RTE, “The anarchy of the forest – nature writing, community & lockdown”

Opinion: James Patterson wonders what nature writing teaches us about community during lockdown…

James Patterson, February 17 2021

In October 2020, a UK Labour Party motion to extend free school meals beyond Christmas – up to and including Easter 2021 – was defeated in the House of Commons by a vote of 322 to 261. Man Utd. footballer Marcus Rashford took to Twitter to encourage charities, businesses and local councils to help make up the deficit, and despite the fact that the footballer received enormous support for his efforts, there were still people on the dark corners of the internet reminding us that not everyone is so empathetic.

Ultra-conservative commentators revived the Victorian argument of deserving vs. undeserving poor. Sock puppet social media accounts began sharing ingredient lists for ‘cheap meals’, all under the guise of providing useful advice for poor families and saving Britain’s working class from the “tyranny” of a nanny state.

All this did, of course, was absolve society’s richest and most powerful of any responsibility. Concepts of communitarianism and ‘Mutual Aid’ have existed for as long as there has been civilisation, and may even have contributed to our evolution into Homo sapiens in the first place. Still further, recent evidence suggests that plant life may well have developed these concepts even earlier, having worked over millions of years to support the development of our forests into high-functioning bionetworks.

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