The Death of the Cuttlefish

There's this exceedingly weird trait in our society whereby if you are heavily sympathetic to the plight of the natural world and you value non-humans too highly you are seen as a sort of weak 'species traitor.' On a veneer level at least, we remain suspicious of placing value on other lives, as if it somehow threatens our own. This sort of speciesism is another relict hangover of our initial struggle for dominance and will one day, hopefully, be perceived as redundant.

These may just be the unenlightened dark ages of our relationship with everything else. The future will see a level of understanding, identification and biophilia that we can't yet anticipate, for this is what truly makes us human. Our consciousness will gradually expand and open to the unique, highly-complex and often far more advanced societies that exist in tandem with our own. The treatment of these worlds within our worlds will be how we are eventually to be reckoned, it will be the difference between life and death. The dumb animal, we will deduce, is simply us. Mercy, respect and grace in the treatment of those weaker than us will define our evolution, or lack of it. 

Recently I went snorkelling with a friend and my wife. He carried a spear and, whilst diving deep, I heard its unmistakable twang. He'd shot a cuttlefish, through the top of the familiar bone, slightly below the brain. It was magnificent, green bioluminescence burning on its skin, mottled frills and tentacles pulsing, spraying clouds of ink as it tried in vain to escape. He slit its head off with a hunting knife and we ate it on the deck of the boat, this odd and beautiful creature.

James Wood, a scientist obsessed with cephalopods, imagined an intelligence test designed for humans, by an octopus: “So the octopus thinks: ‘All right. I’m going to make an intelligence test for humans, because they show a little bit of promise, in a very few ways.’ And the first question the octopus comes up with is this: How many colour patterns can your severed arm produce in one second?”

The eyes of the animal

 

Every human heart shares the memory

of magic in the woods and water

 

We are the dancing sparks, the flame

and the embers that do not fade

 

We are the roots of the tree

and the wind that stirs the high leaves

 

We are the ebb and flow of the tide,

the ripples on the silent river

 

We are the creatures of fur, tooth, wing and claw

 

We are the whisper in the shadows,

the echo in the dark you need not fear

 

We are the calm before the storm, the music in the fury

and the still point in the dance

 

We are the seedlings in the paving cracks,

the green shoots that dare to hope


We belong here, our time is now and this is our home.

We are Wildonomics.

Nature Intelligence Unit

Glad to play a role in the recent Nature Intelligence Unit swarm. Swarm (Dan, one of the three founders pictured above), do all sorts of good things. It was a great gathering, which included representatives from Friends of the Earth, the National Trust, the RSPB, Way of Nature all with the common goal of connecting people with nature. More results and information soon. 

Tarns and Fells

A wonderful chance to explore the Lakes recently, more details (and a short film about Alfred Wainwright) coming soon.

Forum for the Future: Long View

I wrote a piece called The Wilderness Within for the Forum for the Future Long View. It is about nurturing the part of us connected to the natural world. The book is available to buy from here.

WILD: ReNaturing the City

Photo courtesy WILD

Photo courtesy WILD

I heard about WILD via Daniel Raven-Ellison (@danravenellison), a guerrilla geographer driving the campaign to make London a national park city. With my friend Dan Burgess (@dansolo) of Swarm/The Wild Network, we slunk in late to a full lecture hall at London College of Communications. WILD set out to ‘biohack the city,’ and posed such questions as: ‘can we rewild modern life?’ A symposium aiming to explore nature, design, technology and urban life was not to be missed.

Some highlights of the evening for me personally: I missed David Bond but caught the end of Beth Collier (@wildinthecity1), a nature-based psychotherapist who runs Wild in the City. Her call to arms, reinforcing the power that nature has to positively influence our individual happiness, remains something massively overlooked in our society. Tim Brooke of the Future Cities Catapult pointed out that the new is actually old. Richard Reynolds (@Richard_001) spoke about the immediate vicinity, Elephant and Castle, where he has documented the demise of green space through bad planning, but keeps nature breathing on numerous fronts with guerrilla gardening. The architect and artist Christian Kerrigan (@200yearc) showed a number of his works, including one called ‘When I feel like nature may give up,’ which struck a chord. Ezio Manzini spoke about the paradox of wild vs culture and the need to adopt a less anthropogenic point of view. Andrew Merritt of Something and Son (@somethingandson) brings nature to the city through design, with projects such as Swift Tower and Farm:Shop.

Following a quick break (more on this shortly) it was straight back into the action. Ralph Underhill (@cartoonralph) chaired, framing his role around the positive narrative of rewilding. Sian Berry (@sianberry), the Green Party candidate for Mayor, pointed out that “it feels like we are defending our wildlife from a number of threats.” Melissa Sterry spoke of the bionic city and the breaking down of boundaries, the potential to design architecture with animals. Carlo Laurenzi talked about reprofiling and Johanna Gibbons spoke about our sense of vulnerability. Dan Raven-Ellison, the last I saw, gave an inspiring speech, repeating the facts that underpin his campaign. London is 47% green space. We share it with 13-16,000 species. Let's open the door still further and make London a national park.

All in all, WILD was an exceptional event, dense but digestible. It confirms there are a great many highly creative, intelligent humans in this city looking at how best to bring nature back into our lives. The biggest impact for me was during the performance (Silva + Sajovic) in the interval, a reference to Sontag’s interest in breaking inherited patterns of thought, the consumption of bread (a plant) sustaining us, nurturing us. Looked at in this light (it was more clear to me than ever before), it is madness to imagine that our consciousness is anything more than an extension of nature. And to my mind that was the only thing lacking from WILD, the acceptance that no matter how denatured we feel, we are nature. The wild is not just outside.  

With this in mind, I wrote a short piece called ‘The Wild Is In Your Heart.’ 

What is Wildonomics?

Photo by Jack Johns

Photo by Jack Johns

This short audio clip explains a little more about Wildonomics. The transcript is below. 

The wild is not just outside, it is also in our hearts. Recognising that relationship changes the way we see our home. I conducted ten practical experiments to connect with nature: 
#noroof - I slept outside to reground and awaken my senses
#nocar - I walked for three weeks to explore the way we travel
#notech - I used no technology for 1 month to examine how it shapes everything we do
#nofood - I didn’t eat for five days to explore our attitude to food
#nocash - I lived without money for a week to better understand our economy
#nospeak - I spent ten days in silence to explore the power of language
#notrash - I made no rubbish for a week to investigate the impact of waste
#nocity - I looked at how urban design could affect our shared future
#noland - I spent ten days at sea to get perspective on the land
I wrote a book called Wildonomics about what I learned.

 

#nocar #dailywild

On a walk at Dunwich, Suffolk, with Henry Fletcher, forager and founder of the Wildfjords Trail. You can read more about Wildfjords in this Ecologist article I wrote about the experience.

"Humans are tuned for relationship. The eyes, the skin, the tongue, ear and nostrils - all are gates where our body receives the nourishment of otherness.David Abram

 

Nature Connection Will Be The Next Big Human Trend

Nature Connection Will Be The Next Big Human Trend

The wild is a voice that never stops whispering. It enters your pores by osmosis, and once it's under your skin, good luck forgetting. The wild haunts the imagination, calling you back to places of vast sky and fast-running light, where solitude hunts for you and the edges of the world get ragged.