Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Country lanes

The birdsongs, the grandeur of the mountains, the moonlit clouds, the smell of log wood burning, the leaves in the wind - no matter how long i've been away, these things still feel like my closest companions

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Thought For The Day!

Twentieth century French phenomenologist Edmund Husserl famously said that "consciousness is always consciousness of". But with careful practice can consciousness not become totally focused on nothing but the body in which it is anchored, with which it co-exists: in other words, itself?
Although the body would still be its 'object', it would only be so in the same way that two mirrors facing one another are each others object.
And the sudden moments of clarity we experience occasionally, at strange or dull moments in the day, remind us of the possibility of this other manner of being . Distant as it may be.
Philosophers (as opposed to, say, monks) have too much to say about the mind, too much to say about the inadequacies of language! How many have taken the time to actually sit there, with their eyes closed, and simply observe what is there?
The trick, it seems, is to constantly keep everything new. Like when in a foreign country and your senses are keener and you see the world as though for the first time because it is strange. The act of speech rather than its content becomes apparent. The ordinary becomes interesting, even sublime. We must try to incorporate this way of looking at things, this way of being, into our daily lives.
After all, who needs art galleries, concert halls and weighty tomes when the world is full of landscapes of cloud, elegant women, birdsongs. If we learn to see whatever is already before our eyes (and likewise a part of them) we will learn to appreciate the world anew.
To write (like) this, I must be failing...

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

The Mystery of Death Descends Upon Rolf Harris

One of Australia's most vivacious and aimiable comedians, Rolf Harris is best known for his whacky, tongue-in-cheek songs and cartoon antics.
It came as quite a shock, then, when I heard him breaking down on the radio, unable to speak for crying.
He was speaking to radio 4 about the time he met his hero, the Welsh artist Kyffin William, who recently died. Relating the story, his friend's absence seemed to become all too real for Mr Harris. He couldn't control himself and, each time he tried to speak through the knot of tears lodged in his throat, his sorrow only deepened. His tears conveyed not only a deep pain, but a very visceral realisation of the fleetingness of life. Perhaps this is what also happens at funerals: people are crying at the sudden realisation of their own fate; not only crying for the person they have lost but that which they have lost them to. And perhaps by the same token memorials also serve to reinforce our own sense of immortality.

People You Meet

It's true: you don't have to go to meditation guru's in India to receive spiritual inspiration or advice for living, often the person sat next to you on the bus will be just as inspiring.
And such was the case last night when I was sat on a train to Chorley. The lady sat opposite told me she wakes up at 4am every morning and goes downstairs to be greeted by hundreds of pairs of pleading eyes belonging to the injured hedgehogs she rescues and re-habilitates, before releasing back into the wild.
What's more, she's done this for almost twenty years and without a single day off, a holiday or any kind of payment.
In her arms is a tiny, 6 inch black kitten that had been left on her doorstep recently. Her "patients", she told the couple who had sat down opposite her, go through one thousand tins of pet food every month.
Incidentally, she is also considering entering next year's X-Factor, having once sang in front of the Queen Mother. And apparently John Thaw used to write to her, having been touched by the work she does for the injured animals.
The young couple sat listening were so amazed they didn't take a single sip of the can of lager they were sharing.

Tuesday, 1 September 2009


Half asleep on a deserted strip of shore, the glimmering sky-blue seas send me, in a reverie, to the tropics – until I hear the faint bleating of a sheep and the rusty drone of the ferry coming into port. I awaken again to the tiny, Hebridean island of Iona - a place full of enticing contradictions: industrious fishermen passing contemplative monks on the road, placid cattle dangerously close to the tempestuous Atlantic seas, and the smell of sea-salt, lavender and the ferry's chain oil, carried eastward on the prevailing winds. Looking out in any direction, the blue immensity of the sea is interrupted only by distant islands, silhouetted on the horizon. Among them, Staffa, with its columnar basalt and volcanic caves that inspired Mendelssohn to write the “Fingal’s Cave Overture”. Weather-exposed peninsulas branch out, laced with quartz, gneiss and marble that were fused together by ancient, volcanic streams and have been polished by the waves, wind and moonlight ever since. Less than a mile in width, Iona served as a stepping stone for Christianity in the 1st century AD, when the Celtic church spread from Ireland into mainland UK and eventually throughout mainland Europe. But today stillness pervades: the sound of the waves slips into silence; moored fishing boats lazily rise and fall in their own sad rhythm; nets of tiny birds, no bigger than butterflies, flit by as one; and huge cumulus clouds languorously shift across a sky of flawless blue. Iona had one more blessing for us. A gasp of excitement as we waited for the ferry; looking round, we saw a crowd pointing out to a huge Minke whale breaching the water, a mid-air trail of sea-spray arcing in its wake. For around thirty minutes the island stood still, awestruck. Even the locals stopped what they were doing and smiled helplessly in amazement.

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Fear and Loathing in Morecambe Bay

Fear and Loathing in Morecambe Bay

It was the kind of strange and twisted scene it was impossible to leave in any kind of normal, human state. The previous night had been a long one: heavy drinking and the kind of depraved and sinister places that, mentally or physically, no human should ever be expected to endure. I’d been vomiting all morning and it wasn’t long before I became a vicious cocktail of claustrophobia, sickness and paranoia. My only recollections of reality were the obtuse, hypnotic monologues - the tedious mantras - that were ringing around my head.

Morecambe Bay: Either I had stepped back several decades or the toy shops and grocery stores hadn’t been painted or re-stocked or visited for 25 years. Boarded up cafes and derelict amusement arcades on every corner. Elderly women who’d been that way for as long as anyone, including themselves, could remember. And the wide open sea, sighing for centuries at the sheer gaudiness of it all. The town was filled with walking contradictions: low-eyed drunks in denim wandering penniless from one indifferent slot machine to the next, exchanging looks with old ladies in beach-front shop-windows, hidden, but for their red, bloated cheeks, behind huge trays of cream cakes.

The day was hot and windless. I stepped off the platform into the interminably stuffy and slow-moving carriage. Every pair of eyes reminded me I was trapped; that the wood for my coffin had already been chopped, and lay drying somewhere in the sun. The only act that could have brought any kind of redemption was stripping away my clothes and threadbare soul and diving into the huge, open ocean - drowning in its coolness forever. But no - the malevolent gods had other plans for me.

The train appeared to be composed entirely of the silhouettes of its own proportions. I felt like the lifeless husk of some terrible animal, with the undertones of a miserable and atavistic rage. And to make matters worse, the smug, young ticket collector, perfectly ironed, was trying to make small talk with me through his pearly grin which was no more than two inches away from my face. (I hadn’t spoken a word to anyone all day, so I had no way of knowing what would come out of my mouth when I tried to speak: Terrible whooping shrieks? Vomit? Inappropriate truths? I remained silent, nodding amiably towards his inane ramblings).

But the thing that bothered me most wasn’t that the train was seemingly infected with the strange smell of death, or that my face had become a grinning mirror of the conductor’s own. What bothered me most was the small tribe of androgynous, French gypsy-children who were spread throughout the carriage. They wore black cloth turbans, empty, indoctrinated stares and what appeared to be old curtains for robes. They reminded me of the kind of half-drugged slave-labourers that Indiana Jones might rescue from the grip of some terrible voodoo underworld. Their faces were painted white and each wore a large silver earring in their right ear. I watched them kissing miniature prayer books and smiling like only the dumb products of generations of incestuous copulation could.

I noticed all the other passengers were either reading fashion magazines or subtely eyeing one another darkly and grinning like cheatahs, like a pack of sex-crazed beasts in the dirty heat.

Hunched over and shivering, I stepped out from the train and onto solid ground, a half-crazed walking monument to devastation and confusion. Every terrified glance that watched me in disgust was a kind of strange filter for reality, a death rattle, some kind of warning. I was posing as a human.

My legs followed me home. I removed my clothes. I opened all the windows. And I dreamt for hours about the sound of the wind.

Sunday, 5 April 2009

The Beautiful Game

...The sun had persuaded me stop by the 7-a-side pitch to watch the game instead of get on with my work. The birdsongs confirmed I'd made the right choice. The game was about to start when someone shouted over to me. One team was a man short and I was asked to play. Wearing my leather shoes, heavy sweater and smart trousers I left my bags and the afternoon behind and took to the pitch. Almost all the players were Italian and didn’t speak much English. It couldn't have been more stereotypical… Shouting, swearing in Italian to saints and mothers, gesturing elaborately and making pleas with their hands to an imaginary referee who, for some reason, they kept calling 'Madonna'… The bosses shouted at the kitchen staff whenever they didn't pass the ball, every bad tackle resulted in endless rolling on the ground and, at one point, there was a frantic, fifteen minute debacle because someone apparently took the free-kick too quickly (only the English chefs didn’t' take part in the discussion, they sat down and got comfortable as soon as the familiar drama began to unfold.)

And the English talk of “the beautiful game”! Never before have I seen everyone so involved, so engaged with every kick and mis-kick of the ball, every header and every attempted pass. I was drenched with sweat and admiration by the time I left. I walked home alone, eating a pie. The Italians no doubt congregated together at one of their restaurants to continue deliberating the free-kick decision and argue with their hands about how long it's taken to pass the salt...

Friday, 27 March 2009

Simon Kelner and the Hunger for News

He reminded me of The Apprentice's Alan Sugar: commanding, well built, self-assured. But the Independent's Editor-in-chief, Simon Kelner, was a much more refined orator and sported a stylish little beard more patiently sculpted than Sir Alan’s imperial stubble.

When he strutted calmly into the lecture hall, holding a single sheet of white paper, it took a moment for Kelner's broad-shoulders and smile-accustomed-to-luxury to replace the tweed jacket and wire-rimmed spectacles I had seemingly come to expect from the editor of the Independent: the closest the UK has to a ‘leftist’ or 'environmental' newspaper.

As he made his way down the steps towards the lectern, his strut became a measured half-jog and his smile stiffened into a mask of concentration as he absorbed the praise of his introduction.

Simon Kelner's was to be the final talk in the Harris Lectures series, which celebrated the then-Lancashire Polytechnic’s groundbreaking journalism course - the first of its kind in the country - one which only thirty students enrolled (including Kelner).

He used his 60-minute slot to provide ‘real-life insights’ into the life of a national newspaper editor and share some amusing and informative anecdotes taken from his lengthy career as a reporter (including the escaped bear in south Wales that his heyday-rival actually witnessed but failed to report, missing out on a national scoop).


Kelner explained how, like most other newspapers, the Independent had stayed up all night to devote 30-pages of the following day's content to the US presidential elections, only to later learn that circulation figures fell dramatically that day. The reason, he told us, was simple. People wanted to access unfolding and nail-biting stories quickly, as they unfolded and became more nail biting, and so they turned to the television and the internet instead of newspapers.

But when it came to analysing the elections the following day, the paper's sales jumped by around 1/3. And this, according to Kelner, was an indication of the future survival techniques that the ailing newspaper industry would have to employ to remain above water. With regard to the survival of a newspaper's electronic offering, he believes that specialist ‘niche’ publications will have to be provided on a ‘pay-per-view’-type basis.

He told the eager-eared audience that the single most important quality for a journalist to possess was Hunger: a desire and a love for accessing and delivering news, an innate curiosity for what was going on in the world.

His message was simple yet inspiring: you must continually question authority's ‘official’ version of events and seek out new ways to get ‘behind the scenes’ in order to perform the essential task of a journalist: to monitor and scrutinize the centres of power – be they local, national or global.

These weren’t the words of someone who ‘once made it big’ or professed to ‘know all the angles’; they were the passions of a man who was still deeply driven by the hunger about which he spoke.

Another interesting, if questionable, defence of newspapers: they were a ‘genre’ rather than a ‘format’. In other words, a newspaper, for Kelner, is not a means of delivering news; it is a distinct style or mode of news in its own right. Its unique role being to challenge and inform the reader and to engage us in discussion. Whereas the BBC, for example, is a format among others, simply pumping out the facts as and when they arrived. Each has its respective place but only the printed press is able, according to Kelner, to meet the demands of “serious journalism”.

I have no doubt that there is some truth behind this assertion – but, as I listened, I could also see a devoted oil painter, eyeing with distain and a little envy, the print-maker’s big new house.


Although he “never really liked the look of Nicolas Sarkosy” he thought that the French president's decision to offer every 18-year-old a free subscription to a newspaper of their choice was one of the most forward thinking ideas tabled by a nation’s leader in some time. The idea being that the percentage of youngsters who would go on to develop a serious interest in the news would greatly increase.

He ended he talk, however, on a slightly sour note. Whilst expressing an opinion which was probably shared by most other ‘serious journalists’ in the room, he expressed it with such malice and pique as to cause them to totally reconsider their views.

He had not read a single line about the recent Jade Goody “freak show”. And, although he accepted that a newspaper's ideals sometimes had to be compromised for the sake of public interest, for him Jade Goody was one step to far. He could neither believe nor stomach the fact that the Guardian had actually lead with the story of her death. He found it all “totally distasteful”.


It was approaching tea-time and my hunger had been suitably stirred. I left Sir Alan answering questions about 'the future of the industry' and occasionally over-emphasising swear-words in an attempt to connect with the predominantly young audience (and, a la Sir Alan, partly because he was just 'a bit of a lad'.) He wasn't the James Lovelock-figure I had come to imagine or naively hope for, but at least his dynamic speech-making skills would, over the years, save a few trees-worth of paper.

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Channel 4 News presenter at UCLan

The Jon Snow Lecture has been rescheduled for Monday 9th March at 10pm
Hopefully we will get the right kind of snow this time!

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Inside Radio 4

A Discussion about the media in the digital age

Lead by Adam Shaw of the Today Programme

1pm Wednesday 4th March

Darwin Lecture Theatre

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

The Insidious Economics of Climate Change

• Whilst it may be true that a change in our perspective of the world is a necessary prerequisite for a change in our behaviour in relation to it, it is worth remembering that human beings do not construct the world ONLY in this metaphysical sense. The intricate physical composition of the biosphere is dependent not only on the ‘environment’ - the ‘earth-as-stage’ - but on the creatures that animate and are an extension of it.

James Lovelock, the originator of the Gaia hypothesis (a theory that suggests the world is a self-regulating and interconnected living system) states the following:

“The atmosphere on earth may seem to us like the most natural thing, but its composition - 21% oxygen and 79% nitrogen - is very odd. These gases were generated, and are maintained at an equable level for life's processes, by living organisms themselves; if the biosphere died, oxygen and nitrogen would disappear with it, leaving a greenhouse atmosphere similar to that of Mars and Venus (around 95% carbon dioxide and hundreds of degrees hot).”

If we learn to understand our place and functionality within the world, we may come learn to (re)value the earth itself. Both these processes, it seems, like countless others, are intimately bound up together and mutually constructive.

• Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) technologies, now thought by many environmental economists to be the panacea for global warming, are, instead, another short-term fix designed to stave off the negative effects of pollution for another generation or two.

Rather than systematically rooting out the disease that underlies the symptoms of climate change, technologies such as CCS deal in the same ‘problem-solution’ rhetoric that has prolonged the failure of current governments to address the environmental crisis in a substantial and enduring way: in ways that recognise and respect the intrinsic value of the earth and not its value in terms of the future of human beings (e.g. the highly influential Stern Review).

CCS involves trapping industrial carbon emissions and then burying them, thereby preventing the escape of CO2 into the atmosphere and limiting its contribution to global warming.

Once the waste is swept under the carpet (i.e. old oil and gas fields, such as those in the North Sea), then what? Try to forget it is there because we can’t see it?

The lasting solution is to focus on low carbon manufacturing, sustainable development and to change our lasting perspective on a world which we still understand, experientially and intellectually, so little about.

• Simon Hoggart, writing in the Guardian last week, explains that instead of making green gestures such as switching your mobile phone off (doing so for a year would save the equivalent amount of energy that is used to run a hot bath) we need to think in terms of more substantive action, and on a broader scale:

“Much environmentalism is fundamentally religious, the equivalent of taking a tin of beans to Harvest Festival in the hope of ending world hunger or, as David Mackay puts it in his new book Sustainable Energy Without the Hot Air, like baling out the Titanic with a teaspoon.”

• I would like to say a word in defence of the ‘fat cat bankers’ who we all (myself included) despise so much. The said financiers, especially those who have been at the centre of our spiralling economic crisis, are simply, in my view, successful capitalists – just as are those who employ slave labourers. Why should we blame them for mastering a same socio-economic system that we all support and aspire to succeed in without worrying too much about the welfare of others, at home or aboard?

(To set a precedent, animal rights philosopher Peter Singer donates a quarter of his wage to charity).

We should focus instead on fundamental, systematic changes that address the motives and values that underpin our culture as a whole, its institutions and prolonged direction, not merely on those who become TOO greedy.

Similarly, natural disasters (an inherently contradictory, humanly-biased term) are only indicators of a more serious environmental crisis, which is itself a consequence of a still wider, human crisis: a crisis of mind (which may itself prove to be a consequence of the homelessness we experience, living in a heavily industrialised world.)

• We cannot expect urban economies to suddenly become wholly organic systems, or even sustainable ones. But there is no reason why this utopian ideal shouldn’t be the goal which world leaders set in their sights.

Writing in the Guardian today, Suzanne Goldenberg reports that over two thirds of South Korea’s multi-billion dollar stimulus package will be spent on ‘green’ investments. The UK is investing just 7% of IT’S stimulus package in this way.

Given that wind and (in the UK) solar energy are inefficient energy sources, other than recycling our waste, what form can these ‘green measures’ take?

The U.S. package, recently passed by congress, includes: insulating buildings, investing in a new electric grid and improving public transport. Such action is vastly progressive for a country that, only a year ago, “was still in denial on issues of energy conservation” (Earl Blumenauer, a Congressman from Oregon and a champion of the environment.)

But until there is a cap on carbon emissions the inverted logic that ‘by saving the economy will hopefully also save the planet’ will continue to prevail and lead politicians and the public into a dark, carbon-sensitive alley.

• An assessment of the ‘green stimuli’ that should be put in place in order to help the economy and the climate, rated CCS as the ‘least good’ measure for triggering immediate fiscal growth, it was revealed today. The report, whose authors include Lord Stern, focused on ECONOMIC stimuli as those most urgently in need of attention, but also took into consideration the need to “lay the foundations” for low-carbon growth.

Although the report cited the need to increase “efficiency” and “make cuts” that might prove favourable for the environment, these and similar measures were discussed as a secondary concern, one that was considered predominantly in terms of its economic gain.

Green measures, said the report, would be a “useful” public investment in the current economic climate; not for their intrinsic value but because they are less financially risky than they previously have been, since they are “less likely to displace private spending in a recession”.

So whilst the growth of “green” technologies and “green” strategies is welcome news for environmental lobbyists, the same people may also, quite rightly, feel that the environment is not being rescued or respected but that it is being exploited in order to bolster economic growth. Any environmental gains will merely be a favourable by-product of economic ones.

Lord Stern’s report just confirms fears that the environment must still await its proper time and, when, or rather IF, that time comes, its advances will be charted with the subsequent economical benefits at its helm.

If energy resources such as coal and oil were not running out (as a result they become more expensive) and if the economy could thrive indefinitely, would these “green measures” even get a look in?

• By treating the natural world as a set of resources to be utilized for human use, we are simply disguising exploitation with the banner of ‘preservation’. And, by so doing, not only do we exploit the countless numbers of organisms whose quality of, and right to, life we destroy, but we are “debasing ourselves by debasing being itself” (Oscar Wilde).

Radical idealism should not stand in the way of practical changes in global industries - but, equally, it should not allow itself to become buried under a hollow heap of figures and arbitrary targets.

Friday, 20 February 2009

Match Report: A Short Paean to Diversity in a Local English Pub

"Dear Mother, Dear Mother, the church is cold,
But the ale house is healthy and pleasant and warm"

- William Blake

I was sat in Greyfriars last weekend, watching rugby in the late afternoon. The place was getting busier and the low din of conversation was beginning to buzz. Sat near me were two couples: one, a brightly dressed bi-sexual couple (one male, one female) and the other, a 60-year-old couple from Yorkshire, dressed in Sunday bests, washing down their Sunday roasts with pints of ale.

Mildly intoxicated with their first drinks and the knowledge that it was Saturday, the two couples had exchanged pleasantries and casual greetings, but little more - when I overheard the two women discussing the younger man’s naked form and his sexual tendencies. The Rugby commentary faded into the background. The older lady, the most drunk of them all - a large, energetic woman, dressed in pearls and high heels - had begun letting out long, sporadic screeches of laughter and talking enthusiastically about her own sexual interests, oblivious to the amused and disgusted stares of everyone around her.

The older Yorkshireman had remained silent and disinterested throughout, his gaze transfixed on the screen (that I now was only watching to conceal my new interest). He wore an old brown suit and had obviously hardened to his wife’s outbursts over the years. He seemed patient, but not liberal. So when his wife suddenly blurted out “and this one’s a gay”, the older man’s concentration broke and re-situated itself coldly in the direction of the younger man - I thought the whole thing might turn nasty and everyone would go home upset or shouting, or both…

The older couple were the type who would only talk to other English couples abroad (and by ‘only’ I mean do nothing else besides) - the type who would complain endlessly about the hostesses on the flight and then wake everyone up at the hotel with their wild cries of theatrical, drunken copulation which, the lady was eager to point out, “usually took place on a table”…

The husband nodded his approval. His eyes, long since receded into the depths of apathy, were an enticing contradiction compared with the occasional smile that emerged out of the corner of his lips, betraying his buxom, hidden passions.

When I looked around, the four of them had pulled their tables together and the conversation and laughter were in full flow. The old man extended his nonjudgemental lack of concern (punctured by the odd upwards glance of recognition and intrigue) to the younger couple’s confusing 'arrangement'. Whiskies went flying, laughter pervaded and the gossip was endless: sexual anecdotes, tattoos, Edif Piaf, gynaecologists, ferrets and lemurs and god knows what else were the baffling and wondrous subjects discussed with the same spirit of carefree joviality and ludicrous zeal that had somehow brought these disparate souls together, as one, on a cold Saturday afternoon in a warm English pub.

(Ireland 30 - 21 France)

Wednesday, 18 February 2009


Lecture: Thinking Like Darwin
24th February, 7pm Darwin Lecture Theatre

UCLAN's Darwin Day lecture for this year will feature Prof Armand Leroi, the evo-devo biologist from ICL whose TV documentary "What Darwin Didn't Know" was on BBC4 earlier this week (if you missed it, you still have until 4th Feb to catch it on the BBC iPlayer).

Lecture: Rock Guitar in 11 dimensions
13th March, 6pm UCLAN

What causes the revolutionary, history-changing sound of rock guitar, and how does it help us to understand the nature of the stuff we’re made of? Dr Mark Lewney explains the physics of rock using riffs from Vivaldi to AC/DC and demonstrates how string vibrations might answer Big Questions about our Universe.
This introduction to Superstring Theory explores cutting edge physics and maths, through the medium of rock guitar. Prepare to think in 4-, 5- or even 11 dimensions!

Free theatre tickets if you're under 26:

Monday, 16 February 2009

Goodbye to Planet Earth

Now that “environmentalism” has become “mainstream” [‘Welcome to Planet Earth’ published in The Guardian, 14 February] its activists and the general public must fully embrace political debate.

In order to do so we must first come to terms with the scope and foundation of ecological thinking that is often subsumed beneath the hot air headlines. “Environmentalism”, a distinctly general and somewhat ‘twee’ designation, must become “Ecology”, emphasising the idea of collective residence and responsibility – originating from the Greek word oikos meaning ‘house’.

“Environmentalism” has enjoyed a surge in popularity in recent years and has found its way onto most western political agendas and firmly into the backs of people’s minds across the world (whether as a pertinent topic of discussion or, already, in the form of tangible changes in the natural environment).

However, the subject will continue to provide a misguided offensive in the fight against climate change and the depletion of finite resources if it continues to seek solutions based on human-centred perspectives. “Our futures” and “the branch upon which we sit” should no longer be considered in terms of Homo sapiens alone and must be extended or, rather, deepened to include the earth and its countless organisms, seen as a complex and interconnected whole.

The fact that many basic (energy) resources are under increasing threat is worrying for many people. Millions of us rely on them daily for survival. But to only see as far as the human cost of human action is to remain entrenched in a way of thinking that contributed to the crisis in the first place; namely, anthropocentrism.

It may seem like a flippant question to ask but it is one which may be worth considering: is a change in the world’s climate necessarily a bad thing? Whilst it is surely indicative of deeper problems harboured by the ecosystem, the climate has been shifting for millennia and the world’s flora and fauna have adapted to the changes. It is only when the biodiversity of the planet is affected that this change becomes problematic.

The cognitive and behavioural shift that is required for a non-anthropocentric worldview to prevail will be successfully brought under ever closer scrutiny as a result of continuing media coverage and the subsequent public awareness. But the more objective and the less dramatic this exposure is, the quicker we will be able to understand the world in its own, myriad terms. Environmentalism needs to be made publicly appealing but must not become diluted as a consequence.

Etymological Back-Peddling

The “intended” scriptural meaning of the word 'dominion' cannot be used to account for Christianity’s prolonged contribution to the current environmental crisis [‘Sir David has Misunderstood the Scriptures’ published in The Independent, 31 January]. Christianity, however, can; in so far as it has perpetuated the negative interpretations of such words and has done little to counteract the actions that such (continuing) interpretations have lead to [Lynn White’s article The Historical Roots of Our Environmental Crisis, first published back in 1967, is probably still the most noteworthy study in this field].

The etymology of the word 'dominion' is of little importance when considered in relation to the rest of the Book of Genesis. Consider the word “subdue” for example: I doubt that it has many positive connotations. Scripture alone cannot be held to blame for the blindly hubristic actions of man (a term which I use here purposefully). It is simply a good excuse.

But, of course, it is not only Christianity that is responsible for disseminating the (predominately western) idea of man's superiority in relation to the non-human world. In proclaiming “I think, therefore I am” not only did Rene Descartes succeed in denying the non-human world an equal existence to man; he denied it any existence whatsoever!

By championing the rational intellect as the sole source of Truth, Descartes and other dualistic philosophers have, for centuries, stifled and misinterpreted the value of personal experience in conviviality with the non-human world.
Perhaps it is time we began to redress this balance in the most appropriate way possible: by making small but significant changes in our own lives, instead of indulging in repetitive and fruitless discussions about phraseology, policy-making and blame.


A group of anti-war campaigners were arrested today after staging a dramatic protest on the 50ft-high rooftop of the University of Central Lancashire.

The three protesters were perched precariously on the edge of the university's main building near the Adelphi roundabout, dressed in high-visibility jackets and carrying a megaphone and a 10ft banner, which flapped illegibly in the wind.

Within minutes of the protest breaking out, several police vans were on the scene along with 15 uniformed officers and several of the university’s security staff. Hundreds of onlookers, wondering how they might get to their next class, gathered to witness the spectacle unfold.

Rather than attempt to scale the roof themselves, like a strange collective magician the police produced a set of step-ladders from their armoured vehicle and asked the protesters to kindly come down - which, after around half an hour of walking around, they did.

Other than the occasional isolated cheer, the demonstration was greeted with puzzled smirks, a parade of uplifted mobile phone cameras and shouts of “sort your sign out” and “speak up a bit”, comments which roused a greater response than the campaigners' own.

The message concealed behind the largely inaudible ramblings from the megaphone was undermined throughout by the garbled delivery and listless, sweeping mentions of various (unconnected) wars and ‘causes’ currently ongoing around the world.

The protest by the Preston campaign group ‘Disobey’ was organised in response to the university’s affiliation with arms production company BAE Systems. The university owns over £20,000-worth of shares in BAE Systems and is involved in research projects linked to the company.

A day earlier the campaign group had assembled outside BAE’s Warton site to read out the names of children and young people who had died in Gaza.

The issue of arms development and the universities link therewith are clearly significant issues of public interest. But rather than bringing them to our attention by using unreadable cloth banners, dramatic stunts and megaphoned gibberish, surely organised and intelligent public debate is a more affective route to pursue, for both parties concerned.

Whilst there is no substitute, in terms of force-of-delivery, for a good-old-fashioned protest; in order to straighten out the facts and their implications in this matter, the debate chambers, rather than a windy rooftop on a Wednesday afternoon, is surely the most appropriate and constructive arena to provoke any serious or lasting change.