Survival Strategies: Research (pt 7)

Indirect Connection/Support: Detritus and Death

A robin took advantage of some crumbs that had fallen from my lunch @ Eden Project, 09/2019

There is a lot of support indirectly and perhaps unconsciously given to the world around us. In Eden I witnessed a Robin picking up crumbs that I had just swept from my knee during a quick lunch in the woods.

The pinnacle of unintended support and connection comes after death. Our bodies return to the earth and can support other lifeforms.

But this is not the only way dead lifeforms can support the living. Humans make various use of dead lifeforms as raw materials for construction, and other supportive functions for life.

A tree stump is being used as a literal support for the bending trunk of a living one.
A Cistacae plant grown twisted around and supported by a wooden post.

Survival strategies/A call to action: Research (pt 1)

This morning I saw the UN sharing it’s latest report on climate action.

This video which accompanies the report highlights the human factor and our need to adapt to survive, and some of the actions that can be taken by communities to do so, which inevitably are to do with how we interact with the natural world. The video opens with stark emotional clarity on the fear & sadness of climate change, but instils a sense of hope in how humans can act now.

It is significant that they have called for adaptation to help us survive the very real impacts of climate change that are being felt today. The Global Commission on Adaptation was formed 10 months ago in reaction to a deadly summer of climate change related natural disasters.

This is intended to happen in tandem with efforts to prevent the worst climate change from happening at all, but since there is a very real threat to survival today this is also direly necessary.

The key and notable difference here vs the Eden Project mission, is that the report is targeting action of governments and business to change their behaviour, not individuals. It lays out the business case for investing now to adapt, as a means of saving money in the long-run (since spending in the wake of disaster much higher than that to prevent/anticipate it) and protecting gdp. That we must reduce this impending disaster to dollars and cents in order to help safeguard life on Earth is stark and disturbing, but it seems this is the reality we face. The UN were already talking about adaptation 10 years ago, so this must be a response that is intended to more tangibly drive action.

Within this report they highlight the key role that the natural world plays as a crucial support system in all elements of our adaptation to climate change – and the visual charts they include play on our inter-connectedness.

While I think this is still highly connected to my survival strategies theme, I think this could be a separate one in itself, specifically around calls to action, activism, protest and societal change. Relating here and now to environmentalism, which would also include eden project, extinction rebellion and Greta Thunberg, but also in recent years the #MeToo movement and protest marches in the UK and US against the political climate.

Survival Strategies: Research (pt 6)

Direct Connection/Support: Family

Across much of the animal kingdom, family connections are strong and a source of great support especially through the juvenile stage. For mammals this is especially strong during pregnancy and in the nursing stage.

A young family touring the Rainforest biome in Eden project, 09/2019
A juvenile gull pesters it’s parent to feed it in Mevagissey harbour, 09/2019
Hand casts in the wall of the Core at Eden project, 09/2019

Survival Strategies: Research (pt 5)

Direct Connection/Support: Bees

Bees are a support system in themselves – providing vital pollination to plantlife, and nourishing animals like humans in turn.

A bee on a flower at Eden Project, 09/2019

While reflecting on the importance of the support from bees, it is unsurprising that a honeycomb structure was chosen for the iconic biomes at the Eden project – where they aspire to be connecting us. The delicate structure appears bubble-like from the outside, with the tesselated structure dominant all across the heavens inside.

The Eden Project biomes, 09/2019
Internal biome dome study, pencil on paper 09/2019

Survival Strategies: Research (pt 4)

Direct Connection/Support: Lichen

Lichens are interesting to the idea of inter-connectedness and support for several reasons:

  • Lichens are communities of fungi, algae and other bacteria which support each other – fungi provide a home and minerals, algae convert sunlight to food.
  • Lichens can survive in all kinds of hostile conditions – on mountain tops, the coast, tropical forests and limestone pores under the ice in Antarctica
  • Many birds use lichen for nest building to help them camouflage
  • Some insects such as Markia hystrix (a grasshopper in south america) live in and on lichen.

I observed various instances of lichen growing on other lifeforms around the Eden Project. I particularly like their textural contrast.

Pencil on paper sketch of lichen on tree branch stump 09/2019

Survival Strategies: Research (pt 3)

Besides the visual communications Eden themselves used to evoke inter-connectedness, I was interested to witness this survival strategy in action in the lifeforms in and around the site itself.

  • Lifeform directly supported by another lifeform: ‘symbiosis’
  • Lifeform supported indirectly by another lifeform e.g. benefiting from the death of another, or picking up scraps.

Direct Connection/Support: Epiphytes

Within the rainforest biome, I observed an interesting type of plant known as ‘epiphytes’ – ones that use other plants for support and do not themselves require soil, and are not parasitic.

Here some epiphytes growing off a tree trunk, fallen across the base of a waterfall in the Rainforest biome at Eden Project, 09/2019
Here another fallen trunk covered in epiphytes – here we can see the trunk is covered in moss and tendril-like roots

These plants are supported in a literal sense, as they are suspended in the air by the trunk on which they grow. That they grow on the trunk but are not parasites is particularly interesting. In both of these photographs I like how vibrant and full of energy the plants look, with their spiky forms and vivid green colours.

Epiphytes, Felt tip and pencil on paper, 09/2019
Study of epiphyte roots detail, pencil on paper 09/2019

Survival Strategies: Research (pt 1)

This week we took a trip to the Eden Project in Cornwall. Our brief was to research different survival strategies whilst we were there.

The mission statement of the Eden Project is:

To connect us with each other and the living world, exploring how we can work towards a better future.

In doing so, they hope to combat ‘plant blindness’, which means that we do not realise the myriad ways in which our modern lives are inextricably linked with the natural world around us. From the food that we eat, to the clothes we wear, the medicines we survive by and materials we construct with, we neglect to consider how even most man-made products have in some way been produced using natural resources.

Their primary message is that of interconnectedness between us and the natural world (see below). The very way in which we survive at a total level is because of our place within a whole – we rely on the support of other lifeforms/systems. This interconnection/support system is the ultimate survival strategy which I wanted to explore further.

Personal Cartography: My Map

My map – Sophie Green – using watercolour, inks, pen – 09/2019

My map tells the story of my future upon embarking on the Foundation Art & Design course, having diverted from my corporate career. Creativity, self-confidence and discovery will all lead me to a new direction. Along the way I will need guidance & support, learning, reflection and a balanced outlook to help me avoid the hazards of self-doubt, over-thinking and indecision. Here I have incorporated the conventions of mapped allegory with a naive illustration style as seen in children’s fiction.

On reflection, I think it may have been good to incorporate some way of showing where I am on this journey now, as a reflection of the viewpoint from which this was created. There is a sense of there being less charm and life to it than the 100 acre wood, which could be improved by including wildlife/characters, or small asides/commentary and more shrubbery. I’m not sure this conveys as much humour as I might have liked either. The overall image is very flat, perhaps slightly more than intended. Perhaps instead this is not helped by a very flat horizon/endpoint?

That said, I am pleased with the materials I chose, and the perspectives of the buildings I depicted as I think they are recognisable likenesses.

Personal Cartography: Research (pt 3)

The places I wanted to represent in my map:

  • RHB building
  • Oxford Brookes main campus
  • Bench
  • Outdoor places
  • Breakspear Park (my old place of work)

I wanted my journey to show the personal growth I hope for in my FAD – the creativity, discovery, reflection, finding myself/direction, and a positive future. The perils I anticipated needing to overcome were self-criticism, over-thinking, procrastination, self-consciousness, indecision and anxiety.

The sketch/outline for my map – experimenting with materials and features. The journey was refined in my final work to have fewer points of interest