thanks to the wonderful Art Propelled blog  (a must see for a dozen reasons) I followed some links and found a new favourite word:

mottainai

meaning: irreverent waste

coming from: mottai the intrinsic dignity of a material object

                             nai loss/waste

I find that Japanese is far richer than English in the words we need for environmental connection. Humanists and atheists may be uncomfortable with the spiritual basis of Shinto, but it can frame a sense of  being part of the world, not in dominion over it. The first time I read of bonseki (the love of rocks) I was instantly seized with the desire to know more.. mottainai seems to me to return the shamefulness to waste, that the wasteful one has interfered in a system/life pattern that wasn’t theirs to decide on, that waste and recycling issues are about boundaries: as I frequently ask, where is this place called away? We live on a globe, what goes around will come around, but rarely is it wearing pink pajamas when it does…the law of unintended consequences is very Euro/Americentric… most indigenous cultures, including the neolithic dwellers of Britain, have/had a very strong sense of how much is fair to hold as an individual before it is used for the community and plan calendar events according to very closely observed patterns in the greater environment. If you want vegetables in February (Northern hemisphere hungry gap) you must pay attention to storage of what you grew/harvested earlier…nowadays, this means is your freezer running on renewable electricity (please go and see The Good Energy Company website) rather than building a clamp in October and checking your root veg every week, drying beans, onions and garlic and stringing storage  for dried herbs ‘high and dry’. We think and act like we have the luxury of not paying attention to seasons and resources until an extreme weather event sweeps through.  This is so disrespectful to our own survival, never mind the dependents we create by being part of a world system that puts immediate financial gain for the balance sheet above sustainable living for the seven generations to come. Our mistakes seem to reach around the world and backwards and forwards in time…the mistakes of the World Bank in insisting on agricultural policies that have now destroyed many thriving, millenial old, slow but sustainable harvests; the forced loggings in the Amazon and elsewhere, the inappropriate growing of bio-fuel crops, the plantation systems and intensive high petroleum fertiliser based farming…the list is far too long for a blogpost…

The horrible die back now affecting ash trees in Britain and Europe has been on the news, but I wonder how many know what a disaster this could be for people in the post oil future? Ash is the one wood you can burn unseasoned (green) and when inexperienced campers and people heating with solid fuel run out mid winter, it needs to be something you can recognise…and in time! It’s a pig to light off anything except a hot fire, but will then keep burning. Ash can be not exactly coppiced, but grown and harvested without killing a mature tree, it’s not just a sustainable fuel, it’s an emergency resource for us. It is equally necessary to lots of wildlife, and that one day, as it was in the past, might be us…if we have lost the knowledge of how to make it through a temperate, but still potentially fatal winter, that is another form of mottainai…

And this, to me links back to the duty of the artist, by awakening the eye, heart and mind, we can play a part in challenging the inertia and apathy that benefits the status quo…we can build hope, an ability to respond creatively, to remember flexibility and humour, to make a piece from up/ recycled elements for every one made from first use materials, to make gardens not pictures, to take photos not use irreplaceable plastics. At my 2003 exhibition an ignorant demonstrator raged in my visitors book about using oil paint not acrylic – per had it exactly wrong! Oil paint is made from linseed/flax oil, a sustainable crop, acrylic paint is made from toxic plastics…So, if you don’t already, please consider respectful use, respectful intervention, upcycling as, if not prayer, then ethical and economical elegance…balance the books that really matter, the ones the generations to come will otherwise be burning to keep warm…

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