‘..the sounds of the earth, weeping…’

 

Weekly.letters@theguardian.com

7th September 2016

Dear gentleperson

Steven Poole’s thoughtful essay, Does it matter if Google is rewiring our minds (26 August), triggered multiple synapses, dendricities and detours in my biome.

It reinforced my visceral dislike of the on-line universe which I visit only when I must, fiercely resist its colonising of all aspects of our lives, and despair over the ecocidal costs it externalises onto the Earth whose wellbeing is inextricable from our own. I don’t know if this makes me an elderly Luddite or a canary in the mine.

David Abrams, in his splendid and seminal book The Spell of the Sensuous, asks how we have become so estranged from non-humankind (8 billion species and counting) that our discourse is unquestioningly predicated on enslaving and reifying the biosphere, drowns out all voices but the anthropocentric, and has forgotten ‘our carnal inherence in a more-than-human matrix of sensations and sensibilities’. He postulates that it was the development of the written word that first displaced this inherence, and sundered us from reciprocity and kinship with ‘the wild and multiplicitous other’.

I would argue that in allowing technology to rewire, mediate and define our experience, we’re not just further selling our souls and birthrights, but terminally turning our backs on an ecological literacy and wisdom essential to our survival. All of us – microscopic diatoms, great whales, Huon pines, sea eagles – arose from stardust. The blood in our veins differs by just one element (iron as opposed to magnesium) from the chlorophyll that animates green and lifegiving fecundity. We are the trees breathing, the rocks dancing. And as the Vietnamese monk Thich Nhat Hanh says, ‘What we need in our time is to hear within us the sounds of the earth crying’.

Peace be springfully with you all

Annie March

(published)

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cloud-cuckoo land

 

weekly.letters@theguardian.com

4th February 2016

Dear gentleperson

What cloud-cuckoo-land do economists inhabit? Larry Elliott’s article, Ready for another revolution? (29 January) is just the emperor pretending he’s not wearing the same old nakedness. His Industrial Revolution 4.0 – based on driverless cars, 3D printing, smart robotics – ignores the fact that untrammelled industrial and technological growth are not only primary drivers of climate change and environmental devastation, but are cannibalising and debauching our entire planetary life-support system.

Earth’s wellbeing, hence our own, depends on the resilience of an intricate web of interlocking, inter-active ecosystems; healthy freshwater and marine environments, abundant native forests, robust phosphorus and nitrogen cycles, rich biodiversity, ozone health, pollination, climate equilibrium, clean air, rich soil. At least four of these systems – climate, biodiversity (the sixth great extinction is grievously underway), nitrogen and oceans – are already tipping into irreversible, anthropogenic damage. The others are radically frayed and eroding.

Ecology is the study, economy is the law, of the household. The real revolution would be the marriage of these currently opposing poles, the creation of an economic paradigm – ecozoic, ecocratic? – rooted in moral, social and ecological accountability, and mandated with bequeathing a fecund, thriving, exquisitely beautiful planet to our children; to all our children – whale calves, spawning tadpoles, sapling oaks, human babies, fledgling eagles. Amen

Peace be doughtily with you all

Annie March

(Published)

stellar peace?

Reply, Guardian Weekly, December 28th 2015

Dear gentleperson – I agree with Matthew d’Ancona that myth is crucial to humankind (Every era needs its myth cycle and Star Wars is ours, as captivating in its imagery as Homer retold around the campfires). The vast omission, not just from his article but from virtually all myths and scriptures, is women. So this otherwise vivid and excellent piece of writing in fact aborts half the story, and reinforces a toxic cultural paradigm in which 51 per cent of the human race are invisible, ancillary or victims.

The litany of threats to our survival as a species – climate change, ecological destruction, fundamentalist economics, rabid consumption, over-population, war – arises largely from an overweeningly patriarchal narrative. What we desperately need are new myths and visions in which women, the biosphere with its 8 billion non-human species, and men, are co-valent.

Star Wars is for the dinosaurs. How might we gestate fierce, loving, radical, stellar peace?
Annie March

Published January 2016

phytoplankton

weekly.letters@theguardian.com

Thank you for your succinctly scarifying editorial on anthropogenic threats to marine wellbeing (We should care more and invest more, 14 August). One of the issues raised, ocean acidification driven by rising levels of atmospheric carbon, threatens not just visible species like shellfish and coral, but microscopic phytoplankton or diatoms, single-celled algae so small a million dwell in a litre of seawater.

There are more than 10,000 species of diatom, each as exquisitely and diversely patterned as snowflakes. They generate half Earth’s oxygen – every second breath we draw is their gift – catalyse cloud formation hence weather, are a major carbon sink, and the lynchpin of the marine foodchain. Phytoplankton cannot form skeletons in acidifying oceans; we are sabotaging a vast, powerful, invisible ecosystem on whose health our own depends. A biospheric matrix is dying. The angels weep.

Annie March

Published 4th September 2015

Earthism

Guardian Weekly

weekly.letters@theguardian.com

27th March 2015

Dear gentleperson

Thank you, Alan Rusbridger, for your legacy – challenging the way the media deals with climate change. (Why we are putting the climate threat to Earth front and centre, 13 March).

I have one quibble; I think you’re externalising responsibility for action on climate change, displacing it onto governments and corporations – who of course must be relentlessly lobbied and held accountable. But it’s we as individuals who fuel this brewing catastrophe with every decision on how we eat, dress, travel, communicate, play, work and waste.

My god-daughter, shocked by new data on micro-plastic contamination in the lakes of her native Bavaria, gave up plastic for Lent, and found she had to recalibrate all her eating habits. A neighbour grapples with ways to give her children a carbon-friendly birthday party. I wrote to my son in Geneva: “If an annual, sustainable, per capita carbon budget is 0.4 tonnes, and every passenger on a Europe – Australia flight excretes 0.9 tonnes, then the true cost of living in Europe is that you may rarely, perhaps never, fly home again. Could you bear that? Could I? Yes, if that’s what it costs to bequeath a robust, healthy Earth to my grandchildren.”

We unquestioningly accept the need for fiscal probity and regulation. Yet the biosphere, on whose wellbeing our own radically depends, barely enters the equation. We live in a blind spot of false entitlement to planetary capital, consuming at thirty percent beyond Earth’s capacity to regenerate. If all eight billion humans had the same lifestyles as wealthy nations, we would need five planets to support us. Recast that in financial terms to see how demented such behaviour is. Living beyond my fair share, my eight-billionth of the global commons, is at best embezzlement, at worst, enslaving and pimping the Earth and future generations.

If I could enact one law, I would make ecological and carbon accounting mandatory for every individual, artefact, enterprise, city and state. I would also like to coin a new term, Earthism – crimes against the biosphere – to be as stringently defined and legislated as any other fundamentalism.

The task ahead of us is vast. Do we evolve or perish? How do we re-imagine what it means to be human?

Peace be ecozoically with you all

Annie March

Published April 10th 2015

Ursula K. Le Guin – a celebration

Guardian Weekly

weekly.letters@theguardian.com

7th October 2014

Dear gentleperson

Alleluia to Alison Flood’s celebration of Ursula K Le Guin (Elegant, popular and enduring, 26 September). I’ve been reading and rereading this remarkable woman with untrammelled delight for 40 years. There are so many gifts in her work; perfect pitch for language; endless curiosity and concomitant willingness to be wrong; humour; fine-honed, stellar imagination; the ecology – boundless, intricate, evolving – of her mythic universes, Earthsea and Hain; passion and compassion; a fierce commitment to justice and truth; and a grappling with fundamentalism, particularly patriarchy and war, in all its odium.

And like fireflies all through her work are the aphorisms; ‘When the word becomes not sword but shuttle’ (Buffalo Gals and Other Animal Presences); ‘If power were trust…’ (Tehanu); ‘They didn’t rule, they only blighted’ (City of Illusions); ‘Belief is the wound that knowledge heals’ (The Telling); ‘…because he didn’t seek for dominance, he was indomitable’ (The Dispossessed); ‘the verb “to be rich” is the same as the verb “to give” ’ (Always Coming Home).

Ms Le Guin, it’s an honour to share a galaxy with you.

Annie March

Published “Guardian Weekly” Reply

The answer’s war: what was the question?

THE ANSWER’S WAR: WHAT WAS THE QUESTION?

weekly.letters@theguardian.com

7th August 2014

Dear gentleperson

We all seem paralysed by the hideous inevitability of the wars – Gaza, Ukraine, Libya (no Syria, South Sudan?) – that fill your first eight pages (1 August). War is the most necrotic of all fundamentalisms, a brutal lie that obliterates every narrative but its own. What gives this psychopathy, cult, addiction such power over us? How do we recover sanity and agency in the face of normalised, ubiquitous, culturally mandated mass murder?

If war were a killer virus (perhaps it is?) like Ebola or bird flu, we would passionately mobilise to grapple with it. We arraign predators like people traffickers, drug barons, corporate criminals; why are arms dealers, those cannibals feeding on human flesh, not indicted for crimes against humanity?

What does the UN Security Council mean by ‘security’ when its five permanent members massively manufacture and export weapons? Three quarters of the world’s arms, worth $US100,000 billion annually, originate in the US. Is the first step in outlawing or at least reducing war a radical overhaul of an economic system whose only yardstick is profit?

Who designed the missile that brought down MH17? Who invested in its development (my bank, superannuation fund, government?), mined its components, manufactured, sold, bought, transported it? The hand that pulled the trigger is almost incidental. We are all complicit, all accountable.

It’s both impossible and essential that we move beyond this apotheosis of institutionalised, obscenely profitable and largely patriarchal violence that debauches sentient beings, the biosphere and the future. What can I as an ageing woman do, apart from wielding my pen and working to extirpate the roots of war in myself – my capacity to misuse power and dump my shadow on others? How do I bequeath my children’s children a robust and doughty peace, grow more love than warmongers make hatred and fear?

Peace be miraculously with you all

Annie March

(Published – with some slightly weird editing, an occupational hazard – 15 August, 2014.)