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King's Weston: architect John Vanbrough

A visual art form such as a drawing, painting, photograph, sculpture or etching can be the summit at a mountaintop of information, the Rosetta Stone dictionary for deciphering complex problems in all languages here on earth and throughout the Universe. Long before the invention of the written word to preserve and convey information, people painted and carved pictures (petroglyphs) on walls of caves and cliffs for all to understand, both then and many thousands of years later. The act of inscribing information by any means and the storage of it in libraries for retrieval made it possible to have a cultural evolution by which humans learned how to over-power and manipulate all other forms of life, including other humans. Visual art can convey more than just words. Like music, it can convey emotions from the heart saya W.C. Galinat.

Biophilia was the term used by E.O.Wilson to describe the connections that human beings subconsciously seek with the rest of life. He was making the point that every scrap of wildness, even a fenced fragment of a former vast wilderness or a roadside grassy verge, nurtures the scientific and spiritual behaviours that lie dormant within us.

Alone in the tropical forest, Wilson says,“…summoned fresh images from the forest of how real organisms look and act I needed to concentrate for only a second and they came alive as eidetic images, behind closed eyelids, moving across fallen leaves and decaying humus.I sorted the memories this way and that in hope of stumbling on some pattern not obedient to abstract theory of textbooks.I would have been happy with any pattern,The best of science doesn’t consist of mathematical models and experiments, as textbooks would make it seem.Those come later.It springs fresh from a more primitive mode of thought wherein the hunter’s mind weaves ideas from old facts and fresh metaphors and the scrambled crazy images of things recently seen. To move forward is to concoct new patterns of thought, which in turn dictate the design of the models and experiments.Easy to say, difficult to achieve”

We think more carefully and philosophically about human origins and our destiny as a species, when in contact with a variety of even the most commonplace living things. Biophilia settles peace on the soul particularly where the gathering of species is in a landscape beyond human contrivance, and there can be no purpose more enspiriting than protecting and expanding the wondrous diversity of life.This is not just a quality of vast wilderness areas, but it is also to be found in an English hedgerow, where a handful of trees and shrubs create a wilful tangle of biodiversity.

Wildness, large and small was put into the context of valuing the natural world as a beauty experience by Rachel Carson and Albert Einstein.

Those who dwell...among the beauties and mysteries of the earth are never alone or weary of life. . . Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. The more clearly we can focus our attention on the wonders and realities of the universe about us,the less taste we shall have for destruction. RC

A knowledge of the existence of something we cannot penetrate, of the manifestations of the profoundest reason and the most radiant beauty - it is this knowledge and this emotion that constitute the truly religious attitude; in this sense, and this alone, I am a deeply religious man. AE

These are actually powerful statements of naturalistic pantheism, which draws ethical conclusions from the intuitive feelings that there are spiritual values in all the entities that conservationists describe as ‘features’ in their management plans. Pantheists believe that nature itself deserves our feelings of reverence and awe. For the pantheist, nothing is more worthy of reverence, or even worship, than the awesome power and beauty of the cosmos itself.Pantheism caters to the emotional need that many people feel for so-called "spiritual (as opposed to materialistic) values"; a need to value something beyond themselves or that even transcends the human race.

Pantheism offers ways of expressing these feelings in ceremonies, celebrating significant times and places, which underline our links with nature, the solar system and the universe. The message is that humans should seek a closer spiritual harmony with nature. All this is possible without retreating one millimetre from the rigorously empirical attitude to reality found in modern science. We should preserve biodiversity and the delicately beautiful ecological balances of the planet, not just as a matter of survival, but as a matter of personal fulfilment.All of this is encompassed in a pictorial language of biophilia, which, in terms of personalities ranges from the evocative streams of migrating wildfowl in Peter Scott’s paintings of wetland landscapes, back to Bewick’s 18th century woodcuts illustrating Aesops Fables.It is now testified and endorsed by humanity through the countless digital photographs of wildlife and habitats of nature reserve, that are accumulating in family web albums world wide.

Incorporating spiritual objectives into management plans
It is now commonplace to find that biodiversity is considered to be a valuable human resource.Biodiversity is the repository of a rich array of species, both animal and plant, aquatic and terrestrial.In a social setting biodiversity provides ethical, spiritual, and moral grounds for protecting all forms of life and with monetary rewards for doing so.

Spiritual understanding is triggered by emotions from the heart, such as the yearning for transcendence, inwardness, the experience of oneness, happiness, meaning in life and rituals.We need models, both inside and outside official religious groups, that bring spirituality into nature conservation to help explain the origins and future of humanity.In other words, spirituality has less to do with religion than with becoming a person in the truest sense. The spiritual core is the deepest centre of the person.It has been said that it is here that a person is open to the transcendent dimension; it is here that the person experiences the other side of subjective reality.Science, is the way we know natural features, but spirituality provides the way we know them to be there.This is why spirituality an important part of understanding what it is to be human and why it is an important quality to protect and promote.This spiritual, creative environmental structure turns up in various guises throughout human history; in mysticism; in ancient oracles; in African tribal dance and ritual; in all religious and spiritual experience; and throughout mythology. Its most recent genuine or ‘authentic' manifestation is in the advent of modern abstract art, as practised in its purest sense by artists such as Kandinsky, Mondrian, Rothko, De Kooning, and others.Viewing of a work of art takes place in the context, not of the subject matter, but of the pictorial language used by the artist.The viewer of a work of art is struck by the work as conveying an immediate visual experience, as was the maker, who was faced with the visual experience of the real world. In both cases people as artists or viewers cannot resist the need to hold, through graphic or painterly means, a figure, a face or a view that strikes their feelings. These feelings can be pleasurable or not depending on the context of cognition.Providing views of nature is therefore an important objective of nature conservation, particularly in relation to activating ‘a painter’s eye’, in visitors, not only artists but also the general public.

In 1984, the Australian national committee of the International Council on Monuments and Sites adopted guidelines for the establishment of the cultural significance of conservation, to accompany their Burra Charter. The guidelines include a section titled "Social value", which reads, "Social value embraces the qualities for which a place has become a focus of spiritual, political, national or other cultural sentiment to a majority or minority group."Although the word "sentiment" may not adequately capture what for some peoples is a deeply held belief, this was the first reference to spiritual values in any national or international conservation document.

The logic of making a conservation plan for a nature site begins with identifying the features that have to be safeguarded.This is followed by defining the factors to be managed in order to maintain the features in a favourable state or condition. Features are typically the habitats or species for which the area is being protected, but they may also be geological, archaeological or landscape elements. Other features of a site that have to be managed are those structures and procedures concerned with public access, tourism, relations with the local community and the on-site facilities (like a visitors centre).

Each feature has a measurable objective, which defines the operational target of management. An objective is often expressed as a one line statement.For instance "Maintain this feature (e.g a namedplant) at favourable conservation status". In this case, the measurable target could be the number of plants in a given area.When expressed numerically, the target is also a performance indicator, because by monitoring the plant population year on year, the effectiveness of the management procedure may be assessed.

It is essential to define objectives in this scientific way for management to be effective and efficient.However, most visitors to a nature site encounter its features visually.This opens up another way of defining a feature’s management objective by using pictorial language.For example, the following statement defines the visual objective of the Broads Authority regarding the management of stonewort, a water plant that is very sensitive to pollution.

A carpet of stonewort species covers the bed of the shallow lake. This continuous lawn stretches across much of lake area; it may be dominated by only a few stonewort species, such as the intermediate, starry or rough stonewort, or be composed of a mix of several stonewort and pondweed species. During the growing season there will be sufficient submerged plant material to out-compete microscopic algae for nutrients resulting in crystal clear water.

Gazing through this clear water the muted green delicate starry tips of intermediate stonewort can be seen stretching across much of the deeper lake area. On closer inspection other species, such as the baltic and starry stoneworts or flat-stalked pondweed can be picked out by their fresh green colours and different shape.

The stonewort roots stabilise the deep soft lake sediment by forming dense lawns of roots, intertwining stems and branches. It requires some force to push an oar diagonally through them and they are crunchy to touch as a result of calcium incorporated into their stems and branches. At peak height, in July and August, intermediate stonewort lawns will be near water surface having a calming effect on the sometimes turbulent water of the broad. These calm waters may create exceptionally clear water areas within the lake.

Where the water shallows into the gravel lake margins the species may change from open water lawns rooted into the deep sediment, to shorter lawns of the rough and convergent stoneworts.

The stoneworts provide the backdrop for the underwater drama, rather like a dense rainforest canopy. The many snails and other small water creatures living on the towering stems and amongst the branches, provide the protein for fish, which is essential if they are to live long and grow large. Water creatures, such as snails, also eat the algae that threaten to clog the stems of the stonewort, thus allowing the plant to breathe and get light.

Stoneworts can be found in the broad all year round and although the height of the lawn will naturally decrease in the winter it will still provide a welcome food source for water birds such as gadwell, golden eye, pochard and coot which congregate in their thousands. From the stems that remain through winter, new shoots will grow when the temperature increases in the spring. The amount of underwater light never hinders the growth of this species. In some years stoneworts will produce abundant orange and yellow seeds, which can be found in the sediment close to the parent plant.

Over time or space, should the intermediate stonewort lawns recede and other stoneworts and pondweeds, which are also are characteristics of low nutrient conditions, colonise the open water, this will be welcomed as part of the natural succession at this site.

A well written statement in pictorial language is one of the easiest ways to communicate to the public just what the conservation manager is trying to do on a site. The more imaginatively written these statements are, the easier it becomes to understand the management objectives non-scientifically.