Ecology is a branch of biology that explores the relationship between organisms to one another and to their physical surroundings. Psycho-spiritual is the aspect of humanity that relates to our inner world, specifically feelings and character and how they interacts with how we think. Put the two together and you can develop an understanding of how every interaction between every living thing in the environment around you, can impact on your inner world and how your mind thinks. When we nurture the environment around us, we begin to deepen our awareness of who we are, our place in the world and the potential love we can create. My writing is about our psycho-spiritual relationship with everything (and I mean everything) to do with the environment and how we can hopefully overcome this moment in time and the challenges ahead. Each week I will have a different theme of current issues relating to the psycho-spiritual aspect of the environment and how collectively we can overcome one of the most challenging situations our culture has ever experienced.
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Political Ecology can be defined as the politics of the environment which incorporates many disciplines including geography, anthropology, sociology, development studies and environmental history. It emphasises the relationship between politics, economics and nature.
There are five main fields within Political Ecology which make it one of the most complex doctrines in relation to the environment. My interests are with the human subject, identity, political objects, conflict and exclusion which collectively fall under the term of environmental justice. I am particularly interested in consumption and the individual and how mind sets and culture feed into the excessive rate of consumption in the ‘free world’, especially my own culture.
The recent media coverage on single use plastic waste can be used as evidence of an attempt to change consumer mind sets on their patterns of consumption. I’m not convinced this will be enough as images of a polluted oceans dominate our televisions screens. My fear is this will be counter productive. What is needed is the beauty that is at threat of destruction, not just in our oceans but our forests too, the clean air we need breathe and the water that is a human right. A recent news report of a young girl who walked to school on the south circular (one of London’s busiest roads), who died from an asthma attack is a stark reminder of how dirty our air really is.
In culture there are numerous aspects of existence. The family you are born into becomes an arena where you do things because your parents did. The land you are born on determines your experience of weather. I was born in England so the weather has been and always will be important to me. I do not possess an umbrella or wellington boots but I have a waterproof coat that doesn’t have a hood and my walking boots protect me from all weathers. There are “other” cultures in this world that won’t even have a word for objects such as an umbrella or wellingtons. Their way of life will allow the rain to fall onto their face, they will the feel coldness of the water as it falls from the sky. And as they run through the forest they will feel the mud squelch between their toes.
I love walking on the wet grass in the morning, word has that if you walk barefoot on the grass on the summer solstice you’ll see a faerie. Not everyone in my culture knows that. Not everyone in my culture knows how connected they are to the wildness of the trees around them or the air they breath, the water they drink. When bleach is poured down the toilet, after one flush it disappears, gone, out of sight. Do you ever think about the chemical composition and its potential affects on you and your family’s health? I know its a drastic thought but we live in drastic times. I refuse to scare people into changing their consumption habits but change needs to be on the horizon of the beautiful sunset you last saw. As trees sway gently through suburbia or along the country lane you find yourself on on your way home, think of those who allow the mud to squelch through their toes and think of their social status within the culture they live. Consumption in the culture I was born into plays a significant role in the hierarchy of society. Consumption has become a social norm and we need to begin to think about it differently if we are to rescue the clean air we breathe.
Edward Bernays, the pioneer of public relations used the work of Sigmund Freud to enhance our consumption habits in a post war world. He used the unconscious processes of the Self, using the individuals unaware inner world to ground capitalism into the culture of western civilisation. The consumers obsession to purchase “things”, allows the individual to attach a part of their Self, their inner world, to an external object that portrays a deeper meaning of being human. Our consumption habits don’t have any moral judgement attached to them, just a whirlpool of semiotics, signifiers and signified. The designer jeans you wear can say a lot about your social status, the car you drive, the watch you tell the time with, they are all signifiers for the image you want to portray about your inner world. All attached to the culture you was born into.
Whether the jeans you bought were £500, £50 or £15, in their production they have all used the same amount of water and CO2 emissions and they was probably all made in the same factory that exploited the workers who made them by paying them an exploitative salary. Progress is currently measured by going from being paid $2 a day to $3 a day. Capitalism is a global system that doesn’t operate within a global framework, there are no global rules, only consumption habits that don’t take morality into consideration. Whatever you paid for your jeans, you have taken something from the Earth and it’s now time consumers began thinking about how this may impact on the aesthetically pleasing aspects of planet Earth. My life is humble and I have many things to be grateful for. The clean air I breathe, the blue sky with the sun shining brightly through my window and the clean water I drink are the moments in life I have gratitude for. I hope these moments will continue to be there for my grand children and their children. There will be a shift in our consumption culture but it will take time to undo what capitalism has spent 400 years creating. Consumers will be forced to question the global market we currently live in and how sustainable it really is?
Change won’t happen over night and promoting a shift in our sense of Self from the external “things”we buy to an inner journey of self exploration will take some kind of esoteric transformation. Connecting with our higher self without consumption will take a spiritual shift in consciousness. Social status will no longer be determined by the car we drive or watch we purchase but by our connectedness to that which cannot be seen. Questioning our connection to that which is beyond this Earth will one day become a social norm. Accepting the interconnectedness between human and environment is essential to overcoming the chaos that planet Earth has found itself in. So, step back from consumerism, breathe and let go of everything material and see where your journey will take you.
This photograph was taken in 1994 on a Pentax Asahi, 35mm SLR. Morgan Stanley, Credit Suisse First Boston, HSBC, Citigroup and the FSA had been occupying the Wharf for only three years. Thatchers Needle (as it was known then) stands alone at this moment in time. The Wharf dominates the skyline and those who live in poverty on the other side of the river cannot be seen. The river Thames is a metaphor for the divide between the rich and the poor that exists within global society and throughout South East London.
As English society continues to meander its way through the process of globalisation, how globally aware will our children become. In my late adolescence thinking beyond my back garden I only got as far as St Paul’s Cathedral and the Post Office Tower. Communication is now more fragmented than ever and the time my children spend on their phones or tablets is used viewing films they are interested in. Make up videos, slime films and epic fails are a few of the YouTube videos I see played by the young people in my home. They can filter out the media content they have no interest in and like most of us, they do. Knowledge is everywhere and it’s going to transform the global world we live in.
When I began my anthropology degree in 1997, globalisation extended my world beyond London and suddenly I was aware of far off distant tribes in places I’d never dreamed of such as Papau New Guinea. I was being transformed into a colonial apologist and my eyes were opening to the Imperial history of the country and culture I was born into. I couldn’t get my head around most of the knowledge I was trying to gain including the communist manifesto but a lecture on Karl Marx ignited something within me and I my inspiration came from the anti-capitalist movement, dependency theory and the world system movement. My perspective of the world continued to develop and I found myself challenging the society I lived in. The inequalities and injustices that exist throughout the world have been on my mind for a while now and this is my space to have that freedom of expression. This is my time to be my articulate self and hopefully highlight some of the global inequalities that exist within this world. We are no longer governed by politicians, corporate greed has a hold on each and everyone of us and I hope for my children to grow in a world that will one day be at peace with itself.
I grew in the hilly, leafy suburbs of South East London where trees scattered through the high rises and Victorian homes. Up high the London skyline lingered with St Paul’s and the Post Office Tower dominating the horizon. It was a time when petrol was leaded and rosewood and mahogany furniture filled my parents home. The world was small, London was less developed and I didn’t think about my future, let alone the children I would one day give birth to.
That was in the 1970’s, 80’s and 90’s. My home now is very different to my parents and most likely very different to most of the middle classes, especially those who drive their Discovery Land Rovers. I am conscientious of my material, land, carbon and water footprint, unlike my parents but probably like my grandparents.
As a consumer my greatest dilemma in the philosophy of sustainable consumption is that it feels unclear whose role it is to ensure that the limited resources on our planet are used with the care and understanding that the air we breath, the water we drink and materials we extract from the earth are finite.
Capturing carbon is virtually non-existent in the square mile of the City, with a few trees fighting for survival between the concrete and paving slabs. The main roundabout at Elephant and Castle in South East London has a brick wall dedicated to carbon capture but it is the only wall I’ve noticed. London’s ability to clean the air we breath is stuck in the Victorian era where horse drawn carriages once transported people.
There are few water fountains too, my thirsty self always ends up with a new plastic bottle of water to quench my thirst, part of our throw-away culture where it will end up in a land fill or depending on the London borough your in, will be recycled. I’m always mindful of the fact that the bottle has been created from the resources of Earth. I struggle with buying a bottle of water.
This blog is a record of my life, living in a culture that struggles to live sustainably. It’s a micro analysis of how I try my hardest to preserve the limited resources of planet Earth. I have rejected greed and made lots of sacrifices in my life to be a responsible consumer in the hope that corporate greed will one day realise that although humanity is, at the moment infinite, the resources of this planet are not. I hope you enjoy this journey with me.
In May 2014 The Independent newspaper were the first to report on the micro-bead ban. In November 2014 I took to the shops to find out which facial products contained the little blighters using the Beat the Micro-bead App. The products to my left are a breath of fresh air to the sustainable consumption movement as in 2014 they contained micro-beads. Today, I’m happy to announce they don’t. For a more comprehensive list of products containing micro-beads, you can either download the Beat the Micro-bead App or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
As an advocate for everything natural I think it’s important to recognise that I don’t use exfoliating products. Superdrug sell facial sponges that will remove any excess skin from your face, you just need to use it with a facial soap. If you wanted to really think about your material footprint, you could always use the skin buffer with organic, unrefined coconut oil which I also use as a cleanser. And for convenience you can purchase this in your local supermarket. It can be found with all the other cooking oils rather than in the beauty section. Supermarkets haven’t cottoned on yet to the fact that it’s also a beauty product.
This film is my attempt at mitigating climate change. On my six mile hike across the North Downs I came across this forest and I filmed my journey through it. I began thinking how the trees capture the carbon from earth’s atmosphere, with the M25 in the not far off distance. My life is busy and I dashed through this wooded area. Next time I will move slowly. This was the first time I’ve filmed in a wood and it won’t be the last.
Trees are the greatest technological resolution to reducing carbon emissons. I’d like to say, surround your home with them, so they may cleanse the air that you breathe. Don’t leave it up to someone else to rescue you from Earth’s changing climate, be proactive and lets keep the fate of humanity moving.
This was one of those hair raising moments that could quite easily replace retail therapy. I could have quite happily followed that bumble bee all day, all week even. It was a moment where nothing else mattered, the world was at peace with itself and bees will live forever.
As it flew away I felt abandoned, I wanted to scream “come back here”. But I didn’t for fear of looking crazed. It had gone, forever and I was left with a nice piece of cinematography that I will cherish forever and ever.
The reality is, humanity is not at peace with itself and bees existence is very much in danger. For a moment in time the bee which I am forever grateful to, fed my inner world, my existence was meaningful with purpose. I didn’t need to suffice my inner desires with consumption, nature did it for me, the best therapeutic moment I’d had in ages and I didn’t need to spend a penny. Possessions please, the poppy was my possession, I’d grown it in my garden. I’d planted the seeds, watered them and watched them grow. I didn’t need retail therapy because I was feeding my soul with the buzz of a bumble bee.
When I joined the University of East Anglia, on a master of science in international development and water security, I had left behind me, three years of studying to become a psychotherapist. My psychological interest in the earth, led me there. I wanted to understand humans geopolitical and economic relationship with our planet. After a year of studying, my mind felt more confused and left university not really knowing how I could apply all the knowledge I had gained.
The one certainty I left with was the integral relationship between our psyche and capitalism and the environment and our economy. Ecotherapy is a tool that has the potential to develop a new relationship which can bring together our psyche and our environment and reject aspects of capitalism and the economy. I am not an anti-capitalist, I do however take a political ecology approach to the environment and believe there are many unnecessary inequalities that exist globally. These inequalities need to be acknowledged and understood if we are to resolve the issue of climate change. A political ecologist will question everything and believe nothing. For example, I recently highlighted on Twitter the relationship between the luxury leather business and deforestation in the Amazon. Greenpeace ensured me they were happy to speak about their climate and agriculture campaigns and confirmed they receive no corporate donations. Another contentious issue is the chocolate industry and the inequality between the amount of money made by the farmers and the amount made by those who import the chocolate into the West. I will explore this further in another post. I am sickened by the divide between the rich and the poor. I am neither rich nor poor, just a humble individual trying to preserve this planet for my grand-children and their children.
I graduated in 2013, since then I have been attempting to reconnect with my earth. I have been a conscientious consumer, purchasing second hand where I can. I’ve thought about the chemicals I use to clean with and I have attempted to not pollute my waste water. I have an allotment which is rich in alluvial soil, here I grow my own vegetables and fruit. I make my own aromatherapy products too which has given me a great sense of connection to my ancient past.
For me, ecotherapy is about discovering aspects of our self through our connection with our natural environment. Trees and their roots, fungi, grass, mountain ranges, plants, flowers, bees, they can all help us to find our self in a chaotic world that sometimes, we have no control over. Being in an ancient forest gives me a space to feel at home in when I am feeling unloved in the world. Stay with me on this journey. I’m not here to make money, just share my experiences of the natural world, my inner self and how I understand the chaotic world we live in.