A merrier world and a beautiful one


Tropical islands poised to benefit from ocean power

The story of a sixteen-year old fighting climate change always moves and excites and inspires me.

Jadav Payeng has been planting a forest single-handedly since 1979 when he saw a pile of dead snakes and realised they had died for lack of both water and shade. Jadav Payeng, the son of a poor buffalo trader from a marginalized tribal community in the region of Assam, India, is now a poor farmer; but he has let nothing stand in the way of the task he set himself. He’s planted a tree a day in the forty years ever since. Elephants and tigers and all the indigenous wild life of the area have returned and are inhabitants of the forest he’s planted, which is now bigger than Central Park in New York.

I can’t help contrasting his story with the story of another sixteen-year old, an angry frightened Swedish teenager.

As I watched her speaking at the UN, I wondered, not for the first time, where her parents were to protect her, and also to help her to get some balance… yes, climate change is real, but no-one has stolen her childhood, living in a privileged western society like Sweden. While on the other hand, millions of children elsewhere are starving, enslaved and truly hopeless, and the millions of us in WW2 and other times, as well as children growing up in fear of nuclear annihilation during the Cold War, could claim to have had our childhoods stolen… except that self- pity and blame gets us nowhere!!!

And it isn’t just climate change which is a problem for the future… we face polluted oceans, destruction of the world’s forests, over-population, the extinction of other living species, and many other pressing issues. Yet the future is not actually all doom and gloom, and I wish someone would help Greta see the other side of the story.

After watching a video called 13 Misconceptions about Climate Change, I began to feel a lot better about the future, while there are other signs of progress which make me feel truly hopeful.

For starters, there’s the so-called destruction of Pacific Islands by the rising ocean, which the UN Secretary General described when he spoke after Greta at the UN. Actually, the story of the Pacific Islands is fascinating. A research team, which included a professor from Auckland University, have been studying the problem, and their findings show the gloomy forecast of flooding and inundation is unjustified.

Previous research by the team, which used aerial photos going back as far as 1943 to track changes to the 101 islands that make up the Tuvalu archipelago, found that overall there was a net gain in land area of 2.9 percent or 73.5ha over the past 40 years.

They found that the height of the atolls increased at the same time as the rising water, that sand and sediment shifted as the atolls responded to the environmental changes: that the elevation of the atoll crest – the highest ground – mirrored the rise in sea levels, which suggests sea level may be an important controlling factor on island elevation.

Co-researcher Dr Murray Ford, also from the University of Auckland, says the study shows islands are more resilient than previously thought, able to change shape or physically adjust to higher sea levels and more severe storms.

Then there’s the Great Green Wall of China where they are planting an area of forest bigger than Ireland every year, and have drafted in 60,000 soldiers to help with the planting. While they have had their problems and are still working on them, the project is heartening, while all the re-wilding and regeneration going on in England, Scotland, Denmark, Spain and other European countries is setting a new paradigm.

Great tracts of land are being returned to their ancient state – at Knepp Farm in Kent for instance, they’ve pulled up all the fences, sold all the farm machinery, and introduced as many original species onto the land as possible. No aurochs now, which used to roam the land in Neolithic times, so they introduced the nearest thing – long horn cattle, Exmoor ponies instead of wild horses to keep too many trees from spreading, three species of deer and pigs. Nature designed each animal to have its own function, they all graze differently, while the pigs rootling in the hard clay soil open up spaces for seeds to germinate. The results of this system include improving soil quality, flood control, water purification and pollination.

Rare bats, birds, butterflies, insects, flowers, fish, which haven’t been seen for centuries, are returning to this paradise, only a short way from London. The cattle are gently led – no violence being chased by dogs or motorbikes to round them up – and culled and sold as the highest quality meat, so there is no over-grazing in what is still an enclosed space, with other traditional farms around, hemming them in. This was the mistake made in the celebrated Netherlands project, where the animals flourished so well that in a hard winter many died from starvation, so now some animals have to be culled to maintain the health of the others.

As the years have gone by at Knepp Farm, swamps and wetland have returned, trees and scrub and rare wild flowers have spread, birds sing, butterflies dance over blossoms, and the whole area exudes a sense of calm and beauty. Glamping has become an off-shoot of this wonderful experiment.

The famous return of wolves to Yellowstone Park has shown that by introducing the top predator, the whole ecosystem can heal and regenerate. Rumania has one of the last and biggest swathes of forest, where vast areas are flourishing with all the wild creatures roaming, , which have disappeared elsewhere in Europe, and though during the Communist rule the forests began to be logged, they are now protected.

In Scotland where a number of philanthropists and trusts have bought up huge areas of land, they are re-wilding or regenerating the land in other ways…John Muir, of the John Muir Trust, one of the largest landowners, said that: ‘thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity’. This is why of course, that eco-tourism is on the rise which may or may not be a good thing, with concern over carbon footprints.

Modern factory farming, with all the attendant soil erosion, animal cruelty, chemical poisoning through the use of herbicides, pesticides, and anti-biotics, and water degradation, is also being addressed by dedicated experts. In the wonderful half hour documentary called ‘Unbroken Ground’ we learn of efforts to breed strains of grain which don’t require annual re-planting with the resultant ploughing and soil loss. Another farmer has transformed the over-grazed barren waste of his land caused by cattle grazing, by introducing bison, the original inhabitants, and their presence has restored the eco-system, while their meat is organic and unsullied by anti-biotics or other modern methods of increasing yield.

In fact, farming like this turns out to be more productive than modern farming methods, while respecting the land and the animals. All over the world farmers are taking up ‘re-generative farming’, letting the land dictate the results, allowing trees to grow for shade for animals and to prevent soil erosion, increase the world’s stock of trees, and as a by-product make the land both beautiful and productive.

This method of farming aims for topsoil regeneration, increasing biodiversity, improving the water cycle, enhancing eco-system services, increasing resilience to climate change, and strengthening the health and vitality of farm soil.

And even fishing is being tackled by one co-operative fishing company on Lummi Island in the States. They’ve perfected a way of catching salmon without stress, returning the unwanted catch to the sea unharmed, and treating the salmon with gentleness and respect. Now that scientists have proved what many of us have always believed, that fish can feel pain, it’s a great step forward to see that fishing can be humane; and perhaps in our brave new world, we will see this respect and care for all living things, including our planet, penetrate the consciousness of us all.

This revolution in our thinking towards the world can start at home. In small town gardens and plots, where gardeners grow native species, or plants that attract bees, or birds, they create tiny oases in urban deserts. A balcony or a window box, a bird feeder or a bowl of fresh water can attract insect and bird life, and even leaving dandelions to flower, the bees favourite food, is a small gift to the planet. We don’t need a farm or acres of land to do what we can to nurture nature. Some people plant road-sides, railway embankments and waste land in cities… sometimes they’re called guerrilla gardeners, and they are among the unsung saviours of the planet.

So if I could speak to sad and anxious sixteen year old Greta, I would give her the words of Max Ehrman in Desiderata:

“Go placidly amid the noise and the haste … Speak your truth quietly and clearly…  And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore, be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be. And whatever your labours and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul. With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.”

The beauty is a gift, but happiness is a decision I sometimes think… remembering the words of the anarchic Monty Python gang in The Life of Brian – always look on the bright side of things! And much happiness for me is to be found chopping and stirring and beating and eating in the kitchen… hence our Tuscan binge after reading Frances Mayes…’Giusi’s hen, hunter style’ was our first go at peasant cooking, and not having the guinea fowl required in the recipe I used eight boneless chicken breasts. We started with ‘odori’, which is a base made of two carrots, two stalks of celery, one onion, 2 cloves of garlic, and parsley. Chop them finely, saute in olive oil and put aside.

Saute the chicken for ten minutes, add salt and pepper and the odori. When the mix looks golden, pour in a glass of white wine. When it’s almost evaporated add two cups of tomato sauce and cook slowly for another twenty minutes. I took the advice and let it sit until the next day.

There was enough for two meals, the first we ate with creamy mashed potatoes, and the next day with pasta, accompanied by green beans – and of course a glass of good wine.

Being inclined to short cuts these days I used grated garlic in a jar, and a tin of tomatoes. It still seemed pretty delicious even with these non-Tuscan deviations!  And as that wise old man Tolkien once said:” If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.”







Filed under cookery/recipes, environment, gardens, happiness, pollution, sustainability, Uncategorized, wild life

41 responses to “A merrier world and a beautiful one

  1. I hope Greta wins the Nobel Prize. She is not off base or over reacting, she is a gift to humanity. I hope we heed her words. We are in the sixth extinction; and we must stop using fossil fuels. Regenerative farming is wonderful, but it is not being done on a massive scale, and we are running out of time. I find your attitude toward Greta distressing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m sure that Greta will win the Nobel Peace Prize, and I don’t discount anything she says, I’ve been discussing climate change, the sixth extinction etc, in many of my blogs over the years.
      And I too hope we ‘heed her words’.. I was attempting to get some balance, as her words have actually destabilised many, especially children, who see no hope for us.
      I do see hope, and believe like many people of our ilk, that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, and those steps are the subject of this blog.
      Is it that I am concerned that this autistic child seems so alone and unhappy that you find distressing?.As a writer of fifty years standing on child development, I see Greta struggling, and perhaps being used by older but not necessarily wiser people.
      AS for your other comments about fossil fuels, and the sixth extinction, you will find in my two previous blogs and others, that I take these things very seriously…

      Liked by 1 person

      • I do not believe Greta is being used by other people. At all. In fact, her Swedish opera singer mother, and her dad, were at first quite taken by their daughter’s stance. Now they support her. Please read her biography and background. As for “autistic child who seems alone and unhappy….”….please take another look at your language and how you are characterizing her. Why point out that she is autistic? Unhappy? Is it a crime to be unhappy given our circumstances? (Here in America, being unhappy is suspect and must always be corrected, lol.) The children are rising up, and more power to them. Since you are experienced in child development, and an accomplished journalist, I am extra puzzled about how you are characterizing Greta – your language is stigmatizing and judgmental. (I have a background in writing about/advocating for those with mental illnesses and other differences.) I do strongly feel your criticism of her is misplaced. Thanks for the opportunity to comment.


  2. Valerie, thank you for this thought-provoking piece. There are many levels on which to respond to the harm that is being done to our planet. I applaud every one of the examples you give, and feel hope in reading about them. There is also a bigger picture, and for that we need to look to the atmosphere. Changing that overburden of CO2, with its devastating consequences, is urgent and requires political action. We need to stop burning coal and oil, burdening the atmosphere through our travel habits, especially flyer, and our consumerism. That’s where Greta targets her activism. I’m totally with her there. We need both approaches, and more.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m relieved to read your post with so much positivity Valerie. This subject is another thing that threatens to divide us. We need some balance, which is not to say complacency. My friend and I were discussing this a couple of days ago and are concerned that Greta is being used without knowing it. Of course we both are concerned for the planet, and we also do a lot within our own sphere to live more consciously. We can only hope that the momentum builds quickly and many more get on the ‘band wagon’.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Couldn’t agree more, Ardys. Everything you say chimes with my thinking, and yes, it would be wonderful to see the bandwagon of change travelling fast!

      Liked by 1 person

    • I wish you’d give brave Greta more credit. Please read her bio. Reading these condescending words about an activist who happens to be a teen is concerning. Why do people need to (even subtly) discredit her? What are you so afraid of? Please recall how Rachel Carson was treated, her reputation nearly destroyed.


      • Dear Valorie I am reluctantly replying to this comment…I am not discrediting Greta or afraid of her… what tipped the scales of my concern over her, was watching a video of a panel of adult speakers, Greta apparently presiding, sitting in the middle. A pleasant young man asked her what she wanted to say to the world’s leaders before her speech at the UN.
        At the end of his question, there was a long embarrassing silence. Then Greta asked him to repeat the question which he did. More long silence. Then she asked, ‘does any one else want to answer him’.
        No-one did – they couldn’t, one supposes, tell him what she was thinking and wanted to say. More long silence, and then Greta said:’ please ask other people questions instead of always picking on me.’
        I found this incident very thought-proving and concerning, and I don’t think I need to go into all the implications..


      • No, you don’t need to go into all your supposed ominous implications. She has been straightforward with her diagnoses. What surprises me is your stigmatizing attitudes and obvious discomfort – disappointing since you say you have a background in child development. In my view, you have undermined someone who is neurodiverse and doing excellent work.


      • What surprises me is your lack of respect for another person’s point of view, and your use of words like ‘supposed’ to demean my explanations to you – which have never attacked or demeaned you.for your opinions.

        Liked by 1 person

      • It’s because I believe you’ve misrepresented her, it almost seems like a prejudice left over from attitudes held a few decades ago. My apologies Valerie. I feel that it goes beyond opinion, but perhaps I was out of line. I have always stood up for people in terms of mental illness and similar diversities, as that is what I contended with in my background.


      • Hello Valorie, Thank you for your reply. I do understand where you are coming from, which is why I said in one of my replies that we all view life through our own experiences…
        That said, I just have to believe in my own intuition as someone who had a difficult childhood, and can always scent a child who is struggling. or needs help… and as a parent and a grandparent, I also have some insight into how easy it is for children to try to fulfill the expectations of parents and others, no matter what it costs.
        I know we are both coming from a place of compassion, and I honour your spirited efforts to say and do what is right for you.
        I feel that the lines I quoted from Desiderata apply to us all,,
        with very best wishes, Valerie

        Liked by 1 person

      • I don’t think it is fruitful to continue this. You still insist she is fulfilling others’ expectations, when she has said she is doing anything but. Who are you to assume she is not telling the truth? Again, I maintain your attitudes toward someone neuro-diverse seem out of date, ill informed, and stigmatizing. I’ve already overstayed me welcome so I’ll bow out.


      • I was very surprised to read your ungracious and rather discourteous reply… I had hoped we could accept each other’s differences amicably. You use words like stigmatise, prejudice, supposed and other terms to put me down, and suggest that I am out of date and ignorant of the issues on which you are an expert. .I have been very aware of autism and the pain involved for everyone, since 1967 when a close Swedish friend had a child who suffered severely from this condition. I became very familiar with many aspects of it, and have continued to update myself to this day.
        Your repeated references to my ‘prejudices’ dating from several decades ago, sounds like ageism, and makes me feel that you yourself  are – if I used  your terms – stigmatising me for being old and out of touch – tone deaf, you also said.
        There is a host of people much younger than me, who have the same thoughts, and read the situation in the same way as I do, who would also deserve the derogatory labels you pin on me because I see things differently to you..
        One of the advantages of growing up in the time and place that I did, was that we were brought up to believe that even if we disagreed with someone, this did not give us a license to put them down, call them names or try in other ways to undermine them.


  4. Welcome back and thank you for providing welcome balance to the apocalyptic claims, and showing a more hopeful way of meeting challenges.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Denis Brookes

    Hello again, Valerie. Glad you are back in harness and fully recovered.
    Must say, couldn’t agree more with your blog re. climate change. We are in the process of a natural warming cycle which will be followed in due course by a natural cooling cycle. You may recall the dire warnings of the ‘scientists’ in the 1970s that we were on the verge of a new ice age!
    I recommend the following for a dispassionate appraisal of our global climate: The Sea Around Us by Rachel L. Carson; Scared To Death by Christopher Booker & Richard North (Chapter 14) and The Skeptical Environmentalist by Bjorn Lomborg (p. 258 et sec).
    Interestingly, it would appear that there is powerful evidence that the cosmos is heating up as well as the Earth – so can we safely assume that man-made actions are not to blame!
    It is well known that if you want to control the people, scare them and keep them scared.
    Good to get your news and views. Keep them coming.
    Best wishes, Denis Brookes.


    • Great to hear from you Denis,
      And thank you for your recommendations of good books… have been a fan of Rachel Carson and Christopher Booker since the 70’s, but haven’t discovered Lomborg and will be investigating him, so thank you for your pointer…
      Following events in your neck of the woods with disbelief!
      Hope your book has gone well, and thank you so much for your encouragement, very much appreciated,
      Best wishes, Valerie


    • Dear Ralph, this is very very interesting, and I have to say – in spite of one persistent angry commenter on this blog – that I agree with the thrust of his argument … it really saddens me that so many children are being indoctrinated with fear.
      It’s take so long to reply, as I’ve had a busy week, and couldn’t find the time to spend watching the video. Now that I have, I’m very grateful to you for sending it… particularly in the light of the misguided thousands of panicked parents, children ad grandparents now demonstrating in London, and causing such misery to so many… led by a self proclaimed Marxist, who’s on record as wanting to destroy the capitalist system and says calmly that inevitably there will be deaths… Strewth !!!..
      Great to know you’re there, and hope all is going well with you in your new life, yours Valerie

      Liked by 1 person

  6. It is wonderful to see a message of hope amongst all the doom and gloom. Not that more awareness, more proactive care, and less despoiling are not ideals to be followed, but it shows that nature is more resilient than we are given to believe.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Dear Valerie, I loved, loved reading your post. Thank you so much for your positivity. I believe that it is important to look on the bright side of life, that we have chosen to be born in this specific time, and that there is work to be done in serving the community in whichever way is right for us. Much love Fiona xx

    Sent from my iPad



    • Dearest Fiona, what a thrill to see your name and to read your lovely words.
      Yes, I agree that we have chosen to come back to these times, and that we have have tasks and commitments we set for ourselves.to tackle in this lifetime… wish we were close enough to meet, I have a feeling we think alike on many things, Much love, Valerie


  8. Jane Sturgeon

    Thank you, Valerie, for writing so eloquently about all the different and positive things that are happening to nurture Mother Earth. They shine a light on all the things we can do as individuals and I am grateful to you for taking the time to write like this.

    By expressing your concern for Greta’s welfare, you are in no way dismissing her message. I too see a vulnerable child and fear she is being exploited.

    ❤ for you both, with hugs. Xx


    • Dearest Jane,
      So good to read your words of encouragement, thank you so much.
      Yes, there are so many small things we can each do to nurture our planet, and every small thing adds up to make a difference to our world and to our future.
      I was grateful too, to read your words of support over Greta…
      It’s so easy to start to feel one has misread the situation, and to be-little one’s own intuition….
      Much Love, Valerie

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I love how you love our earth!!!


  10. For the record, our president has mocked Greta personally on Twitter, with sarcasm and contempt, for being a bright and happy child. So I find her disparagement and the condescension here tone deaf and, really, out of touch. No one is using her – that is an internet rumor. (I hate to throw around credentials, but I’m a medical librarian with a master’s in journalism, and I know how difficult it now is to find trustworthy information online; I have also been active in NAMI and am familiar with stigmatizing language re: mental illness and other differences.) She does not need to be worried over. She knows full well the plight of other dying children and is working to prevent climate change deaths; she is a brilliant student. She has said she’s been diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome, OCD, and selective mutism, but I can’t verify the accuracy of that. Those of us who blog have to be careful of our sources and facts, since we don’t have editors and fact-checkers. I found the characterization of Greta problematic and not helpful to her cause.


    • I agree with much of what you say Valorie, but in my own defence must point out that Greta herself on a Swedish programme I watched, talked of being autistic and said that she felt it was an advantage, as she saw every thing in black and white…while I feel that being able to see some grey is a sign of maturity, and certainly makes life easier for the person themselves, hence my quote from Desiderata.
      No, I did not suggest that unhappiness is a crime, but happiness IS the birthright of all children, even though many do not experience it.
      I’m sorry you perceive my concern for her as patronising and condescending, but I also accept that we all look at life through our own lenses and life experiences. There are many shades of grey.
      I thought I had made it clear in all my blogs over the past seen years that I support her cause, which is a cause that most sane people support.
      The thrust of the blog was not criticism of Greta, but pointing out that there is cause for hope for our world as well as justified concern.


  11. There is an interesting docudrama – Cowpiracy – makes one think.
    Here is the YouTube link > https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nV04zyfLyN4



    • Dear Eric, thank you for this… I had come across it, and also the reputable figures which contradict the findings in the film… and it’s still a huge and pressing subject, as whatever the figures, the cruelty to farm animals from factory farming makes it an unbearable and horrible industry… I can feel another blog coming on!

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Angela

    Ahhh Valerie….what a joy to read a balanced & positive piece …so often in these times anything that is perceived as not fitting in with the ‘approved’ narrative is met with vitriol & dismissal. Soooo refreshing to read something that sees both sides of a situation ….a beam of light shining out from deep within a forest in Coromandel!!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh Angela, how good to see your name and read your lovely words – very welcome, as I was beginning to feel a bit battered!
      So good to know that you could see what I was writing and my desire to share some hope instead of apprehension.
      You are a perceptive reader and such an encouraging commenter.
      I always think that what we write tells us more about the person writing than the one who is being written about, and your comments always show such generosity of spirit, intelligence and sensitivity…
      I always love to see your name pop up here, love, Valerie


  13. It’s wonderful to read some good news stories. There is so much bad news flying around, but as David Attenborough has said, there is hope as long as we act. Having awareness and “respect and care for all living things” is so important, and I think more and more people are waking up to that.

    By the way, have you read Wilding, the book about Knepp Farm’s transition back to nature? I think you would enjoy it, if you haven’t read it already.


  14. So good to hear from you Grace… yes, David Attenborough’s words were balm to sore or anxious spirits, weren’t they…
    Yes, yes, to Knepp Farm – SO inspiring – our version of re-wilding here in the forest, and trying to return it to its pristine state is alas, about killing – the possums who would ravage and destroy the forest with their voracious appetites if left unchecked, and eliminating the rats and stoats who destroy the bird life, both nestlings and nests..
    Since we’ve all put huge effort into pest control over the last few years, we’ve seen rare plants and butterflies returning, the forest flourishing and several species of amphibians and reptiles which were on the endangered list, being taken off it, which is really heartening…
    And it’s so heartening too, to hear from people like you who are on the same wave length..


  15. I like positive stories and there are many of them regarding our world environment and the steps we are taking to improve it. Whether we are doing enough is a question which bothers me. I am really glad that young people are expressing their concern (and showing their worry and fear) over climate change. I believe we must listen to them. And, if possible, we must reassure them that we are doing as much as we can to keep our world habitable. I am reminded of myself at a young age protesting about the Vietnam War and feeling completely unlistened to. I remember my qualms about nuclear testing in the Pacific falling on deaf ears. I spent a lot of my childhood and early teens worried that we, in the Pacific, could be destroyed by a nuclear testing mishap. No one in authority appeared to listen. And that was frustrating. I am all for a merrier world and less hoarding of gold. May we strive for that.


    • Hello Amanda… I know how you felt!
      All those marches against Vietnam, nuclear testing, Apartheid, save the whales etc !
      I have to say I felt a lot more optimistic hearing about the 500 scientists who tried to get a hearing at the UN after Greta, to re-assure the world, that climate change is not at a catastrophic point, and when I realised that the figure 12 years to complete breakdown, was being misused… that it was 12 years to counter climate change, not that we are over the edge by then …
      IT does concern me that doom and gloom prophecies are causing children ‘worry and fear’, and I feel optimistic that mankind will evolve a way of coping with the challenges that face us and our world.

      Liked by 1 person

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