Wednesday 26 April 2017

A hopeful new year for the natural world

The fog floats down the river like a nebulous Jack the Ripper, touching you with its icy tentacles. Twitter credit: @CliveWelsh
The fog floats down the river like a nebulous Jack the Ripper, touching you with its icy tentacles. Twitter credit: @CliveWelsh

Fiona O'Connell

New Year's Day means we're no longer in the thick of the festive season - though that doesn't stop this country town from being in the thick of the most Victorian of fogs on nippy nights.

The fog floats down the river like a nebulous Jack the Ripper, touching you with its icy tentacles.

I relish its gloomy ghoulishness, just as I delight in the inky blackness whence it winds, without electricity diluting the darkness. Equally atmospheric is the mist that envelops the fields in a way you rarely see in cities. These natural wonders bring to life the Gaia hypothesis put forward by chemist James Lovelock - that claims the earth is a self-aware and self-regulating organism.

However, those gasses that give credence to this scientific theory that the planet is breathing are also a rueful reminder that we are suffocating it. For the earth is alive - but all is most certainly not well. Elephants, giraffes and other magnificent species are critically endangered, while the oceans which we depend on are predicted to be empty in decades. Painting a bleak future for this blue planet is almost as frightening as climate change deniers who justify continuing to exploit it.

Granted, I am probably more pro-conservation than most [to the point that I make Luddites look progressive]. I might miss modern conveniences, but I would happily live without many of them in the name of minding nature. After all, I have not expired from not eating animals my entire adult life to date, even if the menu in our carnivore monoculture can get monotonous. A bonus of my edible ethics is the fact that slaughtering other sentient beings for supper is now recognised as unsustainable.

Making it all the more ironic that many still consider my views to be extreme. Even as they hold tight to what I in turn consider a tragic and topsy-turvy take on life, where destruction is deemed development and perversity passes for progress.

Especially as the zeal for cement is not confined to cities; McMansions and their lifeless lawns litter the countryside alongside environmentally toxic but profitable golf courses. Old growth forests are felled as construction sites nibble away at sacred nature, till there is little left to protect. Meanwhile, we point the finger at the already persecuted little fox for the demise of the corncrake and curlew, instead of the greed of our species' intensive farming. But thankfully the next generation isn't a chip off the concrete-loving block.

The BBC has confirmed that more young people are watching the wildlife series Planet Earth II than The X Factor. That Gandalf of Gaia and grey wizard of the natural world, Sir David Attenborough, believes they are "reconnecting with a planet whose beauty is blemished and whose health is failing" because they understand that their own well-being is linked to that of the environment.

For a fog is lifting so new eyes see nature clearly. Hopefully leading us into a genuinely happy new year.

Sunday Independent

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