Blue, Green and Deadly, the story of a palm tree

UOW has just commenced a new BA major in Environmental Humanities. To bring together the people who will be teaching into the programme we organised an end of year symposium. I reworked a small section of the plant to the planetary project again,and focused on the place of narrative in the story of the palm tree and atmospheric transformation. I also chaired the final round table where we thought through possibilities for Environmental Humanities with our colleagues and friends from AUSSCER. I will be teaching the 300 level “Art and Globalisation (aka Media, Art and Climate Change)”

My talk began like this:

The crisis of the Anthropocene has already happened, life-sustaining atmospheric and energy systems have transformed, and we are scrambling around trying to understand how these new planetary ecologies can be reformed into something that might continue to include us; humans, and the other species for which we have a particular fondness.

I find my writing turning its attention beyond art to the networks of communication that surround the human-created material artefact. I think about how humans interact with the world, and how artists and writers are key contributors of methodologies to change perceptions of subjectivity so that they include relationships with nonhuman others: animal, mineral and vegetable.

Two years ago I found myself in-front of a palm tree. I had travelled to the Orto Botanica in Padua as a day ‘off’. With one day before our train to the Venice Biennale I needed to give my children a break. We entered the Orto Botanica with the promise that instead of art, we would see the world’s newest glasshouses containing living dioramas of climactic zones from all over the planet. Disorientated and parched after spending too long in the ‘desert’ zone we had lingered under the dew dripping off tropical flowers before entering a final sequence of rooms. Here, we were confronted with interactive models of impending ecological disaster. The shiny new glasshouses faded amidst booming narratives of global destruction. And the children demanded we leave.