Skincentric Ecology

Minding Nature: Spring 2021, Volume 14, Number 1

Every time I looked up from my writing, I saw the lichens. They covered the opposite roof. It was a low roof, not steep at all, wedged in between walls of grey stones, covered by reddish clay tiles. At first, when I found my writing place here, at the small window looking over the other building, I had not noticed the lichens, mistaking them for weathered patches. These beings—composed of algae and fungi in a single organism—formed rounded spots and spherical halos on the mineral surface. There were black spots, and dots made of soft grey, and circles that in their reddish hue seemed like transformations of the clay itself. I let my eyes wander over the roof made of mineral. Before my gaze, the lichens’ patches transmuted the surface. The mineral bloomed, and its blossoms were slowly spreading, touching one another, growing into each other, meandering around the spaces in between, bleeding into one... (read more)


Nourishing Community in Pandemic Times

Heinrich-Boell-Foundation India, April 2020

The corona pandemic makes us understand that the earth is a commons, and that our lives are shared. This insight is not a rational concept, but springs from an emotional need. Individuals accept hardships by restricting their contacts in order to protect community. The understanding that we need to protect others has been able to override economic certainties within days. Humans chose to put reciprocity first. Reciprocity – mutual care – is neither an abstract concept nor an economic policy, but the experience of a sharing relationship and ultimately of keeping the community of life intact. This community of life englobes humans, but also other-than-human beings. Only if we understand that the metabolic process through which we participate in life is an act of nourishing a community shared with other beings, can we move away from treating others – human and non-human beings – as objects. (read more)

Being Nature

Center for Humans and Nature, May 2017

In early May I found myself walking through the streets of a semi-industrial Berlin neighborhood. I had stepped off the train and crossed an ugly main road, which was still busy at that evening hour. The sun was fading behind a pink- and blue-colored mist, foreboding rain. I entered a quieter street, lined with 1920s condos behind rows of slender Hawthorn trees. There, I heard the voices: A Blackbird, high on a gutter, hurled melodic fragments through the air. His song was echoed by other males on the surrounding roofs. A Black-capped Chickadee whistled crescendos from one of the Hawthorns. And where the condo opened onto a small park, a Nightingale sang in a hedge covered with foamy-white Honeysuckle blossoms. The blossoms scented the air, filling it with sweetness as the Nightingale filled it with sound, and behind the city’s pale haze, the evening sun filled the sky with light. Two teenage girls lingered in the park, relishing the evening, which in every aspect was a call. The air was scent and sound and stirring limbs and opening blossoms, a call to become fully alive. It reminded me of a night in Tuscany, Italy, years ago. On that particular night... (read more)