See no people, hear no people, speak no people: the uncomfortable histories of your favourite national parks

Image licensed under Creative Commons, used with permission

Yosemite, 1869. John Muir, father of the modern conservation movement, writes with rapture of what he sees:

…the blue arctic daisy and purple-flowered  bryanthus, the mountain’s own darlings, gentle mountaineers face to face with the sky, kept safe by a thousand miracles, seeming always finer and purer the wilder and stormier their homes…

John Muir is credited by many as having begun the movement towards environmental conservation of some of the most beautiful places on Earth. Following his rapturous writings on Yosemite, in 1872 the area became the world’s first dedicated National Park. Many others have since followed globally, conservation stemming from a similar belief that places of “outstanding natural beauty”, biodiversity and spiritual value should be protected from the rampaging progression of industrial capitalism, saved by legal designation from becoming another high-rise or industrial estate. Muir’s environmentalism has influenced conservation and environmental ethics for centuries now, elevating values beyond profit and production, and cementing ideas of wild and wilderness in the psyche of modern-day Western civilisation.

Continue reading See no people, hear no people, speak no people: the uncomfortable histories of your favourite national parks

trail tales: there and (almost immediately) back again

It’s alright to “fail”.

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“I don’t think I can go on any further.”

We had paused to catch breath on a wooden bridge swung high over a gully. Ancient limestone cliffs dropped away beneath us and far below, the river swirled past on its path from summit to sea, carving and smoothing the rock that flanked it. We were half a day into our four-day hike.

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trail tales: silver peaks and the jubilee hut

Each step is a thousand subconscious decisions when you’re in the hills.

You weigh up the stability or otherwise of the ground before you, consider the position of your feet, your pace, your fatigue, the odd muscular twinges that you hope won’t turn into
anything more serious. You check whether the ground is wet or whether there are tree roots poking out or other trip hazards. You assess the gradient of the terrain. And then you place your foot. Half a breath later, or maybe a whole breath if it’s steep, you do the same thing again. And on it goes, until you reach your destination.

Continue reading trail tales: silver peaks and the jubilee hut

the bush is not dying – it is being killed

In a dark alcove of the Te Papa national museum in Wellington, a lament plays on. Across
the walls of this semi-hidden corner runs a list of unfamiliar names: huia; moa; kairuku. As you sound out the words in your head, the lament music builds and fills the alcove. This is the tribute to the extinct animals of New Zealand – and the list goes on.

Continue reading the bush is not dying – it is being killed

Aderonke Apata

Also published on I Am Not A Silent Poet.

A poem regarding this atrocity.

deskbased drones in whitehall’s depths
behind sheltered screens decree your fate
tell you your suffering hasn’t made the grade
that your fears of imprisonment and beatings are lies:
you’re a threat to our green and pleasant land.

high court judge and citizen’s jury
release press statements to decry you false
tell the public that danger lurks behind liberation
that your life is pretence and your story untrue;
guilt is assumed for people like you.

home office, bureaucrats, friends in high places
say that marriage and children is enough of a proof
to shatter your false foreign claims to be gay
of course nobody changes sexuality’s static;
your evidence means nothing to predecided conviction.

one woman’s attempt to take her own life
after mob raids, persecution, ptsd –
so easily negated with a proud rainbow flag
as government crows of equal marriage and rights
demanding allegiance as the queer’s new messiah.

because if a white gay man can be married on sunday
we forget laws are meaningless as long as they’re limited
“no justice! no peace!” is confined back to history.
stonewall was then; now you’re part of the system
and you’d better be quiet now they’ve given you rights.

on the in breath theresa may boasts her progression
on the out breath she’ll sign for your deportation
if you’re foreign – a woman – a queer – not white
you’re unseen and uncared for; careful unrecognition
if you attempt to speak up or tell of exclusion.

deskbased drones and highcourt judges
sit around ticking boxes and dare ask you for proof
like your sexuality is just academia,
peer-reviewed and white as an ivory tower.
your sex tapes are evidence: be degraded or deported.

Divestment: From South Africa to Fossil Fuels

Originally published in Post Magazine, ‘Potential Energy: The Politics of Energy in Scotland’ which is available to order here.

The global fossil fuel divestment movement has seen some important achievements over the past year. Universities in the USA, Sweden, New Zealand , the Marshall Islands and the United Kingdom have all committed to divestment; thirty-five cities across the world are divesting (in reality, this means the investments and pensions funds of public sector workers); over fifty religious institutions, including the World Council of Churches. have announced their divestment; and many other institutions have joined them – most notably, perhaps, the Rockefeller Foundation, whose very wealth was built upon the oil industry. The movement, comprised of local pressure groups but brought together globally under 350.org’s “Fossil Free” umbrella campaign, has successfully garnered the attention of big energy companies, with Exxon Mobil mobilising in October last year to publicly and strongly decry the campaign. The above, taken together, suggests that Fossil Free campaigners are not only making progress on the ground, but creating enough global attention that their hugely powerful targets have begun to twitch. All in all, the divestment movement enters 2015 looking stronger than ever.

But where can it go from here?

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Five environmental issues that will make headlines in 2015

(Originally published at Clarity News)

1. Fracking

Over the last year, fracking politics have entered mainstream political discourse in the UK. The Infrastructure Bill currently making its way through parliament has the potential to legally oblige the Government to extract all available oil and gas reserves in the country, which would necessarily include fracking. This has prompted widespread public outcry and the creation of numerous community groups to oppose widespread fracking across the country. A list of licenses for unconventional gas exploration given by the government is due to be released this year, and decisions from planning authorities, the UK and Scottish governments regarding the extent to which fracking and unconventional gas exploration will be allowed, will also be announced. This will shape the direction of energy politics in Britain for better or worse, and is worth keeping a close eye on.

Continue reading Five environmental issues that will make headlines in 2015