Rights of Nature 01 (conf-lab)

I was inspired to attempt a short piece of writing introducing this topic from a personal perspective for practice in formal writing and by the informative and inspiring keynote speakers presenting the Rights of Nature Conference programme yesterday. Brief details provided in excerpt,. I would have like to attend, but unable, so online access via You Tube was excellent. I’ve not tried the live streaming service before and didn’t think I’d manage to pay attention – I did glimpse in and out between multi-tasking and chores but caught some of all speakers and all of some – notably the artists platform and panel discussions.

I particularly enjoyed the photography – of both nature and artefact, architecture and societal. The historical and contemporary images used were visually stunning and the informational slides relating to statistics weren’t over-bearing but snappy and simple.

I know I missed a lot of the factual information and I acknowledge the impacts are of serious natures. I would have liked to be able to ask questions, I suppose I could have emailed any questions to the gallery! Hearing the various voices from far across the globe was a pleasure and I’m listening to it again to make better use of my minimal notes as soon as I have spare time. At least once by March I will get a lift (bus!) to the city to see the exhibition and will be glad of the supporting knowledge having seen and heard some of the Conference.

Nature doesn’t seem taught in schools anymore as it was when I was in primary school. Art neither. Art and Nature were key players in everyday delivery of fundamental knowledge, understanding and skill. We were engaged in understanding the world around us from a natural and holistic perspective and everything was taught in a well-rounded way.

Things were very different in so many ways, but not so many that affinity with Nature should be usurped by automating and desensitising our children and grand-children to the fundamental principles of (m)Other Earth and all E’s inhabitants and co-habitants. Much of such affinity is bound in myth and fable, folklore, old (w)ives tales, spirituality, but fundamentally still connected with and by Science. Essential and profound. Proofs exist in the languages, the arts, in literature and religion. They are not concrete. Rites and rituals are denied, diluted, distorted and demonised. Rights are expendable, dismissed, denied.

In a technologically “advanced” age,  collectively, we have as a wider westernised society at large, become and been very backward thinking. Disrefuting centuries of wisdoms and beliefs, hierarchial societies ignore such evidence as defies concrete measure and verified in sterile systematic formats to be accepted as proven. Human resource needs outweighing common sense and sustainable management failing at the turn of every street corner and every highway junction deprives peoples in developing nations of the essential commodities and resources they produce. (I use the term “developing” in a non-derrogative sense, my personal view being that our westernised societies are the under-developed and non-developing, stagnate and leeching – and we have much to take on board and learn from those societies encouraged to look to our standards of life and our views of aspiration and worth.)

I’m not an activist or an environmentalist and I’m not well learned in most things, but I’m interested. That interest was generated and remained by solid schooling where just one teacher managed the needs of every child at individual needs level. There were no classroom assistants, no parent volunteers, no time out of class for planning or marking. (I know it’s a difficult job, for quite a lot of pay and quite an easy work-life balance the majority time – is how it seems. I’ve been a school parent governor and also home-educated for some phases of my eldest’s education when he was too ill to attend school and it’s a lot of work for just one child, so I shouldn’t knock it.)

It’s twenty five years since I bought my first book on such matters as global consumerism, population densities (politics and business! I mean “social demographics” I think…). Agricultural crises were long forecast and implementations of coping mechanisms have been hindered by capitalist ideals, industrialised nations and life on the never never…

Our local communities seem insular and less community-spirited.  Where I live, there used to be a small but very popular close-by weekly market selling food,meat, fish, fresh groceries, second-hand clothing, bric-a-brac etc. It was an essential meeting point for local people.  You’d see your neighbours and further neighbours and had neighbours for half a mile radius even as an outsider resettled. The market was shut down to make way for car-parking for an expanded training centre that no longer provided support and business units for small local start-up businesses, promotes services to targeted user groups, can’t cater for all and doesn’t advertise well. The church training facility ceased and the community centre seems mostly closed other than elections. Rents have increased and local residents now are often from other parts of the country escaping higher rents or other problems.

Many people drive, even to the nearest shops and schools and no-one seems to have much time for enjoying even the sky or a few moments – being interested in the sky is viewed as being somewhat strange – as if there’s nothing to see there! I get a similar response if I ask people about the gallery and if they’ve been – as if it’s an oddity, a quirkism. So British education hasn’t really been working for quite a long time, however well they squeeze the statistical data.

Are our children switching off as part of the social wave of always switching on? Or are they armouring in defense of reductionist teaching strategies, encouraged to greed and want and to aspire above all else. Gain good results= Successful school status sold to kids as landing best possible job, highest posible pay, nice house and car. All that matters is ticking the box, making the mark and pressing the right buttons – and keeping the cash tills ringing, for statutory public services also, not just private sector.

Whilst I parented my two children, born a decade apart, topics such as nature seemed to be dealt tokenistically – a day trip on a coach, or a special session here and there more locally but irregular and detached – of course I didn’t take those classes so that’s just how it seemed as an outsider. I was particularly worried by lack of safety awareness taught in city schools for existing in countryside and coastal areas – evident amongst adult behaviours as much as the young. Holiday deaths and accidents are a quite regular news item and alongside, displays of disrespect for the natural world can be alarming. Things I’d grown up taking for granted as being “common sense” seem to some people to be my foolish fear and over-concern, rather than local knowledge and understanding.

Though my opinion’s out of date now, as a young-ish grandparent, my feeling regarding  contemporary schooling was, and is, that although there’s an awful lot for children to learn, it boils down to what is needed to be taught. The needs of the restricive tangible pedagogical system, the service strategies, developmental directives and aims, marketing objectives – getting employees and managers to meet those directives and achieve targets all take priority over all else.

Public art provision, at an organisational level, seems not dissimilar to an extent at times. “I am valued most for my convenience to your need to tick boxes” – if I am valued at an organisational level at all for I am only one – and don’t have much money to spend in the cafe or shop.

I downloaded some IPCC briefings when I fell into them at the bbc.co.uk news website (cheers, bbc!). They’re not a light read (and of course not for printing for environmental reasons unless it’s your job to have that information on a chunk of tree on your lap). I might allow myself a page … but I revel in the unseen virtual paper space of my disc-drive and it’s a lot easier to file and find things and a lot less dusty.

The future is impossible to predict, so we all carry on running the hamster wheels and the rat-runs, oblivious. It’s in our human conditioning to just use all things up quick, because if we don’t, some one else will instead, so enjoy it while it lasts and never mind tomorrow. I might, if I can spare the research time, compare some old book-based information to current data and statistics and check it out better – if online data and statistics can be relied upon, it’s difficult to be sure or to trust.  I’ll definitely come back and set some links for a challenge- and for a change.

Thanks for reading this far, feel free to suggest anything you think I’ve missed, or errors or just for exchange if you like (you might even find me on twitter…). Writing for practice. Article / series in progress…

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Aside

F’light by my Fireside (1) – with the Pie in the Sky

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Fireside Chat.”

(and not to hear their life story as such – I’m not sure I’d like to hear or ask that of anyone).

I know of a lady by the name of Sylvia Frank, only through illustrations and synopsis of her work in a book gifted to me by a friend’s husband, more than twenty years ago. It’s a quality art book, called “Image of the Body”.

I’ve no way of knowing if she’s the same Sylvia Frank for whom my mother was given a “New Poets ’75” book, including some poems by a Sylvia Frank and possibly also Sylvia’s mother. They were related to my maternal grandfather I think, and had emigrated from England. I don’t know when, because historical detail remembered and passed down is sketchy.

I frequently read the New Poets 75 book as a young child and intermittently while growing up, and would revisit my favourite poems, which of course were, amongst others, moreso those special poems of relations, I’m not sure how distant.

Whether one and the same, or entirely different, I would have to place their name(s) at the top of my list, for sure. Although I know the lady(s) only through print (and more recent internet resource) I was inspired by encountering their work in my childhood  and as a young adult (art studies, incomplete).

I’d be stuck for limiting myself to one choice invitation, for I also regret the geographical distances between myself and my mother and not spending more time with her and also my uncles and aunts, cousins, brothers, nieces, nephew and so on. Although we all knew each other well, of course, over distance of land and time our life stories change as we grow and we often know less of each other’s lives along life’s paths. Can you choose over family unless it’s for  necessity, or impossibilities such as love…

As thechallenge brief is for lesser known company … if the not the first lady(s) above, then, any of the following… and all those not mentioned:-

I’d like to meet my art tutor again, or not, maybe another, but over an ale with some or all of the other students from that first class group would be a great reunion to attend.

Although I wouldn’t say I know any of them at all, having experienced pleasure and privelege of wider shared company on rare occasion, I’d probably wish for a fantastic regional poet or writer I’ve made vague acquaintance with, such as Wayne Burrows or Emma Cocker.

Or a regional artist I respect such as Simon Withers, Nadim Chaudry. Or so many others from any one of a number of co-participants from some of the workshops and short courses I attended at a Midlands gallery on and off for a couple of years a way back.

Any of the students I was blessed to encounter and share collaborative art time with before dropping out during my first year at uni would always be welcome.

All or any of the lads from Gaffa (or Wholesome Fish) would be most welcome too, as I missed much of the original music scene happening but was fortunate enough to catch a reunion gig or hear word of mouth happenings or still have an old flier or two here and there…

Anyone willing to spare and share time for conversation with another is a special person indeed, but I don’t do long chats well, myself. Hence many a good friend or close acquaintance might feel left out and lacking specific mention is not to exclude them.

However, last, but not at all least, and probably over all – a wonderful lady called Miffy, who took me and my baby son in for a week or more whilst at risk and in fear. She’d never met us, but on the word of our close mutual friend (whom I’ve not seen for so long I could not exclude her) on arrival in my desperate circumstance, she didn’t hesitate to provide shelter and support. I still have a book on my shelf originally belonging to each of these special people.

I’d probably feel more comfortable being the tea-laddy (for polite company) as I need to keep on my feet and keep moving and don’t enjoy being seated much at all. I’ve still a stack of dishes to wash, would need a run to the store for refreshments (and would probably do just that for anyone dropping by, if I could at such time).

You might have forewarned me to be better prepared for such pipe-dreams. I’ve to change out of grubby stuff quick sharp from a leisurely gardening break, most days of most weeks. So, it’s all out the window, with the pie in the sky, for a rain check… and I’m off to the kitchen to meet with the sink and the suds, and some Foo Fighters to wash up with, most likely. Happy days : )

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