In a so-called age of endings to talk of a ‘mood’ of futility is to talk of a predominant feeling that all action is futile and all other scenarios impossible; a palpable, prevailing sense of dread that something is slipping away. But what does it mean to talk of a mood of futility in relation to environmental crisis and species loss? Against a backdrop of work that attends to the disconcertion that stems from disrupted seasons and emergent ecologies, the paper draws on research from the UK and Norway to examine the seasonal joys and dreads of working with seabirds. At the coast, absence and textures of silence have been described in eerie, disquieting terms, and creeping shifts in collective knowledge, while avian lives have been reworked through the spectacle of plastic exposure, the horror of avian flu, and their role as barometers of environmental change. Caught between futility’s capacity to both enliven and flatten, the paper examines what it feels like for those working with seabirds to live with and work through impending dread and the consequences for everyday life, environmental attunement and labours of care.
Helen F. Wilson is an Associate Professor in Human Geography at Durham University. Her research explores the politics of lived difference, and she has published widely on the geographies of encounter, urban life, and contested forms of coexistence that cut across race, culture, and species. She is an editor of Social and Cultural Geography and a member of the Marie Skłodowska-Curie European training network ‘Solidarity in Diversity’. Her current research concerns the cultures and contestations that surround urban seabird colonies in the UK and Norway. Her latest book Robin is published by Reaktion (2022).