Stephan Harding - Ecologist

Stephan Harding

Stephan Harding Gaia'd me....

He was talking about ecological diversity on a walk around the Dartington estate with students from Schumacher College.  Our group looked across a valley as Stephan enthusiastically described what appeared to be a patch of overgrown scrub immediately in front of us. I felt myself drifting - the brambles and the flowers weren't holding my attention but Stefan persisted...

The diversity and wonder of within this small space of 'natural' growth were, he said, so completely different from the 'maintained' coniferous forest behind us. I turned to look into the gloom.  

A dead forest floor; no colour, no life, nothing happening, sterile... the juxtaposition took my breath away... my heart sank... I felt nauseous. This was a 'managed' environment.

Stephan takes the view that our world is a sentient living creature rather than simply the third dead rock from the sun. My copy of his 'Animate Earth', subtitled 'Science, Intuition and Gaia' is well thumbed...

Gaia is the Ancient Greek Earth Mother who is said to bestow life and sustains us all. Stefan speaks of "Encountering Gaia" when the earthly presence of the natural world touches us - I think I encountered Gaia a few years ago on that walk and, as I snapped away last week, told Stefan of how vividly I remembered the moment.  

"Funny,' he said, "You just never know when she's going to get you...."

After photographing my impression of Stephan (above) I asked him to direct me as I took another photo of how he saw himself. Context was very important to him; he wanted to see the books, the carpet (brought home from his travels) and the wall art. 

Stephan Harding

I'm not sure which picture I prefer. I think I have more of a sense of the man in the headshot rather than the office picture. But place seems very important to Stephan - perhaps most of all this place. He is doing is best to tell us the stories that will make a difference to climate change and energy use.

I know that he sees a difficult path ahead but perhaps if a few more of us could get Gaia'd...?