Chapter Severn – The Mouth
Without you, I would not have known enduring love, no matter how complex, because it is complex.
Without you, we would not have the most stunning child, who takes my breath away in all she does and says.
Without you, we would not have known and loved Ben.
Without you, I would not have read Riverwalking and walked the philosophical path since. This blog was your idea, one I will always treasure because it was yours. Your name is mine, and always will be. It’s a good strong batty name.
Without you, I would have remained parochial. I would not have read Lopez and Matthiessen. We have lived and experienced, haven’t we, all the “stuff” in the world could never ever match.
Without you, I would not have regained myself after Mum’s death; enjoyed our daughter and her absolute vibrancy; I would not have embraced the camera that you bought me and “seen” this beautiful world again alongside you, Gracie, Ben. I would not have walked the rivers again. I would not have really listened to music. Music is life, laughter, and dance. There is so much more. So much.
You have been the most thoughtful lover, father, son, brother, and man. I have missed you, miss you now, and will miss you until the day I leave this plane of existence we knew to cherish.
Without you. I am utterly and totally bereft.
I have truly lost my best friend. I will care for our daughter and take her where she needs to go on behalf of “us”. I will listen to your voice in all things. Relish the cadence on that dream bike and those biggest views. “Kudos” to you.
Dark rum, rumbullion, rummage, scents, essences and escents (forming adjectives expressing a flux state or action). Now is the time of falling deciduous leaves in the northern hemisphere. For a long while now, I have mulled on a word that describes the prevailing smell for me ~ a sweet, musky, peppery aroma of decaying leaves, depending on the leaf mix ~ as well as the activity of soil enrichment and kicking through them on misty mornings and cooler evenings.
Smell is a powerful provocation of emotion. Emotion may lead to good things, including the for-wiring of the cultural acceptance that we too are nature. Each of us responds to smells and the memories they stimulate with uniqueness and Autumn is an acute time for smells to accentuate in our minds in temperate zones.
Decaying leaves are broken down to soil nutrients by bacteria, fungi, and tiny invertebrates, and they give off organic compounds and sugars in an air-cocktail that is fairly unique in any given place and in our minds, though there may be commonalities at certain temperatures and times of the day.
Climate change and struggling ecologies mean such things could be afforded more names in our depauperate language, articulated and treasured in our consciousness and affirmed by the discussion of them. Let there be many names, helping to shape the way we think and evolving in time and space.
Perhaps my word here will not resonate with you. If it does, I am so glad. Why not think about a word yourself if it does not, and please do share it in the comments box below. Thank you and enjoy all the good things that Autumn will bring this year.
Ah, yes, those corporate men who pay lip service to equity and resilience. Who might abuse those surviving under the most extreme circumstances?
Please, let me point out that, according to Carbon Brief and other well-known carbon data analysis organisations, concrete (largely Portland cement) accounts for 8% of global carbon dioxide emissions
not accounting for any other mineral or ecological extractions required along supply and demand chains. Lafarge is top of the pops in the game of global concrete. And the Americans lap it up, by far the biggest importer of the stuff.
By comparison, aviation accounts for just 2.5% of global carbon dioxide emissions (still, not to be ignored).
Let’s be careful driving forward any “Green New Deal” infrastructure purported to protect the most vulnerable and to facilitate a new era of ecological and “zero” emissions in daily life, without looking with intense scrutiny at the land (LIFE), materials, and energy extracted and used-up in that mission. We (all life) can no longer afford to make the same mistakes in this damnation of an Anthropocene.
Should such an ethic be nobbled by those who celebrate the green dollar or pound sterling under the disguise of jobs and equity? It’s not hard to imagine, at scale. “Eco”modernists are persistently very sneaky and content to gaslight us all with their sympathies to various causes or concern for the expediency of “compromise” under time pressures. I’m rather sick of it. So will be those suffering at the frontline of extreme climate change and the ones who will suffer down the line.
What is good for LIFE comes, by nature, in flows. Concrete blocks flow, or at least it slows it down a thousandfold and more until it breaks down with the same forces that break down rock. Let’s stop with the concrete, even when it comes to rising sea levels, coastal “protection,” and river flooding. All we are doing, yet again, is knocking problems downstream in time and space. There are alternatives; ancient proven methods. They may not be so easily commodified (eg rammed earth), but they exist, bioregionally.
Concrete (French, Chinese, Green New Deals), wherever it is poured as if from an infinite tap, is an experiment that has failed and will continue to fail. Just like fossil fuels.
I have been walking the dried up paths by the river, thinking about emotions of the prescient and ever-increasing burden of Earth Crisis upon everyone (at least everyone who is sane).
Climate or extinction “dread” or “doom” can seem such hopeless words, yet maybe have a rightful place in the hearts of some; those in total despair. For others, life is surviving regardless, caring for others in the face of whatever comes next; no time to allow a creeping then torrential flood of negative emotions that could hamper chances.
So I offer a word that means simply a deficiency of peace (mind, body, soul, ecological, social, and even planetary), a lack of confidence – an edgy feeling on a par with eerie, of craving peaceful conditions that are amiss. There is still a purpose to the feeling, as all emotions have purpose ~ to achieve peace; a life of peace in climate, biodiversity, equity.
Pax ~ Latin for peace, Pacis ~ of peace
Penia ~ Latin root, suffix for deficiency in medicine.
Paxipenia ~ an emotional state of disquiet caused by the multitude of uncertainties and brutality of an ongoing Earth Crisis.
“I don’t get depressed, I get angry,” says Johan Rockström, Breaking Boundaries, Netflix.
Me too, Johan. I am furious.
I am furious because I listened to you in hope, and imagined millions doing the same. Yet your vision of the human global reign continuing, but within your “safe operating space”, is morally defunct.
Why on Earth would I ever say such a thing? You have a vast platform; earned, I am sure of this. Your collaborative work on planetary boundaries and Earth systems is hugely valuable to modern society. But when that very modern society is THE fault-line in Earth’s discordance, you, therefore, can’t fix it. Things have to shift away from the modernism you are protecting. And I am not writing of a return to cave-life ~ but of a return to a wise way of understanding LIFE.
Please don’t use your platform to dismiss ethics as if science is the “torch” to show us the way. Science gives us “light”, but not all light, and how best to live through the light. And to live through the dark. Both ancient indigenous ways of thought and emerging forms of ecologism springing up in fountains all over the world have serious contributions to make. And they may not look and sound like you.
Yours is a job of listening as well as warning.
You dismiss the moral calling; exquisite beauty is irrelevant, you say. But real beauty IS the interconnectedness, the symnexia of LIFE, and that cannot be dismissed. We are, like it or not, moral beings – the calling goes deep into our symbiotic existence, within and without; even our neural pathways, like flowers and roots in symbiosis with bacteria and viruses, are shaped in that very same pattern.
We save nature not to save us, but because it is us.
Now may be the time for some unlearning. No symling may be left behind in sacrifice for saving the human race. No symling should be enslaved “in service” or servitude to humans, but instead in Fluministic devotion to the communal cause as they were born or divided to do.
As should we all.
Please stop dismissing the moral cause, when you continually use it yourself under the guise of “science” – morality shapes even the work you do. Ask yourself again why you do what you do. What emotivates you? What ethic do you abide by? An ethic is the enactment of your own moral code.
That the biosphere should exist, therefore, evolve to prop up human civilisation is the ultimate foolishness of our young immature experiment of a species. We cannot and should not pursue this ethic of enslavement and frustropian servitude of all life to one cause.
Trees planted? Trees are perfectly evolved to grow themselves, given place. But remember they are community species, only part of something much bigger and older than themselves, an order of magnitude older, higher, broader, deeper than humans – a symbioethic. Our planting is ancillary, the gardening at the edges. LIFE is full-on love for evolutionary processes, much of which we cannot participate as ecological consumers. We must be patient. Let the trillions of symlings be Fluminists, so that we too can be Fluminists.
Food? Yes, we know what we parasitise and consume is a huge driver of ecological distress rooted in all those inter-flowing planetary systems you so rightly highlight – we are nature, so the responsibility is ours to generate LIFE in the process of its becoming, not destroy life. Shelter, clothes, waste (do we and our waste become ecological food once more), travel, we have become a “boundary” to all life – you missed humans out in your nine systems taxa – the Anthropocene puts us right in there NUMBER TEN (and equity between humans does fucking matter – you should know that better than anyone. Inequity drives the desire for more exploitation).
Back to language.
“Safe operating space” is a Westernised expression of THE language deficit ongoing right now, a continuation of the moral deflection from union with all living beings. WE ARE NOT STANDING ON A FACTORY LINE.
Instead, please use your platform to thread the nature of nature through each and every one of us, and through the symbiotic species that power this fragile, beautiful, unique biosphere – LIFE, a metabolising global kindship of community. LIFE is CLIMATE (Margulis/Lovelock/many more, including me).
That’s where “security” for ALL species lays. In them we trust.
LOVE IS FOR ALL processes that sustain life, including symbiosis. The mystery is ever-present in that love – a deep faith in processes, known and unknown. I call it Fluminism.
Dear Professor, there is not AND NEVER WILL BE a good Anthropocene. There is a falsity, an arrogance of “universal knowledge” peppered into the flesh of everything as if scientists are the masters of their aim. For all your valuable insights, what remains essential, Johan, is the recognition that our species may stand in humble rank, and that we shall not (and should not) ever fully “know.” Then, and only then, may we have a chance at aiding LIFE into very uncertain futures caused by vast human iniquity. And then… to un-belong as NUMBER TEN planetary “boundary”.
This week, pre-IPCC policing of critical thought on Twitter has reached an outrageous level. I’m out, for now.
We know the failings of Twitter, the personal snipes, the fakery and the pack-hunting trolls. And we keep trying anyway. What started out as a Silicon Valley version of “equal “voice has ended in a scrap and a place of verbal oppression.
Now “Jack” the billionaire is backing cryptocurrency, and thinks this will unite “the world”. What non-sense. His culture is the very thing that is destroying “the world.”
Twitter, propped up by capitalist advertising, was never going to be for “everyone”, only for those with access and the luxury of the time to commit. Just like bitcoin. * Money attracts money in the Capitalist system. You need property and cash to buy more property and cash.
Try as you might to gaslight that we all have agency, Jack, capital is power in modern linear ways of thinking. And no, it isn’t “natural”. It doesn’t fit the natural pattern. It’s nurtured by this mendacious, cultural blat – individualistic, traumatising capitalism.
Anthropocentrism, WhiteManthropocentrism in reaction to extreme weather events in the global north, is, once again, spinning out of control. So few bothered to listen to the voices from the global south for decades.
For my Non-WhiteManthropocentric Ethics blogs to reach others, it often takes a white man to RT before anyone will read it. And that’s if I am *lucky*. Black people know, and Trans people, and Disabled people, if I didn’t have the “privilege” of white skin on top, would I even get a look-in. Who truly speaks for teresapien lives without a direct conflict of interest? The Anthropocentric Right and personal desire of “use” is pervasive. Twitter’s “Environmentalism” category barely touches on the intrinsic worth of Earth’s myriad species. It’s all about one species. Wildfires, floods, droughts miraculously don’t appear to impact any other species. More categories (my god, what tosh – everything is connected), and it’s mostly about the wealthy sector of that one species. It’s about the eurocentricity of the Whiteness. It’s the stubborn refusal by the influential to accept any criticism.
It’s ABSOLUTELY necessary to have rules, to tell truths, to refrain from harm, to end racism, bullying, and any other kind of injurious “othering”. To point these out is VITAL. Society should be grateful for those who step up, especially those already suffering! My point is not about these basic, decent, fundamental responsibilities.
As Earth Crisis worsens more widely (where has that moral imagination for those already suffering for decades been hiding), what we are now seeing on Twitter, at least, is a shutdown of reasonable ethical debate, particularly WITHIN movements for progressive change, as the so-called environmental movement. Step out of line, and you can’t be “with us” – a Bush-Cheney-ism. Suggest anthropocentrism will fail, and you are labelled naive. Suggest causality is not a linear top-down force, and Michael Mann will block you. Suggest the ethics of early data release is warranted given the emergency and you are told you are “not a dedicated scientist” (rolling eyes emojis by North American sci-comm groupies), worse you are supporting denialists. Criticise this grotesque UK Government for their hypocritical hosting of COP26 and you are persona non grata. Suggest low traffic neighbourhoods have been rolled out without consulting those social groups already suffering, and you are told their pain is worth it and you are against climate change action. The list goes on.
There is no progress without critical thought. No good at all. Look closely at who is doing this policing, the politics of the shut down. It matters.
It’s happened before ( to me personally, and others) over the Save our Woods and Natural Capitalism campaigns. And one or two of the very same influencers behind the attempts to shut down criticism now. Sorry, no matter how hard you wish to cling to norms, nothing short of radical will do. And radical love is – by its very nature – not harmful like, say, Capitalism and “biodiversity offsetting,” Mr “Nature in service to humans “Natural England.
Twitter Blue tick outbreaks absolutely make it a tiered system. Algorithms mean most of the words I contend are needed, radical ideas of community and interconnectedness, and indeed wish to see people reading, are split away from my timeline. I have to dig for them, like bitcoin! And my own tweets seem lost in a sea of rationalist economics and science as the only (Twitter-worthy, at least) instruments of change. I don’t know whether it’s my ADHD talking, but the noise of it all is now unbearable.
We know full well via the Kate Clanchy debacle that editors and media gatekeepers are also imperfect and can proliferate harm but I do remain hopeful that Twitter may also facilitate an apology to the right people. Mass media trumps books, books trump essays, essays trump voices. Twitter tramples the fragile nuances of relationships. You can’t get a book out without a Twitter following, you can’t get a Twitter following without publishing. Pretty pictures won’t do it (actual or verbal – guilty as charged). But Middle-of-the-Road is reigning, policing, sniping. Human exclusivity and Western notions of individual Rights and desire are first and foremost in most campaigns. I’m muting and muting, and that’s not why I joined.
Twitter is too fast, too reactive. Busting chains of healing happen at the drop of an incendiary or thoughtless Tweet. I am not stupid, and I know that over 12 years I have allowed myself to be pulled into the mire (impulsivity is another sign of ADHD). The more I follow, the more trouble lays waiting. I want to slow things down, think more about my responses.
Twitter has been an important part of my personal stake in ecophilosophy. It has brought me connectedness and friendship (though absolutely no monetary gain) and I hope I’ve given as much back. But so pivotal are our times, that equal voice is paramount. Criticise me, yes, for stepping away from even trying. But these recent events have helped me conclude that Twitter is not that platform. Discussions in “environmentalism” and “conservation” are northern Europe-America-centric enough – Science, Tech, Economics and Rights and Land Title dominate the political realm. Values, relationships, rational discussion about the power of emotions? Little to nil. Even Education – the real root and possibility of inclusive change – falls down the gaps. If you can’t sell a pedagogy, who cares?
Algorithms, and more, are closing down the voices of the majority of the human species. Like bitcoin, you need tech to get more tech, influence to gain influence. And with Earth Crisis intensifying comes an intensifying of policing, especially by White men or media owned by white men. Blundering, opaque verbal-age on Language, Morality and Ethics happens at the same time, despite the ignorant rejection of Language, Morality and Ethics being relevant at all. Snarky comments are fairly common towards anyone who is scholarly in that area.
For whatever reason (it’s complex) Twitter is dominated by the nexus of domination, blue ticks (I know, some are only just defending their identity), conformity, and Whiteness. Aside from the insidiousness of bots and the anonymous death threats, it’s not the filth and lies that are necessarily the continuous surprise on Twitter – people can be pretty awful in the flesh. But it is the streams of influence, the followed and the following, the PIED PIPERS of business-as-usual in the face of nothing-is-usual that freak me out. And they are doing it IN PLAIN SIGHT. Such popularists are not given to working, in my experience, for the vulnerable and the voiceless, and that includes teresapien lives. Whatever they may “say.”
WhiteMAnthropocentrism is intensifying in synchronicity with climate volatility and ecological stripping – the atmospheric energy transference loaded into apathy and neglect for LIFE in our one shared biosphere like a gun going off. And it is a Westernish human trait right now, the legacy of gargantuan theft and slavery, now neo-colonial, globalised through international institutions.
Good voices do float, sometimes. Good voices also drown. There’s too much “broadcast” and not enough “receive”. Bigfooting is widespread, as is idea theft. I’m fed up with raising specific ethical and scientific points, cited or linked to evidence or articles, only to be ignored, sometimes with zero feedback, whilst blue tick White men or TED talkers raise them lazily and get thousands of RTs (a recent example, sea-bed mining for EV minerals). It’s fucking exhausting. I’ll be honest, I don’t believe I have the media savvy to get my message of Fluminism, Symbioethics, and Ethics of Care through on Twitter, and I’m not thinking that a discussion about love and ethics will be particularly missed. New literature genres? Experimental writing? Hits to my blogs referred from Twitter have plummeted. Who gives a shit about these things anymore when there’s so much panic and authoritarian policing of the Earth Crisis movement to be done, IPCC reports or not. I’ll carry on resisting capital, commodification and the patriarchy through the written word, just not on Twitter. At least, for now. Call it a semi-retirement.
My sincere gratitude to Twitter friends – for all you have brought. Please, if it’s possible, do stay in touch. I am here, and I am on Instagram (@seasonalight – just a photo diary at this point).
♒︎ Deus ex machina ♒︎
All feels pulled taught in the expansiveness of this place, as if the shores, the Dumbles, Sharpness, Saniger, Guscar, Mathern Oase, Northwick Oase, Portland Grounds, Goldcliff, Gordano Round, Stert Flats, Lavernock Point, are stretched in a myriad of directions by human ambition. There is a harshness about that and it is difficult. Folded up and inwards, down and outwards, the estuary is adulterated by human fear; often the thing that drives that ambition; to have money and to succeed, and not be poor and to have failed.
Fear has become my own greatest fear. The anxiety of those fears destroying me has sat with me for a very long time, a toxic little friend. Sometimes I feel I’d be lost without her pinchy grip on my jugular veins or kidneys. Despite the breath-crunching suffering it causes, I know that fear is also a vital emotion driving ecological processes. In predator/prey relationships, this intense emotion keeps the death tolls in check and encourages growth via avoidance. There are moments of dispersal, life and death decisions shaped by distress, such as perturbation, the anxiety of parenting, the dread of dehydration. Fear is a dynamic force, particularly as it infects an entire human culture or a Nation. The flow of it is complex and non-linear, encircling in more obvious traits crossing over with hatred, insecurity, and control—racism, homophobia, domestic violence, murder, war—but also the forms of habits and careers that can be pernicious and Earth destroying. As for a fear of death itself, we don’t know for sure whether other life forms experience it, but I’m going to hazard an easy guess—yes. Humans evolved fear largely shaped by predators and foe (we can observe it in our limbic fight or flight responses) but in modern life, where many of the predators are now wiped out, we cultivate it in order to justify our vestigial biochemical responses. Humans have substituted the predators with many things, not least a fear of not having cash, cashcards, cheques. These are the things that buy us food, clothes and shelter; the bread and butter of the banking sector, but the grand exploiters are ever-present, seizing opportunity, reaching through the media, advertising, and marketing bureaus, and dwelling at the very edges of the Law.
Deus ex machina, Latin for ‘god from the machine,’ is a term derived from ancient Greek theatre. In tragedy and sometimes in comedy, to miraculously resolve a dramatic plot corner or catastrophe, actors who played gods were carried onto the stage using some kind of machine. The machine could be either a winch, like a crane, to lower bodies from above, or some kind of lift to bring them up into vision through a trapdoor. Playwrights like Aeschylus and Euripides fashioned them as devices to wow, to draw a crowd, to evoke a feeling of awe and moral surrender to the idea of some greater power. And men still do it, with their grand openings of giant bridges and launches of ships and Space rockets, except this time the power is more honest and blunt ~ a self-aggrandisement of the human money-chain, domination of land, air, sea, and now space, the techno-brain, Western capital power labelled as “investment” and engineering prowess. There’s no masking anymore, no suspended disbelief. First, there must be the desire for something spectacular to resolve our plot corner or catastrophe – humans have been wired to find exhilaration in novelty—and these men meet that demand. They exploit for their own agendas, political expediency and money—it is usually both. Exquisitely controlled, it’s an assertion of the power that was once the domain of the gods, and we are all still buying in. But it’s a plot flaw, a device to replace the real work needed for life’s genuine resolutions, not least the peaceful and loving alignment of human life within all living systems. To do it often means overcoming many of our fears. Deus ex machina side-steps the need. It’s is an easy “out,” distracting when doom looms closer, where the long haul to resolution is seemingly short-circuited. There will always be a price to pay after the curtain call, and it’s usually borne by the vulnerable and voiceless.
Capital: what started as a headcount of steer has transcended into an extinction event. In a currency-based economy, we all need money. How do we get it? Most of our energy is now directed towards it. And quite spectacularly, one of our most common fears emerges – poverty. Poverty is almost a complete loss of control, a subservience to survival. Basic needs are unmet, and reliance on the goodwill of others is the only way to get through. I’ve been through it myself in sharp shocks, but the enduring poverty of an entire lifetime is something I can only imagine. In early human civilisations (around 10000 BC), once a few chieftains cottoned-on that commodity and later representative money can hold much power over creditors (Graeber), there unleashed a beast of finding new ways to accumulate it. Money can buy war, land, water, soils, families. It buys motorways and bridges. It destroys and pollutes fragile bodies and communities of flowing bodies. It can grow itself in the form of interest, or as collateral given in advance on bricks and mortar. It can earn an income in working for the machine of making money, and in dividends from consumptive companies and in their burning of energy.
In a currency economy, those with money strive to protect it, for the fear of losing it. Those without it, well, this shapes things. It manifests loss, ill-health, and despair. Poverty is traumatic, and an enemy of the biosphere because it calls for desperate measures. Fear of poverty is perhaps its truer enemy; power and physical structures built around the promises of its avoidance. In reality, these are structures organised by an elite are where trust and ecologies break down to dust. We can try to distribute money fairly, but the lure of the shiny heap of gold—or the digital bank account or cryptocurrencies, properties, vehicles, and infrastructures— keeps setting the planet up for a fall.
Production of objects for sale in exchange for capital means waste. It’s all discarded here, hidden in the estuary, flushed out from the land where human fears to the north, east, and south gather in suspension and dissolution, along with heavy metals, plastics, oil and anthropogenic chemicals, to travel out to sea and be buried. What lives and their lovers pay the toll? Scarce creatures who cling to ephemeral subtidal sandbanks—snails, worms, shrimps, and bivalves—violently displaced by dredging barges; the rare twaite shad, along with millions of other organisms, sucked into intake pipes of Oldbury Nuclear Power Station and spat out like rubbish, birds drowned in slicks of oil drifting out of Portberry Dock… and all those at the end of a gun barrel. There is some good from Capitalism, but for another system that might have also produced the same things. There is even creativity and innovation in widening market niches, and in breakthroughs in medical science and global communication, depending on the moralities of the leadership of the organisations. But it has also incubated a culture where the wolves of Wall Street are idols, where the richest 1% own 45% of the world’s entire wealth, and where debt, poverty and trauma are taken for granted as a human cost. Global-inequality, catastrophic biospheric change (the ultimate cost), the Capitalist extremes and the neoliberal power with a vice-like grip on governments and economies. Capitalism cannot fix what Capitalism wrought. The effects of this truly invasive alien body here in this tidal rip ~ poverty and the fear of it ~ are not so visible but they are ingrained.
Here at Beachley, at the mouth of the Wye, where the heavy tides bulge and shrink with lightning speed around the peninsula to the Severn Estuary, the second-highest tidal range on Planet Earth, you’ll also find The First Battalion The Rifles, just returned from Afghanistan. I hear them firing their practice rounds over land evicted from its community of villagers, trees and wilder paddocks over one hundred years ago and never returned, a war requisition to build a shipyard that never produced a ship. The failed National Shipyard trio included Chepstow just across the Wye, and Portberry, now one of Britain’s biggest hubs for the international trade in cars.
As a species (disparities aside just for one moment), we produce engines to run machines that do the heavy work, like we produce guns to do the worst of our bidding when we feel threatened or seek to control. What’s more, a new movement has squeezed through the gaps, one to give accent to “progress” – an industrial aesthetic validation for new materials forged from engineered combinations of the old. It began with early Modernism and still goes, perhaps heralded no less by architects Richard and Su Rogers and their ‘honest’ mechanical, inside-out building, the Pompidou Centre, Paris. Juxtaposed is to recall a false nostalgia, a falstalgia, would we so easily fall into the trap of the “picturesque,” especially in relation to rivers since Gilpin published his “Observations on the River Wye.” Those mellow tones still play widely with our ideas of what is framed and beautiful. Smoothed by an artist’s brush or the slow shutter speed of a camera, don’t fall for this either; imprints upon our shortbread tin minds and enamelled paradise gardens. This is not what life is.
Spread over these overworked British Isles, then exported through the brutalities of Colonialism, our ancestors have enslaved ecologies to a point that they are subservient to the whole human experiment and in a plummeting order of worth. If individual wild lives were valued as a social class, they would be the third or the fourth, or perhaps even lower. There is no real levelling, apart from those who might grant them membership of the Human Club with similar Rights under the jurisdiction of the higher justice of the Courts of the land. This is the prevalence of our dominion. It really is extreme. Would valuing them with personhood belittle their identity-in-difference, their better sense of wisdom and beauty through vast interconnectedness, the spectrum of their senses, some of which we’ll never fully comprehend? Are they as themselves never enough? Or will our culture always take pride in the conquests, so there’s little choice but to label them as persons if we want to save their lives?
Meanwhile, the intense manicuring, agricultural maximisation, and giant road and rail stuper-structures also tap into our species-vanity, jets and rockets selling the idea of winning and losing. Fear of failure still lurks powerfully in the shape and skin of the land and water, and the causes and effects that bring about an intrusion into the flow, then several intrusions, and finally a broken ecological flow dwindling to dust or flood. It is the same human fear that builds power among the many and discards the vulnerable, oppresses old ways of knowing, and breaks the spirit leaving the biosphere in a hyper-tide of trauma.
Like a passenger plane crashed into the jungle, or a ship sunk in the ocean, the trauma is here right now in the estuary, perhaps overrun by roots and holdfasts and tendrils, a reef-like sanctuary of sorts for the animals that live in the shadows. But the wreckage is also a poison, with its paints and oils; an unwarranted picturesque artwork, bleeding its mythology into an ancient ecology. These are the sunken coal barges, the car ferries, the timber ships, The Brunswick, Ramses II, The BP Explorer, and a Victorian railway bridge demolished by deathly collisions in a place that is so turbulent and dangerous, yet full of life and those trying to love, even under a slick of oil. At the same time, this is also a place where old bones and magnificent auroch horns still dwell, trapped with split oak planks and mussel middens of long-dead ancestors. Even the footprints of Mesolithic human children still just appear at the lowest tides, real and tangible to those lives where murk is the ticket to life. Up here on the bridge, we don’t have to face any of it. We can cruise along at speed thinking about our busy lives and where we are going today, glimpsing the sparkle of the setting sun on the horizon, unaware, unconcerned, of what lies beneath. As if 14 metres of tidal rip, and all the junk and the heavy metals drained from the land—Cd, Cr, Ni, Zn and Pb—have no bearing on us and our daily lives. Enter, giant burnished silver bristle worms, filamented, glowing white heat in the sub-mud, articulating their armour in little, sudden jerks. Lead sabellaria worms the size of cranes harden to each rising tide, sucking in plastic, spitting out fire. Nickel prawns the size of men pop up from the vast trap doors to dance for bronze two-ton gobies; automaton puppets. The separation from reality—that suspended disbelief—becomes horrific, and the “jumpers”, by whatever turmoil tears through their minds, make an assumption that stepping from the bridge is the end of it. Broken bodies, broken minds, the troll of this bridge is in the myths of industrial Capitalism.
Life on Earth is now under obvious duress from dominant human action in all living systems.
Human empathy exists as part of a topography of the moral imagination. We who are wired this way feel the pain and suffering (or the comfort and exhilaration) of other living beings and symlings as well as our own species. This is not exclusively a human trait. It is a feeling that needs to be nurtured and grown in resistance to individualistic Western culture and is a pre-requisite for survival – not simply of our own species but of all life as we know it.
What it means to be alive may be expressed in kindships, mental and emotional healing being an important bi-product. Mutualism is a symbiotic reference that exists as a word to describe equality of flow between two beings, commensurable benefits to both organisms involved. Reciprocity is another keyword applied to the human-nature accord to describe the process (Wall Kimmerer). Altruism is a word to describe the actions that may come at some cost to one being for the benefit of the recipient. Each term is used, to a large degree, in human sociologies only (e.g. Mutualism and Proudhon, et al).
Fluminism as an ethic of love and ecology is mutualistic but also altruistic to all living beings. Here, I create a simple extended term that is more specifically dedicated to altruistic actions of love and care towards teresapien lives which may involve interacting with both organic and inorganic materials to that end.
N is for nature
Alter- latin for the “other” of the two
Ism – English for practice, system, doctrine, teaching of a thing.
Examples vary between small acts of love, care and generosity, wildlife, pet, and livestock support and rescue, children missing school to “strike for climate” relating to species extinction, dedicating human space to wildlife in housing and commercial properties, using fewer minerals so shutting down ecosystem-destroying open cast mines, using less electricity (use beyond well-being), to full locaceding of land and sea for Rewilding, refugia and migration. Some may consider it a privileged position, but I would contend those ancient cultures still living close to nature already do it on a daily basis. This is not the same as sacrifice and is a voluntary practice or responsibility.
Altruism for fellow humans under duress continues to be an important and significant force for good.
I usually and deliberately use the term “Nature” and root suffixes to include both organic and inorganic. So I am using the suffix letter “n” as I did in creating nagorasphere.
“Nal” also happens to be a suffix relating to “belonging” e.g. maternal, paternal.
♒︎ Body Bio-Continuum ♒︎
There is a nature of beauty pushed away by all but those who live closest to the living world. It is the part of life that is the fear of danger. It is discomfort, pain, death. It is the smell of decay. From a place-time where-when our ancestors’ bodies were on constant alert for predators and harm from cuts and infection, there came the control, the corralling of wild beasts, the taming of the soils. They had evolved a sense of belonging, to sprinkle fruit seed and grains nearby, and to know the plants that eased the suffering of their loved ones. They built set nets and traps along estuaries and coasts. Inland, they killed and cut back, domesticated and pacified; an expunging of as much danger as felt easier. Fences were built. Animals and humans of burden, defeated and enslaved, all were put to work in the mastery over those dangers. Humans still play the master, harnessing machines and chemicals on top, advertised and bought, an immense Earthly naivety for the sake of profit causing untold harm. Human bodies now controlling all bodies; what a body should look and feel like in the magazines and on film; what’s permitted in public or private or not. Robots in selective human likeness are designed from scratch. We carry the legacy of the strangeness of the Neoplatonic Great Chain of Being, where all are cast into hierarchical order with the white man sitting on top surrounded by angels, pulling the strings, sitting on top of bones. And the legacy is affecting; in real ways its own engine of fear.
The truth is that our own human bodies, all shapes or genetic expressions, are symbiotic with millions of bodies. Inside and outside, desperately reliant, imbued in flows of signals and mutual work; the bodies we see and microbial lives we don’t see are the beings that make us who we are and who we are not. Multitudes are what makes each of us sublime and of miraculous worth, but also intricately delicate and unsafe. Like the estuary is never a single body, it’s a huge pulse of multiple, miraculous lives in porous forms, agents of the flow, making absolute sense from the thick silty paste of the idea of chaos.
Riverine silt is lifted from the land—the catch of a vast inland catchment; add to it the ingredients from estuarine cliffs, brown Triassic butter scraped by massive tides caused by hyper-luna-earthly gravity, from a dish made of rock laid down in ancient hot deserts of the equator. Strong turbidity, the colour of chocolate milk—a mix of red and grey particles suspended in the brackish—block most light from penetrating even the top few moments of the water column. How can such a body be ecologically productive? There are forms of life other than sun-reliant phytoplankton. Our own liver-gut axis lays in relative darkness, yet the communication of circulating nutrients and endotoxins between microbiota and liver tissue is critical to our immunity. The benthos-community axis, the communicating organisms that live at the bottom of any body of water, in the shadows or in pitch black, like the diatoms that are the foundations of aquatic ecological immunity – take them away or smother them in poisons and the dying is unstoppable. Tell me that we are autonomous units and I will show you the estuary. Like liver or river, the estuary-marine continuum is no single person, and neither are we. Here is the turmoil that is more in our likeness, the skin, and what metabolises beneath; the tension but also the life-love between everything giving rise to the drama.
The River Continuum is a truth observed, a communal and real chain of equal being. Beginning high above the tree line, it pushes down into ocean currents like a long outstretched foot. It is a theory by Robin Vannote and colleagues published in 1980, cited more than 11,000 times to date. Natural disasters and human interventions aside, it’s a theory that fits permanent flows, at least with no interrupting lakes, a shimmering riverine zonation in three dimensions. It’s not the kind of hierarchy we humans compulsively crave, the pyramid or the obelisk, but one of energy flow and nutrient streams, where resident beings (biota) process organic matter and utilise all opportunities in a fairly predictable manner. Matter feeds some, some feed others, others feed more, a few dart in and out—the predators, the migrators—adding and subtracting from this beautiful equation. And so it pulses into the estuary and on into the sea to merge into all other continuums: Oceans are perhaps the ultimate coalescence that shines this planet blue.
But the Wye does not end or begin at the mouth. All the way from those springs in the Cambrian hills, evaporating and extracted, it is both part and feeder of the swirling nagorasphere. What is carried in its flow by gravity to this dynamic turbidity in the estuary is cycled by the smallest of beings and turned into a festival for all beings: those that live or visit this place, those that shield here to grow from vulnerable to strong; those who are touched by its protective storm-buffering and surge-quelling. The matter of the basin—the huge lasso of the Wye—is swept here by rains and floods and held in suspension on top of the saltwater, pushed around the peninsula and sucked back towards the oceans by the tides, time and time again, mixing all of us under the bridge and back until we, and all our junk, are mud banks, sandbanks and longshore drift. Here in the flow that switches east to west and west to east with the weight and wobble of both the moon and the Earth, the ebb current to seaward and flood current to landward, filling the mouths and the lower reaches of all the rivers that drain here with salt and the anadromous fish at high tides who swim upstream to spawn like king salmon and their parasitic dependents, the ancient sea lampreys, and the catadromous fish at low tides, who swim down the rivers to be unleashed into the great oceans to spawn like the eels, mullet and flatfish flounder.
European sturgeon, redlist critically endangered anadromous species, ghost to our rivers but now, once again, curiously visiting our estuaries. As long as alligators, with a gentle mouth for kissing mud, what a species to see again in the Wye.
To you, Sturgeon,
Stay with us. Live with us.
Bat’Umi, Basel, Fethiye, Toulouse, Reykjavik, Tangier.
Way below the plate glass of the cities, deep in the rivers, your unfamiliar body winds upstream under the night lights. I can just make out your huge dead body in silver nitrates, museum plates of iron and steel greys next to all those proud, fading men.
Your underwater knowing is as old as the triassic cliffs on these Severn Estuary edges, my spectral kin. Like smooth-hounds and thornback rays, flick your strong fossil tail for that exquisite downward force, shimmering from tide to river and back with the burning electrosensitivity of your pitted upturned beak, patterns like beetle bark burrows, and running in floods along those beautiful lateral lines.
Swimming in from the depths of the sea, you stay in Winter to syphon the bottom of the estuary with your soft mouth, tasting for shelled morsels and goby enzymes with your long barbels and electroreceptors. Mine is the quietest of observations; yours is a full more-than-human sensory devotion of self that is the whole river-estuary-marine continuum; an internal blueprint of the movements required to get from where you are now, the bed mud and bristle worms, to the fine river grit at the foothills of the mountains when you are mature enough, to where you’ll gather in oxygenated pools to leave your young. Then, to twist through a meander with a freshwater surge, to swim-out each run into salinity, and bend this way and that way to a shallow coastal sea in falling light. Your young ought to be safe here if they reach the estuary, and they will grow well until they are fit for the pelagic, yet to return to their natal rivers to reproduce. Everything about you is revered by me. There’s a glint in your ancient, metallic orange-bronze eye.
You are a patientist, realised in acute potential—if we humans could remember it’s within us too—primed for imagining the moment of exquisite love in the flow of all life. How patient must you be, waiting for us to clean up our act and destroy those dams. Would you come and stay, then?
Your spirit presence is the result of a swim of magnificence, from the misty Gironde, the Garonne and the red wines of the Dordogne, and the Bay of Biscay, to this moment inside a future Welsh Wye, a time also threatened with Gaian fury, with flash floods, heat waves and drought. The crowd who came before have all gone, shadows blocked by weirs and finished by bullets and huge gill nets. But you came here curious, tested the water for ripeness. You have sent news back: made signs. And now they also know to be here, pulled by the smell of Welsh hills, the magnetism and internal maps of 400 million years. Ah, sister, to match your devotion! To stop our sewage pouring into your mouth. Standing perfectly still, staying present with your strength and intelligence, distraction would be unwelcome; not even to raise an underwater camera. Your hunt is too important.
Your ichthyolite ability to swim elegantly from the ocean through a curtain of silt and into clear green emeralds is for all to know, and fewer ever to notice. See, unlike me, your electro-centrism helps you navigate complexity without injury. How would the expanse of the English Channel shine as you swim under waves and ghost-whale bellies, steel hulls and oil slicks? How you would rise again without giant, slicing propellor blades.
How does electricity reflect off of me?
I am not afraid to tell you, I love you, and all our kin, as I care for this place–a happy place–down on the banks of the River Wye in June. I love the microbiota and the symbiotic relationships that sustain all the lives that exist right now, though the majority I can neither see nor hear. But I want you here too. Fluministic love means more than they think. It’s not a uniquely selfish act, but specific for this place linked in flows to all places, and little to do with my brain’s reward centres—though there is that. My life is an expression of your way in the flow, you as part of larger flows, that are part of the flows of life that distinguish planet Earth from all else yet known. We are together. Flow runs into itself and all matter, even in death. This is the truth continuum.
Sturgeon, you and the things that creep in and out of the water beside us, the things that never enter the water, the things that never climb trees, share everything through drifts in the nagorasphere. It is felt by evoking our patient imagination—you have it, like the salmon and the eels. This is a process too. Being a Fluminist is a process because we are all creatures of process not objects nor even subjects. All are a verb through time and space.
Palermo, Arkhangelsk, Prague, Odesa, Galway, Paris, Lisbon.
Chepstow, Ross-on-Wye, Monmouth, Hereford, Hay-on-Wye, Builth Wells.
Stay with us. Live with us.
I write about you so that others may choose to protect your interests in this constant dynamism, to remember that flow exists between every life, even in death, true beauty to celebrate and protect. This place is held close, and this ocean, this estuary, this river—and back again—you, the bristle worms, and the benthic deeps, the places where old weirs have imploded and now let you pass, the ranunculus riffles to those crystal clear pools. We declare these waters sacred. We share hope, in our kindship, for a unified love of the exquisite nature of natural moments, everything joined at the hip, undivided, and for the continued liberty of life and the living. It is, in a way, our small act of resistance.
Here in the estuary, a KBA (Key Biodiversity Area of international importance), a SAC (Special Area of Conservation), there are five main rivers that open their mouths to salt, with little pills or streams to create a softening in the juncture between land and water. This is a body of land in dissolution, where aquatic beings have adapted to the storm surges or cling to the banks of mud, where some hang in the water column rushing along with the tides at 1.5 metres per second, and some ripple against and with the tides. Some move in and over the shore, some shelter with the carbon sequestering eel grasses, fly high with the South Westerlies, the strong prevailing winds that snag an outgoing tide in sentient antagonism. For you and me, orange-red signs for danger but for many, a brown hatchery, a brown nursery, fat for winter storage; sanctuary deep inside a maelstrom.
Tiny soft pink-white bodies form dark crystalline reefs on the rocky substrate, or on top of years of the devotion of their own ancestors, like cities on top of cities, under the tides and in between. We—the catch of the land—are filtered by millions of these honeycomb worms (Sabellaria alveolata), quartz and mica, forams (shelled algae), shell bits, polystyrene and plastics, cemented by their tiny bodily secretions into large biogenic reefs that provide stability for their feeding and reproducing, and shelter for more beings like Brittle Stars and Beadlet Anemones.
Cobbles to gravels to clean sands, muddy sands and muds, here holds restlessly 7% of Britain’s mudflats and sandflats, a tenth of all that is supposed to be lawfully protected. Ragworms, Catworms, Sludge-worms, Baltic Clams, Laver Spires Shells, Mud Shrimps, Sand Digger Shrimps, Speckled Sea Lice, free-living Bristle Worms, Peppery Furrow Shells. Some suspended, some globs and slivers of benthic biofilm on mud banks; long, pennate bodied algae, seasonal algae diatoms, tube-dwelling diatoms, epipelic diatoms residing at the kiss between water and sediment – all silicon-cyclers on a gradient out to the sea, like living glass.
Black Goby hunt through the Dwarf Eel Grass and Seawrack beds also harbouring Nilsson’s Pipefish—at home with low salinity—sequestering carbon and grazed by wild ducks like the chestnut Widgeon, sociable birds with their noisy whistles and growls. Straggling, motley Great Pipefish, slender Snake Pipefish, Straight-nosed pipefish surge in with the storms. With the heads of seahorses and the bodies of snakes, pipefish males rear their young in marsupial-like pouches to be freed into the tide and out to sea.
Saltmarsh Glassworts, Common Reeds, Sea Barley, rare Bulbous Foxtail dwell and stabilise the ephemeral into thriving, brackish feeding and nesting grounds for waterbirds. Pills—little streams leaking land close into the estuary—and human-dug back-breaking ditches bring life to the hinterland where Water Voles plop, Common Toads croak and Little Egrets, Grass Snakes and Otters hunt. Knots, Oystercatchers, Curlew roost in crevices of rock and mussel scars foraging Barnacles, Limpets, and Winkles as well wading for their worms and clams.
Common Goby, Sand Smelt ~ these beauties stay in the deep heart of the brown to spawn. Bass and Cod are opportunists, they’ll swim in and out of the estuary to find food and seek shelter to grow. Whiting eat Brown Shrimp, shimmering silver Bristling or Sprats eat microscopic Copepods who eat anything they can find, flat Dab eat the rotting dead, along with young Shore Crabs. So many babies wash through here, but they’ll move upstream to safer waters, or back out to sea.
Tundra and Bewick Swans, Shelducks and Northern Pintails, Ringed Plovers, Eurasian Curlews, Dunlins, Redshanks, Turnstones, Lesser Black-Backed Gulls, Grey Herons, Goosanders, resident, passing through, topping up, gracing, dying. An incredible place for wading birds, named by human conservationists as a global Ramsar* site of feathery significance, this is a place only recently given back to the elegant re-introduced Avocets and uncommon Common Cranes (Grus grus), but a place worth life itself to avian kin, where all length beaks find all depths in the mud and the shingle to find what is eternally desired, the wiggling, creeping proteins and lipids and carbohydrates caked into these living shores of abundance; a place of sanctuary for them all, a passing plane, a global meeting point on major air routes from Sub Saharan Africa to the Arctic. This is a place of Earth’s Body Bio-Continuum worthy of great reverence and the highest protection, of Praximund.
And back to the Wye’s Mouth, overseen by Old Man heron and his spindly legs, between the tyre distribution centre and firing range, between two banks of slippery mud. Here hosts the lampreys, salmonids, twaite and allis shad, and the ghosts of the centenarian sturgeon, all ready to rise north on a big swell of brackish water, to heave their lithe fragile bodies against the weight of flowing fresh water, to find sanctuary upstream to breed. As tough as the ocean is, the toughest is yet to come, where the animal must endure a race against gravity, and spates, pathogens, and human scorn, and banks lined with khaki and fish hooks, to get to another sanctuary – the mythological place in their ancient minds nestled in the foothills of old, worn mountains, of transparent water and scattered sunlight, a clear little nest in a shallow shingle bed, some one-hundred miles or more inland.
*Ramsar, City of Iran, where the Wetlands Convention of International Importance was signed in 1971.