Monthly Archives: August 2015

Changing places and the question of hope


On the 27th of August, and after more than twenty four years in the same house, we are moving out of our family home and across Bristol. A change of place that means that an old dog is going to have to learn some new tricks, although precisely which tricks remains very much a question.

Our moving is part of a bigger process of change. My older son and his girlfriend are getting a house together. (He has been living between our basement and her shared house in Cardiff for a good while now).  My wife, daughter and I are radically downsizing, something we’ve wanted to do for some time, by moving to a little detached 1930s house in a quiet cul-de-sac on the other side of the Downs. There we hope Anna will get the piece and quiet she so badly needs if her health is to improve. A combination of factors has made living where we are increasingly untenable and, despite being sad to move in some respects, I am very relieved that we have finally found an new place to live.

There are two reasons why I’ve added nothing very much to this blog for some time. The first will now be blindingly obvious to anyone who has moved house with a family. The whole business is pretty complex at the best of times, and in our case further complicated because of our having to store, get ride of, or give away, all those things like paintings that won’t fit into the new house. And, rather more fundamentally, because of my daughter’s chronic illness. The second is that I have been struggling with something I want to write about that’s concerned me for a good while. This is the question of hope and what role it plays in our creative life.

This is a question that’s been with me for as long as my daughter has been ill, although that’s not what I want to think about here.

I am currently reading a book by Adam S. Miller called Speculative Grace: Bruno Latour and Object-Oriented Theology. I’m not in the habit of reading books on theology but, thanks in part to my friend Ciara Healey and her work on Thin Places, I have wanted to reengage with thinking about the issue of attention and the spiritual in contemporary life. This concern is in part animated by the fact that I suspect we are too ‘hope oriented’, and in ways that actually stop us paying attention to the actualities of the world around us.

The current silliness about the ‘end of capitalism’ seems to me an example of this. Firstly, capitalism as an economic system is only part of a wider, multi-dimensional psycho-social ecology, that of possessive individualism, which continues to manifest itself in more and more crass forms all around us every day. Furthermore, and unlike capitalism as an economic system, possessive individualism has been deeply internalised by the majority of the world’s wealthier people and, in turn, animates fundamentalist politico-religious reactions from another significant percentage of the world’s population. The focus on capitalism and hope for its supposed ‘end’ is, I think, less relevant than many would like us to believe; just another example of preoccupation with a macro-politics in which we have little possibility of intervention that conveniently exempts us from paying attention to the micro-politics at play in our everyday lives where. of course, intervention is a constant possibility.

However, these thoughts are largely conjecture at present and I need more time to read and think before I can have anything very coherent to write on this topic. And that will have to wait until after we’ve moved and are at least nominally settled into our new place.


Grear Thought

336 pp Hardback 978 1 78471 132 0 July 2015

This new book has been edited by my friend Anna Grear, Reader in Law, Cardiff Law School, UK, Director, Global Network for the Study of Human Rights and the Environment (GNHRE), and Editor in Chief, Journal of Human Rights and the Environment, together with Evadne Grant, Associate Head, Department of Law, University of the West of England, UK, Coordinator, Global Network for the Study of Human Rights and the Environment (GNHRE) and Editor, Journal of Human Rights and the Environment.

The book has been described as:

‘. . . a magnificently rich, highly critical, at times deeply challenging and troubling, and perhaps even paradigm-shifting, collection of works that has been authored by some of the most progressive and interrogative scholars of our time. In their analysis, none of the contributors take anything for granted; they relentlessly push against parochial closures that obscure the possible contours of a reimagined relationship between human rights and the environment. The book ultimately succeeds in offering a new juridical imaginary for those of us who are concerned with the deeply troubled and complex relationship between human rights and the environment.’ – Louis J. Kotzé, North-West University, South Africa, University of Lincoln, UK and Global Network for the Study of Human Rights and the Environment In the climate-pressed Anthropocene epoch, nothing could be more urgent than fresh engagements with the fractious relationships between ‘humanity’, law and the living order. This timely book intelligently combines theoretical reflections, doctrinal analyses and insights drawn from rights-based praxis to offer thoughtful – and at times provocative – engagements with the limitations of law as it faces the complexities of contemporary socioecological life-worlds in an age of climate crisis. Leading scholars in the field discuss, in four parts, Philosophical Investigations, Reconfiguring the Legal, Activism and Praxis, and Multi-level Reformulations, to offer imaginative intellectual engagements with a range of challenges vexing the human-environmental-legal ‘interface’. Scholars and students of human rights and environmental law and practitioners in the field alike will find the book to be a timely and thoughtful engagement with urgent human dilemmas’.

The contributors are: D. Bollier, L. Code, S. Coyle, K. Donald, G.N. Gill, E. Grant, A. Grear, T. Kerns, A. Philippopoulos-Mihalopoulos, M. Pieraccini, & B.H. Weston