The Glories of the West: “This is Germany,” from Love Germany

The glories of the West, as expressed in Germany! Need I say more…?

Okay, I’ll grant you, I’d have been happier if they’d used more glorious music than the modernistic electro-pap in the background… can’t have everything, I guess! 🙄 😏

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Dan Gibson: SOLITUDES – The English Country Garden | YouTube

I have loved Dan Gibson’s Solitudes series of albums – I originally had a few of them on cassette tape, back in the day! – of nature sounds, with or without music, for a very long time (as the above would suggest).

And I am, after all, “The Anglophilic Anglican” – my love for England, the English countryside, and English country gardens, should go without saying! But despite listening to my first Dan Gibson albums back in the early 1980s, I had not until this very day realized that he had one devoted to “The English Country Garden.” Very cool!

I recognize a few of the bird calls – most poignantly, for me, the cuckoo, which I was delighted to discover really does sound exactly like its name – from my time living and studying in Ireland, in 1990. So lovely to hear it again!

West Rise Junior School – Teaching young students resilience, in the out-of-doors

“If kids never step out of their comfort zone, how are they going to learn resilience?”

— Mike Fairclough, Headmaster, West Rise Junior School (Eastbourne, UK)

Not sure if I shared this last year, when it first appeared – if not, I should have! If I did, it’s worth a re-share. As I wrote at the time:

What, you mean there’s a school that’s actually teaching children where real food actually comes from – as opposed to magically appearing, wrapped in styrofoam and plastic, at the supermarket? Good heavens! In fact, the whole program sounds absolutely brilliant.

This amazing state school in the UK teaches children from “a varied demographic” – most of whose families are on various forms of social assistance – how to shoot, hunt, dress and cook the game they take, make bows, build fires, and otherwise function effectively in the outdoors.

The video shows them gutting squirrels, plucking pigeons, splitting wood for the fire with a mallet and fro, and cooking and eating the proceeds.

“The most dangerous thing you can do to a child is to not expose them to an element of risk and danger,” says Mike Fairclough, Headmaster, West Rise Junior School, who adds that “if children are excited about coming to school, if they’re being inspired and enthused by being outside, then that has an impact back in the classroom.”

The school gets the best exam results in the area, and won the 2015 T.E.S. Best School of the Year award, according to the video. “Teaching the children to shoot is controversial,” the video notes. “But the school argues it teaches discipline and responsibility.”

“The cotton-wool culture of Britain has got a little bit out of control,” Fairclough comments, referring to the modern desire on the part of many – schools, parents, media, etc. – to wrap children up and insulate them from many of the realities of life. “It’s only really peoples own sort of limiting beliefs, and a few media myths that people have invested in, which have stopped children from having these sorts of activities.”

Here’s an article with more information (despite the rather absurdly breathless style in which it is written).

Kudos to Mike Fairclough and West Rise Junior! You’re doing it right.

Mike Fairclough, head master of West Rise School, just outside Eastbourne. With some of the school's water buffalo
Mike Fairclough, head master of West Rise School, just outside Eastbourne, with some of the school’s water buffalo. Photo: Christopher Pledger

Research: The Industrial Revolution Left Psychological Scars That Can Still Be Seen Today

https://qph.fs.quoracdn.net/main-qimg-351127818a4223de67ee15ed3b79278c-c

Our research shows that a region’s historical industries leave a lasting imprint on the local psychology, which remains even when those industries are no longer dominant or have almost completely disappeared.

Source: Research: The Industrial Revolution Left Psychological Scars That Can Still Be Seen Today | Harvard Business Review

I have long believed, and occasionally commented, that industrialization (and I would include its close ally, urbanization, since the two are closely and perhaps inextricably linked) is an unnatural and therefore intrinsically harmful condition for human beings. This study tends to give credence to that belief.

I certainly concur with its conclusion, that “the effect of the Industrial Revolution seems to be more toxic and far-reaching than previously thought. While massive industrialization brought unprecedented technological and economic progress, it also left a [negative] psychological legacy that continues to shape the personality traits and well-being of people currently in these regions.”

It is true that some people seem to thrive in urban environments. But if you look at the phenomenon closer, I believe you will discover that most, if not all, of these are people who occupy a sufficiently high socio-economic bracket that urban living is a choice, not a necessity – that is, they come to the city, or even live there, for the cultural and other amenities, but are able to escape to less-congested areas on a regular basis – or whose personality is such that the more diverse and intense opportunities found in urban areas outweigh the more negative aspects.

(Or, in some cases, who are highly predatory, and find urban areas to be an amenable hunting ground!)

Also, at least in the United States, most urban areas these days are post-industrial, the U.S. having – for better or for worse – managed to “off-shore” or automate a lot of its heavy manufacturing and other industrial production; so that the worst effects of the industrial era, from extreme pollution to grinding assembly-line work, are largely things of the past.

That does not make urban living benign, however. For most people, most of the time, studies have shown repeatedly that urban environments have more negative effects – psycho-emotionally, physiologically, and even cognitively – than more natural areas. Indeed, there is a large and growing body of research conclusively demonstrating the benefits of nature on physical and mental health and overall well-being.

I am reminded of G.M. Trevelyan’s warning that,

“We are literally children of the earth, and removed from her our spirits wither or run to various forms of insanity. Unless we can refresh ourselves at least by intermittent contact with nature, we grow awry.”

Indeed.

February

 

February - Edith Holden
“The word February is believed to have derived from the name ‘Februa’ taken from the Roman ‘Festival of Purification’. The root ‘februo’ meaning to ‘I purify by sacrifice’.

“Favourable colours to improve personal healing are amethyst, white and blue-violet (the colour of crocus flowers). These are the colours often associated with winter whilst the delicate crocus and snowdrops, along with the scented carnation lend beauty, a glimpse of the fine weather to come in spring. The herbs and produce of the woodland too are closely connected, with nuts and cones, musk, marjoram and mimosa lending sweetness.”

~ “February” by Edith Holden, from “The Country Diary Of An Edwardian Lady

Read about the life of Edith Holden on our site: TQE Magazine: Celebrating Britishness

This lovely book, by Edith Holden, was (along with its sister, “Nature Notes of an Edwardian Lady”) the earliest impetus and inspiration for the nature journal I have been keeping, off and on, for many years – since 1991 or 92, in fact! Sadly, neither seems to be currently in print, but they are available used, and definitely worth picking up if you like English / British history, nature study, art and artistry, or a combination of all three!

Rewilding Europe – Making Europe a Wilder Place

Source: Rewilding Europe – Making Europe a Wilder Place

Mixed feelings about this, to be honest. I am, as a rule, in favour of restoring habitats and ecosystems; however, I am less sanguine about European folk leaving the land and congregating in cities.

In defence of blood sports – Epigram

Blood sports. An unethical, unsustainable stain on the landscape. Blasting defenceless animals out of the sky. Sounds harsh right…?

Source: In defence of blood sports -Epigram

More on field or so-called “blood”-sports, from a British perspective:

It is not a question of human rule and dominion but a case of stewardship. I am deeply concerned about the environment – I wouldn’t splash out on free range eggs or endure the seven hour train journey instead of a flight home if I didn’t – but providing species as a whole are conserved I won’t lose sleep over the death of an individual animal.

And if anything, shooting offers a more honest relationship between man and beast than the average consumer could ever hope to have with their beef lasagne (or was it horse?)… When you eat game meat you know where the animal has come from, how it was killed and that it enjoyed a free and wild life – something that cannot be said for much of the meat coming through our industrial abattoirs and supermarkets.

Indeed!

I am reminded of one of the great Aldo Leopold’s essays in his seminal A Sand County Almanac, “Wildlife in American Culture,” where he notes the value of hunting, as inculcating both knowledge and respect for the food chain – much diminished if the only thing we are “hunting” for is the best price on styrofoam-and-plastic-wrapped supermarket meats – and what he calls “split-rail value,” or anything that reminds of of our national (or more broadly, cultural) origins and evolution.

Hunting, and related disciplines like fishing, trapping, etc., are not the only ways to inculcate these values, of course, but they are particularly poignant and visceral means of doing so. They allow the practitioner to be a participant in what is sometimes called “the circle of life,” rather than a mere observer of it, in a way which no other activity save agriculture can do. And of course, farming (or gardening) and hunting are two activities which have always been very closely linked, in human history.

The whole question of field sports is made out to be a class issue. It isn’t. It is a city vs countryside issue.

I am sure the majority of those 80% who condoned the fox hunting ban were city dwellers with little appreciation of the tradition hunting carried for hundreds of years. ‘Just because it’s a tradition doesn’t mean it’s right’ I hear you say, so let’s look at it another way.

To people in the city, who have never come close to anything wilder than a cat, the concept of an aggressive fox seems alien, but in the countryside, foxes are vermin. Straight up. They terrorise lambs causing real damage to farmers. Growing up in the countryside, foxes were not some fluffy creature. They were the stuff of nightmares, crawling into the chicken run and butchering the lot for fun.

Unfortunately many people, both here and abroad, have grown up with a more-than-a-little “Disney-fied” version of how the natural world works. I have spent years working and teaching in environmental, outdoor, and conservation education, and I can assert with 100% confidence that predator (including foxes, coyotes, and even those adorable “masked bandits,” raccoons – ever seen one ticked off? they’re not adorable then!) numbers need to be controlled, to limit the spread of disease and protect domestic animal populations.

And prey animals (“game animals,” to us) need to have their numbers controlled, also – especially in the absence of “top predators” like wolves, bear, and mountain lions – to avoid overpopulation, resulting in starvation, disease, etc. In a totally natural environment, absent the influence of human beings, of course, that would not be necessary; nature would maintain the balance – but the means it would use, namely the aforementioned tools of predation, starvation, and disease, are hardly cute and cuddly. Again, this is not “Bambi,” this is the real world.

Again, those who are opposed to field sports like hunting (“shooting” and “stalking,” in British parlance), trapping (more of an economic activity than a sport, per se), and mounted foxhunting tend to have an excessively romanticized, fictionalized view of the world. It is particularly ironic when those opposed to field sports are willing to eat packaged meat! Such animals frequently live much worse lives, and suffer less humane deaths, than those hunted ethically (poaching, of course, cannot be defended under any circumstances).

Finally, from a philosophical viewpoint, the reality is that we are not separate from Nature, either above or below it; we are part of Nature. We may have abilities of self-reflection, cognition, and communication that are greater than our fellow-creatures, but we are still what Leopold called “plain members and citizens of the land community.” And we are, biologically and evolutionarily, predatory omnivores, like raccoons, opossums, and bears. Pretending otherwise is dishonest, and does both us and our fellow-citizens of the land community a disservice.

Unless we evolve the capacity to photosynthesize, we will be dependent upon killing something – whether animal or plant – to survive. And what many people do not realize is that vegetable production, even organic vegetable production, is not benign. Many animals are displaced or killed to plant, cultivate, harvest, and protect those fields of greens, roots, and other veggies. If you are a vegetarian or a vegan, please be clear-eyed enough to realize that this choices does not remove or immunize you from the deaths of animals, it merely makes those deaths less visible.

(Just as “Leave No Trace” camping relies heavily on extractive industries to produce the synthetic materials, stove fuels, etc., that replace more traditional camping techniques… but I digress.)

We cannot escape from our mutual interdependence on the rest of the natural world, and we cannot escape from the fact that a portion of that interdependence requires us to kill in order to survive. We may as well – in my view – do so in a way which is ethical, and which teaches us other lessons about the proper way to interact with the rest of the rest of the natural world, and with each other.