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.

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Peat Bogs and Pwca Tribes.

Bogland, Hay Bluff to Waunfach. Photo by me.

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

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

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

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

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

Sphagnum Moss. Photo by me.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Suggestions welcome, as always.


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

More on Praximund.

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

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

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

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

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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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