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

21 Dec 2012

Seasons Greetings from Sápmi

Straddling the Arctic circle of Fennoscandia, Sápmi is home to Europe's last self governing indigenous people, the Sámi. A christmas card take on this group is that of one sheltered from the terrors of modern day culture, tending to their family troop of reindeer under the swirling lights of the Aurora.  In reality, the herds of reindeer now number up to 15,000 heads, often corralled using helicopters, quad bikes and skidoos, modern methods of otherwise ancient upkeep.

Technologically switched on yes, but no less deeply tied to the boreal tundras and pine forests. The northern forests are shared with remotely operated silvicultural robots, cutting, ripping, stripping and packaging trees within the space of 5 minutes for the industrial scale forestry conglomerates. An efficient exploitation of the forests resources, but one which is increasing revealed to have damaging impacts on the rest of the forest flora and fauna. The trenches cut into the moss and lichen carpets repress future regeneration of natural trees and plants, also deteriorating the grazing grounds (guohton in lapon) of the reindeer.

A deeply entrenched knowledge of vegetative regeneration, snowfall and grazing impacts all guide the movements of the Sámi and their herds, as opposed to the emotionless claws of the multisaw machines. It is encouraging to see that this indigenous culture is at the forefront of Nordic forest policy and folklore poetry, but the case for experience based knowledge as opposed to economic based extraction is far from won.

Over this festive period, remember that the reindeer pulling that sleigh are fighting an uphill battle day in day out, so this year, leave an extra carrot. Merry Christmas readers!

12 Dec 2012

Rain: A Very British Love Affair

I'm back in Britain, back to my capital, and for once, the steely grey skies of London have been replaced by a crisp winter baby blue. So why do I find myself at the back of an hour long queue to stand under a heavy downpour? The absurdity of heading into the depths of the Barbican (London's very own ugly icon), to stand in the rain is quick becoming a must for savvy Londoners. In our bowler hats and mackintoshes,we queue, patiently, politely, waiting to fulfil the cultural cliche and partake in a favoured national pastime, a brisk walk in the rain. For, in our very hearts, weathered by many a washout, the Briton is an amphibian, impervious to drizzle, and relishing a rain cloud.

Through the doors and down the dark sloping corridor, which slowly curves round to reveal a wall of water. Random International, an installation art collective, have crafted the rain room, a terribly simple but technically challenging indoor cloudburst. Tickling British sensibilities, the next step is familiar to many a commuter, the step from the bus, out the door, off the tube into the soaking open air. The inevitability of it, and the inability to turn against the polite but determined queue behind forces you forward. And it stops. But only above you. For all around the hammering cords continue, an invisible umbrella shielding the visitor from every single drop, only a smile reaching their faces, an immense satisfaction but unnerving sensation of having conquered the elements.