childish matters as, er, ‘the painful search for jobs’. That the painful search for jobs might itself be a source of maturation, very much an adult’s problem, and every bit a reason to be interested in what political parties propose to do to the economy, gets hand-waved.

I wonder whether people of any generation have ever truly thought that they reached ‘full adulthood’ once it was bestowed upon them by an employer. (Maybe in the era of guilds and apprentices and journeymen...? Though child labour in agriculture and in factories and up chimneys went on rather later than that.) Much like all the rot about ‘digital natives’, this kind of analysis sounds novel and exciting (much more so than the thought that adult unemployment is still much the same phenomenon it was during the Great Depression), but all it really does is put a distorting filter between you and the people you’re trying to comprehend.

Space Storage Space

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The BBC recently ran a short article on the ethics of leaving stuff on the Moon. It draws mainly on environmental ethics and space law; not much on space heritage, although it does note the historical value of the remnants at the Apollo landing sites.

I wrote a piece on celestial objects as heritage for a forthcoming essay collection on space ethics, but I was writing more about making alterations to the objects (through mining them, say) than about storing or abandoning things on them. I’m not sure what I think about moral objections to considering the near-pristine, vacant lunar surface as ‘storage space’ instead of preserving its natural condition. I mean, if the comparison is with storing things in Earth’s environments...

Anyway: courtesy of the article’s link to NASA’s records of human artefacts on the moon, I’m pleased to learn that there are towels on the lunar surface, and that NASA knows where its towel is.

The Identity Angle

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Until now, you might have had the impression that identity politics was one of the leading obsessions of British political life. ‘Community leaders’, ‘ethnic arts’, multiculturalism versus integration... and of course the Saltire-waving crescendo of a nationalist campaign to chop off Scotland.

This week? Now that the discussion concerns English representation, I find myself reading weirdly abstract ideas about the administrative utility of regional ‘governance units’. Even people who are advocating political representation for England as a whole seem to be basically concerned with fairness (equal devolution); I’ve seen little that speaks of England as (like Scotland) a kingdom within the U.K. with a national culture and identity shared amongst its people. There seem to be more people fretting about ‘the sleeping giant of English nationalism’ than actually grappling with the real existence of the English nation; and that’s leading people to write silly things proposing ‘governance units’ that would ignore the connections people actually have, even if they were given names like Wessex and Mercia.

It’s not that I want this debate to be taken over by identity politicians. I’d just like to know where they’ve gone...