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Biotime: Why nature connection and activism go together

Activist Maddy Harland says starting your own ‘Biotime’ log will not only bring you into closer contact with the nature on your doorstep but inspire you to become part of the growing movement demanding politicians take the risks of climate change seriously ... before it it too late.

The Extinction Rebellion is a movement that is gaining momentum. On November 17th 2019 thousands of people gathered in London to block major bridges, protesting about climate change and the 6th Mass Extinction.


More actions are planned.


A WWF report recently published has warned humanity about an irreversible collapse; the global vertebrate population has declined by 60% since 1970. In just 60 years, we have decimated the natural habitats that they depend on: grasslands, forests, waterways and oceans.


Our heating planet is a significant cause of the 6th Mass Extinction. Scientists tell us that in order to achieve at minimum a 1.5C global temperature rise by the end of the Century, we have to radically cut global emissions by 2020. We have just over a year to achieve this and we cannot leave our future to our politicians and trust that the Planet’s – and therefore humanity’s – interests are served. Climate change is low down their short-term agenda while their heads spin endlessly around Brexit.


Charles Eisenstein, American author and activist, speaks about a part of us withering when each species goes extinct and says that we need to viscerally become aligned with Life: We are not separate and we are not in a dynamic of Human v. Other; we are deeply interconnected. The Planet’s extinction is our extinction. But how do we find a logical route with our rational minds that makes that interconnection viscerally real and experienced deep in our marrow? This cannot simply be an intellectual conceit.


Permaculture: walking my talk

I took a Permaculture Design Course in 1992. I wanted to learn how to redesign my life so that I could ‘walk my talk’ by practically reducing my energy consumption, planting an edible landscape in my back garden, and getting involved in local and national environmental projects. It was at that time that I was introduced to the idea of ‘biological time’ or biotime and how to record these events in a diary or log. I have kept one ever since.


Biotime runs at a very different pace and rhythm to human clock time. These can be as varied as the day the first spring bulb opens, the first autumn frost and the sighting of an unusual species of bird or insect in your local habitat. These occurrences can be part of a larger natural rhythm, like the turning of the seasons, or an indicator of slow changes in an ecosystem, like unusual weather patterns or an increase of average temperatures. This helps gardeners, farmers and nature watchers hone their observational skills. (On a larger scale, we can also reflect on our own biological rhythms relating to the waxing and waning of the moon and the seasons and beyond.)


Last year, I co-taught a course with Jon Young from the 8 Shields Institute in the USA. He has spent many years teaching people about ‘sit spots’. This is the practice of sitting every day in the same place and widening our glaze, refining our listening skills, becoming aware of sound, smells, sights, and the ‘feeling’ of a place. It engages our five senses and expands us into a 360 degree experience. We literally, with our senses, become engaged, expanded and more present.


This special place doesn’t need to be deep in the countryside. Better that it is on your back doorstep or your local urban park; and whilst this practice can make us good naturalists and ecologists, it also has other effects. There is evidence that exposure to Nature can reduce hypertension (abnormally high blood pressure), respiratory tract and cardiovascular illnesses; improve vitality and mood; benefit issues of mental wellbeing such as anxiety; and restore attention capacity and mental fatigue.


Feeling a part of Nature has been shown to significantly correlate with life satisfaction, improved vitality, meaningfulness, happiness, mindfulness, and lower cognitive anxiety. “When a person becomes connected to themself, to other people and to Nature, they become the greatest version of themselves," as Jon Young from the 8 Shields Institute puts it.


The story of the day

After a daily biotime meditation in your regular spot it is important to ‘tell the story of the day’. Start to record your experiences in a Biotime ‘log’. Like a ship’s log, this is not a journal or diary. You can get a robust notebook and make one yourself. Date a half page without a year or weekday, only the numerical day and month. Then fill in the year and, alongside, your entry / observation. Year on year, this enables you to refer back and begin to see emerging patterns in the events occurring around you and to identify the unusual phenomena like an early flowering of a plant weeks before it usually blooms, or unusual constellations and alignments. To encourage keeping a log I have also produced a ready made Biotime Log beautifully illustrated by artists, Jane Bottomley, to help anyone create a fascinating record of their local environment and its rhythms and mysteries.


We are living at a time of extinction and climate emergency and we have but months to make a difference. This reality can make us feel disempowered and depressed – I experience this grief viscerally – so we have to balance what we protest against with what we love and appreciate. I believe that the daily practice of Nature connection aligns us with ourselves, to others and to the ‘more than human world’. It makes us more present, conscious, and alive and it energises and rebalances us. It is a tool for personal empowerment and engagement so that we can be even better activists.


Keeping a log, developing a core routine of daily connection, and developing our capacity to engage in positive social and ecological change is vital. When we build our activism on strong foundations, we will be in there fore the long haul, and are not just a flash in the pan: The well-being of the Earth and the more than human world deserves our lifelong commitment.



Maddy Harland co-founded of Permaculture Magazine ( and a Lush Times guest columnist. In 1992. She is the author of Fertile Edges – regenerating land, culture and hope – and The Biotime Log available direct from the publishers. In July 2019, she will be facilitating a course ‘Peace, Empowerment & Cultural Emergence’ with Starhawk, Jon Young, and Looby Macnamara

Photo credit: Martin Heiss CC by SA 3.0

We are living at a time of extinction and climate emergency and we have but months to make a difference

Comment (1)
1 Comment


about 1 year ago

maybe it would be worth looking at alternatives to baths as they used a lot of water, this water that has to be heated and then treated to clean it after...maybe we should be encouraging people to take a shower instead of a bath. access to clean water is a problem for a lot of the world, bathing is not the only way to wash and baths are a massive waste of water and fuel energy.