Who Pays for the Environment?
on Nature, Architecture, Sustainability
and John Ruskin’s Guild of St George
The Art Workers Guild, 6 Queen Square, Bloomsbury,
London WC1N 3AT (Nearest tube Holborn or Russell Sq)
10.15 a.m. - 4.15 p.m., Saturday 11 February 2012
Our world is in crisis. Our economic system seems to be in free fall. Governments, both absolutist and democratic, are being challenged all over the world. Civil order has significantly broken down everywhere, even in countries like Britain that are famous for civic discipline. But far more serious than any of these things is the clear evidence, now building up, of climate change with multiple threats not only to the survival of civilisation but to that of our planet itself.
John Ruskin (1819-1900) was by no means the only thinker of the nineteenth century to warn of the dangers posed by industrialism. But he spoke with a prophetic eloquence which none could equal of the damage done by our civilisation both to its own creations – cities, social relations and the footprint of history – and to the health-giving beauty and sustainability of the very earth which provides our daily bread. As he developed, first as a critic of art and architecture, then as a social and economic reformer, he began to speak in terms which we can recognise as bearing on our current crises and the life of the twenty-first century.
The Guild of St George is a charity founded by Ruskin to give practical force to his values of ‘admiration, love and hope’. It does its work in the arts and crafts and the rural economy. The Ruskin Library and Research Centre at Lancaster University is the centre of Ruskin studies in Great Britain. Anyone concerned with Ruskin’s ideas will want to spend some time there, so inevitably, though an academic institution, it cannot avoid the relevance of Ruskin’s work to the way we live now.
The aim of this Symposium was to look as fearlessly as possible at the real problems that confront us with the help of Ruskin’s words and ideas. We still face those problems today – here in Britain and across the world. In these days of economic crisis, governments are beginning to say that a healthy environment is a luxury we cannot afford. It was our purpose at this symposium to state as clearly as possible that if we cannot pay in financial terms to turn our world around, we shall pay in other terms and the cost to our life on earth will be greater than we could ever have imagined – though Ruskin imagined them for us in his writings, published 150 years ago.
Download Stuart Eagles's account of the symposium in The Companion.
Mark Frost (University of Portsmouth): Ruskin and the Environment
Sara Parkin (Director, Foundation for the Future): Who Pays for the Environment?
Michael Ramage (Fellow in Architecture, Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge): Environmental ArchitectureJohn Iles (Director, Guild of St George): Realising Ruskin: The Guild of St George in the Wyre Forest, Worcestershire
Tony Pinkney (Lancaster University): What Can We Learn from Recent Green Utopias?
Panel, including discussion and contributions from the floor.
Introduced by Howard Hull (Director, Ruskin Foundation and Brantwood Trust), with Stephen Wildman (Director, Ruskin Library and Research Centre), Clive Wilmer (Master of the Guild of St George), the speakers and other guests.