Inspired by Nature is a themed Croak to entertain you with some of our favourite artwork based on nature and the outdoors. We hope it will stimulate you to get creative and produce something yourself. If you do and would like to share them with us, please post them on our Facebook page, Twitter account, or email us at email@example.com
This months feature has been written by Rebecca Neal our Conservation Youth Worker on the Peterborough Green Pathways project, funded by BBC Children in Need.
“It is interesting to contemplate an entangled bank, clothed with many plants of many kinds, with birds singing on the bushes, with various insects flitting about, and with worms crawling through the damp earth, and to reflect that these elaborately constructed forms, so different from each other, and dependent on each other in so complex a manner, have all been produced by laws acting around us … Thus, from the war of nature, from famine and death, the most exalted object which we are capable of conceiving, namely, the production of the higher animals, directly follows. There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved” On the Origin of Species by means of Natural Selection Charles Darwin 1859.
Since wildlife and the environment are my passion, I read a lot of books on the subject. I have also been thinking a lot about inspiring books, particularly for children, recently having just written a children’s story that hopefully Froglife will “publish” (see last month’s “Inspired by Nature”). Origin of Species is probably the most influential book I have read and I urge you to try it. Darwin’s style is very readable and I like how logically he puts his argument. The theory of evolution has itself evolved and some of the problems he highlights we can now explain or have new evidence that suggests an alternative way of thinking about it. However, the basic premise remains.
I particularly like this passage which comes right at the end of the book. It uses much more poetic language than the rest of the book and every time I read it, I can imagine standing next to, and contemplating such a bank. (The bank I imagine is usually in Devon as this is the part of the country I believe has the best hedges…ooh, I feel a hedge war coming on!) I also get a comedy image in my head of Darwin standing by the side of a road staring at a hedge with his finger on the side of his lips in a “hmm” kind of manner. Hares are giving him funny looks from the field next door. I feel I have Darwin’s approval whenever I find myself doing just this.
This week I was given an English lesson by a Year 3 child with selective mutism. We read a sentence together about frogs and she whispered in my ear that there were several adjectives in the sentence: frog’s legs were “long” and “stripy” and their skin was “wet”. I think this is what stands out in Darwin’s paragraph for me and makes the imagery so strong; the insects are “flitting”, the worms are “crawling” and the earth is “damp”. The bank is alive.
I like the bit about how living things are all different but follow the same basic laws and are dependent on each other in complex ways. To me, this suggests a lesson in how people should view each other and also how we should view the environment. We don’t know how losing species will affect how ecosystems work and yet we are losing species at an alarming rate. We all depend on functioning ecosystems and yet we are doing our best to ensure they don’t.