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 http://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.’