My journey as a Christian and conservationist has honestly been just that – a journey. My first conservation job saw me heading out into the tropical waters of the Maldives to lead a marine conservation programme for a year. Here I faced one of the most rewarding, beautiful years of my life – and also one of the toughest.
Being embedded within a community as a marine biologist, you are faced with a reality so multidimensional that textbook knowledge really only takes you part of the way. The work is constant, conditions are challenging, and the community can feel quite hard to reach. Safe to say, engaging with humanity knocked me for six. The human dimension is arguably the most important aspect of conservation work, and I was unprepared for the types of questions and considerations this work would raise. Continue reading →
What Nature taketh away, Nature giveth. Two days of endless rain once again swell the river…which, when it abates, leaves a stranded tide of thousands of edible hazelnuts.
I have noticed that I have again accorded nature a capital letter. What lies beyond the window pane is not anything as neutral or insipid as the ‘environment’. The more time I spend outside…the more certain I become that the living system around me is self-conscious, architected, immense and, ultimately, a verbally ineffable spiritual reality. One can harmonize with Nature – Pan, Creation, Spirit, Mother Earth, call it what you will – but only on its terms. Little Lewis-Stempel, Big God.
I don’t think nature is a person, but all the same John Lewis-Stempel’s experience resonates with me. In his book ‘The Wild Life’ (Black Swan, 2009) he describes how he spent a year living off the land he and his family bought in west Wales, eating only things he foraged, caught or shot in forty acres of rough farmland. This involved spending most of his days outdoors, and as his senses sharpened he tuned into his surroundings – and also into something spiritual. Continue reading →
Will the argri-tech revolution have the same impact that the green revolution of the 1950’s and 60’s had on farming? Will it help us into a more sustainable and more healthy way of living? As well as improving crop yields, a high-tech approach to farming promises might help farmers take better care of the environment. For example, small autonomous tractors and other equipment could do less damage to the soil and make better use of steep or oddly-shaped fields, or help in areas where only some patches of the soil needs fertiliser or water.
For some farmers, the idea of letting robots loose on the crops might sound like the beginning of the end, Continue reading →
When Dellarobia Turnbow, an Appalachian farm worker, encountered millions of butterflies in the woods behind her house, she first thought the trees were on fire but not burning up—and that this was a sign for her to stop making a bad decision. She had been wrestling with an unhappy marriage, life on an unproductive farm, and bringing up two kids on an almost non-existent income. Her overwrought mind couldn’t quite take in what was in front of her eyes. When she persuaded her busy family to take a walk up the mountain, the reality of what they were all seeing eventually sank in. Continue reading →
Humanity is affecting the ocean in profound ways. In this post, I will briefly explore two of those impacts from the perspective of a professional oceanographer. First, the effects of human use of fossils fuels leading to increased levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide and so to global (including ocean) warming; and second, human disposal of plastics in the ocean. The importance of the latter was highlighted by David Attenborough in the BBC’s “Blue Planet II” in the autumn of 2017, leading to an increased public awareness of this issue. However, both issues have been of concern to oceanographers for many years. Continue reading →
Let the waters under heaven be gathered into one place and let dry land appear.
Lining the upper sides of Exeter Cathedral Chapter House there are two sets of sculptures. The theme is Creation, drawing inspiration from the Old Testament on one side, and the New Testament on the other. The above quotation from Genesis captions the sculpture representing the creation of “Earth and Water”. Continue reading →
How do you imagine a coral reef? Have you had the privilege of seeing one through your own dive mask, or have you sat in the comfort of your living room watching beautifully shot images set to dramatic full orchestra soundtracks?
Healthy coral reefs are a festival of colour, shape, sound, and activity. They are full of interesting characters, each playing their part in the functioning of the ecosystem – from the sponge that filters out harmful viruses from the water column to Continue reading →