Walking with Sharks
I have been walking and journeying on various pathways to explore the convergence of cultural and biological extinctions. The
theme is not just indigenous or traditional communities under threat
from modernisation, but also how modern lifestyles are themselves under threat from large scale environmental and economic change. Locations include
England, China, Ghana, Northern Ireland, USA (Death Valley, Louisiana,
Ohio), Finland, southern Africa,
Labrador (Canada), New Zealand, Australia, and Siberia Russia.
The world could be entering a time of sorrow. Ever since the Apollo 8 astronauts took the first photographs on Christmas Eve 1968 of our blue-green plant alone in the middle of dark and cold space, we have seen extraordinary losses of biological and cultural diversity. Ecosystems, species and genes are being lost at rates two orders of magnitude greater than since the extinction of the dinosaurs. Languages, traditional knowledges and whole cultures are also being lost across
all countries. Whole indigenous cultures are under threat; and in modernised countries people are suffering an extinction of experience as they increasingly disconnection from nature. Climate change is now a sign that the earth cannot cope with increasingly standardised hyper-consumption patterns. Yet lifeways and aspirations in an increasingly globalised world are converging on the very consumption patterns that would destroy the world is everyone adopted them. Climate change and fossil fuel depletion suggest likely and potent reconfigurations of the world’s ecosystems, economy, and political institutions. We now need aspirations for lifeways and lifestyles that will diverge rather than converge, bringing many different ways of living, and that when aggregated up stay within the limits imposed by the earth as a whole.
This book explores through the method of journeys or pathways how land and place can change us. Land differs from location to location, and place is an emergent property of people and their histories. The book will explore relationships between cultural and biological diversity in different country contexts from both industrialised and developing countries (from subsistence farmers and indigenous groups to moderns). All these groups are under threat. Modernisation and the global economy threatens indigenous groups; hyper consumption combined with population growth for another generation threatens moderns, who believe they will go on forever. A major reconfiguration of the world’s economy and environments may mean unprecedented extinctions. I will be undertaking a series of physical journeys that will echo lifeways. A path is a journey. A life is a path, sometimes chosen, sometimes not. This method builds on my year of walking
and boating 500 miles along the coast of the three counties of Essex, Suffolk and Norfolk in the UK (This Luminous Coast: Memory, Place and Identity).