Exoteric environmentalism

Hello. This is my main blog in which I attempt to communicate my thoughts and feelings about my passion and main work interest: how environmental issues affect people, wildlife and the planet.

If viewing a single post, click on the heading above to access my full blog. You can also select the tabs for:

'What is my blog all about?'- more info on this blog.
'Everywhere is nowhere'- my photos of Scotland and beyond.
'Interconnected nomad'- my cycling experiences blog.
'Porridge of knowledge'- my throwaway blog about everything.

I have been involved in work projects and outputs related to a number of the issues covered here- details of which can be found at my personal website: www.bonner28282.wix.com/jamesbonner

I'm on twitter as @jamesbonner82
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Posts I Like
Posts tagged "nature"

'Butterflies drink turtle tears for their salt fix' (Image and story via Treehugger)

Nature, from the macro to the micro scale, works to conserve and recycle nutrients and resources. 

We need to learn to develop an economy and society that, like the rest of nature, is circular- not linear; conserving- not wasteful. 

After all, it’s worth remembering that the likes of turtles and butterflies have been around on this planet for much longer than us…

Loch, mountains, rainbow, bird, tree. Loch Lomond, Scotland

"In all things of nature there is something of the marvelous" Aristotle


Killing off tigers and orangutans, driving climate change, destroying biodiversity, displacing people, causing massive air pollution, polluting water and land.

Dirty palm oil is nasty- and there’s a pretty good chance we have all used a product today which contains it (food, washing powder, cosmetics, soap..).

But there are ways to change this… 

Protect Paradise- An animation about palm oil (By Greenpeace: read more about their campaign here)


'But pleasures are like poppies spread,

You seize the flow’r, its bloom is shed;

Or like the snow falls in the river,

A moment white - then melts for ever;

Or like the Borealis race,

That flit ere you can point their place;

Or like the Rainbow’s lovely form

Evanishing amid the storm. -

Nae man can tether Time nor Tide,

The hour approaches Tam maun ride’

Tam o’Shanter, Robert Burns

Photo credits:

Top left: Poppy field, Kilconquhar, Fife- by Ian Cameron

Top right: Rainbow and boat, Ardtoe, West Highlands- by Angus Clyne

Bottom right: Aurora borealis, Thurso, Caithness- by Stewart Watt

Bottom left: Snow and river, River Tay, Perthshire- from Salmon Fishing Scotland

Centre: Thistle on beach, Hoy, Orkney Islands- by myself

Northern Scandinavian is widely recognised as one of the most naturally beautiful regions in the world- with a spectacular coastline of fjords and islands, a landscape of mountains and lakes and, of course, a prime vantage point for the incredible natural phenomenon that is the Aurora Borealis, or Northern Lights. 

While the sunlight is limited to only a few hours a day, the region has a special and unique beauty during mid-winter. In a few days visiting the area over the new year I was lucky to experience some of its natural physical beauty, view its ethereal sunrises and sunsets, and marvel at aurora and shooting stars of its dark nights.

In particular, an image from a coach journey (which I never managed to capture on camera) of a crescent moon rising from a pale diffused Arctic sunset in a pristine fjord in northern Norway is one that will remain with me for a long time. Such encounters with nature can emotionally move us in ways that material goods and experiences rarely achieve- and highlights the fundamental and innate psychological value and benefit that our environment offers.

Some more of my images from my short trip to the Arctic Circle can be found on my photography tumblr blog at everywhereisnowhere    

Black Rock Cottage and Buchaille Etive Mor II » by Finlay Oman

Scotland with its winter coat on is quite stunning.

The west of Scotland is a windy place!

This beautiful interactive, near real-time, map of global wind patterns is quite stunning. By rotating and zooming in, you can understand wind directions and speeds around the entire surface of the planet almost as they are happening.

It is a reminder of the potential renewable energy resource that the wind can be, but also an indication of the interconnected and closed system that our planet operates on at a physical level.

Image- screen capture from Earth wind map. Sourced via Treehugger

Essence of Ecosse

Photographer Mo Thomson’s compilation of some stunning time-lapse imagery that captures the natural, and architectural, beauty of Scotland.  

Naturally Beautiful

The Mountain: Pico del Teide, Canary Islands

Time-lapse photography by TSO Photography

Water is the resource on which we, and all other life, ultimately depend. It is finite. Our actions, as humanity, are fundamentally changing the hydrological cycle- and the consequences are likely to be significant- see Water in the Anthropocence.

Canadian photographer Edward Burtynsky’s stunning images, as part of his collection 'Water' (as all images above are sourced from), visually communicate both how the natural landscape, and human intervention, shape/are shaped by the resource. I recently caught a display of some of his images at the Flowers Gallery in London- which depict both the power of water to shape our planet, but also its vulnerability to be affected by human intervention and damage. 

His accompanying feature documentary Watermark has been released in Canada- hopefully it will be also shown in the UK, and elsewhere, in the near future. 

Climate Change- The state of science

'Humanity is altering Earth's life support system'

Another excellent, and beautifully designed, data visualisation output from the IGBP on the global issues and impacts of climate change.

From an ongoing series:

Welcome to the Anthropocene

Water in the Anthropocene

Climate Change- The state of science

Late autumn/ early winter in Bristol, England.

It is often nature that makes the most beautiful and appealing public spaces in cities and urban environments.

I’ve talked before in this blog, on a number of occasions, about the instrumental value of our natural environment- the benefits (and fundamental basis) it has for economic and social development. 

However, the intrinsic value of our environment- its value in, and of, itself- is as much a justification for its conservation and protection. This intrinsic beauty and majesty of nature, and the diversity of its ecosystems and landscapes, is often best captured through photography.

Above are a few of my favourite photographs that I have taken in places I have travelled to which convey some of the intrinsic value of nature. (However, it is also worth noting the considerable instrumental value many of these locations provide for society- tourism, natural resources, cultural and spiritual benefits, etc…)

If you would like to see some more of my images, they can be found at my side tumblr blog Everywhere is nowhere.  

In my previous post I presented some perspectives as to how stakeholder pressure, and ‘active shareholders’, has played a part in WWF’s current campaign to oppose oil exploration in Virunga- Africa’s oldest national park.

Another interesting aspect of WWF’s campaign pertains to a report which they have commissioned called the 'Economic Value of Virunga National Park'. WWF’s Economics Advisor Tony Roxburgh introduces the report in this article- and, as is the focus of the work, describes some of the economic and social benefits that Virunga provides:

The park also is incredibly important economically and socially, providing food and raw materials, opportunities for tourism and recreation, secure supplies of water for drinking and hydropower, and carbon sequestration, for example. Should oil exploration lead to extraction in or around the park, the consequences could be disastrous, and could undermine future economic development and the well-being of communities. It is not a development pathway WWF wants to see.

In addition, he presents a clear overview of the rationale of the report- explaining the use of the Total Economic Value (TEV) model on which it is based. The tool, which is used in the field of accounting and cost benefit analysis, helps evaluate the potential benefits and costs of large scale environmental projects or developments, and inform decisions as to whether or not a project is justified (primarily from an economic perspective). Using the TEV methodology, the report calculates a financial value of Virunga, highlighting its significance as an economic asset to the region.

The Total Economic Value (TEV) of the Virunga ecosystem is likely to be US$48.9 million annually. If current challenges are addressed, the park’s value has the potential to be as much as US$1.1 billion per year. It could also be the source of more than 45,000 jobs, including existing positions.

It is interesting that WWF, as a nature and conservation NGO, have commissioned such a report as part of its campaign. By establishing perspectives on the financial value of Virunga on the basis of the goods and services that are derived from it, and highlighting the economic risks associated with exploring for oil in its boundaries, WWF have employed some of the principle approaches and tools that are more commonly associated with the world of business and policy decision making. In doing so, they have been able to develop and present a valid and creditable financial case for the protection and conservation of Virunga on the basis of its economic value.

However, embarking on such an approach has the potential to draw criticism from some perspectives- as such an undertaking can be seen as a somewhat ‘neo-liberal’ and capitalist approach to nature and conservation efforts- whereby proving the economic value of the environment becomes the prevailing requirement to justify its protection or ‘existence’. This relates to an argument which is central to conservation, environmentalism, and development in general- namely whether nature should be conserved and protected based on its intrinsic (inherent and ‘of itself’) or instrumental (based on the benefits that can be derived from it) value. (My previous blog post ‘To value nature, is in our very nature’, and external piece ‘Including natural capital in valuation methods’, offer some additional perspectives around this notion).

From a conservation perspective, the intrinsic value of Virunga is based on its extraordinary natural beauty, the existence of unique and complex ecosystems within its boundaries, and as a habitat for a diversity of wildlife- as highlighted in the Tony Roxburgh article:

Virunga is a jewel in the crown of Africa’s natural heritage. It is Africa’s oldest national park, a World Heritage Site and a Ramsar wetland of international importance. It has a wide variety of habitats: forests, savannas, rivers, lakes, marshlands, active volcanoes and permanent glaciers. It hosts more species of mammals, reptiles and birds than any other protected area in Africa. It is home to about 25 per cent of the world’s 880 remaining critically endangered mountain gorillas.

These aspects of Virunga, from an intrinsic perspective, have a value in, and of, themselves- a volcano, an unspoilt lake, a gorilla, the unique self-regulating organic ecosystems that exist in the park. WWF, of course, also develop and build their campaign by communicating these intrinsic values- as conveyed through the images and stories it imparts about the park- in an effort to foster support and endorsement for their cause. However, and as unfortunate/short-sighted as it may be (and as a consequence of a variety of reasons), the intrinsic value of places of natural beauty and biological diversity on our planet are often outweighed by prevailing economic and developmental objectives and decisions (including those with percieved social benefits)- some examples of which are highlighted in my previous post.

It is my view that by using economic modelling, such as the TEV methodology (which, in fact, attempts to incorporate some themes of intrinsic value though its inclusion of ‘non-use’ values) can be harnessed as a powerful tool to supplement the intrinsic justification for conserving a place like Virunga by providing the instrumental case (the economic and social benefits as described and quantified in the ‘Economic Value of Virunga’ report) to support its long term conservation.

Appreciating and understanding the intrinsic and instrumental value of our natural environment do not, in my view, need to be conflicting, or mutually exclusive, approaches to conservation or development. Importantly though, establishing the economic value of natural resources and ecosystems (regionally, nationally or globally) should not be seen as a method which ‘supplants’ the moral and intrinsic argument to conserve and protect our environment, but as an auxiliary tool to reinforce and highlight the instrumental value of nature, which, in the end, all economic development and social well-being fundamentally depends.

In the context of Virunga- the park’s intrinsic value as a place on our planet of outstanding natural beauty, in addition to its clear economic and social instrumental value- for the region and more widely, both now and in the future- adds up to a powerful case for prohibiting oil exploration within its boundaries, and a comprehensive endorsement for the park’s long term protection as called for by WWF’s campaign.

Sign up to show your support for Virunga at WWF’s campaign site.

'Virunga: Africa's most beautiful and diverse oil field?' 

Virunga National Park, in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), is Africa’s oldest national park- and is both a beautiful area of our planet, and a vital natural local and international resource in the region. Although recognised by the DRC government and UNESCO as an area of outstanding natural value, the park is under threat from oil exploration, which will put at risk the long term environmental and social (as well as economic) viability of the area. As such, global nature non-governmental organisation WWF has been leading a campaign over the last few months to protect the park from such development. Influenced by action undertaken by WWF, certain oil companies have recognised the value of the park- and have promised not to explore within its boundaries. However, others have potentially sought to develop exploration activities in Virunga.

You can visit WWF’s Virunga site to read, and understand, more about their campaign.

Over the next few blog posts I intend to explore and share some of my thoughts about this evolving story- and connect it to a few other areas of interest that I’ve written about here, and in other work outputs.