Friday, 14 February 2014

Wellies and Gaia

We all have great sympathy with the population currently suffering from the current flooding and watch with dismay people being injured and even killed, trees uprooted and property damaged.We empathise at the huge efforts that homeowners are having to go to in order to keep their houses safe and dry.
Livestock has been displaced, wildlife has sustained heavy losses and habitats and many SSSI destroyed.
We watch with fascination the "News Specials' on the current weather anomalies and many theories abound as to the causes and the blame game has begun. 

Politicians are derided as they jostle to take centre stage in what may prove to be their 'Hurricane Katrina moment'. 
Sales of Hunter wellies, North Face and Berghaus jackets and waders so beloved of news reporters tv presenters have gone through the roof. Every cloud etc.

Whatever the causes or indeed if it's just a natural weather/climate phenomenon, it's always a good time to consider our role in the earth and adopt an earth based religion as well as a spiritual one. Gaia is always a good starting point.

 Below is part of an essay written by James Lovelock.

We now see that the air, the ocean and the soil are much more than a mere environment for life; they are a part of life itself. Thus the air is to life just as is the fur to a cat or the nest for a bird. Not living but something made by living things to protect against an otherwise hostile world. For life on Earth the air is our protection against the cold depths and fierce radiations of space.

There is nothing unusual in the idea of life on Earth interacting with the air, sea and rocks, but it took a view from outside to glimpse the possibility that this combination might consist of a single giant living system and one with the capacity to keep the Earth always at a state most favorable for the life upon it.

An entity comprising a whole planet and with a powerful capacity to regulate the climate needs a name to match. It was the novelist William Golding who proposed the name Gaia. Gladly we accepted his suggestion and Gaia is also the name of the hypothesis of science which postulates that the climate and the composition of the Earth always are close to an optimum for whatever life inhabits it.

The evidence gathered in support of Gaia is now considerable but as is often the way of science, this is less important than is its use as a kind of looking glass for seeing the world differently, and which makes us ask new questions about the nature of Earth.

If we are "all creatures great and small," from bacteria to whales, part of Gaia then we are all of us potentially important to her well being. We knew in our hearts that the destruction of a whole range of other species was wrong but now we know why. No longer can we merely regret the passing of one of the great whales, or the blue butterfly, nor even the smallpox virus. When we eliminate one of these from Earth, we may have destroyed a part of ourselves, for we also are a part of Gaia.

There are many possibilities for comfort as there are for dismay in contemplating the consequences of our membership in this great commonwealth of living things. It may be that one role we play is as the senses and nervous system for Gaia. Through our eyes she has for the first time seen her very fair face and in our minds become aware of herself. We do indeed belong here. The earth is more than just a home, it's a living system and we are part of it.

Valentines Day 2

It's that time of year again.
A snowdrop walk really does work.

Urban Exploring

We must profess a slightly guilty secret – nothing terribly exciting in the scheme of things but it does tick one or two boxes.
It’s the slightly edgy ‘sport’ of Urban Exploring.
This is the exploration and photography of abandoned buildings and ruins. The images are then uploaded by the ‘explorers’ for people (like me) who can easily get some degree of thrill even from armchair urban exploring. This is possibly due to being slightly woosy when it comes to any form of danger and of course there is always danger (in various degrees) in exploring abandoned buildings. So with this disclaimer we will continue.
SB recently chanced upon an amazing case of ‘UE’ from the Yonkers, New York State that satisfies several interests – botany, historic architecture…oh, and of course stone balls.
The building of interest is the ex Boyce Thompson Institute building which was built to further botanical research in 1924 by Boyce Thompson and was dedicated ‘to the study of plants and associated organisms for the betterment of society’.
To quote the man himself ‘the dependence of man upon plants is intimate and many sided.  No science is more fundamental to life and more immediately and multifariously practical than plant science.  We have here around us enough unsolved riddles to tax the best scientific genius for centuries to come.’

Architect Frank Arnold Colby designed the Georgian Revival building. It was constructed of reinforced concrete with a Flemish Bond brick veneer and is attached to a series of greenhouses on the south end, which were part of the original construction. Teams of botanists, entomologists and chemists worked at the well-equipped laboratories focusing on cures for plant diseases and methods to increase crop yields using eight greenhouses and indoor facilities for “nature faking”—growing plants in artificial conditions with precise control over light, temperature, humidity, and carbon dioxide levels.
By 1974, the Institute had gained an international reputation for its contributions to plant research. However, although soaring air pollution in Yonkers enabled several important experiments at the institute it also hindered many more. Exacerbated by dwindling finances, the BTI moved to a new site at Cornell University and continues to dedicate itself to much needed research in plant science.
Sadly since then, the building, greenhouses and grounds have been left to decay. Wild, uncontrolled vegetation has taken over and ubiquitous vandalism has contributed to the decay. However, the bones of the once glorious building still survive and (thankfully) ‘explorers’ have provided armchair explorers with fascinating images of the interiors and grounds.

Vandalised interior
Wrecked exterior
Decaying glasshouses

Looking at the images and reading about the botany experiments that once took place there was satisfying enough but imagine SB’s surprise when it saw what must be considered the cherry on the cake – i.e. a hulking big stone ball inside the building! It does looks incongruous and simply sad as vandals had dislodged and pushed it inwards from its prominent and venerable position from the grand entrance pediment and down the elegant interior stairway. No doubt smashing several treads on the way. SB’s is acutely aware of the weight of these spherical adornments so it must have been no small task to dislodge.

Rightful place

Final resting place?
Such misguided energy.