It was a cold bleak Yorkshire day.

It was a cold bleak Yorkshire day.

Heavy rain clouds hung on the horizon threatening a torrential downpour but we decided against the rainproofs. The sun was already blistering; the air so heavy with moisture that you could bathe in it. If it rained it would be a relief. We’d be soaked but our shorts and T-shirts would soon dry off. We set off along the rainforest trail to the music of cicadas and unseen birds.

The forest has a sweet scent of decay and vitality. Everywhere there is green – green leaves, green fronds, green lianas and green epiphytes. It feels alive. We are strangers in a new fecund world. We are searching for animals, our cameras at the ready. We find some too.

By the end of two weeks we have photographed sloths, iguanas, turtles, agoutis, parrots, macaws, flycatchers, monkeys, caiman, butterflies, moths and dozens more – each a delight to discover and a wonder to see. We have watched spider monkeys at play and capuchin monkeys cracking open coconuts, sloths slowly clambering through the foliage and huge iguanas, like dragons, clinging to tree trunks.

It felt so alive.

Our skin rusted in the sun and humidity. Our bodies adjusted, sitting on deck watching the jungle slip past, with a cool breeze in our face; rushing to put on our scant clothing to scamper up to the top for the sunrise, to search the deck at first light for giant moths, butterflies and beetles; sorting where to go, down jungle trails, canoe rides, or simply walking around. When in the unfamiliar even the ordinary is extraordinary. It is amazing how quickly one adjusts. This is our new normality.

Slowly we return home. The sun gradually loses its intensity. People take every opportunity to relish the last of its warmth, some asleep on loungers, some reading, some watching the seas for whales, dolphins or seabirds. We have left the tropical heat behind.

Back home we unpack, start on the mound of washing and go for a walk. No shorts, T-shirt and sandals but wrapped in layers of shirts, jumpers and thick coat topped off with hats, scarves and gloves.

Walking down the lane, looking out over the waterlogged green fields I could not help thinking what a mess we’ve made of it. This was the green Yorkshire countryside. Before the industrial revolution a landscape of forest, full of wildlife, now an endless denuded green desert, with just the odd crow and pigeon, plus a few creatures clinging on in the remaining hedgerows.

We live in the vestiges of the wonder of what once was. All over the world 8 billion mouths are busy devouring miracles.

Even in my lifetime I have seen the decline.

The bitter wind bites into my face. Rust is fading as the memories fade, as nature fades, tree by tree, hedge by hedge, ditch by ditch, bug by bug.

I have no camera with me. There is little to photograph. The creatures of my youth have disappeared.

It was a cold bleak Yorkshire day.

Poetry – Deserts – A poem for nature.

Poetry – Deserts – A poem for nature.

Deserts

I was travelling back from London on the train, belting past field after field of stubble. The harvest was in.

The only things moving were the odd crows and pigeons.

This was England. Where once used to stretch unbroken, dense forest, rustling to the sounds of insects, trilling to bird call, and providing food for deer, wild boar, bear and wolf, there is now a monocultural desert.

We have systematically cleared the forest to farm the land. The animals were cleared with it. We left tiny oasis of wasteland, woods, hedges and ponds in which the remnants of the rich fauna hung on – rabbits, hare, hedgehogs, newts, lizards, slow-worm, grass snake, dormouse and linnet.

Now they are being cleared. The modern farm equipment has no use for hedge or pond – the bigger the field the better.

Anything that dares to intrude into the desert we create is eliminated with pesticide, herbicide and machine. We don’t need them. They get their just deserts. 

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Deserts

Travelling through deserts

Filled with lifelessness –

Devoid of anything,

Even pity.

 

All that moves

Is the enemy

To be eradicated

With alacrity

 

Big or small

Feather or fin

There’s no room at the inn.

 

Hedge and pond

Bush and tree

Ripped out

In monocultural crime

Megafauna,

Microfauna,

Weed and seed,

All past their prime.

 

Opher 12.9.2016

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Roy Harper – The Tallest Tree – a homage to Chico Mendes

Roy Harpers tribute to Chico Mendes – The Brazilian conservationist who was murdered trying to save the Amazon rainforest.

He stood against the destruction and died for it.

The earth is possessed
By the curse of the west
Who devour
Newpaper furniture
Paparazzia by the hour
But a man with a vision
Believed
That tomorrow’s begun
And has to be won
And nobody here is reprieved
O Chico, Chico Mendes
The man in a million
Stood in the way
Stood his ground
For the earth
For the coming of day
The chorus of dawn
On the perch of each morning
Receives
A forest of tears
As the joy reappears
On their leaves
And believes
Sings his name
And the tallest tree
Forever stands
Beyond the flame
North south east and west
We can all reach the rest
Every day
Now is the chance
To set out together
For a beautiful day
Whoever saw it
A different way
Was a man in a nightmare
Too numb to the future
Of brilliant possibles
Ever to share
The same air
As the men in the clay
O Chico, Chico Mendes
There are men who are more than just men

Jersey – The Durrell Wildlife Park – Gerald Durrell

Jersey – The Durrell Wildlife Park – Gerald Durrell

‘The animals and plants have nobody to speak up for them except us, the human beings who share the world with them but do not own it.’ – Gerald Durrell 1972.

Gerald Durrell is one of my heroes. He was a naturalist who loved animals. He wrote about his early life on Corfu in the 1930s where he lived with his eccentric family and lived an idyllic life with all the animals he collected.

It was a life I could relate to. I spent my childhood wandering the fields, climbing trees, wading through ditches and ponds and collecting caterpillars, newts, frogs, toads, snakes, lizards and slowworms.

Gerald was passionate about conservation. He set up his Wild-life Park as a conservation project that came straight out of his love of animals. He, like me, was utterly distraught by the cruelty and mindless destruction of nature. He did what he could to conserve it.

I don’t like zoos. I don’t like wild animals being confined in unnatural environments for people to ogle at. But I was taken with this wild-life park.

Gerald Durrell was someone I would love to have met.

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Gerald Durrell’s house

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A photo of Gerald that reminded me of one of me when I was a similar age holding a chimp.

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Animal Rights – Plant Rights – Human Rights

Animal Rights – Plant Rights – Human Rights

Around 3 billion years ago a wondrous thing happened. The Earth had been cooling for a couple of billion years and conditions conspired to create something incredible. The first simple life-form was produced.

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The chances of that happening are so slight that it is possible that out of all the planets circling the 400 billion stars in our own galaxy this is the only instance where life has spontaneously formed. It could be that we are the only life in any of the two trillion galaxies that we know of.

Life is something special.

From that one single cell of life the whole spectrum of life on this planet has evolved – from the simplest to the most complex.

What we have all around us comes from that first cell. We are all its children.

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No plant or animal is more evolved than any other. We have all been around for exactly the same time.

Only humans would apply a value system to life. We try to create a hierarchy of importance.

We place plants at the bottom of the scale, then bacteria, then we work our way up through worms, slugs, insects to fish, then through amphibian, reptiles and birds to mammals – through mammals to monkeys then apes and finally us – human beings – the crown of creation. Some people don’t even accept that we are animals and related to everything else. Somehow we were uniquely created by a deity. We are not part of this at all.

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Except this is nonsense. Nothing is more important than anything else. We humans are just animals. We have merely organised living things according to their similarity to ourselves. In a biological sense plants are the highest form of life. Their cellular complexities is hundreds of times more complex than that of any human cell. We place a premium on intelligence. Consciousness and intelligence are merely survival characteristics evolved by organisms – nothing more.

I don’t mean to belittle the wonder of consciousness and intelligence – they are phenomenal. I merely point out that they are one of many equally fabulous wonders that life possesses. They are no more special.

Likewise we cannot know the level of consciousness of other creatures or even plants. We can only surmise.

Personally I believe we will soon discover that plants have a consciousness that is quite as good as ours. We will see.

The argument that I am making is that life is too fabulous to treat with the disdain that we have been treating it. We should be worshipping all of it for the wonder it is and protecting it with all our might.

I am a big advocate of human rights – but I am a bigger advocate of the rights of the rest of the spectrum of life. I think it is foolish to make distinction.

The message I would send is – protect nature, protect the plants and animals around us, conserve the wilderness and diversity. They all have as much importance and rights as we do.

This is what I have to say about the destruction we are doing to nature and a way forward.

Animal rights – What would be the effect of giving ‘human’ status to gorillas, chimps and whales?

Animal rights – What would be the effect of giving ‘human’ status to gorillas, chimps and whales?

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As a number of animals (Gorillas, Chimps, Orangutans, Whales, Dolphins, Porpoises etc.) have a large intelligence it makes sense to regard them as ‘people’ – individuals with their own consciousness and sense of identity.

By accepting their level of sentience and conferring ‘human’ status on them we would automatically confer status.

It would, in law, be an act of murder to kill one of these animals. Hunting them would be a major crime. To imprison, torture or be cruel to one of them would open the abuser to a different level of justice through the courts.

I believe it would make a big difference to the life of these creatures and help humans too. We need to become more civilised and develop a far better attitude to nature and the needs of life on this planet.

What do you think?

Are plants cleverer that humans?

Are plants cleverer that humans?

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What makes an animal intelligent? – Its brain.

How does the brain work? –  It forms a complex network of neurones that fire as with a computer.

How do the nerve cells fire? – They have electrochemical charges on their membranes. They change electric potential by moving charged ions.

Do plants think? – We don’t know. We know they are conscious of their environment and respond to it.

How would a plant think? It doesn’t have a brain or nervous system does it? – All plant cells have the same electro-potential as brain cells. Maybe the whole plant operates as a brain?

The Paris Climate Talks – A few random thoughts.

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Firstly – well done to Prince Charles! Being an antimonarchist does not stop me from congratulating the man when he uses his power and position to do something good. I believe he does care. He wants to protect rainforest and natural habitat around the world.

Secondly – Is it possible for a bunch of capitalists, with all their vested interests, wish for perpetual growth, lust for power, and greed, to find a way forward? How bad does it have to be for the prospects of the planet before people like this see there is more money to be made out of preserving nature rather than destroying it?

Thirdly – are we in the process of preserving wild-life and jungle merely as a tourist attraction? Is the whole world a theme-park akin to Disneyland? Are the only reasons to preserve gorillas, elephants, rhinos and chimps so that rich westerners will spend money to see them? Surely they are more important than that?

Fourthly – are even the rabid industrialists beginning to realise that global warming will create more problems than they can cope with? Will the cost of warming the world prove too much? Will it be cheaper to stop it warming?

Fifthly – Are they planning to do something about the real cause of all the problems? The problems are being caused by the huge population increases. That is priority number one!

Sixthly – Issues such as deforestation, burning of jungles, pesticides, pollution, trade in wild animals, loss of natural habitat, cruel poaching of wild animals, whaling, and a hundred and one other pressing environmental issues cannot wait. They are too in need of attention to wait. It isn’t a question of money. It is a fact that we are destroying species at an unprecedented rate. We can’t afford to wait. They need protecting now!

50% of the world for humans! 50% for everything else!

The animals and plants deserve to live too!

Poetry – The last one – In the Cage. – A poem for the Chimps and Gorillas.

Poetry – The last one – In the Cage. – A poem for the Chimps and Gorillas.

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The last one – In the cage

As a child I was taken to London zoo. I stood in front of the small cage in which Guy the Gorilla was housed. He looked out at me with sad rheumy eyes. He seemed so human.

There was a great resignation. Guy was bored to tears.

We humans have evolved from a branch of apes that gave rise to the gorillas and chimps. Only one percent of our DNA is different. Our greater intelligence is the result of a small number of changes. It is responsible for our technology and the weapons and tools with which we are busy destroying the planet and killing everything that lives.

We assume that all those chimps and gorillas have no intelligence.

We are wrong.

They have plenty of wisdom. It is merely different to ours.

Our binocular vision coupled with that opposable thumb has enabled our tool making and our technology. It has enabled us to destroy our cousins.

I think they know their days are numbered.

 

The last one – In the cage

 

What wise thoughts lie

Behind those eyes;

Brown eyes so human.

The blitheringed

Say you have no soul

But I see the sadness –

The knowledge of your fate.

 

What strange tools

Could be devised

By that hand –

That hand with thumb

And finger to pick

And grasp?

 

What contented future

Has been savagely

Plucked from

Your grasp

And snatched

From your mind?

 

Opher 7.11.2015