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The whale temples of Vietnam

The whale temples of Vietnam

Ever since The King of Whales was found dead on the beach people gather to pray at the skeleton alter

Sponsored
The invisible ideologies trashing our planet

The invisible ideologies trashing our planet

An evening with George Monbiot in London 11th February

Technology
HS2: activists race to stop high speed deforestation

HS2: activists race to stop high speed deforestation

Costly rail project has become the new frontline for UK climate action

Nature
Emergency tree plan for the UK

Emergency tree plan for the UK

Woodland Trust chief delivers stark warning - "never has the picture appeared bleaker"

Nature
Can beavers help Somerset avoid another flooding catastrophe?

Can beavers help Somerset avoid another flooding catastrophe?

Increasingly, scientists and nature lovers see rewilding as our best defence against future floods

Technology
What is the bigger threat to our oceans - fishing or plastic pollution?

What is the bigger threat to our oceans - fishing or plastic pollution?

Fish Free February challenges the public to protect our oceans by removing seafood from their diet for 29 days

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Culture

The whale temples of Vietnam

Ever since The King of Whales was found dead on the beach people gather to pray at the skeleton alter

WHY?

Sometime ago, a story came down the wind telling of the many temples along the southern coast of Vietnam honouring the whales who, in legend, myth and story, rescue fishermen and bring prosperity to the villages. It is hard to ascertain just how many temples there are, however, the number of whale skeletons runs in the thousands.

In one temple alone on the island of Ly Son, there are said to be over 500.

As we surely come to the end of over 700 years of whaling, Vietnam has a long history of revering these grand totems. Rather than cruelly taken by harpoon and debased on an altar of mankind’s greed, here the whale is laid upon an altar of reverence and love for the great beings they are.

A THE TEMPLE ON LY SON

In 1799, the ferocious Tay Son army forced the first Nguyen Emperor, Nguyen Anh, and his troops to flee to the sea. While making their escape, a great storm engulfed the retreating army. As their ship’s mast shivered and the hull shuddered, threatening to break it into splinters, a great whale rose from the depths. It lifted the emperor's boat and carried him and his men to safety. To thank the animal, Anh bestowed upon whales the official title of "

Nam Hải Cự Tộc Ngọc Lân Thượng Đẳng Thần," which was shortened to Cá Ông, or “Lord Fish.”

Fishing is the vital industry on Ly Son, and reverence for the sea extends to its largest inhabitants. Anyone who finds a dead whale must make sure the whale is given a proper funeral. When the whale is on the beach, it is easier to make the arrangements, but a few years ago a fisherman brought a whale carcass he had found floating in the sea to shore to bury it.

Ly Son fishermen believe whales are their protectors and honouring them in their death will bring the fishermen good fortune. According to the legend of the King of Whales, the skeleton that is visited every spring is that of the most powerful whale to ever swim in the East Sea, between 200 and 300 years ago.

The King of Whales was found dead on the beach in An Hai Commune, on Ly Son, and the islanders were unable to move it, so they buried it right there on the spot. The skeleton was later dug up and brought to the temple.

The gigantic skeleton is now being restored, because parts of it have been damaged over the years. The skeleton is 130 feet long, with the head alone measuring nearly 10 feet. The whale’s vertebrae are 1.3 feet. Every two years, someone is selected to clean and prepare the skeleton for its showings. Visitors bring it offerings and ask it to bless their lives.

Ly Son is a small island with three temples dedicated to the whale and the sailors who feel so connected to them.

Find out more at - mirthquake.org

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The invisible ideologies trashing our planet

An evening with George Monbiot in London 11th February

You can find the event on Facebook here. Book you tickets here.

Our lives are governed by three belief systems that we do not even recognise as belief systems: Consumerism, Neoliberalism and Capitalism. Together, they are tearing our world apart and tearing our minds apart. We cannot fight them without first understanding them.

George Monbiot comes to the Gillian Lynne Theatre in London to discuss the invisible ideology trashing our planet. This three hour event will allow George to delve deep into the connections and concerns around climate emergency, consumerism, advertising, technology and mental health. He will offer practical solutions and advice in these challenging times.

This event will consist of a 60 minute uninterrupted talk from George. This will be followed by an 80 minute question and answer session with the audience.

A powerful new narrative is the vehicle for all political transformations. While all the progressive parties in the UK have proposed good policies, none of them have told a story that exactly fits the successful narrative template. Let’s work together to craft the story of change.

If you are considering coming to this event we would suggest watching our previous series of videos 'connecting the dots' between climate change, mental health and consumerism . This will allow us to develop the conversation, move forward with these important discussions.

Lots of low cost tickets for students so please share with friends as these events sell out fast.

Let’s change the nature of politics in this country. Let’s allow the fascinating, unpredictable dynamics of a functioning society to emerge. Let the wild rumpus start.

About George Monbiot:

George is an author, environmental activist and Guardian columnist. His best-selling books include Feral: Rewilding the Land, Sea and Human life, The Age of Consent and Heat: How We Can Stop the Planet Burning; his latest is Out of the Wreckage: A New Politics for an Age of Crisis.

George Monbiot’s website - https://www.monbiot.com

Door open at 6pm
Show starts at 6.55pm.

There will be no entry after 7pm so please arrive early.

Bristol in March
If you live too far away or you can’t make this event we also have a similar talk in Bristol at the Anson Rooms on 12th March.
https://www.facebook.com/events/453627722001118/

Technology

HS2: activists race to stop high speed deforestation

Costly rail project has become the new frontline for UK climate action

The fate of HS2 will be decided within weeks as the government starts wrapping up its review of the controversial rail project. The question of whether or not to go ahead with it hinges on quite different issues depending on who you ask. For local government figures in the north of England urging Boris Johnson not to ditch it despite spiralling costs, it’s about whether the government is serious about investment in the north. After years of ‘getting the crumbs from the table’ as Labour leader of Manchester city council Sir Richard Leese put it, HS2’s supporters claim the rail line is crucial to delivering the regeneration the north deserves.

For activists from Stop HS2, Save the Colne Valley and Extinction Rebellion (XR), who gathered in the Colne Valley Regional Park to prevent tree-felling by HS2 last weekend, the issue with HS2 is seen as even more far-reaching. It’s about the need to change the way we live our lives and the UK stepping up to protect what remains of our natural heritage.

A lake between the Grand Union Canal and the Hillingdon Outdoor Activities Centre in the Colne Valley

Time to slow down

On Sunday – one of the few properly cold days we’ve had this winter – I tagged along with a group of XR activists on their way to join the protest camps pitched up along the eastern edge of the Colne Valley. Walking along the margin of a meadow on a path of partially frozen mud, I got a glimpse into the type of place the Colne Valley is: peaceful and verdant. Then we passed the tree line into the next meadow only to find most of it ringed off behind metal fencing erected by HS2.

I’ve been fighting HS2 for years because of my business,

said Sarah Green, one of the activists. ‘I run the passenger boat to the nature reserves on the Grand Union Canal through the middle of Colne Valley.’ HS2 will slice right across the canal, and even before construction is underway the area along the water, including nature reserves, has been transformed into a worksite, with large chunks of it blocked off by more fencing and the ground dug up.

HS2 has fenced off and dug up parts of the Colne Valley

You almost couldn’t find two modes of transport more unlike each other: a boat which travels practically at walking speed versus a train that will shoot through the countryside at 250 miles per hour. It’s a contrast which epitomises what Sarah and other activists I spoke to believe is at stake in the fight against HS2. In their view, HS2 is an outrageously expensive, nature-destroying manifestation of the ‘growth for growth’s sake’ mindset that is driving the world towards ecological and climate catastrophe.

At the protest camp beside Harvil Road, amid the rhythmic beating of XR drums and ‘discobedience’ practice, activist Greg Frey told me about a speech about HS2 he’d heard the mayor of Birmingham give. ‘At the end he goes, “Don’t we want to be a brave country, don’t we want to be a country that progresses and doesn’t get left behind.”

But this idea of progress – it’s totally blinkered.

Such competitiveness with other countries struck him as senseless. The message I heard across the two camps I visited was that, in a country as nature-depleted as the UK, with a climate emergency declared by parliament, we can no longer sacrifice what little natural habitat we have left at the altar of progress. ‘Where else are you going to draw the line?’ said Greg, meaning Colne Valley’s ancient woodlands and species-rich wetlands that are at risk from HS2.

In the succinct words of another of the activists: ‘We need to slow down.’

This is our Amazon

Though the protest camps have delayed some tree-felling by HS2, the company has already clear cut a large swathe of woodland on the other side of Harvil Road. You can see the stubbly tract of land where trees stood until so recently flanked by the remaining woodland, like the first strip of hair shaved off before someone buzzes the rest of their head.

Patch of woodland cut down by HS2

For several of the Colne Valley activists, it will be terribly hypocritical if the government okays HS2 and allows even more of this deforestation to occur. ‘We point the finger at Brazil, we point the finger at Indonesia, looking at how badly they’re treating their biodiversity and ecosystems, and yet…’ said Mark Keir, standing in the muddy middle of the camp beside the Hillingdon Outdoor Activities Centre. ‘An area the size of Hyde Park of woodland is just going to disappear here. And most of it like this is wet woodland, which is so bloody precious.’ If HS2 goes ahead, the UK won’t have a moral leg to stand on to encourage any other country to protect its natural habitats. And we barely had a leg to begin with.

Mark acknowledged that it wasn’t ideal for the camps to be present in the woods where the soil is fragile, but HS2’s refusal to stop tree-felling while the project is under review has necessitated the ongoing presence of activists to still their chainsaws. According to Mark and others, it was HS2’s bailiffs coming to evict the camp that made the place into a mud bath and lopped branches off some of the trees, presumably to deter activists from climbing them.

Chris Packham has said that ‘HS2 will be the largest deforestation programme since World War 1.’ Many activists see the battle to save the Colne Valley as our frontline. As one said,

This is our Amazon rainforest.

HS2 bailiffs cut branches cut off a tree in the camp