As the fields opened out by pioneering social and environmental entrepreneurs begin to mainstream, we will see a secondary wave of professionalisation. Although I have tended to shy away from the conventional professional institutes in these fields, because they have often struck me as pursuing the narrow self-interests of particular groups of professionals or as being obsessed with strapping letters after people’s names, I do see a growing need to network across the hugely diverse disciplines and fields that social entrepreneurship, human rights, cleantech, sustainable development and so on now embrace. Which is a key reason I was happy to accept this week the Honorary Fellowship offered by the Institute of Green Professionals, based in the USA.
As background, IGP is “an independent, professional, education, credentialing, research and philanthropic “social enterprise” organization for sustainable development professionals and academics. Multi-disciplinary in its scope, the Institute of Green Professionals is the only credentialing and ethics code-based global organization that brings together individuals and organizations from diverse areas of sustainable development expertise. The IGP specialties currently include accounting, appraisal, architecture, engineering, land planning, landscape architecture, real property valuation, law, including participants in CSR capacities.”
What caught my interest, though, was IGP’s Mission Statement, which referenced the thinking of both Harvard biologist E.O. Wilson and economist Brian Milani. Professor Wilson noted that: “A balanced perspective cannot be acquired by studying disciplines in pieces but through pursuit of the consilience among them.” As IGP points out, the term ‘consilience’ was used in Wilson’s 1998 book of the same name, Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge, and means “the joining together of knowledge and information across disciplines to create a unified framework of understanding.”
Milani applied this concept to participants in the transition to a Green economy when he said: “The environmental movement in particular should put more emphasis on establishing an educational network that both formalizes its educational tasks and systematizes connections with the rest of the community.”
These are sentiments, ambitions and pursuits that I wholly buy into.
I am often asked – most recently yesterday by a woman from the US – what got me into this space. And I often tell the story of the moonless nocturnal walk by the derelict flax ponds that had me standing in the mid-1950s in an elastic sheet of elvers, migrating from somewhere to somewhere. But that was a switching on to the natural environment, which could have led me into the world of pure conservation. I took a different path, towards environmentalism – and a critical influence was the cascade of images of Earth from space, notably Earthrise, the fortieth anniversary of whose publication falls this year.
The year before I was born, in 1948, the cosmologist Fred Hoyle predicted that the first images of Earth from space would forever change our view of our planet. And so it was, though not nearly as fast as some might have imagined. We had another session at Volans yesterday on sustainable fisheries, with many of the global trends taking us in very-far-from-sustainable directions. Still, it’s no accident that the image on the screen of MacBook Pro is of a version of Earthrise.
Walking across Barnes Common today, we came across a section of new hawthorn hedging, done by BTCV volunteers. Wonderful to see, too rarely seen these days, and will keep an eye on it all as it, hopefully, regenerates. Always remember sticking in a short length of willow to stake a rose some 40 years ago, at Hill House, and seeing the stake grow into a 50- or 60-foot tree. Reassuring. Otherwise have been alternating today between doing a little work, reading, watching films, thinking about digging out the compost and reaching out to old friends and new on Facebook.
Wonderful walk through Richmond Park early this afternoon. Sunny but cold. Interesting moment when we came up towards the Ballet School and saw a tumbling ball of birds, involving claw-to-claw fighting between several parakeets and a jackdaw. There were parakeets sitting on various trees nearby, watched by a scattering of jackdaws. A brilliant green parakeet head emerged from a hole in the tree shown here, giving us the sense that the two species were fighting for territory.
2009 will mark the fiftieth anniversary of our family’s move to what was then Clarke’s Hill Farm House, now Hill House, in Little Rissington. Yesterday, we drove there for lunch and came back late this afternoon. Odd to be driving without glasses, after all these years. House abuzz with chiidren of various ages.
And when I spoke of some Scottish neighbours having come to visit us the previous evening in Barnes, and mentioned that the mother of one of them had been strafed in the streets of Edinburgh by a Luftwaffe bomber, hurling herself behind a garden hedge, we discovered that the Luftwaffe had also had a go at another strategic asset. Pat, my mother. She had been sitting on a bench in a garden or park south of London, watching a gaggle of three aircraft growing larger on the horizon – and thinking how wonderful the RAF were. Then one of the planes opened fire on her – “and the bullets came as close to me as this Aga.” They missed her, evidently, but sadly went on to bomb a school, with some 60 children ending up in a mass grave, apparently.
Happily, we grew up in a very different world, despite the background of violence in Northern Ireland and Cyprus, where we spent much of the 1950s. This morning Elaine and I headed across to Icomb and Guy’s Farm, to see the Palmers, who we young Elkingtons grew up alongside after our return to England in 1959. Like the nearby Keays, they had also lived in Africa and then the Middle East in the waning days of Empire, which perhaps gave us all a sense of being misplaced. But Guy’s farm has always been a home from home, Indeed, at one point today Elaine demonstrated her exercise regime on the carpet, in front of the fire, for a slightly bemused Rolf (Feichtinger).
Struck me, when Bunny was talking about how most of the inhabitants of Icomb are now retirees or recent arrivals, that our families have been somewhat of an invasive species in these villages – like the parakeets mentioned in the Richmond Park entry above. Exotics making a new home, in the process dispossessing – however unwittingly – the original inhabitants. One particularly exotic denizen of Guy’s Farm we all recalled with great affection today was Phoebe, the Palmers’ African Grey parrot. Sadly, she has long since ceased to be.
NOTE [16-01-09]: Speaking to my parents this morning, it turns out that the strafing story mentioned above was a little more complicated — and since the blog entry above has already led to Pat being interviewed for a book, am keen to get the story right. She was actually sitting on a hill top outside Croydon, looking over a great sweep of south-east England, when the planes came in, very low. They were part of a larger group of Focke-Wulf 190s, each carrying a 500lb bomb. One reason why they were able to fly so low was that the barrage balloons had been lowered that day, apparently, to calibrate the anti-aircraft guns. And the element of the story of pastoral innocence disrupted that hadn’t been shared with me until this morning was that Pat was wearing uniform and sitting atop an anti-aurcraft battery. So my sense of grievance that Hermann Göring had sent half his airforce to assassinate my civilian-in-the-park mother-to-be was slightly misplaced.
Head clearly surplus-to-requirements at the Royal Academy
Festive graveyard, Barnes
Church gate, Barnes
Church tower, Barnes
Spent most of yesterday spring-cleaning two rooms at home, both of which involved hauling around furniture and shelf-loads of books, washing them and putting them in new constellations. Weeded the shelves, too, with several stacks of books ready for Oxfam, or whoever will take them. But I find it excruciatingly difficult to part with books, however long I have had them – they all seem to have one association or another.
Have been using the break to uncouple from the locomotive of my working life, at least to a degree. Emails continue to come in at quite a rate, from round the world. But have managed to sit and read for hours on end today, finishing two really excellent books: The One From the Other, by Philip Kerr, and La’s Orchestra Saves the World, by Alexander McCall Smith. Once started, I could hardly abandon either, even for the joys of spring-cleaning. Also bought Kerr’s Berlin Noir trilogy on Monday, so am very much looking forward to continuing that thread.
Have been skimming through endless books as I worked my way around the house, particularly art tomes, with Max Ernst and Peter Randall-Page among those that stick in my mind. Art, including our visit to the Royal Academy a couple of days back, often helps unblock my mental channels. As does walking, though generally I have to be dragged out of the house. Haven’t cycled for months, what with travel and operations, so am missing that severely.
Barnes was like a ghost town as we did a circuit this evening, my limbs aching from my exertions as a hyperactive librarian. The only blot on the landscape was a bunch of people down by the river who were loosing off a cannonade of fireworks, each louder than the last. Could have gladly dropped a skip-load of surplus-to-requirements books on their surplus-to-requirements heads.
Quite a week, as the jalopy sped towards Christmas. Eyes still settling down after surgery, though periodically I can almost see over the horizon. Am sporting a temporary pair of reading glasses rather akin to those worn by Dame Edna Everage, which teeter on the point of my nose – as shown in the above image, taken during a session on accounting for sustainability at St James’s Palace. Rather more gold in evidence that day than I am normally comfortable with. Was late for the event, owing to earlier session with Accenture, but did at least arrive in time for lunch.
Week was a blizzard of meetings and brown-bag lunches, one of the most interesting of the latter being with Jamie Mitchell of innocent. Late in the week, we had a meeting of the Trustees of the Environment Foundation at 2 Bloomsbury Place, the upshot of which is that Halina Ward looks set to become the Foundation’s new Director, which is really great news. Our focus now will be very much on the ‘Democracy & Sustainability’ theme that we spotlighted earlier in the year at the Science Museum event. Only sadness is that (Sir) Geoffrey Chandler will be standing down as a Trustee. Received a wonderful card from him today, the front of which shows six images of a Trinidad Emperor (Morpho peleides insularis) emerging from its pupa, which Geoffrey took in 1968. He also bred the butterfly.
There seemed to be a spate of media things during the week, including my interview appearing in Le Monde, a quote in The Christan Science Monitor in a piece on Japan and my profile of Albina Ruiz Rios (executive director, Ciudad Saludable, based in Lima, Peru) appearing in the January-February issue of Ode magazine. Have also been cranking out a number of articles and columns, including one for Director magazine today in which I draw on Van Jones’s book The Green Collar Economy.
Have been buying books left, right and centre this week, but with little sense that I will ever get around to reading them all – seem to remember hearing that it was a sign of something when you found yourself buying more books than you could possibly read. But one of them, My Lord, fell open in my hands in the bookshop at an extraordinarily significant page. This was The Economist Book of Obituaries, and pages 184-185 carry an obituary of Karl Kehrle, or Brother Adam, the Benedictine monk who did so much to save British bees. His Buckfast bee was widely exported. We went to see him in the 1980s, when I was still thinking of using the beehives and honey separator I had been given by Kerry Effingham, who had inherited them from an elderly relative who had just fallen offf his perch.
The bit of the obituary I particularly enjoyed noted that Brother Adam, having had the last rites read several times after a series of heart attacks, would still keep clambering out of bed to see how his bees were doing. But the obituary that still lives on most energetically in my memory was that of Kerry’s erstwhile husband, the Earl of Effingham. One of the most extraordinary pieces of (richly deserved) hatchet work I have yet seen.
On our way to Waterstone’s last night, where we successfully tracked down a copy of Patrick Leigh Fermor’s only novel, The Violins of Saint-Jacques, we dropped into Whole Food Markets in Kensington on our way home last night, to buy their wonderful sourdough bread, and bought a few bottles of wine too. One I picked up in passing was Sustainable Red, from Mendocino also and billed as from locally owned and operated farms, protecting the environment, and all wrapped up in earth-friendly packaging, carbon neutrality and solar power. Wonderful story, but shame about the wine.
Mention of Leigh Fermor reminds me of the time I asked Geoffrey Chandler, who had also been in the Special Operations Executive (SOE) during WWII, whether he had ever met Leigh Fermor, whose writing Elaine and I had long loved. He said he hand’t seen him since they had been busily loading a Jeep, I think it was, onto a caique, I think it was, in Alexandria Harbour, I’m pretty sure it was. And the Jeep was full of gold coins destined to pay off partisans in one or other theatre of war in which the two of them had recently been causing havoc.
Finally, a third gold thread. While trying the Sustainable Red last night, we watched Richard Attenborough’s film Closing the Circle, partly set in Belfast. One of the stars, Mischa Barton, who went to the same school as Gaia and Hania, ended up with a sister called Hania, while another family ended up with a cat called Gaia, if memory serves. Amazing how the film brought back Northern Ireland, where we libved in the 1950s, outside Limavady. And the story here focused on a gold wedding ring, lost and found.
I began this blog with an entry reporting on a visit to the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution on Cape Cod, on 30 September 2003. The blog element of the website has gone through several iterations since, with older material still available on this site.
Like so many things in my life, blog entries blur the boundaries between the personal and the professional. As explained on the Home Page, the website and the blog are part platform for ongoing projects, part autobiography, and part accountability mechanism.
In this new iteration of the site, the ‘Comments’ function has been reanimated. Please do make use of it.