The Flying Column #23 – The Widening Gyre

By Connor Kelly

Today is apparently Earth Day. Considering that every day is Earth day, unless you happen to live on Mars, which you don’t, this is an idiotic day. We are advised to “think about the Earth,” to “think about the environment,” as if the earth or environment were something apart from us, that could be thought of as one thinks of a social ill, or warfare in some distant part of the globe. Even Google and Facebook are in on the game, reminding us that nature exists. As if we didn’t stand on the earth every day, exist socially and individually within the confines of its atmospheric environment, and be subjected to its various fluctuations. Perhaps having an “Earth Day” is the ultimate mark of the deep – and seemingly insurmountable- gulf of alienation that seems to psychologically separate us from the natural world. This is perhaps the most marked affliction that (most of) society in late capitalism seems to suffer from. That it seems fit to set one day, out of the 365 earth days, to consider nature, really sums up our predicament.

Tomorrow is St Georges Day, and yesterday was the Queen’s birthday. I imagine that both events will cause rather a larger splash than Earth day. That a necrotic remnant of feudal absolutism has managed to live just shy of a century is apparently cause for celebration. That a Saint from Palestine (later adopted as the English patron) should be celebrated by the very establishment that is responsible for propping up a genocidal regime in that country is obscene. According to our Lords and Masters, these are the things that we should consider, and be thankful for. Be grateful that the British Establishment remains, as it has for centuries and that Englishness (whatever that is) is still something to be celebrated. Never mind the Earth. Never mind the future.


I am reminded of Yeats’ lines from his masterpiece, The Second Coming:

“The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity”

Looking at what we are being offered, in the way of politics today, Yeats’ lines seem almost prophetic. The best, those that offer vision for the future, are scattered and disunited, unsure what to make of it all. The worst, our masters, are zealous in their insistence of abolishing that future. In fact, passionate intensity doesn’t even come close. They are devout neo-liberal evangelicals – what Tariq Ali calls “the extreme centre.”

Anohni – the incredible artist formerly known as Anthony and the Johnsons – in a recent interview with the Guardian, said:

“So it’s not wrong to fight for justice for your special-interest group. But we’ve been deceived into thinking that’s the endgame. You look at those rainbow flag-toting, goggle-eyed gays that think they’ve hit the jackpot now they can have heterosexual privileges. What are they going to say when they’re bobbing in the greenhouse tides?”

Anohni is right. We need to widen the scope of our struggles, and bring them together. The ecological crisis is the single biggest challenge facing humanity today, the one which will decide the future for a hundred generations – and it is up to us how it pans out. All our other struggles must be brought together with the fight for ecological justice. We must become eco-socialists, and quick.

Today is earth day, tomorrow is Earth Day, and the day after that, ad infinitum. In order to reflect on the natural world, and the consequences of its destruction, you don’t need to read the odd article on Facebook, and repost it on your timeline or Twitter. Look at the sky each morning and see it streaked all over with the trails of airplanes. Taste the air outside your house as it is fouled by thousands of car exhaust fumes. Allow yourself to notice the little changes; the blackbirds now sing in December, the air is hotter, the trees bud earlier. We don’t need to go to the Arctic or the Great Barrier Reef to learn about the ecological crisis – its right outside our doors.


But yet, there is cause for hope. Not the deluded default hope that “human ingenuity” will save us from the looming disaster (I like to call this, “the doctor will save us” delusion) but hope that the best of humanity might achieve the conviction and “passionate intensity” to resist and fight for the future – even if that fight might not be won. As long as something is possible, there is hope – and it is more than possible for us to reorder our society along lines that respect the living earth, respect the rights and needs of that earth and the vast majority of humanity that live on it, rather than the interests of a tiny global elite. We can win. And even if we don’t, it is better to fight that to surrender our future over to those that would rape the environment and humanity until the last drop of water is fouled and the last drop of blood is spilled, all in the name of sacred profit.


So this “Earth Day,” go for a walk. Go to a park, go to the countryside, the beach. Taste the air. Slow down. Look at the birds – really watch them. Observe them dance and screech and sing and fuck. Look in the rock pools and see the creatures that once fascinated you as a child – a crab, an urchin, a shrimp, multicolored sea weed! Lift a piece of rotting wood and see the city of bugs and fungi beneath, reinvigorating the soil with natural compost. Experience the vitality. Even as capitalism attempts to murder the planet, life persists, thrives, gurgles into existence in a million million nurseries, every day. How are we to save (or at the very least survive in) a world that we are entirely alienated from? Let’s start to notice, to observe, to love. Let’s make every day Earth day. Let’s make every day a day to fight for our future, and the future of all the other wondrous creatures that we share this world with.