A very interesting and timely insight by Miles King into the views- and obvious disconnection- of our current Government on flooding , drainage and wildlife. Frightening

a new nature blog

Water_Vole_on_Boot_Hill_(5592665124)Those of us who believe that nature is important and that in order for nature to be better protected from the activities of people the best approach is to gather evidence, scientific evidence, analyse it, and present it to those in power, should heed this story.

Yesterday the Prime Minister attended the Liaison Committee, where he was questioned on a wide range of issues. The Liaison Committee comprises all the chairs of the Parliamentary Select Committees. So Neil Parish, new chair of the EFRA committee, and Devon farmer, was there, as was Labour’s Huw Irranca-Davies, new chair of the Environmental Audit Committee. You can watch the piece here from 17:22.

It was good to see Huw I-D give Cameron a hard time over the cuts in subsidies for renewable energy, though Cameron is an accomplished PR man and had the figures to hand, which he deployed. It’s a pity…

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Communities across Britain, particularly in the North of England ,are again suffering from the effects of flooding. In Surrey where I live and work, flooding is in the news after a very wet winter, although so far we haven’t seen a repeat of the disastrous floods of 2013/14 which caused much distress to and damage to property particularly on the Wey at Shepperton and the Mole at Dorking and Cobham.

There are many mixed messages surrounding the efficacy of different approaches to flooding. Calls for dredging of rivers to increase the capacity of rivers appear to hold more sway with policy makes than more  catchment-based approaches including natural flood management and land management interventions. The government assures us that money is being spent to alleviate the problem but is the money being spent wisely and with the best advice?

In this  vacuum of leadership, local communities are making up their own minds and drawing conclusions for themselves. Residents of Horley have made these YouTube posts that combine humour with a very serious message: why are their still development proposals put forward for land in the flood plain?

Flooding in Horley 1

Flooding in Horley 2

Local authorities are hard pressed to stimulate local economies and build new housing but until the impacts of flooding are incorporated into economic models, lack of  joined up decision making will no doubt continue to yield proposals that make no sense to flood-hit communities,  There will be much more on Rivers in this blog. My work with Surrey Wildlife Trust centres around the delivery of projects for the Catchment Partnerships we host- the River Mole Catchment Partnership and Wey Landscape Partnership. These were set up in 2012 to address ecological and chemical status of Rivers but,  recognising that issues surrounding water in the environment are naturally interconnected,  we are beginning to make connections with  Flood Forums across Surrey.

It’s an area where the primary focus of this blog, the importance of connectivity, can be seen through the  interactions between rivers and the communities-human or otherwise-that live along them.

 

 

This post is about why my blog is so named and how a connection, in this case with ideas in a book can be life changing.

The first book that opened my eyes to science was Fritjof Capra’s book Web of Life: A New Synthesis of Mind and Matter (1996). If I’m honest, sitting here almost 20 years later I don’t remember much of the detail, but it was a bridging point- a profound connection- between a semi- mystical path I had been following exploring the unity and connectivity of living things (I had started to follow the Druidic tradition) and opened my eyes to a life of scientific enquiry. In my head that’s not much of a leap; you could argue druids where really the ecologists of their day, utilising the same observational techniques of the natural world, but based around a different knowledge paradigm.

In the Web of Life, Capra summarises the problems that the world faces- climate change, poverty, population growth, environmental degradation- as integrated and systematic, requiring a totally new approach to thinking about the world. He proposed that a “paradigm shift” is needed similar to that which marked the discoveries of Newton/Einstein and Lamarck/Darwin which permeated every sphere of existence. In the Web of Life he explores the movement to  systems thinking away from the reductionist understanding of components. Systems also have emergent properties that are more than the sum of the parts: simply put, the bicycle is an emergent property of the positioning of pedals, wheels, saddle etc in a prescribed manner to produce a functioning system. Importantly the properties of the whole are not present in the parts, so studying components is unhelpful in understanding the properties of the system. Capra explores how systems thinking has transformed approaches across disciplines including mathematics (chaos theory), cybernetics, gaia hypothesis and autopoiesis (self-organising systems).

Systems thinking has important social science repercussions because it moves thinking away from the separation of humans and nature (a big bugbear of mine as my Web of Life will reveal); it implies integration rather than self-assertion and the triumph of ego; and networks underpin systems rather  than hierarchical structures.

Capra also explores the deep ecology which broadens ecological science into a philosophy of life. More on that in future blogs.

After reading this book while a care worker at a residential home for people with learning disabilities and challenging behaviours. I started studying part –time an OU Discovering Science course and read the second of two formative books: Edward O Wilson’s Diversity of Life. It became clear to me that I wanted to study ecology- essentially the science of the distribution and abundance of populations because it encapsulated for me the take home message from Capra – the idea of connectivity and complementarity between parts and the whole. Ecology connects with so many other scientific disciplines and I think can embrace non-scientific world views as well, although many ecologists would disagree I suspect.

While the Web of Life was pivotal in changing my life, like the paradigm shifts mentioned here it crystalised some experiences and thinking that were already present; but now I had a framework of knowledge to build my experiences into and to pose more questions to test that framework. For me, as I am sure for you too, a life without at least some kind of filter through which to pass your experiences is, to use one of my father’s favourite quotes from Macbeth “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing

 

 

I started this blog back in 2013 to explore my interest in connectivity and how connections, being connected and conversely the state of isolation, is expressed throughout the living world. The hedgerow that joins to woods; a river flowing through the landscape; a story that brings together two communities. I think a lot- too much some might say, and blogging helps me to organise thoughts and also practice writing, which I have loved since I was a youngster but have done less of in my adult life. I became an ecologist in my 30s so came to a scientific way of thinking after years of intuitive living, and I feel keenly a loss of a creative side of my being. What better way to explore these ideas than connecting with others, and in the process reconnecting my left and right brain.

My blogging has been at best sporadic and at worst non-existent; however, with the encouragement of the good people at WordPess with their Blogging101 course I’m going to invest in my blog in 2016! I am already nearly a week behind due to a house move, but rather than quite we will just accept and move on!

To start off, bearing in mind this late start, I thought I would just list the things that got in the way of blogging regularily

  • Making time to blog
  • Writing style- I tend to write longer mini-essays!
  • Perfectionist streak- I don’t like posting things that aren’t high quality.

And here’s some of what I hope to bring you in the near future:

  • New ideas about ecological connectivity through peer reviewed journals
  • Insight into the application of science though my job as Living Landscape Manager at Surrey Wildlife Trust, and in particular how research is translated into practical delivery methods. One of my core interests is to what degree ecological connectivity is woven into the life stories of our society, and how we can use these to build a more resilient and connected community.
  • Local and national case studies about how communities are connecting with nature and natural resources in a more sustainable way.
  • Stories, Pictures and practically anything else I can think of relating to this idea of connectivity.

I hope you’ll join me and interact with your own experiences and ideas.

Let’s stay connected.

Jim

 

The Surrey Harvest Mouse Project through the lens of Paul Deach #Ranger Radio. Thanks so much Paul, you have done us proud.

Surrey Heath Residents Network

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