It was a Thursday last week when I read about the exhibition – Shifting Landscapes – on the South Bank in London featuring an immersive installation titled Breathing with the Forest (pictured above), and figured I needed to be there. It only had three days left to run. There were no commitments stopping me making a round trip to the city on the Saturday, and I was lucky enough to get a ticket online, which was free. I managed to book a discounted train ticket.
Something about the frozen, pained expression on Chandler Bing’s face whenever he sensed the joke was on him or that he’d made a massive boo-boo — just before he restored the playful vibe with a self-deflating quip — captures the off-centre mood I’ve been in for the past few weeks. It’s partly personal and partly societal. I feel like a minor moving part in a huge, accelerating machine that’s veering off-track and beginning to tilt, and while my inner gyroscope is trying to right things it’s clear there’s nothing to be done.
Who says there’s no such thing as free will? Quite a few people, it turns out. Philosophers, scientists and best-selling public intellectuals, some with real sway.
“This sort of free will [such as choosing between an apple or a banana from the fruit bowl] is ruled out, simply and decisively, by the laws of physics” says an evolutionary biologist quoted in this considered article by Oliver Burkeman.
The article offers a scan of the field and comes down in favour of a more nuanced understanding of what free will entails. And it got me wondering, because underlying assumptions about what we are and are not capable of deciding and doing must have a big bearing on how we – as individuals and as a global community – relate and respond to cascading environmental breakdown. If we truly live in a clockwork universe, absent free will, then why sweat it?
We should be looking at the world as a temple and humans as its devotees, cleaning it, caring for it, changing the flowers. Every small gesture does something to contribute. (Emily Young)
The COP 26 UN climate meeting in Glasgow starts in a couple of weeks, and it’s not being overly cynical to predict that the best that can come out of it will be a tightening of rich nations’ non-binding commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in line with targets declared at COP 21 in Paris, 2015. In other words, another extension of the race among the wealthy and industrialized to be the slowest to feel the fear, slash emissions, and stare down business-as-usual.
Our ancestors fought through genocide, they fought through that trauma. And not only did they survive this trauma they passed down knowledge that built the societies that we are built on today.
So this knowledge, that has been passed down for thousands of years, can be accessed and it can be applied to a daily life no matter where you are, no matter where you are from. Because industrial revolution is over now if we want to survive, if we want to carry on life on earth we need to be a part of the restorative revolution. And whatever that looks like for you – just make sure you get your hours in.
These words are spoken by Sammy Gensaw in the documentary film ‘Gather’, one of several individuals featured in the film who are, in their various ways, reclaiming food sovereignty – traditional food culture and life-support systems tied to the land – for native peoples of North America. He also says at one point, the apocalypse has already happened. He’s a young man, a sequoia sapling in the clear-cut devastation of an old-growth forest, and his words carry authority. As does his call to action.
The film gives us a glimpse of how Sammy and the others are carrying out restoration. It moves, inspires, and sometimes hurts to watch — and it asks: what does the restorative revolution look like to you? What will your work be? Continue reading “Restorative revolution”
After 49 years of going offshore fishing or working out of doors in the buiding trades have come realize that an old addage does indeed apply. There are many days when the sun rises so beautiful that you have to stop and just look, thank the cosmos for being allowed to see something special. Offshore there are days when the gods of the wind are kind, the seas are calm, the gods of machinery are happy, the gear comes up like clockwork and full of the finest kind of fish, scallops, shrimp, or lobsters. The gods of the hunt are favorable. Ashore there are days where the gang and materials show up on time, the weathers are good, people know what they are doing and do it, and the job comes together, again just like clockwork. The building gods are happy.
Then there are those days when you call the gang out of the bunk at 0300 after a loud bang and jolt because because the gear is hung down on a old wreck or a giant boulder, and it takes half the day to try and work it free before finally having a wire part off and only one door and half a net comes up, and most of all no fish. The gods of machinery and navigation were sleeping. Or the electrical gods are arguing and a generator goes on the fritz, or it starts snowing hard and the radars or the GPSs go down. Or the wind gods decide to blow and all of a sudden you are banging through 20′ seas hanging on with one hand and trying to do your work with the other.
Some days you get the bear, and some days the bear gets you. All in a days work they say, the good with the bad, the way it has always been. At the end of the trip or the end of the year you add it all up and pay the expenses and share up whatever is left. Nothing’s easy theory, or if it was easy, everyone would be doing it.
Dear reader if you are anything like me, or if your approach to living on this earth is anything like mine and those i see up close around me, then most of one’s energies have been focused on earning a living, raising and teaching a family, trying to be a good friend to those around you, generally trying to be a constructive responsible citizen. That’s how you do it, or at least it was until recently, because it may not be enough. Collectively the way we live has second order effects that are the opposite of the things that even the most aware, careful, and pono of us strive for.
In early February a new report came out from the UK Treasury – “Final Report – The Economics of Biodiversity: The Dasgupta Review”. Now there are so many papers, studies, and plans that get published every single day that it is near impossible to keep up with reading even the headlines or the abstracts. But this one might serve to truly change the way we need to think about our relationship to the world around us. And just maybe it should.
Here is a link to the main UK website:
There you will find both the short versions and the full report (26 MB) in pdf and html formats, and i believe it helpful to start with the basic outline “Headline Messages” (10 pages, 1.84 MB). I submit the link to this report in hopes that it may spark comments and insights from our loyal local readership, but make no mistake it is not for the fainthearted.
Reading what I wrote yesterday (part 1), it seems that trying to analyse the English word ‘love’ may have been a red herring. Augustine was a Berber who grew up in what is now Algeria, in the late 4th century, and was educated and wrote in Latin. Whatever he meant by ‘love’ is unlikely to square with the connotations the word carries for us in early 21st century English. Catholic theologians, responding to Biden’s speech online, emphasize that Augustine would have been thinking of Godly devotion as the primary force knitting a multitude into one people.
We’re in an age of tipping points now, tipping points upon tipping points. No sense beating about the bush.
The climate’s tipped into free fall. We mostly conceive of climate change in increments of temperature rise, but it might as well be depicted as a plummet into bottomless unpredictability, also known as chaos, because that’s what’s coming upon us now as the icecap thins and cracks, the tundra belches millennia of freeze-framed methane, tropical rainforests are scoured bare, air and ocean currents slacken and flip, and countless fellow species on this teeming membrane of life vanish into the void.
Do not go gentle, children, into that damned night
Your sky’s been robbed, our day is nearly done
Rage, rage against them bastards killed the light Continue reading “New Year’s Day, 2020”