Chapter Severn – The Mouth – Body Bio-Continuum and To You, Sturgeon.

 

 

The Mouth of the Wye as it speaks to the Severn Estuary. Photo by me.

 

♒︎     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.

~~~

Bhewtics ~ nature mentors

Me and my gal. I hope I have been a good bhewtic for her.

 

Quite astonishingly, we don’t have a special word in English for those who would mentor others in studying nature, in finding connections with nature, and in being part of nature.

I want to be able to give credence to those who would do such work. In finding the word, I am simply going back to our roots: to the Proto Indo-European language and keeping it simple.

Bhewtis ~  nature.

With the suffix “ic,” meaning pertaining to, as in the word “medic” which means pertaining to heal.

Bhewtic – pertaining to be of nature. A medic heals. A bhewtic mentors one in and of nature. A high calling.  It sounds rather beautiful too, don’t you think?

~~~~

 

 

Audio:

On Climate as the Dominant Meme.

Rain shapeshifts the trees and their unseen communities through glass. Photo by me.

I’ve come to realise, friends, that even some of the most influential speakers and writers of words on climate do not understand even the basics of Earth as an entire dynamic system of systems.

I go further and say that a repetitive use of the word climate as the dominant meme is now serving LIFE poorly. LIFE is mutualism en masse, symbiosis as a continued wave down deep in the rock to surprisingly high in the atmosphere. This is why I have coined the word symbioethics

Please, think about how you use the word climate, despite the big crowds in high politics going on and on because of pressure to “do” something as opposed to “nothing”. They aren’t system thinkers. Their goals are linear and flat. In terms of Earth Crisis/es, they are the Flat Earthers. Neoliberalism is particularly exploiting the situation; it’s raw like drawing blood. To these people, carbon and carbon dioxide are exchangeable units to trade, and mass electrification means Business-As-Usual in all other aspects of LIFE. There’s blood all over the place, and more to spill.

All aspects of modern life, I’m almost afraid to say it, are what led to the invention of fossil fuel exploitation in the first place, and hence the unfurling, energized, continuing nightmare that is Earth Crisis. Climate change is a symptom, not the disease. You have to recognise this, surely, because those politicians and capitalists may have less of a clue than you.

Earth is different as a planet because of LIFE. I’m animating LIFE in capitals, so as to know and perhaps feel your way into how things really are. I don’t care much about these competitive and anxiolytic obsessions with targets and meeting them, just please stop for a moment and take this in.

LIFE came about because of LIFE.

Sure, it took long-gone, variable qualities of non-organic systems, the chance events of matter, including water, reacting and compounding billions of years ago until an opportunity existed for the emergence of early RNA-like substances, DNA, viruses, and bacteria and cells. In certain conditions again, perhaps under a newly generated organic methane shroud, like smog to deter ultra-violet violence, these basic cells merged again, forming metabolizing and photosynthesizing cells, and in more than one place in similar timescales (symbiogenesis).

LIFE then really took off in this swirling flow of abundance, and when these earliest colonies of dazzling (Lynn Margulis) living matter grew into and around others, more cells found novel roles and began to coalesce in the form of more complex organisms. You only need to understand lichen to realise how it is LIFE that changes the conditions for LIFE. Lichen turns rock into soils; soils are hotbeds for LIFE. And that’s just one example we can all see with our own eyes.

Since those magnificent Earthly points in time and space, LIFE has gained strength by manipulating those very same inorganic and organic systems that produced them, changing them to suit more LIFE (Gaia Theory, even if weak). LIFE has evolved for billions of years subjecting, and being subjected by, the conditions of Earth as a system (Lovelock).

Fast forward three billion years—and five previous extinction events—and here we are, and every living being is still a colony among colonies.

Climate is just one of many interconnected systems that sustain LIFE, though inescapably critical. Its power under change is rage, but the rage should be ours because members of our own species created the volatility, and a minority still pursue it ~ for cash. Climate, on the other hand, simply describes the weather conditions that prevail in general or over a long period. Climate does have the power to let LIFE thrive or die out. But even the atmosphere is largely a product of everything else going on in the world, chiefly… LIFE. Climate is a symptom. As such, it isn’t just physics. The neoliberals, the corporate capitalists, deny it. They may have begun to engage under pressure, at last, but it is only on their terms ~ cash.

Let’s look at LIFE instead.

What are the LIFE supporting systems?

LIFE on Earth is symbiotically related to several Earth and cosmological systems, which are mainly energized by the Sun, our aspect towards the Sun, but sometimes by sources from within the Earth itself. These are all intimately related in flows. We can try to separate them for the sake of study, but the reality is a giant existential, moving system, full of subsystems, cycles, and processes. All is relatedness, flow.

On Earth, the main sub-systems are as follows.

Hydrosphere
Geosphere
Biosphere
Atmosphere

Each one is interconnected to the other by processes and cycles, transforming and exchanging matter and energy over time from the nano-second into deep time.

Evaporation, erosion, convection currents, transpiration, photosynthesis, weathering, erosion, rock formation, ocean currents, climate…no beginning nor end. Carbon, sulphur, salt, food, nitrogen, water, energy, cycled on into LIFE and back again, including human LIFE, which can’t exist without them all.

There are even more systems and processes, macro and micro, even sub micro and meta macro, many of which we have no understanding nor measure. But we know the consequences of them – LIFE on Earth. Sometimes, we have to imagine. Or simply trust in them. But this means leaving soft imprints everywhere we go, or none at all.

SIXTH Extinction Event – Humans.

Scientists relay via peer review evidence that we are into Earth’s sixth extinction event. This includes leviathan climate change.

The five previous extinction events we know about because of the rock record, have been initially caused by activity outside of the organic experience. We know there are historic “orbital” rhythms to climate, which we call the Milankovic Cycles, named after the scientist who mooted the theory, and we know that vulcanicity, tectonic drift, and even giant comet strikes have all altered the stasis of Earth’s spectacularly unified systems that sustain a gradual flow of LIFE.

The problem is that we humans have so manipulated all four of Earth’s main systems that we are changing global stasis and therefore climate (for the sake of argument, the conditions of life as we understand them) earlier and faster than it would otherwise do so. And it is happening so quickly, driven by a power-crazed minority that wrongly perceives accumulation of wealth as the aim. Climate is the global feedback as are ocean currents slowing due to melting ice, displacement of bacterial and photosynthetic drivers of certain cycles, including changing salinity. Yes. Climate change IS heating and weirding and will create more torment and suffering to LIFE, because of the feedback loops in linked systems, like the hydrosphere (flooding, drought, etc).

Existential LIFE on Earth is inherently magnificent. It is so even without humans considering it merely here to serve our needs. But that magnificence is being killed off by humans through overreach in all aspects. All kinds of human development block the flows of LIFE, the processes, and relationships that sustain communities. Climate change so far (no nuclear winters just yet) is a result of the destruction of living and geological systems that trap carbon in long cycles.  Significant anthropogenic (human-caused) changes have happened since the emergence of human agriculture and cities, but sky-rocketing because of the industrial revolution, wide-scale fossil fuel emissions, and a rapid greenhouse effect. Smothering soils with tarmac and concrete, burning peat, harvesting woodland, churning out pollution and waste, fragmenting all kinds of ecosystems with hard infrastructure and agriculture, killing sea LIFE ~ all effects the carbon cycle. Space Capitalism is exacerbating all. This is not just about climate!

Kill off LIFE, and we kill off ourselves. Remember, we are all communities within communities. Nothing is separate.

There are signs and signals everywhere that something is seriously wrong with the systems that sustain LIFE as we understand them, the global COVID19 pandemic in humans being simply the latest. Many more exist beyond the human realm if only more of us understood.

Words matter.

Human words are critical in how we relate experience to one another, but are also significantly powerful over all other LIFE forms because that’s the state of play right now ~ human dominion over all LIFE. I’m sick of people suggesting to me that words do not matter, despite them using words to try to communicate that fact. Your words, my words, act as communication capsules fronting deep memory, transformation, emotions, belonging and doing. They can be used as weapons, salves, or instruments of new ways of thinking. Words do matter, especially those repeated and repeated in the public sphere. We should be way more aware of their power.

I’d like to hear the word LIFE just as much, if not more, than the word CLIMATE. It is LIFE that is ultimately of profound worth, even though a clement climate is ideal for life in different regions as we understand it now. To avoid LIFE and its diversity in our language allows human power structures to focus only on CO2 in the atmosphere like a currency and climate as if it were still dissociated with all those systems that sustain LIFE.

Climate this and climate that. Even critical areas such as justice and equity aren’t adequately served well by its narrow framing. Just look at water and food supply, and the terrible inequities of pollution streams. Some solutions to fit the climate narrative even go so far as to kill more LIFE when LIFE is the evolutionary response to climate warming. Curtail LIFE and you are doubling, tripling the problem.

Systems thinking, please, and in the use of language. To continue isolating the language of climate is a folly. It is a kind of othering, something difficult to handle for almost everyone else. Too big, too ethereal. Something only for learned and passionate experts, or politicians.

The way we live our lives in community, as community among many communities (human and teresapien), is the change. This will help steady the symptom of climate change, though we know the genie has already let rip. It will critically help LIFE in mutualisms and flows. Teachers can be a huge part of facilitating that community change by example. As can any local government, library or hospital officer with responsibility for public buildings and grounds. I’ve little faith in private, competitive interests (at the heart of Capitalism), but maybe there is some hope here. I will wait to see if the practice of locaceding is accepted. Meanwhile, Governments can help or hinder, but the change must be a groundswell. At the moment, voting records still show contempt and apathy from the ground. They will take heart from this, and carry on ignoring LIFE.

It is my greatest hope that Fluminism, on the other hand, is a positive word from the get-go. As a symbioethic, it relates easily to all flowing mutualisms, processes, cycles, and systems that sustain and proliferate LIFE in diversity and abundance. As a word with meaning, I use it as a resistance to those Earth scarring ways of perceiving, being, and doing in this world. It’s a treatment of the disease and the symptom. Perhaps you might use it too. Once understood, it is do-able by everyone equally and daily, and a perception of the world that is then very difficult to un-know.

~~~~

 

What is Artifice?

Sheep field next to the River Wye, nr Hay. Photo by me.

There seems a renewed and furious human chauvinism by some, rejecting the material reality of ecological processes to the extreme, including the principle of Rewilding (Soule, et al).

The fury seems based on NGO dominance in the field (they are certainly not democracies), plus purchasing power without local consent or participation. NGO’s aside, because alternative treaties for collective and local management are possible, without ecological succession we are talking about the proliferation of anthropogenic urbanization, suburban expansion, farming, fishing, and forestry as the default position on a central plank of Human Rights.

In reaction, particularly to the question of urbanization and suburban expansion, the legally trained and culturally-influenced capitalists (though they would deny the latter), are persisting in claiming the Rights for Nature. All arguments are, therefore, sucked into the realm of the Courts, to mainly White Eurocentric judges, lawyers, and clerks. Rights are important agreements of equality between ourselves as human individuals, there is no doubt, and they are judged in Courts by other humans versed in the language of humans and the Law. All of these Human Rights should be firmly based upon ecological and physical material reality because that is the ultimate responsibility. But let us not forget that ecological processes are incommensurable with complex Laws evolved for one, single species ~ Homo sapien. One could call the Courts an “artifice” in ecological terms.

Terribly oversimplified, there are three main interconnected effects that drive suffering and extinction of human and teresapien life.

a. Global human inequity (to include extreme capitalism, arms trade, neo-colonialism, GDP Growth, racism and poverty, nationalism, conflict and migration, et al)

b. Ecological depauperation and biodiversity declines (critical to existence)

c. Climate crisis (volatile, extreme, and includes sea level rises)

Inequity has a great deal to do with depauperation and climate, but without ecological resilience, quite frankly, we (all life) face armageddon. Food and clean water depend mainly upon b. And c. contributes to a. and b.

We are, indeed, nature. But we are not the sum of all ecological processes. We must understand moments when letting things go is as important as when, where, and how to intervene. In not allowing succession and a plethora of other life-sustaining processes–some of which we have no idea–to re-instate their own evolutionary force, we are continually arresting ecological growth, interfering with ecological cycles of entropy, and preventing niche opportunities for life to flourish. Disturbance can drive evolution over time, but planetary dominion by our species has all the features of a catastrophic, continued extinction event (pain and suffering). As Chomsky said, “we are the asteroid,” more accurately, the conscious asteroid.

Ecological processes are core to ‘life.’ Indigenous cultures greatly understand this, and we in the Westernish have a full opportunity to learn from these people and their wisdom. I agree, that without consent or agreement, all interventions, passive or active, are forms of oppression. But the most oppressed of all, we have to remember, don’t speak human.

Ecological disturbance (that’s what we are, ecological disturbers, primary and secondary consumers), is now so vast as to arrest and even undermine evolutionary succession across all biomes. Climate change is fundamentally linked by the nature of this dominion, especially in the destruction of ecosystems for the extraction and burning of fossil fuels.

There must be room for ecological succession without heavy human disturbance. Setting up Rewilding v Traditional Pastoral is a non-starter. There’s no pulling the past out of a bottle like a genie, but we can learn from all, science and indigenous wisdom, moving forwards.

What if.

What if it’s not the last 50 years of human interventions that have caused the crash in living systems here in the UK, but the last 200 years? What if it’s not the last 200 years of human intervention but the last 10,000 years? These are still relevant questions in ongoing geological discussions as to when the Anthropocene began. They are also relevant to how we perceive a need for change.

Without the development of farming techniques over the last 10,000 years, there could not have been an industrial revolution in the last 200+ years. Without the industrial revolution in the last 200+ years, there could not have been intensive development and farming over the last 50 years.

People are considering we must again, at least, adopt the traditions of, say, 50 or 200 years ago, but in many ways, these are assumptions based on an emotional but often warped sense of comfort that stems from nostalgia. Human Rights? I have outlined before and above the problems of Rights, and believe in a fundamental Responsibility for all life in all we do. Ecologies have changed, the climate has changed/is changing. Our numbers have changed. And all kinds of social patterns have changed. We need to look at each place, case by case. We are in crisis.

Urban agriculture, urban ecology, community gardening, produce share is totally underestimated here in the UK. These are lands already heavily occupied by our species. To most people, rural land is utterly unavailable. To them, rural land may as well be the deep blue sea or the rocky mountains. Cities and suburbia offer, at least, a chance to form strong community bonds with a critical mass of political will in order to form gardens, homesteads, and varying organic horticultures: Reclamation of the public place. Why do we continue to allow ourselves to be dominated by landowners, NFU, supermarkets, NGOs, and/or corrupt state politics interested only in maintaining the status quo? Bring back food/ecology into local control, where the majority of people reside, including distribution, and let locacede happen where it can be agreed and will be welcome.

Above all, we are making choices now. Claiming successional processes, or re-introducing trophic species, are an “artifice” in favour of Homo sapien farming practices 50 or 200 years old is a broken concept, because all we do about living within resilient ecologies from now on could, therefore, be classed “artifice.” Remember, and for Earth’s sake, the real “artifice” is pouring tons of chemicals onto the land, draining rivers and water tables, forcing seasonality, and being exclusive about who manages the land, whether it be farmers, rewilders, developers, or industrial biochemical and genetics companies. We can do better and for all life.

 


 

Audio:

Ecolartia (eco-l-art-ia)

Riverbank ~ image by me, entered into the New York International Photo Competition 2012

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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.

~~~~~~~

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.

 

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

 

 

 

Gwylet ~ a fledgling gull.

First flight, a juvenile gull lands heavy on the balcony. She’s scared. Parents, sentinels. The community is a riot.

I’m going to call this mottle-beauty a gwylet, after Welsh gwylan for gull and ‘et, as in cygnet, owlet.

After hours, she finds her way to the edge, and swoops again, wind through her virgin feathers.

To another, lower shiny, slate roof.

Landing, slips down, backwards, wings stretched. Friction.

Stops. Climbs ugly to a tiny notch. Breathes.

 

I’m with her parents, on guard, until nightfall. But in the morning, they are all gone. #gwylets #gulls

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Into the dust ~ a quick note.

I have to be honest with you, friends. I’m not feeling particularly optimistic. An utterly inept and dangerous government is one thing, but that anyone might still support it is now utterly beyond me. Couple this with a lack of British publisher support for ecophilosophy, as it is deemed not to be saleable on the market, and I have fallen into a hole.

We are into the realms of a new kind of popular, selfish ineptitude, and disregard for the value of life. Let’s see how these so-called ‘leaders’ and their ilk fare, when idolatry capitalism eventually crashes into dust, leaving a trail of loss, bloodshed and heartache never seen before in the history of mankind.

Climate and nature loss, including rapid soil depletion and ocean harm, and subsequent human migration/refugees, will travel through us all in ‘shocks.’ This immoral government, and ones to follow, are just about the worst you could pick to deal with any of it, fanning the flame of ‘self’.

But the following just happened, and I feel even more pessimistic. Sorry.

I posted to my local mutual aid facebook group, set up in hopeful generosity to help others due to COVID19. I asked, on behalf of the nesting birds all around us right now, could people think twice about setting off fireworks. A full display had taken place right next to my neighbours’ home late the other night ~ my neighbours being lesser black backed gulls among the chimney pots. Along with many other birds at this time of year, they have been devoted to incubating eggs and keeping chicks warm. It has been a privilege to observe their utter devotion. During the recent high and chilling winds, any abandonment would be fatal.

But my post has been deleted after a row broke out between locals, when some asserted the ‘right’ for humans to enjoy fireworks to mark life events, verses many more who find all kinds of reasons to be unsettled and frightened, of loud, abrupt, un-notifiable, explosions in the community. Some think it’s a trivial matter to risk and kill birds ~ abject cruelty. They even appealed to the emotion of empathy to justify this ‘right’, suggesting it was a demonstration of grief!

They have completely detached from biological reality. Covid19 itself came from an utter disregard for nature!

When wild lives are disturbed or terrorized, their relatively benign co-evolved viruses begin to shed, jumping species and reproducing in our poorly adapted immune systems. Avian bird flu is yet another virus easily flushed out of birds, and into us. The answer is never to destroy wildlife, but to live in peace and symbiosis, and therefore in strength.

Biological reality is that all are connected. Our life-on-Earth system is like a complex circulatory system. Cut it deep, and we will all bleed out. Everyone deserves to understand this, and develop a new outlook.

We need to think beyond ourselves, and value all life for its own sake. If we do not find a way of teaching everyone the importance of this fact, and publishing ideas and ideals to reach this end, the suffering will be unspeakable. There may or may not be a lag between events and suffering, depending on how wealthy ‘we’ are ~ equity and justice are so pivotal to outcomes.

But more events will come.

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Audio, including a more optimistic introduction – a chick has been born! I was also distracted by, as usual, all the activity on my roof terrace. I thought it would be fun to post, regardless. x