“To comply by Earth’s laws, we must first know them, and this requires us to revive our connection with Nature and our ecoliteracy, re-learning Nature’s laws after generations of alienation.
This re-learning involves nurturing our relationship with nature. This could be through planting a window box, developing our relationship with a tree in a park, tuning in to the cycles of the moon, or more elaborate, wild ways, depending on our circumstances. “
Geo-theologian Thomas Berry quoted in Rooting Interest Rebellion in Nature’ The Ecologist (2019)
“Humanity faces the combined catastrophes of climate change, a mass extinction of vital biodiversity and a degradation of ecosystems health everywhere,” said Lucy Neal, spokesperson for Culture Declares Emergency.
“This has now become an emergency situation because governments and industry have not shown the necessary leadership, and, so far, have not acted fast enough. Fortunately, humans are capable of responding in a remarkable variety of ways to accelerate climate solutions and adaptations, and culture can help stir up human response as well as creating new stories and visions for our world.”
As an Irish art culture worker extremely concerned with the ecological emergency that is unfolding around us, and knowing the culture sector in Ireland to date is not creating strategies commensurate with the situation, I have become a signatory to the first wave of a new global movement, #CultureDeclaresEmergency that is being launched across the world today. I am…
I am delighted to share news of support from the Carlow Local Enterprise Office and the Carlow Arts Office in my work to develop ecoliteracy courses for creative workers
I am very grateful to both organisations for these opportunities to develop courses for creative people who wish to develop informed and impactful works on critical eco-social issues.
I am undertaking a feasibility study of online course development with support from the Carlow Local Enterprise Office. Please email me if you want to be involved in developing the pilot online course: I am interested in hearing from creative workers looking at eco-social concerns from anywhere on Earth.
In September, 2019 I will be offering through a Carlow Arts Office award a seminar on essential ecoliteracy in South County Carlow, Ireland.
For more updates on these courses, ‘follow’ my site by entering your email on the homepage or you can email me for further information at email@example.com
The ecological crises are deeply related to how we do not read the monocultures, the ecological deserts, that surround us in modern societies, as life limiting. Instead, can we reimagine this type of ’beautiful’ image, so overused in tourism, to think what a rich, thriving ecology look like. Hint, it just wouldn’t include one type of grass and one type of animal. Real beauty, life-giving lands, forests, wetlands etc always express diversity, mixtures of species, thousands of insect species, altogether stunning complexity. May we all begin to see again, May we all walk in real beauty.
My reflection on this important insight from Irish ecological gardener activist, reformed landscape artist Mary Reynolds
Shifting Baseline Syndrome
Every generation has less and less awareness of what truly healthy living landscapes actually look like. People don’t realise, for example, that the bare grassy hillsides are not supposed to be bare, that they are over grazed and support almost no life other than sheep. They don’t know what a diverse native woodland looks like, or that a variety of life depends on them. They are accustomed to seeing stands of monoculture non-native, much poisoned, conifer plantations, which are dark and dead underneath for the most part.
People don’t remember what it was like to have shoals of fish in the rivers, to have crystal clear seas cleaned by the massive beds of oysters, to have oodles of birds, insects, frogs, butterflies, hedgehogs, etc. sharing our land. It is so quiet now. Eerily quiet. When you’re driving at night your windscreen is no longer covered in dead insects and moths like it used to be when you were a small child. As a species, we immediately forget what is lost and only see what exists right here, right now as the new normal. Every generation is experiencing huge shifts in what passes for a natural system. These changes have become more extreme over the last few generations. What we see as dead landscapes, our kids will see as natural and normal. There is a phrase for this and most of us these days suffer from it. It’s called ‘Shifting Baseline Syndrome’.
“Generational amnesia is when knowledge is not passed down from generation to generation. For example, people may think of as ‘pristine’ wilderness, the wild places that they experienced during their childhood, but with every generation this baseline becomes more and more degraded” Dr. E.J. Milner-Gulland
Things are only hopeless if we do nothing, so lets do something! Please visit www.wearetheark.org and empower yourself to re-wild your land and gardens and help stem this tide of extinction. There are sections for gardens, schools, corporate land and farms.’
Its been heartening to see the voices raised for the planet in the last few months since the international Climate Change Panel (2018), the WWF (2018) have starkly given a timeframe of little over a decade to address the intersecting eco-social emergencies that are accelerating around us.
We can all be empowered to do the same in our communities – asking all politicians and those with power to address these issues as the number 1 priority for a just, equitable, world.
So many people have inspired my work but I’m so aware that it has often been women, feminists and others on the margins, those in the global south, those in male-dominated domains and industries, who have contributed so much to raising global consciousness about safeguarding the only liveable planet we know. I dedicate my Haumea work to all the women, feminists and others who have bravely spoken for a living, just Earth.
I dedicate my work to all the women, feminists and others — mothers, sisters, scientists, writers, academics, artists, musicians, theorists and theatre-makers, comedians, poets, presidents, feminists (many men are feminists you know), farmers, gardeners, lawyers, philosophers, women in tech, women carers and teenage girls who are empowering us all to raise our voices to safeguard the only beautiful, life-giving home we have.
From Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring (1962) to Greta Thunberg’s ‘School Strike for Climate’ (2018 ongoing) inspiring the youth around the world – thank you all!
Current and historical ideas of ‘wilderness, ‘rewinding’ and ‘wilding’ show divergent conversations and sometimes troubling aims… but it’s great these conversations are happening. We so urgently need to wild our lands and waters.
Art and sustainability programmes originating in England (Julie’s Bicycle) in the last decade, and also evolving rapidly in Scotland (Creative Carbon Scotland) have proven increased public engagment with eco-social concerns and also provided significant energy costs for their respective art sectors. Ireland has no developed policy in this area (Fitzgerald, 2017) but it is certain that we mustn’t ignore culture as part of national response to the unfolding ecological emergencies.
Art has immense social power to engage and inspire a national conversation to envision the values for sustainability that are important and relevant to Irish rural and urban communities.
Alison Tickell, CEO, Julie’s Bicycle [England], said of their art and sustainability programme report published in late 2018: “This report shows how a deceptively simple policy – Arts Council England’s Environmental reporting requirements – can prompt big shifts. Hundreds of creative organisations are demonstrating how a sustainable cultural ecology can work. Environmental literacy is inspiring deeper connections between climate and social justice, investment and innovation, clean energy and new materials, empathy and biodiversity, the past, present and why we must shape the future.”
The Chairperson of Art Council England also commented:
In six years we have seen a 23% reduction in energy consumption and a corresponding 35% reduction in carbon emissions. Theatres, libraries, museums and concert halls of all sizes – in cities such as Birmingham, Exeter and London and across the country from Cumbria to the Thames estuary – are taking significant steps to highlight the issue in their programmes and improve their own environmental practice, installing solar panels, switching to energy-saving lightbulbs and reducing travel… We have seen the power of encouraging the arts and cultural community to go on a collective journey. (Guardian, 20 Nov, 2018).
In 2000, I was invited to count and photograph seabirds who breed on unpeopled atolls in the South Pacific, in the Cook Islands, that are now threatened by rising seas. Reflecting on that journey I’ve since wanted to share how creative practices work have social power to translate environmental knowledge relevant to our communities and diverse places. Sharing Haumea ecoliteracy is my contribution for the cultural shift that welcomes a necessary life-sustaining ecological era. The Journey with Haumea begins.
Image above: Me on the good yacht Mary Frances on the way to count seabirds, coconut crabs and photograph the stunningly beautiful, unpeopled Suwarrow Atoll – Cook Islands, South Pacific in 2000.
“Grace happens when we act with others on behalf of our world.”
Joanna Macy, ecophilosopher
I’ve long been interested in how creative practices can help us reconnect to the wider nonhuman world that Western modern culture has become so alienated from.
In 2000, immediately after completing my undergraduate degree in Fine Art at the National College of Art and Design in Dublin, and informed with my work for the environmental NGO Crann – that promotes native tree planting in Ireland, and my earlier career in research science in Aotearoa New Zealand, I was invited to count and photograph seabirds who breed on unpeopled atolls in the South Pacific, in the Cook Islands. These special atolls, are sadly threatened by rising seas and increasing ocean acidification due to modern societies’ unsustainable way of living.
Reflecting on that journey much later, and the interconnectedness of life on this planet, gave me insight that my creative-practical efforts to learn about ecological forestry in Ireland, could be one small action, to counter rising, seas elsewhere.
I’ve since wanted to share how creative practices work have social power to translate environmental knowledge relevant to our communities and diverse places. Sharing Haumea ecoliteracy is my contribution for the cultural shift that welcomes a necessary life-sustaining ecological era.