It seems that the more progressive UK media, including the BBC, have finally taken on board that global warming/climate change, pollution, species extinction, population are major issues of our time that need to be urgently addressed. Many of the issues aired at our New Renaissance Lectures in 1993 onward are becoming mainstream, covered in ‘the news’ almost every day. But they’re not yet ingrained. There are still many news media, corporates and governments in denial, actively blocking change because of their perceived self-interest.
Yet can they resist the surging tide of realism? It feels like a ‘Berlin Wall’ type of time in history. The ice floes are melting. Humanity is turning to face reality, startled at where it has come to, as it followed the materialist dream and for half a century largely ignored the problems being created. The spectre of floods, fires, wars, epidemics, on a scale hitherto unknown, haunts us all, especially the young.
But there is an aspect of those lectures that is less mentioned, less easy to popularise – that of inner spiritual renewal. The outer is a reflection of the inner. Until our compassion for others and for the natural world rises to meet the occasion, and our conscience is heard and acted upon, we may alleviate but not resolve the problems we have created.
Featured image: The Fall of the Berlin Wall, 1989 (at the Brandenberg Gate).
By Lear 21 via Wikimedia Commons.
I spotted this silhouetted curlew on the rocks, against the backdrop of this sundown picture at Crosby, Merseyside.
The sun is not yet low enough to produce the longer wavelength reds and yellows, but as we drove into Southport, a bit further up the coast, these colours had become quite magnificent, but for only a short while.
Quite a difference!
The metropolitan borough of Sefton extends from Bootle, on the edge of Liverpool, up the coast as far as Southport.
It was over 50 years ago that I first experienced a wonderful sunset at Parkgate on the Dee Estuary. So incredible it was, that I had some sort of peak experience. Unfortunately (from this perspective) I was with very materialistic university friends who were not impressed and could not understand my elated state. The effect soon passed, as the beer took over.
Last weekend the sunset and the effect were much less spectacular, but still provides a decent photograph. A good birding pool in the marshes gives the foreground, with the dark hills of Flintshire behind. The channel of the River Dee now flows along that side of the estuary, leaving Parkgate, which was once a port, with just marshland at the quayside.
I think awe is probably the right word to describe my reaction to these spectacles of nature.
Here’s another great post from Jane Fritz, expressing the frustration of all who have been struggling to get climate change, now climate breakdown, on the agenda of governments since Rio 1992 and before. As she says, there is no Planet B.
Australia is burning. California’s been burning. British Columbia’s been burning. Portugal’s been burning. This summer, the Arctic broke records for wildfires in Canada, Alaska, Greenland, and Siberia. In the Arctic! We’ve seen storms more volatile and ferocious than ever before, bringing destructive flooding. Massive glaciers and ice sheets melting at unheard of rates. Threat of coastal flooding of epic proportions. Island nations fearful of being swallowed up by rising seas in the foreseeable future. What could possibly be more important to every country and every political leader than addressing climate change?
You got it, money. Not the money needed to make radical changes. Not the money needed to support innovation in developing new sustainable energy sources. Not the money needed to incentivize people to embrace new technologies free of fossil fuels. No, it’s all that money flowing from fossil fuel-based industries that decision makers are loath to give up…
Taking a short break while looking for raptors out over the Dee estuary at Parkgate, we took the dog for a short walk and happened across a largish group of (maybe 20) birds running about and feeding in a grassy field. They turned out to be redwing, easily identified by the reddish underwing.
Click twice to see an image full screen.
As is suggested by their shape and patterning, redwings are distant relatives of thrushes. These would be winter migrants to UK. According to Wikipedia, they often form loose flocks of tens or even hundreds of birds in winter, often feeding together with other types of bird. We did notice a few starlings mixed in with them.
I’ve always been very suspicious of products labelled ‘antibacterial’, in a way that makes you think they might be in some way better. So I’ve always avoided them. Bacteria are ‘generally’ good, and certainly should not be over-destroyed. Mother always said a bit of dirt never did you any harm!
The simple truth is that plain soap is just as effective. The products added to give the ‘antibacterial’ label are pesticides which are potentially dangerous to the environment, our water systems and our health. See this US FDA post. or this comprehensive item from EcoWatch.
Although some such products are banned by the US FDA, I can still find them on the shelves in my local supermarkets, even the more upmarket Waitrose.
It seems we must always be on our guard against supposedly ‘new’ and more beneficial products that can actually put us in jeopardy. One could argue that this is because we do not correctly apply the ‘precautionary principle’ to the introduction of new technologies.
Neumann’s Flash was formed when a salt mine collapsed in 1873. The Northwich salt mines had expanded rapidly without due safeguards, so inadequate supports were left to hold up the ground overhead.
A chemical industry developed around the production of salt, so the enormous holes created by this collapse, and the even more dramatic collapse of the nearby Ashton’s Flash in 1880, were in the 1950s used to dump lime waste. After dumping ceased, nature gradually began to recover and since the 1970s the area has been gradually developed into a country park, now part of the Mersey Forest initiative. Yes nature will recover, if given half a chance. See the story here.
Today, this is a great area for walking and birding, joining up with the nearby Anderton and Marbury parks.
The picture shows Neumann’s Flash from one of its three hides, with a fair sprinkling of birds on the water, as the sun slowly sinks towards the horizon.
“There are times in life when the question of knowing if one can think differently than one thinks, and perceive differently than one sees, is absolutely necessary if one is to go on looking and reflecting at all.”
Political theories and movements come and go. Similarly, scientific theories and paradigms become obsolete, out of date. The reason is well articulated in a recent Arcane School letter:
“…as the evolutionary process moves on, that which once expressed truth and served as a liberating force, eventually crystallizes.”
So as we search for the way to address the problems of the human world in 2020, we must move beyond the stale answers and prescriptions of the past, notably the neoliberalism that exploits nature to the benefit of those who have, against those who have not, and the scientific materialism that sets us apart from (rather than within) the natural world. And the necessary way is not backwards to the nationalisms and populisms of yesteryear or any perceived historic ‘golden age’.
And soberingly, this applies to our own thinking and habitual ways of seeing things. We each need to see the world anew every day, and treat each situation as it comes, unencumbered by previous patterns.
Sounds a bit like total mindfulness. Keep trying!
Picture of osmium crystals by Alchemist-hp via Wikimedia Commons.
This is powerful piece on the current state of Australian wildfires and the credibility of world ‘leaders’ in addressing climate breakdown. Yes, they seem to have run out of ideas, other than maintaining a ‘status quo’ that cannot be sustained. We need real leadership, and need to ‘rage’ until we get it…
Someday soon you may be like me, watching your homeland burn while its leader betrays it.
Ian GillToday | TheTyee.ca Ian Gill is a journalist, author and conservationist currently working as the inaugural Dan and Priscilla Bernard Wieden Foundation Salmon Nation Storytelling Fellow. He is a contributing editor at The Tyee, and co-creator of a new initiative called Salmon Nation. He lives in Vancouver and Clayoquot Sound.
A few minutes before midnight on the last day of the year, Pacific daylight time, I began to cry.
I’m a purportedly “grown man” and I’m not easily moved to tears, but as is the way with emotions, there wasn’t much I could do when the tears came but to wipe them away and trust that they would stop, which eventually they did.
I cried for my country, for my Lucky Country, the wide brown land, the Fatal Shore — for Australia…
A spectacular sunset was the highlight of my afternoon walk today. The featured image shows a plane flying out from Manchester Airport over the town, and the following two images are taken from near St Cross Church.
I’m obviously not keeping up. Fortuitously, son slipped me the ‘climate’ issue of The Economist from September 2019, which features these ‘climate stripes’. (Our children are of course there to educate us!)
Each stripe in the featured image represents the global temperature averaged over a year, from 1850 to 2018. You can see that the stripes “turn from mainly blue to mainly red in more recent years, illustrating the rise in average temperatures”.
As well as being informative, this presentation is aesthetically pleasing. What a wonderful way of communicating the reality of global temperature change. It was created by scientist: Ed Hawkins of Reading University, using data from Berkeley Earth, NOAA, UK Met Office, MeteoSwiss, DWD. The stripes have been widely used worldwide for some time, see the story.
The show your stripes website enables you to download the stripes for your own country. For example here’s England and then Texas (with slightly differing start dates).
One can speculate on how the stripe pattern in different areas might reflect their different attitudes to climate change.
Interestingly, the debate has moved on from September, in that ‘climate breakdown’ is now the commonly used terminology instead of ‘climate change’ as in the above Economist article – but that is of course a mainstream business magazine.
Throughout the autumn we have passed this patch of fungus at the base of a roadside tree. My smartphone captured stages of its life. Click twice for more detail.
Identification of fungi is not easy. The scales on the cap suggest this is a shaggy scalycap, which is typically found at the base of trees. It is not edible, although some birds(?) appear to have taken pecks out of it.
The final picture, taken recently, is a rather disgusting mess.
We love going to WWT Martin Mere in the autumn to see the wonderful proliferation of wildfowl – thousands of migrated pink-footed geese, whooper swans, and many more ducks and geese attracted to the plentiful food that is available. These photographs give a small sample from our recent visit.
Whoopers are biggest
Low autumn sun angle
Mass Shelduck takeoff
To see an image full screen you will need to single click twice.
These WWT reserves now play a valuable part in the global ecosystem. Such has been the human impact on the planet that we must now help the remaining wildlife to continue into future generations.
The featured image shows whooper swans and others in profile, shooting into the setting sun.
“Greenhouse gas emissions has to stop. To be stable at 1.5 degrees we need to keep the carbon in the ground.”
“Only setting up distant dates and saying things which give the impression that action is underway will only most likely do more harm than good because the changes required are still nowhere in sight.”
“The politics needed does not exist today despite what you might hear from world leaders… I still believe that the biggest danger is not inaction, the real danger is when politicians and CEOs are making it look like real action is happening when in fact almost nothing is being done apart from clever accounting and creative PR.”
“If there is a child standing in the middle of the road and cars are coming at full speed you don’t look away because it’s too uncomfortable, you immediately run out and rescue that child, and without that sense of urgency how can we, the people, understand that we are facing a real crisis.”
“In just three weeks we enter a new decade, a decade that will define the future, and right now we are desperate for any sign of hope.”
Such young people see clearly. The Emperor of capitalism, with constant unfettered economic growth and inadequate environment protection, has no clothes. Current political leaders have failed. We have to get organised globally to address the problem.
Featured image by Anders Hellberg via Wikimedia Commons.
If you’re following the plot of my philosophically inclined posts you will see my dismissal of materialists as modern flat earthers. So what basic philosophical stance do I regard as more appropriate? In his book The Flip, Jeffrey Krittal suggest five possible perspectives, as follows.
Panpsychism. Everything has mind/ has some level of consciousness/ is alive.
Dual-Aspect Monism. Mind and matter are aspects of a single underlying reality.
Quantum Mind. Quantum mechanics applies at a level of real world objects; mind is an expression of the quantum wave function. (Alexander Wendt)
Cosmopsychism/ panentheism. All conscious subjects are partial aspects of the more fundamental whole.
Idealism. Mind is fundamental and matter is a manifestation thereof.
This is all very interesting as theory, and no doubt enthusiasts of the various viewpoints could spend many an hour debating their differences. But in essence, if you don’t mind my saying so, it doesn’t matter!
The essential point of all of these perspectives is that matter/mind are indivisible aspects of reality, the one reality. Everything has inner and outer, indivisible. We are each aspects of the whole, interconnected with all others.
So much flows from that.
Materialism is a misleading diversion.
Science/technology has a limited domain if it restricts itself to outers.
At best, religions provide paths towards realisation of this underlying (spiritual) reality.
Politics must recognise that all humans and other living systems are co-sharers of our world. Having reached the earth’s limits we have become responsible for the future of the whole earth’s ecosystem.
Modernity likes to decry those following an outdated paradigm as ‘flat earthers’. Ancient cultures believed that the earth was flat, and this is said to have been superseded by a spherical model around 6th century BC by the ancient Greek philosophers, and more recently in other parts of the ‘globe’. The old model had lost utility and become an impediment to progress.
I would suggest that the modern scientific, technological and managerial culture now operates to a similarly outdated and now-dysfunctional paradigm. And many people will protest loudly if this is pointed out.
What do I have in mind? Well it could be any of a number of things, but I believe that at the heart of many of these is the fundamental ‘modern flat-earthism’ of ‘materialism’. Why so?
Materialism and its bedfellow reductionism basically sees a dead world of ‘outer’ appearance without being able or willing to come to grips with the ‘inner’ of life and consciousness. These are seen as ‘hard problems’ that of course science will eventually come to understand… some day. In the meantime, the natural world is exploited to the maximum by an ever-expanding humanity by the related gods of capitalism, self- or state- glorification and minimal regulation. The result: the climate breakdown, species extinctions and massive pollution that we see today, and a paradoxical strong attachment to ‘more of the same’.
What if we had a paradigm that accepted that reality consists of not just the outer material world, but the parallel inner world of life/consciousness. And that inner world is fully interconnected. We are an integral part of the whole and through our inner empathy/love we know and feel responsible for it all. Our hearts are breaking at what we are doing to the natural world – as seen in the public response to David Attenborough’s programmes.
The job for the New Renaissance is to achieve just such a change of paradigm and move beyond the modern flat earth theory of materialism. One day a critical mass of people will share this insight, and all will change.
Featured image shows the revived flat earth map produced in 1893 by Orlando Ferguson in South Dakota. From Wikimedia Commons.