Posted by: Philip Carr-Gomm | July 31, 2014

Aristotle by Howard Campbell

 

The OBOD Retreat at Cae Mabon Snowdonia May 2014. Howard is in the centre of the picture by the cello case.

The OBOD Retreat at Cae Mabon Snowdonia May 2014. Howard is in the centre of the picture by the cello case.

A splendid piece from Howard Campbell which he read out to the assembled company on the OBOD Cae Mabon retreat in May:

 

Aristotle – Howardean Ethics of the Mean after Nicomachus

            with thanks to Cormac McArt

 

choose to do that which brings you towards the virtue of your being

do not seek what you cannot know

do not dwell in what cannot change

 

if your nature be as rock

move down – go deep

 

if your nature be as fire

move up – flame with sparks

 

if your nature be as water

move around – meander

 

if your nature be as air

expand fill every corner – unseen

 

stir your cauldron full with

pleasure

sorrow

pain

and joy

 

learn the difficult craft of choice

make your way of being a work of art

not too much nor too little of any one tint

a finished work of art needs nothing

taken away nor added

 

search for the excellence of your being

so easy to have feelings

given out too much or too little

so difficult to find the centre of a circle

so difficult to change a habit to virtue

to sraighten a bent willow wand

curve beyond the mean

 

anyone can be angry – this is easy – so difficult

with the right person

to the right extent

at the right time

with the right motive

in the right way

this is not easy

 

choose to do what brings you towards the virtue of your being

do not seek what you cannot know

do not dwell on what cannot change

seek to be not too little nor too much

climb the steep path

stoop to the wind

navigate the mists towards

the virtue of your being

 

Notes – Nichomachus was Aristotle’s son. He edited his father’s notes which may have been lecture notes as they were repetitious and confusing. I have taken the liberty of condensing about 100 pages into the above piece hence Howardean. Brendan Myers led me to virtue ethics – the best way we can be – and on to Cormac McAairt 3rd century King of Tara who had an Aristotlean view of virtue ethics in his instructions to his son, Cairbre.

I have added two elements as Aristotle only referred to two. I have also added a few poetic twists.      

Howard Campbell     

Posted by: Philip Carr-Gomm | July 31, 2014

Fiftieth Anniversary of the Order talk

Here is the text of a talk I gave at the fiftieth anniversary celebrations of our Order – first at the Dryade International Camp in the Netherlands, and then a short while later in the marquee in the Glastonbury Abbey Grounds

We are Reclaimers of Stories

A view of the eating area at the Dryade International camp 2014

A view of the eating area at the Dryade International camp 2014

One of the reasons we are drawn to Druidry is because we are aware of its love of story, which lies at the heart of the Bardic tradition. We know stories are important: they are healing and inspiring – they deepen our sense of who we are in the world.

Imagine the petals of a flower that overlap around its centre. And at this centre lies our personal story – who we are – our individual journey. But that story is embedded in or linked to another story – that of our family as it exists today, and then our ancestral story that travels way back into the past. It is also embedded or linked in some ways to the story of our country, or perhaps of our ethnic origin. And all these are embedded in a wider story still – that of all humanity and of the planet we live on: the World Story.

Being unaware of a story, or disliking some of the stories we’re involved in, creates tension and suffering, but sometimes this dislike is unavoidable. How many of us like every single aspect of our ancestral or family story for example? How many of us like how the story of our current civilization is unfolding? But to put our heads in the sand is not an option if we are treading this path, which is the way of the Bard, the Reclaimer of Story, the person who can sing praises or scold with satire.

But to cast stories as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ is too simplistic, and the Bard knows that the sounds of mirth and sorrow go hand in hand through much of our tales. The psychotherapist knows that reclaiming, redeeming, stories can provide the keys to healing. The Bard knows this as well – knows that stories can not only enlighten and entertain, but can also act like a healing balm.

In addition to our personal story, our family story, our ancestral story, our country’s story, and the world story, we are a part of other peoples’ stories – the stories of our friends, and the story of any group we may be in, or affiliation we may have: our religion, or school, or employer, those groups we have joined. Our role in these stories may be minor or they may be major, but the difference between them and the other kinds of story is that we have a choice over whether we wish to be a part of them. When it comes to those other stories we don’t have a choice – in this incarnation we’re stuck with them. But with these stories we can choose whether or not they become a part of our life.

Together, the given and the chosen stories combine, intersect and interlace like Celtic knotwork or the weave of a tapestry, to make the story of our lives in all their richness and depth.

One of the threads in the tapestry of all our lives is the story of the Order of Bards, Ovates & Druids. Now this may represent a big strand in our life, or a minor one. But either way each of us here is involved in it, otherwise we wouldn’t be here!

The marquee at the OBOD 50th celebrations with poet Liv Torc in the Eisteddfod

The marquee at the OBOD 50th celebrations with poet Liv Torc in the Eisteddfod

So let me take this opportunity of the 50th Anniversary of the Order to talk a little about the story of the Order, and in particular, the context, the environment in which that story has arisen, to bring more colour to it, to make it more alive.

The Story of the Order

People talk about the 1960s being a seminal time – a time in which – certainly in Europe and America – some of the weight of the suffering of the Second World War and the weight of outdated tradition fell away, and a new impulse came into the world. The Civil Rights Movement took off in the United States; the Feminist movement and Gay Rights took to the stage. The gurus arrived from the East, Flower Power sprang up borne on the winds of the Peace movement, and in the heady atmosphere of parts of San Francisco, Amsterdam and London, change was in the air. And so it is perhaps not surprising that the story of our Order begins at that time – in the London of the mid 1960s.

It was then that our founder, Ross Nichols, along with other members of the Ancient Druid Order, broke away to form their own group which they called The Order of Bards, Ovates & Druids. This process of breaking away, of hiving off, which is such a common phenomenon in any grouping of individuals, is often described as schismatic, and is seen as something negative. But when we look at the history of virtually every movement, whether it is religious, political or social, we see this process at work, and it is so ubiquitous our conclusion must be that it is a natural phenomenon, like the process of cell division, the very process of life itself and of fertility. Nature wants diversity. Monoculture is unnatural, and it seems we can only enforce it on people with a police state, and on agriculture through its equivalent in Monsanto-style regulation and enforcement.

When separations or hiving off occurs we don’t have to make one group right or wrong – it is natural that people should have different approaches and should want to form different configurations, and this is what happened fifty years ago. A new chapter in the story of Druidry began.

In 1964, after a great deal of heart-searching, and after ten years of being in the Ancient Druid Order, Nuinn broke away from that group to found OBOD, and in doing so he sowed the seeds which have resulted in what we see in the order today – half a century later.

I first met Nuinn in 1963, and seven years later, in 1970, when I was initiated at a Beltane ceremony on Glastonbury Tor, there were only about a dozen members in the Order – and most of them seemed very elderly to me. But as we stood in the circle, just below the summit, the Third Ear Band played for us – wearing blue Bardic tabards supplied by Nuinn. The year before, they had issued their album Alchemy, which included tracks with titles like ‘Druid One’ and ‘Stone Circle’ – with later albums being called The Elements, and Magus.

1970 was also the year John Michell had published his book ‘A View Over Atlantis’- which became a cult best-seller and introduced a generation to the idea of the British mysteries. Although Nuinn was in many ways an old fashioned man, preoccupied with heritage and the past, he could sense the new tides being borne into humanity – re-articulating the age-old esoteric tradition in new ways – and so he made contact with the Third Ear Band, and with John Michell.

And as I stood there on the Tor, my 18 year old self bemused by being in a ritual with the unlikely combination of an avant-garde hippy band with these people who seemed genuinely ancient druids to me – and who kept forgetting their places in the ceremony – I was also inspired by a vision of how it could be: of how there could be hundreds of people standing on the Tor. Of how it is in fact now, when we climb the Tor to perform our ceremony each year in June. This afternoon there will be hundreds of us there.

Since that time, the Order has grown from a handful of members who lived mostly in London, to become a truly international group with over 17,000 members in 69 countries. Today in this marquee there are members from 19 countries present. They say ‘mighty oaks from little acorns grow’ and that has certainly been true in the Order’s case. But how has the mighty oak, or more accurately the forest, which is now OBOD, grown from the handful of seeds cast on the ground by Nuinn half a century ago?

Perhaps the most significant of the seeds that Nuinn sowed were – first and foremost – the founding of the Order itself: the establishment of a mystery school with the three levels or grades of training of Bard, Ovate & Druid. But he was also responsible for the introduction of the observance of the Eightfold Year into modern Druidry, as his friend Gerald Gardner was responsible for its introduction into Wicca. And in addition, he introduced an emphasis on the Bardic Arts, and an appreciation of the value of Celtic myth and treelore, which had been surprisingly absent within Druidry until his time.

To grow, seeds require the right soil and conditions, and the 60s provided fertile ground for planting – it was a time when radical ideas could be aired, when an interest in magic and mysticism could surface again after the decades of the 40s and 50s, which had been focussed on war and then reconstruction.

Nuinn sowed these seeds for just 11 years, until he died in 1975. There were even fewer members by then, almost all of them were elderly, and after his death, there just wasn’t sufficient impetus for the Order to keep going. It was closed in the apparent world, and lay fallow for thirteen years. And it did this as we started to move into a different era.

The mid-seventies and 80s were the Nixon, Reagan, Thatcher years. It was the time of the splurge generation, rampant consumerism, of hostile takeovers – the era of laissez-faire economics and neo-liberalism. The turn towards the soul of the 60s had morphed into the hedonism, narcissism and materialism of the Me, Me, Me Generation of the 1980s. It wasn’t a conducive atmosphere for the pursuit of the spiritual quest – particularly a quest not so much concerned with personal salvation, but more with developing a reverence for the Earth.

This feeling of a need to revere the Earth was stimulated to a great extent by the increasing awareness of the threats faced by our planet. Some people had awoken to the environmental crisis in the 60s of course – 1962 was the year of Rachel Carson’s book ‘Silent Spring’. More had awoken in the 70s – the Club of Rome’s important book ‘The Limits to Growth’ had been published in 1972. But it wasn’t until the end of the 80s and the beginning of the 90s that large amounts of people began to realise the enormity of the threat to the Earth. By 1992 the first Earth Summit had been convened, and the giant fires in Yellowstone Park in 1998 contributed to greater awareness in the United States.

And it was in anticipation of this greater awareness in the 90s, that the Order awoke again, as if out of a winter’s sleep in 1988. The winds of change had blown once more, and there was a wave of interest in the last decade of the century, not only in the fate of the Earth, but in the fate of indigenous peoples and tribal cultures. And a wave of interest too in nature-based spirituality that avoids the dead weight of the established religions, with their centuries of dogma and rigid hierarchies. Once more there was fertile ground for the sapling trees of the Order to begin growing again.

And so it was in the second half of the Order’s fifty year period, that it experienced its tremendous expansion, and that was due to a message I received from Nuinn in Spirit in 1984. He told me to put the Order’s teachings in the form of a distance-learning course so that more people could benefit, and this very common-sense advice bore fruit. Membership was no longer limited by geography. It took four years to organise, but then when the Order was refounded in 88 it took only a year for it to have 200 members. In the second year there were 500 and so it grew. And then of course the world wide web arrived, and by the end of the millennium the Order had its own website, and membership began increasing more or less steadily ever since, just like an oak tree.

After more and more people became aware of the threats to Mother Earth during the 90s, we were catapulted in the new millennium into an even more worrying era, when the September 11 attacks occurred and the War on Terror began – a war, it turned out, that only served to increase our fears rather than create more safety. It began to feel as if the Story of Humanity was being written by a deranged script-writer, and at OBOD HQ we noticed a sharp increase in membership, as if the need for spiritual connection and refuge became ever more urgent as the world seemed to have gone mad. 2001 was also the year that the first foreign edition of the course, in Dutch, was published.

Despite the difficult chapter in Humanity’s Story that we have entered into in this new century, over these last 14 years something very interesting and positive has also been going on: a movement amongst many away from greed and exploitation and the cult of ‘Me’ to a genuine opening of care and concern towards others and the planet we live on – a collective move from ‘Me’ to ‘We’ – from ‘Ego’ to ‘Eco’.

The environmentalist Paul Hawken has written about this powerfully in his book ‘Blessed Unrest’ which tells the story of the vast amount of initiatives being undertaken by individuals and groups to change our world for the better. He tells the story of the incredible numbers of people and grass-roots groups around the world who are filled with love for humanity and for the earth – who are resisting injustice, and remaking, restoring, renewing, revitalizing their communities.

I see the Order as being one of these many thousands of movements and groupings that now exist around the world, that act as forces for positive change. What we’ve done, all of us collectively, in these last 26 years has been to take a Mystery School – a magical, spiritual group – and to make its work relevant to our modern age. We’ve managed to turn a group that started with those few people on the Tor all those years ago, into a truly international organisation. That Mother Grove planted by Nuinn fifty years ago has now spread its seeds across the Earth – and that has occurred not through the efforts of one, or even a handful of dedicated individuals, but through the contributions of thousands of people all over the world. A huge thank you and a cheer for all us who have achieved this: to Nuinn and his Pendragon Vera Chapman who founded the Order, and to all of those, all of us, who have built on these foundations and created what we see around us today. And here’s to the next fifty years!

The marquee the following morning before it was dismantled

The marquee the following morning before it was dismantled

 

Red Kite ~ Diane Seddon

Red Kite ~ Diane Seddon

In the following article from the Guardian, George Monbiot exposes the flawed and destructive nature of the Government’s proposed ‘Infrastructure Bill’ – a piece of legislation that we should all be very concerned about…

The infrastructure bill seeks to reclassify extinct species as non-native, and prevent them from returning…

Can any more destructive and regressive measures be crammed into one piece of legislation? Already, the infrastructure bill, which, as time goes by, has ever less to do with infrastructure, looks like one of those US monstrosities into which a random collection of demands by corporate lobbyists are shoved, in the hope that no one notices.

So far it contains (or is due to contain) the following assaults on civilisation and the natural world:

• It exempts fracking companies from the trespass laws.

• It brings in a legal requirement for the government to maximise the economic recovery of petroleum from the UK’s continental shelf. This is directly at odds with another legal requirement – to minimise the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions.

It abandons the government’s commitment to make all new homes zero-carbon by 2016.

• It introduces the possibility (through clauses 21 and 22) of a backdoor route to selling off the public forest estate. When this was attempted before, it was thwarted by massive public protest.

• It further deregulates the town and country planning system, making life even harder for those who wish to protect natural beauty and public amenities.

• It promotes new road building, even though the total volume of road traffic has flatlined since 2002.

Enough vandalism? Not at all.There’s yet another clause aimed at suppressing the natural world, which has, so far, scarcely been discussed outside parliament.

If the infrastructure bill is passed in its current state, any animal species that “is not ordinarily resident in, or a regular visitor to, Great Britain in a wild state” will be classified as non-native and subject to potential “eradication or control”. What this is doing in an infrastructure bill is anyone’s guess.

At first wildlife groups believed it was just poor drafting, accidentally creating the impression that attempts to re-establish species which have become extinct here – such as short-haired bumblebees or red kites – would in future be stamped out. But the most recent Lords debate scotched that hope: it became clear that this a deliberate attempt to pre-empt democratic choice, in the face of rising public enthusiasm for the return of our lost and enchanting wildlife.

As Baroness Parminter, who argued unsuccessfully for changes to the bill, pointed out, it currently creates,

‘a one-way system for biodiversity loss, as once an animal ceases to appear in the wild, it ceases to be native.’

She also made the point that it is not only extinct species which from now on will be treated as non-native, but, as the bill now stands, any species listed in schedule 9 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.

Among those in schedule 9 are six native species that have already been re-established in Britain (the capercaillie, the common crane, the red kite, the goshawk, the white-tailed eagle and the wild boar); two that are tentatively beginning to return (the night heron and the eagle owl); and four that have been here all along (the barn owl, the corncrake, the chough and the barnacle goose). All these, it seems, are now to be classified as non-native, and potentially subject to eradication or control.

After the usual orotund time-wasting by aristocratic layabouts (“my ancestor Sir Ewen Cameron of Lochiel, who was known as the great Sir Ewen … killed the last wolf in Scotland” etc), the minister promoting the bill, Baroness Kramer, made it clear that the drafting was no accident. All extinct species, it appears, are to be treated as non-native and potentially invasive. At no point did she mention any of the benefits their re-establishment might bring, such as restoring ecological function and bringing wonder and delight and enchantment back to this depleted land… to read the whole article click here.

 

Posted by: Philip Carr-Gomm | July 29, 2014

Keep Intact Your Roots

Change your opinions, keep to your principles; change your leaves, keep intact your roots.
~ Victor Hugo
Mgr Mael

Mgr Mael

On Sunday Mgr Mael, Primate of the Orthodox Celtic Church, died at the age of 91 at the Monastery of the Holy Presence in St.Dolay, Brittany. In the 37 years since founding the Church he, along with the brothers and sisters, achieved an enormous amount – creating a beautiful sanctuary run on ecological principles and a thriving community, both ordained and lay. I was lucky enough to meet him first in 2010, and here is a photograph from a visit the following year that shows him standing beside an Awen Celtic Cross symbol, for he was a Druid too. He became a loved and respected elder for me – and had known my teacher Nuinn, who died a long time ago – in 1975.

A Dolmen of Mane-Kerioned, Carnac, Brittany

A Dolmen of Mane-Kerioned, Carnac, Brittany

His funeral was on Thursday. The following day I visited the Dolmens of Mane-Kerioned not far from the monastery. In a dolmen with a great stone carved with many symbols, the light streamed in, as if from another world – a world that ‘Petit Père’, as he was affectionately called, was now entering.  I am going to paste in below a video clip of him talking – it’s in French and not of much interest I would imagine to most people – but this blog acts as a kind of personal journal and scrap book for me, and seeing and hearing him talk brings back such fond memories.

Posted by: Philip Carr-Gomm | July 25, 2014

Do Trees Communicate?

Posted by: Philip Carr-Gomm | July 25, 2014

Nameless

poppies

Nameless

How to speak of it:

the bramble path to the heart,

the wind as it rolls flat all that

grew in the sweet fields of May.

As we cut away the dead branches

small green whiskers grow out

in such unexpected places.

The season of bread and sorrow

fast approaches. Lughnasadh

casts a shadow in the hot and golden

fields of summer, where cicadas thrum.

Unspeakable how, the Moon, as she rises

catches the light of the run away Sun,

who lies hidden beneath the earth.

~ Sarah Fuhro

Posted by: Philip Carr-Gomm | July 24, 2014

The Book of Trees

Book of TreesAnyone who has traced their family history – mapping out its spreading branches upon the page – will appreciate how when seeking to organise patterns of information, there is nothing quite like the structure of a tree; it enables us to make sense of a complex web of connections; it branching can help us to reveal relationships and correlations that previously we had not seen. With a tree diagram, we can visually comprehend how diverse and seemingly separate units function as an interconnected whole. At one glance we see the bigger picture.

Manuel Lima has written a fascinating 800 year history of the tree diagram entitled The Book of Trees: Visualizing Branches of Knowledge. He writes:

Our primordial, symbolic relationship with the tree can elucidate why its branched schema has provided not only an important iconographic motif for art and religion, but also an important metaphor for knowledge-classification systems. Throughout human history the tree structure has been used to explain almost every facet of life: from consanguinity ties to cardinal virtues, systems of laws to domains of science, biological association to database systems. It has been such a successful model for graphically displaying relationships because it pragmatically expresses the materialization of multiplicity (represented by its succession of boughs, branches, twigs, and leaves) out of unity (its central foundational trunk, which in turn connected to a common root, source, or origin.)

Book of trees 2

To read more about ‘how the humble tree became our most powerful visual metaphor for organising information and distilling our understanding of the world’, click here.

Posted by: Philip Carr-Gomm | July 23, 2014

Monuments

Talented poet Jay Ramsay has a major new collection out from Waterloo Press (Hove) entitled Monuments. Here is a particularly beautiful poem from the collection, followed by a review by the painter Angie Spencer.
Swallows, Tintagel
for Carolyn Finlay
Huddled half-hidden out of the wind
swirling all around the stone building
in this cliff top church porch, port
we enter in…to its polished air and font
luminous stained glass and ring of candles
before we see them, only as we’re leaving again
on the curving ledge between lintel and roof;
dark-feathered discreet, almost overlapping
as close for warmth as they can: the lovers
(if we keep very still, they might not see us)
their nest beside
, a castle and a crown
with its rim of white feathers like flags
naked as the day, barely out of reach…
here at the edge, still no room at the inn
where Love is eternally waiting to come in.
A MONUMENTAL ACHIEVEMENT
 
review by Angie Spencer
 
Jay Ramsay’s new collection of poetry, Monuments (published Waterloo Press in Hove) lives up to it’s name. It is a truly monumental work. Comprising poetry written over the last 12 years it is a bold and devastating statement of the plight of humanity in the face of an increasingly de-humanizing society.
 
Many of the poems are political, for example ‘A Suicide Bomber Reaches the Light’, ‘Iraq Diary’ (2003), ‘Occupy’, ‘Whistleblower’, and ‘Shard’…written last year for the Greenpeace women),  but unlike most political commentary that we hear today, they are stripped of all of the partisan machinery of politics that we have become so weary of. They are comments fresh from the soul, the heart – forcing us again and again to see what is really happening. They break through the numbness that has become our customary defence.  They are full of psychological insight (as one might expect from a psychotherapist of Jay’s standing) – but here it is the psychology of human race he is working towards understanding.
 
Jayhome
More personal and intimate poems also find their way into this beautifully crafted collection (including Anamnesis – the remembering of soul (2005-6), written monthly during his residency at St James’ Church, Piccadilly during that period).  These are reflective meditations that can be returned to again and again like a quiet chapel .
 
Jay begins the collection with an elegy for Ted Hughes (with whom he had correspondence before Hughes’ death, at 69, in 1998). Full of grief at losing a mentor and (possibly) a poetic father figure, this somehow prepare us for the breadth and poetic stature of the rest of the collection.
 
Jay says ‘The book is about memory and what we need to remember. It is also an invitation to poets to face what is actually happening in the world and not just hide in personal expression, ‘language’, and narcissism. We are living in the Great Transparency, and poets are the truth-tellers of our time’.
 
Jay and Kevan Manwaring are hosting a special celebration of Gloucestershire Writers  1914-2014 in ‘The Golden Room’ at the Stroud Subscription Rooms, Stroud on July 26th.
 
Monuments is available from The Stroud Bookshop and from Waterloo Press  at £12, or £4.92 on Kindle (Amazon).
 
copyright Angie Spencer, May 2014.
 
Angie Spencer Paintings
07883 506444

 

Posted by: Philip Carr-Gomm | July 21, 2014

Fracking, Fraud and Farming

John Michael Greer and I, with contributions from anthropologist Jonathan Woolley, Warrior’s Call activist Tim, and environmentalist Hilde Liesens, talk about the speculative bubble of fracking and assorted topics, in a temple in a Glastonbury Bed and Breakfast. Plus a Lughnasadh story from Cerri Lee and music from Led Zeppelin. What more could you want?!

Posted by: Philip Carr-Gomm | July 21, 2014

Smoke and Mirrors?

frack is wack

Blake Deppe writes on People’s World website about Germany’s recent pledge to ban Fracking, casting doubt on the promise being all that it seems…

Germany to Ban Fracking, or so it says…

The German government says it will soon move to ban fracking in the country until 2021, which would make it the latest nation (after France and Bulgaria) to eliminate the destructive natural gas drilling process. In a press briefing, Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel and Environmental Minister Barbara Hendricks noted that legislation will be drawn up and approved in the final half of the year.

“There won’t be fracking of shale gas or coal gas for economic reasons in the foreseeable future,” confirmed Hendricks. However, one can read in between the lines and see that there is still room for exploitation by natural gas corporations. Case in point: there are a number of “special circumstances” which would allow fracking to circumvent the legislation. An example is that the law’s language states that “unconventional” fracking cannot take place more than 3,000 meters below the surface – but “conventional” fracking can. While this will still effectively prevent fracking from, in most cases, contaminating groundwater, it will not prevent it from triggering small earthquakes.

Political parties including the Green Party have reacted with strong criticism; the chairman of the Greens’ parliamentary group, Oliver Krischer, went as far as to call it a “fracking-enabling law,” recognizing the distinction between this potentially deceptive proposal and an actual fracking ban – “a regulation that does not allow fracking in Germany and without loopholes that are as big as a barn door.”

Hubertus Zdebel of the Left party agreed, noting, “Fracking must be banned in Germany without any exceptions. To say that there is a fracking ban in the paper is window dressing. They want to enforce a regulation which mostly allows fracking under the guise of an alleged ban.” Citing estimates obtained from the Federal Institute of Geosciences and Natural Resources, he added, “The planned restrictions will still allow the exploitation of half of all unconventional natural gas deposits in Germany.” He also said there are other potential risks associated with allowing deep fracking, including uncontrolled methane gas emissions.

Francisco Szekely, writer for EnergyBiz, remarked that the legislation is likely a play to quell environmentalists’ fears while also reducing Germany’s dependency upon Russia for gas imports. He said, however, “This decision is not a sustainable solution. The temporary relief of geopolitics should not be achieved at the long-term cost of environmental degradation. To put our economy and our world on a path to sustainability, governments and companies need to focus on doing real good for society and not just doing less harm, as seems to be the case” with this fracking issue.

“With evidence of climate change becoming clearer than ever,” he added, Germany should be “thinking carefully before allowing fracking in their territory. Moreover, whatever short-term promise fracking offers is also taking our sense of urgency away from transitioning to more renewable sources of energy such as wind and solar power.”

So in short, one might conclude, Germany’s “fracking ban” may be little more than a smoke-and-mirror tactic. Said Szekely: “To quote Albert Einstein, ‘We cannot solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.'”

Posted by: Philip Carr-Gomm | July 18, 2014

‘Let the River of These Names Take You…’

Druids know the power of chanting the Awen, particularly in a group, where the sound swells and expands and fills all present, spilling out into the world. Mantras are powerful tools with which to calm the mind, reconnect with our deepest selves and the Divine.

There is a form of mantra chanting that comes out of the Bhakti devotional traditions in India. This group chanting where the Wallah sings the mantra and the group sings back is called Kirtan and has become an increasingly popular form of meditation and worship in the West. Ragani, a long time practitioner of Kirtan, writes here about the unifying and transformative impact of sound:

Something about the kirtan experience goes beyond the music itself, goes to a deeper experience of vibration. We all resonate at different frequencies, and these frequencies change according to what we are doing and thinking. So when we are all doing the same thing-chanting, breathing, and moving to the same rhythms-our vibrations begin to synchronize and the resulting experience is very powerful. The laws of vibration help us out here, because vibrations align themselves to stronger vibrations, so even if you’re having a truly rotten day, it may be difficult to hold onto those feelings during the chant experience. If you were only to sit in the room without participating, the idea is that you could still feel the shift. Something happens-the energy begins to activate the spirit that exists within us all.

It’s the Heart, not the Art!
Although the kirtan involves music, the underlying art of kirtan chanting is not actually about musical ability or training-it is about the heart. Everyone can participate, regardless of age or cultural background. The purpose of this music is to get us out of our heads and into our hearts. Typically, the songs can last for 20-30 minutes each with a few moments of silence in between each song so you can soak it all up. The longer songs allow for deeper experience of the effects, and with the simple, repetitive lyrics (it’s a chant, after all!) we really don’t have to think much about the words.

Chants Heal
In fact, because the ancient Sanskrit lyrics are not familiar to many of us Westerners, these words take us away from the mind’s constant chatter a little easier. The powerful healing and transformational energies of these ancient chants can help to reconnect us to the Ever-Present and Eternal Being that lies within us all. All the mantras, melodies, and instruments of kirtan are designed to lead us toward this meditative state.

In the old Celtic stories, we hear of the Druid’s knowledge of the power of the word – language is magical. In Kirtan, the names of the divine in all its many aspects are sung and this is believed to bring positive change and healing in the chanter. Krishna Das, one of the leading modern Kirtan artists in the West puts it rather nicely:

Let the river of these Names take you…
Let yourself float in the beauty of your own heart
into the ocean of Love that fills all space,
that ALWAYS is…
that ONLY is.
When we know ourselves to be That,
then we can be This too.
Then we can play,
We are free and bound in the same breath,
The breath of the One breathes in us.
It’s OK to be messed up, to feel small and sad and hurt
with no hope of ever seeing a good day.
It’s OK to forget, to be forgotten,
to be left behind,
It’s OK to be betrayed, strung out on everything
that everyone has ever done to us and we can’t ever forgive…
Because
The breath of the One breathes in us.
Breathes us.
Even when we don’t know.

Where is this One? How can we find that One?
The Saints say that the One is hidden in the Name.
The Divine Name. The name of Love.
And that by constant repetition,
gradually but INEVITABLY
the Presence that is hidden in the Name reveals itself!
Where? In our own hearts!
The medicine of the Name
hidden in the sugar syrup of music…

~ Krishna Das (his website can be found here)

When listening to our very own Damh the Bard perform at the OBOD 50th Anniversary Party – hearing the audience sing with him – it seemed to me that in those unifying and joyful moments, there was the spirit of a Kirtan. Perhaps Druid Kirtan is something that could be developed further?

Here is one of Krishna Das’ live Kirtan performances: Baba Hanuman (praise of the God Hanuman) from The Breath of the Heart album – listen how it gradually builds, quickens and swells – joyful stuff!

For more information on the links between Druidry and the Dharmic Traditions see here.

 

Posted by: Philip Carr-Gomm | July 17, 2014

The True Love

Stormy-Beach

There is a faith in loving fiercely
the one who is rightfully yours,
especially if you have
waited years and especially
if part of you never believed
you could deserve this
loved and beckoning hand
held out to you this way.

I am thinking of faith now
and the testaments of loneliness
and what we feel we are
worthy of in this world.

Years ago in the Hebrides
I remember an old man
who walked every morning
on the grey stones
to the shore of baying seals,

who would press his hat
to his chest in the blustering
salt wind and say his prayer
to the turbulent Jesus
hidden in the water,

and I think of the story
of the storm and everyone
waking and seeing
the distant
yet familiar figure
far across the water
calling to them,

and how we are all
waiting for that
abrupt waking,
and that calling,
and that moment
we have to say yes,
except it will
not come so grandly,
so Biblically,
but more subtly
and intimately in the face
of the one you know
you have to love,

so that when
we finally step out of the boat
toward them, we find
everything holds
us, and everything confirms
our courage, and if you wanted
to drown you could,
but you don’t

because finally
after all this struggle
and all these years,
you don’t want to any more,
you’ve simply had enough
of drowning,
and you want to live and you
want to love and you will
walk across any territory
and any darkness,
however fluid and however
dangerous, to take the
one hand you know
belongs in yours.

~ David Whyte, from The House of Belonging

Posted by: Philip Carr-Gomm | July 15, 2014

Abused Goddesses

abused goddesses1

Across the planet many people honour and worship the Feminine Divine. As well as the established traditions in the East and in indigenous cultures, there has also been a renewed interest in the Goddess via western earth-spiritualities such as Druidry, Wicca and the Goddess Movement. In many belief systems that honour the Divine Feminine, there is an understanding that the Divine resides within each of us – that we are an expression of Divinity; that there is an underlying unity and connection between all life and Goddess/God/Spirit. This approach asks of us that we treat all life-forms with care and kindness and view each as equally important and deserving of respect.

abused lakshmi goddess3_650_090613013034It might be assumed that in honouring the Divine Feminine, nature and women would also be honoured and treated with respect, and yet we only have to look around the world to find an alarming amount of abuse and violence towards both women, children and the natural world.

There has been an interesting advertising campaign in India that illustrates the disparity between the worship of the Divine Feminine and the actual attitudes and treatment of women in everyday life. In recent times we have seen reports of the most shocking violence against women coming out of India, a culture that, paradoxically, has a rich relationship with the Goddess in her many forms. There are many complex reasons for violence against women in Indian culture (or in any other for that matter) but it is clear that far too often something is going horribly awry between the spiritual teaching and the actual practice. It is precisely this that the Mumbai based agency Taproot India has tried to address in their campaign Abused Goddesses and it gives food for thought to all those that see the Divine Feminine as a vital source in helping us to create a more equitable and loving world.

abused sarasvati goddes1_650_090613012828Taproot India were commissioned by Save Our Sisters, an initiative of Save the Children, India to bring attention to domestic violence and the trafficking of women and children. In response, they took traditional images of the goddesses Sarasvati, Lakshmi and Durga – three of the most widely venerated goddesses in Hinduism –  with bruised and battered faces. Accompanying the images was the following text:

Today, more than 68% of women in India are victims of domestic violence. Tomorrow, it seems like no woman shall be spared. Not even the ones we pray to.

Whether such a campaign can truly make a difference is unclear but it is an interesting point that the images make and, whilst causing a good deal of offence in many quarters, it has helped to drawn attention to the issue. Surely, if we love the Goddess, that love and respect must extend to all women – in fact, it must extend to all beings. abused Durga goddes2_650_090613013033

Many thanks to John Marchant of Isis Gallery for sharing the following images and interview with artist Jamie Reid…

 TFH-at-RTH-1Some years ago while living in New York I was asked to collaborate with the British artist Jamie Reid in organizing a large survey of his work to date called Peace Is Tough. It soon became apparent that the full extent of his work was a very broad canon indeed, from the endlessly reproduced and rehashed sustained volley of cultural musket-fire with the Sex Pistols to extremely contemplative nature-induced watercolours reflective of his deep connection with the earth’s subtler movements. Of course at first there seemed to be stark contradictions here but as I started to look at the work and get to know Jamie it started to coalesce. As the work arrived, so did his crew from his adopted home town of Liverpool. I lost count of them all but they all pulled together to produce a show called Peace Is Tough in a raw space in Manhattan that became, for the next six weeks, a locus for the inquisitive, a refuge, performance venue, doss house and dream space. In the intervening years, I’ve had the pleasure to get to know Jamie a lot better. Spiritual descendent of post-Edwardian socialist reformer and Chief Druid George Watson MacGregor Reid, Jamie takes ancestral sighting points as disparate as William Blake, Gerrard Winstanley and the Diggers, Thomas Paine, Wat Tyler and Simon de Montfort: in the words of Julian Cope, all “righteous, forward-thinking muthafuckers”.There is however a smokescreen around him that veils his persona and work. He gets ignored by the art world for being unmaleable and gets pigeon-holed by an increasingly nostalgic press who only want to feed on the corpse of P*#k ad infinitum. It seems a good time to clear things a little.

A quick primer: Born in 1947, Jamie Reid was a founding member of Croydon–based Situationist-inspired graphics unit Suburban Press and was responsible for graphics and layout for Christopher Gray’s Leaving the 20th Century. In late 1975 Malcolm McLaren asked him to work with the Sex Pistols, providing both image and political agenda. Following their demise, Jamie drifted through places and projects – Bow Wow Wow, Paris, performance work, the Brixton squat scene.  In 1987 ‘Up They Rise – the Incomplete Works of Jamie Reid’ was published by Faber and Faber – co-produced with music journalist Jon Savage it documented his influences and works to date. Following this breath for air, Reid got increasingly involved with various bands and protest movements – No Clause 28, the Legalise Cannabis Campaign, Reclaim the Streets and Warchild to name a few. In 1989 he started a ten year commission to revisualise and reinvent the interior spaces of both the recording and resting spaces of the East London-based  Strongroom  Studios using ‘colour magic and sacred geometry’ to encourage creativity and calm.  As a result of this he also spent five years as visual co-ordinator with the band Afro-Celt Sound System. Since 1997 the retrospective “Peace Is Tough” has opened in New York, Tokyo, Dublin, Athens, Glasgow and Liverpool, including collage, painting, photography and film. He is currently finishing a heroically-proportioned 600-700 piece project based on the Druidic calendar – the Eightfold Year.*

We convened east of Knighton, Powys on the Welsh borders, at a spot fiercely contested in the wars with the English. It was also in this area in 1921 that the antiquarian photographer Alfred Watkins had a revelation on the hidden connections within the British landscape that he later wrote about in the indispensable ‘Old Straight Track’ –  and subsequently visited by the Lion of Judah himself – Emperor Haile Selassie!

TFM-at-RTH-9

“The root and inspiration and acknowledgement of the esoteric spirituality contained in the work comes from the ancient past and the distant future but is based in the immediate here and now.
It is indebted to those from the base root, the true guardians of the planet – the peasants.

Those of the earth
The rain and sun
The wind and stars
The seas the rivers
The valley the mountain tops

Mother Nature’s citizens, those who tilled and toiled and understood the meaning of being.
Who loved the planet’s smallest intimacies and its universal magnitude and used it for the good of all. The Mothers of Invention.” Jamie Reid 2007

While we talk, Jamie takes out his trade tools and starts to paint.

IM: Jamie, you spend a lot of time now with your hands in the soil. Can you tell me about that?
REID: It is part and parcel… sowing, planting, growing, harvesting, nurturing. We are custodians of this planet.. the Garden of Eden, paradise on earth. We have mostly done our best to fuck the planet up. My work is deeply affected by my time spent working the land. Organic growth is integral to it. I’ll spend hours gardening and then go straight into hours of painting, they merge and nature and our part within it.
IM:  I think you still have to explain what you think a lot of your painting work is about, because people can’t get their head around it.
REID: I read an awful lot of Jung when I was 17 to 19. That was the same time I was into R.D. Laing. They intertwine with each other. It really is at the heart of my spiritual beliefs: love and respect for Laing and David Cooper and all that. Funnily enough that was all around that squatting scene.
IM: And what about about your belief system?
REID: Lapsed Druid! When you actually open things up to ordinary people – I mean ordinary people who would never fucking be bothered to go to an art gallery or museum – and I think quite rightly in lots of ways… I think magic has always existed to people of the land. They just knew – didn’t need loads of mumbo jumbo ritual, they just knew…because they fucking looked. And we can’t see anymore.
IM: Alfred Watkins says that the people who laid out the Old Straight Tracks attained a supernatural aura because they had a knowledge that other people didn’t. Isn’t it natural for people to want someone to look up to?
REID: As soon as you get pyramidical hierarchies the whole thing becomes corrupt. We’ve never lived in an age where people trust each other less. I can remember in Croydon, specifically in the early 1970’s when we were doing Suburban Press which was far from being elitist and was very involved with the working class in that area – that was the first time ever we didn’t have our doors open so it all started going then – but the whole Craig and Bentley thing really fucked Croydon. (Ed. the innocent and mentally ill Christopher Craig was hanged after his accomplice, the under-age Craig Bentley, killed PC Sidney Miles during a botched robbery in Croydon). Then the police wouldn’t go there.  Croydon was very different then.
IM: Have you done any of your own research into ley-lines? What they are, what they mean?
RIED: Only by observing and looking and seeing. A few years ago I was doing a lot of geometrical paintings. I tend to do them and then find the source. I knew about sacred geometry but it wasn’t until I immersed myself in it, that I realised what it was. In a way there was always that element of being self-taught. It’s just such a fundamental element in everything – from primitive to the Renaissance to anything you care to name. You can see it reveal itself in front of your eyes in the landscape. You just immerse yourself in it – it’s just a total experience where you completely lose yourself. It’s the same as I feel when I’m actually working because I do go into a complete trance – which is why I can’t talk and paint. It’s very intense. It’s very deep in.

TFM-at-RTH-11

IM: Were you ever a teenager?
REID: I can’t remember! Maybe I’ve never stopped being one. I think music’s probably the biggest influence, from early rock‘n’roll. Croydon was a really big centre of early Teddy Boys …and the whole Bill Haley thing had a massive effect. But I suppose more than anything the biggest influence was what was happening in jazz in America at the time.
IM Where was it coming from? Through the radio or through friends?
REID: I was buying it as it was coming out. That would have been predominantly Mingus, Coltrane, Pharoah Sanders, Archie Shepp, Ornette Coleman. To me it was like a whole peak of 20th Century culture. It’s never been surpassed. I also went to see a Pollock exhibition when I was about 16 without knowing anything about modern art and just found them like entering other worlds.
IM: You describe Pollock’s work as being like landscape painting.
REID: It was just like fantasy worlds you could walk into and see what you liked. I loved the fact that they left themselves open to interpretation. And Blake. I was obsessed with the Blakes in the Tate. A lot of that I got through my father. There was always art and sport, and I was lucky enough to be really good at sport. As you know I was going to play professional football or cricket. I also used to go up to see Mingus and Sonny Rollins perform at Ronnie Scott’s and Soho then was a big influence – at the same time Zappa, Beefheart and all that – it was an amazing period. There was a great element of experimentation. It was all part of a great belief in change, but I was brought up politically. My parents were diehard socialists and were very much involved – as was my brother – in the anti-war movement, so I was dragged off to Aldermaston marches at an early age.
IM: Your mother had problems with your Great Uncle George. She sounds like she was quite an iconoclast herself.
REID: She was brought up in a Naturist environment and her dad wrote a book called ‘In The Heart of Democracy’ so they were all involved with the socialist movement of the time. It was the death of the whole fifty year epoch  of Victorianism. There was a massive interest in change both politically and spiritually, which is the thing that fascinated me about the Druid order. There was a great belief in access to freedom of knowledge, education, the whole alternative movement in medicine and health, and health foods but they were as likely to be on trade union and suffragette rallies as to be doing rituals at Stonehenge. It was all part and parcel, which is something I’ve really tried to continue myself.
IM: Do you think this was a direct response to the Second World War?
REID: Well the war drew a curtain on everything. It was the most massive blood sacrifice in the history of mankind. I’ll have to stop painting – I can’t paint and talk at the same time.
IM: 1968 was something of a watershed in the history of public protest – Paris burned in the belief that revolution was imminent, Martin Luther King was assassinated, the Tet Offensive began in Vietnam and medal winners Tommie Smith and John Carlos raised their fists for the Black Panther movement at the Mexico Olympics. What was your experience of London in 1968?
REID: It was part of that whole R.D. Laing and Cooper period. Everyone was looking for alternatives. It was a period of fantastic possibilities and change. People really believed that you could actually change things, and politically, things couldn’t have become more repressed since then. We’ve become more and more under the thumb. We’ve lost our belief that people can effectively change anything. But on one level we’re going through a period of the most massive change that we’ve ever been through in the history of woman or man-kind. There is a quickening process – we’re experiencing everything that everyone’s ever been through over millennia in one generation. I think America is Rome and it will fall very fast. On an economic level it’s going to China and India isn’t it? I think everything might just break down. We’ll go back in to small states. China will break up, India will break up, everywhere will break up into smaller units because people can only really survive in smaller units. I think they can only really appreciate what a wonderful planet…God, I sound like Louis Armstrong! It’s such a beautiful fucking place and we’re the custodians of it and fucking economics… is Babylon. People could be very happy with fuck all.
IM: Is this what connects the dots in your work – your wish to make people think that they can really enjoy this world?
REID: I’ve thought that the whole idea of an artist is to be expansive, like an explorer going forward. Not stuck in a rut. re talking about influences, John Michel is one. The man was like a modern-day wizard. I love him because he was so benign. Such a lovely person.
IM: When did you first cross paths?
REID: Probably in the Sixties, with the pamphlets he did on sacred geometry and ley-lines. Obviously there’s the big connection from him to Watkins.
IM: So at last we get a mentor.
REID: A very gentle mentor.
IM: You recently found out that MI6 had you down as a traitor.
REID: They were thinking of doing us for treason at the time of the Queen’s jubilee and God Save the Queen and all that.
IM: Is that encouraging?
REID: I dunno. I think it’s a family tradition. My brother was tried for treason when he was part of Spies For Peace and the Committee of One Hundred. See? Blame your parents!

TFM-at-RTH-7
IM: When you finish the Eightfold year cycle of work…what are you going to do next?
REID: I’d like to do more work like I did in the Strongroom. One of the things I’ve always wanted to do is to do a lot of landscape sculpture and create gardens. I spent five years doing landscape gardening when I was younger. I’d like to create places in which people can stay which act as resource centres. I’d like to apply what I’ve done in the Strongroom to all sorts of situations, it could be a hospital…obviously there’s a whole element to what I do that has that capacity to heal people.
IM: Colour magic?
REID: Yeah. I don’t think we know fuck all about colour and its potential. I don’t think we know fuck all about sound. I think we’re incredibly ignorant, however sophisticated we think our technology is. Actually, in a laborious way, technology hints at things we’ve lost the ability to see for ourselves. To me that was most well articulated by a Scottish engineer called Professor Alexander Thom who was a great expert on Stonehenge; he came to Stonehenge not through drugs or hippie-dom or New Age but through being an engineer and being fascinated with its structure. I remember him in a documentary – it was the time when Yale University had spent two years studying Stonehenge to say “Oh yes, it’s a cosmic timeclock”. He was asked how on earth could these people could’ve built something like this without calculus. Fuck calculus. They were so in tune with the landscape, they were so in tune with the stars and their movements and the sun and the moon that they just knew. We had to spend thousand of years of calculus to come to these conclusions.
IM: I remember you saying that computers were going to bring in a whole age of…
REID: Backache and blindness.
IM: No, you said there would be a new age of psychic connection between people.
REID: I’ve probably got more cynical since I said that.
IM: The London Psychogeographical Association had a section on their website about Druidry. What’s the connection?
REID: I think we touched on it earlier when we talked about the whole period of say, the Golden Dawn and the early Druid Order in Britain– it was as much politically bound as spiritually bound – it was part and parcel of the same thing. If you look at the early trade union movement it was as much spiritual as it was political – but those things have become less and less apparent.
IM: Beuys used ritual as the kick-off point for a lot of his work, parts of which are now holy relics of his rituals. What comes first for you? Do you use artwork in rituals or does the work come from ritual?
REID: They are totally intertwined and totally interdependent. The whole process of how I work is very ritualistic anyway, in many ways. Setting up, starting and just doing it – it’s very ritualistic – but I do go into a state of trance.
IM: Where do you go?
REID: You go into an absolute void – making your mind absolutely blank. Just letting it flow through.
IM: Do you have realizations in that state?
REID: Well, the realizations manifest themselves in what you do and what the product is. It’s as much science as it is art – it goes into all sorts of situations. It’s the high end of chemistry, physics, mathematics – things astrological. But you have to go through a deep sense of void and purity to do it. It’s macrocosms, it’s microcosms, but it’s fundamentally there to make people feel uplifted. To make people feel good. Well, that side of my work is, but there is the other side – the overtly political side that’s purely to make comment on how fucking evil the powers that be are.
IM: In 2011 you created an almighty installation with a circle of eight full sized tipis in an old warehouse in North London, and the new show in Brighton has a tipi jammed into a Georgian drawing room. What does this structure represent for you?
REID: As a child I always wanted to be a Native American when playing cowboys and indians, and nurtured a great love for them. I have used tipis in numerous shows and at festivals. I like their association with being nomadic, they come and go with the seasons, they provide shelter and community. I also want them to represent a peaceful space, a place to dream and let the mind lift and expand. To spend some time in one of these structures, either by day or night, is so uplifting. They are also a sign of association and support of indigenous people everywhere. And now with my traveling show, RAGGED KINGDOM they will always feature, be it a large or small space. This has been exemplified with my collaborations with Navajo dancer Dennis Lee Rogers who provides a sense of ceremony and joy to our openings.

Tipi-RTH
IM: Lastly, in the light of all you have done: Ne Travaillez Jamais – please discuss!
REID: Well, our culture is geared towards enslavement, for us to perform pre-ordained functions, particularly in the workplace. I’ve always tried to encourage people to think about that and do something about it.

Ragged Kingdom: The Incomplete Works of Jamie Reid is at Galleria Civica di Modena September 12th 2014 to January 6th 2015

* These are the eight festivals which divide the Wheel Of The Year. Each has it’s own Druidic celebration, with occurences approximately every six weeks. These include solstices, equinoxes, and the four major points in the turning of the Wheel, (Autumn, Winter, Spring, & Summer).

Recommended reading –

Up They Rise – The Incomplete Works of Jamie Reid by Jamie Reid and Jon Savage (Faber and Faber 1987)

The Old Straight Track by Alfred Watkins (Abacus 1974)

The Wing of Madness : The Life and Work of R.D. Laing by Daniel Burston (Harvard University Press 1998)

www.jamiereid.org

www.eightfoldyear.org

www.isisgallery.org

www.isisgallerymagazine.org

 

 

Posted by: Philip Carr-Gomm | July 11, 2014

Stepping into Europe’s Last Old Growth Forest

An article by Jeremy Hance…

 

Wolves in Bialovieza Forest

Wolves in Bialovieza Forest

 

There is almost nothing left of Europe’s famed forests, those that provided for human communities for millennia and gave life to the world’s most famous fairytales. This doesn’t mean that there aren’t forests in Europe, far from it: approximately 35 percent of the EU is currently covered in forest. But almost all of this is either plantations or secondary growth, having been logged sometime in the last few hundred years and in many areas logged in the last couple decades. This is why, according to author and guide, Lukasz Mazurek, the Bialowieza Forest is so special: “You really feel here like you travelled back in time some hundreds or thousands of years.”

Straddling the border between Poland and Belarus, the Bialowieza Forest is Europe’s last lowland old-growth forest, parts of which have never been cut by man. The entire forest covers about 140,000 hectares, or around 15 percent the size of Yellowstone National Park. Here, trees are king: growing over 40 meters (over 130 feet) tall, some were saplings when Christopher Columbus was born.

Moreover, most of Europe’s forests are now bereft of their megafauna: bears, wolves, red deer, moose have all seen their ranges squeezed considerably in the last few centuries. Other species have vanished altogether: it’s hard to imagine that Europe’s forests used to include lions, hyenas, elephants, rhinos, and giant cattle known as aurochs, which only went extinct in the 17th Century.

But, in Bialowieza, says Mazurek, “The food chains are almost unbroken.” The forest is home to wolves, lynx, boar, elk, red deer, roe deer, and its most iconic animal, the European bison (Bison bonasus). This species, the biggest land mammal in Europe, went extinct in the wild in the 1920s, but has since made a remarkable come-back…to read more click here.

Posted by: Philip Carr-Gomm | July 9, 2014

The Tree of Awe

tree of awe
How does the part of the world leave the world? 
How does wetness leave water? 
Don’t try to put out a fire by throwing on 
more fire.  Don’t wash a wound with blood. 
No matter how fast you run, your shadow 
more than keeps up. Sometime it’s in front. 
Only full, overhead sun diminishes your shadow. 
But that shadow has been serving you. 
What hurts you blesses you. 
Darkness is your candle. 
Your boundaries are your quest. 
I can explain this, but it would break the glass cover 
on your heart, and there is no fixing that. 
You must have shadow and light source both. 
Listen, and lay your head under the tree of awe. 
When from that tree, feathers and wings 
sprout on your soul, be quieter than a dove. 
Don’t open your mouth for even a cooooo.
~ Rumi   (trans.Coleman Barks)
Posted by: Philip Carr-Gomm | July 7, 2014

The Ocean Cleanup

Check out this really interesting Crowd Funding project that is trying to tackle the enormous problem of plastics in our oceans. Here is a some information and a short video about the project from their Crowd Funding page. More details and how you can help can be found here.

The Reality
Millions of tons of plastic are polluting our oceans, killing at least one million seabirds and one hundred thousand marine mammals each year. Impacting human health and causing billions of dollars of economic damage.

We should of course close the tap, preventing any more plastic entering the oceans in the first phase. But this is not a solution to the plastics trapped and persisting in the centre of the oceans. However, a clean-up of our oceans has always been deemed impossible, costing billions of dollars and thousands of years.

On June 3rd 2014, Boyan and his team of 70 experts proved the concept feasible. But he now needs your help, to turn it into reality

The idea
When Boyan was 16 years old he went diving and saw more plastic bags than fish in the ocean. He wondered why there was no solution to clean things up. He wondered; why move through the oceans, if the oceans can move through you? Instead of wasting energy by going after the plastics, you could simply wait for the plastic to come to you. An array of floating barriers would first catch and concentrate the plastic, enabling a platform to efficiently extract this afterwards. The ocean current would pass underneath the barriers, taking all neutrally buoyant sea life with it, preventing by-catch.

Phase I: Feasibility Study
After the concept went viral in 2013, Boyan then founded The Ocean Cleanup foundation, and assembled a team that grew to about 100 people, with whom he started performing an extensive feasibility study.

The conclusion
On the 3rd of June 2014, The Ocean Cleanup presented the results of our extensive research. The 530-page feasibility study confirmed that the concept is indeed likely a feasible and viable method to remove almost half the plastic from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

Phase II: The Pilot Phase
To reduce the uncertainties, to optimize the design and to prepare for the actual implementation, The Ocean Cleanup now commences on the second phase of the project: the pilot phase.

Through a series of up-scaled tests, The Ocean Cleanup will work towards a large-scale and fully operational pilot in 3-4 years’ time. The series of tests will generate new data in a range of structural and physical topics. Furthermore, these up-scaling tests will serve as a platform for the engineering and oceanographic research groups, enabling them to immediately implement newly developed technology or testing equipment in a real-life environment.

The Strategy
To keep costs as low as possible, The Ocean Cleanup acts as a mission control centre in Phase II, managing the research, funding and communication. As Boyan Slat puts it, “It wouldn’t be very cost-efficient to try to build our own engineering company and oceanographic institute. Instead, we seek collaborations with existing parties, enabling us to focus on the bigger picture”.

Crowdfunding
We aim to raise two million USD in 100 days. It will enable us to execute more pilot tests, study the durability of the system, developing and deploying permanent sampling equipment in the gyre, optimize our vertical distribution research and to further develop and build our team.

This is where we need your support.
Two million US dollars will enable us to go from the feasibility phase to the implementation phase. We are looking for 322.062 people who are willing to support us with at least $6.21.

So join us in taking the next crucial steps towards cleaning our oceans.

 

Posted by: Philip Carr-Gomm | July 3, 2014

The Stone Age Didn’t End For Lack of Stones

Interesting article in the Guardian by Andrew Winston that might point to a glimmer of hope regarding oil rich countries embracing sustainable energy sources…

solar saudi

Oil-rich United Arab Emirates aims to be a sustainable energy pioneer

One of the world’s richest oil-based economies is embracing sustainable technologies, and making a surprise bid to become a clean energy leader…
Imagine if you and your extended family were digging in the backyard and found something valuable like, say, 10% of the world’s oil reserves. That’s the story of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), a small country with big assets and bigger ambitions.

UAE should be a powerful defender of the status quo on energy use. Denying climate change would also make tremendous sense. But this country is attempting a pivot of historic proportions, trying to build a oil-free future in the desert. UAE has become a major player in clean technologies, funding large-scale renewable energy projects around the world, and investing millions in fundamental research (in partnership with MIT) in energy, water, microelectronics, advanced materials, and transportation systems.

Earlier this year, I spent a few days in Abu Dhabi (on a press trip with travel paid for by the PR firm that represents Masdar and the UAE), attending the city’s annual World Future of Energy summit and spoke with key executives from the country’s clean energy business arm. In recent weeks, I was struck by the difference between the UAE’s approach and that of a similar sized entity, ExxonMobil. The oil company released a long statement on the risk of its oil and gas assets being “stranded” (that is, made worthless) by the world’s potential pivot away from fossil fuels.

Not surprisingly, Exxon said there was no real risk to its investors – it would burn all the fuel it has in reserve, climate change be damned, because a) the world’s poor and growing middle classes need energy and b) the world’s governments would not take strong enough policy action to seriously reduce carbon emissions. On the latter point, sadly, the company may be right. On the first, though, it was top-notch propaganda to conflate the need for energy to a need for their form of carbon-based energy. We can provide carbon-free energy to the world, with or without Exxon.

In comparison to Exxon’s backward-looking position, the UAE seems positively progressive on clean energy. At the Future of Energy Summit, UAE leaders announced a partnership with Denmark, and with Vestas Wind in particular, to tackle energy poverty in the developing world. The Wind for Prosperity project will offer carbon-free electricity to those who mostly use very expensive diesel generators for power. This partnership is only one example of the UAE’s strategy to help bring about a clean economy future, which, according to Bader Al Lamki, the director of Masdar Clean Energy, has two major elements… to read the whole article click here

Posted by: Philip Carr-Gomm | July 3, 2014

Break the Wineglass!

The poet Rumi, artist not known. From: www.famousauthors.org/rumi

The poet Rumi, artist not known. From: http://www.famousauthors.org/rumi

If you pop by this blog now and again you might not have seen it, but if you are a subscriber you will have got an email post from me a few days ago with Ronald Hutton’s talk in it. My wonderful assistant Maria put it up on the blog without realizing that I wouldn’t want it there, being the sort of self-effacing bloke that I am. So, when I saw it, 30 mins later, I took it down. We’ve already had the talk on the last Druidcast podcast and that’s enough I reckon, so my apologies!

Now for something inspiring!

It’s the old rule, that drunks have to argue and get into fights. The lover is just as bad. He falls into a hole, but down in that hole he finds something worth far more than money or power. Last night the moon came dropping her clothes in the street. I took it as a sign to start singing, falling up into that bowl of sky. The bowl breaks. Everywhere is falling everywhere. Nothing else to do. Here’s the new rule. Break the wineglass, and fall towards the glassblower’s breath.Rumi

 

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