Physics informs us that relativity exists between everything in the universe. Flows of information travel in all possible directions by wave and particle, force and probability. So it is the same for LiFE on Earth. Biology informs us that LiFE is alive with flows of information within and between cells, and between beings, using a plethora of processes. It happens between generations.
At continua of scales of magnitude and frequency, language, generated as bundles of recognisable, absorbable energy, moves back and forth between humans through multimedia and space-time. Our epoch-making physiology of speech and sign, sight, sound, and touch (for example, Braille), is transmitted between biological senses and brains, and we have adopted all kinds of technologies to enhance and collate. There may be exquisite nature-close forms of language that have been lost to the vast entropy of the universe. If we stop to think about it, these systems, in their vast total forms, are awe-inspiring and beautiful.
No matter the transmission device–biological, physical, chemical, technological, or a combination of either or all–we come to absorb and understand words in repetitive patterns and as sensory shortcuts to meaning. And we can do this from a relatively young age if given the chance. But, as in evolution itself, language mutates, evolves, and semantically shifts at many levels between the myriad of organisational groupings and moments of usage.
In meaning, we absorb, process, and act – cause/effect/repeat. We fuse our memories and emotions with language in positive and negative ways, and we shrink, reject, or propel different values expressed through ethics that we apply from this kind of embodiment. We are beings of bias, searching for patterns for survival whether or not they are before us. Sometimes we resort to making them up. And language-as-pattern can either satiate this evolved urge and settle our anxieties, or motivate and catalyse change towards new goals. Words can be acts of persuasion and confusion, and sometimes the perpetuation of misinterpretation can even help individuals or groups to achieve certain goals.
All things are relative, and the human species has an almost unlimited potential for linguistic, cultural, mental, and physiological differences. Diversity, like LiFE, is good; covers all the bases in a dynamic world but even changes in mood may impact perception, as may microbiomes affecting the gut-brain axis, or the specific place or trajectory we find ourselves within (or without) the biosphere–high in the mountains, down deep in a cave, on the ISS. Again, as a social species, who we are with matters, and across language barriers, and via our antennae-like constructions of space-time– (more often than not) to human scale.
Wittgenstein says you and I together may perceive a “beetle-in-a-box” placed before us slightly differently. We may both take for granted a mutual familiarity and imagine that the experience is exactly the same for each of us. But that might be false. Our uniqueness of embodiment, or consciousness, may interfere with the communication of the exact inner experience. How do you perceive the “idea” of an organic, complex living being if I say to you that they are “trapped” in this geometric block of space-time? “Trapped” to kill, or rescue and release? What else is going on in your imagination? What is the box made of? Could it be toxic? Try articulating both what you simply observe and what you feel, through words. Would there be any knock-on effects of any difference in articulating our perceptions? How do we now feel about each other? Should we try to shift our view to match each other, to lie, or is that wrong? Would a difference magnify as the story is passed onwards?
Interpret or change the meaning of particular words in any significant way, and as a social species with a strong evolved tendency for evaluating, if more people begin to imagine one thing over another, we are more susceptible to follow. Are “beetles” good or bad? For whom, what? There is power in the amplification and there are consequences. Cultural expression is influential and encourages feedback loops and paradigm shifts, and social guides or regulatory political policies emerge with their own set of consequences.
Economy, zoenem, ilesariany.
I have been making a purely unscientific note of the frequency of the use of the words “economy” and “economics” on BBC News. I’m sure language AIs could provide a more accurate representation of the data, but the sum of the everyday use of “the economy” seems gargantuan, with a gravity generated almost as big as a Black Hole. The audience is bound to be effected/affected. The words, as a packet of information, are passed between a certain narrow set of people and mass audiences and are therefore highly influential in society. The same goes for “Economics” although seemingly in the context of experts discussing “it.” I noticed “it” is almost always described as “THE Economy”, with a definite article defining it as one particular thing, as if there is no other kind. The journalists and editors refer to “it” and barely question what kind of economy “it” is. “It” is objectified as if it is an unstoppable growth machine shapen intermittently by the chaos of external forces. A hierarchy of values is taken for granted. There is no mention of how this hierarchy is organised (with the exception of GDP and capital growth or recession), and how a different order may direct action by way of conscious change.
Over human history, there have been many different systems of production and exchange. British journalists don’t see it as their job to set “the economy” or “the UK economy” in the context of this very rich history, nor refer to “it” as any kind of choice, especially now as Conservatives and Labour are so similar in outlook. The BBC itself justifies its own existence by its role in growth rates.
They make comparisons with “the” economies of other nation-states–mainly the US & China– and, of course, “the global” economy. In that sense, we are perpetually reminded that we are running at maximum VO2 in a global competitive race, with status reports issued each year issued from the World Economic Forum. It’s exhausting and, in terms of embodiment, traumatic for too many, human and teresapien alike. The critical distraction of survival within this elitist constructed process means very few are able to even think about it, let alone feel enabled to change it.*
Formal definitions of the word “economy” vary, but we may say it is generally the rationalisation of anthropocentric efficiency of resources, goods, services, and labour. Its etymology seems (anthropocentrically) clear, stemming mainly from the Greek oikonomia meaning household management, or thrift. The modern political sense of the word, in English, has seemingly developed only in the last three or four centuries and corresponds with (brutal) Colonialism and, more recently, its ignominious legacy of corporate Globalism (call it neoliberalism).
An economy is now more of a political value system of exchange with variable parameters that are designed by an elite– some may say more of an art. At a macro scale, there’s an obvious time lag between cause and effect. I remember my sixth-form economics class one Autumn, and how we were very excited–and then quickly horrified–by a new computer macro-economic modelling system. We could play with inputting new data to the variables, and in multiple combinations, and could quickly see the predicted consequences for a hypothetical human population, which were usually devastating. Stop-Go! It struck me then how narrow those choices were because they were based on a narrow set of values leading to “growth of GDP”.
There have been many systems with many variables and different goals in human history, generally broken down into taxa (as per huma-usual), such as traditional**, command, centrally planned, market, and mixed. Britain’s 19th-century laissez-faire fuelled Empire caused an inordinate amount of suffering within our national boundaries and beyond, and the social kickback can be broadly traced to that suffering – disease outbreaks, mass-fatalities in expanding industries, oppression – leading rebellions, uprisings, strikes, independence movements, and new labour laws, and then in the post-war periods of the 20thC Britain the introduction of a Welfare State and the NHS. Those very safety nets, even within a capitalist system, are now under significant attack by the extreme free marketeers in power, as are the small strides made in the protection of nature, including our atmosphere (the correlation is clear).
In my usual way, I am looking for moments in the cycles of cause/effect to highlight or tweak them in the hope of spurring more thought towards real care for Life as our central ethic. As we are human, and we use language, and I have learned the power of words as small acts to effect big acts, I see the overall repetitive use of the words “the economy” as a negative feedback loop. This is because, I suggest, their centrifugal mass of meaning has changed, in the context of GDP and capital growth, plus inequitable distribution, at the expense of vast numbers of vulnerable people and our interconnected biosphere. And I now think the words are beyond retrieval in our market-saturated culture. “The economy’ as equivalent to neoliberal growth is, of course, simply a hypothesis and remains unproven. Again, I would love someone to test it. But I think it is such an important problem that it’s worth forging alternative offerings now: words that may just shift the centrifugal mass of meaning towards wellbeing and the cycles of LiFE as central to developing new systems of production and distribution, and indisputably built into their etymology.
ilesariany (il-es-arian-ee) ~ from proto-celtic ~ to silver (to fund) wellbeing.
zoenem (zo-ee-nem) ~ zoe from Greek for “the cycles of life” and nem from proto-indo-european for “to give, to take“.
Caring, more so as fluministic devotion, is a precious process concerning an equitable flourishing of all possible living beings of our biosphere, not just an object like a house built for humans alone. Perhaps it was inevitable that I offer alternatives because the etymology of “economy” stems from an intensely exclusive, anthropocentric, and eurocentric value set sadly carried forward for at least the last 3000 years.
Staring at the mycelium-split quarry face, I see you, rosy woodlouse, gliding across the Mocktree lime. Lightning streaks across the ridge above the wild ash giants, phasing all, and we wait stock-still, just for a moment, drenched in white light. Blinded by the crystal mural on the old, hot, sea bed like a rainbow, rain plunges around our antennae in a wet bomb. So we hide in the fault lines of this shot-blasted corner hewn by labouring men buried in the village churchyard. Ancient Silurian reef sands once storm-washed into our bumping fissure from the closing Iapetus 430 million years behind us, and again just like us. And in the quiet, in the darkness, we can taste primordial life a billion years old, touch the symbiotic mother-daughter cells, and feel the broken trilobites, our very own ancestors, calcified into stone-memory as perfection of extinction.
We smell the water honing vertically, as if we are magnetised to rods, to form our own unique streak along the deepest roots of those toppling giants, roots now lashing about and down to hold on to life itself. The streak - pulled, cool glass - we spill over the edge, the Wenlockian roseate coral edge, and we flow flush with all the genes into the sump where farm and road junk was dragged out a few years back. Dainty oxalis now grow out of the bog beside a rising pool - is where the black Norman fallow come to drink; see all their hoof prints and ticks, and where the overspill leaks through the old kiln walls and across an A4113 slope that freezes rough in winter. Waves of flat sheets, we creep through roadkill pheasants, squeeze through rubber tyre treads, until we soak the road-salt into a sheep valley above the Saxon ghost kings of Kinton. Magnets once more, we attract the bound-water into a now-nameless brook, and gush through a concrete culvert built cut-cost by volume house builders.
Life-water! It is devotion, this risk we take. Flow on to the Teme, the Severn, the Severn Sea, to the Irish and away to the Atlantic, to those big volatile skies rushing back to Mocktree.
A short passage from "Rivering," a work in progress, photos by me.
I’m very happy to inform readers that a Chapter introducing my neologism symbioethics has been published in a new anthology by Tirant lo Blanch, Valencia, Spain. I begin by setting the word within the general canon of environmental ethics or ecophilosophy, and then I call for more research into areas of symbiosis and symphysica as a form of welldoing for wellbeing.
I hope to open up hearts and minds to the basic, natural “symial” and fluministic processes that sustain life in abundance and diversity, and I ask all to apply this understanding in areas including, but also beyond, conservation, not least in language and art, other cultural forms of communication, but also spanning education to peace studies, architecture to space exploration, artificial intelligence to issues of planetary “One Health”, genetics, and more.
The work sits with an international and trans-disciplinary group of highly esteemed researchers and writers from the world of Ecological Humanities, Social Sciences, Economics, and Cultural Studies, with an editorial emphasis on togetherness, anti-anthropocentrism, equity, and eco-socialism. So I am seriously honoured to have been invited to participate! I offer my sincere thanks to the publishers, editors, and fellow contributors for this wonderfully positive, thought-provoking collaboration. The biosphere is desperate for more positive action!
Last but not least, many thanks and abundant love to my daughter Gracie who, having just turned 18, translated a difficult piece during a complicated time last year (just after my breast cancer diagnosis and treatment), under the watchful guidance of the great and compassionate Dr Jorge Riechmann, whose own marvellous book Simbioética was also published last year. I also recommend this book wholeheartedly, and I am extremely grateful to him for his support.
I offer alnasense as the sum of all physical senses of all living beings on Earth at any one moment in time.
In science, the word multimodality is used when describing the combined physical senses that lead to a mental interpretation and an overall cognition of external stimuli. I offer anthrosense as an alternative. Feelings and emotions then follow – sensibility.
Alna ~ from Proto-Germanic alnaz meaning all.
Anthro ~ from Latin anthropos meaning human or man.
Sense ~ from Latin present participle of sentire “to feel.” Interestingly, according to etymonline.com, the biological noun sense was only introduced to the english vocabulary in the 1520s AD.
In honour of the work of Joy Bear and Richard Thomas, who coined the word petrichor in 1964 to describe the aroma earth emits when rain falls*, I offer potamichor.
ποτάμι Potámi ~ greek ~ river.
Ichor ~ The sacred blood of the Greek Gods.
Potamichor ~ a familiar odour of rivers.
Dimethyl sulfide**, along with other elements and biochemicals, offer the familar and pungent sulphurous odour of sea spray, an important moment of the sulphur/sulfur cycle that aids protein, vitamin and hormone building – I’ll call the smell thalassicor (sea/blood of the gods).
And in the same vein, estuaries and saltmarshes create ekvolichor (estuary/blood of the gods); lakes give off limnichor; ponds – limnoulichor: swamps and bog – telmichor.
Potamichor is complex, with varying cocktails of minerals, biochemicals and olifactory matter bound to be unique to the continuums of river-place given geological, meteorological, climatic, symbiological, microbial (including respiration), ecological and anthropological (extrinsic/intrinsic impacts).
With complexity in matter and directionality, and in a constant state of flux, salmonids, lampreys, twait shad and sturgeon know more than we ever could about potamichor. They smell their particular birth-streams miles out to sea, and without the use of material and energy-greedy tools. Perhaps migratory birds use these cues to navigate too, high up in the atmosphere. And more? Imagine.
** Shemi, A., Alcolombri, U., Schatz, D. et al. Dimethyl sulfide mediates microbial predator–prey interactions between zooplankton and algae in the ocean. Nat Microbiol 6, 1357–1366 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41564-021-00971-3
A wilder patch of vegetation sandwiched between two commercial orchard barns, seen through a glassless window. Photo by me.
The following essay was submitted to the editors of the Rewilding Handbook, but I was unhappy with the extreme and unnecessarily negative comments by certain peer reviewers on my brief critiques of British and, especially, privatised rewilding schemes. At the final fence, it was suggested that I completely re-write using another style in order to placate the academics in question, and I would not. None-the-less, I offer the original essay here.
TITLE: Fluminism and Rewilding: Introducing Locacede
AUTHOR: Ginny Battson
Consciousness and Imagination
I am sitting by the confluence between the Rivers Wye and Lugg, Herefordshire, taking in the air just above the water as do the mallards and the chub. At the same time, I lament a bad dose of algae on the rocky shore. Neglect and abuse of both rivers, all the way from the Cambrians and the Radnorshire Hills, has led to what can only be described as gloop, eukaryotic cells drunk on heavy nutrient loads, smothering the delicate life that would otherwise be foundational to the temperate, lotic ecosystem here where the rivers meet. Upstream to the West, there is Hereford itself, a market town sliced through the middle by the Wye, a gathering of people and bridges that is a meld of traditional agriculture, industrialisation of food and drink, tourism, and the military. Everything about the Anthropocene that is causing distress in the living world, the techno-junk, the radionuclides, oil, greenhouse gases, acid rain, human and farm animal sewage and ammonia, PCBs, fertilisers, and plastics, is pouring down these channels, building at the confluences. All the while, river life has been trying to survive against that colossal force. The Anthropocene is winning and life is generally losing. Something has to be done.
Those beautifully evolved wilder lives down there in and around the water, including the ones we can’t see or sense without electron microscopes or other high-powered technologies, and every living being in the wider catch of the river’s catchment, has an inherent, intrinsic worth, a value beyond anything we can place upon it. Interconnectedness makes life the miraculous incident in space/time that it is, an ongoing process lasting billions of years. Humans are young to it and we keep breaking those connections, White European-ness, the youngest and most naïve of all.
Conservationists and preservationists alike do sense and realise the damage. It’s a pain carried like an open wound. We want to protect life and facilitate the most natural carbon and nitrogen cycles possible. The most effective way, as in nature, is a full range of knowing and belonging that harms less, joining at the confluences to usher in something bigger than the sum of ourselves. Rewilders have come a distance this last decade to show us the potential vitality of preservation at a continental scale; its effect is intercontinental. It’s still early days, and there have been mistakes and omissions, but this is a process continuum, like everything else of great worth.
Outfalls from oversubscribed sewage works spew into the river on very rainy days just downstream from where I am. Life struggles to flow in an era of Property and Rights, where all that we presume to own and accumulate is measured in pounds, dollars, and every other currency invented. But the open sky, the vast oceans, the rivers, forests, grasslands, bogs, the soils, the subterranean wellsprings, ancient ecologies of which we still know so little, have the highest values for what life is truly all about. The source of everything that is meaningful to humans is also meaningful to all life. We are all together in a beautiful and spectacular continuum. What goes on up-top impacts what goes on down below, and everything in between meets this same continuum, just as in the confluences of the Wye, the rains that fall, the estuaries into the Severn and the Severn Sea, and onwards.
Of course, humans are nature too! Some are more conscious of ecological reality than others. The people responsible for those concrete walls and sewer outfalls, perhaps less so. I celebrate the ones with real compassion and respect for all life, our brightest lights. But to bring in the leviathan scale of change necessary in a time of ecological and climatic emergency means a vast shift in consciousness, a cultural shift swifter, at least, than the pandemic that was and still is industrial globalisation and economic growth. Our one shared, complex and exquisite biosphere definitively requires the deepest rewilding of human consciousness and imagination; an openness to, and reverence for, the fullest array of ecological processes. It is more than simply survival.
Fluminism and Rewilding
Here, I offer my own ecophilosophy Fluminism as a way of perceiving nature as flow, our place within, a nurturing of those deeper forms of consciousness and imagination, and agency as a powerful form of love via devotion. Further, I introduce the neologism “locacede” as a voluntary gift of space and time to this cause.
Fluminism recognises symbiotic flows in multiple directions, the processes of the biosphere that sustain life for all to flourish. It also requires consciousness and imagination to engage in perceiving the potential relatedness: the complexity is endless, and the minutiae are beautiful. Fluminists accept in fullness that we are a part of, and belong in, the flow of all life ~ I call this symnexia. By understanding that we belong, we are enabled to protect and proliferate those processes, even those unseen, towards a flourishing of abundance and diversity ~ and I call this praximund (process world).
We step into the flow with devotion because this is life at its best and most meaningful. Wherever and whenever we intervene (as is our nature) it is an expression of love and in no way confined to the human realm. In this understanding, prejudice fades away, there’s no exclusivity, no social or ecological segregation. At best, it really is unconditional love, a devotion, even in death (an ecological death). All is flow, so let it be a life-enhancing flow.
Critically, Fluminists may also consent not to overburden, and not to interfere too much in wild processes. Where possible, this can be done with generosity, at least, in time and place given over to all that is essentially wild. Love, I contend, is a choice, something created, and very much a doing word. Ecological free reign, at scale, whilst not excluding other Fluministic forms of belonging/doing in order for humans to thrive, offers huge and valuable hope. In caring for and protecting life processes and relationships, and living daily in that consciousness, we may resist the many unfolding catastrophes of the Anthropocene. Fluminism, in a sense, is a narrative of the dynamic interconnectedness of life, but also an ethic that befits life as deeply symbiotic in constant flow. Ending absolute human dominion is also to trust in ecological processes and relationships that nurture abundance and diversity.
Rewilding is a strong manifestation of Fluminism, a flow of wild, intrinsically valuable beings within a greater collective consciousness; a welldoing for the wellbeing of all life. A clear and essential call has been made to make the entire movement compassionate towards all the wild lives involved (Bekoff), and as Fluminists, this is extended towards all lives equally: Homo- and what I now call Teresapien life (non-human).
Proto-Indo-European, tere, meaning to cross over, pass through, overcome.
Latin, sapiēns, meaning discerning, wise, judicious.
Done well, it is an Ethic of Care (Gilligan), focused on what’s healing for specific places over longer ecologically sensitive periods of time, generations old and requiring patience.
Rewilding has been, so far, considered “Ecocentric,” (1) an exhibition of Deep Ecological values (Næss, et al), in contrast to the Anthropocentric or human-centric perception that all is good when it serves human interests. This holistic ethic first heralded in the 20th Century, places worth on the whole ecosystem, biome, or biosphere, rather than on the individuals that constitute the whole. The latter became known as Biocentrism (Taylor, and within Consequentialist frames, Attfield). I disagree with the main tenet of deep ecology that the whole, including non-organics, is worth more than the individual. And individuals are nothing without symbiotic relationships with many others. I have looked instead to resolve this tension between the whole and the individual through “process”. It is the processes, the relationships, the exchanges of matter and energy between life that generates more life, and therefore are worthy of the highest protection. This is the reason for the neologism, Fluminism.
Latin, flūmen, meaning river; genitive plural, flūminum, meaning ‘of rivers’.
[The genitive case is one that expresses possession or relation, equivalent to the English ‘of.’]
Latin, -ismus, meaning a system, philosophy, principle, or movement.
As an Ethic of Care, Fluminism looks at each place-case uniquely and, inherently, at people as nature, along with all other species. There is no hierarchy since each symbiotic species has as much of a role to play in processes as any other. The symbiotic ~ mutualistic and commensal ~ relationships between beings, as demonstrated by flows between mycelium networks and tree roots in the woodland floor (Simard) are clear evidence that cooperation, not competition, is conducive to successional processes. Further, Simard’s research on Mother Trees (2) demonstrates their acutely nurturing and caring nature: demonstrative love, care.
Fluminism as love
The word Biophilia was coined by Erich Fromm “the passionate love of life and of all that is alive” and was later adopted by American biologist E.O. Wilson in his work Biophilia (1984). He proposed a hypothesis that humans have an innate affiliation with nature and teresapien life, which is partly genetic. The work has been subject to critical review; nonetheless, it is influential in fields as wide-ranging as architectural design and mental health. The problem is obvious, however, in that greenhouse gas emissions, biodiversity loss, and depauperization of once-abundant ecosystems, are still occurring, regardless of scientific consensus on human causality and any innate love.
The American philosopher Martha Nussbaum refers to the structural role of the narrative in affecting emotions and, therefore, actions. Love is, to a great extent, a choice, a creative act, rather than something that is tracked down until it is found. Fluminism allows the chance of making that choice, creating and caring for that union. Even to the most analytical of intellectual human minds, thought, emotion/feeling, and action are inextricably linked. Our selves are not closed systems.
In biological or teleological responses, if we experience a strong positive emotion, we have the opportunity to become motivated to act in beneficial ways. Fluministic love, expressed and acted upon as a positive emotion, exists with the strongest potential to undo or heal critical planetary harms manifesting across the globe. There may never be a better moment for Fluministic love to be embraced as an ethical force.
Love may still be regarded with deep scepticism in terms of a general emotion beyond religious norms, but love as an ethic ~ re-shaping values, binding rationality, emotion, and action together ~ may resist globalised, inegalitarian divides and the circumscription of values. I see direct correlations with the interconnectedness of all life in mutual benefits and symbiotic relations. It is time for a change in the climate of human thought, for a supersession of the axiological trinity of Cartesian rationalism, Locke’s assertions on property Rights, and Adam Smith’s laissez-faire economics.
My difficulty is in convincing others that any ethic may be shared by the more-than-human world; how can I prove other species and even the interconnectedness holds the consciousness necessary for any kind of value or ethic? I look to the word “devotion” and its meaning and bear witness to it as a critical and logical phenomenon in all ecological processes. Look closely at the stunning nature of mutualistic symbiosis in lichen, for instance, or the Mother Trees, or the process of pollination between a fly and a flower. Feel the vast devotion of succession, nurturing and blood kinships, granivory, and detrivory. The list is immense, as immense and devoted as evolution itself.
These would surely be fascinating times if all wasn’t so vastly concerning and I think we need to be careful with Western ideas of ‘wild’ represented through Law, Economics and Political Parliaments. My focus is on space-time, the core ecologies in places over time, some of which (certainly not all), largely exclude humans in the everydayness of their operations. In other words, an agreed sacred, a consciousness, real and imagined, motivates us to protect with the full force of our love for ecological processes. It is a different way of seeing, feeling, and doing: a way of respect and reverence towards life within the flows of all life, though not in any tight religious sense. It is in the nurturing and culture of respect through enlightenment, or Flumilightenment, education, celebration, and importantly, responsibility (Oren Lyons).
It’s actually empowering, and a mind-body-spirit relief, to know that the flows of life are engaged strongly towards abundance and diversity just by doing what they have been doing since those first cells began to emerge from complex elemental centres 3.8 billion years ago. Likewise, the more this happens across the planet’s biosphere, including and likened to parallel and convergent evolutionary adaptation, the more resilient human life will be. This is a globally scaled symbiosis ~ exquisite and miraculous. It is the cooperative relationship, the mother-daughter, and most likely the origin of the eukaryote cell itself. Mitochondria, the daughter ~ as an endosymbiont bacteria ~ consumed and protected by the ancient prokaryote, the mother; a process called endosymbiosis, tested and coined by the great evolutionary biologist Lynn Margulis. Neither entity may have originally been related, but now exist in nurture-kinship as intimate and inspiring foster care: a kindship.
There should be no hierarchy here (all being flow), save purpose in being. Forces that sustain life are celebrated ~ the sun, the moon and the tides, gravity, mass, oxygen, carbon, and evolution itself. It’s a seemingly ever-exchangeable and complex shaping, where life shapes all interconnections, and where all interconnections shape life.
Locacede: a generosity
Our time, “our” being inclusive of all lives right now, is not for more human-centrism, nor boundless gardening, curating, or even stewardship. It is for endless human generosity towards all life in equal measure in that same space and time. It is for generosity towards those who are oppressed, homo and teresapien, and everything moves forward on creative love. There is no ending of civilisation here, but a widening of what the array of being “civilised” means; a deepening of a kind of universal global endemism, or adopted endemism in any place—andemism—(3) with the greatest respect and without appropriation and patronage.
Neither is it an abandonment of human community, craftsmanship, and agroecology, nor a distraction for the urgent need for justice and equity. It is a continental-scale reminder of our place within all. If done beautifully, it cannot be anthropocentrism, but a new belonging to something much bigger than we could ever be or imagine. Indigenous peoples with local knowledge and philosophy bring cherished, hard-won wisdom to that collective compassion and understanding. (Pierotti, Neidjie).
A flood of consciousness and understanding leads to feeling, real and imagined, of being at one with life in flows. The latter, if taken to the ends, may require a great dissolution of Property Rights, certainly a loca-cessation of dominion and absolute “power” over air, land and sea to wild beings, sincere and hugely generous. Perceiving land, sea and living beings not as “chattels” (Leopold), humans can collaborate consciously in the reciprocity of ecological exchange; a kind of spiritual exchange of gifts (Wall Kimmerer).
Latin, locus, meaning place; plural, loca, meaning places.
English, cede, meaning to yield, give up.
To locacede ~ to withdraw from a place, to directly decolonise humans from an ecological system.
To withdraw oneself or a dominant human community voluntarily from a flo-loca, thereby allowing teresapien processes to reclaim. To do so is based on the best information possible and by no force or coercion, instead with fluministic love. It is a symbioethic.
This is intended to replace the language of decolonisation, common parlance in the field ‘Environmental’ Ethics, thereby leaving that to remain clearly in the domain of colonialism with respect to human political and cultural Empire.
The physical, ecological case for Rewilding (Soulè, Foreman, et al) stands as one strong route to the integrity of natural systems by providing scaled-up, core, intersecting and diverse planes for dynamic teresapien life, and without heavy human interruption. Success, however, relies on cooperation with local people, so it cannot simply be a blunt imposition as a scientific conservation tool.
Rewilding is a preservationist strategy, a radical one too, in the face of such huge losses as to be viewed as an ongoing global extinction event. Some find it too radical, detaching from the human-as-mammal reality that we are part of nature not exclusive of and to it, though restraint is as wild as any urge to intervene. But the result is the unmitigated growth of the ecological community, of which humans may remain included when in peaceful modes of existence. Until now, it’s been almost all shout. When all is abundant once more, humans as ecological consumers will choose to participate respectfully and with gratitude (Wall Kimmerer) in those ecosystems, with a lighter touch and not the hammer hand. Sometimes, where there are glaring species-as-fluminists gaps in those beautiful, dynamic processes, predators and prey alike ~ the beavers, the mountain lions, or the auroch long extinct, or even the wild red raspberry ~ species are re-introduced to special places, or surrogates let free instead. So long as they are cared for, remain free from human persecution, and have abundant food and water, why not? Emancipation is never limited to the human experience. These beings, and their symbiotic microbiomes, may not have the choice to be born, nor where they are liberated, but liberated they are from this point on, engaging in flows of life towards flourishing.
Scientists speak of ecological “community”, and rightly so. Without community, there are no opportunities for interactions. But it is these interactions, sometimes exquisitely delicate, at other times blunt and seemingly brutal, that bring life to the next plain, mountain, ocean, or river flow. These can never really be self-willed, since the will to flourish is never of the self, but of community, and community can never be individual. These are community-willed flo-locas, the music and dance that makes everything alive, from the smallest microbial symbiosis to the magnificent blue whale caring for her young.
It’s important to look at, and attend to, the causes for that general lack of human consciousness and imagination of “wild” in order to provide depth and longevity to the concept of Rewilding, amongst other methods, necessary to turn things around. Perhaps, by taking the first tentative steps to liberate suppressed ecological interconnectedness in core places, that crucial consciousness and imagination can expand towards a point of no return. Critically, I also advocate egalitarian ecoliteracy (Orr, Capra), from cradle to grave, a deliberate and sensitive pedagogy adapted to place, for understanding life systems and where humans fit among them. Essential too, however, is the flattening of steep hierarchies of power that will continue to arrest and oppress all if not dealt with, the rejection of economic growth (Daly), as is the validation of some of the older ways of knowing and doing that have been largely lost from living memory. Critically, forming enduring emotional bonds ~ an intimacy ~ with all inherently valuable species in interconnected flows on Earth will equate with progress in recouping the terrible losses within our one shared biosphere.
The Anthropocene (Crutzen) describes a geological era of human dominion, climate change, species extinction, and a stark depauperization of complex ecological processes. Evidence is now indelibly being laid down in the rock record in the form of biochemical signals, techno-fossils, and radionuclides. The debate continues as to the crucial timing of this shift in ecological power towards Homo sapiens, but there’s no doubt that in the last ten thousand years or so since the last Ice Age, a series of changes in human behaviours, sometimes in quick steps, have led to a deeply concerning existential crisis.
Particularly over the last one thousand years, accelerated by the Industrial Revolution, Colonialism, and the globalisation of technology, there have been large shifts in power from local communities to a minority elite with the agency over greater numbers. Expansionism has abused indigenous peoples and wildlife living in relative harmony, for the sake of accumulating material wealth for the oppressors. Indigenous peoples have been divided, sold up, swallowed up, or extinguished by egoist intentions on nation-building, exploitation, and extreme forms of capitalism. The ethics and values of these ancient ways of knowing have been purposefully derogated in order to maintain control, going so far as to kill off many of the intimate nature-nurturing cultures, languages and strategies that sustain life.
Even the definitions of English words have been pitched to reflect a dominant culture rejecting the very notion of wildness as being the beautiful thing that it is. Formal dictionaries describe wild and wildness primarily as qualities of being uncontrolled, violent, or extreme (Cambridge Dictionary, et al). Language and meaning shape humans in all kinds of ways, and perhaps any new consciousness begins by a greater understanding of that reality.
More, in the red mists of a celebration of competition stemming from British Victorian Social Darwinism (Spencer, et al), where it is immorally accepted that there are more losers than winners, the core reality of humans as simply a part of the magnificence of nature is almost forgotten, and intrinsic values of all living beings are subjugated to a bleak maximum utility for human use. We know extinction events have happened before. We know the kinds of triggers, and we know many of the kinds of local-global consequences, again through paleo-ontological studies. Yet still, the processes of human actions perpetuating that state is continuing in a series of consumptive, relentless, sometimes compulsive acts. They are instigated and carried out to the maximum by an inequitable human population, and the human condition right now is subject to vast imbalances of power.
A surrender of lands back to indigenous peoples must now happen, but also a great giving back to our fellow symlings (beings and their symbiotic microbiomes). Things are really that grave; the scale of the crisis is the size of Earth, so the scale of connectivity and movement required given climate change, and the need for egalitarian inclusivity must also be that size. How will it be possible to re-instate the essence of humanity as an inescapable part of base nature, the thick crust of all that is alive? Rewilding plays one critical part. Passive and active interventions are now way overdue on a r-evolution in understanding natural systems and where humans fit intimately into them. Industrial and technical eras have spiked, likened to, and evidenced as a major pandemic, and with extrinsic or utility values inescapably monetised, in correspondence with a crisis in the human imagination.
Easing the tensions
Opposition to “Rewilding” include a fundamental reluctance to relinquish human agency, industrial capitalist interests in land as a commodity, and pastoral systems of land stewardship, in favour of ecological free reign.
The Rewilding Thematic Group, IUCN, however, has produced heads of terms for the Commission of Ecosystem Management, surveying and agreeing on criteria for international advocates of Rewilding. Critically, it includes a pre-requisite of local human consent, participation, and reciprocal reverence for communities in the designation and care of Rewilded places. This must be lived and breathed by all who advocate the cause. No wonder there is a real fear that powerful, rich people are taking control of land when land governance tends to equal power. Every move to acquire land is seen as an effort to wipe out family traditions and/or indigenous cultures. Monied philanthropists can buy out thousands of hectares of land in order to impose power, even if it is conducive to a liberation of wild. American philanthropists in South America, for example, have bought lands to Rewild and then eventually returned to the State as “commons”. The British scene [aka headlines] is dominated by the story of a private farm, that is content to sell Rewilding as the enhancement of property value in magazines such as that of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (4).
Sadly, neither Private nor State is “Commons”. Rewilding by White, wealthy humans only creates a vacuum of local participation in visualising and later experiencing wilder lands, and suffering due to continued inequality upon what land remains. Let us consider the cessation of land ownership to validate all that is truly wild. That will be hard, I understand, but contend that when Rewilding becomes a tool of oppression and injustice through human territorial structures, then it’s simply not Rewilding. It is a form of exclusive colonialism. Perhaps, in this sense, no true Rewilding schemes have yet happened.
As it was originally considered in the US, continental scale and connectivity are critical to Rewilding. Movement (ecological dynamism) particularly of large wild herbivores and their natural carnivorous predators, has been foundational. Here in the UK, Rewilding in its fullest sense is arguable, and I’ll contend here, for the above reasons, not yet been implemented. Whether the original concept can ever be applied to the UK is a legitimate question, given the tight hold over land by dominant power structures, Laws, banks, and property valuations. Perhaps this makes Rewilding ever more prescient, because of the significant act of generosity of place that will be required towards that end.
Rewilding: Big Mutualism
There is hope, however, because to Rewild is not to obliterate pastoralism or natural craftsmanship in adjoining places. These places are as important as those Rewilded, otherwise, there could be no mutuality.
Inside the Rewilding zones, a human relinquishment of power offers an opportunity to learn from much older species through observation, by emotional and spiritual connection in those deepest of flows, and to perpetuate rather than hinder evolutionary forces, and shared flourishing and abundance (Haraway). Outside, opportunities exist to celebrate the most natural ways of cultivation and human existence—food, water, shelter, medicine, and communication—yet remain protectors of the Rewilded, a new sacred, via Praximund. Climate change means we have to make some difficult choices. We cannot escape that which is already built in, though we are still in a position to avoid the worst. Human and teresapien life naturally moves away from climatic extremes, striving to keep in synchronicity with seasons. The direction of movement is from the equator out towards the poles and from low to high ground. Interconnected, Rewilded places offer enormous potential as refugia as well as migratory routes. Humans will be able to bear witness and respond. People of all spectrums are welcome as friends ~ a “kindship” of the concerned. Collaboration and consent, as well as an ethic of care for each unique place, are key.
A devotion to all life by those humans who live in proximity to Rewilded lands, skies and waters will always be a necessity, otherwise, these efforts will result in resentment, tension, conflict and failure. Rewilding advocates may provide a platform to nurture that love in multiple ways as Fluminists, through local education, art, stories, work, a very real sense of inclusion, and an open heart to naturally honour local or indigenous knowledge and practices. This is a skill, as much as listening. In exchange comes the wildness, of people and place.
Fluminism and Rewilding: river of the heart
Back to the confluence of the Wye and the Lugg, I peer into the water and ponder the great role this river should be playing in bringing carbon from the land and burying it at sea. I imagine a transformational episode to come in its long life, to a much wilder, almost unrecognisable, place.
In the future, perhaps, the confluence is part of a fully consented Rewilded zone travelling alongside the water from the central hills of Wales to the steep cliffs and wide tidal mouth south of Chepstow. Protected by Praximund, all manner of kinships reach deep into the flow. Shimmering springs and waterfalls up top (where wolves and big cats once more slake their thirst and satiate their hunger) bring oxygen and shade for aquatic life via Atlantic oak woodland (temperate rainforest dripping with mosses and bryophytes) to the life of the young streams and confluences. Beavers intervene in their most prolific and biodiverse ways, generating ponds, entire wetlands, and flourishing meadows in their creation and abandonment of dams. Down below, magnificent salmon, trout and sea lamprey run strong against gravity into the mouth of the river, bringing all their pelagic magnetism and minerality up into the hills to spawn and die. At the estuary, the rhythm of the Severn estuary sucks 4,136 km2 of the basin’s dazzling unpolluted organic matter dissolved into the Môr Hafren (the Severn Sea), coming to enrich vast honeycomb worms’ reefs in longshore drifts and sinking away into the long carbon cycle at the bottom of the ocean. In between, thick riparian zones, both sides of the water, bristle with the narratives and dialogues of a vast array of vegetal and animal beings. All hold back the land from slipping fast and furious into clear waters and an intricate rocky bed teaming with unstoppable life. Everyone, every flow, is joined in confluences across land and sea, even as far as Siberia and Africa, and to the rest of the world.
Fluminism is my ecophilosophy of ecology, relatedness, and love within dynamic flows. Science may describe every unit of power as equal to a unit of work divided by a unit of time, and Rewilding surely brings some of that power back to the forces upon which we are reliant rather than those that we ourselves try to re-create. That shift, when it is at its utmost primacy, must bring the human heart into alignment with what is most valuable of all. This is where Fluminism, as love, thrives. It must be generous, sometimes with a willingness to locacede. We came out of the wild, and to go back in is not a sign of coarseness and contempt for human development, but the fullest possible love for evolutionary processes.
My neologism of the day and an increasingly important aspect of human/human and human/nature relatedness during this Earth Crisis (Anthropocene), to change, and to outcomes, is prophesuum.
Prophesy – the verb – to say that you believe something will happen in the future (Cambridge) as opposed to Prophecy – the noun – a statement based on beliefs not necessarily facts or instruction by a divine source.
The verb and the noun were differentiated in the 18th Century (Etymology Online).
Uum – Latin past participle; having done, having had a feeling, having chosen a path.
Prophesuum – various psychological positions of humans and their social groups acknowledged on the optimism/realism/pessimism continuum. Judging those positions, individually and collectively, is also a matter for discussion.
Behind neurodiversity, there’s work yet to be done in the fields of neurology and psychology on the optimism/realism/pessimism continuum. We know it is complex and that it impacts personal well-being and outcomes. An industry has emerged in counselling change on the continuum (eg some aspects of CBT, ACT) but less research is available on exactly how much capacity for change on the continuum each of us has, the impacts of genetics/experience, culture, the microbiome (key), and collective implications.
As in neurodiversity, related or not, our various intersections on the prophesuum (and the conflicts it may generate) will contribute to Earth Crisis outcomes.
We are already bearing witness to anger between “solutionaries”, frustration and annoyance between those suffering more or less from Earth Crisis (inequity, LIFE, climate), and theprophesuum of the powerful is a huge influencer upon moral imaginations, changes and, therefore, outcomes. Inequity, but also, a general numbness to human diversity, strikes again.
There will be extremes – doomerism and pure faith in human techno-fixes, for instance. But if it is not a deliberately conscious activity, shouldn’t we all still be kind? Or are the bad consequences of these stances enough to keep justifying our anger? Recognition is a start. I ask for more discussion, research and insight from a diversity of cultures.
It IS complex. People can be optimistic and pessimistic across different aspects of life. But I think it’s time our movement valued the spectrum as meaningful, whether or not there is some flexibility for shifting along it (unlike neurodiversity, which is clearly structural, in a biological sense).
There’s no overall name for the continuum or spectrum, as far as I am aware, so I offer prophesuum. I ask all to pay attention and to try to assimilate what this also means in terms of public assertions, politics, daily struggles, and media communication. As ever, compassion for other states of prophesuum will surely help to resolve conflict, as frustrating as it may originally seem. Power and hierarchies still remain an eternal ethical quandary and critical touch paper, also in the fields of Justice and Rights.
There is a habit by most (not all) science-oriented academics and writers of analysing the present and simply adding external changes (temps, economics) to predict futures. In this way, they are missing out on the potential of shifting human values – a moral imagination deficit.
Moral, mood, mode, modern, medicine – linguistic PIE roots “med” to take appropriate measures, Sanskrit midiur – I judge. As opposed to manner, mandate, from PIE root “man” and “do” meaning hand to give – the hand that does – the habit.