The Weight of Our Sins

We came across this wonderful sculpture by Josefina de Vasconcellos in the Bishop’s Palace Gardens at Wells Cathedral. It depicts eight children bearing the weight of the cross, with each child symbolising a crime against children in today’s world. They include a child suffering from Aids, a baby victim of genocide, a child blinded by a land mine and a homeless child.

A plaster version of the statue was created by Vasconcellos in 1999 to coincide with the 10th anniversary of the United Nations’ International Year of the Child, when she was 94. A home was subsequently found in Wells for a more permanent version.

What a wonderful depiction of the weight modern generations are placing on those coming. We could easily add to the list climate breakdown, rising sea levels, pollution, extinction of species, victims of modern warfare and on and on…

A representation like this makes that burden so much clearer than mere words.

the weight of our sins 50.jpg


Marine biologist Bill Graham writes some excellent blog posts (latest example) on the subject of what might broadly be called ecoliteracy or systems thinking, concepts developed many years ago now by Fritjof Capra and others. I think that one of the problems we have is that neither of these terms has immediate impact on more than the minds of those interested in these things. That be as it may, this is important work.

Bill has the admirable aim of encouraging educators to bring about a generation of children that really understand the interconnectedness of ourselves with all of nature, and ‘think sustainability’.

Here are just a few ideas quoted from this post.

“…much of humanity does recognize our dependency on Nature. In our “me” societies, our hubris suggests that we can control Nature. This arrogance prevents us from admitting that, while Nature can survive without us, we cannot survive without Nature. “

“An ecosystem is greater than the sum of its parts. It cannot be defined by looking separately at each of its interconnected parts. In addition, the high complexity of an ecosystem makes it impossible to predict.
The problem is that the society of mankind is unable to grasp this fundamental truth. Humanity fails to see that we are part of the relationship. We cannot stand aside from something that we are part of. If we affect Nature, we affect ourselves. For example, if we pollute the air, we might  suffer climate change.”

“Is there any hope of building an ecoliterate worldview of systems thinking within humans? I think so!! Despite the irresponsible ignorance of a large number of humans, many of our children and future generations do not hold this destructive point of view. Their minds are fresh and responsive to awe and wonder. Through environmental education programs that emphasize Earth’s web of life, they are likely candidates for embracing the idea of relationships and interdependence. By being shown how to identify and protect energy connections in Nature, they become effective stewards of our Earth.”

Bill Graham, blog

The hope for the future sustainability of human society needs people like Bill Graham. Try reading his post, and you might want to follow him.

Bill ends with a series of quotes from a recent article by Fritjof Capra in The Ecologist magazine, including the following:

Today, it is becoming more and more evident that concern with the environment is no longer one of many “single issues.” It is the context of everything else — of our lives, our businesses, our politics.”

“The great challenge of our time is to build and nurture sustainable communities, designed in such a manner that their ways of life — businesses, economies, physical structures, and technologies — do not interfere with nature’s inherent ability to sustain life.”

Fritjof Capra, The Ecologist, April 2018

Postscript: See also Bill’s excellent essay Are Environmental Conservation Strategies Misguided?

Featured image shows a kingfisher flying through Cano Negro national park in Costa Rica, where there is great biodiversity and lots of kingfishers. Hastily shot with my Panasonic TZ80 travel zoom. What chance of getting a shot like this in the UK? Very small, and you’d be very lucky or extremely persistent.

Internet Addiction

How often do you see people with their faces stuck into their mobile phones, tablets, laptops, ignoring the real world around them – even their own children desperately craving attention. It’s become a real problem over recent years. And I can’t really throw rocks, as I can see the addiction in myself – another message, another email, another blog post arrived, a ‘like’ on my post, another important petition, another request for money, a news update, another try at that Candy game…

As this article in Positive News identifies, this is a big problem for many people, life threatening even for some. But the important thing is to become aware of it and do something about it, retain connection with other people and the real world.Read More »

Common Newt

8-year-old granddaughter has a new passion for pond dipping, and brings friends round to show them at every opportunity.

The main catch is baby common newts (efts). We had no ldea there were so many in the pond. Other catches included dragonfly larvae, pond skaters, spiders. The frogs hid.

This is a great way to get children interested in nature, and there was high excitement when a pretty well fully grown newt was caught in the net.

Later, another was caught and the 12-year-old gave a fortunately brief science lesson, capturing the poor newt in the birdbath for inspection before its release back to nature.

newt in birdbath

Interestingly, newts are nocturnal animals and spend the day in hiding, so maybe the ones in the pond are not yet fully grown.

Excess sugar in diet

I know I recently complained about sugar in US bread, but this is just the tip of an iceberg. Are we really aware of the effects of all the sugar in Western diets on our children, let alone ourselves? Try some of these adapted quotes from AskDrSears, Huffpost or other similar websites.

  • Excess sugar depresses immunity.
  • Sugar sours behavior, attention, and learning.
  • Sugar promotes sugar highs (High adrenaline levels) or crashes with consequent mood swings, maybe even depression.
  • Some children are sugar junkies.
  • while the neurotransmitters in the brains of normally active children signal the hormones to regulate blood sugar, brains of hyperactive children do not seem to send the same signals
  • (Refined) sugar promotes obesity.
  • Sugar promotes diabetes.
  • Sugar promotes heart disease.
  • Sugar impairs memory and learning skills.
  • Sugar is a risk factor for cognitive decline and dementia.

So now look at the shelves of sugared breakfast cereals in the supermarkets, at the shelves of bottled drinks heavy with sugar, at the shelves of sweets, cookies, chocolates, at the sweets handily stacked by the checkout… At the local Kroger it is actually quite difficult to find non-sugared breakfast cereals.

Parents really do have a big job on to resist all this stuff and get their kids eating healthy food. Not all will go to the lengths of this Swedish mum who went viral, but it does seeem to have worked!

Maybe regulators should really get a bit tougher with those commercial interests whose denial happens to coincide with self interest, profits and their political lobbying.

Featured image shows the oldest remaining business in Texas, a sugar refining complex in Sugarland – By Carol M. Highsmith via Wikimedia Commons.
There is no implication intended on this company specifically.


Hallowe’en didn’t exist in 1950s Lincoln. Apart from my birthday, the only exciting thing that happened at this time of the year was Guy Fawkes’ Night or Bonfire Night, on 5th November. And it really was bonfire night – we had a bonfire in the back garden and daddy lit a few Roman Candles, sparklers, jumping jacks and bangers from the local shop. Health and safety didn’t exist then, but once the local bobby stopped us kids setting off fireworks in a field in the runup.

I would only have known about All Hallows Eve – the day before All Hallows Day or All Saints Day – if we’d been into churchy things. My brother and I were sent to Methodist chapel, and none of that nonsense went on there.

So it was a bit of a slow motion surprise to me as Hallowe’en gradually emerged over the years, as a festival to be widely ‘celebrated’ in a particularly ghoulish manner, pumpkins and all. It eventually even seems to have lost the apostrophe. I believe this emergence has been driven by school teachers spotting a good project, businesses spotting yet another good commercial opportunity and parents struggling to keep up. It seems to be more widely ‘celebrated’ in the US, but the UK is rapidly catching up.

Well I guess it’s fun for a lot of kids, so I shouldn’t be churlish. But, trick or treat? What on earth is a treat for some of our rather spoilt kids these days?

Maybe if we celebrated this as the beginning of winter, the dark part of the year, as were the origins of this festival in pagan days, it would seem more appropriate. There is actually a very rich and respectable tradition that has evolved from the earliest days, involving ghoulish things, closeness to the spirit world, bonfires, etc. eg as outlined in the Wikipedia entry. So maybe I need to get with the programme! But shouldn’t it include the bonfires as well?