Manifesto for the Green Mind

[Published in Resurgence and Ecologist 301 March/April 2017, pp18-22 http://bit.ly/2kKVxAn]

http://www.resurgence.org/magazine/article4826-manifesto-for-the-green-mind.html

Ten calls to Actiongreen minds

1. Every child outdoors every day.
2. Every adult physically-active every day.
3. Every adult learning a new skill or craft throughout life.
4. Every care home with a garden.
5. Every hospital redesigned on greener, prosocial principles.
6. Every natural environment promoted for human use.
7. Every person able to access green, social and talking therapies.
8. Every person engaged in neighbourhood groups for social interaction.
9. Every kilogramme of fossil fuel left in the ground.
10. Every economy green and prosocial.

Listen. Have your heard this tale? Progress carved a path through forest and swamp, shadows gone under centuries of light. Progress offered freedom to individuals, reason hand in hand as darkness disappeared. There were setbacks but, oh, they were only minor. In the richer countries, people produced and earned more, consumed much more. Princes and princesses gold-glittered, from the poorer countries aspirations converged. In just the last two generations, world GDP per person tripled; in the affluent countries it quadrupled. This planet produces 35% more food per person; infant mortality fell from 150 to 50 per 1000 live births, in affluent countries down to 5 per 1000.

But you know what follows. Darkness lurks in every fairy tale, a reckoning still to come. We consume more, we fill the atmosphere with carbon dioxide. We have more stuff, our lives more convenient; yet we are not happier. We solved many infectious diseases, yet stumbled into an era of savage health problems caused by our behaviours. We launched cities monumental, yet moved further from nature. The way we live today is killing people in affluent countries – through cardiovascular disease, obesity, type 2 diabetes, mental ill-health, dementias and loneliness. We are living longer, but we are not sure it will be worth it. In this torrid tale, we have not learnt to live happier ever after.

At the University of Essex, we have worked for 15 years on how nature produces mental and physical healthGE cover benefits. We call this green exercise. It works for all people, young to old, rich to poor, all cultural groups, in all green environments whether urban park or nature reserve, whether wild or farmed, small or large. We have shown that a five-minute dose of nature brings immediate well-being. All activities work too, and most people receive an additional benefit from social engagement – doing things together. There is something very ancient going on here: we humans evolved in natural environments, learned to cooperate, shaped the land for food and resource. Now we can measure how good this nature and social engagement is for us.

Yet still those lifestyle health problems wash ashore, costing the UK £150 billion every year for treatment. We know the primary causes, yet seem helpless. Too many calories consumed, too little daily physical activity, irregular social and cognitive engagement. Progress returns to this tale: it is the simple fault of individuals. Their choices, your choices – you made them. You will live and die by them. And meanwhile grow unhappier.

Pause a moment. Here is a sunnier saga. Individual choices are really not failures of free will. They are shaped by urban design and planning, by transport systems, by advertising and corporate self-interest, by access to green space and cultural norms. Social and economic environments shape behaviours. Residents of London walk 292 miles per year; but rural people walk just 122 miles. Obesity afflicts 35% of adults in the USA; in Manhattan, where there are pavements and public transport, people walk more, and only 15% are obese. In the Japanese longevity hotspots of Nagano and Okinawa are record numbers of happy centenarians, their cultures encouraging healthy and tasty foods, regular physical activity outdoors, social connections and continued cognitive engagement.

Our story centres on Green Minds, and offers explanation and a manifesto for action. It surely is not too much to demand a sustainable planet and contented people. We have now developed a Green Mind Theory to link the human mind with our brains and bodies, and connect bodies through behaviours into natural and social environments. We know this: environments shape bodies, brains and minds; minds in turn drive body behaviours that shape the external environment. Recent discoveries come from neuroscience and hormones, from loneliness to longevity research, from nudge behaviours to choice architecture, and from many spiritual and wisdom traditions.

The Green Mind centres on a simple idea that the brain comprises two parts: one red, one blue. The red brain is ancient, and centres on the bottom brain-stem: it is fast-acting, involuntary and driver of fight-and-flight behaviours. The blue brain is more recent: it is slower, voluntary, the centre for learning, and driver of rest-and-digest. The bottom brain reacts before you think and directs the sympathetic nervous system (SNS). The top brain is calming, directing the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS). A mix of blue and red is best for health and happiness.

But beware: natural selection built a negativity bias into your mind and brain. The gatekeeper is the amygdala, highly responsive to alerts. To miss one tiger in the bushes meant death to an ancestor; to run 99 times out of 100 when there was no tiger meant survival. The brain-mind thus evolved a default mode: fast, automated, fight-flight. There is no moderation in the amygdala: it is on or off, responding before thought. The blue brain contains centres for emotions, memory-forming and bonding. In its cortex are abilities to learn, plan, make choices, and the social abilities of empathy and language.

Our minds are built from experiences, and we use the term green mind to indicate there is an optimal daily mix of mainly PNS-blue, some mild SNS-red for interest and excitement, and occasional spikes of SNS-red when alarmed. Blue and red is best for health and happiness; too much red is bad for health.

In modern affluent economies dominated by material consumption and the manufactured desires for always more, the red mode is over-active. Modern life is lived on simmer, producing non-stop SNS activation. When the wolf knocks on the door, there are consequences. The SNS-red ramps up heart and lung activity, raises blood pressure, switches off the immune and unnecessary memory formation. You run; you need only muscles and oxygen. Except mostly now we do not run. Too much red impacts badly on gastrointestinal (more ulcers and inflammatory bowel syndrome), immune (lower wound healing, more colds and flus), cardiovascular (hardened arteries) and endocrine systems (more type 2 diabetes). Going red feels bad because it is bad.

Some spiritual and wisdom traditions call these red alerts first arrows: these are fired by the amygdala, and you cannot avoid them. The second arrows, comprising how we feel in response to the first, producing feelings of unfairness, guilt, further fear, anger, upset, anxiety. Sometimes second arrows arise from anxious expectation or dashed hope, even when there has been no first arrow. An active blue brain can suppress second arrows. It seems we might have choices.

There are methods to quiet an over-active red brain, all with one principle in common. Immersion and attentiveness shut down second arrows, improving well-being. Activities that are immersive and involve focused attention reduce oxygen consumption, lower heart rate and blood pressure, and increase releases of serotonin and dopamine: we feel better. Green minds are also more prosocial: they build empathy and trust. Oxytocin increases bonding and understanding between individuals. Increasing the circle of us might be a way to encourage greater care for the planet, resulting in the emergence of greener economies. When the green mind is quiet, the self is stilled. You are not those troubling thoughts; they come and go. They are clouds on a still pond at dawn.

Three types of engagement increase regular attentiveness and immersion:

• Nature engagement;green minds 2
• Social engagement;
• Craft engagement.

But to make these produce better health and more happiness, each of us needs to develop new habits. This is always hard. It is why we know what should be good for us, but so often fail to implement. Good habits are difficult to develop, bad ones hard to give up. Habits and behaviours begin with learning in the pre-frontal cortex, and as routines are automated so they are sent down to the lower red brain. As we practice more, so the activity becomes automated, and we can pay less attention and use less energy. A rule of thumb: it takes about 50 hours to automate a complex activity. Think here of learning to drive, and then how you can now drive for miles on automatic. Thus learning a new habit, such as a diet or daily physical activity, singing or tai chi, requires 50 days at one hour, or 100 days at half-an-hour a day. This is why most diets fail, and gym memberships are cancelled in February. The brain learns through intense and repeated activity, producing new neural structure. Lecturing your red brain with rational plans does not work. You just have to do the thing for 50 hours or 3 months.

Now the Green Mind saga turns to instruction. What should we do to escape the dark forest of thorns? The choices are many. When you learn tai chi, watch a sunset, learn to dance, bake a cake, complete a crossword, something else is happening. You are not engaged in material consumption. You are making memories, learning skills, sharing and giving to others. Inside, you are calming the red brain, and improving health outcomes. The future of the planet relies on this substitution of non-material consumption, making more of activities with a light footprint and co-delivery of well-being.

The history of implementation of healthy habits in affluent countries is not encouraging. There are five levels for action:03 March

1. International agreements: these are rare, slow to implement, and easy to free-ride or undermine;
2. National policies: few successes for whole populations, so far, though anti-smoking and seat-belt legislation are successes;
3. Institutional and sectoral policies and practice: the potential for both government and charitable organisations to change practices to affect large numbers of people, such as in education, mental health, social care or hospitals;
4. Community actions and ceremonies: already widespread and manifested in local groups and rituals, but undervalued and not yet widely used to improve well-being;
5. Voluntary actions of individuals: hard to sustain, though the most commonly pushed by governments.

Our manifesto for the Green Mind focuses on institutions, communities and individuals, and sets out ten calls-to-action. Call on individuals to change behaviours if you can (no 5), but it will be institutions and communities that are likely to reach the largest number of people quickly. We need emphasis on nature, social and craft engagements in neighbourhoods, schools, care homes, and health care facilities. Environmental organisations and charities have a vital role to play: promoting healthy engagement with nature as part of their missions. Every child should be outdoors every day; every older person in a care home should sit in a garden. Every economy should be green and prosocial. Now is time for a new ethic: the economy is the environment. Nature will survive us all. Meanwhile, the Green Mind manifesto offers routes to well-being and a better planet.

The Rust Belt: On the Falling of Empires

[Except from The Edge of Extinction (2014, Cornell University Press)]P1080968

At the top of the state of Ohio, it seems no one saw the economic tsunami coming. It rolled across the financial landscape, ripped the heart out of communities and eventually brought down a few of those who had played loose with the rules. As rough waters retreated, governments plundered from the future to save some of their banks, and now we’re all going to pay for years. In this way do empires eventually fall.

Too many of us in industrialised countries, and increasingly in developing ones too, aspire to consume goods and services that are stretching this planet’s capacity to supply them. It would have been fine if those dominant aspirations were for ways of living that trod lightly on the planet. But they are largely not. The financial storm was only a warning. The environment, which is the economy after all, was sending a signal.P1080980

In the rust belt, Cleveland was one of the worst affected by the credit crunch, and is now trying to think differently and map a route to some kind of new future. The town was established in 1796 where the Cuyahoga River flows into Lake Erie. It grew rapidly through the nineteenth century on trade from the Great Lakes through the Ohio-Erie canal. It rose further on steel manufacture from iron ore shipped from Minnesota by boat and coal by rail from the south, and became the country’s fifth largest city by 1920. Its population peaked at 915,000 in 1950, but then it stuttered. Heavy industries closed, the urban raced to suburbia, unrest grew, industrial waste caught fire on the river. The city defaulted on loans, and the population plummeted to 480,000 by the turn of the millennium.P1080876

It was, though, to get worse.

Slavic Village is a neighbourhood of detached houses on their own plots. The shingles are pastel blue and green, the windows and doors bright in the hard winter sunshine. But as we walk, it is through deserted streets. In the city, we do not wear paths into concrete and pavement, though nature is coming back anyway.

Almost all the homes are abandoned. Long shadows from bare trees stretch across the tarmac. The children’s play area is strewn with shards of glass. Fixed chess tables glint in the sunlight. A sheriff’s car drifts by, driver staring at us; just the sunglasses mirroring this cold outside world. One house has cars parked on the drive, and is well-maintained. Another has a yard sign: house for sale $20,000; or put down $500 cash and move in now. No one will. We walk around the back of one home with powdery blue sky showing through broken upper windows. A pale raccoon pokes its nose out of a basement hole and snarls.

People moved to neighbourhoods like Slavic Village because of sub-prime and predatory loans. Scandalous is a good description. Many were offered to people with irregular incomes or even no job. All were sold the idea of an American dream: you can own your own home. But no one said you could lose it too, and fast. Only a month after the mortgage company or bank decides you have a problem with repayments, they foreclose on the loan, assuming there is someone else in line to buy the house. The predatory loans are worse: knock on doors and sell the idea of a loan to someone who doesn’t need one. Steve met an elderly woman who had paid off her mortgage, but on her doorstep took out a loan for $57,000 for home repairs, pays the money to a builder working for the mortgage company, who then disappeared. She lost her home.

It was the wild west of lending. And there was no sheriff in town.P1080898

Cleveland was battered. There are 35,000 vacant properties in the city, 15,000 of which have been condemned. They will have to be demolished. All those destroyed families and livelihoods. Once a few houses go, the community unravels, the school comes under threat through falling rolls, bus routes move, local shops struggle. There are too few eyes to keep foreclosed properties safe. Boarded windows have curtains painted on them, a strange effort to make the place look alive. But as soon as the signs go on a house, thieves circle: they break in to rip out the sinks, metal pipes, copper wires, aluminium shingles. The speed of the descent is breathtaking, as is the shift from private responsibility to public sphere. Twenty-eight days after the issue of a warning for a late payment, the bank or mortgage company hands papers to a court. The following Monday morning at ten o’clock auctions are held, where the price begins at 75% of the value of the property. There is usually only one bidder: it’s the bank buying it back. The residents have to move, often thinking the process is over. But unless the ownership has passed to another loan-holder or householder, they are still liable to pay at least $10,000 for its eventual demolition. Those bankers probably deserve another bonus for their good work.

A determined man pushes a shopping trolley overflowing with the metal intestines of a house. He is close to the gates of a scrap yard, and twitches as we pass. We drive past closed factories, and then swing up to Cleveland Heights. Only a few minutes away are mansions on wide tree-lined streets, land donated by Rockefeller to the city. Here are cars, people, and no sign whatsoever of the abandoned neighbourhood just down the road. We pull over at a coffee shop, inside are piles of books on tables by padded sofas.

Marianne James has been in Hyacinth since the late 1970s. She grew up in Berlin, was bombed in the war, P1080934survived but always hungry, had no shoes for years, then migrated to America, and has seen her community fall apart again. She’s about five feet nothing tall, with grey hair and half-moon glasses, a sliver cross outside her dark blouse, working jeans and a cell phone clipped to one side of her belt, a bunch of keys to the other. Ten years ago, after fire damage to the shop and home, the whole neighbourhood helped her rebuild. But then came robbers, five times, the last man putting a gun put to her chest. Now she’s the one jailed in, behind bullet-proof glass with rotating unit to deliver goods and take money. Mostly she sells lottery tickets and cigarettes, but there are soft drinks and bread loaves too. But it’s still her community. She’s seen children grow up and have their own children. A little girl was born up the road two days ago, she says proudly. The kids in the neighbourhood call her Mrs Mary, unofficial grandmother to all. But next door, more thieves broke in and stole the sink and pipes. They bashed a hole in the wall to snatch the boiler too.

“I’ll never leave,” she says defiantly, “it can’t get worse.” The dark shop window blinks with red lights: lottery, it invites.

There are raw streets of cold skeletal houses. In yards are collapsed sofas, rolls of old curtain, other P1080852discards. Two men stand by a plain white van outside a boarded house, and stare unspoken challenges as we walk by. There’s an air of menace. No gardens are cultivated, there will be no flowers this spring, nor vegetables. There are broken windows, scattered glass fragments, paint peeling, piles of tyres on the corner. Technically, these properties are OVV: open, vacant and vandalised. Past the distinguished Brost Foundary building, established 1920, closed too. What is clear, though, is that most of the houses are structurally sound. These fleeting achievements shouldn’t have been abandoned. These ruins in the making challenge assumptions about the inevitability of human progress.

Christopher Woodward observed in his In Ruins, “when we contemplate ruins, we contemplate our own future.” He was talking of Rome, a city of 800,000 people in AD400, and only 30,000 by the mid-sixth century. At its height, there is no evidence that any writer, painter or politician imagined such an outcome. Oddly, in these modern ruins, there can be a sense of absolute peace. The people have gone. Home improvements, says a sign. For sale, again $500 down. At a shopping centre there are no banks, only checking centres for cashing welfare cheques, and fast food outlets. A dream has destroyed these places and their people, breaking hopes and aspirations, causing the collapse of city and security. In the past ten years, Cleveland has lost another 50,000 people from within its borders.

Is there any surprise that some people are still angry in 2016?The Edge of Extinction book cover

How much are these dying cities a sign of something more problematic with the global economy? Two things are kept secret from children: birth and death. “I am afraid of death,” said Gilgamesh, “so I wander the world.” Oddly, though, dead bodies are treated with a respect that the alive often do not receive. This is a little like ruins: once fully dead, the ended-civilisation is treated with restored respect, visited by tourists. But unlike human deaths, which have many and diverse rituals and ceremonies, there are none associated with the dying of cities and their civilisations. These cities of the former rust belt may evolve into new ones with green economies. But maybe they will not.

Nature invades empty plots, descends on semi-demolished buildings as they crumble into grass and scrub.

Never Drain That Swamp: Real Life in the Louisiana Atchafalaya Basin

[Except from The Edge of Extinction (Cornell University Press, 2014)]Atchafalaya Basin

Mud brown water sluices at the eroding bank, eddying around drowned willows still thick with trailing leaves, and races up a swollen bayou of old growth cypress. Beneath a watchful osprey, an egret harshly cries, alabaster flashing into the dense forest. A heron stately sails on a raft of plant debris, yellow eyes intent. Deep in these swamps, the water levels are higher than anyone can recall for the time of year. The flat-bottomed skiff scuffed by a quarter century of duty skids across the surface. There are smiles: for a while we’re free from the relentless persecution of mosquitoes. A swimming racoon, head held high, unblinking at first is swamped by the rushing wake. A sleek black moccasin glides from matted water hyacinth, and glares as it has to twist away.

Ricky Carline turns the aluminium bateau into the baylet on Bloody Bayou, and we jump ashore to walk a narrow dappled track invaded by brambles and clutching palmettos. In the high canopy hidden birds sing, and then the brooding forest unfolds. Before us is Sawyer’s Cove, an inner lake stretching far. Here are old-growth cypresses, with buttresses wet in water and branches wreathed with Spanish moss, and beneath our feet are young bullfrogs leaping in the yellow marigolds. An early flock of ducks clatters down on the sunlit water. Ricky and Calvin Voisin, friends since childhood this half century, clear debris from their pirogues, and pull them up from the shore. The water has some more rising to do. When Hurricane Gustav ripped through here, it put down trees, tore roofs from camp houses, flattened houseboats. Today the sky is pure blue. In all swamps, nothing remains quite the same.

The wild Atchafalaya basin: 2500 square miles of the largest contiguous bottomland forest in North America, a land of many thousand bayous, lakes, ponds, rivers, islands, levees and mounds. It’s a refuge for endangered peregrines, Florida panther, the Ivory Billed woodpecker, and another 300 bird species. The 135 mile basin begins near the Red River’s confluence with the Mississippi and ends at threatened coastal marshes, and is constrained mostly on each flank by the ninety mile Eastern and Western levees built by today’s mound builders, the water engineers. It’s a liminal land at the end of a funnel that channels water and silt from thirty-one states and a couple of Canadian provinces. What happens up there acutely affects what goes on down here, as it does out on the Gulf too. Louisiana was once the richest state of the south; after oil it became one of the poorest. Its hardwood forests are now mostly gone, the ancient bottomland cypress logged out for ships and housing.Atchafalaya Basin

The Cajuns have a proud heritage, and have retained identity and customs more than most in North America. But like all distinct groups, this comes with casual stereotyping: they are swampers, devoted to a good time, eat well, sing and dance. By the mid-twentieth century, Cajun had come to refer to a culture of poor, inbred and ignorant swamp dwellers. It became an insult. Many Cajuns were punished if they spoke French in the classroom. But the late 1960s brought a cultural revival, with the import of French teachers and a growing sense of pride. French speakers settled not just from France, but also Belgium, Switzerland, and lately Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos, all now seeing themselves as honorary Cajuns. Stereotypes can help cultures retain their own identity, yet also bring unfair characterisation. It is often difficult to have one without the other.

Almost all early visitors thought the cypress swamps were dark and dismal places, beyond civilising tendencies. In 1816, William Darby’s geographical description of Louisiana drew attention to the “deep, dark and silent gloom of the inundated lands of the Atchafalaya,” and the “dead silence, the awful loneliness and the dreary aspect of the region.” Searching for woodpeckers, Audubon wrote of “gloomy swamps… oozing, spongy.. where the sultry, pestiferous atmosphere nearly suffocates the intruder.” The cypress itself is rot-resistant with a deep tap-root, and withstands strong winds well. The seeds root in mud flats bordering rivers, but die if covered by water. Once old enough to reach the canopy, they can stand in water, and develop the distinctive buttressed base with unique cypress knees that are part of the root system. The wood is called eternal: hollow logs used as water pipes in New Orleans in the 1790s were still serviceable more than a century later.

Still today, the swamp is used as an evil metaphor, something needing draining. And once drained, the land will become great again.

Today the swamp is still more likely to be portrayed as menacing rather than a fragile wilderness. This land remains forbidding for most people. Luckily.

We leave Ricky’s swidden camp in the clearing edged by Bloody Bayou, just along from Calvin’s moored houseboat, built on pontoon pipes dragged from an oil field thirty years ago. We flit upstream, which used to be downstream. We are aware of the many moods of water. Some bayous seem to flout hydrological norms, with sleeping water, dead streams, reverse flows, every wilful behaviour. The boat skims out of the enclosed bayou onto the shimmering Atchafalaya itself. On the far side a line of trees hugs the horizon. Ahead the lunging, turbulent river swirls with debris from the north, great logs lurking just beneath the surface, ready to send such a boat straight to the bottom. With no warning, a cohort of water gives up its geographic origin as we slice through an invisible patch of icy air hugging freezing water that’s come thousands of miles from the Rockies.Atchafalaya Basin

A towering double barge pushed by a thudding tug blots out the sun and proceeds down river. We angle across the current in search of the ghost town of Bayou Chene, once a thriving settlement of more than nearly seven hundred people. We moor to a willow, and push through dense undergrowth. This forest is tall with cottonwoods, also invasives that came by water. The chêne oaks have gone, long since destroyed by high water and the silt. A few mature cypress and tupelo remain. Dense clouds of insects join us as we strike inland in search of the hidden graveyard. In the thick forest, it is twilight in the middle of the day.

Bayou Chene was known for its frontier character. Farming, trapping, fishing and moss picking all brought vital income. At that time, alligators were killed to prevent them eating the hogs: they clubbed them with their tails, then pulled them underwater. Spanish moss, an epiphyte of the pineapple family and not a moss at all, gave a uniquely brooding presence to the forests. The French called it barbe espagnole, the Spanish pelvia francesca; the French won. The Indians clothed infants with it, used it for mattresses and insulation, and it was medicine when boiled. Then distant markets were found. Ford used it for stuffing upholstery in their cars. Men in low pirogues stood with perfect balance with long poles to pull down moss. At the museum were photographs of moss pickers by their houses in the 1930s, loading trucks, laying it out to cure and darken by the bayou banks. It was dirty and dangerous work, says Ricky, who recalls it from his youth. Snakes commonly came down with the streamers of grey moss. But huge amounts had to be collected to make a living. In the Atchafalaya, twenty-five moss ginning plants were active in the 1940s, the last closed in 1967.

Back at the camp, the three of us sit on the porch in hammock and deep chairs. Aback of the clearing the forest trees rise sheer and dense, entangled with vines. Wild turkeys venture onto the pasture in search of feed. We talk fish. Especially crawfish. Of the twenty-nine species in Louisiana, the red swamp and white river are the most common. Crawfish further define identity of the basin. Some are now raised, but both Ricky and Calvin say wild is best, a slightly muddy flavour, something extra. They are smaller than lobsters, caught with one by half metre traps fashioned of black chicken wire. Fish or maize bait is dropped inside, and like a lobster trap, once in there is no way out. Every fisherman has his special places.

As I sprawl in the hammock, beers in the ice bucket, shirt crucially rucked up my back a few inches, one thing lazily strikes me about life in the swamp. Night closes in and now we watch the ball game, LSU at bitter rivals Alabama, the jungle television bright from batteries. Meanwhile mosquitoes work their way silently across my back leaving, I see the next day, weals of red bites like bullet holes. But it could be worse. Charles Simpson in the 1920s wrote of mosquitoes in these swamps: “the insects covered the exposed parts of my body until the skin could not be seen, and when I wiped them off blood dripped on the ground. With puffed cheeks and eyelids I could scarcely see.” We eat fried catfish and bullfrog’s legs, one of the few places outside France where frogs’ legs are on the menu. A treat: Calvin serves his best blackberry wine, and we talk of the animals of the forest: Louisiana black bear, red wolf, river otter, panther. Poor old coyote is formally called an outlawed quadruped by state wildlife authorities, as are feral hogs, escapees from the days of farming, nutria and nine-banded armadillos. And talked too of the ivory-billed woodpecker, the Lord God Bird, hidden still in these forests.

Back on the road, we pass through St Martin Parish, one of the poorest in the state. White plantation homes with wooden verandas, lawns and specimen trees, then a main street of painted houses and shops. This is a place deserving of serious dedication: it is the home of one of America’s best living writers, James Lee Burke. We stop for bowls of fish soup. Ricky’s family owned sugar plantations hereabouts before the Civil War, and were original landowners at Bayou Chene. They have since stayed close to the swamp, even though the land was lost. He says they always will.

The evening sun now washes the cane fields and wooden houses, and we turn inside the swamp and drive north along the cracked road outside the western levee. The restaurant is almost empty. No live music, few customers, for a Friday night again not so good. The economy has declined yet further. At a table with chequered tablecloth overlooking the darkened lake, we work on a heaped dish of red hot crawfish.The Edge of Extinction book cover

As we prepare to depart, I notice the houseboats have been removed from the water and are now on pilings at the shore. All I can think about is an earlier time, when moonlight was on the still lake, on the floor of the houseboat sharp shadows, croaking frogs beyond the mosquito netting. No more feeling the creaking of the boat in your bones, watching a moon rise through the trees and filling the windows with light. Somewhere further south, deep in the swamp we cross a clanking bridge, and stretching backs and legs, walk into a bar in a shambling wooden building. There are no other lights in the swamp. Inside, local friends leaning against a bar are shouting over the music.

You could have it all, sings Johnny Cash, my empire of dirt. Neon blinking, eyes smarting, beer at the bar.

In the car park, I stand and listen to the frogs out on the bayou.

No 50: Green Exercise: Linking Nature, Health and Well-Being

Green Exercise: Linking Nature, Health and Well-BeingGE cover
Preface by Jo Barton and Jules Pretty

Routledge, 2016

Affluent countries and social groups across the world are facing a number of relatively new health and wellbeing challenges. Many of these are chronic non-communicable diseases and conditions that are lifestyle-driven, and include type 2 diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease, hypertension and some cancers. Many are a consequence of rising inactivity and rapid changes in food and calorie consumption, all of which also link to wider social changes centre on shifting family and community structures, changing work and non-work opportunities, new transport options, and a demographic shift towards the elderly in populations. At the same time, natural environments worldwide continue to come under pressure – from urban and transport development, from climate change, and from the direct negative externalities of growth, such as air and water pollution.

Inactivity is now the fourth leading risk factor for mortality worldwide and is contributing to a rapidly growing financial burden on health services. Yet we also know that higher rates of physical activity and lower incidence of obesity have been associated with regular physical activity, time spent outdoors, and access to green space. It has become clear that the structure of environments, both social and natural, plays a role in encouraging active and healthy behaviours. Individuals with easy physical and cultural access to natural settings are three times as likely to engage in physical activity, experience less mental distress and have overall better wellbeing. In contrast, as residential distance from green space increases, the likelihood of being sufficiently physically-active to prevent ill-health diminishes. The odds of becoming overweight or obese also significantly increase. Access to green space also improves perceived general health, reduces asthma prevalence, and risk of mental illness and stress levels, lowers morbidity and cardiovascular disease risk, increases life longevity, improves cognitive function and produce s healthier cortisol profiles. We also know that people with green space close to their homes are less lonely, have more social support and experience an increased sense of community. Urban living has now become more common than rural worldwide, yet urban dwellers are more likely to develop mental illness, suffer from anxiety and develop mood disorders.

This book draws together internationally-recognised research on the synergistic health benefits of being physically active in green spaces: we call this Green Exercise. We know both exercise and nature are independently facilitative of good health and wellbeing. The findings of recent research and practice suggest that the combination has an even more compelling effect. This book discusses the green exercise concept and brings together issues and research from a wide variety of disciplines from physiology through to environmental design. Novel perspectives cover the spectrum of health benefits from cellular to behavioural change, and the impacts of a variety of natural environments on health outcomes are assessed, including USA and UK urban nature, Australian parks, UK coastal settings and wildlands, and Japanese forests. We also consider the evidence for the benefits on a wide range of different social groups, and integrates cross-cutting key themes relevant to each stage of the lifecourse from childhood to healthy ageing.

We also present the therapeutic properties of green exercise, known as green care, and presents the outcomes of deliberate use of structured therapeutic programmes using walking, gardening and/or farming for vulnerable groups. Several chapters analyse the effectiveness of nature-based interventions for youth at risk, the role of probation services working from correctional facilities, individuals suffering from dementia, and the potential roles of green exercise in promoting healthier workforces. Some authors also explore how green exercise evidence could be used to influence urban design and planning, and how health and environmental agendas could be integrated to enable green exercise to be more widely used as a mechanism for both improving population health and maintaining natural environments.

We begin by discussing how environmental and social contexts shape health and wellbeing. Evidence is summarised to support seven interconnected themes that date back to the classical era of Asclepian healing. These feed directly into a number of chapters throughout the book. Nature contact is not only a multisensory experience, exposing individuals to sunlight to aid vitamin D production, but it also provides a space to be active, mindful, socially-interactive, develop a sense of place and attachments to both people and places. Authors conclude it is important to incorporate nature into the design of buildings, hospitals, homes and community spaces to create shared spaces which facilitate interaction and attachment and increase opportunities for green exercise. This includes both direct experience of nature (for green exercise) and indirectly via paintings, pictures and views from the window. This evidence also calls for an integrated biophilic design of healthcare facilities to promote a nature experience that we know contributes to patient recovery and comfort and enhances performance and productivity of healthcare personnel. All too often, however, simple design principles are forgotten during urban development and building design. We conclude that investing in natural environments in all contexts equates to investing in human health and wellbeing.

Another key message of the book relates to the idea of an optimal dose of nature and green exercise for P1010877 resizedgreatest health benefit. A dose of nature has been shown to have an immediate positive effect on mental health for a wide range of activities (e.g. walking, angling, cycling, gardening), for all age groups, for men and women, for every green environment and habitat (with additional benefits from the presence of water), and for the already healthy and the mentally-ill. However, identifying optimal doses needs to account for a wide range of mediators that include environmental factors such as quality (e.g. biodiversity, air quality, noise) and quantity (e.g. tree canopy cover) and weather; personal factors such as age, gender, beliefs about the value of nature, nature relatedness, prior experiences and childhood memories, as well as perceptions of risk; social and community factors including social interaction, trust, ethnic, cultural and social norms, and accessibility of green spaces.

For a variety of reasons, time spent outdoors appears to be diminishing, especially in affluent countries, so unplanned contact with nature occurs less often. Advances in technology and increased accessibility to computers and communication devices at a much earlier age may mean children are less likely to engage in outdoor play and recreation. Children today often learn more about the environment and nature from television and the internet than from real experience. This is despite mounting evidence that contact with nature has positive effects on physical and mental health, emotional and cognitive development, mental resilience, personal and social development, social skills and even academic achievements and life pathways. Unplanned outdoor activity helps encourage children to engage in spontaneous and unregulated play. Now disconnection is common. Using the outdoors as a learning space can help address this growing disconnection, making a strong argument for outdoor learning to be embedded in educational curricula: we know that active experiential learning in an alternative context enhances academic attainment, concentration and attention. Nature is thus also a learning resource that promotes resilience in young people and positively affects their future lifecourse opportunities.

It is not just green space that is of importance to health: blue environments by rivers, lakes and coasts seem to have intrinsic qualities that promote restoration and improved mental health and wellbeing. Authors also discuss evidence from coastal areas highlighting the importance of water for facilitating nature-based activities. Forests and woodlands also provide spaces for physical activity: research from Japan is leading the way in understanding and promoting forest bathing. Research shows walking in forests, forest bathing, reduces blood pressure and salivary cortisol, with greatest benefits shown for the elderly and those already with high blood pressure and more stress markers (again suggesting a therapeutic application). Further chapters discuss care farming as an intervention for probationers, the success of wilderness walking for youth at risk, and using nature to help those suffering from dementia to control and push back symptoms. Nature-based interventions offer a diverse applicability for many different cohorts of people and cumulatively this evidence should inform public health funding and government health and social care policies. Green exercise can be used as a vehicle to drive behavioural change and ensure a more inclusive approach to health.

The rise in inactivity levels and the associated problems with body-weight are a priority on many governments’ agendas and although there is a general acknowledgement that green spaces encourage physical activity, the relationship between accessibility and health outcomes still needs further investigation. There are many areas of policy reform that could help increase the uptake of green exercise, though it is clear that there is a need for more detailed and comprehensive economic analyses to indicate exactly what benefits green exercise can bring to the whole economy. Participating in green exercise seems to be a more sustainable option in maintaining long-term activity levels. It is the interaction with the environment and the social contact that are the main incentives and the health benefits derived from the exercise are often secondary outcomes. Thus, competently managed, high-quality, accessible green spaces are essential for long-term sustainability and healthy communities. Green spaces offer collective benefits, but full economic costings need to be conducted. These would highlight the potential savings for national health systems and add further credence to the argument, attract national interest and set objectives for policy development.

In affluent countries, people have become more stressed, are more likely to experience mental ill health, are at higher risk of developing non-communicable diseases, and are less active and more sedentary. Green exercise offers one way of addressing these emerging health problems successfully, quickly and cost-effectively. This book offers some potential solutions. It contains diverse international evidence from around the world on the health benefits of green exercise and nature-based interventions. The type of nature, activities, cultures and individuals may all vary but the message is universal and clear: green exercise benefits individual health and wellbeing, increases knowledge and care for natural environments, and provides a policy link between health and the environment.

No 49: Tradition 2 – Ex-Whalers of the Shetlands

For two hundred years, the people of the Shetland Isles worked whaling ships, first north then far south. TheyShetland ex-whalers spoke Norn and a swallowed dialect of English: the isles were part of Norway until 1459, nearer to Bergen than Aberdeen. Barque rigs and square sailed whalers from Hull and Whitby, Dundee, Peterhead and London stopped for water and food, and men too, 15-25 hired a trip. In the 19th century, 1000 men a year from Shetland were on the cold ocean, many then on the seabed too. Baleen fed many industries: spring, umbrella, comb and brush, corset and mattress filling. Whale oil lit city streets, made soap, paint, varnish, candles, treated jute, fashioned cooking fat. The whaling industry brought money to the Isles, helped communities survive the endless dark of winter at sixty degrees North.

The summer dim is distinctive. Long islands of the archipelago warmed by sun, scalped of trees by sheep and salty storm. In the ground, mesolithic stone barrow and cist, double-walled broch, Viking longhouse. On the cliffs, tube-nosed fulmar, stiff-winged, gliding and banking, riding the updraughts for forty-year lifetimes. At night there is no dark, just a dimming, the fog rolling down hills, silencing oyster catcher and sparrow, farmers herding midnight cattle.P1010714

Whaling turned south in the early 20th century, and Salvesens of Leith recruited Shetland whalers. They sailed the roaring forties to South Georgia, 2700 miles from Cape Town alone. They found another cold ocean, this still brim full of whales. At Shackleton’s funeral in 1922, all the pall-bearers were Shetlanders. Now they lived in years of permanent sunlight, at home in the northern summer, at Antarctica in a southern summer that averages just three to five degrees centigrade. “If you thought Shetland was bleak, by God,” said one, “South Georgia was something different.”

On the Plan, blue, fin and sperm whale dwarfed tiny men, the blubber flensed in strips, steam-powered saw slicing bone and every piece of whale crushed and slopped and refined. The accommodation was corrugated iron, steam pipes above ground, pigs wandering the streets. There was welder, carpenter, tinsmith and plumber, riveter and blacksmith, roller and mechanic. They could have built a new ship. They were self-reliant for months. They ate mutton and wild bird eggs, just as in the Shetlands. Some wintered-out, on overtime. Blizzards submerged the huts and houses, the sea frozen, ropes thick with ice. Those returning home came with fishermen’s wallets: nothing to spend for months and now every opportunity. Many bought motorbikes, racing the empty rural roads. Others did not return, thrown from barrel crow’s nest on a pitching sea, crushed between vessel and harbour wall. The whaling stations closed in 1963. Ten years later came another oil and new wealth, fossil fueled from the northern North Sea, and piped ashore to Sullom Voe.

The last survivors of British whaling have published books of memories and photographs, and celebrate a tradition of community forged through isolation and hardship. Outside the old ice house on Lerwick’s Hay Dock are Davy Cooper, Tony Jarmson, Alistair Thomason, David Polson, JP, Laurena Fraser, John Winchester, Gibbie Fraser and Norman Jamieson.

Inland was a field of translucent dandelion, white glowing globes in the western sunshine. Kelp forests bobbed in mirrored seawater, midges safe to fly, the fog furled and tirrik-terns swerved, plunged. A seal head rose from the still waters, swivelled slowly. On a far beach, a sixereen advanced, pulled by oar, six backs bent and straightened, and ocean slipped beyond a cliff.

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No 48: John Hall – Honorary Fellow of University of Essex

University of Essex, 10 June 2016Summer Reception 07

It is my great pleasure to give the oration to mark the award of an Honorary Fellowship of the University of Essex to John Hall, MBE, DL.

John was born in Yorkshire and studied Zoology at the University of Oxford. Today he lives in Langenhoe, south of Colchester, and is a Deputy Lieutenant of Essex. He has recently retired – after 28 years as Chief Executive of the Essex Wildlife Trust. In that time, the Trust was transformed into a highly-respected and effective conservation charity.

Essex Wildlife Trust was founded in 1959, just at the time that many people across the industrialised world were recognising that modern economies were damaging landscapes, wildlife and the environment. Rachel Carson was working on her Silent Spring at the time. The Trust, though, began to do something quite different. Instead of campaigning to stop things, it set about taking practical actions to make improvements.

This is always much harder to do. It started at Fingringhoe gravel works in 1961, a couple of miles by campus crow from us here. It was a blasted site, the regolith like the surface Apollo 11 astronauts would land on eight years later. Fingringhoe Wick is now one of the finest reserves in the country, let alone county of Essex – and most notable for nightingales. Later came Tollesbury and Abbots Hall, where holes were punched in river walls to create new wetlands, the first such projects in the country. A new initiative is doing the same on the Colne just across the river from Wivenhoe.

Today, Essex Wildlife Trust manages and protects more than 8000 acres of land in 87 nature reserves and 2 nature parks. It has built 10 visitor centres. It has 34,000 members in the county. Under John’s leadership, the Trust grew from 5 permanent members of staff in 1987 to 120 today – clear evidence that looking after the environment is good for the economy!

Essex Wildlife Trust is a leading member of the national Wildlife Trusts movement, with 47 county and national trusts across the UK. One in 70 of the UK population are members.

At the University, we care deeply about transformative education. John, too, led the Trust to engage in education by realising that the wildlife of Essex should inspire young people. Its thriving education programme engages with 60,000 children each year, bringing them into wild places with barn owls and bats, adders and avocets, crested newts and orchids, rare oxlips and heath horses. The Trust also has 2000 regular volunteers and 450 companies as members.

We at the University have excellent links with the Trust, undertaking important research together – the work on protecting the native oysters on the Blackwater was featured recently on BBC TV’s popular Countryfile. Dr Leanne Hepburn is currently a Trustee; I too was a trustee, and honoured now to be Vice President.

John was appointed an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours in 2015 for services to wildlife, an award richly deserved.

Let me finish with one short story. In 2013, 120 acres of Thurrock Thameside Nature Park and its space-station visitor centre were officially opened. For any resident of south Essex or visitor to Coalhouse Fort, Linford or Mucking, you will remember this region for something else: the greatest rubbish tip in southern Britain, where huge tractors were ants on a mountain of London waste, where plastic caught in every hedgerow, and houses rattled to the roar of passing trucks, one a minute.Attenborough 2

The tip was topped, recovered, plants grew, animals came. This day of opening, John and I introduced Sir David Attenborough to 1500 visitors. David Attenborough, bent by years and dishevelled by wind, waved his arms and proudly said: “this place, these people, have turned around time’s arrow.” Visitors grinned and held up mobile phones. It is now one of the finest nature parks in Essex, and will expand in time to 850 acres – a great place to watch nature, and the passing giant ships on the Thames.

Attenborough called John, “remarkable, far-sighted, energetic.”Attenborough 1

John’s passion for conserving the natural world and ensuring we share this with people young and old has made Essex a better place to live. Better for wildlife and for the people of Essex.

It is for this reason we are delighted to bestow the title of Honorary Fellow on John Hall.

Chancellor (Shami Chakrabaty): I present to you John Hall.
Professor Jules Pretty OBE
Deputy Vice-Chancellor, University of Essex

No 47: Tradition 1 – Fish and Cork Oak at Portuguese Aljezur

Tradition makes places of land and sea. And distinct ecosystems help cultures emerge, and then diverge. P1010380Everywhere is different; everywhere is the same. Many long-standing practices that are sensitive to ecologies are under threat. Now the extinction of experience and land literacy has become almost as important as loss of species, language and a stable climate.

The liminal Aljezur is far from the noise of mass tourism and irrigated golf courses of dry Algarve. From these rocky ocean cliffs sailed the first men north to the cold cod grounds of the Arctic, bringing back dried and salted bacalao. The national park saved the barranco-macquis of this ocean coast. A humming, thrumming scrub of gum cistus, orchid, lavender and rosemary, thyme and juniper and aromatics of heat and promised sun. There were never so many flowers, yellow gorse, white rockrose, pinks and pimpernels. From the marshy lands, frogs sang; lazy white flap of egret, above a circling buzzard.

On the water was a glittering glamour, light out of season and too blue, the ranks of waves angry, lithe with energy, crashing ashore. Over white streets and terracotta tiles, sweeping swifts and swallows against the azure sea, and far out a single white sail. A capstan was on the shore, abandoned, where stumbled a donkey to turn and pull up the boats. Feral cats fought for scraps.P1000991

Where the surf curled and raced at cliff and shore, men perched on rock promontories, line fishing in the exploding white spray, by the red rock and under the wind tearing off white-horse manes and arcing in the air. The whole land grumbled. On a sign by a ruin of medieval Arab fishing village, someone had scratched out the word Islamic.

The blue spray wrapped plain and valley inland, where steep valleys hid another tradition. The montados wood-pastures, the cork oak forests, cool and resinous with pine and holm oak too, the cork trees carefully stripped of spongy bark, the trunks left black-red. There was old lichen on the trees, deep shadows, gnarled olives. In these forests, the last of the lynx, mongoose scuttling, farms abandoned, whole villages abandoned. The traditions just survive, as long as there is consumer demand, somewhere, for real cork.P1010120P1010114

No 46: Boatbuilders on the Marsh

Modern living is characterised by cognitive overload, impulsive habits and individual behaviours that have Nottage Mar 2016led to a new generation of health problems. Just as shortages of food, eras of never-quite-enough, were solved in the 1960s-1970s in industrialised countries, so food over-consumption became a leading problem; just as eras of challenging transport requiring high energy expenditure ended, so inactivity and sedentary behaviours became common health problems. With these have come increased anxiety, guilt and stress. In a cosy modern world, we have forgotten discomfort, finding it easy to eat, drink or consume pills. We have forgotten about taking time and creating pride.

The health consequences are substantial: mental ill-health, obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardio-vascular diseases, dementias and loneliness are costly and are forecast to increase in incidence. There appear to be few policy solutions that are working for whole populations.

We have undertaken a decade of research into the contexts, effects and outcomes of green exercise and nature-based interventions, showing clearly that physical activity in the presence of nature improves health and well-being. We have found no groups who have not benefitted: all ages, genders, ethnicities and social classes respond seem to respond positively to green exercise. We have shown that all natural environments are beneficial: from urban parks to biodiversity-rich, from small local to large landscapes, from domesticated gardens to the farmed and wild. We coined the phrase dose of nature to articulate that exposure to green exercise is analogous to a medical dose to the body, improving mental and physical health.

We have come to realise that it is the degree of immersive-attention that is key to well-being and happiness. A range of different descriptors have been used to describe a state of mind that results in focus, attention, awareness, immersion. There is clear evidence to show that activities that are immersive and involve focused attention are effective in improving well-being: they cause instant physiological changes by reducing oxygen consumption, lowering heart rate and blood pressure, and increasing releases of serotonin and dopamine.

Immersion arises during walking, moderate running, gardening; is a part of meditative activities such as yoga, meditation and mindfulness therapy; a part of movement-based activities such as tai chi; and a core component to many craft and art activities such as woodwork, painting, knitting and needlework. In some, exercise involves no more than sitting; in others it becomes part of cultural events, such as community dancing and singing of sennin of Tibet, haka (trans: inspired breath) of New Zealand, chain dances of Faroes, reimur of Iceland, shadow puppetry of Indonesia, gospel singing of Black American churches, ceremonial dances of most American Indian tribes, and forest bathing in Japan.Nottage Mar 2016 2

Being highly attentive was an evolutionary advantage to hunter-gatherer-cultivators. Watchful awareness was central to the hunt; was vital for caring for plants and animals across the seasons; was critical to memory creation for sources of water and signals for weather events. Hunter-gatherer-cultivators spent large amounts of time waiting, fully observing keenly, and preparing and eating food. It is a natural state that has become increasingly displaced in material cultures and economies where a life on automatic seems a modern malaise. Yet millions actively choose opportunities for quiet and calm: watching sunsets, beach holidays, drinking with friends, painting, crafts, rock climbing.

So we have lost: the long labour of skilled hands, the pride in quality, the taking of time, the close observation, the fine eye, the sensitive ear, the whispered voice.Nottage Mar 2016 3

These images are from The Nottage in Wivenhoe, a boatbuilding community with centuries of knowledge, overlooking the Essex marshes. One 12 foot clinker-built boat takes about 500 hours to fashion, here under the tutelage of boat-builders Fabian Bush and John Lane. A wise psychological intervention (WPI) to go alongside nature-based interventions would be to search hard for these kinds of opportunities in modern economies and cultures, and then celebrate them more.

No 45: Story Telling

Alienation from nature has contributed to environmental problems in today’s world. Until fairly recently in Barbara Durham, Timbisha Shoshonehuman history, our daily lives have been intertwined with living things. Now we are increasingly suffering from an extinction of experience. David Suzuki says, “we must find a new story”, and Thomas Berry writes “we are in between stories. The old story, the account of how we fit into it, is no longer effective”. Observation today can bring much needed respect, and if we are lucky, we will find that animals, birds and places intercept us in our wanderings, helping to bring forth distinctive and personal stories of the land.

Ecological or land literacy is not just what we know, but how we respond, how we let the natural world shape us and our cultures. An acquisition process like this inevitably leads to greater diversity of cultures, languages and stories about land and nature because close observation of one set of local circumstances leads to divergence from those responding to another set of conditions. This is a critical element of knowledge for sustainability – its local legitimacy, its creation and recreation, its adaptiveness, and its embeddedness in social processes. This knowledge ties people to the land, and to one another. So when landscape is lost, it is not just a habitat or feature. It is the meaning for some people’s lives. Such knowledges are often embedded in cultural and religious systems, giving them strong legitimacy. This knowledge takes time to build, though it can be rapidly lost. Writing of American geographies, Barry Lopez says, “to come to a specific understanding… requires not only time but a kind of local expertise, an intimacy with a place few of us ever develop. There is no way round the former requirement: if you want to know you must take the time. It is not in books”.

Such expertise remains a central part of the lives of people living close to the land. For 300,000 generations, hunter-gatherers with predominantly oral cultures survived natural selection despite the greater brawn and speed of other predators. Transmission of knowledge and capacity to learn new things helped hominids survive. Remnants of these contexts remain amongst the 600 hunter-gatherer-cultivator peoples across the world, living today mostly in landscapes on the edges of agricultural heartlands. In oral cultures, the values of stories and relations with the land are important.

These tell us something about what ecological literacy really is. It is not just knowing the names of things and their functional uses (or values), but placing ourselves as humans as an intimate part of an animate, information-rich, observant and talkative world. They do not see the world as inanimate, with natural resources to be exploited, gathered, shot and eaten. These things are done, but only in certain ways, and the world is respected and treated with care. Indigenous people believe that if they cause harm to nature, then they will themselves come to harm, whether it is speaking without respect of certain animals, or whether it is over-fishing a lake or hunting out a certain type of animal. This is something that the industrialised world seems to have lost, and perhaps needs to remember. We have come to believe that harm to the world is inconsequential, or at the very least if something is lost then it can be replaced. We no longer think the consequences will come back to haunt us. When we stop listening and watching with care, our literacy about the world declines, and the landscapes no longer speak to us.

For the Apache, says Keith Basso, “wisdom sits in places”, and landscapes are never culturally vacant. Animals, places and whole landscapes have meanings, sometimes sobering, sometimes uplifting, but always with a moral dimension. It is not just about knowing, it is about knowing what to do. Places and things “acquire the stamp of human events”, or memorable times, and people wrap these into stories that can be myths, historical tales, sagas or just gossip. Every story begins and ends with the phrase, “it happened at…”, and this anchoring of narrative to places means mention of a place evokes a particular story, which in turn carries a moral standard, and implication for certain types of social relations.

Basso concluded that:Tyva

i) An effective story-teller seems to open up thinking, letting people travel in their minds.

ii) Land stories are never definitive: they vary over time and are regularly changed in detail.

iii) Places look after people, and so must be treated with respect: places do not lie, but if younger generations do not know the places or the stories, then they will miss something vital about the earth.

The danger is that disconnections could then grow again.