While we were walking in the Lake District [see my post ‘Gone Walking’ on April 19th, 2017] I read ‘The Shepherd’s Life’ by James Rebank. Rebank describes how his flock is hefted to the land. ‘Heft’ is a word used in Northern England and Scotland, and means to become accustomed and attached to an area of pasture. In our modern society people tend to become accustomed and attached to cities. A few weeks earlier Nilanjana Roy, writing in the FT Weekend on April 8/9, wrote about the growing belief that national identity is an outdated and insufficient concept, whereas cities reflect the common identities of their inhabitants and have been home to peoples of diverse origin and belief for centuries. Many of us who travel frequently have a map in our heads of cities in which we feel comfortable, happy to return, accustomed or ‘hefted’. Roy calls it ‘a map of belonging’ – the cities that your spirit chimes with the most. Mine would probably include Liverpool, Ottawa, Santa Fe and Taipei [see my posts entitled ‘Out and about‘ and ‘Crash in Taipei: an engineer’s travelogue‘ on December 7th, 2016 and November 19th, 2o14 respectively]. To which cities do you feel ‘hefted’?
James Rebank, The Shepherd’s Life, Penguin, 2016.
Nilanjana Roy, How cities reject the insularity of nationalism, Financial Times, 8/9 April 2017.
If you live within sight of the sea, as we do, then your life is probably influenced, to some degree, by the rise and fall of tides. In Liverpool, we are lucky to have a particularly long historical record of tidal heights and one of my colleagues, an oceanographer, Professor Ric Williams has used this record to discuss climate variability. The record was started and maintained between 1768 and 1793 by Captain William Hutchinson whose achievement is commemorated with a fountain in Liverpool’s historic docks, which are a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
A few weeks ago I listened to a talk by Prof Williams, in which he described how there is a rather simple relationship between surface warming and the effect of future emissions of greenhouse gases. If the predictions of surface warming are plotted as a function of how much carbon is emitted to the atmosphere, rather than time, then a simple response emerges: the more carbon we emit, the warmer it will get. Associated with the surface warming, there is an expected sea level rise from the expansion of the water column augmented by the effect of addition of freshwater from melting of land ice. Watch Prof Williams’ Youtube video to find out more.
Woodworth, P.L. 1999. High waters at Liverpool since 1768: the UK’s longest sea level record. Geophysical Research Letters, 26 (11), 1589-1592.
Goodwin, P., Williams, R.G. & Ridgwell, A., Sensitivity of climate to cumulative carbon emissions dues to compensation of ocean heat and carbon uptake, Nature Geoscience, 8,29–34(2015).