Goddess Visions

‘Gaia as metaphor: Gaia as a catalyst for scientific enquiry: Gaia as literal truth: Gaia as Earth Goddess. Whoever she is, let’s keep her. If science cannot find room for the grand vision, if Gaia dare not speak her name in Nature, then shame on science.’ Fred Pearce, ‘Gaia, Gaia, don’t go away’, New Scientist, 1994

‘The current Gaian thinking that I believe can help here is a new scientific development of an old concept. The imaginative vision behind it – the idea of our planet as in some sense a single organism – is, of course, very old. Plato called the earth ‘a single great living creature’ and this is language that people in many cultures would find natural. Our own culture, however, shut out this notion for a long time from serious thought. Orthodox Christian doctine damned it as involving pagan nature-worship. And modern scientists, for their part, were for a long time so exclusively devoted to atomistic and reductive explanations that they too rejected this reference to a wider whole. Indeed, during much of the twentieth century the very word ‘holistic’ has served in some scientific circles simply as a term of abuse...Recently, however, scientists have been becoming somewhat less wedded to this odd one-sided reductive ideology – less sure that nothing is really science except particle physics. The environmental crisis has helped this shift by making clear the huge importance of ecology, which always refers outwards from particulars to a wider whole. In that changed context, solid scientific reasons have emerged for thinking that the notion of our bio-sphere as a self-maintaining system – analogous in some sense to individual organisms – is not just a useful but actually a scientifically necessary one.’ Mary Midgley, Science and Poetry, Routeledge, 2003

‘We shall affirm that the cosmos, more than anything else, resembles most closely that living Creature of which all other living creatures, severally or genetically, are portion; a living creature which is fairest of all and in ways most perfect. ‘ Plato

‘Modern man no longer regards Nature as being in any sense divine and feels perfectly free to behave towards her as an overwhelming conqueror and tyrant.’ Aldous Huxley

‘It may metaphorically be said that natural selection is daily and hourly scrutinising, throughout the world, every variation, even the slightest; rejecting that which is bad, preserving and adding up all that is good; silently and insensibly working, whenever and wherever opportunity offers, at the improvement of each organic being in relation to its organic and inorganic conditions of life. ‘ Charles Darwin, The Origin of Species, 1859

‘Amusive birds! – say where your hid retreat/ When the frost rages and the tempests beat;/  Whence your return by such nice instinct led,/ When spring, soft season, lifts here bloomy head?/ Such baffled searches mock man’s prying pride,/ The GOD of NATURE is your secret guide!’ Gilbert White, 1720-93, The Naturalist’s Summer-Evening Walk

You have awoken me, calling a name

You have awoken me, calling a name; Gaia,

as they did, my innocent first ones - sprung

so short a time, charged with sparks of my energy.

Under the earth I sleep - what I have put in motion

cycles endlessly, allowing me to dream more

life - variety, diversity; new arts of Evolution.

Each spring I stir, hearing the word of the season,

appearing from earth in green, my robes are soon

covered in flowers, bees surround my ears –

what seasons have I counted, stitching life’s

rich garments, one to the other; all bound

by my embroidering touch - fundamental

creativity of my nature, my unfailing desire.

Many have been my names - this one, Gaia,

echoing not so long ago; only the birth of stars

is far to me. I am patient, giving, still learning -

my art is everything alive, dark passages to bright;

beetle and bird, insect, mammal, all belong to me -

I am their mother, as yours; your coming from earth

is sculpturing of life in your distinctive human shape.

But now you disturb me by your unexpected actions,

damaging, drastic - feverish, up and down in my bed;

spirit of spring called forth and back again –

flowers opening white eyes, purple, yellow,

then blinded with snow - but Polar bears, seals,

penguins, starving in water that was ice at heart;

was written as ice in the volumes of the world,

as I monitored the Sun’s blazing poetry heard.

My fevers increase; I am sick, prime systems infected,

unbalanced. I sleep fitfully, snatch peace, restfulness –

I have tasted illness before, but only there in my finger -

one toe, one bowl of my blue liquids, some tired species;

now my brain decays, fount of my processes,

holy chemistries - my magic and medicines

are becoming defunct – my lungs are trees

suffocating in catastrophic fires miles wide.

You and I are both surprised, shocked to our core;

between you and me I reckoned I was something

divine, invincible - that men, if not intimidated still,

would love me forever, just for my generous youth,

good gifts I pour out upon the planet; that they would

look up, see the Universe where I cannot be - am not.

‘Constantly think of the Universe as one living creature, embracing one being and one soul; how all is absorbed into the one consciousness of this living creature; how it compasses all things with a single purpose, and how all things work together to cause all that comes to pass, and their wonderful web and texture.‘ Marcus Aurelius, 170 A.D.

‘And a Green Chill upon the Heat/ So ominous did pass/ We barred the Windows and the Doors/ As from an Emerald Ghost - / The Doom’s electric Moccasin/ That very instant passed - / On a strange Mob of panting Trees…’ Emily Dickinson, There Came a Wind like a Bugle

‘There was always movement down there/ beneath the slick of moonlight on the turning/ water, like a life beneath the life/ I understood as cattle tracks and birds:/ a darker presence, rising from the stream, / to match my every move, my every breath/…still blurred with mud/ and unrecovered song/…I thought that she would stop and recognise/ a fellow soul, with river in his eyes,/ slipping home under a wave of light and noise,/ and finding the key to her nights/ in his soft, webbed fingers.’ John Burnside, Heatwave

‘Cloud-fingered summer, the beautiful trapper,/ Picks up the singing cage// And takes out the Song, adds it to the Songs/ With which she robes herself, which are her wealth.’ Ted Hughes, In the Likeness of a Grasshopper

‘I may be smelly and I may be old,/ Rough in my pebbles, reedy in my pools,/ But where my fish float by I bless their swimming/ And I like the people to bathe in me, especially women.’ The River God, Stevie Smith

‘spring is like a perhaps/ hand in a window/ carefully to/ and fro moving New and/ Old things, while/ people stare carefully /moving a perhaps/ fraction of flower here placing/ an inch of air there) and// without breaking anything. ‘ E.E. Cummings, Spring is like a perhaps hand

‘Nor did [Darwin] himself quite know clearly how far a transcendental level surrounded his invocation of nature. Certainly there is something extra, above and beyond the technical, in his insistence on the naturalness of natural selection. Nature authorizes and is internal at once. Whereas artificial selection implies an outside agency, natural selection brings agency inside production…Darwin evokes and needs a more personified Nature than his disclaimer in the third edition allows. More typical of nature’s maternal presence in the Origin’s argument are passages such as this: ‘as man can certainly produce great results by adding up in any given direction mere individual differences, so could Nature, but far more easily, from having incomparably longer time at her disposal.’ Gillian Beer, Introduction to the Origin of Species, 1859, Oxford University Press, 1988

‘Of course the personifications in thinking of this kind should not be taken literally. Yet the reverent, awe-struck attitide that lies behind those personifications is surely a suitable one both for sicence and for our general relation to the cosmos. Einstein was not being silly. Anyone who tries to contemplate these vast questions without any sense of reverence for their vastness simply shows ignorance of what they entail. And of course, if the system of life itself is taken to have participated in the history of evoution in the sort of way that Gaian thinking suggests, then a substantail part of this reverence is surely due to that system. If it has indeed played a crucial part in stabilising conditions on earth through billions of years, to the point where we ourselves are now here and able to profit from them – if it has managed the reamarkable feat of perserving the atmosphere and controlling the temperarature, thus saving the earth from becoming a dead planet like Mars and Venus and turning it instead into the cherished blue-green sphere whose picture we all welcomed – if it has done all this for us, then the only possible response to that feat is surely wonder, awe and gratitude.’ Mary Midgley, Science and Poetry, Routeledge, 2003

Mark of Gaia

The bluebells came - a mark of Gaia walking forth

in her lonely places, still free; birds perching on her

open arms, blue dress moving, ringing the air silver -

she is green and brown, gold her cereal hair, wreathed

with flowers, sunflower and lily crowns; her pink lips

a rose, perfumed - just as she looks in pictures, in fact,

rational imaginings - focusing here where unspoiled air

is clear enough to see. Shy, girlish as a deer, yet mighty

as the slate storms constantly simmering over grey

sea cauldrons. She smells floral - of heather, honey; 

her blood sugary - dusted with pollen, she shimmers;

has turned blue sea brilliant red among her animals -

warning blood should not be spilled; her crimson alert,

as she marks wasps and frogs with bitter yellow hoops.

Every day she walks further, purple-blue, hazy -

reclaiming every space her hands scattered seed;

touching, uplifting her possum bulbs. Her green feet

are stirring earth, each step a micro-pool for new life;

even at midnight, she is still dancing in her moon-

blue shift - more luminous against luminous water.

‘I recognise that to view the Earth as if it were alive is just a convenient, but different, way of organising the facts of the Earth. I am of course prejudiced in favour of Gaia and have filled my life for the past twenty-five years with the thought that Earth may be alive: not as the ancients saw her—a sentient Goddess with a purpose and foresight—but alive like a tree. A tree that quietly exists, never moving except to sway in the wind, yet endlessly conversing with the sunlight and the soil. Using sunlight and water and nutrient minerals to grow and change. But all done so imperceptibly, that to me the old oak tree on the green is the same as it was when I was a child.’ James Lovelock, Gaia: The Practical Science of Planetary Medicine, Gaia Books Limited, London, 1991

That shifting in the green

That shifting in the green - lazily, hazily observed,

on a hot summer day; earth breathing pollen, other

gold dusts that hang in the season, blown warmly

from somewhere gorgeous, so old and crumbling -

plumping obese bumblebees until they fumble clumsily

into reluctant virgin-white flowers who want the fittest -

stumble heavily through yellow air, now Republicans

cursing lives of tedious honey - hierarchy, Monarchy;

muttering to silver flies suddenly disturbed

at sewing ethereal blue air to keep it here -

seamed to the Earth when its nature is more heavenly -

such shiver in the sewing flies is the same perturbation

of natural space; all that’s required - co-ordinates

of one tree, leaf; a dirty dandelion at the roadside

surreptitiously butting his suns through tarmac.

Communication that is not a voice, but speaks

a language written in the shared genes of Earth -

concentration of green intention, personification,

focus; crust grown by idea, garments of Evolution -

produced from earth and water as much as flowers.

Why should we not be aware of her passing by -

in neck hairs, skin; sound heard by animal blood.

‘Pagan religions too of course contain far more admirable things than the kind of low-grade magic that Lucretius deplores. His own tradition included Aeschylus’ tremendous dramas about the nature of justice, Pindar’s wonderful hymns to Apollo, Plato’s myths, the Eleusinian mysteries and plenty more. And indeed, Lucretius humself furnishes a great example of the splendid things that paganism could contain in the great opening passage of his poem On the Nature of Things. This is a straightforward hymn to Venus – an invocation of her as the spirit of life, the generous maternal force in nature which fills living things with delight and makes possible the whole admirable world around us. Here is devotion to an ideal which is clearly seen as spiritual as well as physical – devotion of a kind polytheists often express very nobly towards their deities, because, for them, those deities stand for the central forces at work in their life. When Lucretius mentions the Earth too, he repeatedly has trouble restraining himself from openly venerating it as our divine Mother in a way that recalls the current embrassment of some scientists in handling the concept of Gaia.’ Mary Midgley, Science and Poetry, Routeledge, 2003

God is very fond of pagans

God is very fond of pagans;

where and how He is seen

is immaterial - He knows

His truth is written in web

as vividly as any text

via the hands of man.

Communal poetry of the world

See how the respectful Celts did not retire their gods

and goddesses in assimilating other kinds of holiness;

there is room enough in love for these earth and water

spirits, protectors – poems of the elements of nature -

as a child draws the sun with a smiling face and eyes.

Did God Himself not bless the very earth and water -

as first materials for man, for every creature known;

our script written in language of bees, birds, wings,

flowers, foxes; eagles crying overhead, stags pointing

their spires to Heaven from the purple mountain skull.

The broken silver mouth of the river is also of God -

the flowered green robe of the wild spring hill; corn

moving as fur in ripened fields - each coppered eye

on the metallic beech; and whatever dances unseen

there on cushions of starry moss, muffled by pine needles.

God is reading to us, all Earth’s communal, natural poetry.

‘That sense of wonder and gratitude is clearly what the Greeks had in mind when they named the earth Gaia, the divine mother of gods and men. They never developed that name into a full humanisation… But the name still expressed their awe and gratitude at being part of that great whole. And today there is evidently more, not less, reason to feel that awe and gratitude, because we have learned something of the scope of the achievement. The sense of life itself as active and effective throughout this vast development has become stronger, not weaker, with our understanding of our evolutionary history. This is the sense that Darwin expressed when he wrote, at the end of the Origin of Species,’ There is grandeur in this view of life’.’ Mary Midgley, Science and Poetry, Routeledge, 2003

We welcomed Gaia (at our West Highland feast)

We welcomed Gaia at our feast -

so wild the hour and environment,

I half expected the women guests made-up

in smeared blue wode instead of lipstick -

or green streaks rubbed upon their cheeks

like the feral children massacring bracken.

The day had exploded out of usual boundaries -

so much life crammed into this unspoiled place;

I was dizzy with the flickering strobe of swallows,

a blue heat breathed through the artifical lungs of

sweating flowers; hallucinogenic masses

of bluebell, yellow iris, gorse and broom.

Sunlight had fallen through the unsmogged air,

shattering into dandelions, greasing buttercups -

white garlic fumes were reeking, so the sea;

the rotten weed bursting black party poppers.

Trees hallelujahed for spring a zillion times -

grown to an attitude of prayer, forest church;

until my hands were also upraised, leafy -

blessing my fingertips, I anointed my lips

with red wine - well water from an old spring

where water tastes distinctly water flavoured;

not of clear chemical effluent, imposter water

molecules infiltrating water-dependent bodies.

The big dance of this day was everywhere;

one tune explored - a rising wild crescendo

when the shiny shivering of young leaves

was moved by breath of some description;

a presence of breath - the word of oxyen

and carbon dioxide in process, harmony;

Gaia catching sight of human dancers’ steps -

blowing her bugle, tuned orchestra of her lips.

Her fingers are that of a tree, multiple, spread;

from incandescent tips, green comes - flowers

like slow, coloured flames. Exhausted

by the energy of the day, apprehensive

of letting myself see any more -

to comprehend this rare audience,

I dared not look into her fertilising eyes,

peering through darker leaves - as shine

darts among the feathers of a black bird;

feeling her being there, just present here

was enough, like the simple warm ecstasy

of an unspoiled summer day with friends.

So few her places now for welcome,

where she can breathe, be – survive;

so I laid my feet carefully on earth,

feeling the beat of her brown heart,

touched anything green to feel her charge,

until so energised, I am bright, crackling -

the way the singing silver burn reacts

to her passing: ‘Great Gaia’, I fumble,

unable to dance as the ecstatic leaves,

flowers, give over their bodies, lives,

even their deaths to beauty and seeds, the future.

Great Gaia I stutter in my head, grateful forever

to have lived here once, today; to feel her power,

music, grace - to know that presence, understand

she still exists in her old green holiness, illumined -

that we are needed as she becomes extinct elsewhere.

The Horseshoe Slipped

The horseshoe slipped

on the lichen-stubbled rock face -

lumpy garden rock that was a giant’s head once;

and just as the superstition goes,

all my luck fell out.

From that day,

sky opened like a grey umbrella

inside the blue house of day -

hiding Heaven as it is clearly seen away up here.

Moon howled with her round white mouth

to werewolves like a singing silver bullet-hole,

a rabid gleam in her tarnished-halo eye;

somehow drew rusty blood

from the picked mountain fangs,

to plumb her polished bone.

Silver cobwebbed maps among the stars were lost -

star lights went out like black cats shutting their eyes,

broken Christmas fairy lights -

the compass of Jesus broke its chain,

went hurtling out of sight like a comet

to be seen next in two hundred years.

The witches of local bitches

came sniffing round the rusting iron,

as hyenas stalk a wounded lion -

iron, and the rowan, running water, keeps them away,

but the stream had dried up too -

we were drinking mud, wrigglers,

and God knows what

forgotten little mountain things.

Autumn had bled the rowan,

spitting her last dark clots

into earth’s slowly digesting

black mouth.

How do you put the luck back in?

Fill that flat, symbolic, cross-section cup again?

How do you put the luck back in to a life?

I look fruitlessly on the grass -

the giant’s green shorn beard,

and I’m looking for something like glitter,

Tinkerbell trail, goldsmith’s dust;

or what - some silver stuff

like mercury,

sunbeams you idly try to hold in water.

I cup nothing, pour it in,

like salt missing on fingertips thrown anyway

over the shoulder to keep the Devil away.

I shiver before the mirror people

who are not quite like us -

trying to throw themselves from walls;

my husband keeps walking under ladders -

I shout: ‘Do not take my son there’ because it’s not funny.

The sky is booming.

The sky is Armageddon-black.

Air is holding its breath,

flowers hiding their dependable cheerful faces.

I hear the anxious, jittering hearts of animals -

the endangered green and brown and silver fairies

of Europe’s last temperate rain forest

peer around nervously.

I kiss my Jesus-less, Presbyterian crucifix -

(why can’t we do that fantastic crossing-yourself thing?

Quick, when the Meenister isn’t looking) -

because the horseshoe has slipped, and all my luck run out.

‘A trait that brings the resulting organism closer to the optimum growth conditions will spread. Such a trait is, by definition ‘Gaian’. In contrast, a mutation in an ‘anti-Gaian’ direction will have its spread restricted by puting the organism responsible at an evolutionary disadvantage…There are many examples of living plants altering climate to their own benefit. Ecosystem-level environmental feedbacks must be understandable in terms of natural selection… Ecosystems that have stabilising feedback will tend to persist and spread, whereas ecosystems that develop destabilising feedbacks will tend to collapse and disappear.’ Timothy M Lenton, Gaia and Natural Selection, Nature, 1998

‘In the long run this may make the whole forest look like a single harmonious whole, with each unit pulling for the benefit of all, every tree and soil mite, even every parasite, playing its part in one big, happy family…a much truer vision sees the forest as an anarchistic federation of selfish genes...This is the right way to handle the temptations of ‘Gaia’, the overrated romantic fancy of the whole world as an organism.’ Richard Dawkins, Unweaving the Rainbow, Penguin, 1998

‘Obviously the idea of Gaia is a myth, a symbol. But then so is the sociobiological idea of the Selfish Gene. One of these myths empasises our separateness from the world around us. The other emphasises our profound dependence on it. Since wholes are quite as real as parts, there is no reason in principle why we should have to prefer the first emphasis over the second… And given the current situation, there seems to me little doubt about which of them we most need to guide our thinking today.’ Mary Midgley, Science and Poetry, Routeledge, 2003

I will make you a Goddess

I will make you a goddess if it helps;

call you a name and humbly kneel -

I will crown you, praise your works -

if only you will live, survive, recover.

O, Old Mother, if may I call you that,

still, as fitting mark of due reverence.

Old Mother, breathe deep, rise again;

be as you were - before us, during us,

until now; when men trembled, prayed,

dressed you in grand names - sculpted

your clay, painted you as motherly;

hallowed, generous - and beautiful.  

Poems were written to your glory,

your endless gifts, power; grace -

how innocent these rhyming children seem -

believing then, your domain could never end;

your complex systems, rhythmic cycles, endless

humming summer days of sun-charmed blood -

what could be surer than the seasons came,

wheeling one into the other - without end.

Dying fires of autumn would crucible the seed,

impossible as phoenix eggs - oracles of future

green. Spring obliterate the grip of winter grey;

canopy the woods, replenish fields - make food

in beauteous forms of fruit and golden grain -

succulent green leaves, more blood sanctified.

Sea would turbulently storm and rage; volatile,

full of the energy, passion required for Earth - 

but always calm; fitting rules of ragged bowls.

What dark dreams are these that come to pass -

conjured from materials that no man had before

this time; nor brought from imaginary voyages -

that even symbols, inviolable, sure, could falter;

crash, pervert - could fade, melt as gold into sun.

That Earth might sicken in her prime - assaulted;

dependent, all her creatures tremble in existence,

turned autumn leaves just hanging to the mother tree,

as pestilent wind plucks struggling species; before us.

As light weakens and burns; seas choke

on their own waters, effluent - so much

death walks among unarmed fish, coral kingdoms;

scripts of the seabed garden, sick mammals, sand -

I will call you a goddess if it helps; brings focus

to my desire - if such a name should unite action.

‘One of these areas that has been made artificially difficult – the connection between scientific thought and the rest of life – comes out quaintly in the sharp debate about the implications of the name Gaia itself. That name arose when Lovelock told his friend, the novelist William Golding, that people found it hard to grasp his idea, and Golding promptly replied ‘Why don’t you call it Gaia?’, which is the name of the Greek earth-goddess, mother of gods and men. That name, when he used it, did indeed rouse much more interest in the theory. Many people who had not previously understood it now grasped it and thought it useful. Others, however, particularly in the scientific establishment, now rejected it so violently that they refused to attend to the details of it altogether…To get round this difficulty, Lovelock used a different image. He launched the medical model of Gaia – the idea of the damaged earth as a patient for whom we humans are the only available doctor, even though (as he points out) we lack the long experience of other sick planents which a doctor attending such a case really ought to have. So he invented the name geophysiology to cover the skills needed by such a physician. This medical imagery at once made it much easier for scientists to accept the notion of Gaia. When the point is put in medical terms, they begin to find it plausible that the earth does in some way function as an organic whole, that its climate and oceans work together with living things to maintain a normal balance, and that what gravely upsets any part of the system is liable to upset others. They can see that, for such a whole, the notion of health is really quite suitable. And of course they find the patient Gaia, lying in bed and politely awaiting their attention, much less threatening than that scandalous pagan goddess.’ Mary Midgley, Gods and Goddesses & The Role of Wonder, Routeledge, 2003

You remember your Goddess names;

so many rituals, so much ceremony -

let them call you now from this fever,

symptoms of  sickness - ensuing coma.

You know we feel ourselves still your children;

in mind, imagination, heart - and science now -

calling us from dust, naming us brother,

sister to everything alive; to earth itself.

You know we feel the power of God -

creativity, burning life itself; whatever

word you choose, believe - same as you;

knowledge, when we bury modest seed

with incredulous fingers - wait impatiently

for flowers, like the heart for love; desired,

impossible prize and stupendous outcome;

so much beauty coming from the darkness.

Look at these children living in a tree for you,

laying their bodies on the road, inside tunnels;

this man giving his life to butterflies,

that woman dying for Orang-utans -

this scientist preaching about the end,

waving his expert facts, stark figures,

like a modern banner of the writing on the wall -

antidote to such blindness, dilution, misdirection.

Look, this small child gave all he had to help you;

you know how these little ones understand best -

before they can weigh evidence, articulate -

take hope from them, be comforted; behind

them so many more - flocking like nurses,

doctors, bringing their own great numbers;

fighting for you. Earth’s passionate human army,

who do not understand why, if there are so many

of us, they are winning - can go on thus destroying.

But until this unnaccountable conundrum is solved,

bear with us please; struggle on through ill winds

of change - clouds without silver lining; groaning

shifts we feel beneath our feet, in beating hearts;

our early garden roses, dead birds, skin cancers –

rain and rain; gasping as another forest burns.

We know you are disturbed - haemorrhaging

animals and plants like blood - invisible species

not yet known to us, who never will be; flowers,

fish, taking gratis medicines with them

that could probably have cured us all -

fuelled and beautified; purified, replenished with

clean energy from water - bacterial mechanisms.

Be aware we hear Creation’s lament, pibroch,

as these things come to pass; among the stars,

weeping in space from your blue eye -

looking to empty Moon, spinster sister;

staring away to thumbprint Milky Way,

where you heard there could come kin -

but austere stars, jealous all this time,

stare back with flinty glint, merciless

with thoughts of hopeless dust, burning ice.

Sun cannot help but beat down – intensify -

where your open lung struggles, turns desert

despite your best intentions, efforts, attempts.

Your balancing act is tumbling; all of us resting

on your shoulders, in formation, also crumbling.


O Great Mother – if I may still call you that -

making your huge dimensions easier to grasp;

if science has proven us all family,

even to scuttling insect and worm -

if lion and tiger are my brothers,

leaf and flower - the very earth -

then how much more obvious, pressing,

is our need to act, pull together; to unite

in deed as we are one in ultimate body,

ancient chemistry - all free inhabitants

of one great planet, interconnected

in patterns too sublime for vision –

to protect you, Greater Mother than LUCA,

first coagulation of a printed cell scripting

all our futures - lizard, eagle, leaf, bear, man -

for on you we all depend, as vulnerable infants

in space alone, with nowhere else to run -

nowhere other to grow but rare, exotic here.

And if they will not save you for love;

if wonder and awe - glory and beauty,

are not enough to stop them; educate, illustrate,

we must make them save you for themselves -

so Mother, Goddess, God’s Creation;

astounding accident or freaky space

happening - blue mutant - necessary

planetary solipsist, beautiful aesthete; 

whoever, which/whatever, stay with us,

keep holding on as you are, just endure;

for slowly, too slowly,

we are coming to help.

Here is a last bastion of Nature

Here is a last bastion,

stronghold of Nature;

her green monastery,

scripts preserved -

illuminated manuscripts

of sea, purple mountains;

where tree monks worship,

every arm uplifted to blue -

eagles celebrate

in tooled gold,

gravity’s sewing

of Earth and Sky;

high arches of rainbow salmon

leap silver from salty cloisters -

stags pointing up to Heaven

with branched, living spires.

‘How can we adjust to this change? …in conceptual emergencies like this what we have to attend to is the nature of our imaginative visions – the world-pictures by which we live. In the vision belonging to the contractual tradition, the natural world existed only as a static background. It was imagined simply as a convenient stage to accommodate the human drama. That vision radically obscured the fact that we are ourselves an organic part of this world, that we are not detached observers but living creatures continuous with all other such creatures and constantly acting upon them. It blinded us to the thought that we might be responsible for the effect of these actions. In order now  to shake the grip of that powerful vision what we need, as usual, is a different one that will shift it. We need a more realistic picture of the way the earth works, a picture which will correct the delusive idea that we are either engineers who can redesign our planet or chance passengers who can detach themselves from it when they please. I think that we need, in fact, the idea of Gaia’.  Mary Midgley, Science and Poetry, Routeledge, 2003

Beautiful root of an idea

She is risen, as Venus from the sea;

beautiful root of an idea – manifest.

Like us, her limbs made of earth,

water and light - though greener,

owning her other creatures closer.

Golden-winged as an eagle-angel,

her eyes are of the peacock tail;

waves lace her blue cuffs, grass

robe - her garlands of flowers

are full of bees. But shadows

also under her greater dazzling,

in the sockets of her many eyes;

fire and volatile rocks are terrible

in her hands – her life is written

in part by death; ruthless experiments

in emergent art, of perilous instability.

Her sword the colour of salmon scale,

dripping melted rainbows - mercury -

sight of her spirit is as a tornado;

a silver spire burning at her core,

spindle body, anchoring her - dancing

umbilical blood-wire screwed between

heaven and earth; interlocutor

for life - strung astoundingly

among four dimensions, misunderstood

rules - through threads of time webbed.

‘Knowledge of microorganisms derived from genomics research can contribute to developments in environmental biotechnology. Naturally occurring soil bacteria can clean up land that is contaminated with chemicals and heavy metals because they produce detoxifying enzymes. However, these bugs are not very efficient. Consequently, the most economical way of cleaning up ‘brown field’ sites is simply to remove the soil and take it elsewhere – digging and dumping, not an environmentally friendly solution. Small-scale trials show that genetically modified bacteria containing extra copies of the gene that produces the detoxifying enzyme can process more noxious substances in less time; fast enough, perhaps, to make microbial clean-up a more economically attractive process.’ Medical Research Council, UK,  2000 

‘Professor Rees also had warnings for conference participants. "Bio and cyber technologies are environmentally benign as they offer marvellous prospects, but they will have a dark side," he said. "One technology may empower just one fanatic to trigger a global catastrophe. We have to accept the risks if we are going to enjoy the benefits of science," he said. Professor Rees called on scientists and entrepreneurs to take on the responsibility to campaign and alert the rest of the world to both the risks and benefits. Earth, after all, has a long history ahead. Even those in the field of evolutionary sciences are far from knowing how humanity will change. Computer models can only go so far when we do not even fully understand how we came about on Earth in the first instance. We have only existed, as far as we know, for a few billion years. "If you represent the Earth's lifetime in a single year, the 21st Century would be a quarter of a second in June," said Professor Rees. We are not even halfway through our allotted time on Earth before the Sun itself burns out. "Any life and intelligence that exists then will be as different from us as we are to bacteria," he explained. Our rate of population growth and our addiction to fossil fuels and consumption of resources only adds to the uncertainty about our future. ‘ BBC, 2005

Note from the author
exploring the project

    Gene Zoo
    Gene Garden
    Earth Poems
        Mass Extinction
        Nature & Science notes
        Goddess Visions

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