No, not the bomb, in the Dr Strangelove sense. Rather, in a John Foster sense, it's climate change:
this irruption of the ineliminably wild back into lives which had forgotten it.
This was one of the main themes of John's I-SEE seminar in Bath the other week in which he explored a wide-ranging set of post-sustainability issues. One of the reasons I like reading John's books is the arresting nature of his language. I turn pages, anticipating the next assault on my senses. It's the same when he gives talks. Here are a few sound bites
The global alarm clock must be set very firmly to snooze
Sustainability policy and planning is trying to do serious engineering work with a set of lead spanners
Conceptual vertigo: we keep on pretending because we daren't look down
A peculiar form of life endeavour: the project of having projects
Willed optimism warps thought (and inhibits learning)
A point that struck me with some force was John's argument that sustainability is now a hegemonic future-focused discourse which occludes concern for the present, and that, because the present was the originally focus of environmentalism, we no longer have adequate language to focus on the natural world as it is now. This loss of a present-focus applies to environmental education as well, it seems to me.
All this reminded me of Chesterton's epic poem of white horses, which seems more apt by the day. In this, Mary, the mother of Christ, says this to Alfred, ahead of his battle with the Danes at Ethandune in May 878:
… The wise men know what wicked things
Are written on the sky,
They trim sad lamps, they touch sad strings,
Hearing the heavy purple wings,
Where the forgotten seraph kings
Still plot how God shall die.
The wise men know all evil things
Under the twisted trees,
Where the perverse in pleasure pine
And men are weary of green wine
And sick of crimson seas.
You and all the kind of Christ
Are ignorant and brave,
And you have wars you hardly win
And souls you hardly save.
I tell you naught for your comfort,
Yea, naught for your desire,
Save that the sky grows darker yet
And the sea rises higher.
Night shall be thrice night over you,
And heaven an iron cope.
Do you have joy without a cause,
Yea, faith without a hope?
I live 5 miles from 'Ethandune'.