Photo: Twitter

N.B. Not long ago, a few months back, I posted an article under the title ‘Detaching Nature from Economics is ‘Burning the Library of Life’. I would like to recall a couple of passages from it, refreshing and focusing our minds on what I am about to share with you.

David Quammen’s The Song of the Dodo deploys silence as a sign of something amiss in the world around us:

‘We are facing a global crisis. We are totally dependent upon the natural world. It supplies us with every oxygen-laden breath we take and every mouthful of food we eat. But we are currently damaging it so profoundly that many of its natural systems are now on the verge of breakdown. Every other animal living on this planet, of course, is similarly dependent. But in one crucial way, we are different. We can change not just the numbers, but the very anatomy of the animals and plants that live around us. We acquired that ability, doubtless almost unconsciously, some ten thousand years ago, when we had ceased wandering and built settlements for ourselves. It was then that we started to modify other animals and plants…

‘Economics is a discipline that shapes decisions of the utmost consequence, and so matters to us all. The Dasgupta Review at last puts biodiversity at its core and provides the compass that we urgently need. In doing so, it shows us how, by bringing economics and ecology together, we can help save the natural world at what may be the last minute- and in doing so, save ourselves.’...Detaching Nature from Economics is ‘Burning the Library of Life’

Today, whilst researching this topic further, I came across a very interesting and timeless article by a fellow Canadian academic, which truly captured my eyes and imagination. I began to read. It was music to my ears. It very much resonated with me. The more I read, the more I realised that I could not improve it. 

I believe it can indeed be an excellent follow-up to my own piece, noted above.

So there you have it: ‘Beauty Will Save the World’, by Prof. Heather Eaton, Saint Paul University, Ottawa, Canada/Via Counterpoint, 30 June 2021

Beauty Will Save the World

‘The official birth flowers for July are larkspurs, signifying happiness and love.’ 

Picture credit and more: My Poem of the Month: July is the Month Happiness, Purity, Beauty and Creation

‘This famous and much discussed phrase from Prince Lev Nikolyaevich Myshkin in Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s The Idiot is that beauty will save the world. Alexander Solzhenitsyn wrestled with the enigmatic idea in his Nobel Prize acceptance speech in 1970. It is the title of numerous books and articles on classical art, theological/religious aesthetics, and the natural world. Many are mesmerized with this phrase, idea, image, or desire. Beauty will save the world. Hard to believe, yet is an intriguing union of ethics and aesthetics.

‘My interest here is not about art, philosophy, or religions. It is not particularly lofty. It is about beauty, mostly in the natural world, and how it transforms the self. Throughout my life, from a young child to now, (just a few years) the intricacies of nature—the incredible presence(s), and dazzling, deep, vibrant, and dynamic beauty—have often seized my attention and time. I have had remarkable, profound, and transformative experiences within nature. I have trekked to mountain vistas, caves, canyons, and waterways; sailed for weeks in the wind, waves, and silence of the Atlantic ocean; watched whales and swam with sharks; studied elephants in South Africa, Botswana, and Kenya; camped in the African bush and Canadian forests; and canoed wilderness waterways. I am acutely cognisant of these incredible privileges. Further, such experiences are the energy, and companions, and often reasons, that have propelled and sustained over thirty years of environmental work.

‘Of course there are terrifying, exhilarating, demanding, and dreadful experiences of the natural world. Many lives are filled with endless effort to survive, and now, on a diminished planet. Climate change is inducing fires, drought, storms, and immeasurable losses; countless ecosystems and species are struggling to adapt, or just live. It is difficult to offer a reflection about beauty, and how beauty is transformative, without seeming to be callous and uncritical of privilege, or oblivious to ecological stress and anthropogenic climate change. But, in one sense, that is the point of this reflection: to remind us that there is sublime beauty, usually not far, and it can be restorative, or at least offer reprieve or respite.

‘Like many others, my last year has been lived very locally. Attending to this locus vitae (local life) has expanded and strengthened my interest in the claim that beauty will save the world. Where I live (Ottawa, Canada), the seasons are distinct and authoritative, from -40 (C/F) to +40 C (104 F). People have been unable to travel far during COVID times, with severe long-term lockdowns in most of Canada. The consequences are that the outdoor spaces have been overrun with new nature lovers (interfering in the solace of those who savour the quiet). Yet, it is noteworthy that people are ‘discovering’ the natural world. A further discovery, for many, is that birds exist. Birdwatching has become an epidemic, one could say. I too succumbed to birdwatching, with now four feeders in my (small) backyard. And they came: songbirds, flocking birds and couples, solitary Blue Jays, and the bullies—Grackles and Starlings. Another COVID induced outbreak has been backyard and balcony gardening. I also try to grow flowers that provide gorgeous colors and scents, in addition to their ecosystem duties. This brings with it a renewed awareness of the balm of beauty and the vitality of the locus vitae.

‘What is required is attentiveness, quiet, discretion, and observation. Nature is never static. Life is animate. Colours dance from sunrise to sunset. Vegetation bends with the wind. Flowers develop from germination to blossoming to regeneration, always on the move. Birds flit. They are private and uninterested in humans, as are many—most—other species. Insects are busy…’-Continue to read

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Photo Credit: Kamran Mofid, Roses from our garden, Coventry, July 2021

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