about this blog



This blog tracks the ongoing changes of my garden, and the wildlife I try to attract to it. It's a nature blog. It contains my thoughts and musings about anything and everything to do with nature - gardening, book reviews, philosophy, travel, science, history, art, design, politics.
Catmint is my signature plant because it has all the qualities I value in a plant: resilience, beauty and the capacity to spread prolifically . Unfortunately it's not indigenous. If I was starting again I'd probably choose an indigenous plant.

Monday, 17 February 2014

convergence with nature: a book review


Reading this book made me think the blog is really just a way of helping me work out how to get closer to the plants and wildlife in the garden.

Daoism, an ancient Chinese religion and set of philosophical beliefs, believes people achieve virtue and integrity by following The Way, or dao.  Dao is also the basis of all living things.

 Estrangement from the dao occurs, when people 'get caught up with the relentless pursuit of goals, values, knowledge and self centred satisfaction.'  For example, engineers exploit nature by extracting minerals from beneath the earth's surface, and the travel industry exploits nature by turning it into a commodity.

The Daoist urges us to connect with nature, to experience wildness, but not necessarily in a wilderness. 'In one's garden - underfoot, overhead and all around- wild creatures are doing what wild creatures do, and processes of generation and decay are at work.'

Daoists don't believe in taking a particular perspective on nature. They don't privilege a scientific perspective over that of a fisherman or a craftsman.  Their stance towards nature is impartial. They don't prefer some things to others, just accept it all as a total inter-related system.  If we think butterflies are beautiful, then we will find cockroaches repulsive. Daoists deny the whole notion of pest species!

Given such attitudes as humility and mindfulness, there's no room for heroic action, for activism, for saving the planet. Daoists think it hubris - incredible arrogance - to regard our role as healer of the planet. The Daoist way to engage with nature, according to Cooper, is to transform our selves.

never too young to connect with nature

I have no idea whether photographer extraordinaire, Rob Shepherd, has been consciously influenced by Daoism, but his latest blog post is very relevant to Cooper's book. 'Is a spider just something one uses as a subject because it has an interesting web in the light? Or can we discover our connection  to the world of nature that holds that spider and then create photos that connect us all more deeply to nature?'

While Cooper doesn't come up with any practical ideas to help us connect to nature better, I can relate to ideas like the need for respectful engagement with the natural world.

But I can't agree with Daoism's refusal to accept the validity of environmental activism. Not in Australia today, when the federal government ,,,

- is applying to the World Heritage Committee to de-list part of the World Heritage Tasmanian forests, so they can be logged,

-  is allowing the spoil from dredging to be dumped near the World Heritage Great Barrier Reef,

- plans to remove the Carbon Tax, and the Mining Tax

- has a climate change policy called Direct Action, that is vague and incomprehensible.

Still - the book's worth a read, for its unusual and interesting ideas. I don't believe there's one single way of being or doing. There are lots of authentic ways to connect with nature.

communing with nature in Melbourne's Botanical Gardens

17 comments:

  1. Too often man's arrogance leads to exploitation of nature, as well as to exploitation of other people; and environmentalism is used only as a political tool. As a Christian, I believe humans were given the directive to manage and care for the earth and its inhabitants. How far we have fallen! There is an interesting passage in Revelations that says that in the end Jesus will return to "destroy those who would destroy the earth". Sobering words. We were never meant to be removed from nature, but too many of us shut ourselves inside our artificial environments and could care less what happens to the world outside. Education and perhaps one blog post at a time can make a small difference in the overall picture, but a much greater difference in individual lives.

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  2. thanks for commenting on this complicated subject, Deb. I guess this approach is about the small scale picture of individual lives. If change in the individual makes a small difference to the overall picture, and all those small differences add up, then maybe that is the way to real change?

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  3. I'm in full agreement with Deb and I do all I can to live along side nature in the garden here. To any visitor it is, I hope, a nice garden, but my husband and I know that really it is a nature reserve. The numbers of birds animals, insects and amphibians has increased enormously since we made the garden and provided habitats to encourage them into the garden. This could all so easily be destroyed in a day if someone came and started clearing with the use of chemicals.

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    1. dear Pauline, your passion and commitment is inspiring - I feel the same way, although I don't think I've had as much success as you in attracting large numbers of wildlife.

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    2. A friend said how much he enjoys hearing the spectacular number of birds in our garden. He has birds, but ours sing!

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    3. There's something so powerful, happy-making, about birdsong.. It's chilling in a city when the birdsong stops and you just hear traffic.

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  4. I certainly believe there is a connectiveness in nature. I even have problems with killing the snails that are so prolific in my garden. But I try to live and let live as much as possible. (Those children are adorable! Are they your grandchildren by any chance?)

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    1. They sure are my grandkids - however did you guess? (lol) and I'm proud to say they are very well connected with nature, as the photos show.

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  5. How interesting. I always try to be open to new and different perspectives (different to me, that is). My philosophy is to strive to be part of the solution, rather than part of the problem. I struggle with the hubris vs. humility thing. If we're too humble, we don't take action, yet hubris makes us forget that we are but one small part of this great world. Great, thought-provoking post, Sue.

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  6. The only comment I can make is, although I was one of those using high powered chemicals in the 60's and 70's, we did take a step back and although many birds were depleted, even in suburban areas, there is definitely a big increase of numbers in my area, each season we seem to have the return of yet another species. Locally we do not suffer from the derogatory effects of hedging being ripped out and suchlike but a couple of miles away on the open moorland we no longer have pee-wits and snipe which were very common 30 years ago and yet the land has not been changed drained or cultivated so I do not know what the answer is.

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    1. Hi Rick, How wonderful for you to see the return of species each year, and more and more birds. I don't know what the answer is either, we all just do what we can.

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  7. The idea of that book is definitely an unusual one. I support what you support Catmint. Environmental activism is so necessary in today's world :-)

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  8. Thanks for your input Steph - the activism helps around the edges. Recently I heard the expression 're-arranging the furniture on the Titanic'. I wonder if that is really all we're doing?

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    1. That expression is new to me but hope all hard work will bear fruit :-)

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  9. This is definitely an interesting perspective but I would find it impossible to take an approach as passive as that of Daoism. I do feel it's my responsibility to try to undo the damage done to Earth by other humans. But I do agree that a true connection to nature is vital to understanding it.

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  10. An interesting book and perspective. I garden for wildlife I think because I am trying to have a fuller acceptance of all things in nature...but I agree I need to pursue the things that will help the planet and cannot be neutral about it all.

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I love to get feedback and comments, and getting to know other bloggers. I also appreciate corrections if you detect an error, because I'm not an expert, but a self taught enthusiastic amateur on a steep learning curve.

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