THE ART & SCIENCE OF NATURAL INCLUSION
Where would the sun be
With no where to catch its rays
And spin them into Life
Throbbing in receptive bodies
Responsive to warmth
Oil on Canvas, 1999
Oil on Canvas, 1999
Pen & Ink on Card, 2009
Acrylic on Paper-cut, 2010
Oil on Board, 1990
Oil on Board, 1973
The Holeyness of the Wood – West & East
Oil on Canvas, 2007
So much of what we fear as human beings — by way of pain, loss, failure and uncertainty — is not innate, but culturally imposed through the propagation of the myth that individual identity is in conflict with or subservient to group identity and/or some kind of supernatural power. This fear can be eased through recognition of our natural companionship as unique beings in varied receptive-responsive relationship with one another, other life forms and our environmental surroundings.
What does the word ‘space’ mean to you, and how does this affect the way you feel about your self and the natural world? Does what comes to your mind make your heart ‘Jump for Joy’, does it make your heart ‘sink’, or do you just feel ‘indifferent’?
In this short essay I want to say why there is every good reason for your heart to Jump for Joy! I also want to recognise how and why, for a great many of us, the very idea of space is liable to make our hearts sink or mean nothing at all to us. It all comes down to a question of perception.
How many times have we heard it? A government wins an election based upon presenting a binary choice to an electorate, and then proceeds to claim that it has a mandate to do what it likes regardless of the dastardly opposition. It may even claim its influence to be ‘unifying’ and ‘healing’.
The reality is, however, that such a form of governance is actually a tyranny, a profound form of ARROGANCE and IGNORANCE, based upon the assumption that ‘whoever wins is right’ and whoever loses is ‘wrong’. There is no better recipe than this for guaranteeing the disaffection and despair of those depicted and humiliated as ‘losers’, no matter how few or many of them there are.
Recognition has been increasing in recent years, and especially in recent months, that a great many of the problems we face in modern culture arise from a confrontational human relationship with the natural world. Calls to ‘connect’, ‘reconnect’ and ‘work with rather than against Nature’ are commonplace. But what do these calls really signify and what do they imply in practice? How could we have imagined humanity to be separate from Nature in the first place?
The first 48 years of my life took me along a course that became devoted to the study of fungi and their relationships with other life forms and habitats, especially trees and woodlands. This study was made, however, within the context of a scientific and academic culture from which I felt increasingly alienated and that progressively nibbled away at my confidence until I reached a point when I couldn’t continue. I came to feel that either something was foundationally wrong with the culture or something was foundationally wrong with me.
“The fact is that we are selfish,” she summarised the central problem succinctly. “But where does ‘Self’ begin and end?” I queried.
In Spring 2001 I convened a new, transdisciplinary final year undergraduate course at the University of Bath, entitled “Life, Environment & People”. My intention was to explore with the students how Biology, the science of life itself, might help us to understand and resolve the growing social, psychological and environmental problems facing humanity at the beginning of the new millennium.