What we once knew as natural history is changing, the dominance, and interrelationships that have been shattered by the human species need rebuilding. Now more than ever we begin to recognise the pressing concern, and need for restoring the lost biodiversity on our planet earth. Here on this page is just a small selection of thought provoking reading, watching and listening (RWL) that is worth consideration and inspection into the impact our species has had, and is having on the planet, and the injustices of our mal-action. Of course, due to socioeconomic and other constraints there is only so much some of us can do, in such terms of; e.g. purchasing organically. However, what we can do we must, those that can do more must do more, to balance out those whose circumstances do not allow more to be done. Like Arthur Ashe once said; "Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can."
At the start of all practices it begins with educating ourselves and others, not only is education important but also the information (RWL) we are educating ourselves with, and the thinking that concurs as a result. The RWL selected here is focused on thinking through the entangled meaning of natural history, ecology, and horticulture, areas that are concerned with human - non-human interactions. Note: overtime the RWL will continue to grow, branch and renew.
Hodge, G. (2013) Practical Botany for Gardeners: Over 3,000 Botanical Terms Explained and Explored
Introduction to the world of botany
Harrison, L. (2012) Latin for Gardeners: Over 3,000 Plant Names Explained and Explored
History, overview and guidance to botanical latin
Pray, L. (2008) Discovery of DNA structure and function: Watson and Crick. Nature Education 1(1):100 [online]
Haraway, D. (2016) Staying with the Trouble: Making Kin in the Chthulucene, Duke University Press.
Alerting us towards multi-species interactions, and divulging into symbiosis, Haraway reveals and compellingly writes about ways in which we can reconcile with the planet and all its inhabitants. Haraway conceptually conveys the Anthropocene, within her thinking, as the Chthulucene, which acts to describe the tentacular relations between human and non-human. A complex yet fruitfully intriguing read.
Royal Horticulture Society (2008). New Encyclopedia of Gardening Techniques: The Indispensable Illustrated Practical Guide. Mitchell Beazley
"redefining gardening as a sustainable practice that must be in tune with the environment and one through which we can enthuse and educate children, the future guardians of our fragile natural world." (Foreword, Inga Grimsey, former Director General of the RHS)
Attenborough, D. (2020). A Life on Our Planet: My Witness Statement and Vision for the Future. London, UK: Ebury Press UK
"The tragedy of our time has been happening all around us, barely noticeable from day to day - the loss of our planet's wild places, its biodiversity."
Planet Stuart-Smith, S. (2020) The Well-Gardened Mind: The Restorative Power of Nature. New York: Scribner & Schuster, Inc.
Gardening may be treated as a reiteration, whereby we do a bit, then nature does a bit, then we respond to nature etcetera, not dissimilar to a sustained conversation or dialogue p10. A process of refinement in knowing what works and what doesn't, with or without technological dependency p14. Since ancient times gardens have been known to be restorative, and nurturing and that tending to a garden is a mindful activity that effects the mind immediately, in the present and consciously or gradually and subconsciously p14. Either way, gardening can be a particular relief and form of alternative medication for people suffering from physical or mental illness, trauma or in time of grief or loss p14. In general gardening or other forms of interaction, and bonding with nature is recommended as a fundamental component for the maintenance of a healthy state of mind.
Book review of "The Well Gardened Mind" by Kate Kellaway available here
Barkham, P. (2020) How Maverick Rewilders are Trying to Turn Back the Tide of Extinction. The Guardian (online). [Accessed Oct 2020]
The release of mazarine blue small butterfly named after 17th century porcelain carve their way through the meadows within a site of special scientific interest, illegally they have been set free within this site, as prisoners wrongly convicted of trespassing now restored to their natural habitat. "They" who determine who can, and cannot pass the illusive boarders of the special interest site are the government agencies, scientists and charities whom for the past 70 years have decided how nature in Britain should be protected.
A lot "they" have done already, in attempt successfully or unsuccessfully to save wild places, and stop the endangerment of species; notably reviving the once-endangered peregrine falcon and wildlife trusts in creating more nature reserves "than there are branches of McDonald's". However, the controversy of this human imposition of a somewhat like species boarder control of an area, in some sense seems like preventing the natives from being at home within their indigenous land, an extreme comparison maybe, but nonetheless something to ponder. Although "they" have good intentions by making it against the law to breed and release certain species into the wild, and in certain places, which in many cases makes sense, in this particular story it personally does not seem to make much sense at all. The nonsensical in the story with the butterflies and the secret breeders, or "introductionists" as preferred, is that the introductionists are fighting for the same cause as "they" in attempt to restore biodiversity and bring back the wild species that have fallen prey to a human induced biodiversical thinning.
What is most impacting is that despite the efforts and work of "they" the article highlights the dramatic loss, vanishing and thinning of biodiversity, the wilderness, woodlands, wildflower meadows (98% destroyed in the past 70years in England and Wales), heaths and ponds. In addition, we come to realise the benefits of these individual-collective efforts of the "introductionists" and how maybe then does there need to be a reworking to the law to recognise the gain and legalise these, lone ranger, undercover-like "introductionist" efforts?
Popkin, G. (2019) How Much Can Forests Fight Climate Change? Nature (online). [Accessed Nov. 2020]
In many reports on climate change trees have been highlighted as the panacea, the 'fix' for slowing down or preventing global warming, but trees alone are not the remedy against global warming. The article highlights potential negative effects of forests on the climate, consequently the research cited aids to balance the argument - thesis; trees the panacea for climate change.
State if Nature, Report 2019 (online)
The report documents the impact of humans on wildlife in the UK, both the positive conservation projects and protections schemes, as well as, the negative such as global warming, species and biodiversity loss.
Clark, J. (2019) Between the Earth and Empire from the Necrocene to the Beloved Community. Forward by Peter Marshall. PM Press, Oakland, CA.
... Yet to find the finances to buy and read
Oh, Y-A., Kim, S-O., and Park, S-A (2019) Real Foliage Plants as Visual Stimuli to Improve Concentration and Attention in Elementary Students (online)
Cooke, A. (2017, Aug 17) How to Create a Wildflower Meadow. Natural England, Gov.uk (online)
Wildflower meadows as Dr Andy Cooke of Natural England puts it are "among our most culturally important and best loved habitats", despite this since the post war period there has been a 97% loss of wildflower meadows mainly due to agricultural intensification. These meadows are important as the vibrant flowers, many of which pollinators provide feeding ground for insects such as bees and butterflies. This read provides a background to how since the 1980s Natural England has been offering grants to farmers to better manage, restore and make wildflower meadows. It also provides encouragement for the most of us with little no land to plant wildflowers in the space we have, in our back garden, in a pot on the balcony, not only will it provide a texture of colour but also aid with the garden health by the encouragement of more pollinators to your spot.
Moore, J, W. ed. (2016) Anthropocene or Capitalocene? Nature, History and the Crisis of Capitalism
Review available by Steve Knight at Marx & Philosophy: Review of Books
... Yet to find the finances to buy and read
UN Sustainable Development Goals (2015): link
"biodiversity conservation is becoming just another risk management problem which requires dynamic decision-making under varying conditions of uncertainty"
United Nations Summit on Biodiversity - 30 September 2020
"Our societies are intimately linked with and depend on biodiversity. Its loss and the degradation of its contributions to people jeopardize progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and human wellbeing. The COVID-19 pandemic has further highlighted the importance of the relationship between people and nature."
Convention on Biological Diversity (2020) https://www.cbd.int/article/2020-UN-Biodiversity-Summit
Breakpoint: a Counter History of Progress (2019) directed by Jean-Robert Viallet
Progress has led to what we may determine as advancement of the human species, but it also has a dark-side.
Through mixing footage and propaganda this documentary explores the negativity that human 'progress' has brought such as nuclear waste, pesticides and global warming.
Plastic China (2017) directed by Jiu-liang Wang
A documentary that explores severe social inequality embedded in mass plastic waste importation.
The smiles of children sorting through the plastic waste belies a sombre existence.
BBC Sounds, 12/10/2020, The Food Programme, English Pastoral: James Rebanks on the future of food
The changing landscape lead by agricultural forces, scientific and technological 'progress', the loss of biodiversity driven by what and how we eat. The listening provides a personal account from James Rebanks into the changing British landscape, its monochromatic aerial patchwork forced on by progress, efficiency, consumption and speed. Disappearing curlews embody the limits of progress and technological innovation. How can, within and outside of agriculture we engineer landscapes so there is space for nature? - the reversal of 'speed and progress.'
Gardening with the RHS, 22/10/2020, Tools and Technology in the Garden, available at: https://www.rhs.org.uk/about-the-rhs/publications/podcasts
Tools have transformed the way we garden, the listening covers some designs that have allowed human horticultural intervention and manipulation of the environment. The later part of the listening goes on to question how can we begin to restore balance, produce more sustainably, and better 'listen' to the plants that surround us. Garden designer Hay Joung Hwang describes how technology and garden tools can be used to enhance the garden elements, and how as a designer there lies the responsibility to develop further, to enhance, yet, also how technology can be used to strengthen the natural and the more naturalist elements of the garden; thereby responding to nature and the environment of the garden better, leading to a more positive and cultivating human imposition on the garden environment. On a different level the listening provides a narrative to Urban Farmer Paul Myers use of hydroponics and aquaponics. Myers describes the symbiotic relationship between plants and fish within the system to create a nutrient rich environment, how by using systems such as these enable zero-waste farming, and provide a viable option for growing more sustainably within a changing climate; acting to address the fact that the growing and feeding of the human species is one of the most destructive things we are doing to the planet.
99% Invisible, 13/10/2020, Episode 417, For the Love of Peat, Producer Emmett FitzGerald (link)
Podcast by Selfridges & Co., Project Earth, How to Lead a Sustainable Business. Episode 1: Making Change Happen with Paul Polman; what does it take to be a sustainable leader, 2019 pre-pandemic (online).
Realising the instability and unstable practices of consumer capitalism today, Alannah Weston (Chairman of Selfridges Group) speaks with Paul Polman (former CEO of Unilever) to discuss his leadership in launching Unilever's "Sustainable Living Plan" in 2010 which sought to decouple growth from the environmental footprint of the company and creating a positive social impact by doing so. Polman talks of taking responsibility and realising that with all the negatives that a company builds its produce from, such as, being an industry that deals with food, together accompanying this come the problems of deforestation, genetic modification, and obesity from unthoughtful production. Yet, by realising the negatives that area associated with the industry presents the opportunity to do something about it, to tackle those problems and promote in a healthier, more sustainable and more caring way; for both the producers, the customers and the planet.
BBC Sounds, Raymond Blanc: The Lost Orchard (online).
How to Catch a Mole: and find yourself in nature, Marc Hamer, chapter Gas and the Dead Past @ 00:12:09 (-1hr 23m), Poison and Winter 2:24:02 (-01:19:44), 02:42:37 (-01:01:09).
Giorgio Agamben. Resistance in Art. 2014 (online)
The act of creation as an act of resistance, Agamben takes up this thread of thought from Deleuze's 1987 lecture, and discuss ideas stemming from the philosophies of Aristotle, potentiality, impotentiality and actuality.
Prof Kathy Willis (2014,08,22) Plants: From Roots to Riches, The Great Provider [Listen here]
In this episode Professor Kathy Willis asks "how much is biodiversity worth", examining research that aims to secure production of our staple crops into the future. She touches on the historical position Kew had in the 18th Century as a botanical power house, and reveals its now more world-communal future thinking positioning. Also, Willis delves into that all in need caffeine stimulant, coffee. As the second most dominantly sourced economic substance after oil, coffee acts as a power crop that surpasses economic, and destitute-nutrient dominance over the fundamental 'staples' such as corn, wheat, oats, and maize, highlighting what could be deemed as the stimulant society of today's 21st Century world.
Anthropocene; due to the widespread human interference and intervention on the planet's ecosystems and geology it is indicated that we are in a new epoch in the history of the Earth, suggested in the 1980s by the biologist Eugene Stoermer to be called the Anthropocene (the literal meaning being the "New Era of Man"), again the term was repeated by the atmospheric chemist/ Nobel laureate Paul Cruzen in 2000 within a seminal paper. Since, it has indefinably become a word commonly used within scientific, geological and public discourse. The term is commonly associated with blaming all humans for the destruction of the planet, inclusive of the poorest people who consume and pollute little and the indigenous, those known to live in spirit and harmony with the land. Alternative to this misconstrued-blame, theorists within "Anthropocene or Capitalocene? Nature, History and the Crisis of Capitalism" come to contest that blame should be directed towards the unsustainable patterns of production, consumption associated with the globalised system of capitalist relations and actions that consist to act with an infinite mindset; that continued extraction and "growth" is possible on an Planet with finite resources. Additionally, critique of the definition by Eileen Crist (2016), expresses that just the term Anthropocene traps connotations towards an anthropocentric view, leading to place 'Man' as the planetary God-like figure. In contrast, Crist suggests a more holistic and integral approach; to take priority and invite stronger interrelations between the human (H) and non-human (NH), as such to redevelop a more inclusive dialogue, listening and H-NH rapport, to help restore the planet's biodiversity and lift off the banner of human righteousness, to scale down, and limit "growth" in order to promote more inclusive H-NH relations (Crist 2016).
Crist, E. (2016) 'On Poverty of Our Nomenclature'. Moore, J, W. (ed.) Anthropocene or Capitalocene? Nature, History, and the Crisis of Capitalism. PM Press. p
Flora and Fauna
Heritage Horticulturist helps with the restoration and preservation of historic garden, its maintenance and planning, as well as planning for the garden's future.
Permaculture ultimately is concerned with the creation of strategies and methodologies for sustainable food growing. By interlinking an appreciation and understanding of nature, permaculture aids to form sustainable human habitats that follow the native patterns of nature before human interference. To act collectively and responsively with the growth, landscape and climate around. (link to an extract from 'Permaculture: A Beginners Guide' here)
Photosynthesis is the process whereby light energy from the sun is absorbed by the chlorophyll in plants, and converted it into chemical energy to produce/manufacture 'food' (high-energy carbohydrates, e.g. sugars and starch). The process involves the conversion of water and carbon dioxide into glucose and oxygen [Adams, C.R., Early, M.P., Brook, J. and Bamford, K.M. (2015). Principles of horticulture : Level 2. New York, Ny: Routledge/Taylor & Francis Group]. "Societies before the Industrial Revolution were dependent on the annual cycle of plant photosynthesis for both heat and mechanical energy. The quantity of energy avaliable each year was therefore limited, and economic growth was necessarily constrained. In the Industrial Revolution, energy usage increased massively and output rose accordingly. The energy source continued to be plant photosynthesis, but accumulated over a geological age in the form of coal." [Wrigley, E.A. (2013). Energy and the English Industrial Revolution. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences, 371(1986), p.20110568. Available online].
Agroecology; the ecology of sustainable food systems, as a science and social movement agroecology enables the application of ecological concepts and principles to transform the design and management of food systems to sustainability. [Gleissman, S, R. (2015) Agroecology: The Ecology of Sustainable Food Systems] Agroecology relies on applying the five basic principles, as a working definition; these are recycling, efficiency, diversity, regulation and synergies [Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (2015) Agroecology for Food Security and Nutrition: Proceedings of the FAO International Symposium 18-19 September 2014, Rome, Italy. FAO of UN (online)]. A main take away from the methods and principles of agroecology is that, through its implementation agriculture need not be seen as the enemy of the environment, biodiversity and habitats but rather a more integrated part of them.
Risk regulation traditionally "addresses the risk of harm that technology creates for individuals and the environment", the statement does not then consider the risk assessment of humans 'individuals' on the environment, but rather seeks to place the blame on the vast expansive domain of technology. [Shapiro, S, A., and Glickman, R, L. Risk Regulation at Risk ix (2003)]
TIMELINE (the big and the small markers)
77 the Roman statesman and scholar; Latin name Gaius Plinius Secundus; known as Pliny the Elder, in 7 7 wrote his Natural History History - vast encyclopedia of the natural and human worlds (Apple Dictionary. It is interesting to note the separation that is made between humans and nature as early as 77, depicting a sense of detachment/uncoupling of humankind from the natural world).
512 the earliest surviving botanical work, the Codex vindobonensis. Emphasising the long relationship humans have had with botany
1700s well into the 18th century Latin remained the primary language of international scholarship (Harrison, p9)
1753 the "Species Plantarum" (literally meaning Latin for "The Species of Plants") by Carl Linnaeus is considered the starting point for modern botanical binomial nomenclature. The book lists at its time, all the known plant species into genera (taxonomical rank)
1759 George III's mother Princess Augusta founded the original botanic garden at Kew (source link)
1780 The English chemist Joseph Priestley identified that plants could "restore air which has been injured by the burning of candles" [link to source]- not only is this significant in the terms of the identification of the biochemical process photosynthesis, but also the term "injured" used to describe the burning of fuel. If we were to have understood, seen, or taught that the burning of fossil fuels was an injury to the atmosphere, rather than the 1800 glory of human intelligence, and economic gain maybe action to reduce such harm would have been taken sooner. This notion is also supported by the following quote, and sharp emphasis by Carl Sagan: "Coal, oul and gas are called fossil fuels, because they are mostly made of the fossil remains of beings from long ago. The chemical energy within them is a kind of stored sunlight originally accumulated by ancient plants. Our civilization runs by burning the remains of humble creatures who inhabited the Earth hundresds of millions of years before the first humans came on the scene. Like some ghastly cannibal cult, we subsist on the dead bodies of ancestors and distant relatives." (Carl Sagan, Billions and Billions: Thoughts on Life and Death at the Brink of the Millennium).
1790s Why it is so very important to increase plants in urban areas and have plants in the home: "I observed that plants not only have a faculty to correct bad air in six to ten days, by growing in to...but that they perform this important office in a complete manner in a few hours; that this wonderful operation is by no means owing to the vegetation of the plant, but to the influence of light of the sun upon the plant." - Jan Ingenhousz, Experiments upon vegetables (source)
1780-1830 (approx.) Industrial Revolution
1813 the term "taxonomy" is introduced by de Candolle within "Théorie élémentaire de la botanique" [Sing, G (2004). Plant Systematics: An Integrated Approach. Science Publishers. p20. ISBN 978-1-57808-351-0 – via Google Books.]
1821 The UK's first nature reserve was established at Walton Hall, West Yorkshire
1869 "Swiss physiological chemist Friedrich Miescher first identified what he called "nuclein" inside the nuclei of human white blood cells. (The term "nuclein" was later changed to "nucleic acid" and eventually to "deoxyribonucleic acid," or "DNA.")" (Pray, 2008)
1888 The Tea Pavilion was opened at Kew Gardens. The association of afternoon tea and the garden has always been a luxurious one, one of splendour and calm, what better place to relax than surrounded and close to nature.
1889 The RSPB was formed
1895 The National Trust was formed
1909 The Danish botanist Wilhelm Johannsen coined the word "gene" ("gen" in Danish and German) to describe the fundamental physical and functional units of heredity (chromosomes are the carriers of inheritance) as speculated by Wilhelm Roux in 1883
1952 the International Code of Botanical Nomenclature (ICBN) was published. The ICBN provides the principles that plant names are formed and established, generally speaking it's rules and recommendations are abided by all major botanical journals.
1952 helical shape of the DNA molecule realised by Watson and Crick was revealed in an image created by X-ray crystallography captured by R. Franklin [source]
1972 in Devon around the kitchen table of Kenneth Watkins OBE talks between friends occurred about saving a local wood, and so as the story has it, this was to be the first meeting and birth of the Woodland Trust.
In the 1980s a controversial tree planting scheme in Scotland that ended up threatening one of the most special ecosystems in the world - a cautionary tale for tree planting today. The narrative goes that by the 1980s much of the woodlands on the British Isles had been converted to Agricultural land and so by the 20th century wood began to be imported as there was not enough stock within the British Isles. As consequence, within the 1980s the government started using tax breaks to encourage private citizens to fund tree planting schemes around the country, with the goal to boost the UK's timber supply. For the super rich this was a good tax break, and so many high profile names such as Genesis (&which others?) became involve under the unanimous belief that; generally speaking planting trees was a good thing. In order for the scheme to work a vast open area of uninhabited, unwanted land was needed. The area scouted out for use was the flow country in far North Scotland, an area comparable to an Arctic Tundra (tundra coming from the Finnish word tunturia meaning treeless plain or beyond the tree line). Instinctively just the meaning of the word to describe the area predictively resonates the outcome of this cautionary tale. From the air this treeless landscape is comparable to a Persian rug covered with a carpet of bog moss, the continuously drab and wet weather forms the perfect conditions for the formation of Peat; the saturated landscape contains very little oxygen making it extremely difficult for plant matter to break down, this is what Peat is; a partially decomposed/broken down area of plant matter. Over thousands of years to millennia the Peat (partially decomposed material) has been building up storing tonnes of carbon. ...
1980s the term Anthropocene (literally meaning the "New Era of Man") was suggested by the biologist Eugene Stoermer
1980s DNA profiling
2016 theorists contest the term Anthropocene for the Capitalocene (Moore, 2016)
2020,09,30 United Nations Summit on Biodiversity
2020 HS2 progress and need for speed results in devastation as trees are felled, historic buildings torn down and landscapes and habitats reconfigured.
2085 The time capsule buried by Sir David Attenborough in 1985 that contains seeds of the most important food crops and several endangered species is due to be opened (source link)
"Come forth into the light of things,
Let Nature be your teacher."
William Wordsworth (1770-1850)
- last updated, 13/11/2020 -