“Green Fire – Aldo Leopold and a Land Ethic For Our Time”

Aldo Leopold died of a heart attack while battling a fire on a neighbour’s property on April 21, 1948. He is one of those literary figures better known and much more influential in America than on this side of the Atlantic – like Henry Adams, or to a certain degree Emerson or Thoreau. I first came across him when reading about solastalgia  , which lead me to A Sand County Almanac and the concept of the Land Ethic:

“The land ethic simply enlarges the boundaries of the community to include soils, waters, plants, and animals, or collectively: the land.”

“This sounds simple: do we not already sing our love for and obligation to the land of the free and the home of the brave? Yes, but just what and whom do we love? Certainly not the soil, which we are sending helter-skelter down river. Certainly not the waters, which we assume have no function except to turn turbines, float barges, and carry off sewage. Certainly not the plants, of which we exterminate whole communities without batting an eye. Certainly not the animals, of which we have already extirpated many of the largest and most beautiful species. A land ethic of course cannot prevent the alteration, management, and use of these ‘resources,’ but it does affirm their right to continued existence, and, at least in spots, their continued existence in a natural state. In short, a land ethic changes the role of Homo sapiens from conqueror of the land-community to plain member and citizen of it. It implies respect for his fellow-members, and also respect for the community as such.

 

I have remarked before on some of the aspects of Leopold’s work which might strike one as dated – for instance his unself-conscious engagement in hunting, not seen as implacably opposed to conservation as it often is now (in Britain especially) . But by and large, Leopold’s work is all too relevant. Indeed, as the disappearance of species accelerates rather than slows down in our supposedly green-conscious age, the rediscovery of the Land Ethic looms larger than ever as an imperative rather than a luxury.

 


<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/8669977″>Green Fire: Aldo Leopold and a Land Ethic for Our Time</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/user2926562″>Jeannine Richards</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

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“it is the August-blooming ling that covers the hills with amethyst”

from “The Living Mountain” by Nan Shepherd (previous Nan Shepherd posts here  and here:

Lower on the mountain, on all the slopes and shoulders and ridges and on the moors below, the characteristic growth is heather. And this too is integral to the mountain. For heather grows in its most profuse luxuriance on granite, so that the very substance of the mountain is in its life. Of the three varieties that grow on these hills—two Ericas and the ling—the July-blooming bell heather is the least beautiful, though its clumps of hot red are like sun-bursts when the rest of the hills are still brown. The pale cross-leaved heath, that grows in small patches, often only single heads, in moist places, is an exquisite, almost waxen-still, with a honey perfume.

But it is the August-blooming ling that covers the hills with amethyst. Now they look gracious and benign. For many many miles there is nothing but this soft radiance. Walk over it in a hot sun, preferably not on a path (‘I like the unpath best,’ one of my small friends said when her father had called her to heel), and the scent rises in a heady cloud. Just as one walks on a hot day surrounded by one’s own aura of flies, so one walks surrounded by one’s own aura of heather scent. For as the feet brush the bloom, the pollen rises in a perfumed cloud.

It settles on one’s boots, or if one is walking barefoot, on feet and legs, yellowy-fawn in colour, silky to the touch, yet leaving a perceptible grit between the fingers. Miles of this, however, stupefies the body. Like too much incense in church, it blunts the sharp edge of adoration, which, at its finest, demands clarity of the intellect as well as the surge of emotion.

Where are all the hedgehogs?

I have posted quite a few hedgehog posts. This is perhaps as they are frequent garden visitors/residents. Or were, it seems.

So far in 2018 I have not seen a hedgehog either in my own garden or ambling around the estate. I do wonder if this is an effect of a long, cold Winter. Or perhaps it is building works in the estate, although I would have thought the hedgehogs had multiple potential other homes. Though perhaps they have indeed met the fate of Philip Larkin’s “The Mower”

Of course, having posted this, I will likely look outside and see a hedgehog in the next few minutes. But the poor old hedgehogs needs all the help it can get.

The “lazy and indifferent” heron of “Monday or Tuesday”, Virginia Woolf

The only short story collection that she had selected in her lifetime, “Monday or Tuesday” is a 1921 collection in which she pursued the approach to writing set out in Modern Fiction:

Look within and life, it seems, is very far from being “like this”. Examine for a moment an ordinary mind on an ordinary day. The mind receives a myriad impressions–trivial, fantastic, evanescent, or engraved with the sharpness of steel. From all sides they come, an incessant shower of innumerable atoms; and as they fall, as they shape themselves into the life of Monday or Tuesday, the accent falls differently from of old; the moment of importance came not here but there; so that, if a writer were a free man and not a slave, if he could write what he chose, not what he must, if he could base his work upon his own feeling and not upon convention, there would be no plot, no comedy, no tragedy, no love interest or catastrophe in the accepted style, and perhaps not a single button sewn on as the Bond Street tailors would have it. Life is not a series of gig lamps symmetrically arranged; life is a luminous halo, a semi-transparent envelope surrounding us from the beginning of consciousness to the end. Is it not the task of the novelist to convey this varying, this unknown and uncircumscribed spirit, whatever aberration or complexity it may display, with as little mixture of the alien and external as possible? We are not pleading merely for courage and sincerity; we are suggesting that the proper stuff of fiction is a little other than custom would have us believe it.

I’ve often felt, of late, this aversion to the supposedly well-made story, the contrivances that feel all too literary. My own sense is that in recent decades the literary world has become much more conformist and predictable than the “convention” Woolf decried.

The title story, or rather piece, would perhaps be classed as “flash fiction” today, except it is a mysterious, in its own way “indifferent” piece of prose. As well as the meaning of “the life of Monday or Tuesday” from the passage above, I can’t help reading the title as alluding to the indifference of the heron, and indeed the Universe, to such human-made concerns as the day of the week. Anyway, here is “Monday or Tuesday”:

Lazy and indifferent, shaking space easily from his wings, knowing his way, the heron passes over the church beneath the sky. White and distant, absorbed in itself, endlessly the sky covers and uncovers, moves and remains. A lake? Blot the shores of it out! A mountain? Oh, perfect—the sun gold on its slopes. Down that falls. Ferns then, or white feathers, for ever and ever——

Desiring truth, awaiting it, laboriously distilling a few words, for ever desiring—(a cry starts to the left, another to the right. Wheels strike divergently. Omnibuses conglomerate in conflict)—for ever desiring—(the clock asseverates with twelve distinct strokes that it is midday; light sheds gold scales; children swarm)—for ever desiring truth. Red is the dome; coins hang on the trees; smoke trails from the chimneys; bark, shout, cry “Iron for sale”—and truth?

Radiating to a point men’s feet and women’s feet, black or gold-encrusted—(This foggy weather—Sugar? No, thank you—The commonwealth of the future)—the firelight darting and making the room red, save for the black figures and their bright eyes, while outside a van discharges, Miss Thingummy drinks tea at her desk, and plate-glass preserves fur coats——

Flaunted, leaf-light, drifting at corners, blown across the wheels, silver-splashed, home or not home, gathered, scattered, squandered in separate scales, swept up, down, torn, sunk, assembled—and truth?

Now to recollect by the fireside on the white square of marble. From ivory depths words rising shed their blackness, blossom and penetrate. Fallen the book; in the flame, in the smoke, in the momentary sparks—or now voyaging, the marble square pendant, minarets beneath and the Indian seas, while space rushes blue and stars glint—truth? content with closeness?

Lazy and indifferent the heron returns; the sky veils her stars; then bares them.

No green to be seen 2: “Dead From the Neck Down” in Wales

In September 2016 I posted “No green to be seen: a biodiversity desert on Slievenamon” about the void that was a conifer plantation on Slievenamon. David Elias, at his blog Dispatches from the Undergrowth,  has an evocative, sobering piece on a similar experience. I was particularly struck at how he, too, had experienced this at an affective level as disturbing, indeed unbearable.

“A culture is no better than its woods” indeed.

It is 8.30 on a peerless sunny morning in late April, the sort of morning I had waiting for all through a long cold winter here in North Wales. I am sitting in a conifer plantation that looks like a Bridget Riley painting in brown (an unlikely thought). The trees are forty foot […]

via Dead from the Neck Down — dispatches from the undergrowth

What Does it Take? – from “Dispatches from the Undergrowth” blog, on saving a species

From the blog “Dispatches from the Undergrowth”, here is a fascinating post about conservation, and the ingenuity, hard work, and patience required to keep a threatened species going. As the author writes, “not many people would miss the marsh fritillary … for me it would mean one more spark going out in the firmament and another small step towards the darkness”T/%

I have posted a wee comment, also….

dispatches from the undergrowth

 Conservationists constantly worry about how to ‘keep things going’ – be it a bird, butterfly, or some other organism teetering on the brink. It is a pretty sad state of affairs, but that’s the deal by now. It takes a lot of dedication by a few, in the face of indifference by the many, to stand against the flow of wildlife disappearing down the plughole. Last summer I came across a vivid example of what it takes to keep things going.

Wikimedia.commons.org. Charlesjsharp – Own work from Sharp Photography

Not far from where I live is a scruffy looking, overgrown meadow in a nowhere-in-particular sort of place. The rushes and grasses are knee high and tussocky, birch saplings and sallow bushes threaten to overrun it. Although it doesn’t look much it is in fact carefully cared for. On a sunny day in June I went there with my friends…

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Researchers warn that bird feeders could aid the spread of disease

Researchers warn that bird feeders could aid the spread of disease

James Common

Diseases among bird populations are on the increase and, as a growing number of households take to feeding their garden birds, researchers have claimed that bird feeders are contributing to the spread of dangerous pathogens, viruses and bacteria in certain species.

Scientists from both the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) and the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) have learnt that poor cleanliness, the accumulation of droppings around feeders and the build-up of stale food are aiding the transmission of diseases between garden birds. A problem made worse by the tendency of feeding stations to attract large numbers of birds – including species who would not usually encounter each other at such close quarters in the wild.

Trichomonosis is a notable example of a disease whose spread is facilitated by bird feeders: a condition transmitted largely, it is thought, through contaminated food sources and caused by the parasite Trichomonas gallinae. This disease…

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