Peat Bogs and Pwca Tribes.

Bogland, Hay Bluff to Waunfach. Photo by me.

Is it possible to forge a new kind of relationship with the ecological community we in English call, perhaps, unceremoniously, peat bog?

Here in cool Britannic islands, peat has been forming since the last Ice Age, when luminous green mosses took over the quagmire. Fibrous layers of arrested entropy are fuelled by the surfacing of a froth of bryophytes, metabolizing through an exchange of oxygen with carbon dioxide, sunshine for sugar, nutrients, bacteria, and plenty of water. As each generation and their symbiotic partners die down, the decay is slow but sure in locking in carbon. Like snow transforms to glaciers, the dead are pressed down by the weight of the living into an airless solidity. If locked under rocks for millions of years, this is the stuff of crude oil.

At a tender accumulation of just 1mm per year, the process is slower than slow. In the slow period of human evolution, cutting peat to burn and grow food seemed just a nibble around the edges. But now, in full Anthropomode, the extraction is leviathan; industrialized, packaged, and shipped in plastic wraps to a peak of ignorance.

Peat bogs, high and low across continents, are keystone ecosystems in the slowing of the flow of planetary carbon. The absorptions are remarkable, storing more than all other vegetation communities in the world, combined (IUCN). At 6% of the total anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere, their degradation has a profound effect on warming.

As with all living systems classified in English, the words “peat” and “bog” together seem somewhat inadequate in describing the exquisite symbiosis and delicate processes of interconnectedness in these places ~ the kind of life-love I call Fluminism. These processes, in the name of a tiny minority of humans earning a living, are now being destroyed like there’s no tomorrow; cut, ploughed, burned, dried, stolen, degraded, and eroded. The critical second law of thermodynamics in living systems, otherwise known as entropy, is unleashed. A steadier state of life-creating disequilibrium (Margulis/Lovelock) becomes a gaping hole of profound loss.

Sphagnum Moss. Photo by me.

If ever there was a time when we ought to value natural processes capable of locking millions of tons of carbon into the ground, it’s now.

The invaluable emerald and gold communities of mossy production, which required such a delicate intersection of topographic, geochemical, climatic, and biological variabilities to begin, are vanishing.

An increase in entropy accounts for the irreversibility of such natural processes, an asymmetry in states from past to future ~ and in some cases the changes are irreversible. Even the hoof-fall of a flock of sheep can sear through a peat bog, triggering expanding evaporation of moisture that will degrade this ancient semi-closed system.

Globally, human cultures have aligned these atmospheric places of slow carbon burial with ghostly mythologies, perhaps a subconscious, spiritual warning to keep our ancestors from ruining these critical ecosystems. They are deemed eerie, often misty by the nature of transpiration of wetlands as if belonging only to lost souls and fuzzy apparitions.

Partly responsible are the will-o’-the-wisps or the ignis fatuus (giddy flames), documented and told in stories by many different human cultures around the globe. The Welsh, for instance, traditionally described the light as Fairy Fire held in the hands of mischievous goblin-fairies or nature sprites (think of William Shakespeare’s Puck) named Pwca*, who would mesmerize and lure travellers off their paths, only to extinguish the flames and leave folk abandoned and utterly lost.

We modern folk of the Westernish have forsaken such myths in favour of science and concluded the oxidation of phosphine, diphosphine and methane can cause photon emissions that can also ignite on contact with oxygen in the air. If there are bubbles of methane about, these too can ignite, and all the myths and hocus pocus are burned up into the atmosphere along with reverence and fear.

I cannot seriously suggest that conjuring a new state of fear for the precious and vibrant matter (Jane Bennett) of peat bogs will save them. But maybe love, reverence and celebration could.

When all the most technical minds are searching for ways of trapping carbon from the atmosphere, it seems utterly foolish to ignore the sphagnum mosses and their partners as a true commonwealth in the slowing, dampening, and sequestration of dangerous climate change. Maybe we can begin by joining together to form a Union of Concerned Peat Bog Lovers, or The Great Sphagnum Mossites, the Emerald and Golds, or simply The Pwca Tribe, to write and tell stories about the magnificence of the processes involved, to create an annual Festival of learning near each place, and to take time to join in reverence, celebration and protection.

Suggestions welcome, as always.


*It is thought Shakespeare may have learned of local Welsh folklore from a friend Richard Price of the priory of Brecon. Could Cwm Pwca and the beautiful Clydach Gorge be the original setting for Midsummer’s Night’s Dream?

More on Praximund.

By W. Bulach – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=64587917 Photo – the mighty Kauri, one of the most efficient nitrogen process recyclers on Planet Earth. Click on the image for more information.

Fluminism brings together my thoughts over a number of years. I offer an alternative to Biocentrism (Taylor), Ecocentrism (Naess) and, importantly, Anthropocentrism (Passmore, et al).

To be a Fluminist is to recognise oneself viscerally as part of the interconnectedness between all beings ~ Symnexia (Sanguimund), and in this realisation, to act with love, respect and responsibility in protecting these interconnections, minimising the breaking of their flows, to find fluministic ways to proliferate and send new flows ~ Praximund.

The following is an extract from my dissertation, including narrative scholarship.

~~~

5.4 Praximund: Responsibility and the Sacred.

There are problems with the theory of Rights taking precedence over Responsibilities. Many indigenous people understand this. Rights are merely human constructs, legislatively fixed (when processes are not), but politically vulnerable and impressionable by further human culture/population dominion.

Natural processes and fluministic interconnections have evolved, are evolving. There exists intrinsic, self-willed, complex patterns across space and time. Free-willed, save for our excess. We participate, as part of nature, yes. But because of this excess of destructive behaviours, rivers, forests, mycelium and migration need more than ‘Rights’ afforded only by humans, and a minority of humans at that… for this too is dominion.

So I have a name for the responsibilities and an adherence expected. A unity of opposites ~ a natural law, but not a law. I call it Praximund (latin; process/Earth) the deepest possible respect for natural processes, and a fundamental requisite of fluministic action. Infringe only with negative consequences to oneself and all life, the biosphere, as we are all interconnected. There is honour and pride in celebration and ritual of it.

There’s credence in declaring ecological interconnections sacred as a route to the protection of life, a full sanctity of life (Kumar). Nurtured this way, perhaps, the sacred become inviolable. Constituent lives are liberated to evolve with a free-will, a flourish of nature’s effervescent, green fuse. More, by cultivating a collective reverence for the presence of a community of living beings ~ through narratives, ritual and rules ~ we may look and ‘see’ life in new ways, a wave of sanguimund spreading though each one of us, the wonder of interconnected life. There have been many before us using sacred words with similar meanings now lost, and I hope many after, with words yet to be created. All I ask that we think about creating our own sacred in and with the natural world (Milton, Bateson), building narratives and exercising rituals in what is of utmost meaning to ourselves and together. Then, defend from the profane. And that defense, in sanctity and in love, will need to be strong.

Narrative Scholarship.

Guarding the sacred is not limited to protection from human intrusion. Sometimes, the opposite is vital. Sometimes, the sacred is one’s presence or consciousness and the tending of ecosystem in a loving, fluministic way. Fenced-off zones around Chernobyl have led to non-human life returning in abundance. There is a sanctity in the absolute devotion of ecological networks of that place. But the absence of humans is not a pre-requisite of the sacred.

Churches may seem at their most holy when the bells toll loudly, when the stalls are heaving with parishioners singing hymns at the top of their voices. The sacred seems to exist somewhere in the union of the people in the nave, all facing east, a sense of reverence helped along by those clever architects placing windows in the clerestory to remind of God’s presence in beams of moted dust light.

The land can hold us with a similar sense of direction, commitment and devotion. And God need not be involved, unless he is simply love. A private moment, no less, can be the touch of grace, with such strength that it can change one’s perspective forever.

I lean over my Grandmother’s grave and remember her strength. Fused into my memory cells, she’d garden with such force as to create her own weather system. This memory seems sacred, but not her grave. I feel the difference in remembering I am her kin.

It may not be a surprise the reader that I feel the sacred most in perceiving those bristling interconnections in the living world, the living, quietly seen or unseen. A humble field maple will do it, with birds in the gnarly branches and fungi at the roots. Their Autumnal yellow glow takes my breath way and I am minded to sit for hours and just be present. It is a profound love, intense and moving.

A mother fox licking her young, a tender petal opening to a bee, these are all things bright and beautiful. Light is important to me, I have been to the darkest of dark. That the direct or diffused sunlight gives succour to life seems profound. I love the light around waterfalls. So do the mosses and the liverworts.

There are also the green rays at sunset, or during eclipses, the last and first moments of light bent and scattered through our thin atmosphere like moments of magic.

Hokianga

The sacred can also be a memory, an event marked at a place only by the truth-myths passed down through generations. From the eastern sunrise, I once arrived at the spectacular Hokianga Harbour, North Island, New Zealand, an area brimming with sacred Māori sites. Yellow dunes on the far side of the bay shone brightly sucked back into a baby-blue vacuum. An incoming tide from the Tasman sea swept the bay clean with crested wave upon wave, and variable oystercatchers flew low at blistering speed (I could just make out their uncanny calls).

I followed a sign to a look-out point high above the harbour entrance and sat on a low wooden bench. I felt an immediate essence of something profound here. I was positioned somewhere on the edge of it all, and it felt like sanctuary.

Later, I walked along nearby Omapere wharf and talked to a Māori man from the village who was fishing with a simple line and hook. I was just a tourist, yet he was so generous in conversation.

He told me his Māori oral tradition, that legendary Polynesian explorer, Kupe, of the Matahourua canoe, made first Aotearoa landfall and lived here. The story goes that he named it Te Puna i te ao marama ~ the spring of the world of light ~ until in his old age he decided to return to his island birthplace, Hawai- ki. The words he spoke as he left were, Hei konei ra i te puna i te ao marama, ka hoki nei ahau, e kore ano e hokianga-nui mai ~ this the spring of the world of light, I shall not come back here again ~ and so, granted Hokianga its name.

The vessel of the sacred contains a good measure of vulnerability. Maybe this is an essential tension that drives us to protect.

Great sacrilege occurred at Hokianga, long after Kupe’s departure, against the endemic and the Māori. The mighty kauri trees, like the blue whales of the world’s forests, were wrenched from inland Waipoua and floated down the river for milling and global export, mainly by the hands of Pakeha (non-natives). Unlike the Māori, who would take chosen trees with a reverence, for canoe- building, the Pakeha took nearly all.

And without the kauri, large parts of the forest died and many endemic species lost forever. What was left was turned over to dairy, and again those products exported globally from the Harbour. To destroy the interconnections between living things is to destroy the most sacred ~ life.

Another Pakeha, William Roy McGregor, professor of Zoology, successfully campaigned to end logging of the Waipoua Forest in 1952 and created the Waipoua Forest Sanctuary. The sanctuary is still weak from attack, with Kauri Die-back disease laying claim to regenerating forest, and climate change will be having its effect. Let’s hope this small part of a once vast, ancient forest recovers to it’s truest dynamic state of being, given full protection and time.

Unlike the great Kupe, perhaps, I’ll return to Hokianga again one day. Modern technology makes it easier for me, though I’ll have to watch those emissions (always some kind of price to make such returns). The harbour and surrounds are a wealth of flora and fauna and, until then, it will be the distant sounds of the oystercatchers, torea-pango, that will remain in my memory as symbol of the sacredness of that place. If I am quiet enough, I can still hear the sacred, right now in my head.

~~~~~~~

The story also told here Te Ahukaramū Charles Royal, First peoples in Māori tradition – Kupe, Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand.

~~~~~~~

For more on Māori reverence, customs, ritual and stories, including the mauri of the forest (the life-force) invested in objects and buried under important ecological places or tane trees, as acts of protection.

~~~~~~~

End note: Waipoua Forest was bought by the settler-colonialist Government from the local Te Roroa Māori in the 1870s for around £2000, no doubt putting them under immense pressure beforehand. Locals were disenfranchised from the receipts of logging, except to be employed in some of the most dangerous work. McGregor’s protected area was a legal entity under the Laws of the New Zealand Government, yet was suspended in the 1970’s for further logging. After yet another campaign, it was stopped. I wonder, if the practices of mauri “life-force” had been continued by all, and regularly, would this infringement have ever occurred?

~~~~~~~

 

 

Beavers are Fluminists.

Beavers are Fluminists. By Ginny Battson. First published by Zoomorphic October 9th 2017.

Spring 2005, and I peer through my living room window to check the weather. It’s looking good, the sun is out. My husband has left for a day’s work at UMaine Orono, so I lower my baby girl into her papoose and strap her in. We are through the fly screen door and out onto the road.

The residential lots of leafy Gilbert Street are studded with blue and red flags, remnants of last winter’s political war that saw Republican oilmen G.W. Bush and Dick Cheney take charge of the Whitehouse for a second term. With Ben-dog on a long leash, we follow the battle flags west, casting purple shadows ahead of us. We walk past classic-style weatherboard homes and gas guzzling SUVs slewn across hardstandings until we find the end of the road. Tarmac gives way to paper birch and alder and we greet the softer edge of the great American Eastern Deciduous Forest. It feels like a rite of passage.

In the human realm, I am entering The Orono Land Trust, a public/private non-profit organization, legally banding sections of post-logging and regenerating northern hardwood forest together for the purpose of wildlife protection and local enjoyment. This forest seems fairly tame compared to the great national parks of Maine like the Katahdin Woods or the rugged Mahoosuc Notch of the Appalachian Trail. But even here, surrounded by roads, including the Interstate 95, I have seen fresh black bear scratches oozing sap from bark. It’s not like entering the woods back home in Wales.

Elbows in, we slip-slide down a wet path to the Johnny Mack Brook where olive reflections of a newly unfurled canopy merge with black and silver melt water. Better still, this is the realm of Castor canadensis, the North American beaver, larger than their Eurasian counterpart, maybe up to 60lbs of large, brown rodent. And they dwell intensely here on the easy inclines of the Johnny Mack; signature gnawings, dams, lodges, mud ramps and woody debris in droves. I long for my baby to see a wet nose or a rippling flank in the stream. But they are largely nocturnal, and we’re a little late in the morning.

As First Nationers shaped the North American landscape by brush fire, up to some four hundred million beavers shaped it by water. But these eager river-keepers were almost obliterated in the 19th Century, not least by the huge British Hudson Bay Company. Armies of trappers were sent into the woods and onto the plains, with a blood-lust for warm pelts to make felt hats and hard cash. And in killing the beaver, the outlanders changed the very nature of the land, and wounded the culture of the indigenous peoples, in gun trade and disease. When only one hundred thousand beavers or so remained in Canadian territory, a new European fashion for silk hats ended the profit in beavers. Perhaps, if it were not for Grey Owl (Archie Belaney), and others who followed, ‘Ahmik’ would never have returned to its North American range and beyond. Yet, even today, beaver numbers are a fraction of what they used to be, with so much more habitat swallowed up by human development and agriculture. And still they are hunted and persecuted in some quarters.

I learn from rivers, as do the beavers. I spend time in and around them, observing and sensing. Two and a half thousand years ago, the ancient philosopher Heraclitus also wrote on the profound things he learned from rivers. In an age before science, he looked for guiding principles in nature. What he found in rivers was a permanence in a reality of apparent change. All is flux, a matrix of matter and movement. The river is an analogy for an elemental cosmos, yet materially effervescent. Rivers are also life systems ~ complex and dynamic.

Beavers, the river keepers, have evolved to be more than the sum of themselves. Beavers live in the life-flow, interrupt and send it in multiple directions. Known to ecologists as ‘keystone,’ First Nationers instead call them ‘sacred centres’ of the land. For they are whirling hubs of life-influence and life-confluence, integral to the flow just as mind cannot be separated from body. They are dam and bridge builders, storing water at times of plenty for times of drought. They sequester carbon by trapping it in fluvial muds that eventually become rich soils. They are coppicers; the trees they fell to feed upon and rear their young will regenerate, beaver-cuts catalyzing a diversity of plant and animal life. They are also wildlife protectors ~ during winter, woody debris left trapped behind dams are buried beneath deep snow, and provide shelter for a host of smaller mammals and reptiles during the bitter cold. And then, when the northern hemisphere tips nearer to the Sun, melt water form reservoirs and a rising water table, creating habitat for amphibians and a plethora of bird species, including waterfowl ~ wood duck and heron, migratory waders and passerines. New lentic deeps amongst woody debris provide fish fry safe passage to grow to adulthood. Majestic osprey take the adults. In lotic flows downstream, clouds of black fly larvae lay submerged, attached to substrate with silk, to emerge in spring and breed, then feed the bats that hunt on the wing above the beaver-cuts. The dams may eventually blow-out by flood, and the beavers will find new territory. Upstream, moose rear young on regenerating meadow grasses years after dams are abandoned. This really is rich habitat; the smell of river, wood and beaver is intoxicating.

If beavers could speak human, they may also say;

“Into the same rivers we step and do not step, we are and are not.” (Heraclitus Homericus B49a)

Heraclitus appeals to both human courage and sensibility ~ step into the rivers, into the cool and wet of rushing water, the flow of being. Just do it, and you shall be rewarded. We are agents of action. On the Johnny Mack, my little family and I look for beavers, as we smell the air and touch the cold waters of the stream. It’s life affirming.

I believe as we too are nature, we must recognize in ourselves a similar power for good, in that we may step into the flow, generating abundance and diversity within our one biosphere. But as with beavers, our impacts must be transient not permanent, of locale and the seasons. If we decide not to step into the flow, to remain without experience, then we deny ourselves the fullness of being. Our senses wake us to the world. Watch the beavers in their pure devotion to task, and you’ll understand.

More, step into the flow with that same devotion, and strengthen all life around us. We have exerted huge and irreversible pressures on this magnificent Earth, scavenging and parasitising by feeding from the produce of such sublime natural processes. We’ve broken ecological webs and warped the very climatic and nutrient cycles that sustain all. Nature responds to disturbance as evolutionary opportunity, but too much of a ‘hit’ and process may take hundreds of thousands of years to counter. The beaver and river exist now, intrinsically valuable, but, in union, a lesson for the human race.

Required is a critical mass of devotion, previously unknown in human history, as there are now more humans than ever before. Leaders still fixated with a ravenous desire for money and status need to be left behind. And part of this newly found devotion will also be to reduce our impacts, decolonizing just a little, for our animal-kin to flourish a little more.

Beavers are sometimes food for other species. Black bears and coyotes prey on adults. The spectacular Great Horned Owl will rear her young in an old great blue heron nest, and a beaver kit may well end up in their devoted beaks. The beavers’ sacrifice, unlike our own Western death, is more obviously complete. This devotion, the love for life and living, is a force without which there’d be no life. It is ancient ~ a form of love so powerful as to energise evolution. I imagine the story lies deep in the earliest records of life, somewhere, tucked away perhaps, in stromatolites, which supplied Earth with no less than oxygen itself. Colossal devotion must have existed in the face of all hostility and, as a metabolizing strength, within and between us now, and of all living beings into the future. As we move into increasingly turbulent times, the union of the beaver and the river is a devotion of incalculable value, a love, I suggest, worthy of the deepest respect.

Perhaps what also set Heraclitus apart from early Western predecessors was his view that the Logos, the principle of order and knowledge, is within us all. We are part of nature and subject to its fluidity. We are a unity of forces in flux. If we recognise our potential, we all morph into type. We can become beaver people, positively distributing and strengthening the flow of life beyond the sum of ourselves. I expect the Panawahpskek peoples of Maine and to the North always knew it. The patterns of life and cosmic order are dynamic, not uniform, the perfection of imperfection generating even more diversity.

So to my own eco-philosophy, that has riparian roots drawing sustenance from a small Maine river. It is one acknowledging both intrinsic value of all living beings, including humans, and their contribution to infinite and dynamic process. Existence and flow cannot be separated. I perceive flow, to and from all dimensions, including ones we are yet to fully comprehend. The complexity is endless, the minutiae beautiful. There are diatoms and microbes by the million in the Johnny Mack. They are a basic foundation of life, part of the long chains of living process across space and time, but we cannot see them with our eyes. Can we ever know everything? It need not matter. So, I introduce the word Fluminism: an interconnected narrative of a dynamic universe; there is flow to and from all dimensions, including ones we are yet to understand. The complexity is endless, the minutiae beautiful.

The next step, being a Fluminist, means ethical consequences of my actions are good, in that they are of parity with a biosphere conducive to the flourishing of intrinsically valuable, existential life. Beavers may disrupt hydrological flow for their basic needs, stalling it as it travels from mountains to ocean. But in doing so, they accelerate the distribution of flow in multiple and complex directions. A closed system opens. Entropy shifts to enthalpy and the consequences can be sensed, measured and celebrated across space-time. We, as agents, are able to protect and perpetuate the flow, coming from that same deep devotion, as in the beavers ~ beavers are Fluminists.

From the niche desires of flourishing individuals, beavers, engaging in what they do best, I see their agency as a distinct form of love ~ innate of themselves, through and to other living beings. From within to without, there is no separation. Love has had a tough time. It’s hounded as weak, ephemeral and sentimental. But truest love is also a doing word, a vital emotional signal to act on what matters most to us all. If one describes Fluminism, beyond an evolutionary, genetic biophilia and see it as an energetic force, not only towards our one biosphere, to non-human life, but towards each other. In consequence, we may see the kind of society forming envisioned by the political theorist, communalist and libertarian anarchist, Murray Bookchin. I will leave the political ecology largely aside for now, but Fluminism, I see as key relevance to shape a society un-reliant on the disconnection of state and citizen we see today. Instead, it grants empowerment of everyone via personal, local and communal responsibility for all life. Environmental ethics must now be fluministic (love/flows) to help unblock those barriers that are so un-beaverlike that they persist in depauperating, not enriching, the biosphere.

Fast forward to January 2017, and the Northeast Climate Science Center (NECSC) at the University of Massachusetts Amherst publish research predicting temperatures across the northeastern United States will increase much faster than the global average. The average annual temperature in both Maine and Vermont rose by 2.5 degrees, roughly double the average warming of the rest of the nation. The Paris Agreement on climate change aims to curb emissions in order to limit global averages increases by 2 degrees Celsius, but in Maine they will be reached about 20 years earlier, comparatively. The current elected President refuses to partake in the accord, so poor is his understanding of our biosphere. And so much for America First. The anti-fluminists have left a legacy of world chaos and a strange, paradoxical darkness looms where gas flares still burn. Trump’s election has been an unfathomable stamp of fatuity.

The further north, the bigger the climatic disparity. As Arctic sea-ice melts, the darker ocean warms by absorbing more sunlight, further melting ice and emitting heat to disrupt and stall the jet stream. This creates longer, more extreme weather events and shifts the geographical pattern of cold and warm air fronts. 2016 – 2017 has seen the highest winter temperatures on record in the Arctic Basin, with the least number of accumulated freezing days. No-one is entirely certain what comes next, especially as the global control of total emissions is still in some doubt. But more extreme weather events are predicted and the oceans are rising and thermally expanding much faster than expected. We are now witnessing rapid change. What was once Arctic tundra is now hosting early woodland succession, and increased humidity and precipitation in the form of snow means soils are warmer than would otherwise be, activating the microbes that break down carbon as it unlocks itself from melting permafrost. Whole biomes are on the move. Where willow saplings take root, the beavers will naturally follow. They are creating biodiverse wetlands in new terrain, whilst tundra species are increasingly marginalised. Observations are now recorded of beavers reaching as far north as the Babbage River on the coastal plains of the Beaufort Sea, Yukon Territory, never seen before in human memory.

Aquatic wetland is a major natural source of methane and nitrous oxide emissions into the atmosphere, and in beaver habitats, microbes will break down the organic matter trapped above their constructions. But in creating wetland and higher water tables, beavers are also preventing soil erosion, storing water during times of drought, and sequestering carbon-rich woody debris buried in boggy meadows by as much as 23% of total soils. Beavers have been busy at work for millennia under a relatively stable climate. It is human industrialisation, development and emissions that have caused the tipping points we see today. Biospheric flows have dampened to an alarming extent. Life on Earth is trying to adapt, of course, though so often blocked again by more soil sealing, more fragmentation of habitats and increased fires and floods.

Maine is deeply cold in winter, steel-frost and snow-bound, some nights temperatures dropping to way below -35 Celsius. But spring is short, maybe two or three weeks before breaking through to the sultry summers of the continental east, and ecological emanation happens in such a short period. Rising temperatures bring spring earlier ~ the further north one travels, the more extreme. And there are now serious phenological mismatches in delicately balanced food chains. So much so, the US National Park Service is now having to redefine management programmes and visitor calendars, such as citizen science counts of migratory raptors, and funding longer seasons in tackling invasive species. Back in 2004, the Republican Bush/Cheney partnership with Oil and Gas strengthened at the White House. Nearly $400 million was spent on lobbying federal government, and millions more were passed in donations to federal candidates and political action committees. The support received, by return, came in droves ~ tax breaks, environmental exemptions and deregulation, international facilitation and direct subsidies. We’ve seen a greater proportion of greenhouse gases emitted into the atmosphere as a consequence. Those oil men are culpable for disrupting the very essence of life on this Earth, dynamic process, the flow. But no-one claims responsibility.

A relatively large proportion of Maine’s species, 37%, are highly vulnerable to climate change, particularly plants, fungi, lichens and mammals. Alpine, high elevation forest, and peatland habitats are most at risk. Thankfully, the vertebrate species pool is dominated by adaptable generalists, and a high percentage of forest cover also offers resilience. But even in Maine, suitable areas for species and habitats moving from the southern New England and Mid-Atlantic states must now be accommodated, whilst planning partnerships formed with the neighbouring Canadian provinces for a similar northward movement.

Despite a laceration of roads and other human pressures, nearly a thousand acres of conservation easement have been connected by the OLT. Such conservation easements, “running with the land” in perpetuity, are a significant form of nature-protection in the US and are mapped at the National Conservation Easement Database. Certain property rights are voluntarily restricted for the purpose of nature conservation and sometimes in exchange for tax breaks. Specific objectives can be agreed by stakeholders and subdivision for human development is prevented. All the while, sustainable agriculture and forestry may continue, but emphasis veers towards shared benefits, for humans and non-humans alike. I was enlightened by the passion and generosity of those involved, the action of those who love life. The connectivity and place for species movement is vital to address the shortcomings of those who would ignore their own life support system and will not take responsibility for their actions. Scientists are mapping migration routes plus working to predict and map climate refugia zones (local anomalies in climate), providing hope for ailing ecosystems and some resilience for species. And universities, institutes and The National Parks Service are offering  land owners access to free advice, despite failed political leadership. There is hope. And there is love. To a great extent, this is evidence of Fluminism in action.

Later on that same spring day, in 2005, my daughter and I are again criss-crossing the OLT footpaths.We’ve seen porcupines very busy at dusk, with attack-tails ready to swipe and launch a fateful of quills should a fisher attack. Ben has suffered himself, more than once, each time ending in a trip to the vet in Veazie. So we’ve left him at home this time. From another little foot-bridge over the brook, serenaded by an ecophony of river, we gaze across the water and there are still no beavers willing to reveal themselves. I look deep into slit-vistas between lichen encrusted white pine and red spruce, glimpsing a luminous white tail of a white-tailed deer under hemlock. Before now, we’ve seen eastern coyotes, apparitional in dapple light. I know there are bobcats, but I never see them, but the chipmunks are a treat and my baby daughter smiles when they chatter angrily as we pass. We navigate north by fallen white pines, and other natural landmarks on the trail now stored in my memory. We’re on our way to Rampe’s Lot, a key part of the OLT.

The Rampe’s live a generous life working in public and private health care, and they are good to us. They love wild things and so contributed to the OLT with a good tract of regenerating forest. It was Nancy who first showed me the special vernal pools, liquid light mirroring the skies amidst the bryophytes, and the flutterings of re-introduced wild turkeys as they disappeared from view. Considering their small size, these wet depressions in the forest floor, left by blocks of melting ice abandoned during the grand retreat of ice-age glaciation, also host a huge array of species. Snow melts and lingers in these depressions for a while, often stained red with springtails. And because they don’t host fish, they are hotbeds for invertebrate life, particularly as breeding sites for amphibians like the blue-spotted salamander and wood frog. Soon the reptiles are drawn in. Then the wild turkeys and racoons will come. And so, up through the trophic cascade until those glorious great horned owls and bobcats come to prowl.

The state of Maine registers the vernal pools as Significant Wildlife Habitat zones, legally protecting them from destruction and development. Yet some landowners may not even realise the conservation significance of them on their land. Thanks to the dedication of academics like A.J. Calhoun and citizens like Nancy Rampe, knowledge sharing via community outreach informs better decision making at local government level. UMaine’s Department of Wildlife Ecology is contributing to the Vernal Pool Mapping and Assessment Program, locating sites and researching the importance of juvenile dispersal and habitat connectivity for successful amphibian adulthood. But with climate changing so rapidly, the vernal pools may well disappear. Increased winds, tree blowdown and the risk of forest fire all stage a real threat. Research by the State University of New York, Syracuse shows beavers may well be providing key wetland refugia for, at least, some of these species. As most wood frogs breed only once in their lifetimes, a prolonged drought resulting in no production from vernal pools may well necessitate recolonization by dispersers from beaver ponds. Spotted salamanders are longer-lived, breeding several times, lowering risk of local extinctions during drought. Further studies may well reveal closer ties but I expect the elders of the Penobscot Nation have an understanding of these patterns.

As we are seeing, it is no longer a question of conserving one species over another, the usual triage of charity towards wild non-human life. We need to protect the interconnectedness of all, and each one of us, with all our varied interests and lines of work, can participate. We need Fluminists, like Nancy and the researchers at Umaine, who love these species and habitats, and understand the dynamism of all the interconnections which constitute life. And we need them to mentor others. The flow is sent in multiple directions, with abundance and biodiversity in tow.

By example, allowing primary and secondary succession, along with the planting of indigenous vegetation, we can encourage life to flourish in individual yet interconnected self-willed patterns. To actively prevent by soil-sealing (e.g., concreting), is the opposite. We can assess empirically the abundance and biodiversity of our own practices, celebrate successes and learn from our mistakes. So many have forgotten the beauty of observing and participating in such local, natural processes. Human contentment and happiness may spring from living an interconnected and more coexistent life. Vitally, the cultivation of land for food will no longer be a threat, but an opportunity to nurture the dynamic flows of non-human life alongside what we do, like the sacred centres ~ the beavers. From shop keeping to health care provision, from clothes production to local planning, everyone can take part, or stand in for those who simply cannot through no fault of their own. Fluminism is egalitarian.

Long-term or permanent breaks in the flow are anti-Fluministic, and the accumulation of many breaks, or stops, becomes detrimental to the existence of life in the form of tipping points. Examples are tragically many, generated largely within the sphere of unsustainable human development, anthropogenic climate change, pesticide use, socio-political and economic doctrines promoting unlimited growth and inequality. However, there may be pauses in flow that remain Fluministic, in that they may appear to prevent flow, such as ‘natural disasters,’ but are only temporary or cyclical (e.g., volcanism), in time and space.

Fluministic love drives action from within to without and, no doubt, there are positive effects and affects that will return to the self. But it is the local communality where real strength is to be found, strengths expended in a multiplicity of ways across cultures, regions, terrestrial and oceanic biomes, in science and the humanities. Some may commune with a collective consciousness in all, a spiritual interconnection ~ Indra’s net in constant flux. And indigenous peoples with local, endemic knowledge and philosophy will bring much to collective understanding. Opportunities exist all over the world, in the critical formation of corridors and pathways that allow for continuous flow of species to survive, adapt and move, and in traditional and transformed practices such as permaculture, satoyama and satoumi. By placing Fluminism at the centre of decision-making, many new ways of sharing our biosphere viably with humans and non-humans may arise.

In the reductionist scientific world, and in an over-emphatic obsession with limiting cognitive bias, love has been rejected all too often as excessively romantic and sentimental. But science itself has evidentially recognised that moral judgments and ethical actions cannot be devoid of emotion. Rationality and emotion are evolutionarily conjoined, and with good purpose. Emotions need to be recognised in order to take action. To deny that the primary emotion of love exists is to deny its huge potential, a love for life, for our young, and their young, for a sense of place and life all around us. Eros lives, and thank goodness for that. Of course, there’s competition. And conflict. There is even death. But such antagonisms are no less parts of the interconnectedness of all, in the flows of the elements, of water, geology, relationships, companionship, lust, reproduction, time, tides, place, trophic cascades, air, dynamism, weather, music, biodiversity, universes, entropy and enthalpy.

There are many more fluministic species, mutualisms and cause-effect processes that offer us knowledge and hope as we aim to exit the Anthropocene epoch into the Symbiocene. The Pacific Salmon Forest is a beautiful example (true beauty shines in those dynamic interconnections). There are human Fluminists, like the Rampe’s, the people behind the Orono Land Trust, The Penobscot Nation, and those at the Department of Wildlife Ecology at UMaine. And community programmes like the Great Eastern Ranges Initiative of New South Wales and the work of the Kenya Land Conservation Trust ~ the contribution and responsibilities volunteered are Fluminism in action, the legalities being just one means to that end.

Back to the Maine woods, and it’s getting late. I’m a little bit edgy because the light is falling. As I hurry back with my baby over the bridge towards Gilbert, we hear the slap of a scaly, flat tail hitting the water ~ splash. I stop and turn us around to follow the sound. My eyes adjust to the watery scene. And there is the beaver, Fluminist, swimming, with a wet, brown head visible for a moment and shiny eyes, before diving beneath the inky reflections of a darkening sky. She’s warning others we are here. Though we’d never harm her, others might. I feel at peace knowing she is here, knowing she has a rich intrinsically valuable life, full of love for this world in the river she understands so intimately. I point her out to my baby who instinctively feels both the joy and excitement. Formative moments, for sure. There is so much yet to learn from Ahmik, Fluminist, and I walk us home full of awe and gratitude.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

 

 

Fluminism, creativity, and neologisms.

Lichens, by me.

As a Fluminist, I continue to challenge human chauvinism underpinning the Anthropocene; reductionism and homogeneity continue to catalyze schisms and death rather than unity and life.

I call for a purposeful expansion of the human moral imagination and creativity to help close the transilience gap, and my own work is a particular inquiry on love and language as agents of, and for, nurturing education and change inseparable from that richer imagination.

The word creative stems from proto-indo-european ker meaning to arise, to grow. I contend it must be part of the Great Turning (Macy), more the decay of economic growth and the rise of ecological growth. With an ecofeminist eye, and using my own body of work as “narrative scholarship,” I hope to actualize Deleuzian aims of creativity and practicality, opening a new opportunity of rhetorical ‘doing.’ (Miller)

All offers to help define the potential of a new era of life in natural accord, a life of organicism; the Symbiocene (Albrecht).

The word ecosystem itself is a human construct, an abstraction. In reality, there are no absolute boundaries within our one biosphere. The biosphere is the ecosystem (Margulis, Lovelock). The idea conveyed by ecosystem is that there are particular types of unities where different types of organisms persist in time and space. What is inside an ecosystem is internally related to all other things within that system (the holistic, ecocentric view of Naess ~ Deep ecology). Beyond Deep Ecology is an emergent symbiotic view of life (Haraway, Morton) that talks about “tentacles” and “entanglements”. Organisms have boundaries that are more distinct at macro level than ecosystems, yet are nested and entwined.

Post-microbiome discoveries, I conclude we should have a much more porous view of the organism than ever before. The human body (like all others) is a holobiont as it shares a common life with trillions of other organisms in the same time/space. Beyond “entanglement” this view needs to capture the essence of a shared life. We need more than “entangled” or “enmeshed” to overcome the residual Cartesian mechanism and atomism.

I contend flow is unequivocally shared and proliferated by and between all species towards life-love and flourishing. We exist and, with true understanding and demonstrable love as care, we may live a good life to the best of our ability.  We do this in symbiosis, both internally and externally, with many other beings, as do they. If the opposite occurs, flow of life-love is stemmed and, therefore, diversity, resilience and vivacity of life is lost, and we are all depleted.

Since I is really we, all being connected in our one, shared biosphere, the concept of Phronesis must evolve to incorporate traits in all life systems; a love-wisdom. This in the spirit of continuing a stream of non-anthropocentric thought via the discipline of Environmental Ethics since the 1970s. To progress, I also propose we now develop a discipline of Symbioethics, as there really is no such thing as an external ‘environment’.

I think the need for neologisms is justified when present conceptualizations fail to give adequate expression to critical features of life in symbiosis revealed through new and exponential scientific study. Ancient and indigenous cultures may already possess this kind of ‘knowing’. Fluminism and many other of my neologisms are an ecolinguistic response to a mass gap in understanding here in industrialized and community-fractured Britain. As Reuther almost put it: New Earth New Humans. As I put it: New Humans Healing Earth.

There must be a radical new assimilation of our complex relationships on the basis of these scientific discoveries, and critically, new and diverse responses embraced across the arts and humanities. Language and literature are an extension of 21st Century humans, though not exclusively. By naming a new or emerging genre, A Literature of Symbiosis (Sym-lit), however, I hope to focus minds.

~~~~~~

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Emergent Urgent

The Emergent Urgent, Photo by me.

I think it’s time we looked at time scales in terms of ‘doing’. The reality is the need for immediate change. Today. That everyone is not participating today is complex, but there’s real truth in urgency.

The use of the word ’emergency’ has been severely compromised. I have read on Twitter a defense of using the phrase ‘long emergency.’ A long emergency is about as useful as a flying brick,  a nonviable dialectic – AN OXYMORON. People need to understand the urgency, in mitigation and adaptation.

Western techno-industrial values, competition, fear, consequential life-styles and the general global devaluation of life for markets, that lead to habitat loss, emissions, poverty, racism, failing democracy, dictatorship, xenophobia, North-South divides, nationalism ~ please feel free to add more ~  are failing all living beings.

What we have are emerging urgencies, and we’d do well to articulate and address them.

One such Emergent Urgent is to spread the news that the globalized financial sector is not going to save lives. We must create a local, bioregional flow of support for one another and all life. We have to stop giving up our power, and giving Power excuses to wait or knock back decisions into the laps of our children and grandchildren.

Compassionate and immediate transitions are possible. COVID19 shows that immediacy is necessary, and can happen street to street. Successful countries have acted immediately and, in good part, compassionately. The same it is now on action to slow the Climate Bomb.

This is not apart from the moral imagination required in creating new/ancient world orders based on the ethics of care (in the natural sense), though we do need more. Lots more.

We already have a pool of understanding between us on some of the key changes forquired in all aspects of society, enough to begin (it’s already begun). But too many are holding on to the natural capitalist ethic, the ‘ecomodern’,  and new billionaire colonialism; perpetuation of capitalist failure ~ dominantly white, eurocentric and male. It’s harmful.

The response to the climate, ecological and human empathy/imagination crises (Earth Crisis), is The Emergent Urgent.

~~~~~~

 

Audio

 

 

 

 

 

On birdetal* being during lockdown. And goldfinches.

On Birdetal being During Lockdown

IMG_5585
Feather by me

From my rooftop terrace on a hill in the city of Cardiff, in a vague state of suspended covi-disbelief you’ll recognize, I face due South into the eye of the midday sun. A man-jumble of roof, balustrade and wall contains what would otherwise be a 180 degree arc-view from East to West. The sky is none-the-less enormous, and I love it. Each day, I observe the clouds as if they are hastily evolving species, manifesting the effects of water and sky-physics, and stealing creature-ly shapes, every once in a while, stored deep in my imagination

Everything seems in tension, between closed and open, the constraints of the streets, confinement and grief within homes, yet pinned down by the freedoms of the sky. Stitching it all together, between roofs and clouds like needles and silk threads, are the city birds. They occupy their own levels, sometimes overlapping, and to see them interact has been, so much, my corona-consolation. 

It is their intrinsic worth that sings the sweetest. Our deadly human pandemic** has liberated their song by silencing most of the dirty noise of vans and cars. They are bright and loud and confident. Right now, Bard Blackbird, perched on the end of our roof ridge, belts out beauty as if he is making up for a century of submission.

“My birds”, I call them. Forgive me. I feel to have almost become one of them. I relate to them all in my own state of birdetal being.*

The regulars who stop by most up here on my balcony are the adaptable and the generalists. Pigeons, with their glittering necks, have made this their day-time home, pairing and caressing with utter devotion before returning for the night somewhere safe where they roost. There are also the maggies (magpies) and the jack jacks (jackdaws), who are the real dancers, and the preening gulls who are dedicated, with true equality, in raising their young and to the mastery of flight. There is a satin crow I call Jet, who talks to me sometimes, and a pair of collared, cooing doves who are building their nest three chimney pots down. I’ve even had a little grey wagtail visit in winter, but she is very special ~ my beautiful, elegant river bird, completely out of place.

Below, in our neighbouring terrace gardens, there are year-round sparrows who cheep and chime nearly all of the time. And there are robins, one I call Rufus Ragnar, who rises from pruned shrub islands to sing whenever Bard takes a break. There are more garden birds I can’t see from up here, but I hear them. And they all fall silent when the sparrow hawk strikes.

High above, there are the ones who never pause. Highfalutin herring gulls, the Jonathans, cast the best shadows over me on a sunny day. Victoria Park jack jacks who flock like a clock to lime trees by the Taff a quarter to sunset every evening. There are the starlings who dash about, shining in splinters of luminescence, and the herons who flap in lazy zigzags, high up and unexpected. Few are the mallards, who cannot fly without telling us all well in advance they are coming. There are new and curious red kites circling; and the peregrines, supreme and terror-flying. We all stand stock still when they are about.

Life. It’s all here among the rooftops and chimneys. No compromise. The main events, have no doubt, are love and loss, youth and aging. And we are all joy, bitterness and reflection. Sometimes, my pigeons sit quietly next to me, on top of the poorly whitewashed roof terrace wall, three floors up, taking in the same, wide view with thoughts of matters much, much further away than we can ever truly reach. 

The Goldfinches ~ Carduelis carduelis

6881969170_46deb44fe7_c
Goldfinch by me

The birds I least expect to see in number over a city, especially in Summer when more return from Spanish migration, are the goldfinches. 

In the ‘wild’, their long finch beaks are so perfect for the delicate extraction of difficult seeds to forage; the Senecio family (groundsels and ragworts), thickset thistles, and the Dipsacus fullonum (the teasels). Yet they thrive here mainly because of the fine, beautiful black niger seed sold in garden centres and pet shops, poured into feeders and dangled around small terrace gardens and on patios for them to enjoy. As they fly over the rooftops from one feeder to another, they remind me of nursery school children released into playgrounds at break time, chirping with the unfettered emotions of liberation. Their sounds and sight lift me up too, especially since I am currently ‘shielded’ and confined to my flat.

The collective noun for goldfinches, as The Lost Words elegantly reminds, is a charm. Collective nouns arose from the feathers (quills) and inks of early medieval French and English hunters, mostly by the ruling classes, or those that documented their elite colloquialisms in celebration of their elite pursuits. Our Eurasian relationship with goldfinches is as historically complex. Not only were they hunted, but captured, traded and kept confined as pets, at least since Pliny the Elder wrote about this strange human obsession, just after the death of Jesus Christ.

“The smallest of birds, the goldfinches, perform their leader’s orders, not only with their song, but by using their feet and beak instead of hands.” Pliny the Elder, Natural History.***

Deep inside our pre-frontal cortexes combined with cultural memory and emotional response, we are somehow wired in what constitutes beauty. These birds are certainly a dash of colour with their blood red faces, black and white stripes and yellow brushstrokes painted along their wings. But this doesn’t explain the cultural need to covet and possess. Perhaps we may look to their celebration in aesthetics, as many iconic artists have tethered goldfinch imagery, in paint, to wood and canvas. 

Many of these images are rooted in Christian religious symbolism. One of the greatest artistic masterpieces of the Italian Renaissance is, it is said, Raphael’s Madonna Del Cardellino, The Madonna of the Goldfinch painted 1505-6. The bird is cradled by the child, John The Baptist, and in the presence of Mary and her child Jesus. It is the depiction of the boy’s crucifixion as a prophecy that came to pass, as was John’s life and death. Legend has it, as Jesus died on the cross at Golgotha, a goldfinch flew down to his Crown of Thorns to remove them from his injured scalp, and was splashed with a drop of His blood. The idea of any goldfinch bearing witness of the crucifixion is utterly within reason, as they were once numerous in and around the City of Jerusalem. Not so much now in 2020, as they have been hunted, trapped and sold as pets continuously for over 2000 years, and their habitat smashed for human development.

Sixteen to seventeen centuries on, during the Golden Age of Dutch painting, goldfinches appeared once more in images such as Gerrit Dou, Young Girl at the Window, 1662. Fabritius’s painting, completed just a couple of years later, is surely one of the most famous, even more since Donna Tartt wrote her novel ‘The Goldfinch’ and won 2014’s Pulitzer Prize. The book was never about goldfinches. This is a sophisticated story of a boy who rescued (stole) Fabritius’s painting from a gallery in New York, after surviving a terrorist explosion. The burden of this secret is carried through the trials and tribulations of his life.

“Sometimes we want what we want even if we know it’s going to kill us.”

Theo, the boy, hid and prized the painting, perhaps in a symbolic processing of his mother’s death. She had died from the bomb blast, just like the real and violent end that came to the painter himself. Fabritius was caught in the explosion of the Delft gunpowder magazine in1654, which killed at least 100 people and destroyed a large part of the city, including his studio and many of his paintings. The Goldfinch survived all, and is perceived as something of a resurrection. 

Art historian, Linda Stone-Ferrier contends that, in the Netherlands, both real goldfinches and painted ones were found commonly in and near windows, as a symbol of neighbourly social exchange. For its time, Fabritius’s Goldfinch must have been hugely novel in its life-size and three dimensionality; a trompe l’oeil, fooling the eye into believing it reality ~ perhaps, installed near a window as a trick to lure the good will of passers-by. 

But with my Fluminescent sensibilities, I see the photos of the painting and feel pain. The golden chain glints hard and sharp, tethering a tragic bird, otherwise born to fly free, to its wall-mounted, closed, tin box of seed. This is yet another disembodiment, that the bird cannot ever forage for him/herself, the whole scene being fixed for hundreds more years in some nightmare painterly incarceration.

In his Guardian article 2014, Caspar Henderson writes of the modern painter ATM, and the mythical murals he painted around London ~ the birds of his childhood ~ one being a goldfinch.

“Typically between two and three metres high, and depicted with their subtle natural markings, they seem like giant projections from the collective memory of places now hidden beneath the roar of the city.”

Again, I feel an intense isolation, the bird painted away from his/her ecological flows. It’s a giant ghost, out of scale, captive to the wall, street, and city, waiting upon the spell of the human gaze for a life they cannot ever truly live. The mural reminds me of when I see wildflowers named with chalk on a pavement. I crave for so much more, for the flowers themselves, and for human passers- by; arrows to show the species that sustain them, and those they sustain. The real beauty of nature, I contend, is in the direction and dynamism of all the arrows. 

ATM has said he was inspired by the early prints of John Gould, tending to show, at least, a favourite flower or perch in composition. But once again, these are aesthetically appealing to the human eye, and in danger of being only extrinsically valued by us and, therefore, the only lives worth saving. Nature is so much more. Species in isolation are trompe l’oeil tethered by golden chains.

My goldfinches live seemingly vibrant and free lives, with their flights of excitement, overheard and overhead, several times each day. But really they are here only at our behest. Niger seeds, native to Ethiopia and Malawi, are commercially grown in huge quantities in India and Africa, and traded to Europe in the bird seed markets. They resemble sunflower seeds in shape, but are smaller in size. They are encased in a thick, seed coat, and can be stored for up to a year. Before they are exported, they are sterilized by intense heat to prevent germination, and to kill off any other seeds in the mix. 

Do we want our birds simply as trompe l’oeils, feeding on seeds blasted by heat in India and shipped here for distribution and profit, while the goldfinch’s true seeds of delight are languishing brown under the damp spray of pesticides or the latest Weed-Burner-Killer-Wand-Butane-Gas-Blowtorch, marketed for the sake of what is deemed beautifully tidy by Dekton or GoSystem on Ebay or Amazon (sometimes the same places you’ll find niger seeds for sale).

So much energy, capital, and dependence upon markets is nurtured, whereas our own groundsels, thistles and teasels are classed as ‘weeds,’ and purged for the sake of a false idea of what beauty truly is ~ clipped, manicured and tidy. How compulsive are we, as a species, to want to force and possess beauty, regardless. These beings are part of the flows of all life (Fluminism), the interconnections (the arrows), being the most worthy of protection.

I want goldfinches to be all the things we Eurasians have historically not allowed them to be. Heedless of religious symbolism and childhood myth, I want them to sound their excitement released from 2000 years of chains. They may be a mirror to the image of ourselves, in that we too need to feel those infinite connections impressing within and without us. Neither do they need our trickery, our trompe l’oeils.

They want to be real, foraging for their natural, local seeds pollinated in resilient ecological flows with plenty of cover against predation. Fluminism is the love that provides it all.

~~~~~~~

*In deference to the wonderful work by Irigaray and Marder “Through Vegetal Being” published by Columbia, 2016. 

** Latin pan- “all” + dēmos “people”.

*** Rackham, Jones, & Eichholz, Book 10 translated 1938.

 

Audio:

 

 

 

Fluminismo, PDF gratis! – a beautiful collaboration.

Toda la vida es siempre fluida, simbiótica e interconectada. En la comprensión, protegemos y proliferamos los procesos de florecimiento de la vida.

El fluminismo es una forma poderosa de amor, y lo ofrezco en resistencia a la mercantilización destructiva.

Este PDF es una contribución fluminista / fluminescente de todos los involucrados en la traducción de mi ecofilosofía en forma de libro. ¡Y es gratis descargar aquí!

FLUMINISMO_Ginny Battson_PDF

~~~~

All life is ever-flowing, symbiotic and interconnected. In understanding, we protect and proliferate life-flourishing processes.

Fluminism is a powerful form of love, and I offer this in resistance to destructive commodification.

This PDF is a fluministic/fluminescent contribution from all of us involved in the translation of my ecophilosophy into book form. And it is free to download here!

FLUMINISMO_Ginny Battson_PDF

~~~~

On Structural Love ~ learning through shared pain.

Lemn Sissay speaks at the Cambridge Union. Photo by me.

At the top of a wide staircase, under the light of a golden chandelier, I met an elderly man with depth to his eyes, leaning on a stick. We smiled, and began to speak of love and nature ~ that sponteneity, with a stranger. It’s rare.  And memorable.

A few moments before, we shared an audience downstairs in the Cambridge Union; the talk by Lemn Sissay at the Cambridge Literature Festival. I have written before about his book,  My Name is Why. Now, we were at the back of a long booksigning queue.

I didn’t learn his name, but the man’s voice held a gentle tone and lilt. I recognised it from Questions. Holding the mic close, he’d said his question may not make a lot of sense. Either way, it inspired me to write.

On the nature of love, love is good in acts of compassion, and more ~ forgiveness. Lemn had found forgiveness for the foster mother who rejected him at the tender age of twelve. It demonstrates an unconditionality to any love he has/had for her, an understanding that she too was damaged, and a wound going some way to being healed.

Some background: Lemn describes the institution of ‘Care’ in Britain as The Authority. The question was, if the foster mother could be forgiven, and the rest of the family, shouldn’t The Authority be forgiven too? Under those bright chandeliers in the cradle of Western free speech, where Presidents and Prime Ministers have communed before, the old man pointed out that any Authority was made up of people; in this case, people who were supposed to be in loco parentis. Could he forgive them? The answer, he suggested, may be useful for whatever comes next for Lemn.

The question was poignant, difficult. And I suddenly felt like an intruder. I’ve not written much about forgiveness, but its integral to unconditionality.

The Authority was entrusted to care for a human being, trusted by a young Ethiopian visitor to this land, Lemn’s birth mother, Yemarshet. It was to make sure he was safe and loved, care being upsized to in loco parentis. Fostering was only intended to be until such time this young woman, alone and far from home, could finish her studies and return with her son safely to Ethiopia. But The Authority failed them both. Trust was shattered. More, it behaved with a inexplicable callousness. It  re-named Lemn, covered up the trail, and deliberately lost him from his mother’s sight.

I contend love as a verb is good by way of consequence. Love reveals itself in good, beyond one person’s mind, in public. Love is a psychological exchange, like the hyphae, the lover and the loved. Love constitutes more than an isolated thought. It’s a mutual relationship.

In Lemn’s case, there seems to have been no love on either side in terms of The Authority. It would, therefore, not be a weakness to admit any failure to forgive.

We must ask The Authority, instead, why its response to a young boy carved away from his birth and foster families for any ‘normal’ resistance to the emotionally violent events endured during his teenage life, resulted in even more opression. He was not loved. The Authority must have seemed like an impossible edifice, channelled through a string of social workers, with no continuity, no compassionate hugs, and exposure to so much abuse.

The Authority files of his life were surrendered in 2015 after a considerable fight. Contained on the pages, a story unfolds in a mix of truths from strangers and lies from his closest. Truths typed of talents. Lies typed of character. What a maelstrom of emotion it must have unleashed to read the reports. Lemn has since taken The Authority to court, winning costs and damages. Care, as it turns out, was a carelessness, so less that it was more; a dehumanisation. Given that ‘The Authority’ as Lemn describes, depends on a “sleeping prejudice of assumptions,” it is there that attention must lie in the detail of communication, not just with carers but with individuality of the cared-for (see ‘Ethic of Care’ below).

But the elderly man, with the gentle tone, was right. The lawyers were not dealing with an edifice, but a number of people who no doubt swore individual affidavits for the case. Had any of them shown an ounce of love in the years preceding, perhaps the case would never have been brought.

Something bigger has emerged from the pain of one man’s past. For whatever reason Lemn felt compelled to publish this story, it offers us the best reasons to change everything. It’s as if a body was found and taken away ~ love. In its place, a line has been drawn around where love should be, and in perfect detail. And it is love to search our souls about this fundamental component of the social contract in society.

We surrender certain freedoms in favour of the legitimacy of the State. The State is then charged to care for us. If it cannot even uphold the basic levels of care for a baby, child or teenager in the deepest folds of its cloak, then it doesn’t deserve our subservience. If it cannot care for any vulnerable person or living being, then it has simply failed.

I think we live in a failed State.

More, if the baby comes from another region, another biome, another race, for instance, and grows up to feel ‘othered’ and aching for cultural roots and a language lost, then it’s a type of colonialism on top. This is one of many obvious rips in the fabric of post-colonialism. Awareness gives rise to insight and, hopefully, prevention of repeated injustices.

And then it was my turn with the mic.

“On love and nature…”

“Oooh, love and nature,” came the reply.

“Can we trust love?”

In my work, I contend love is life itself, the connecting, irreplaceable relational symbiosis between all living things that moves towards a flourishing ~ The Good Life. I write this even today after a week bearing witness to the opposite, in the hate-filled election of liars, racists and climate criminals.

Lemn likened bringing his childhood experience into new relationships as if carrying a dead bear over his shoulder, and how weighty that could be, exposing and ‘different’. It would take him to find love for himself before he could trust love in anyone else. And he told me he has.

Ethics of Care

In all aspects of society, as a complexity of relationships, the ‘Ethics of Care’ approach (Gilligan) facilitates case by case solutions bringing compassion/empathy to the equation each time rather than a universal carte blanche policy. It’s especially loving with regard to individuals involved (human and non-human), and their interdependencies, vulnerabilities and relations between all the living beings, sapien and teresapien.

It’s clear, after this last election, we simply cannot treat species, fauna or flora, nor each other, with such utter contempt as to deliberately cause suffering. And we cannot continue to allow the State to do so, by reflection.

As in most things, there is a range-boundedness of each complex problem, but all are ultimately connected in flows. This is a way of ‘seeing’ and ‘being’. I want to relate all to a new structural love in society ranging from ‘care’ and education, health, food growing, food giving, shelter, planning, energy, justice and equality, to economics and, critically, animal and teresapien welfare (their welfare also being ours in our shared biospheric system). I contend ecoliteracy as a pedagogy is already form of structural love. So too is trauma informed justice. Creating climate refugias and building ecological social housing are additional acts of love. And there’s boundless room for more.

I am not talking about the role of Religions, Charities or The Big Society, although they will surely play a part. And random acts of kindness at all scales will enrich. This is a full, cultural secular acceptance of love as a verb into our daily lives ~ top down, bottom up and everything in between.

For too long, Hollywoodish, Mills and Booning and Cosmopolitantric commodified versions of romantic and sexualised intimacy have dominated Western culture. It’s beyond time to correct it. Lemn’s pain, and the pain or suffering of so many living beings, should never happen. His is a modern-day fairy tale in the original style of Grimm, but true, bringing the whole ethic of our civilised society into a stark, cold light.

Assert love, akin to symbiosis, as capable of being nothing short of anatomic, not least in Fluminism. But also in other ways. Begin in the care of our most vulnerable. Re-structure support for the poor, the homeless, the lonely and the ill. This world, the biosphere, deserves it.

Like flesh around bones, we can grow muscle around structured processes which demonstratively centre an ethic of care in any social contract ~ love; the word used by those less afraid, not least under the light of golden chandeliers, in an historic arena of political debate and free speech.

My gratitude to all who continue to inspire me.

~~~~~~

Audio:

 

The mirror, cracked. Seven years bad luck?


Art by NATASHA ZETA, Cracked Perspective (butterfly piece). Please click on the image for more information about this artist and her work.

~~~

Seven years, they say, of bad luck. This UK Election was a mirror, a moment for deep change. And today, it feels like the mirror cracked.

This is precious time; this seven years ahead. This will be time for a very structured organisation, meticulous and detailed (the genius being in the detail) investment in time to slow the worst effects of inequity, racism, climate volatility and ecological depauperation. We can prepare now, away from the political bubble of The City and Westminster and the BBC and the billionaire press, amongst ourselves. No-one can stop us. Protest the press. Educate widely. This is our Ardean moment.

Seven years (five with Johnson, another two to heal some wounds). Time to look deeper into those cracks, and act to counter the ignorance, privilege and selfishness. Conjure and share the ideas and stories. Articulate the imagination, and aim high for those goals of a Good Life. Good will attract good. Shake-up the foundations of an ill-education, an ill-economy and an ill-wit.

Bring down the borders, at least of hearts and minds, with a strong arm and a smile. Be angry, with love.

It’s beyond time to structure love into the fabric of our daily lives, in personal and in public, and to re-draft the social constructs and contracts to make them beyond reproach. Structure them. Make them steel. Love can be steely, and uncompromising. It’s usually the best.

I will write about this more, and soon. I call it, for now, #StructuralLove.

Life-force conjoins and bifurcates in three dimensions. Maybe four. This glistening, spinning spherical delta of life flows to a huge ocean we call the biosphere. But it’s dying, a tidal death-surge, in ways that have not been experienced by any living being for some 55.5 million years. And it is happening now. It’s rippling through all living beings, sapien and teresapien life, and most are on the move to escape, no matter how quick or how slow.

We are nature and nature is us. Remember this. The climate of political upheaval correlates with the unrest we feel of the Earth; the volatility is the same energy; the same culture of power over others. So even it.

The movements of wind, drought, rain follow the desperation, and desperation will follow. So, in community, like the hyphae, we can be more than the sum of ourselves, to reverse this, like a tide. Be that tide.

Love is the life-flow when it leads to flourishing beings, symlings among symlings, in all their majesty and in all their exquisite relational semiotics and song, unineterrupted. See the flow, pure, as innoculation and salve to symling life. Be defiant.

Listen to and feel it. Touch and taste it.

It is in the dying where suffering exists, not death. An ecological death even gives rise to Life. Just as Extinction gives rise to eons of new Life. Like death, it is not Extinction that is pain. Those that are dead do not feel pain. It is the process of Extinction, and all that it does to Life, which we see before us right now, and the inconsolable grief of the hacking and sawing of life-flows leading to Extinction ~ racism, poverty, trauma (TRAUMA), pollution, soil-sealing, fragmentation and utter abject cruelty.

And the loneliness. Please, don’t be lonely. To be singular is to be empty, more, dying. Join, like the delta to the river, and to the ocean…

And sing the needlessness of it all, because we are conscious beings, able to choose. Others have treatised, through war, that much power. Instead, let go a little of that much power,  And channel the processes of life and the forces of renewal leading to Life.

These are some of the processes that, flowing well, do err towards Life not Extinction. We’d do well to remember them in our daily lives, perhaps the greatest moments of human potential, and to silence the evolution of hate. Because hate it is.

Brazen liars, cheats, racists and climate criminals may have their time now. And their media ilk. They are the ones who privatise their Rights over stolen places and sapien and teresapien life. But history will judge them, and severely. Through neglect and spite, they have pinned their blue/white-skinned flag on the end goal of Extinction. We’ll not be judged the same way. Please don’t bear their responsibility. Please don’t accept their ignorance. Our flag is Life itself.

Simply keep the flow of life-love flowing.

Basic introduction to the four main ecological processes. There are countless others. Please look them up, read, remember and facilitate them to their utmost, as #Fluminists. Process is also about communication. Please tell others. #Ecoliteracy

~~~~~~~~

 

 

The Salmon and the Weir.

Photo by me.

It happened in a flash. A broad silver flank with a pink tinge lifted clear into river spray, a single twist, and a lunge towards a roaring steep slope of weir. The body jolted and slipped backwards into the white froth from where it had leaped. 

He did leap high. I saw him. Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar), and most likely a male with all his freckles.

It’s mid November, late salmon-leap time here in Wales. These are the kings of anadromous fish, symlings of the great Arctic pelagos and the free ocean waves. They return thousands of miles ‘home’ using quantum magnetic sensing and smell-vibrations, navigating to their intimate place of spawning in the shallow streams of inland mountains. 

I waited for half an hour, again for another glimpse, but no sign. He was recovering somewhere deep, perhaps to try again later, or give up. I saw nothing more that day but the downward flow of the Taff and gulls skimming over the silken curve on the weir’s upper glossy lip.  

Despite all public admiration and hope of a recovering river, the Taff is still well short of free-running salmon. Those baselines have shifted, and shifted. At a time before coal, pre-weir, thousands of salmon would have passed this same point, now maybe 500 in a very good year. Facing over-fishing, plastic and pollution, an enormous and energy draining fish ladder on Cardiff Barrage, this magnificent cock salmon I glimpsed has spent months in the Bay and the river preparing for his voyage without food. He’s relying on fat reserves laid down just under the ocean waves. 

This salmon needs to swim upstream with all his being. His neurons and reflexes drive him on ~  smell-vibrations of ‘home stream bed’ in watery traces are as intoxicating as a siren calling him by song. The urge for genetic flow is as strong as the flow of the water. Stronger. And now he is blocked by a wall built by men to control his river, to limit their own crazy built-up flatlands from its annual, pulsating floods. The wall is as high as a willow… and its slope too sharp… and the water too fast. It’s all too much for even the fittest of cock salmon, leave alone one who has endured oil slicks, engine noise and a eutrophied man-made Bay to get to this point.

There’s a fish pass, I know. So I go to the other side of the weir to investigate. It takes me a while. I have to trudge a long way back downstream to the dual-carriageway laden with traffic and fumes, with particulates falling into the river. Then I cross the bridge, and walk back up the Taff Trail avoiding speeding cyclists. I cautiously make my way down the river bank to where I see children play in high summer.

There are empty plastic bottles in the stopper wave at the bottom of a concrete box. They jump around like giant see-through beans. If I were a salmon, or a trout, or an eel, I too would keep well away. I witness no fish passing, even with the river in spate. None.

What’s really needed here is no guilt-ridden, fly-fisher enabling concrete fish pass, but no weir at all.

Take it all away. Dig it out; use a bulldozer if needs be. Free up the flow to riffle, glides and pools once more, and let these magnificent evolved beings, microbiomes, food webs, flow with no additional assault on adrenal responses, energy reserves and interconnectedness.

This is a metaphor for how we deal with Earth Crisis, as Fluminists.

Rebellions and sci-prediction-model-paranoia? What is life truly all about? Flow. What’s happening here, so drastically unlike the leaky diversity-engineered beaver dams, is the flow of water and little else. Rivers are the blood vessels of the land. They need to be life-flow.

Get rid of the blockages. Liberate the wilder life. Flatten out impassable or energy-sapping weir-like hierarchies. And instead of forging more techno fossils that signal the insanity of the Anthropocene, loose go of our ever-tightening grip on Earth processes and dismantle the unjust structures humans have built that cause so much suffering to all life.

How many more knee-jerk solutions by those cripplingly late to Earth Crisis do we need to tolerate before everyone realises a second grave error has been made. Huge compromises, pragmatism-based anthropocentrism, brings non-human life more into the human realm, not less. And less is more, in every sense!

Tree-planting by the billion as opposed to natural succession: Legal Rights as opposed to compassion, education and responsibility: Fish ladders as opposed to weir removal. We are seeing an entrenchment of Homo hubris under the guise of “just do something” as opposed to “do what’s best.”

I know it’s hard. Because we have to face down and re-orient the popular mass of neoliberal culture. The politics is hard. But what is glaringly obvious to me now, at least, we have no real choice if life (as we know it) will survive the next one hundred years.

2019 is International Year of the Salmon. I want to come back soon and see this weir gone, the salmon free and their incredible voyage and evolutionary existence celebrated. And maybe some of our human social structures blocking life flow falling away in the same vein.

Do go find a salmon leap near you, perhaps, and meanwhile enjoy this video produced by World Fish Migration Day …

~~~~~~~