Ecoliteracy helps us understand Earth’s Laws

“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)


Culture Declares Emergency: signing up from Ireland

The Hollywood Forest Story : An Eco-Social Art Practice | Co. Carlow Ireland

CultureDeclaresKite-HORIZ-PINK-LRG

CultureDeclaresKite-VERT-SM-PINK“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…

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May we all begin to see again, May we all walk in real beauty

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.’

”What is Rewilding? (extended version) – Rewilding News”

Perhaps we can never arrive at rewilded, because pure wilderness is an unhelpful myth.
— Read on rewildingnews.com/what-is-rewilding-extended-version

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.

The arts have a key role for public engagement for sustainability in England so why not in Ireland too??

A walk on Mt Leinster for Earth Day 2014, organised by Cathy Fitzgerald. Photo: C. Fitzgerald
A walk on Mt Leinster for Earth Day 2014, organised by Cathy Fitzgerald. Photo: C. Fitzgerald

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).