I took a walk today- up the hill behind our house. It was hot, and the south-facing slope I toiled up was baking. Spring life was bursting out- in fact, you could actually hear the bracken pop and squelch as it was growing and unfolding.
The walk took me up into the Argyll forest, but it is not what it was. Not even remotely.
Of course, the giant elk and hairy rhinos are long gone, along with the bears and wolves and lynx. The western Atlantic seaboard was once covered in the great arboreal rain forest; mighty oaks, beech, birch- all of which supported a vast hierarchy of teeming life.
The thing about ecosystems like these, is that they only exist because of a harmony and balance, not just from competition, but also from inter-dependency. Our understanding of just how complex and deep this dependency went is only in its infancy, but we can get some clues from this;
The forest I walked up into was not like this any more. In many respects, it has become a barren desert. A graveyard of giants, like the bones of dinosaurs long gone- except in this instance, we have no meteorite to blame for their demise. The finger points at us.
The forest is now made up almost entirely of fast-growing cash crop spruces, planted in serried ranks, acting as a barrier to wilderness. The life they support is sparse, and totally out of kilter. Deer do well in the cover of needles, with nothing to control their numbers but the front end of our cars. Other animals are remarkable when we see them more because of their rarity.
Insect life is another new barometer, and we see a reduction in both numbers and variety.
This is not the rain forest, it is hollow cultivated imitation of it.
We live in a changing world. This is not a new thing, but the pace of change is no longer geological as it once was, rather we see huge change within human life-spans. It should not have been this warm today. What might have once been seen as a freak weather event has become the new normal. Lovely as it is to sit in the dappled sunshine, there are costs to other wild things;
Extinction Rebellion reminds us that there is hope. It is not too late. There is something yet worth fighting to preserve. Consider their three demands;
Tell the truth
In my context, I think this means seeing the forest for what it is, both in it’s remnant and it’s hollow imitation. I feel this like a kind of reverence.
Preserve what we have- but this is not enough. We need a massive programme of rewilding and restoration of natural resources. We need to allow the land to recover, and re-introduce apex predators, and large mammals. This will have costs and impacts which we may not fully understand until they happen. Agriculture has to fundamentally change, as will forestry. We have to support farmers and foresters financially and practically to become heroes not villains.
ER want to establish people’s assemblies, because they believe that change is only possible if we establish a mass movement. We have to literally change our consiousness and our ways of life. We have to break the chains of materialism and commercial distraction.
This is my own small, on-line rebellion. I aim to make more.