Wandering off

By EcoShutterBug2

Forest cathedral

I call this image “Forest Cathedral”. The ICM’s smearing of the white Rhododendron flowers reminds me of light streaming down from the high vaults (forest canopy) of an Italian Cathedral and falling on the cool and dark nave (forest floor) below.  This response is triggered, in part, by having spent a lot of time in the grand cathedrals of Rome, Cefalú and Palermo in recent months.

However, the concept of a “forest as a cathedral” also works for me as a metaphor for why we need to conserve. For some years I had the senior Conservation Biology laboratory classes at Otago University survey public attitudes to conserving different types of lifeforms, and different habitats.  Forest came out top for most New Zealanders (swamps came last). It seems that indigenous forests are our iconic environments, the one on which many New Zealanders rest their sense of identity and place in the world.

This veneration for our own unique plants, animals and ecosystems is part of an ‘intrinsic value’ justification for conservation- the idea that life forms are valuable in their own right, have beauty and presence, and have a right to flourish in their ‘natural’ state. It’s a profoundly religious and ethical orientation, that often brings with it a moral obligation of care for the environment.

The metaphor of the “Forest as a Cathedral” works for me, even though I do not adhere to any particular church or creed. For me, forests are also places of calm, shelter, reflection and awe of nature. A cathedral precipitates similar feelings for me, but they are usually focussed on humanity, our compassion and agency for good (and sometimes stupidity), our art and architecture, and the shear brilliance of Homo sapiens.

I chose a small slice of this featured photograph for my Avatar for the “Tunnel vision” series to reflect the match of the metaphor to my own identity.

Other conservationists see forests as larder (food forests), a building supply yard (timber and fibre), medicine cabinet (medicinal plants and bioprospecting), the gym (tramping), and a school (biomimicry).  Ecosystem Photographers have a huge role to play in bringing these values and uses to the attention of society, and especially those people who are not confronting the issues of conservation and sustainability in their lifeways. We can bring the world to them if they can’t or won’t go out to find it for themselves.

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