Humanity is exalted not because we are so far above other living creatures, but because knowing them well elevates the very concept of life. E.O. Wilson, 1984

26 Nov 2012

The Life Scientist

"Our human eyes have evolved in subtle interaction with other, non-human eyes, as our ears are now tuned by their very structure to the howling of wolves and the truming of frogs. While gliding in huge undulating schools through the depths of the ammotic oceans, or later, while crawling upon our bellies from puddle to puddle (our scaley skin glinting in the sun). While racing beneath the grasses as tiny noctural mammals, or leaping from branch to branch as long tailed primates, our brainy bodies have steadily formed themselves in dynamic interaction with the texture and rythms of terrestrial nature."

Given this evolutionary entanglement with our animal ancestry, and a deep rooted sensitivity to our natural surroundings, what good can be gleamed from the detatched observations of a scientist? Screened by the lenses of microscope, or the crystalex screen of my laptop, what purpose does my retreat from directly experienced reality serve? The detached states of mind  and clinical practice necessary to derive insights proper to science has yielded insights and explanations which in my opinion justify this objective and materialist position. But caution must be applied, for the rise of science and technology deadens the senses to our carnal embedment in a world ultimately beyond our control.

Abandoning the animate landscape that has formed the very eyes that now peer through our microscopes, the very intelligence that now seeks to interprate the data, is not an option. "Every coherent image we can have of those other, ostensibly more objective dimensions is secretly rooted then, in the ambiguous, ever-shifting terrain of our ordinary experience."

Quotes taken from David Abram- Becoming Animal
Image taken from the MRS Science as Art Collection

18 Nov 2012

The lie of the land

The rupturing power in seismic shifts, juttering earthquakes, scraping glaciers and bombastic volcanoes shape the landscapes which characterise our horizons. This is the foundation for the springing up of sprouting vegetation, accompanied by a myriad of organic organisms. Physical process driving biological diversity. But a landscape can also be a product of a collision between nature and culture, with the lie of the land, and the corresponding community of creatures unfurling like text on a rumpled parchment. By reading the signs, we can come to learn that rather than virgin vistas, a pristine myth, our land is also a product of long gone human settlement.

For European cultures, this idea is less surprising, given the dramatic reshaping of the Mediterranean earths as a result of Roman expansion, extraction and expulsion, followed by feudal furrows and enparcelment of crops. But what of the Great Green of the neotropics: Amazonia, Indonesia, and the Congo Basin, the last bastions of a non-human heartland? Beneath the buttress roots of a towering fig tree, the sprawling canopy of a dipterocarp, lie the remains of a flint here, a charcoal fire there. Buried by an accumulation of vegetation, by the sands of time, but not completely hidden are traces of monumental human civilisations.

And now for one more shock to the system. Contrary to our current role as the horseman of the apocalypse, harbingers of a natural necropolis, what if our actions paved the way for the flourishing diversity we see before us today? Research has shown that human societies of neotropical lowlands, as a result of expansive subsistence activities, remodelled soil fertility and reconstructed landform heterogeneity. From the earthworks of Eastern Bolivia, the forest islands of Guinea Bissau, a blossoming of diversity as a result of human intervention.

11 Nov 2012

Declaration to the dying leaves of Autumn

"Parc Ballons des Vosges in November" by my friend Stefano Zanini

Where does my humble appreciation,
Of the farewell fanfare of Autumn come from? 
My own growing maturity? 
Knowing reflections on dying love? 
Or is it that this yearly ritual, 
Played out like a dog eared novel, 
Brings comfort in knowing that life will spring again,
From the withered bows of the old oak trees?

5 Nov 2012

Hugo Pratt, Corto Maltese and the Ballad of the Salt Sea

I can think of no better book to read when staying on a small Breton island on the Atlantic coast. Corto Maltese and the Ballad of the Salt Sea is an exceptional showcase of the talent of comic book artist Hugo Pratt in capturing wild landscapes. The eponymous hero, whose adventures see him travel to exotic locations, mirror the authors own wanderlust, and document the memories that Pratt has of his destinations. The french appreciation of comics (BDs, bande dessinée) is missing from British literature, hard to justify when scanning the beautiful imagery of Corto's latest adventure.