🌿Wild Ones #28: Environmental Writing & Communication Digest

Eco-Keyword: 'To decorate' + EcoTypes survey + MIT Handbook on climate communication + How Climate Fiction can persuade + 'In the wild' podcast + more!

Hi everyone, welcome back to Wild Ones, a bi-weekly digest by me, Gavin Lamb, about news, ideas, research, and tips in environmental communication. If you’re new, welcome! You can read more about why I started Wild Ones here. Sign up here to get these digests in your inbox:

🎄Environmental Keyword

Each week I explore a new environmental keyword. I hope you might find these keywords useful in your own ecowriting and environmental communication. This week I look into a seemingly familiar keyword from the field of ecopoetics: ‘to decorate.’

‘To Decorate’

To ornament and amplify the surfaces (interfaces) between the human oikos [household] and “the earth as a much larger and complex household [oikos].”

– Daniel Remein, Assistant Professor of English at the University of Massachusetts Boston, and founder of Organism for Poetic Research.

  • The 2017 book Veer Ecology: A Companion for Environmental Thinking asked thirty environmental writers and researchers to suggest one verb to shift our environmental thinking. Daniel Remein offers a surprising entry: ‘to decorate.’

  • Remein explains his interest in the keyword ‘decorate’ by asking:

    “What decorates? And how? Why should the ecologically minded practitioner of the humanities concern herself with decorating…in order to better think the earth as a much larger and complex household [oikos]?”

  • The Greek word oikos or ‘house’ is also the origin of the prefix ‘eco-’ in English in words like ecology and economy.

  • Remein draws inspiration for suggesting the keyword to decorate from ecopoet Jonathan Skinner: “Skinner formulates his ecopoetics as “a house making” [oikos]. In its recurrent investment in the concept of oikos, ecopoetics would need to be able to think how to decorate its house.” If ‘eco’ originates in the Greek word for ‘house’ (oikos) and ‘poiesis’ means ‘making’, then why not talk of nature writing and ecopoetry as a kind of “more-than-human house making.” For Skinner, ecopoetry is about “exploring creative, critical edges between making and ecology.”

  • Like oranmenting the different surfaces of a house to make it inviting for the senses, as a metaphor, ‘to decorate’ suggests we embellish our environmental writing to spark our senses in order to build new connections between human and nonhuman worlds:

“to decorate can mean to elaborate surface…into the textures that catch, articulate, hook, entangle, and mix…where different perceptual systems overlap: gems that blind, details that distract, tendrils that tangle. To decorate is to build, but not in such a way as to distinguish between the built and the wild.”


🔭 Tools & Tips

  • Ecotypes: Exploring Environmental Ideas: A survey tool to assess your environmental ideas and values. “The EcoTypes initiative, launched in early 2017 by Prof. Jim Proctor of Lewis & Clark College, is an opportunity primarily for students in U.S. institutions of higher education to learn more about the fundamental ideas that shape how they and others approach environmental issues. All, however, are welcome to participate in EcoTypes.”

  • Cranky Uncle: a new game that tries to vaccinate you against fake news. The app was created by John Cook, a cognitive scientist and climate communication researcher at George Mason University, in collaboration with the creative agency Autonomy Co-op. The app is now available to download for free on the iPhone App Store. Read more about it in Grist.


📰 News & Events


📚 Research

Twitter avatar for @JulieDoylejProf Julie Doyle @JulieDoylej
Thanks @meehancrist @gavinmlamb yes BP doing this 15 years ago. Corporations are adept at using climate communications. Unilever also using 'climate care' and emotions to individualise climate actions through focus upon the 'family' @mikegoodman56
link.springer.com/article/10.100…

Gavin Lamb @gavinmlamb

I hadn't heard about this history until @meehancrist wrote this fascinating essay, drawing on climate communications research by @JulieDoylej: 'The concept of the 'personal carbon footprint' was popularized by BP in a 2005 media campaign' to deflect blame https://t.co/NUWmRxaODc

💡 Ideas

  • The Serviceberry: An Economy of Abundance by Robin Wall Kimmerer in Emergence Magazine: “As Robin Wall Kimmerer harvests serviceberries alongside the birds, she considers the ethic of reciprocity that lies at the heart of the gift economy. How, she asks, can we learn from Indigenous wisdom and ecological systems to reimagine currencies of exchange?”

  • In the wild (podcast). An interview with Tess Lea (Professor of Anthropology, The University of Sydney) and Wendy Steele (Associate Professor in Sustainability and Urban Planning, RMIT University Melbourne), In The Philosopher's Zone with David Rutledge. Here’s a description:

    “For centuries, “the wild” has been thought of as the place where humans rarely or never go. Our cities are meant to be refuges from the wild, and the policies that govern our lives are intended to impose order on chaos. But climate change is showing us that the wild and the urban environments are closely intertwined – and as Indigenous communities know well, policy is beset with incoherences and cruelties that make it anything but rational. Is it time to rethink “the wild” for the 21st century?”


💬 Quotes I’m thinking about

  1. “Fairy tales are almost always the stories of the powerless, of youngest sons, abandoned children, orphans.... Fairy tales are children's stories not in who they were made for but in their focus on the early stages of life, when others have power over you and you have power over no one.”

    Rebecca Solnit, The Faraway Nearby (cited in climate fiction writer Catherine Bush’s website)

  2. “Any writer who wants to engage poetry with more-than-human life, has no choice but to resist simply, and instrumentally, stepping over language.”

    Jonathan Skinner, ecopoet and Reader in English and Comparative Literary Studies at the University of Warwick where he teaches ecopoetics and ecocriticism.

  3. “We don’t want purity, but complexity, the relationship of cause and effect, means and end. Our model of the cosmos must be as inexhaustible as the cosmos. A complexity that includes not only duration but creation, not only being but becoming, not only geometry but ethics. It is not the answer we are after, but only how to ask the question…” (p.226)

    – Shevek, the utopian physicist hero of Ursula Le Guin’s novel The Dispossessed. Cited in Daniel C. Remein, Decorate.


✏️Writings from my desk


Thanks so much as always for your interest in my work, and if you found this useful, I'd love to hear from you, leave a comment to let me know what you think about this digest:)

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