Working with contemporary artists and writers will give a new depth to Brimblecombe’s research, which has previously examined historical cultural treatment of air pollution in paintings, film and literature.
“I was a student in the sixties when it sometimes seemed that environmental issues were likely to be even more important than the war in Viet Nam. Background reading for my PhD suggested, in annoyingly brief and pretentious footnotes, that the environment had been getting worse since the 13th century, at least. I began to wonder what was so different about contemporary concerns, so my arrival in England allowed me wet Sundays among medieval documents. Here I sensed that throughout history we have found it easy to regard ourselves on the brink of an apocalypse. The present environmental crisis appeared to be part of the sequence of apocalyptic challenges humans are condemned to face. I find the historical perspective an antidote to environmental gloom.
Environmental pollution is not merely a matter of environmental chemistry. The smells have to be smelt. Painting and poetry can be as informative as a scientific description when trying to understand the complexities of environmental problems. Recently I have been thinking much about the representation air pollution in cinema.” – Peter Brimblecombe, Artist and Scientist Dialogue Day, July 2009.
Brimblecombe has been involved with projects ranging from a recent European Community (EC) project NOAH’s ARK looking at climate change and heritage damage, work on the effects the environment, and artistic expression in literature, painting and cinema. Brimblecombe has worked within European Commission, EC cultural heritage projects in FP4 FP5 and FP6. He has advised the Council of Europe, the European Parliament and the House of Lords on heritage science. He has had many projects funded by UK research funding bodies (e.g. NERC, EPSRC, Leverhulme Trust) and most recently the AHRC has funded a project “preparing historic collections for climate change”. He is also involved in the EC Network of Excellence ACCENT, where he is active within the teaching and communication module and is an external assessor for EPISCON, the European PhD in Conservation of Art. He is frequently involved with radio and television and radio and has produced a “scientific” colouring book for children called The Colour of Time.