Book review: Life Everlasting: The animal way of life by Bernd Heinrich

It was an interesting experiment to read this book in view of the people around me. What I saw before my eyes was something I learned has been termed ‘Terror management’ or The Terror management theory by Jeff Greenberg, Sheldon Solomon, and Tom Pyszczynski. I didn’t learn this directly from them but from another author who mentioned TMT in her book.

Peoples faces screwed up in disgust, but in contrast to that disgust with humour creasing their lips, they’d say, ‘You’re so morbid!’

‘So morbid,’ they may say, as I read from the information of the pages written upon a dead tree. Those trees in their death recycled to become capsules of information.
Even in death, the trees are networking.

But the words contained within were anything but morbid, as anyone who has read this book can attest.

Who knew that death and recycling could be so fascinating?

Who knew beetles who roll balls of dung could be so interesting?

Bernd Heinrich manages to make what is often seen as a dark topic light and almost holy! Not in a religious sense; I don’t believe in God. But in a scientific, factual reality type of way.

‘We deny that we are animals and part of the wheel of life, part of the food chain. We deny that we are part of the feast and seek to remove ourselves from it, even though we kill and consume animals by the billions and permanently remove the life resources for many more. But not one animal is allowed to consume us, even after we are dead. Not even the worms. We need a new creation story that connects us to nature and to others, one that can give us strength- that can make us real rather than rich.’ pg 196

All in all this a book that I feel everyone should read at least once in their life.

Book review: The Hidden Life of Trees Peter Wohlleben 

Trees should be a symbol of socialism, at least to some extent.

In life and death, they help the world around them and the other trees, all while also competing.

Care for the forests, and the forest cares for you.

Reading about our habits and how we treat trees, I was reminded of that heart-breaking quote in Edward O. Wilsons book Biophilia,

‘The Natural world is the refuge of the spirit, remote, static, richer even than the human imagination. But we cannot exist in this paradise without the machine that tears it apart.’

Edward O. Wilson

The quote came to mind because, of course, this is a book and what are books made from? Yet it is through these pages we communicate and thus create a network of information shared between like-minded people and others alike.
Yet again, the trees adding to a network! But at a price!

I thought that even though I happened to this read this particular book on a kindle app.

It also struck me that the symbol for the Kindle App on my tablet is the silhouette of a person reading a book, under the shade of a tree. We have an alienated connection to trees it seems, we seem to enjoy them yet rarely think much about them either.

It made me look at all my books and think perhaps I should feel somewhat guilty? Yet, if it wasn’t for those books, I wouldn’t know these things.
Yes, we have the internet, but it’s all so much information in one place it’s much too overwhelming for me to learn anything too specific from.
The internet is disorganised information in which my brain can’t digest enough of it for me to come away, feeling I’ve learnt anything much from it.

So, where would I be without books?

Peter Wohlleben excels in creating an environment with his writing of empathy for the trees that make the forests; you can’t read this book and come away from it seeing trees as objects that exist and just stand there.

Juvenile Jackdaw

Sometimes there isn’t time to check and change settings with wildlife photography and you end up with underexposed or over exposed images.

Sometimes you can ‘revive’ one or two of them and pretend it was a ‘creative decision’ from the start.

Shhh. Don’t tell anyone.

Jackdaw Coloeus monedula

Juvenile Jackdaw
Juvenile Jackdaw

Humans as a force of nature

‘I prefer to let mother nature do her thing.’

‘I think we should just let nature take its course.’

These phrases irritate me.

In some contexts, they are correct to let ‘nature take it’s course,’ still, the phrase itself does something powerful to human minds.

These are just some more phrases we use that show how we talk of ourselves as if living on the periphery of nature.
We just dip our toes into nature every now and then.

‘The world would be a better place if humans stopped interfering!’ How common is that comment said aloud and typed out online?

This language game we play casts illusions of our separation from what we call nature.

This is a problem for all parts of the spectrum on the climate change debate.

There is a side that knows climate change is real, and humans are a large reason for it, and this can lead to a misanthropic view of humanity.
If humans would just stop interfering with nature, the world would be a better place, it is said.

I sometimes wonder if people have truly thought about that sentence before they say it.

Do they believe that humans can exist and not ‘interfere’?
How can we leave things be in a world where we are intrinsically attached to the environment we interact with?
That is to say, we are nature, and we are within the ecosystem itself.
We depend on that ecosystem as much as any other animal out there.

So they acknowledge that humans are at ‘fault’ for climate change, but the words we use often get in the way of change.

In another camp of people who accept climate change facts, they posit that it’s pointless for us to do anything about it now; it’s too late.
And to some degree, I am in this pessimistic camp.
But I note that nature is always changing; things evolve and adapt.
So it’s only natural then, for us as a species, even if the mess is our own making, to say, ‘Fuck, how can we adapt to this information that we’re fucking up?’
And while we cannot stop climate change, we must and can surely adapt to at least lessen the damage?

Who would I be in all my pessimistic glory to suggest that we shouldn’t at least try?
It’s only natural for us, after all, to want to adapt and change to survive.

On the other hand, it’s also natural for us to hide away from scary things, from the truth.
Like people who simply deny climate change, or they do lightly accept it, but they don’t accept humans as the cause.
If anyone has had a spell cast upon them so brilliantly, it’s these people.
The very fact they can’t grasp the idea that humans would have an impact on the environment is an astounding example of the spell words can cast.
Of course we have an impact. And that doesn’t make us unique; all species have an impact on the environment!

Why would humans be immune from making an impact on it?
Oh right, yea, because we talk ourselves into thinking we’re outside of nature, or nature is outside of us.

I don’t believe the bigger changes can happen until we become more conscious as a collective of ourselves being within the thing we call nature.
I think people might be more prone to take positive action if we did away with all the illusions.

Because the truth is, humans are a force of nature.

When something gets called a force of nature, it’s usually something to do with the weather, something ‘mother nature’ does that humans have no control over.
A force of nature may also be used for those fiercest of non-human animals.

Humans are a force of nature for bad, and one hopes for good too.

If we acknowledge we are a force of nature along with our ability to be conscious of the force we bring, with the attitude of using that force more sustainably and become more conscious of our roles within the whole (nature & the ecosystem. Or Everything,) maybe we’d find more people actually give a shit and start caring about our impact on the environment.

Or maybe it’s a pipe dream.

We need to fight for more access to land and end the exclusion cult Nick Hayes mentions in his work The Book Of Trespass.

For the right to access not just in the hopes of nurturing more care in humans for the earth, but also for our health for reasons you can read in Losing Eden: Why our minds need the Wild by Lucy Jones.

And because we all need to become carpenters despite not really knowing if it’s going to work.

I found this quote on Quora:

If there was ever a quote that emphasises we’re in it, and this is our home yet also the place that could and will kill us, it’s this:

‘…We’re in an even stranger position now, essentially carpenters in a crumbling house we neither built nor fully understand, blindly hammering at walls hoping it will help keep us alive a few more minutes.’

Jeff Collin


‘The Natural world is the refuge of the spirit, remote, static, richer even than the human imagination. But we cannot exist in this paradise without the machine that tears it apart.’

Edward O Wilson Biophilia

After all that, all I can ask is, do we want to become gardners or do we want to be the machine that only tears it all apart?
The machine is here to stay. We can not exist without it.
But will we garden around the machine?

The language and walls that divide us

As I learn more about our segregation from the natural world outside of human nature, I have solidified some beliefs I already held.

One of those beliefs is that our separation from nature is a linguistic barrier.

Language has power, and the utterance of mere words can cast a spell over us.

But what I had only vaguely recognised before was something writer Nick Hayes put into words in his work, ‘The book of Trespass: Crossing the lines that divide us.’

He had found a spot where he’d seen his first ever kingfisher, and like many of us after our first sighting of such an exotic looking bird, it was a place where he’d wish to return and share that space with his mother.
So one day, he goes for a walk with his mother, aiming toward that spot.

‘There’s a lightning-cracked willow with a wild beehive, a deserted house almost entirely sunk in clematis and honeysuckle…’

Nick Hayes The book of Trespass

He says of the spot in question.

But he never got to that spot with his mother because a man came along and uttered the words, ‘You’ve no right to be here. You’re trespassing.’

‘Without a moments thought, we apologised and left the land.’

The book of trespass

‘It was as if his words had cast a spell that had tied our feet and dragged us away.’

The book of trespass

The land sounded all but abandoned from human interference but for maybe the trespassing footprints of walkers like Nick Hayes himself.

The book calls into question the very notion of trespass and points out how little access we the ‘plebs’ have to land outside of our brick and mortar zoos.
Throughout the book, we follow him through journeys of trespassing land we’re not supposed to step foot on.
We’re not talking back gardens, but acres of land that are cut off to us for no discernable reason than someone owns the land because they can afford it or got it passed down from long-dead relatives, not because they should or because they’re doing something with it.

As humans, we seem to have an uncanny knack for making ourselves feel like trespassers on earth.

It’s no wonder that the world outside of our homes and high streets has been stolen from right beneath our noses.

The words ‘man-made’ are not problematic themselves because if a human made something, it is ‘man-made’.
Just as a bird nest is ‘bird-made.’

But we don’t talk like that, we don’t say bird made, we say it’s a bird nest, and we put that in the category of ‘natural.’
When we say the words ‘man-made,’ it’s almost always said with an implicit idea that it’s not within the category of ‘natural.’

And if you think about it, I mean give it some thought. Isn’t that a linguistic wall we’ve built?
Couldn’t talk like this start to make us feel like trespassers on the very world we evolved on?

I think the answer is a resounding YES! I believe it’s already happened.

There are signs all over the land in the physical world telling us not to trespass, and we’re to stick to public rights of way’ and parks.

And then to further burden us with our alienation from the world ‘out there,’ the very language we use in everyday contexts further the divide.

Rewilding & Disability: A dark idea

Winter is a glimpse of what death is. 

You can see the trees skeletons and rotting branches that have fallen and snapped. The leaves accumulated on the ground, the veins stripped away from the flesh. They look like veins holding onto wet tissue paper. 

And I know this is the cycle of life, and I know if I genuinely want to say I love nature I’m supposed to still find some beauty in it. 

I know it’s the cycle of life. I know the leaves that fall become food, and along the way, all the waste becomes nutrients that go back to the trees that lost them. 

And I know that those brown, tissue papery leaves with their skeletal veins are fuel for the spring to come. 

Life renewed. 

Yet, today, I find no hope in the idea of life renewed. 

A part of me wishes I never immersed myself in my interests of the nature outside my window. 
That I never tried to embark on a journey to nurture the interest to its full potential. 

To use an analogy to planting seeds that then fail to grow, that’s what it feels like. 

I’ve tried to plant the seeds, and I’ve wanted to nurture the roots so that something grows only to grow increasingly Depressed and disappointed at the world instead. 

It seems there is no room for disability in a wilder world. 

The ‘rewilding’ communities don’t appear to consider mobility problems; we are not a part of that world. 

The very thing that is supposed to enrich the health of people is cut off from us. Even if there is a place just up the road, it’s no use to you in a wheelchair if there is no way to get there. 

All the talk of nature helping people with different conditions mostly seems to come from people who have the mobility to do so. 

If you’re disabled unless you can afford expensive all-terrain mobility gear and have the space to keep such equipment, there aren’t many ‘wild’ places we can get to. 

If you don’t have a local place to rent the equipment or the storage space while renting it, renting is also a problem. 

There is no one more trapped in a capitalistic nightmare, than those who can’t even afford to get to a local bit of ‘wilderness.’  

A dark thought keeps occurring to me, an idea I wonder if people have silently had but dare not speak it. 

Is disability & illness the thing that holds us in our ‘civilisation?’ 

In this context, I’m using ‘civilisation’ as a negative, something that strips away from us the wilderness.

Without our ‘civilised’ ways, there is no way many people could survive. 

So, I live with this contradiction of a man who wants to get more ‘wild,’ and the man who can’t. 

The truth is, we’ve been lied to. 

We’ve been sold ideals that we can somehow solve a climate crisis and still live similarly. 

If we use so-called ‘green energy,’ things will be fine. 

If we plant trees after flying to combat our carbon emissions, we’re doing something. 

If we make so-called wild paths, we can live in harmony with other species. 

We can use technology to help the environment. 

I always cringe and feel irritated when I come across climate change deniers, but I also understand why they’re pulling the wool over their eyes. 

At least in their view, they can carry on as before. 

But, for the people who speak out about climate change, they still try to sell us something. 

They call it progress. 

A greener future. 

I’ve wanted to believe them; I want to believe them. 

But I don’t. 

I’m angry at them though. 

I feel as though I’m mourning the loss of something, except it was all a lie. 

I now see it this way; I have two options: 

  1. I accept there is no hope and live a ‘civilised’ life. Accept the fate of many species, including maybe man too, are going to continue to decline. Accept that all I can do is watch as it unfolds. 
  2. Accept there is no hope for me. Accept that humans need to change so drastically our lifestyles, people like me will be phased out.