Well, it has been some few days here in Ireland. We woke on Saturday to witness a surging #GreenWave of support in the local and European elections toward more progressive eco-social policies put forward by Ireland’s Green Party. Many young Irish people came out to vote for the first time. As a country that has a large youth population, younger people are leading the charge to change our social policies over recent years, and now our environmental politics. Social and environmental wellbeing are interconnected, and I wonder with improved ecoliteracy, if Ireland might follow Aotearoa-New Zealand’s innovative government budget for eco-social wellbeing, rather than the singular economic indicators like GDP. There is of course, a huge job ahead to make sure all citizens are supported in a just and fair transition toward more sustainable ways of working and living, but for people working in environmental orgnanisations, in ecology (and alternative forestry) for many years, and eco-social art areas, these recent developments are unbelievably heartening.

I’m also welcoming more opportunities to share my eco-social art practice knowledge and insights about the art and ecology field. After my doctoral research and experience in developing the ongoing Hollywood Forest Story (since 2008). I am very grateful for two special art schools, the first, The Cowhouse Studios (‘a progressive artist-run school and residency set in the farmland of county Wexford, Ireland’), is just over the hill from Hollywood forest, and I was invited to speak to  visiting artists about art and ecology last May. To tell the truth, it has been a task to translate a body of knowledge to a level for undergraduates, particularly as I have had little teaching experience. But I so enjoyed my first class at the Cowhouse and met wonderful people and new friends. Frank and Rosie who have developed the Cowhouse Studios have developed an extraordingary residential art programme on a working Irish farm, which I highly recommended to both Irish and international artists.

I then have to thank Dr Eileen Hutton and Dean Conor Brady who invited me to teach the undergraduate art and ecology module for visiting US art students over 16 weeks at the Burren College of Art from Jan to May. It was a lot of driving from here in the East to the West Coast of Ireland, where the Burren Art College is situated, so its not that sustainable for my little car or myself. But again, I loved having the opportunity to think about what artists most need as far as a good grounding in ecoliteracy for their various creative practices. Incidentally, I will over the summer be conducting some interviews for developing an online course ‘Ecoliteracy Essentials for the Arts’ – do email me if you would like to be involved, more information about what I am doing is here at www.haumea.site)

Last week, I had the opportunity to facilitate another day at the Cowhouse Studios with art students from North Carolina University. During their time on their residency they are

‘rethinking the landscape genre as they meditate deeply on humans’ relationship to, their impact on, and their place in the physical environment that we call nature.’

Their thoughtful and enthusiastic tutors Heather and Leah introduced them to the ideas of the Anthropocene  and they quickly embraced my recent podcast on the Symbiocene too. At the start of meeting new students and their tutors, I often share environmental philosoper Kathleen Dean Moore’s hope-o-meter, a thought experiement, to guage the feelings of a class about their collective futures. Going around the class leads to sharing, and discussing how creative practices, in all forms, can help us move through the grief of what has and is happening to the Earth, towards community and action. I always learn so much from this. I also gave an oveview of the developing art and ecology field, talked about key challenges and opportunities ecology presents to creative modern art practice, and then shared the Hollywood Forest Story. But the best part of the day was them coming over for a visit, lunch and talk in Hollywood forest itself. Hollywood forest itself is a great teacher.

In the upper left of this image is one of our mature Sitka spruce-fir trees that has died. Its a tree I have left standing to tell visitors about the effects of warming temperatures. With climate breakdown, aphids and other pests are attacking some of our trees. Most trees survive such attacks, but if they are repeatedly attacked over successive years, the stress to the tree can be too much. We also leave dead trees standing as they are a haven for wildlife and insects. Unfortunately, we think this summer will reveal more aphid damage in Hollywood Forest this year but other species are thriving too.

The upper left of this image shows one of our mature Sitka spruce-fir trees, that has died. Its a tree I have left standing to show visitors the stress climate breakdown is having on forests here in Ireland and elsewhere. In the case of this tree, aphids are attacking the trees as our warming winters are allowing insect populations to explode. Most trees survive such attacks, but if trees are repeatedly attacked over successive years, the stress to a tree can be too much – its can be surprising to find out how destructive insects can be to trees. We also leave dead trees standing as they are a haven for wildlife and insects. Unfortunately, we think this summer will reveal more aphid damage in Hollywood Forest but other tree species are thriving.

The students from North Carolina and their tutors are working hard towards a photographic exhibition After the Landscape in Dublin, opening this Thursday. All are very welcome!

Launch 6pm Thu 30 May
Running 31 May-2 June

The Library Project
4 Temple Bar Street, Dublin 2, Ireland

Opening Hours
Tue-Fri 11am-6pm/Sat-Sun 12-6pm


PS We were amused to find Hollywood forest’s fame is spreading 🙂 Martin was looking out the window into our trees on Saturday and saw several boys wandering around. We discovered their enthusiastic Dad was trying to inspire his three young sons about forests and he thought Hollywood was a public forest. We had a lovely chat about how special permanent, mixed species forests are, with young Euan, Finn and Sharne. Bless x

Hollywood forest’s fame is spreading – visitors from Co. Wexford visiting last Saturday.


 

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