Tag: UNESCO

A love for the wild!

Why can’t we leave nature to do what’s best for our world!

Now, I would be the first to ‘tut-tut’ a little over my sub-heading. For here I am sitting in front of a computer in a room in a reasonably-sized home that undoubtedly has denuded the natural world formerly underneath the present foundations.

Thirteen acres orientated West-East.

Plus, as the property boundary shown on the above picture confirms, about 50% of our acreage is no longer wilderness.

Ergo, it is impossible for humans to live on this planet without there being consequences that conflict with the natural order of the wild.

But homes to live in are one thing. A planned madness for the Lake District in Northern England is another thing altogether.

Read this latest essay from George Monbiot, republished with Mr. Monbiot’s kind permission.

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Fell Purpose

The attempt to turn the Lake District into a World Heritage site would be a disaster

By George Monbiot, published in the Guardian 9th May 2017

If this bid for power succeeds, the consequences for Britain will be irreversible. It will privilege special interests over the public good, shut out the voices of opposition and damage the fabric of the nation, perhaps indefinitely. No, I’m not writing about the election.

In the next few weeks Unesco, the UN’s cultural organisation, will decide whether or not to grant World Heritage status to the Lake District. Once the decision is made, it is effectively irreversible.

Shouldn’t we be proud that this grand scenery, that plays such a prominent role in our perceptions of nationhood, will achieve official global recognition? On the contrary, we should raise our voices against it. World Heritage status would lock the Lake District into its current, shocking state, ensuring that recovery becomes almost impossible.

Stand back from the fells and valleys and try to judge this vista as you would a landscape in any other part of the world. What you will see is the great damage farming has inflicted: wet deserts grazed down to turf and rock; erosion gullies from which piles of stones spill; woods in which no new trees have grown for 80 years, as every seedling has been nibbled out by sheep; dredged and canalised rivers, empty of wildlife and dangerous to the people living downstream; tracts of bare mountainside on which every spring is a silent one. Anyone with ecological knowledge should recoil from this scene.

This photo was used as the frontispiece of the “State of Conservation” section of the bid documents. It is meant to show how beautiful the fells are. If we saw it anywhere else, we would recognise it as an environmental disaster.

The documents supporting the bid for world heritage status are lavishly illustrated with photos, that inadvertently reveal what has happened to the national park. But this slow-burning disaster goes almost unmentioned in the text. On the contrary, the bid repeatedly claims that the park is in “good physical condition”, and that the relationship between grazing and wildlife is “harmonious”. Only on page 535, buried in a table, is the reality acknowledged: 75% of the sites that are meant to be protected for nature are in “unfavourable condition”.

This is another photo from the bid document, showing St John’s Beck in Thirlmere. The beck is notorious for its flashy response to rainfall – rising dangerously fast. It’s not hard to see why. As the photo shows, it has been dredged and canalised on behalf of the farmers in the valley, and now contains almost no natural features that can slow the flow.

This great national property has degenerated into a sheepwrecked wasteland. And the national park partnership, that submitted the bid, wants to keep it this way: this is the explicit purpose of its attempt to achieve world heritage status. It wants to preserve the Lake District as a “cultural landscape”. But whose culture? Whose landscape? There are only 1080 remaining farms in the district. Should the entire national park be managed for their benefit? If so, why? The question isn’t raised, let alone answered.

I can see the value and beauty of the traditional shepherding culture in the Lake District. I can also see that the farming there, reliant on subsidies, quad bikes and steel barns, now bears little relationship to traditional practice. As the size of landholdings has increased, it looks ever more like ranching and ever less like the old system the bid describes. The bid’s claim that farming there is “wholly authentic in terms of … its traditions, techniques and management systems” is neither intelligible nor true. Remnants of the old shepherding culture tend to be represented ceremonially, as its customs are mostly disconnected from the farm economy.

Shepherding is not the only cultural legacy in play. The other is that the Lake District is the birthplace of the modern conservation movement. Inspired by the Picturesque and Romantic movements, much of our environmental ethic and the groups representing it, such as the National Trust, originated here. Attempts to preserve natural beauty in the district began in the mid-18th century, with complaints against the felling of trees around Derwent Water. Today, the national park cares so little for this legacy that, as the bid admits, “there are no data available” on the condition of the Lake District’s woodlands.

The small group favoured by this bid sees environmental protection as anathema. Farmers’ organisations in the Lake District have fought tooth and nail against conservation measures. They revile the National Trust and the RSPB, whose mild efforts to protect the land from overgrazing are, with the help of a lazy and compliant media, treated like bubonic plague. As one of these farming groups exults, world heritage status “gives us a powerful weapon” that they can wield against those who seek to limit their impacts. If the plan is approved, this world heritage site would be a 230,000-hectare monument to overgrazing and ecological destruction.

30 years ago, this was a bare sheep pasture (with a couple of seeding birch trees). This is a photo I took (with my failing phone) on a hill elsewhere in Britain. It gives an idea of what parts of the Lake District fells could look like if they were allowed to recover.

This is not the only sense in which the bid is unsustainable. Nowhere in its 700 pages is Brexit mentioned. It was obviously written before the referendum, and has not been updated. Yet the entire vision relies, as the bid admits, on the economic viability of the farming system, which depends in turn on subsidies from the European Union.

Without these payments, there would be no sheep farming in the Lake District: it operates at a major loss. European subsidies counteract this loss, delivering an average net farm income of £9,600. Unsurprisingly, people are leaving the industry in droves: the number of farms in the national park is declining by 2% a year. And this is before the payments cease.

What is the national park partnership, that prepared this bid, going to do – march people onto the fells at gunpoint and demand they continue farming? Or does it hope that the government, amid the massacre of public investment that will follow Brexit, will not only match but exceed the £3bn of public money currently being passed to UK farmers by the European Union? Your guess is as good as mine. This omission alone should disqualify the bid.

The failure to mention this fatal issue looks to me like one of many attempts to pull the Herdwick wool over Unesco’s eyes. The entire bid is based on a fairy tale, a pretence that the rural economy of the Lake District hasn’t changed for 200 years. If Unesco grants world heritage status on these grounds, it will inflict irreparable harm on both our natural heritage and its own good standing.

The hills, whose clothes so many profess to admire, are naked. The narrative we are being asked to support is false. The attempt to ensure that the ecological disaster zone we call the Lake District National Park can never recover from its sheepwrecking is one long exercise in woolly thinking.

http://www.monbiot.com

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When one reads this one is left with a feeling of great sadness. A sadness that our ‘movers and shakers’ can’t resist the urge to meddle. Can’t understand the beauty that is found in nature in the raw.

Earlier on I illustrated how our own property has ‘interfered’ with the wilderness of this most beautiful Oregonian countryside. But as I hope to show you with the following photographs taken on our property back in 2014 that wild beauty can be hung on to in some measure.

Looking upstream along Bummer Creek from the driveway bridge.

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Looking farther downstream from the bridge.

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Pharaoh also appreciating the wild.

Finally, back to that Unesco proposition.

The details may be found on the Unesco site here: http://whc.unesco.org/en/tentativelists/5673/

I have sent a message to Unesco asking if the views of the public are being taken into account and, if so, how those views are to be communicated to Unesco. If you wish to contact them then the details are on this page: http://whc.unesco.org/en/world-heritage-centre/

Any replies from Unesco will be posted here.

UPDATE 0815 PDT May 22nd.

My email yesterday to Unesco was ‘bounced back’ as an invalid email address (despite me using the email address on the Unesco website!!).

But following George Monbiot’s reply to me, giving me the name of James Bridge (jbridge@unesco.org.uk) at Unesco, I have now sent Mr. Bridge the following email:

Dear Mr. Bridge,

I write as a British citizen, born a Londoner in 1944, to protest in the strongest possible terms to the proposal to turn the English Lake District into a World Heritage Site. This is your Tentative List reference http://whc.unesco.org/en/tentativelists/5673/.

Would you please provide me with the details of where or whom within Unesco I can write setting out in detail my objections to this proposal?

Your soonest reply would be very much appreciated.

Sincerely,

Paul Handover

I won’t hold my breath over getting a quick reply.

A world at peace.

Never say never!

Next Monday, the 21st September, is going to be the most important day this year.  No! The most important day ever!

Because next Monday is the date of the People’s Climate March in New York.  It is predicted to be the largest climate march in history. Well over 100,000 are expected to attend.  I shall write more about this event during the coming week.

But also the 21st September will be International Day of Peace. That coincidence strikes me as highly significant. For a world at peace would cause the most massive reduction in our use of carbon-based fuels.

Thus without any embarrassment, I intend to republish in full [Ed: but see my comment] a recent item on the Permaculture News website: Seven Reasons Why World Peace is Possible.

Do I mention dogs?  Read through to the end to find out! (Probably not difficult to guess the answer!)

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Seven Reasons Why World Peace is Possible

Introduction

The 21st of September will be International Day of Peace. It may seem a little premature to declare that world peace is due to break out by the end this month. I do not deny that the amount of killing and death and war and torture and death and coercion and abuse and death all over everywhere can be overwhelming. Nor do I deny that considering this, it is a natural assumption to believe people are sinners, destined for extinction. However, I do argue that compassion is as much a part of human nature as cruelty.

There is evidence that humankind did not always live violent lives. In fact, I assume most people reading this article are not habitually violent, and do not desire to watch someone suffer. All animals have the capacity to enrich the lives of others. We have the capacity to be both selfish and kind. What matters is which quality we chose to focus on; bringing that quality into focus within ourselves, the world, and our children.

Here I have collected an array of research demonstrating that there is a positive potential within each social group and person. I argue that humans can learn to build societies which are not founded on the expectation of organised violence. Here are seven reasons why world peace is possible. You won’t believe your own strength of belief: There is at least some hope.

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National Peace Academy’s Peace Spheres

Experimental prototypes

The balance of this powerful and fascinating article may be read here.

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How many links did you follow?  Most of them are wonderful links to organisations that many readers, including me, may not have come across before.

So to close.

I was about half-way through arranging today’s post when I realised that dogs have evolved without the need to have their own police forces or armies.  It’s not as silly as it first sounds. Of course, dogs fight and some fights can be brutal and, occasionally, fatal to one or more of the participants.  But they have a keen sense of their locality, of their tribal space; so to speak.  Even as domestic animals, they are fiercely protective of what is their own place.  Before dogs were domesticated, like the wolves from whence dogs evolved, the pack size was around fifty animals with just three animals having any form of status; something that has been mentioned many times before in this place.

The point is that dogs are creatures that have evolved to live in a local community and to live peacefully; by and large.  My sense is that ancient man also evolved to be most complete within a community environment.

This is the end of the era of huge federal and national social constructions.

We must return to locally run and managed communities, which is the pathway to peace across this planet.

Wonder and Awe.

Sometimes applause seems just … oh, I don’t know  …. just so inadequate!

If you, like me, was entranced by the music then thanks to a comment left by one Eugene Karry on the YouTube website, all is explained.

Eugene explained that the instrument is called the Armenian Duduk and that Armenian Duduk music is recognized by UNESCO.

It was only a quick search on the UNESCO website to find this:

The duduk, the Armenian oboe, is a single or double reed wind instrument made of the wood of the apricot tree and has a warm, soft, slightly nasal timbre. The duduk or tsiranapokh, which is also called the apricot tree pipe, belongs to the organological category of areophones, which also includes the balaban played in Azerbaijan and Iran, the duduki common in Georgia and the ney in Turkey. The soft wood is the ideal material to carve the body of the instrument. The reed, called ghamish or yegheg, is a local plant growing alongside the Arax river.

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The roots of Armenian duduk music go back to the times of the Armenian king Tigran the Great (95-55 BC). The instrument is depicted in numerous Armenian manuscripts of the Middle Ages. The duduk accompanies popular Armenian traditional songs and dances of the various regions and is played at social events, such as weddings and funerals. Although there are also famous duduk soloists, among them Gevorg Dabaghyan and Vache Sharafyan, the duduk is mainly played by two musicians. One player creates the musical environment for the lead melody by playing a continual drone that is held by circular breathing, while the other player develops complex melodies and improvisations.

There are four major types of duduk, varying in length from 28 to 40 cm and in sound, ranging from one to fourth or third octaves. Therefore, the sound of the duduk can express various moods depending on the content of the piece and the playing context. The 40-cm long duduk, for example, is regarded as most appropriate for love songs, whereas the smaller one usually accompanies dances. Today, duduk craftsmen continue to create and experiment with different forms of duduks. Many Armenians consider the duduk as the instrument that most eloquently expresses warmth, joy and the history of their community.

Over recent decades, the popularity of Armenian duduk music has decreased, in particular in the rural areas where it originated. At present, most duduk players are concentrated in Yerevan. The duduk instrument is played less and less in social festivities, but more often by professionals as a staged performance. Duduk music risks losing its viability and traditional character and becoming just another facet of “high culture”.

Back to Eugene, who went on to write that Jivan Gasparyan and Gevorg Dabaghyan are famous duduk players among many others. The musical pieces played on the duduk are mostly armenian folk or spiritual tunes; many of them sad songs. Nowadays the duduk is very often played during funerals among Armenians but there are some dance songs as well.

Finally, Eugene offered these further hauntingly beautiful pieces of music.

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Just beautiful.