Phones and Weevils

Phones and Weevils

A &B are travelling together on the tube or bus. B is twiddling awkwardly with phone. They may get on and off trains, talking continually, animatedly, perhaps pacing platforms or escalators.

A: Posh phone. Is it new?

B: Yeah, it’s fancy isn’t it? I kind of like it and hate it at the same time. I don’t understand half of what it does. It was really confusing in the shop – so many handsets, I went in there just wanting something really simple and basic, and then I started thinking: Actually maybe I need a camera built in, oh and a touch screen would be lovely… but at the same time I was feeling how ugly it all was, ugly and banal, all the packaging, all the offers, all the gadgets, all the screens, all the insincere sales talk, to be honest it was making me feel all sweaty and sick. I had a flash of insight in the shop, I thought: Maybe I’ll just walk out of here without a phone, I’ll just give up the habit right now… but then I thought, I’ll be paying the bastards my tariff anyway for the next six months, and this is a nice thing, and I want it. So I got it.

A: And you need one really, don’t you? Wouldn’t it be sabotaging your life to try to get by without one?

B: I don’t know. I’m too scared to try. I wish I were more like those American Bolt Weevil activists in the 1970s. They were farmers whose land was being compulsorily bought by power companies to build a massive new power line across the States. They systematically sabotaged new pylons and power equipment and delayed the construction process for years. I read an activist book that said we should all be dismantling phone masts to save bees and migratory birds from electromagnetic pollution. The idea is that you would just go around with a spanner in your pocket waiting for the right moment to unscrew a few strategic bolts and wait for a strong breeze to bring the tower down. But I got a new phone instead. I’m pathetic.

A: To be fair, things have moved on since the 70s. We all want mobile phones…. I just watched a trailer for a new film made by a tribe from the Colombian rainforest. They’ve made this film to warn us about how we’re killing the Earth – they want to show us that it is possible to live in harmony with the rest of nature. They’ve just been in England to promote it. They’ll probably get chickenpox now or something.

B: Don’t be horrible! Wouldn’t it be great to go out there and learn to live sustainably like them? I really fancy that. But that would mean flying there, which would kind of negate any benefits.

A: And it’s warm in the rainforest, isn’t it? I mean, the sheer effort involved in keeping warm through a winter in northern Europe would be a full time job without fossil fuels.

B: Yes, I wonder what it would be like if the power stations ran out of power in the winter and we had to get by without heating and cookers. It would re-shape society.

A: We wouldn’t have time to go the office anymore.

B: We’d all be fighting over firewood –

A: – Farmers with shotguns would be fending people off their woodland.

B: It would change the way you look at things – you would gather sticks, you’d go out of the town more. It would be a much more effective way of changing lifestyles than any environmental protest. Adapt or freeze.

A: People would start chain-sawing down the trees in the parks. Imagine Hyde Park post-peak oil: just loads of stumps of ancient oaks. Yes, fuck the ancient oaks when it comes to them versus us, we’d burn every twig.

B: Or would armed police surround them with tanks and razor wire and protect them with machine guns?

A: …Machine-gun us down as we set out snares for squirrels and birdlime to catch pigeons.
[They laugh]
…But what would happen to our values if we couldn’t rely on oil anymore? It’s amazing how much energy is locked up in a drop of oil, compared with any form of renewable energy. We’ve grown completely used to basing all our expectations and habits on the availability of this unbelievably rich substance. Imagine future archaeologists in 31st century digging through landfill and finding disposable nappies, wondering what kind of a society would take babies’ poo and wrap it up in plastic and toxic chemicals and bury it. I think they would consider it an insane culture. I hope they would.

B: I think it would be great, people would adapt, they’d find creative ways of surviving. Right now most of us live in fear of these perceived horrors – what if there was no more food on the supermarket shelves? What if the tubes stopped running? What if the phones went dead? We have this learned dependency, this terror of the lights going out. I wonder which survival instincts are hard-wired into our animal brains, and which would take longer to learn.

A: By burning fossil fuels we are unleashing all these terrifying changes that threaten everything familiar to us. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry when I think about how we won’t collectively stop using fossil fuels until we are absolutely forced to . Part of me can’t wait for the oil to run out. I don’t think we can give up the addiction until we have no choice at all.

B: I read recently that all the UN intergovernmental climate convention process over the last two decades has achieved nothing at all in terms of reduced carbon dioxide emissions.

A: Just look at my own life as an example: I have a little girl and I work miles from home so I have to drive, even though I hate it. When I think deeply about it I feel bad feelings – threatening, frightening feelings like despair and panic, like futility and self-loathing… I freak out and tremble and shout at the grotesque inadequacy of all our political responses, and of my own compromised position and weakness. It makes me want to curl up into a ball. And then – and then – I find myself walking down the high street looking in shop windows at pretty things and wanting to make myself feel better by buying something…

B: Like this phone. I feel really bad about this phone.

A: Well maybe you could use it to promote radical political protests or something. What’s it called – tweeting? Like the pro-democracy activists did in Iran last year. Come on, we can do better than despair. I love the sound of those Bolt Weevils. I love people who tie themselves to trees and whaling ships. I wish I could do that. If I didn’t have a child I would like to go out there and do some crazy stunts. Maybe I should take her with me and do them anyway, as an antidote to despair.

B: Despair can never be the endpoint… Isn’t there a theory that there are five stages of grief? Denial, anger, bargaining, despair and acceptance. Then what? What does acceptance mean for an activist?

A: I guess it would mean… accepting that the planet is being killed.

B: But then how would you carry on, if you have accepted that the planet is being killed? Isn’t that like accepting that someone is in the process of being murdered? It would make you completely sick.

A: You’re right – you could never morally accept that. It’s a process, not a fait accompli. Fuck acceptance. Bring on the Bolt Weevils, and the climate suffragettes.

B: Yes. There is something about direct action that inspires hope. Not hope that international processes will work, or that governments will do the right thing ecologically. But hope in people’s resilience and creativity, and their ability to learn and take risks.

A: Yet we lower our eyes, and get on with the business of surviving in this society-

B: – Buying the phones, sending the texts – accepting the cognitive dissonance that you have to endure when you are enduring incompatible versions of reality.

A: Is this actually primarily a moral problem? After all, who, really, wants to kill the planet? Look at America – we bang on about them, and yet as individuals they are all tied into this system of exaggerated oil dependency by living in a country with virtually no public transport. And China, we moan about them building coal power stations, but they use that power to run factories that export the products we demand to see in our shops. If I lived in America or China I would be moulded – and constrained – by the imperatives of my culture, just as I am here –

B: – Just as you would be if you lived in the Maldives –

A: – Yes…These giant economic and cultural machines seem to pit me caring for my family against me caring for families far away. Maybe we should try to empathise with each other more and be less judgemental.

B: I love the idea of empathy. Empathy and gratitude. My theory is that wherever we are, we all depend on the land, and we should be more grateful. When did we stop being grateful? We should say thank you to the trees, and the animals, and the weather, and the soil. We should go outside and thank them, and listen to what they say in reply.

A: Try making that a policy proposal for the UNFCCC or the Prime Minister. [They laugh again.]

B [referring to phone]: I think I’m going to take this back, and get a reconditioned one.

A: Go on, I dare you. I’ll get you a spanner for Christmas.

B: Get one for your little girl!

Persephone Pearl October 2010

Published in: on October 5, 2010 at 7:29 pm  Leave a Comment  

Goldenseal (from wikipedia)

Goldenseal (Orange-root, Orangeroot; Hydrastis canadensis) is a perennial herb in the buttercup family Ranunculaceae, native to southeastern Canada and the northeastern United States. It may be distinguished by its thick, yellow knotted rootstock. The stem is purplish and hairy above ground and yellow below ground where it connects to the yellow rhizome. The plant bears two palmate, hairy leaves with 5–7 double-toothed lobes and single, small, inconspicuous flowers with greenish white stamens in the late spring. It bears a single berry like a large raspberry with 10–30 seeds in the summer.[2]

Goldenseal has been ascribed the following herbal properties (whole herb): bitter, hepatic, alterative, anticatarrhal, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, laxative, emmenagogue, and oxytocic.[3]

Goldenseal is in serious danger due to overharvesting. Goldenseal became popular in the mid-nineteenth century. By 1905, the herb was much less plentiful, partially due to overharvesting and partially to habitat destruction. Wild goldenseal is now so rare that the herb is listed in the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES)[26] goldenseal is one of the most overharvested herbs. More than 60 million goldenseal plants are picked each year without being replaced.[27] The process of mountain top removal mining has recently put the wild goldenseal population at major risk due to loss of habitat, illegality of removing goldenseal for transplant without registration while destruction in the process of removing the mountain top is permitted, and increased economic pressure on stands outside of the removal area.[28]

There are several berberine-containing plants that can serve as useful alternatives, including Chinese coptis, yellowroot, or Oregon grape root.[29] Many herbalists urge caution in choosing products containing goldenseal, as they may have been harvested in an unsustainable manner as opposed to having been organically cultivated.

Published in: on September 3, 2010 at 8:30 am  Leave a Comment  

endangered cultures

Phil Borges quoting MIT linguist Ken Hale:

” Of the 6000 languages spoken on earth right now, 3000 are not spoken by the children. So, in one generation we are going to halve our cultural diversity. Every two weeks an elder goes to the grave, carrying the last spoken word of that culture. So an entire philosophy – a body of knowledge about the natural world that had been empirically gleaned over centuries – goes away. And this happens every two weeks.”

Published in: on September 2, 2010 at 4:50 pm  Comments (1)  

Paradise Lost

The death of the last Paradise Parrot

by Sarah Thorne

It is dawn, and the soft, milky light of a newborn morning gently rocks the forest awake. The birds are first to stir. Their songs peel away the early mist like a blanket and conduct the forest to an impatient crescendo. Scurrying paws soon crack and snap through leaves and dead wood and insects splash loudly in their pollen-baths. Seeds explode into fruits in time with a deafening cicada chorus and the forest’s animals shout and scream through the thickening air to make themselves heard.

But the Paradise Parrot hears nothing. He sits alone, pressed thin against the sides of his bare ground-nest, and his is now a silent world. He is dying, and his sense are dead already.

How different it used to be. His song was once the first to fill the forest with the breath of morning, taking centre stage in an ages-old chorus, and his rainbow wings would mirror the first light to the dark forest beneath him as he darted and flashed through the trees in celebration of the new day.

He had grown with this forest over thousands of years and generations. He had come to know every one of its plants and animals and physical elements at the deepest of levels, and his relationship with them was so intimate and so instinctive that it was not possible to speak of bird and environment as separate, but rather as continuous in energy and spirit.

He was this place. He knew the intention of the rain from the way it fell on the grass-blades sheltering his nest, and could feel danger vibrating through them the instant a distant foe took a first step. He could glide on a pre-empted breath of wind to a seed that flashed its ripeness to him like a beacon, navigating through the tall trees by feeling – not seeing – them.

But this is now a distant memory. The change when it came was swift and brutal. Overnight, it felt to him, the very fabric of the forest had been ripped apart. Its structure had changed beyond all recognition, its familiar plants and animals faded and disappeared, and even the elements seemed to change their mood. And each time a part of his world was taken away, he lost a connection, a meaning, a piece of himself.

The new and unknown took the place of the familiar and the intrinsic in the forest. But his senses were so sensitively attuned to the subtle nuances of life in the forest he had known that it was as if he was blind and deaf and dumb to the newness that now spread around him like wildfire. A plant whose form he could not recognise and whose seeds were hidden to him; an animal whose attack-cry he did not know; a bird that did not recognise his call; a breeze that no longer sang to him of the coming rain.

The vibrant, pulsating canvas of the forest – of his spirit, his experience and his existence – was in one stroke painted over with the blankness of a newness that had come too quickly for him to understand. It was a fatal blow.

He began to close down. Nothing could be instinctive in this new canvas of the unknown, and every basic action drained him. His flight became painfully slow and deliberate, and so he stopped flying. He learnt that the forest no longer recognised his song, and so he stopped singing. His senses gave up the struggle to find meaning in the blankness, and so his world became black and silent and still, his sensory input limited to the hunger devouring him and the deep ache in his soul.

And so here he sits; the last Paradise Parrot. The once radiant mirrors of orange and turquoise, of scarlet, aqua and brown that streaked down his wings are so dull now that they reflect no light, only pain. He does not know how long he has been sitting here, but he knows that it will not be for much longer.

Suddenly, unexpectedly, he feels something stir inside of him, something he has not felt for a very long time. It is a memory, a spark of life-energy that trickles almost imperceptibly through his lifeless body. And like a single drop of water that falls on the tongue of a man dying of thirst, it gives him the sweet taste of hope.

He knows in this moment that he must try one last time to stretch his withered wings and search for something familiar in his dead world. Without hesitation he makes the jump from his nest out into the unknown and his wings painfully rise and fall in uncertain half-flight as he skirts low over ground that seems to hold no solidity to him.

Out of the misty corner of one eye, he makes out the blurred and familiar outline of a seed a short way in front of him. He feels a little more energy pulse through his wings with relief and joy and the tall grass beneath him waves in sympathy with their shaky plight.

Slowly, falteringly, he moves closer and closer to the seed. It appears so huge in front of him now that it obscures the sun behind it, and his world once again goes dark. He can feel his energy leaving him too, and cries out one final, futile, beautiful song that is reflected back to him by the forest as the silent echo of time. The beating of his wings grows slower and slower and slower. The seed is so close, but he cannot reach it. His spent wings miss a beat and he falls to the ground with a mighty thud at the foot of the stem that bears it, his rainbow wings crumpled beneath him.

The seed that almost saved him is shaken from its ancient grass-flower and hits the ground next to him with fury and with rage. The Paradise Parrot is dead.

Published in: on July 28, 2010 at 10:37 pm  Leave a Comment  

Eulogy to Bombus Franklin bumble bee Extinct 2009

Bombus Franklin, you were mostly all black, unlike other bumble bees. Your death as a subspecies was so sudden we had no time to say goodbye.

So sad, so sad.

Beautiful black yellow, we will miss your flower kiss.

There are other breeds like you but none that are you.

In 1998 you were all over North America. By 1999, you were beginning to disappear. Only three of you were seen in 2003. You were killed by us humans – we brought in alien bees for commercial tomato production and they carried the parasites that killed you. You see, we wanted to make money – honey is an industry that is worth billions of dollars.  We went crazy. We bred other bees – sent them to Belgium and back to greenhouses near you in America Our honey bees were used and replaced like objects. Some of them escaped and infected you. We are so sorry for our crazy people and for all the ways we might have been a part of your death. And we feel scared because other bee breeds are going, and Einstein said that if bees die out then humans will be gone four years later.

You see, we need you bees, our lives depend on you.

You are gone and there are none that are you. We didn’t know you while you were alive but we miss you anyway. Maybe your loss will teach us something and serve as a warning – maybee.

All our love Rachel and Luc (5)

Published in: on July 28, 2010 at 10:36 pm  Leave a Comment  


Not even on prime time tv

But on the minority interest channel

I saw a scientist break open the heart of a mammoth

‘It is very rare’ he said

‘There are only two in existence’

We were never told if

The other mammoth’s heart

Had yet been broken

by Henry Normal

Published in: on July 28, 2010 at 10:34 pm  Leave a Comment  

Eulogy Song for the Hawaiian Po’ouli


a human in a city in the


wants to think about

a little bird


oh po’ouli


oh oh po’ouli



oh oh po’ouli


we found you in the 70’s

and brought your species to its knees

po ouli


oh oh pouli


you are a lonely bird

you are the only bird

with that kind of bone structure


we knew you

we knew you

we knew knew knew you

we knew you

we knew you

we knew knew knew you

now you’re gone

Katie Shook

Published in: on July 28, 2010 at 10:31 pm  Leave a Comment  

Eulogy to The Essex Emerald Moth


Whereabouts: unknown. Last seen in an Essex estuary, 1991. No record since.

Description: Small, green and furry. Wingspan: 35 mm. Well- camouflaged so vulnerable.

If sighted please contact me.

I miss it.

Sarah Munroe

Published in: on July 28, 2010 at 10:31 pm  Leave a Comment  

Extinction song

by Deborah Grayson

The holly and the ivy

When they are both full grown

Find themselves in poorer woods

Than their forebears will have known

The humble Scottish crossbill

In highlands far too warm

Sets to the north to seek the cold

But solace finds there none

Now the King Protea

Is withering on the stalk

What will Azania think of us

When their flower grows no more?

Virola sebifera

The giant of Brazil

When our children walk in future woods

Will it tower o’er us still?

Red grouse and ring ouzals

Boyd’s forest dragon

And the checkerspot Bay butterfly

will all soon be gone

The white lemuroid possum

Is gone from its domain

And the Panamanian golden frog

will never spawn again

Published in: on July 28, 2010 at 10:29 pm  Leave a Comment  

Eulogy to the Great Auk

by Angela Pell

The animals went in two by two. But not you. Not now.

No colourful children’s picture book will portray you. No funny cartoon. Maisy Mouse will never meet you.

Your name will never be uttered with delight as a four year old points at you in their Animals of the World Puzzle. There’s a gap where you should be.

You cannot buy a Great Auk from the Early Learning Centre.

So…  the Tiger will have to continue To Go to Tea. Alone.

And you will never visit Pingu….  despite the fact that with your patched eye – you could pass for a ‘bossy-distant -pirate-relative-come- to- visit… who-teaches- his nephew-how to-find treasure’.

Your beauty and majesty are lost. Long gone.

No Youtube clips of you will ever exist.

No one will snap you with their mobile phone.

The Great Auk is gone. Plundered. Eaten out of existence. Rubbed out like a drawing gone wrong.

Published in: on July 28, 2010 at 10:27 pm  Leave a Comment