On Time and Water – A Conversation with Andri Snær Magnason
The Icelandic Writer and Documentary Filmmaker
on the Emergence Magazine Podcast
Emergence Magazine is a quarterly online publication exploring the threads connecting ecology, culture, and spirituality. As we experience the desecration of our lands and waters, the extinguishing of species, and a loss of sacred connection to the Earth, we look to emerging stories. Each issue explores a theme through innovative digital media, as well as the written and spoken word. The Emergence Magazine podcast features exclusive interviews, narrated essays, stories, and more.
Andri Snær Magnason is an Icelandic writer and documentary filmmaker. In this interview, Andri discusses his new book On Time and Water and our relationship to time in an age of ecological crisis. With Iceland having lost its first large glacier, the Ok glacier, this past summer, Andri discusses the ways in which geological time is beginning to move at the speed of human time. In order to bring about a planetary paradigm shift, he says, we need new ways to see and imagine ourselves into the future.
From the episode:
Andri Snær Magnason: The Casket of Time and On Time and Water are creative siblings, you could say. They both come out of experiencing time now to leave geological speed and start to change in human speed, but our reaction to this environmental crisis are on a geological level. Contrary to what we’ve been doing with technological progress during the twentieth century, we’ve scaled up certain industries. We’ve known about this crisis for forty years, but we still have not scaled up solutions as we’ve seen what other motivations are driving us. Both of these books are exploring from the same root our connection to time.
When you talk about the future, it becomes vague because the future doesn’t have anything. The future doesn’t have smell, texture, or emotions. When you hear a word like ocean acidification, it’s not connected to anything emotional. It’s just ocean acidification. What is that? It’s not connected to the Beatles. It’s not connected to the President or any experience that we’ve had. It’s not connected to Hitler or the Second World War. It’s the biggest word in the world because it’s about the biggest change that has happened chemically to the planet for fifty million years. It’s so load that we should cry when we hear it. It should be almost a taboo to say it, if you don’t want to spoil the party. It’s out there, but it has no connections.
To put substance to the word, I feel like I have to use it throughout the book and connect it to things like words that we didn’t understand before, like freedom … to make us understand and think about the word. Instead of saying it and acting like the reader should understand it, I have to explain first why we don’t understand it. You can’t throw a word out like that and expect the reader to be shocked.