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Arcology

Ruined Arcologies c. 2320 (Illustration for “Dreams of a Low Carbon Future II”, 2016)

One of the events I’ve been to recently was the latest low-carbon workshop organised by James McKay at the University of Leeds. I’ve been involved in some of James’ low-carbon projects in the past – producing illustrations for Dreams of  Low Carbon Future II and being 1/5 of the team that drew the Supergen Bioenergy comic. This time, it was less about drawing and more about brainstorming. The event was organised with funding from the Royal Academy of Engineering’s INGENIOUS project. It brought together a diverse range of academics, climate scientists and researchers, people from local government and community organisations, students from the North Huddersfield Trust School and even artists and illustrators like myself to think, talk and pull ideas together for a positive vision of a low-carbon future.

The idea – as summed up by Jonathon Porritt, who gave an inspirational keynote talk at the end of the event – was to move away from apocalyptic doom-mongering about the future, which often ended up undercutting people’s sense of agency. Why should I bother to do anything about the future? It’s clearly already too screwed up and so we’re all doomed anyway… James stressed at the beginning of the event that we should focus on what people could do, what people can do, and what people are already doing to make a positive impact on our carbon future.

So we spent the whole day workshopping around that idea: using maps, drawings, short stories and discussion exercises to think big, think bold and think positive about what a low-carbon future in the north of England could look like. And we came up with some really interesting ideas: from small-scale things like how to cope with unpredictable weather, to big infrastructure projects like Leeds’ community heating schemes, to even bigger ideas like creating massive wetland buffer zones against storms and sea-level rise in coastal and lowland areas of Yorkshire.

It was a really interesting and exciting day – with so many ideas buzzing around that it was hard to keep track of them at times. James now has the unenviable task of pulling all our brainstorming together and producing a kind of reference or resource document for the next stage in the project. Building on this event, there are going to be art and creativity competitions and various other public events – and I’m looking forward to helping visualise some of these ideas with James and the rest of the art team.

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