Saturday 5 September 2009

save this amazing gift for future generations to appreciate

lathkill dale thistle patch copyOn a gloriously sunny afternoon in Lathkill Dale at least five different butterfly species were feeding in this extensive patch of thistles. Pictured here are Painted Lady, Brimstone, Peacock, Small White and Meadow Brown. Dozens of individual butterflies were feasting on the readily available nectar in the great swathe of pinky-purple flowers. Despite the strong breeze I was able to capture some of this activity in close-up. The delicate structures of compound eyes, antennae, proboscis and legs, the ‘furry’ thorax and abdomen and the subtle and striking colouration of the wings are to my mind stunningly beautiful. These butterflies are evolutionary miracles in miniature, each species a variation on a successful theme.

painted lady butterfly feeding

 brimstone butterfly feeding

So with the allure of its sugary nectar this one species of thistle was attracting a real diversity of insect life. In return butterflies, bees and hoverflies were unwittingly carrying away and distributing the plant’s pollen. The thistle’s sexual reproduction needs the pollinators and in return they get a high-energy food source. Such ecological mutualism and interdependence has evolved over millions of years. In close-up it is wonderful to behold, even more so when one can linger over a still image and really appreciate something which so often happens in a blur in real time.

peacock butterfly feeding 2 copy small white butterfly feeding

The arrogant, hedonistic, rapacious, narrow-minded, short-term and prosperity fixated behaviour of our species is destroying the planet which is our home at an alarming rate. Politicians have bottled out and have neither the courage nor the wisdom to offer real leadership on green issues.  Maximising profit, wealth, returns on investments and dividends for shareholders is their governing paradigm, whichever party they represent. Care for the environment as well as for the global poor demands a wholly different and radical approach centred on ecological sustainability and justice. We urgently need new definitions of prosperity and wealth which relate much more to the interdependencies and mutualities you see in these images from Lathkill Dale  than to our current fixation with pound notes, dollar bills and individualism. Capitalism and ‘the markets’ will not deliver the solution: they are very much part of the problem.butterfly copy

Christians should have a deep care for creation. Our political views should reflect godly values, and God always has a particular concern for the poor, disadvantaged and vulnerable. God cherishes this fragile planet and commits its care into our hands. The natural world is an amazing gift. It is up to each one of us to do all in our poimagewer to ensure that it remains so for generations to come. Centuries from now I hope that people will still be able to enjoy the butterflies in Lathkill Dale. If this hope is to have any chance of becoming a reality the time for action is now. It may already be too late to save the rich diversity of tropical rainforests and coral reefs. The peoples of the low-lying Pacific Islands and of Bangladesh are already paying the price of our greed.

This why Franny Armstrong’s 10:10 climate change campaign is so significant. Please sign up. She says this:

All the talking, all the documentaries, all the international negotiations have resulted in a net achievement of less than nothing: global emissions just keep going up and up. As Pete Postlethwaite's character says in our documentary, The Age of Stupid, "We wouldn't be the first life form to wipe itself out. But what would be unique about us is that we did it knowingly."

I could have written a post which drew a churchy / spiritual meaning out of the images, but somehow I came to see that the whole point at issue is that the butterflies and thistles have to be seen on their own terms and in their own right. Our species has taken a terribly utilitarian view our environment. It has been something to exploit and use to our advantage. In my lifetime a saner ecological understanding has been gaining ground. With God’s help we can end the ‘age of stupid’. Hope in God’s Future is the only way to go. What could possibly matter more?

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All macro shots Nikon D90 handheld (without fill-in flash); Sigma 105mm macro lens, 1/640 – 1/800 sec, iso 640 - 4000


  1. Thank you for NOT being churchy, and thank you for your passion and clarity.

  2. Thanks Sally. If we are to have any hope of bringing a new governing paradigm to bear we all need to be deeply passionate and very clear about the difference each of us can and must make.And this is such a vital agenda for the church to grasp.