Nature as an Act of Resistance

On Friday 25th June, The Supreme Court ruled that American women should no longer have constitutional rights to abortion. Abortion clinics have already begun to close. About half of states are expected to introduce new restrictions or bans and 13 states have so-called trigger laws in place that will see abortion banned within 30 days.

What a travesty.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott, in the last couple of years, has banned Critical Race Theory being taught in schools, has signed an executive order to challenge Biden's climate change agenda, has overseen a record number of anti-trans bills introduced to the state’s House and Senate, has the most relaxed approach to gun laws and is now celebrating abortions being made illegal.

This is what can happen when power corrupts the mind. When people prioritise wealth over humanity. Profit over people. Themselves over communities.

Empathy, togetherness and action need to make a radical comeback.

We Brits currently have an un-democratic government who want to silence protests, deny institutional racism, impose violent state borders, embolden a morally-inept media, encourage spending, work, and productivity in the face of price rises and despite mental health crises, under-fund schools and hospitals, and challenge workers' rights whilst propping up the rich. Throw in a global pandemic and a war which we now give a damn about (because unlike all the others, this one affects us more) and, almost inevitably, we are more disconnected than ever before.

Although abortion is legal here, can we take it for granted? In a time of severe alienation, we grow apathetic and evermore pessimistic. This is when politicians, the media, and big businesses can do their damage. If the consumer has lost the energy to fight, they can become even more exploited. Simply, we must resist.

Having just read Rob Hopkins' From What Is to What If, I have been inspired by the community activism described. It also argues for optimism and creativity. After hearing the news about abortion, I thought "What can I do about that?" I mean, basically nothing right? And yet, instead of thinking "Humanity is so disconnected and unempathetic.", I questioned "What if people cared for their community?". I decided to make a few posies from our garden, with the help of my children, and we delivered them to a couple of neighbours (who we didn't know), one of whom was a disabled lady who always smiled at us on the school run. She loved the flowers, we got chatting, and she met my children. In spite of the myriad of reasons to resort to despair and anger, we found a shared humanity.

It got me thinking more about the sort of connection I think would work for everyone. If people connect, they build empathy, they listen more, they think more, they act more. Although connection might not immediately solve abortion laws, the over-reliance on food banks, and rail-workers disputes, it provides a foundation on which to build. It also begins to give people autonomy over their own lives in the face of relentless political oppression. As Kae Tempest writes in their beautifully written "On Connection":

"Creativity encourages connection. And connection to true, uncomfortable self allows us to take responsibility for our impact on other people, rather than going blindly through life in a disconnected buzz of one day to the next."

What if, I concluded, we connected creatively through nature? Today, by giving out flowers, we connected with our community. When we've done litter picks, we've connected with our community. When we've worked on our allotment we've connected to our community. Each of those have nature in common. And, what's more, connecting with nature is worth it in and of itself. In being close to nature, we connect to our ancestors, we become less human-centric, we slowly realise that we are nature itself.

Finding our commonality under the same stars, breathing the same air, drinking the same water is a goal we should all seek if only for our humility and sense of perspective, not to mention the wonders nature has on our mental health. But in striving for connection through nature (either with the land or with each other) we also do something else even more powerful: we stand against the regimes of rampant consumerism. We stop working, stop being productive, stop consuming. When we take a walk in woods, watch the sunset, or listen to birdsong, for that moment we are no longer part of the machine. For many reasons:

Nature is an act of resistance.

I've been mulling this over in my head all day. Nature is an act of resistance. In the last week, I took some students out to find Fibonacci numbers in petals, as a family we lit an open fire, cooked food and harvested some potatoes, I've been over to the allotment both by myself and with my wife, I've got up early to lie in a hammock and listen to the birds, I've sat with friends around a different campfire and shared some food... I think back to those recent events and recognise how spot-on that statement is. Nature was an act of resistance.

I asked my 7 year old daughter if she could think of any ways we could use nature to show love and compassion and she instantly listed: grow trees, make willow domes in parks, plant wildflowers… the child's mind is seemingly unburdened by a repressed imagination. What if we, as a community, actually did these things? Closed roads to encourage outdoor play? Organised more litter picks? Shared excess food? Organised inclusive walks? Got together to listen to the dawn chorus? What if we came together as communities to work together and come together? For united, we are stronger.

What if? What… if…

I was watching Glastonbury last night and one of my favourite bands, Idles, stopped in between songs to call out the abortion laws that have just been passed in America. Lead singer, Joe Talbot said: “They just reversed the laws back to the middle ages in America where they’re just deciding whether it should be illegal to have an abortion or not.” Using his platform show solidarity, he declares "So this is for every mother, and every woman, and her right to choose whether she is a mother or not.” They have an album out called Joy is an Act of Resistance. Joy, nature, art, rest… whatever it is, resist we must. And keep asking If.

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