The Vertigo of Tradition

The Vertigo of Tradition
By ILCW member Justin Fenech (Malta)

Death is now the phoenix’ nest;And the turtle’s loyal breastTo eternity doth rest.
Shakespeare’s ode to the death of ideal love necessarily marries the phoenix and the turtle dove. The poem is one of Shakespeare’s vaguest, most indecipherable. But one thing is left without doubt: even the loveliest things die.
Scientists warn of impending turtle dove British extinction.”
The headlines were un-ambiguous. Malta was to blame. Joey remembered the arguments he had had with his girlfriend, the day he met her parents. He was a hunter. He was voting Yes in the Referendum. Tradition is his constant companion. Familiarity makes his living fortified. It is an idle mindset but very tempting. The spirits of the unadventurous flock to tradition like birds flock to the shoulders of Francis of Assisi. Without it, how would he remember his dead father. Without it, he would be abandoning his mother’s faith.
The last turtle dove he shot: he barely hit it, only one bullet hole in its sharp wing. It must have been the fall that killed it. Or his Spaniel’s over-eager retrieval. As the Spaniel dropped it at his feet, he had a moment of compassion. The turtle dove’s lifeless eyes reminded him of his father’s.
I have inflicted upon this animal the same fate cancer had imposed on my father. Are my actions cancerous?
In that moment, he was progressive. Revolutionary. He was thinking rational thoughts enlightened by tragedy. It was the same breed of thought that must have occupied the mind of a gavroches getting himself killed to steal a few bullets for the Revolution. And he was a revolutionary then. The turtle dove, in his hands, was a Marat in the bath – but he feared it would be a Franz Ferdinand. So he carried it to his truck, fearing the traitorous war it might spark in his soul of souls.
Birds are the ancestors of dinosaurs. There was a big bang of diversification after the ancient masters went extinct. Some bird songs and means of communication activate similar areas of the avian bird that speech activates in the human brain. Turtle doves, members of the Columbidae family, are closely related to the common pigeons, the saintly white-winged dove and distantly related to the iconic dodo. It is a diminishing species juxtaposed in between the already extinct dodo and the flagrantly flourishing pigeon. Piggy in the middle. The future unclear. The death of each individual is another nail in the coffin.
Joey and Nadia’s children, should they ever come, might grow up never seeing a turtle dove. How would Joey feel, if his love for tradition helped to bring about the end of that very same tradition? What would he tell his children? All he had were tales of dead doves: for his children’s curious, nature-hungry minds, it would not be enough. And with each passing generation, tradition is itself getting closer to extinction.
Or so it seems. Traditions, by their very nature, are a myth. They are the personal projected into the public. As Joey talks to his potential in-laws, looking into the father’s eyes as if he were a puppy begging for scraps, he feels a bubbling animosity welling inside him. His father-in-law is a chef who cooks such oddities as turtle dove soup, yet belligerently despises hunting.
“I don’t want to see that man in my house, Nadia. He has blood on his hands.”
“It’s just a fucking bird, dad.”
“It’s not that. I know that man. His father was a wife-beater.”
“How do you know?”
“He used to live round here. Every night we could hear his wife’s screams, her sobbing, and his tyrannical voice.”
“Why did you never report him?”
“He was a police officer. How could anyone report him? And he’s no different. For now he kills birds. But God knows what he would be like with you.”
Nadia contradicted her father, as a young lover would, but that night she had her doubts. Does a strong sense of tradition mean submission to the autocratic whims of parenthood? Was Joey destined to be what his father was? She decided to go with him to a rally held by the Yes camp. A walk in the countryside organized by hunters for hunters.
There were dogs everywhere. Children. Hunters in shirts. Some drinking. Beauteous sunny days only the Mediterranean could conjure up. Joey was jovial, in high spirits, he introduced her to some other hunters. She felt uneasy around them. And that night she had a dream which decided what she would vote in the referendum.
She saw a turtle dove flying in a borderless sky. She was not moving, yet still she flew alongside it. She could see its wings, orange-brown like a phoenix, chest heaving, pink as if reflecting a flamingo’s dream, the striped patch on its neck like a priest’s collar or a proudly poured Guinness: its cooing summoned forth strange flying reptiles, feathered and beaming. It cooed in her ear: “love me one last time.” Then, from behind the clouds, a shot rang out and she saw the dove falling at dizzying speeds through the sky, descending endlessly.
When will it hit the ground?
When will the splat come?
She wept for it. Alongside her she saw her mother jumping out of a burning building. Also no ground in sight. Endless falling. Asphyxiation but no release. When will the end come?
She awoke before the longed-for death could arrive. She turned over in her bed and found next to her the disfigured corpse of the very same turtle dove.
She screamed aloud. And she woke up again. This time, for real.
The referendum was over: “Malta rejects spring-hunting ban.”
“The historic referendum was decided on a razor thin margin, with just 2,220 more votes deciding against the ban out of a total of of 250,648 votes cast.”
Joey wanted to celebrate with Nadia. But Nadia was still reeling from the sight of the turtle dove decomposing in her bed. She went out on her own, for a drive to the Buskett woodlands. There, in the dense tree-cover, she listened to a myriad bird-song illuminating the breezy silence. She felt compelled to say a prayer for their sakes. A Hail Mary or an Our Father. But she thought: most of the celebrating hunters are saying the very same prayers. She wanted no part in that. She realized no prayer was necessary. She merely indulged in the orchestra. Indulged her sensuous humanity.
Her silence overthrew the myth of tradition on the day the whole country plunged into the unmoving quicksand.


The Great Conservation Divide


Foreman_Great Conservation Divide

LCW Member Dave Foreman
The Great Conservation Divide
Conservation vs Resourcism on America’s Public Lands
2014, Ravens Eye Press
Paperback, 318 pages
In a perfect world, people would find common ground and work together – but in our imperfect world that happens only too rarely. Dave Foreman’s book, The Great Conservation Divide, is a history of many differences of opinion, direction and goals among conservationists. The only agreement seems to lie, briefly, in the need for conservation. A recounting of past conflicts, wins and losses, the breadth and depth of the movement told here are not only an interesting read but can be useful to those striving today to continue this work. Foreman’s “Quick, Quirky Word Hoard” is just one of the ways Foreman raises awareness. It also serves to focus the reader on meaning within his text, on views that would, I think, be missed if he hadn’t given such specific definitions, many of which change focus for the reader and promotes understanding and comprehension of his subject matter. It will add some new words to your vocabulary. So read The Great Conservation Divide for the history, the list of accomplishments and compromises, losses and gains; read it to learn about those who worked to preserve and conserve, to pass laws and to create movements. Read it to understand better what the natural world is and to see more clearly what has happened, is happening and might happen. Read it to decide what you want to do and what you can try to make a difference.
–Judy Volc

Seasons of Contemplation

Seasons of Contemplations_Cov_2015_2

ILCW Member L.M. Browning
Seasons of Contemplation
A Book of Midnight Meditations
2015, Homebound Publications
Paperback, 94 pages

In Seasons of Contemplation, Browning offers the reader humble yet impacting meditations on the topics of religion, connection, mindfulness, ecology, the spiritual journey, and the perils of modern culture. The ruminations gathered within these pages provide simple insights that help bring sense to the chaos and hustle of our daily life.  Direct and unpretentious, Browning once again reminds us that “Becoming aware of the dearness in what might otherwise be regarded as mundane is the ultimate form of insight.”
“L.M. Browning had me at the opening rumination to Seasons of Contemplation where she acknowledges the tiredness many of this generation feel, ‘not of the body but of the spirit.’ Like a Dark Night of the Soul for the digital age, Browning’s midnight meditations don’t sugarcoat life’s dilemmas. Instead, with refreshing honesty and vulnerability, Browning encourages us to ‘wade into the silence and listen.’ Sage advice, delivered gracefully yet boldly, characterizes this beautiful book, which will speak clearly to anyone who ever awakens in the night to wrestle with the unknowable.”
—Kate Sheehan Roach, Editor, Contemplative Journal

Call For Writings

City Creatures Blog is looking for creative nonfiction, personal essays, memoir or other work exploring the way cities foster opportunities for transformation, intimacy, and connection between humans and animals. City Creatures Blog publishes year-round and guidelines are here.Landscapes is looking for critical essays, creative non-fiction, poetry, photography and artwork with the theme of “ecotones as contact zones…intersections in and of  landscapes: human and non-human, microscopic and macroscopic, virtual and embodied, ecological and cultural.” Deadline is November 18 and guidelines are here. For more information (including detailed guidelines regarding possible topics or issues), contact Dr. Drew Hubbell and Dr. John Ryan here.  Ashland Creek Press has a December 15 deadline for short stories for their next edition of Among Animals, a book-length anthology focused on animals (including the intersection of human and animal lives). Guidelines are here.Kenyon Review is looking for poetry, essays, fiction, and drama for a September / October 2016 special issue on the poetics of science. Deadline is December 31 and guidelines are here.Under the Sun is looking for quality creative nonfiction and other essays. (Congratulations on so many “notable” mentions in Best American Essays 2015 and Best American Sports Writing 2015!) Deadline is January 2, 2016  and guidelines are here.The 2016 Climate Fiction Short Story Contest is seeking fiction on the possible futures created by climate change. The first prize winner will receive $1,000 and the best submissions will be published in an online anthology. Kim Stanley Robinson, the legendary science fiction writer, will be judging the contest along with climate fiction experts from Arizona State University. Deadline is January 15, 2016 and guidelines are here.Creative Nonfiction’s fall 2016 issue will be dedicated to “learning from nature.” Deadline is February 1, 2016 and there be a $5,000 prize for Best Essay and a $1,000 prize for best runner-up (there is no reading fee). Guidelines are here.

Source: Adrienne Ross Scanlan ILCW member (USA) and editor of Blue Lyra Review literary journal. For more information about the Blue Lyra Review or to subscribe.

The lady who saved the falcon

Bano Haralu saves and protects Amur falcons in Nagaland
By Ananda Banerjee ILCW Member (India)
This article previously appeared in “Live Mint” the E-Paper
As you read this, one of nature’s greatest spectacles is unfolding in the breathtakingly beautiful North-Eastern state of Nagaland. Thousands of Amur falcons, small birds of prey, are congregating at the Doyang reservoir in Wokha district, having flown thousands of kilometres from Siberia. This is their annual stop at the reservoir; they rest and roost there before flying off to their final destination—South Africa. In total, ornithologists believe, these falcons clock almost 22,000km of flying time in a year.
Every year, then, the Doyang reservoir witnesses the single largest congregation of Amur falcons anywhere in the world.
But it wasn’t always so.
It was in October 2012 that Bano Haralu, now 52, a managing trustee of the Nagaland Wildlife and Biodiversity Conservation Trust, led a small group of conservationists, including colleague Rokohebi Kuotsu, Shashank Dalvi, a research associate at Bengaluru’s Centre for Wildlife Studies, and Ramki Sreenivasan of Conservation India, to the Doyang reservoir to check whether large-scale hunting was taking place in the area. “I first heard about the Amur falcons while visiting the Doyang reservoir during a bird survey trip in the last week of March 2010. But it was finally in October 2012 that Rokohebi and I were able to organize a trip with Ramki and Shashank to the killing fields,” says Haralu.
What they witnessed that balmy October day shook them to the core. Falcons had been slaughtered en masse, for food and for sale in markets across the state. Nagaland was and still is infamous for hunting, but this was something even the conservationists had not bargained for.
She recalls that day. “Everywhere we looked we saw dead falcons—villagers hawking the birds on the roadside. Some were carrying stacks of birds on their shoulders to sell them elsewhere. The homes we visited had heaps of dead falcons. Then there were live ones kept under mosquito nets for the markets. Live birds fetch a better price than dead ones,” she explains on phone.
Till 2012, it is estimated, 10-15% of the Amur falcon population was being hunted each season in Nagaland. Read more

Resources for ILCW Members

Forces of Nature: Environmental Elders Speak
This website is packed with informative interviews by environmental leaders. The aim is to record and share first-person accounts of key decisions, case studies and stories that can assist today’s decision makers defend our natural heritage.
Forces of Nature: Environmental Elders Speak is a project of Resource Renewal Institute (RRI), which has developed original solutions to complex environmental problems for over 25 years. RRI launched the Environmental Elders Program to tap a reservoir of human knowledge and experience within the fields of environmental policy and activism, natural resource management and human health – and provide access to a collection of best practices and case studies to affect current environmental affairs.
Borrowing from oral history and autobiography, RRI’s video project Forces of Nature: Environmental Elders Speak brings together casual anecdotes with detailed accounts, the videos jump between the personal and the universal, offering stories of environmental battles won and lost so that future generations can be better prepared for challenges ahead.  Together these stories illustrate the dynamic tapestry of nature and the common threads that unite us globally in the fight to protect our most precious natural resources and special places for future generations.
To view the site and see the interviews go here.

ILCW now on Facebook

ILCW members, please check out the ILCW Facebook page and add content. Tell us what you are working on, what changes you see in the area of conservation (good and bad) in your area, include news from you: have you recently won any awards or accolades? Have you recently published a new book or article or perhaps finished a piece of art, performance piece, photo that glorifies the natural world? This page is for you, please enjoy and generate interest in ILCW and what we do.


New Films from Jon Bowermaster

Jon Bowermaster (ILCW member USA) and his Oceans 8 Films production team have produced some very powerful and beautifully done films that celebrate the world’s natural grace while shining a light on environmental hazards that are endangering our planet. See what they’ve been up to this past year:
After the Spill —
Ten years ago Hurricane Katrina devastated the coast of Louisiana. Five years later the Deepwater Horizon exploded and spilled more than 200 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, the worst ecologic disaster in North American history. Amazingly those aren’t the worst things facing Louisiana’s coastline today — the state is fast disappearing. Consultant and native son James Carville who manages to find some hope in new technologies that may save the coast.
Antarctica 3D, On The Edge –
From its place anchoring the bottom of the globe, Antarctica might seem too frozen to have any impact on the rest of the planet. But the very fact that it is constantly changing – the sea around it freezing and thawing every year – makes it the planet’s beating heart, its rhythm intimately influencing the earth’s weather, ocean currents and climate. The 3D film is playing in random theaters around the world from Texas to China.
Dear President Obama: Americans Against Fracking in One Voice —
April & Emily Lane and Dirk DeTurck are all residents of Arkansas. They became reluctant activists after experiencing a sudden increase in earthquakes – something they claim is no coincidence.
Dear Governor Brown — The film strongly reminds the four-term green governor that the only way to limit climate-change-contributing emissions is to keep fossil fuels in the ground. The film will have its public premiere at the Wild & Scenic Environmental Film Festival in Nevada City, CA, January 15. No public short is available but more information about the issue at The Huffington Post.

Expanding Tiger Habitat in India

ILCW member Sanjay Gubbi has come up with the first tiger corridor initiative in the world. Connecting tiger habitat areas allows the big cats to migrate while increasing the size of their protected areas. He and his team had connected 23 areas in the Western Ghats as of 2011. In 2013 a wildlife sanctuary was declared in the Malai Mahadeshwara Hills. Not only is this beneficial to the tiger to have an expanding habitat but also to the Asian Elephant and every other animal that lives in those areas. To read more and view a map of the connected areas go to:website.