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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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?

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Symbioethics.

Wye at Hay, firesmoke and St Mary’s Church tower. Photo by me.

For clarity, just in case people don’t understand this word I now use instead of Environmental Ethics in the field of Philosophy.

I contend there is no such thing as an external ‘environment’, based on new/ancient understanding of the interconnectivity of all, within and without. We are symlings among symlings, inhaling, ingesting, excreting, respiring, transpiring what is without and within. All is flow in the nagorasphere.

In a sense, environmentalism never truly reflected reality, and so was always going to fail in the long run. Evidence abounds.

Sym ~ assimilated from Greek form of syn- word element meaning “together with, jointly; alike; at the same time;” from PIE (proto-indo-european) ksun or sm meaning “together”.

Bio ~ from Greek bios “one’s life, course or way of living,” from PIE root *gwei- “to live.”

Ethics ~ from Latin ethica, from Greek ēthike philosophia “moral philosophy.”

Symbioethics 

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Has the world gone mad?

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Statue of Sir Peter Scott, London Wetland Centre, by Ginny Battson © 2014

 

“The world has gone mad.”

I am hearing this often in my particular sprachraum (the Anglosphere, at least), off-line and on-line, an almost daily occurrence from one quarter or another. Along with a sharply rising global temperature mean, record breaking norm-shattering meteorology and ice-melt across consecutive months, we are witnessing regressive steps in socio-political relationships; intolerance and prejudice gaining traction as some kind of reactive protest against uneven wealth distribution and increasing migration of the dispossessed. The far right have their heads up for the main-chance. This is deeply worrying to those with a conscience.

Yet still, so few engage with what all urgently need to discuss ~ our relationship with Planet Earth, our home amidst a sixth mass extinction, the source of our very existence and our ultimate survival kit, regardless of who or to what our perceived moral community extends. Moreover, the intrinsic value of life, all life, and the processes and interconnections between all.

Never have we been so vast in number. Never have we, or any other living being, witnessed such unbridled ecocybernetic change. One cannot simply call this era the ‘new normal’, because it is highly dynamic. Each dataset combined appears as a new abnormal.

We exist in a falsely-assumed human realm, an evolutionary cul-de-sac, into which we are all symbolically corralled by our own global media and techno-markets. The truth is that we are so interconnected to all living beings and all inorganic phenomenon that we shall never fully understand it entirely. Humans are simply part of the whole. Despite what science and scientists may imply, the uncertainties are vast. Just to understand that we shall never fully understand the ultimate complexity is a humility. It is to inject some wisdom back into our times, when all else seems lost to our own arrogances.

The irony is that so many problems are made worse by delusional and fragmented ways a dominant Western pedagogy view the Earth, its systems and unfathomable complexities. Purely anthropocentric “utility” of nature (servitude and subordination to humans) still reigns supreme in UK conservation circles, indeed UNEP. It is no panacea, as if nature is inert and placed here for one purpose only. Sometimes, I find it is these individuals and organisations who make me more angry than the just plain greedy. Given their privileged status of being educated, they ought to know better. Some are even ecologists, studying some of these very interconnections.

I think, as others do, many are limited to a narrow field of vision, disjointed fragments of connections, encouraged by the rationalisation of Western education tied to a career-plan ~ the training of specifics, cognitive biases towards the familiar, a lack of the cross-disciplinary, rendering many blind to the peripheral vision required upon the ‘whole.’ Or is it desperation? On the frontline, they may be tired of a fight, susceptible to caving in to global financial ambitions towards exponential growth on a finite planet. Those dark forces are, indeed, strong. But giving in is not pragmatism. Giving in is simply giving in.

I have written before on the dangers of so-called Natural Capital valued by a single unit of financial measure. Now the WWT have released their latest policy document on economic value into the very heart of the neoliberal centre-line in Westminster, subjecting nature to the same volatile economic paradigm that favours the rich and acutely fails to ‘trickle down.’ How can we legitimately and morally divide into financial units that which is hugely interconnected and that we do not fully conceive? We too are nature, the moon and the stars. Where does this end?

This is on top of the widespread eco-illiteracy of even the most basic of underlying cybernetic principles of the ecosphere. WWT were, and are, leaders in voluntary environmental education. I revere them in this sense, utterly. Peter Scott’s beautifully altruistic ambitions have influenced many across the globe, ~ no mean feat. In his wake, I wish this respected organisation would expand education into the mainstream, not enter the fray on economics as if there were no economic alternatives than to subject nature to the language of commerce and government ~ the corporates, lobbyists, hedge funds and bankers. Investment in support of nature (including us), is important, that the flow of resources towards habitat restoration and integrated protection is generously provided via better understanding. But to value non-human life in packets of currency is another matter, I don’t care how desperate things may seem! A 25 year plan along these lines makes me suffer from eco-anxiety. I am imagining the abuses possible by a hedonistic, self-regulating City of London as I write. Many new Cabinet members don’t even acknowledge climate change as a real and present threat, leave alone that a sixth extinction is underway, and between them a small to non-existent understanding of functional ecology. Money is not an ecological educator. No matter how ‘regulated’ this new order may seem, entrepreneurial spirit and diligent accountants will find the gaps in order to take advantage at a profit. There can be no guarantees all will be for the good. This is the nature of free commerce right now. The whole paradigm needs to shift.

And it is not by accident that our consumption-driven culture is stealing the human cumulative brain-force that could be working on better solutions. And as the shopping malls hum with either those with cash to buy or those eternally unhappy people with unrequited aspirations and no cash, the planet burns. The 1% percent skim it all off and walk away scot free. Leopold spoke of land as community to which we should belong, not chattels to be owned. Pricing nature implicitly commodifies, even if unintended, like a serious side-effect to be listed on pharma labels. And let us not forget that slavery is immoral. Ownership of all living beings follows (even domestic animals – an argument for another day).

I am being blunt here, because I feel blunt is required. “The world has gone mad?” It is the human world that is mad. The majority of Earth is probably trying to regain homeostasis despite us. There are better ways to induce care for one another, our non-human kin and the inorganic phenomenon which are integral to life. Egalitarian eco-education/mentoring has not yet been tried, not least in the corridors of the City of London and Westminster, indeed any centre of power in great force! There’s huge room for engendering respect and reciprocity, love ~ I have not and will not give up on the ultimate power of love ~ and, with a will and a way, a return to the ecosphere perceived by the majority as sacrosanct.

I will write again on the sacrosanct, the return and the sacred, soon. And with love!

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Who Knows ~ A poem for Ginny, by Elizabeth Rimmer

 

There are people who know the world
in specifics – not gull, but black-backed,
(lesser and greater), black-headed,
common, glaucous and herring.

There are people who know the woods –
not trees, but oak, willow, hazel,
aspen, and lime, and not oak
but sessile or pedunculate.

There are people who learn the names,
the Latin, the genus, the cultivar,
making lists for countries and years,
and the life-list with all the ticks –
the bbjs, and the gaps they need to fill.

And then, there are other people
whose hands and eyes know everything,
who taste the wind for salt or coming rain,
who find the right leaf or root or berry
for health or flavour, without a word spoken.

There are people who know their gardens
like their family, their lawn like their own skin,
a new bird by the frisson the cat makes,
even before the stranger’s call
breaks into the grey still morning.

And who can tell us which of these
knows best, knows more, can teach,
protect or harvest earth and sky
and water for the common good?

Or shall we try for both, a lore
of senses, heart and mind at one,
where knowledge and compassion
are held in equal balance, equal trust?

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Elizabeth Rimmer is Makar for the year 2016, Federation of Writers (Scotland).

I’m honoured to present her work here, and immensely touched this was written for me. Thank you Elizabeth, for an enduring feeling of joy.

Elizabeth was born in Liverpool, moving to Scotland in 1977. Her first collection Wherever We Live Now was published in 2011 by Red Squirrel Press. Her second collection The Territory of Rain was published by Red Squirrel Press in September 2015, and officially launched Feb 2016 at the Scottish Poetry Library, Edinburgh.

Her work has also appeared in Poetry Scotland, Stravaig, Northwords Now, Brittle Star, Gutter, and Drey, and on-line in The Stare’s Nest and Zoomorphic.

She blogs at www.burnedthumb.co.uk.

Brave swallows

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“One swallow does not a summer make, nor one fine day; similarly one day or brief time of happiness does not make a person entirely happy.” Aristotle

I’ve just returned from a short stay on the Channel Islands. We made our sea crossing in a fast catamaran ferry which departed from a distinctly sunny St Helier to a particularly cloudy Weymouth. About mid-journey, mid April, as I leaned on the portside railings to brace myself from high winds, I noticed we had just passed a small sailing yacht also bearing north, bobbing in and out of a medium swell. Just above the inky water, between the two moving vessels, I glimpsed a pair of small dark birds, wing tip to wing tip, flying faster than the yacht and slower than the ferry.

Their flight style, recorded deep in my childish memories of common land and sweet hay meadows, gave their instance away as “barn swallows”, regardless of the unfamiliar backdrop. They were perhaps a little seasonally late in their Northward ventures over crested waves.Their usual glossy feathers were dulled, I imagined, by red Saharan dust.

Breathtaking.

Here were two seemingly fragile passerines determined to cross yet another vast stretch of water, with tiny beating hearts and a heritable timing for their arrival somewhere on British terra firma to nest. I was mesmerized, so happy, but my failing eyesight tracked them for only a minute before losing them as we ploughed on towards Portland rock. I’m unsure anyone else on deck noticed them. Maybe the crew on the bridge.

Migration of whichever species, horizontally, vertically, all around Spaceship Earth, fills me with Carson’s “sense of wonder” and beyond, with empathy and concern for our fellow time travelers . Two little birds out at sea and a massive volume of life all around the planet making tracks.

I noticed the catamaran was throwing up sea spray, which the wind spun into webs by the ton, drifting across the swallows’ path. One of the many unexpected hazards they face. I hoped they coped.

Hope as the plasticity of the mind, the flip side of fear, is all I have.

Much later, by the time I reached home in the Welsh Borders, a few Southern African swallows had already completed their Spring journey; a stunning feat in all manner of ways. They swooped and dived, I do believe, in a “sense of wonder”. Brave swallows, with the hearts of lions.

BTO Spring Migration

River Days

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Vernal equinox has come and gone for the year and we tip more towards the ball of fire that is the Sun than we do away. Longer days stretch out before us.

My daughter and I chat about our hopes for dreamy days by the river, fresh sandwiches and pink lemonade moments interspersed by cool, wild swims in a seemingly perfect halcyonic existence.

We look forward to natural abundance, to the lime green glow beneath overarching alders, and to finding our feet on slick pebbles through a cool, shallow flow.

There will be the buzz of Dipper and Kingfisher wings. There will be Beautiful Demoiselles alighting on sedges. We’ll hug each other whilst balancing on fallen trees laying across the stream.

Dreams based on memory feed the imagination of what is possible.
Whether via pictorial or descriptive representation, through any or all of the senses, to imagine is as important to possibility as it is to dream.

Choices, choices, climate change.

A few thoughts on people/nature conflict resolution, exposed to the elements, hounded by storms and, perhaps, to be scoured by a flood of anthropocentrism.

“Nature OR Agriculture” “Birds OR People” “Rural OR Urban”

I’m certainly hearing these demands more frequently over the airwaves. Career politicians, wrapped in the perpetual maelstrom of an adversarial system, appear hellbent on continuing to present financial and moral arguments based on A versus B. Of course, they never clearly define A or B, but intentionally reenforce prejudice and encourage division amongst the populous for their own gain, even if simply for a first-past-the-post vote.

Emissions, biodiversity loss and lack of natural resilience, all contributing to the problem and action is overdue, but it is now crucial that knee-jerk decisions should not be made in exchange for short-termism. Climate, flood, food, parliamentary reform, legislature. Everything is connected. We need to be mindful.

Flooding, concrete solutions?

Pro ‘business as usual’, energy hungry growth mongers, will of course want to pour their concrete, hold back the seas and the rivers, command us dominant over nature. I can hear the rally cry now: Fight the good fight, especially if it’s job creating! And, by the way, a smaller government will ‘liberate’ the farmer to dredge himself, ‘incentivise’ the corporates to construct those high riparian walls, leave those cash strapped LAs no choice but to clean up the mess and push up taxes. And we’ve always the military industrial complex to fall back on, send in the soldiers.

But aren’t these offerings from the very stony cold hands that dealt us the problem of climate change and biodiversity loss in the first place? Pure Capitalists, Neoliberals and their lobbyists? And we can’t forget the advertising and packaging industry!

Human/nature conflict here in the UK is reaching a threshold, methinks. And with the utmost sympathy for those directly impacted by the floods, I hope it is for the better. Have we arrived at the tipping point? Too long we’ve been in a bubble, protected from the impacts of a changing climate, storm surges, glacier-melts and bone-whitening drought, unlike other areas on the planet, mostly undeveloped but highly populated. What if there had been no Thames Barrier? Westminster under water some ten years ago may have catalysed political action some way before now. Money no object? So much for austerity! All the while, wetlands have been drained, ditches culverted, cheaper low lying land developed, no consumer change encouraged and causation avoided… we even have HS2 on track to weigh the south east down even deeper into the sea. Mainstream broadcasting would never have us believe those ‘positive’ Christmas retail statistics are in any way connected to the Thames communities knee deep in silty, bacteria and litter laden floodwaters. We can always buy our way out of trouble, no? We continue importing, burning oil, fracking, consuming.

Soft options: flood preventions integral with nature

The idea that ‘soft’ could introduce so much positivity and thriftiness to the equation would surely rock a neoliberal establishment. Soft? Even the word doesn’t fit where Conservative politicians are concerned. I doubt very much if Owen Paterson would ever describe himself as ‘soft’.
One could always use the word ‘restore,’ perhaps there is strength in this simple word. To restore sounds a little conservative, if only with a small ‘c’. Restore begins with the letter ‘r’. ‘R’ is for radical, however.

Nature WITH agriculture, birds WITH people, rural WITH urban.

It really is time for us nature-centrics to shout louder, on the science AND the moral choices we should be making in our ‘resilient’ plans for the future. If we accept we are part of nature as opposed to separate, we are half way to discovering our full potential on Earth, in our own life support and the support of all other life. But if we are to find our Nirvana, salvation or simply our sustainable place upon Earth, the choices do not have to be A OR B, red corner verses blue. Moreover, A can be integrated with B, solutions borne out of valuing nature for its own sake. Complementary nature-based solutions, co-existence, integration, flow, soft. Radical.

For more information on ‘soft’ solutions to increased flooding due to climate change, please explore here. The European Centre for River Restoration