Thursday, 8 October 2015

Happy poetry day

Leaves burning
Hot embers in the forest -
A sacrifice to the summer,
But quickly put out
by October's rains.
Now the glow of
iron stones in a river.

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

An excerpt on ecological conversion

From the Holy Father’s letter of 6 August 2015 to Cardinals Koch and Turkson:

As Christians we wish to contribute to resolving the ecological cris is which humanity is presently experiencing. In doing so, we must first rediscover in our own rich spiritual patrimony the deepest motivations for our concern for the care of creation. We need always to keep in mind that, for believers in Jesus Christ, the Word of God who became man for our sake, “the life of the spirit is not dissociated from the body or from nature or from worldly realities, but lived in and with them, in communion with all that surrounds us” ( Laudato Si’ , 216). The ecological crisis thus summons us to a profound spiritual conversion: Christians are called to “an ecological conversion whereby the effects of their encounter with Jesus Christ become evident in their relationship with the world around them” (ibid., 217). For “living our vocation to be protectors of God’s handiwork is essential to a life of virtue; it is not an optional or a secondary aspect of our Christian experience” (ibid.).

1st September is the day of prayer for the care of creation

Friday, 24 April 2015


...continuing to quote from Barry Lopez's Arctic Dreams,

In the following narratives [of Arctic exploration], it is not solely the desire of some men for difrerent sorts of wealth that becomes clear, but the suspicion that North America offered more than material wealth. It offered wealth that could not be owned, like the clarity of the air and the sight of 300,000 snow geese feeding undisturbed on the Great Plain of the Koukdjuak...We seem vaguely uneasy with the notion that a flock of snow geese rising like a snowstorm over Baffin Island is as valuable or more to mankind than the silver, tin, and copper being dug out of the Bolivian Andes at Potosí. These are not modern misgivings;  they daye in North America from the time of Columbus and Cabot...

Apologies for the long passage today. I like the idea of wealth that cannot be possessed, because it makes it a communal asset. If I don't possess A, it means that my friends can also enjoy it. But it does make me wonder about responsibility with relation to possession. If I own, say, a tree in my back garden, I have a responsibility to make sure it is safe and well looked after otherwise it will be my fault if it dies. If there's a tree on the patch of communal land outside my house, whose responsibility is it to protect that tree, to make sure it thrives and grows beautifully old?

Wealth that cannot be owned by any individual cannot be traded. It cannot be bargained for, charged interest on, entered into ledger books or spreadsheets. It makes me think of Oliver's song: "Who will buy this wonderful morning?" The rising sun is one of our most valuable assets and yet completely and utterly un-possessible. Just a thought.

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

The mind's intercourse with the landscape

In his book Arctic Dreams, the American author Barry Lopez writes:

"...language is not something man imposes on the land. It evolves in his conversation with the land - in testing the sea ice with the toe of a kamik, in the eating of a wild berry...A long-lived inquiry produces a discriminating language. The very order of the language, the ecology of its sounds and thoughts, derives from the mind's intercourse with the landscape."

As I walked to work today, I wondered about the intercourse of minds with the landscape in my own community, and the effect this may have on our language and therefore on our perception of our own environment. (Incidentally, the German word Umwelt, meaning 'environment' but which I translate literally as 'world around oneself' helps me understand better what we mean by 'environment').

If we're not letting our minds interact, study, perceive the landscape, what happens?

It makes me wonder whether it's a vicious cycle. The less time we spend outside, the less we understand; the more language we lose with which to describe our landscape and so more estranged we become from the natural world around us.

Perhaps today, then, I'd advocate spending just a little more time outside, looking, listening and letting our minds explore.

Monday, 6 April 2015


I've been doing some preparation for a church youth group session and hence pondering on the meaning of 'life'. (Not the answer 42, before any Python fans jump in).

What is the word 'life' for us? Is it just our physical existence? Or is it something more?

From the Greek New Testament of the Bible, I've discovered, there are two types of 'life' - bios, the earthly, physical existence; and zoe. Zoe is altogether more exciting.

Zoe is the adventurous, vital, genuine, vigorous, generous, authentic state of being.

What if life is more than simply existing? More than eating, breathing, sleeping? More than having our physical needs attended to? More than consuming and acquiring?

In Barry Lopez's book Arctic Dreams, he often talks about the lifestyle of the people that inhabit the arctic, and there's one particularly relevant point he makes in a passage on Eskimo hunters. Lopez writes:

They [Eskimo hunters] have a quality of nuannaarpoq, of taking extravagant pleasure in being alive; and they delight in finding it in other people. (p.202)

This is existing and much more.

More reading: 
Luke 12:13-15 & 22-23 
Barry Lopez, Arctic Dreams

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Two types of fear

Thanks to Barry Lopez' Arctic Dreams  for these...

The Tununirmiut Eskimo on Bylot Island have at least two words for fear (maybe more?):

ilira - fear that accompanies awe (like watching a polar bear)
kappia - fear in the face of unpredictable violence (having to cross thin sea ice)

Do either of these apply in the face of our changing climate? Are we sitting back and experiencing ilira, watching the changes take place from a point of relative safety, or have we got collective kappia yet? Are we as afraid as we should be?

Barry Lopez published his Arctic Dreams in 1986.

Saturday, 24 January 2015

It doesn't sound bad enough

My complete thanks go to the Now Show (BBC R4, 23 January 2015) for this post.

Global warming and climate change don't, to many people, sound that bad, said Nish Kumar. Too true. In the middle of the damp, cold, bone-biting, and joint-aching January, a bit of warmth doesn't sound like all too bad a thing. A changing climate is neither here nor there. We're surrounded by change all the time.

We need some alternatives, and here are a few of Nish's suggestions:

"Kicked in the weather-balls"

And, for the CEOs of major corporations, whose major concerns at Davos were regulation and taxation:

"Increased regulation and taxation of ...oxygen"

(Listen online for the next 29 days, go on, do:

Time to think of some more emotive, urgent synonyms for global warming and climate change. And while we're at it, green. It doesn't make sense, really. How can a colour be a solution to a weather-based issue?. What words do we use to make it sound worse? Perhaps we need to be more concrete: drought, flood, fire. Hunger, famine, war. 

Sunday, 11 January 2015

Land ethic

What's changed in the last 60 years?

In 1949, the American forester and writer, Aldo Leopold wrote in his Sand County Almanac and Sketches Here and There, that what we lack is a system of ethics.

There is as yet no ethic dealing with man's relation to land and to the animals and plants which grow upon it. Land, like Odysseus' slave girls, is still property. The land-relation is still strickly economic, entailing privileges but not obligations...

And, later on in the same work:

We have no land ethic yet, but we have at least drawn nearer to the point of admitting that birds should continue as a matter of biotic right, regardless of the presence or absence of economic advantage to us.

Sixty years on, have we got the ethics we needed? Or is our relationship to the land limited to economic terms?