Ecoliteracy for All


Originally written at the invitation of the Wildlife Trusts, 4 November 2015.


Photo by me. River Arrow, Daughter.

“Nature is not a place to visit. It is home,” as Gary Snyder once wrote.

Despite rejection from some quarters, the reality of the incredible life fundamental to Earth’s biosphere is that we humans are part of it.

Our actions are inextricably linked with its wellbeing. Anthropogenic climate change and the loss of living species, both individually and in their interconnectivity and breadth (biodiversity), are the twin flames of nature discordance. We are overdue in doing something substantial to change this.

In that context, why have so many people lost (or never knew) all sense on how to truly look after our home? Many have no idea of this context, further, have little understanding of the outcomes of every day decision making in life.

Economic drivers, with ‘self’ at the heart, dominate National discussion. We need to change this too. The roots of the problem are our dysfunctional relationships and, consequently, daily damaging interactions with nature.

What about the POWER of education?

“I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better.” ~ Maya Angelou

Many nature-oriented people will tell you they have been inspired by both contact with nature, whether prolonged or as a treat, and also by key mentors, usually in early life. Instead of being some kind of random blessing, why don’t we consider a catch-all, a truly EGALITARIAN system of mentoring and exposure to nature reconnection?

I’m writing this to ask YOU to consider persuading a consensus to adopt our educational infrastructure to facilitate this universal need. You are the voter, you wield more power than you think. Radical? So be it. With the State of Nature as it is, we need this kind of ‘radical’ in order to reach a point where it becomes social norm.

Ecoliteracy (or ecological literacy), is a term coined by American educator David W. Orr and physicist Fritjof Capra to promote nurturing ecological values, and ultimately the well-being of the Earth and its ecosystems, through mainstream education (inside and outside of the classroom). It includes the consideration of the consequences of human actions and interactions via principles of living systems, designs inspired by nature, ‘systems thinking’, the transition to sustainability, collaboration, community building and citizenship.

An ecologically literate society would be a sustainable and resilient society that did not destroy its own home. Ecological literacy is a powerful concept as it also creates a foundation for an integrated approach to environmental problems.

Centre stage in any effort to achieve sustainable co-existence on Planet Earth the student, child or adult, an individual human person with empowered potential to address urgent and complex environmental issues whilst being nurtured herself into a life of competent opportunity, peace and fulfilment.

Around her, the learning environment itself is one whereby she can absorb, by way of osmosis, to think about ecological systems and her impact upon them, be introduced to a myriad of values and approaches and be inspired to select and then act upon her own. This is not simply an ode to science, per se, but also to colour, to creativity, to storytelling.

Here in the UK, we are already seeing kindlings of transition to peaceful co-existence with each other and with all other species, not least through a growing Ecoschools movement, Forest schools, Jane Goodall’s Roots and Shoots groups, and NGO facilitated groups such as Wildlife Watch (my own daughter was a member and benefitted from many happy meetings and activities when she was younger). But let’s open this opportunity up to all, cradle to grave.

In the spirit of equity and in reciprocity for all that we take from non-human community, let’s establish this system of thoughtfulness and action, so that each individual is empowered to act whichever place in society they choose to occupy, from farmers to financiers, mechanics to medics; across all spheres and inter-generational, with infectious and inclusive enlightenment.

I have enormous faith in the altruistic powers of an informed community. An informed community is the route to true sustainability and peaceful coexistence. There’s a natural justice to it. Crossdisciplinary, multi-intelligences (not simply academic), applied action. Not one person should be excluded. We all have something to bring to peaceful co-existence with nature, if only we all realised. It’s an exciting prospect!

We care for and nurture our loved ones. To understand them, we need to know their patterns, systems and interconnections too. It is simply the same when we look to non-human lives. If we perceive and understand non-human beings as extended family, kin, we’ll begin to care and nurture through love and respect. And we’ll make better decisions in everyday life.


The Center for Ecoliteracy has developed a set of ‘core competencies’ which I want to share with you, by way of introduction.

The head, learning to know

• Approach issues and situations from a systems perspective

• Understand fundamental ecological principles • Think critically, solve problems creatively, and apply knowledge to new situations

• Assess the impacts and ethical effects of human technologies and actions • Envision the long-term consequences of decisions

The heart, learning to be

• Feel concern, empathy, and respect for other people and living things

• See from and appreciate multiple perspectives; work with and value others with different backgrounds, motivations, and intentions

• Commit to equity, justice, inclusivity, and respect for all people

The hands, learning to do

• Create and use tools, objects, and procedures required by sustainable communities

• Turn convictions into practical and effective action, and apply ecological knowledge to the practice of ecological design

• Assess and adjust uses of energy and resources

The spirit, learning to live together

• Experience wonder and awe toward nature

• Revere the Earth and all living things

• Feel a strong bond with and deep appreciation of place

• Feel kinship with the natural world and invoke that feeling in others






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Going in for a walk.


Wrought iron gate latch. Into the arboretum, Hergest Croft, Kington, Herefordshire. Photo by me.

Unwellness has loomed heavily over me for the last few weeks. I have been awaiting test results for uterine cancer; so tired lately that I have almost come to halt. But I love to walk. It has been something in me since a small child. I have explored and ventured, with or without parental permission.

As an adult, come rain or shine, daily bounds of five miles or more were the norm until my Ben-dog grew blind and arthritic. Now, he’s gone, and with anemia and hormonal treatments which bring on oedema, I’m lucky to go out for a stroll in the park. But I try, because it’s in my blood. But now I know there is more to it.

Yesterday, I heard. I do not have cancer, unless the total hysterectomy with bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy due at the end of the week reveals otherwise (I’m basically being spayed*). I’m moving forward on the basis that I am clear, planning my healing with a definite effort to begin distance walking once more. It’ll be gradual. But walking is my wellbeing. There but for the grace of Gaia go I.

Whether sloping along an ancient trail, a green lane, or an ankle-twisting verge by a busy highway, going for a walk is usually allied with going outside. We say we “go out” for a walk. We move from our enclosed home, under the shelter of a roof, through openings in walls, through gates in fences, to someplace out under the skies. We venture another kind of existence from which we will return, all going well. We also expose ourselves to additional life, including new microbes. And dust. We are essentially blending with the flow of DNA and elements instrumental in Earth’s dynamic multi-directional web of interconnectedness. And we leave part of ourselves out there. Sometimes, a long way away. Thousands of miles.

Non human beings do this too, though with more danger in open food chains. They emerge from the nest or home of relative security and protection from the elements, to move through to the opposite ~ to forage food and claim territory. Sometimes, for thousands of miles. Sometimes, if they have the energy capacity and sense of security, they wander simply for pleasure or curiosity, just like us. With additional wings or fins, they blend through different mediums – air and water, as well as on terra firma. The idea that we stand alone from all other animals by walking or playing for pure pleasure is an assumption, rather like assuming all other animals are not affecting. Ethologists are learning every day in their research this is just not the case. 

Home is not always a sanctuary, for humans and non humans. For some, going outdoors may protect against emotional heartache, physical or energetic hardship. All the while, rumination or meditation, exercise or rest, many reasons persist to go for a walk outside. There’s also the “flywheel effect” ~ no reason to walk, just a storage of rotation energy, a nothingness in the Dao sense of somethingness. Who knows how many beings can afford to be simply meditative. Perhaps, more than we imagine. For other beings, home has been spoilt by humans, either toxified by chemicals or cleansed of essential microbes. Worse, some have no home.

When we go out, we encompass all inwards. We have sense organs and brains, and we process all internally. But there is also flow, and in many directions. Life’s comet-tails of biology and culture are exchanged at the touch of an old wrought iron gate or the bark of a tree, or a water drop falling from a low lying leaf, or a dead hair dislodging from our scalps and falling to the soils. Think of all as rawly exposed and sponge-like. Ingestion is not the only point of intake. Think about breath. And yes, think about skin. There are other delicate mebranes too; apertures, orifices, cuts and vulnerable spots. We are porous beings even if we think we are solidly contained individuals. We are also holobionts, hosts to multiple species. Our own species is reliant upon others both within and without.

So, when we “take in the air,” we are doing so much more. Maybe this offers a way of becoming aware of what we dispose of and spray, emit and pollute. Nothing should remain hidden. We can no longer be blind to the discardments and waste of others. We have to be watchful and methodical. We are more than what we eat. We are our environs, our neighbours, our fellow non-human beings. In a sense, we are what we eat.

There’s a natural immunity, resilience, caused by continuous exposure to the good forms of life. Our cutaneousness; our skin and membranes exchange chemicals and water too. We respire through it, absorb and excrete. But our porosity and microbiome can be harmed too. Great care is needed now more than ever in what we invent through technology and release into the biosphere. Amphibians have such delicate skin that so much of their immediate environment is pulled in to their being. Their skin is also their main plane of immunity, covered in a microbiotic community which defends and repels. This is why they are so vulnerable to environmental impacts. They are their environment, canaries of the mine, and we are not so different.

Writers and philosophers have extolled the virtues of walking as a form of either escape or work, meditation or exhiliration. The choice of solitude has been expressed by deep thinkers; unfettered by the rythms and meditations of others. Socially, walking may strengthen our bonds by the mere act. When we go out for a walk, we may be on some kind of transformational journey or thrown into novel and challenging thoughts and feelings. A unity of opposites exists; the novelty and/or the sameness of the ‘other’ place is compelling. Knowing the tread, the feel and the angles of the lie of the earth, the senses flourishing, all helps to put us in mind of the why’s and the wherefore’s of the ancient, non-technical, bipedal act of walking. But, as I have said, there is so much more. Remember, we are also going in for a walk.

So on my walking path to recovery, from a place of facing a positive cancer result, to finding I am clear, to recovering from my operation and the huge shot of anti-biotics I needed, I know I am as much going in for a walk as out.

I need to rebuild my microbiome, in human solitude or in the company of others. There will be exchange. Sanguimund is more than just a consciousness. It is also a bodily exchange as well as a belonging. And floloca is the belonging of all life. I’ll feel less separation from indoors to outdoors; raw to what is flowing across me; mindful of what may be flowing through me and, therefore, all other life. I can engage biologically, mentally and spiritually with the living beings and their signs, communications and devotion, within all the elements, and in all the flows.

As I walk, one step after another, there is no real separateness between myself and other beings – our individual selves are ‘we,’ and we blend with others. Their health is my health. And this is true wellbeing.


* Operation went well.



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MA Applied Philosophy submission on the moral status of the foetus.

For the Irish yes vote, just now.

Moral Status of Foetus – Final




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The Wu Wei of Conservation; the personal and the impersonal.


Photo of Forest Farm Nature Reserve by me

Wu Wei, the ancient human philosophy of a state of being, brings our actions effortlessly in alignment with the ebb and flow of the elemental cycles of the natural world, and no more. We cause less harm. Less is more.

That we may cultivate Wu Wei by visiting one place of nature, exploring as a child, all the senses engaged, emotional fluidity but no mental fight, is a building of strength to our cause.

But it is not all. The key is in the word ‘visiting’.

The strength of becoming of that place is process ~ a virtue. The result is ‘being’ of that place ~ a consequence.

Presently, so psychologically detached from nature has our species generally become, that nature is now a visitation, a pocket of the defended, a moment. Nature is somewhere we go and, therefore, will come back from. How wrong can this be? It is harmful, and on a planetary scale.

Nature needs to be of us, constantly.

How do we, instead, return to this state of constant being? I suggest by more ‘becoming’ through wu wei experiences ~ mentoring and provision of access until we have, each and every one of us, returned.

The goal is to live as nature without having to ‘visit’.

What is spirit?

The interconnectedness and flow, according to Daoists, is in the direction of the living and the dead, then of the elements, the heavens or cosmology, and finally the Dao, The Great, which is of itself – beauty and truth ~ spirit. Perhaps spirit is simply the beauty of truth. Perhaps spirit is the acceptance of beauty and truth as fluministic love.

I propose, however, the interconnectedness of the biosphere is healing. Being nature is spirit in healing and being healed. This is as impersonal as it is personal; as human as it is non-human; in complex directions, known and unknown (the dialectics).

Wu Wei, for me, therefore is an ancient and vital understanding of healing – physical, mental, spiritual, individual, communal, ecological, biospheric. Fluminism plays a part. The modern utility argument of nature as cure has ancient traction, but not as something or somewhere we simply ‘visit,’ record and display later as trophy.

And let go of it as power in the sacred political leader (Lao-zi) and even as a thing of purest beauty (Zhuang-zi).

Heal all by doing less, and by being no more than is necessary.

The Personal and the Impersonal

I am so tired. I have exhausted myself by trying so hard; first and foremost, in matters of the heart. I love with all my being and I hurt so easily. I am lost at this point in my life. Next, my family, in illness and death. The last ten years have been difficult. Then, in losing my beloved Ben. Such pain. In finishing my Masters and trying to secure a living by research scholarship or finding a publisher. Funds are dwindling and I am now unwell, due a total hysterectomy very shortly. My mental state is fragile once more.

There is a small but mature woodland next to the Glamorgan Canal. It has been saved from human development and I thank all who did this. I have to ‘go’ there and ‘return’, because I now live in a city. I hope not forever.

It is on a south facing slope and, at the moment, is in full-Dao; all life in sensing, and in emotion. That I should go there and feel it inwards too. What is environment? Nothing (in the Dao sense). It cannot be separated from any of us. To externalise it as something outward is to disembody oneself.

I go there to exercise wu wei, because, when I am not, I do intellectualise and challenge. I will always question. Despite it being exhausting, it is integral to who I am. The author, Robert MacFarlane, mentioned to me recently, ‘challenge’ has the word ‘change’ within. I challenge others and I challenge myself. It is process. I apply it outwards, but also inwards (there is no environment). There is just being. So I need the quietude of wu wei to heal.

I would rather not have to go and come back. I want to go and stay in that state of being. Let us all live life there, in that state, until we die.

If my challenges are for the ultimate protection, proliferation and abundance of the flow of life, then it is a form of love I call Fluminism. There is a reflexivity of being and defending against destruction until our species realises the pointlessness of it. And then we just are. But at the moment, in the face of immense planetary harm, this IS exhausting.

As in all other things in my life just now, not least love, less may well be more. I must let go, just a little, to heal.

All the life forms of the woodland I speak to you about participate in their communal being on multiple levels. Let it be well-being. Let me be a part but in the action of inaction. When I am in the woodland, I too, and my microbionts, participate. WE participate. But not too much. We do just enough and no more.

Ecologies are in constant flux, disturbance being vital to the proliferation of flow. So ‘we’ are not entirely passive, but passive enough. Sometimes, our minor disturbances bring life. We are sacred centres, like the beavers, but our intentions must be for the good of all life, not just our own. We are not separate. There is no environment and, by extension, there is no true ‘I’. To be separate is the disembodiment of the self.

This is the Wu Wei of conservation. Let it be healing.


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Ecologies of fear ~ recalibrating.



I am picking my way across the rough and slippery stones of St Mary’s Well Bay and, for the first time in my life, I feel uneasy making the crossing. I live to enjoy this kind of terrain, or by rivers and in woods. Immanent flows, finding life-gems and feeling physically tested makes me feel I am ‘home.’ But today I’m just a bit wobbly. Like jelly, in fact. I berate myself for feeling this way.

I hear the oystercatchers playing their flute-song to Sully Island in bullet-straight lines, whilst the mud-browns of Mor Hafren gently cat-lick the shore. Passerines echo down from woods from which I’ve just walked, and I stop for a moment to enjoy Goddess Harmonia in all her South Wales glory. Again, that curious feeling returns, sneaking into my bloodstream, making my hands tingle. Insecurity and, yes, fear. Then, I remember.

I have just had an unexpected uterine biopsy for cancer, an unpleasant D&C-type procedure, and am awaiting results. It had skipped my mind for the last hour, whilst deeply submerged in sanguimundal presence. Then the memory suddenly returned with a bang. I have been haemorrhaging and suffering anemia. What else could I expect? The unease I am feeling has nothing to do with the beach.

Death seems nearer, even if it is not. I quickly climb a promontory, slamming my boots into barnacle-free cracks and pulling up with my hands on cold ledges. My confidence returns and I reach the top with a smile. I look all around me – 360 degrees. Feels good.

St Mary’s Well Bay is one of my favorite places in South Wales. It’s not traditionally picturesque. There’s a row of caravans and holiday chalets above the cliffs, and human littering around an onlooking ruin of a house is hugely depressing. But secondary succession spills down the hill, rolling straight through the dereliction, reaching over fossil-full layers, as if to touch the water. That’s so rare.

Here, there is a bone bed, with dinosaurs buried for eons of quiet, stillness, and turned into stone. In an overhang, flowstone ~ tufa limestone ~ spills from a temperate spring in the cliffs and forms yellowing stalactites and sinter curtains. Bryophytes thrive here and unseen diatoms live numerously. Wildflowers bloom in patches on the cliffs. Waders and other sea birds float in the shallows or pick along the mud shelves as the huge tides suck in and out. At the far eastern end, Lavernock Point, there is a little nature reserve. It was also the site of a small breakthrough in human history – the first radio signals sent and received over seas, if only to the island of Flatholm and then to Brean Point, Somerset. In the history of events, without that particular moment, I might not be posting this blog for you to read. But the man celebrated for the achievement, I must tell you, was a pre-WW2 fascist. Guglielmo Marconi was a friend to Mussolini, and even Hitler himself was a fan. Despite similar inventions by Tesla, et al., and ensuing court battles over legal patents, it is his poor judgement in friends who brought so much hate and death lingers longest in my mind. A resurgent fascism brings on a wave of goosebumps scampering over my body. There it is again. The fear persists, but I remember the other reason it exists.

Fear is a negative emotion that has evolved for purpose. It is a motivator for caution, escape, safety and change. There are ecologies of fear too, since all is interconnected. Fear can change for good or bad, at all scales, passed down through generations in epigenetic signatures. But as we humans are such complex beings in symbiosis with others in a complex world, fear may be response to events, imagined or otherwise, which aren’t entirely valid. Indeed, fear may feed upon fear itself. I know this as an intermittant sufferer of acute, debilitating anxiety after traumatic bereavement. I have finely evolved traits for survival of life threatening events, but my body responds similarly to things others find simply upsetting. Worse, my damaged limbic system actually seeks out reasons to justify the fear. The brain is trying to make sense of the feelings. Rumination is not a good thing for me. And yet, I am a ecophilosopher and writer.

Acceptance is categorically my best antidote to the severest of anxieties. The limbic system is so primed that any worry about worrying keeps the worry going. I found a book by someone who’d reached the same conclusion – Paul David, At Last a Life and Beyond. Then I attended Acceptance and Commitment therapy lectures offered by Cardiff mental health teams. That the fears we have are better off being carried along under one arm, so we can use the other to get on with life until we forget we are carrying the problem (and can then go back to using both arms).

I sometimes wish I could unknow what I know. Both personally and professionally. But I can’t. Won’t. I’m here on this beach today to record life. Life! The sea snails! Some are bright and very beautiful. They live modestly in the cracks of exposed synclines and under and around loose boulders, interacting, inter-flowing, as coastal fluminists. I pick my spot, reel out the measuring tape, and place my quadrat over the rocks. It’s fiddly and slow ~ I have to search through algae and seaweeds, but I complete my mission. I count and record all the snails I can find, make notes and take photos.

Here I am, no longer with my Ben, but out for the love of communing with my wilder kin. This is who I am, in woods, in water, upon rock, since a child. Happy or sad, relaxed or fearful, this is still ‘home.’ I pack up my things and head for the woods.

I take aim for the first small boulder, but it shifts, and algae morphs it into steep ice. My boot skids out and down into a crumpled heap I go. Laying there, still, staring into the sky, with stones digging sharply into my back, I imagine a tide racing in, swallowing me whole, a tide that would take hundreds of thousands of years to go back out.

Rising sea levels are already happening. This fear I have for the future is legitimate. Many of us who study climate change and biodiversity loss are feeling it. It’s going to be a huge problem. It already is for many.

All life-forms here on this beach will either have to move or die out. Multiply this by billions of miles of global coastline. Entire cities will need to move inland. Territorial struggles and resource conflicts will be high in all human minds. For peace, we will need to be reliant on good will ~ love. We need to start cultivating this now. But are we too late? A culture of hate seems pervasive. I start to feel anxious, breathless and a little bit angry. I quickly scramble up to stand, take a few deep breaths and and rub my sore back.

I put all the fear I have today under my arm, and move on. I pick my way back to the path off the beach, meander through the wood and along the road to the welcoming thrum of a busy pub. A cool glass of lemonade, ice and slice goes in and I feel temporarily at ease. Despite my fears, both real and imagined, I counter ~ this has been a good day! It really has. I have completed my mission and I am glad for it. I found beautiful interconnected life. I did it despite ongoing health worries, temporary disabilities and an increasing anxiety for our biosphere.

Sometimes, I need to be reminded to put that fear under my arm and carry on. It’s a recalibration. And I urge all who feel they are sometimes plagued by such fears to think consciously about how to deal with it. Please don’t avoid it. Accept, carry it forward, in whatever you are doing. Finally, you’ll move through space and time and find love again (or lemonade). At least, until the next test, slip or fast, rising tide.


All photos by me.
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Why twisting vines do what they do…


One of my first investigations into plant sentience, I found this via Q&As, New Scientist Blog 2006.

Wonderful words to note:








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Natural Capital: ‘Out damn’d spot! Out, I say’



IMG_4783 2

Chronophage, metaphor for time eating, Cambridge. Photo by me.



Out, damned spot! Out, I say!—One, two. Why, then, ’tis time to do ’t. Hell is murky!—Fie, my lord, fie! A soldier, and afeard? What need we fear who knows it, when none can call our power to account?—Yet who would have thought the old man to have had so much blood in him.

William Shakespeare, Macbeth. Act 5 Scene 1


An imaginary blood spot on the hand that can never be removed, with such guilt perceived, admonishable of an awful wrongdoing; of a conscience for procuring the murder, by her husband, Macbeth, of old King Duncan.

Surely this is one of the most dramatic of metaphors.

Metaphors can be powerful, no doubt. They linger in the memory. I am writing this imagining Lady Macbeth still trying, dismally, to wash away the stain. And blood stains are the hardest to be rid of.

Metaphors convey a concept easily and succinctly, when the literal meaning, perhaps, needs longer time to explain. But they aren’t normally to be taken literally. It kind of undermines their purpose. So, it was with great surprise to learn this week that some influential advocates of the Natural Capital ethic describe it as metaphor.

The purpose of Natural Capital as an educational tool was emphasised many times by both Tony Juniper and Richard Spencer this week at the Debating Nature’s Value Conference; a device to persuade politicians and global commerce to save nature, money being the native tongue of global capitalism. I have written about this before and I think it is a non-sense. Explaining the basic tenets of Earth systems thinking can be conveyed in spoken and written word. Education is just that. Education! Global money and legislation are a dominating force, and neo-colonial in effect. But they are both second rate as instruments of sharing knowledge.

If a metaphor fails, then a full explanation can easily follow. What harm done? The Natural Capital ethic ~ an ethic by its own volition detaches humans from nature-belonging as property, externalising, stock and traded ~ includes biodiversity offsetting, banking and trade. It’s been embraced by some landowners and landlords, who of course, benefit from financial bias towards that which (or whom) is already within their posession (private or charitable). Land, of course, is inequitably distributed across the globe and Natural Capital does nothing towards achieving fairer sharing. None-the-less, the approach has rapidly spread through globalised neoliberal economic and political institutions this last few years; hardly a surprise. It’s already a multi-billion dollar industry, part legislated, certainly embedded and networked to the nth degree (the UN and World Bank). The beast is already unleashed. So much for metaphor!

Being at the conference, Anglia Ruskin’s Global Sustainability Institute, Cambridge, it was a positive feeling to be part of a greater union of concerned individuals, rather than in my usual quietude here in Cardiff. All there were people who see Earth Crisis for what it is ~ a real, tangible crisis. Craig Bennett emphased well the ‘ticking clock’ and that the waves of human behavioural change are slower than the changes in earth systems. The chronophage, indeed, looms larger than life. And I call that void in time and human action the Transilience Gap. But discussion of that, in itself, made me feel at home. I felt part of a ‘community.’ It was also vital to hear reflections on long-term prospects; a spectrum of optimism-thru-pessimism, but even the pessimists, including John Foster, seem to have strong hopes of creativity and newness in the face of approaching human demise. I guess you’d call that courage.

Many of the women I spoke to, not least the indomitable Kiwi, Ruth Irwin, agreed that to care for one another and other beings as the storms rage and the seas rise will be one of the greatest acts of humanity ahead of us. That the neoliberal rot has accelerated Earth Crisis means that we have to engage with the 1% too, an unpleasant task for many, and I guess the Natural Capital movement has been trying to do exactly that. As Jenneth Parker so eloquently framed ~ “a bloody great horse tranquillizer.” But it is not going to boot the Anthropocene firmly into the past as a very thin layer of techno-fossils and radionuclides, and as Molly Scott Cato referred, the horrid ground weaver spider is going to have a tough time competing head-on with property developers and cash-strapped councils if reduced to a financial unit.

There also seems a naivety that the creative ambitions of a largely psychopathic elite won’t stop finding ways to exploit all for personal gain; abuses will continue to occur so long as the 99% continue to engage with the current structures of money and power ~ like the Natural Capital movement is doing.

IPBES, and the many scientists who feed their ethical stance, are obsessed by the extrinsic uses of nature by humans for the purpose of protecting and halting its further decline. IPBES has the opportunity to account for pluralistic values and stop the neoliberal colonial stamps of authority across human cultural diversity. But in their adoption of finacialisation of nature, they too are using a blunt instrument, the ‘daisy-cutter’ of an array of educational tools available. How terribly disappointing.
Why is that so few admit the incommensurability of monetary value and so many other values? You can’t have both without accepting monetary value will eventually trump all others in the current economic paradigm. It’s basic axiology! And neither can we pick and choose when and how to apply monetary value, because the advocates of Natural Capital have ensured, emphatically, that the genie is already out of the bottle.

Rupert Read was, and is, absolutely correct ~ the Precautionary Principle can be applied in approaching all. It is already plausible to suggest Natural Capital ethic is not robust enough in every case, failing in application and abused ~ there are dangers. Tony Juniper, currently President of the Wildlife Trusts, himself agreed that it is not always applicable. He was asked on the dilema of defending badgers against culling compared to the livelihoods of farmers. The farmers argue money comes first, and never mind the science or morality of killing a keystone species. To pick and choose? The catastrophe of making things worse for nature, in all time-frames, is a real consideration here.

A metaphor is a device to deliver understanding, plying the memory with powerful imagery that is hard to shake ~ creative and, to some extent, yes, educational. But I say let’s value the value of education, the sharing of knowledge and the humility to accept we do not know all, over the accumulation of wealth for and by the few. Mentor the mentors. Sow seeds of earth understanding and nurture them until they grow to set their own seed ~ a metaphor for life itself.

It is an enormous task, to deconstruct the institutional and cultural pervasiveness of economic neoliberalism. I argue it should now be rapid; an immediate turn to community and localism. Others will maintain that, to keep things orderly, it will have to be incremental. But I cannot see why we can’t be creative enough to be both kind and quick. This system is extraordinarily inequitable and continues to be destructive; a system that has acellerated Earth Crisis, that proliferates arms, and celebrates the fact, as we have also seen this week in Syria.

I feel angry with myself that I have not been able to stop non-human life from being plunged into this same broken system via the vagaries of the Natural Capital ethic. But I have endeavoured with my own research. And others, such as acutely perceptive Sian Sullivan, are doing their utmost to publish their detailed research to highlight the inadequacies. I can’t say I’m ashamed of a government I did not select. I can’t be held responsible for the people who voted for them either. But I can be ashamed that I continue to support the economy, even here in Wales, that props up this broken system. This is the system which widens the poverty gap into a gaping chasm and throws natural interconnectedness, literally and metaphorically, to the wind. Let’s no longer play that game and do something new, and as an expression of love for all life that is interconnected, within and without.

~ Ecoliteracy for all.



Many, many thanks to all organisers, speakers, artists and attendees, particularly to Rupert Read for inviting me, and to Aled Jones and Felicity Clarke, the Global Sustainability Institute, for being such excellent and informative hosts. I am truly grateful.







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Escape our Castle Walls

“Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing” Arundhati Roy


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Behind the wall, on the wall and beyond the wall. The trees, the street lights. The lichen. A reflection on boundaries, species and freedoms in the Anthropocene.

A small photo-exhibition of the Animal Wall, Cardiff Castle, by me.






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“Rest in reason and move in passion.”


wood sorrel out this week, photo by me.

The primroses are heavy yellow just now, and the first of the wood sorrels are opening out to Spring’s luminosity. I can see them ~ the colours, the freshness ~ yet all feels rather grey.

It’s been a dark Winter for me and I am glad it’s all over. I expect to repay a personal and professional debt deep into the year, none-the-less, for over-zealous expectations and bitter disappointments. 

Reason and passion can provide us with a strong sense of purpose. And having that meaning in life, and in love, is grist against a flood of uncertainty. At all scales, I perceive great uncertainty.

The poet Kahlil Gibran wrote:

‘Your reason and your passion are the rudder and the sails of your seafaring soul. If either your sails or your rudder be broken, you can but toss and drift, or else be held at a standstill in mid-seas’.

Keeping ship-shape isn’t easy for me. My limbic system is both a burden and a blessing, and for reasons I’ve explained before. It’s definitely something I have to monitor, the riotous pain and raw sensibility. 

Too much reason is deadening. It takes away all the colour in life and love. And I need colour. Yet too much passion can burn me up in flames.

This last few months, I have purposefully allowed my passion-sails to fill with imagination and creativity. It’s been a very productive time in terms of my work. But I’ll take heed of Gibran now, resting in reason and moving in passion, because I’m just so tired of feeling adrift.


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Floloca ~ A Reformation of Landscape.


Red Kite over the Common. Photo by me.

I’ve been looking through the noun ‘landscape,’ as if it were a clear window to times past. The views have been sculpted like soft clay, utterances as form, receding to early human roots.

The earliest scene glimpsed through the word-window seems to be an area of open heath, stemming from the ancient proto indo-european word, lendh. There are no particular human-value connotations, though ‘open’ may imply an area wooded then cleared. Scape is derived from proto-germanic skapiz, meaning shape or condition. Old English sciepe, skipe, to Middle English, re-sculpted, maybe due to accent and pronunciation, to shippe. We now suffix words with ‘ship’ to mean something shaped or crafted. Land, shaped. But by whom? The Dutch use of schap and schape became influential in the art world, hence our more modern return to the ‘ape’ sound rather an ‘ip.’

Lendh Skapiz ~ Lant Scap ~ Land Schippe ~ Landscape.

So, as of today, the word landscape manifests all the visible features of an area of land, mainly in human aesthetic and cultural contexts. It can be poetic, artistic and passionately emotive. Landscape is also an adjective, a kind of socio-political policy, a designation, and with sense of scale often circumscribed on a map. At this scale, organised planning can take place. Design. Land management shaped to meet whichever goals agreed between (human) stakeholders. All at once, ‘landscape’ is packed with human value systems, sometimes in competition.

In attempting to be value-neutral ~ reductionist ~ I may describe an existential ‘landscape’ as a complexity of organic and inorganic assemblages, in and around geological features and anthropogenic constructions, perhaps bounded by 360 degree view to the horizon, but specifically from a human point of view. There is no heart in this description, of course; it does not reflect the reality of life, the intrinsic fluministic interconnectedness between species. Here’s where I begin my challenge. Landscape is an anthropocentrism. It is, therefore, loaded with potential to erode organic flows, causal to planetary harm, corallary to our proven misconceptions of a functional biosphere to date (The Anthropocene).

If we plan all at our own scale from human-eye-level, we are, ipso facto, co-ordinating actions for our own means. Such designations set boundaries defined by humans alone. Where does a landscape begin and end? How much is in our minds, derived from our sensibilities, experiences and memories? A line on the map delineates both beginning and end, similarly, National Park, SACs, SSSI and MCZ designations. Who are we to assume beginnings and ends? My research into ecological interconnectivity has blown apart the mere idea of such fabrications. We may perceive an edge, but species bind and overlap habitats as naturally as they do metabolise. There is ‘magic at the edges.’ Even the word ‘ecosystem’ falls away by the reality of life’s expansive porosity, both within us and without. Since the human imprint on this Earth has already reached such levels as to cause a global Heat Age, with extinctions and depauperations that will ensue for the next few thousand years, isn’t it about time we became a little more humble?

And yet landscapes exist to us, and we are nature. What about cultural values of landscape? Yes, of course they count. I cannot disregard them. As nature, we bring our pluralistic cultures to bear upon the world in which we live and the words that we use. There are good and bad, when it comes to biodiversity and abundance. To find fault with ‘good’ kinds of landscape, is at odds with my own views on wildlife interconnectivity ~ advocating interconnected corridors and riparian buffers in the face of unfettered human development. There is a strong case for forcing the pace, at landscape, nay, bioregional scale, to allow wild beings place for genetic diversity, foraging, climate refuge and resillience by abundance. But it is the word ‘allow’ that grates upon my fluministic tendencies and ‘landscape’ is way too generic.

Imagine a cake on a plate. We take a slice. The rest of the cake remains for others to share. Now imagine an empty plate, and it is our choice to add back a slice, when and how we see fit. First, to fill the plate with cake. And this will require self-restraint. But remember, we have also imagined the size of the plate! That we can map, but then model future outcomes on that map connotes intense anthropocentric ‘stewardship.’ Stewardship remains an intense form of dominion and human value conflicts clash as to what good and bad stewardship actually is. Again, the same human chauvenism manifests at the root of so many problems upon this good Earth ~ even if we choose to fill any sized plate with cake, it remains our choice alone.

Now, this goes to the heart of a key debate in environmental ethics ~ is anthropocentrism ever a good thing, or are there other ways to understand and value life? We are human, after all, and cannot pretend to be anything else. To value anything intrinsically is also a human value. But I argue (with others), it is also a universal value beyond human existence. All species have worth, because all is interconnected and this is life. It is the interconnections that create the complex organic life in our biosphere, and perhaps even beyond.

Many rationalists impress there is no other way to perceive this world ~ that’s it. We have our senses, a brain and the ability to create tools to enhance those senses. If this is so, we have little choice but to acknowldge landscape as a human construct and tailor it to our own desires.

But wait. We have evolved with imagination and empathy. Combine our ecological understanding with these key evolutionary traits and we may stand away from making such human-oriented decisions. We can imagine and empathise with a fly pollinating a flower, or a bat hunting for moths, or a scrub trying to succeed into woodland. And then we can let these things ‘be.’ I think I answer my own question, at least in part, by the idea that passivity in conservation and preservation is just as important to a fluministic world view, as hands-on proactivity. Any pro-activity primarily needs to be in stopping the anti-fluministic world view, instead working along the grain of nature in what we need to flourish, and no more. The rest may run wild, Earth’s biosphere being the ultimate plate-size.

More. New science and technological tools now inform we are holobionts, with symbionts within and outside of us, a community of mind microbial/viral and sometimes parasitic metamorphising species. With the discovery of the microbiome-gut-brain axis, ego-boundaries are somewhat of an incomplete picture, our selves being more porous as part of the dynamic flows of life process. When we refer to ourselves as “I” we really mean “we.” Humans have not always had the technical ability to create tools to extensively enhance our senses in trying to understand nature, even the nature within us. In the absence of such tools, other cultures, often older cultures, unify with the natural world in spiritual modalities. Some assume(d) animistic perspectives, sometimes gained in trance-like or spiritual states that may restructure prior knowledge, breaking down mental and ego boundaries. These moments are often induced by ingesting chemicals found in the natural world; hallucinogens, psychadelics. Those experiences are just as culturally valid an aspect to ‘being’ nature as using an electron microscope or involving oneself deeply in reading profound ‘nature writing,’ especially if they induce planetary wellbeing, of course.

There is a difference between land condition, as found, and land craft as a human skill. But if we also imagine early human cultures as intensely connected in natural flows of life, we might guess old or lost words may have implied the craft of all life, not just simian, not just human. Of course we now use landscape as a verb to describe human action ~ we “landscape” this world, with either soils or astroturf. All is at our mercy, and that’s a problem.

Interpreting the world from multi-species points of view, using imagination and empathy, I impress, is an important form of knowing. And that understanding feeds back in reflexivity to our own perceptions of existence.

Ponder for a moment, that new insight is emerging into ecological symbiosis and interconnected relationships as flow to an enhanced level of understanding organic participation in living processes. Imagining perspectives of other species in relation to flow surely is a pre-requisite. Some may argue that we are going beyond our remit in imagining the perspectives of other species in order to manage our own behaviours. Others say we would only anthropomorphise, regardless, especially those of a more reductionist perspective on life. From a human point of view, landscape is generally seen to the horizon. What if one was a migratory bird or a soil microbe? The views alter and, therefore, the best actions for the dynamic flows that exist between the two.

One can orientate by the Sun and the Moon, assess unique aspects of place, such as prevailing winds, humidity, to be celebrated, and be mindful of the connectivity of living systems. Each view we take-in during our lives is unique. Even if our feet were bound in concrete, the scene around us to the horizon would shapeshift through seasons, through death and also new life. Now climate change is upon us, to add even more uncertainty to the dynamism. Memories, imprints, now linger in our grey matter. And sometimes we embelish in a form of nostalgia or psychological fusing according to our emotions. Often, ghostly images or sounds merge in our minds to overlay a vision of a landscape, so that it is familiar. We may never have even experienced such landscapes.

The Dutch idea of landscape, a format in art lessons, a charicature of the Gilpinesque picturesque*, with golden rules of thirds, illusions of depth and a hint of the wilderness is still a prominent cultural influence. It has a frame around it, like a window, and I think we’ve framed the word ‘ecosystem,’ similarly. I now find the word landscape a kind of detachment. I would rather leave it in a Dutch gallery.

How does a blind person respond to a vista, seen through a lens, within a frame, flattened to two dimensions? When I am in that landscape, the word landscape falls sharply away. Whether this is home or somewhere new, there is community of living (and dead), beings. I may feel a part of that ecological community, or not, but it always affects my viscera, like a shockwave. I call it sanguimund, a feeling or emotion. It may well be that my sensibilities are receiving signals from the life within that community. It may well be those lives are perceiving my presence and responding. Perhaps, it is the consciousness of love. But I am glad I am aware of it, at least. I think all can find that awareness, even if all the questions are not answered.

So I offer floloca, in perceiving ‘place as flowing’, not simply as human, but conscious imagination along the dynamic matrix of life and death, and at a spectrum of scales. I also think it is a lovely word to say, adaptable, with no beginning, middle or end, and with the potential for plenty of reflexivity. But perhaps this is just me. Try saying it aloud and see what you think. I would be interested to hear your thoughts.


*  Gilipin’s influential 18th Century vision “Observations on the River Wye” published 1872.


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