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Reader's Highlights: The Quiet Revolution

by Edgar Vaid

Edgar Vaid, long time reader of Resurgence & Ecologist, shares his highlights of the current issue....


Where might we expect to find an island aiming to achieve sustainability in terms of water, food, and fuel? Denmark perhaps?  Maybe somewhere off the coast of California? Or in the Micronesian archipelago? Well, possibly any of those – but, (as this Frontline item highlights), definitely our very own Isle of Wight, where the late John Seymour’s “vision is at last becoming a reality”.

Solar Century

In the context of Australia’s ranking amongst the World’s top 10 greenhouse gas emitters, the advent of its new 10mw solar farm is welcome.  But perhaps even more encouraging is this Frontline item’s incidental reminder of the commitment to solar energy by even the Middle East’s oil-rich countries.

Bee Guardians

Echoing some of the issues covered by Luke Dixon in “Keeping Bees in Towns & Cities” (see Reviews section), the Bee Guardian Foundation emphasises how anyone may take practical steps to become a “Bee Guardian”.

World of Nature

For its size as a nation, Scotland seems to have produced a disproportionately large number of inventors. But whereas the likes of James Watt, Alexander Graham Bell, or John Logie Baird may be familiar to us, outside nature conservation circles the name of John Muir is almost unknown, though the origin of such neglect may lie not in his emigration to the United States aged only ten, but in the nature of his ‘invention’.  

Unlike the rotary motion steam engine, telephone, or mechanically-based television, it was not a tangible object, but a concept - national parks. That James Clarke’s article omits this is only a minor grumble, for surely it’s good to be reminded of John Muir’s 175th anniversary, especially with the inclusion of the man’s iconic photographic portrait, sat meditatively in the US wilderness. 

The Power of Kindness

As beneficiaries of the UK’s National Health Service, we are reminded intermittently of America’s iniquitous and pecuniary-led health system.  The 19th Century morality tale included here is so heart-warming that the reader is left yearning to believe in its historical veracity.

Ecosystem Engineers

Exploring some further nuances in the UK’s perennial debate over ‘native’ v ‘alien’ species, Craig Gordon-Baker emphasises “that a single standard of ecological nativity is elusive or illusory”. Because we are an island, naturalists have rather conveniently clung onto their ‘official’ criterion that flora and fauna are only native if they existed here before the UK was cut off from continental Europe around 10,000 years ago, at the end of the last ice age.

The Myth of Human Dominion

Some vicissitudes in the powerful biblical assumption of humans’ dominion over nature are traced by Mark Cocker.  He cites examples representing an increasing conviction that our “brute dominance over the natural world is morally and practically inadequate”, including public opposition to the 1960s grey seal cull and more recent antagonism towards the proposal for badger culling.

My Green Life

An unintended effect of this interview may be to remind us why it’s often worth following up gentle quizzing of subjects with more robust supplementary questions, in this case the subject being which nations represent environmental exemplars. So, when Baroness Neuberger blithely asserts that “Canada has been very good at some things”, readers may be excused from screaming at the page “What about the Athabasca Tar Sands?”

Reshaping Growth

Perhaps most notable in Geoff Mulgan’s article is his rather striking insect metaphor relating to the benefits and ills of capitalism.  Whereas bees imaginatively create new methods of feeding and transportation, predatory finance is better represented by locusts.

Edgar Vaid is a freelance book reviewer and long-standing reader of Resurgence & Ecologist

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