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Welcome to a more-than-human world

You hear many voices, everyday. Some voices are hard to hear – they don't speak your language, but they have someting important to tell you.  Get into the mood for some real-life stories, and choose the narrator you want to start from.


I am the Living Network...

... a network of many different beings and places. You and your human friends are part of me. I have existed long before you came and seen you becoming what you are right now. We have been affecting each other all the time.

We are now in a quite complex time-space. Things are not as they used to be. Change has been always happening, but now I feel that perhaps we are not heading in a good direction. It may seem it was my decision to go this way, but it was some humans that opened this path. We face unprecedented changes in climate, disasters keep degrading my living places, threatening my living beings. Once not only was the climate stable over long periods, not only were disasters rare, but there was a myriad of diverse living beings, with diverse shapes and habitats. I don't get why it happened, but many of them have been made disappear, while others are still alive. Once the landscape was different, rivers were flowing free of any barriers, drawing their own paths; vegetation was flourishing wildly, amazing with countless colors and fragrances; animals were hopping, crawling, flying and swimming, walking slower and running faster; microbes and fungi were proliferating restlessly, at any place, at any time; your human friends were operating collectively, cultivating an abundance of diversity.

Now many humans have disconnected from the living network, they simplified the landscape and rationalized its rhythms – this way it was more convenient, it made profit possible and let them accumulate material wealth... but not for long. Secular landscapes have been transformed into geometrical patterns. Living beings have been isolated from each other and from the non-living ones. The soil stays silent underneath the concrete layers, unable to meet the water and the air. Diverse genes, diverse species, diverse ecosystems and cultures used to thrive here before. Now many of them are gone and I really miss them all. I wish you could taste the same food, drink the same water and breathe the same air your human friends used to do once in my environment.

But let's not get nostalgic, there are as many other reasons to be grateful and hopeful. We are very lucky to still be surviving in this complex time-space. I am still able to provide you with care and to meet your vital needs. Not all your human friends know of this privilege, often they take things for granted. I know these benefits are not always that easy to see, touch or quantify, but there are ways to recognize their value. It's in the healthy food that nourishes your body, in the clean water that quenches your thirst, in the fresh air that awakens your breath, in the healing medicine that relieves your pain, in the mesmerizing beauty that permeates your soul. It's everywhere.

It's a pleasure for me to support your existence, but in this complex time-space I cannot care as much as I did before. Lately, I have been feeling sick. I'm weak and aching. I feel irritated, intoxicated and confused. I can't rest and I don't know how long it will take to recover. It's not the same as when you feel sick, but you get the idea. You too are part of my suffering, as much as you are part of my wellbeing. We cannot be separated, because we make each other. So please take care of us till you are able to do so. Make the best of what is left, as your human friends used to do in the past. Let me bring back the living and the nonliving beings, your human- and other-than-human friends. I know you cannot do it alone. You should not do it alone. Other beings, massive and invisible, growing and decomposing, loud and silent, and many more are here to cooperate with you. Take care of each other as those who gave life to you have been caring for you. We all make each other, and we all become together. Let's become something beautiful, once again!

Langhornbiene auf Stängellosem Tragant_edited.jpg

I am a Species-rich Meadow...

... a member of the grassland family. I am a child of forests and human activities. Humans gave life to me, together with grazing animals, moving land and many others. I am wild but affected by the actions of your human friends.

In the grassland family we are not all the same. I am a species-rich grassland and because I am mowed, I am called meadow. Once there were many species-rich meadows like me, but now we have become rare. Some of us have been abandoned and have slowly turned back into forests. Others have been transformed into something else: intensive pastures, fruit orchards, arable land, construction sites, financial resources. I don’t want to become like them. I like myself as I am. Other beings like me too: plants, animals, fungi, bacteria and many more. They all made me become what I am – a living place. And they all have the same importance to me.

Of all the living places in the network, species-rich grasslands like me are the ones in which you can find the highest number of living beings. Here we communicate in multiple languages and find pleasure in different activities – some beings make love while others sunbathe or prepare for sleepovers – this happens in various ways and can be similar or different from your human ways. Some beings spend their whole life here, others are temporary inhabitants. For instance, there are many insect pollinators that nest here, but they also visit the surrounding living places. At the same time, pollinators from other places often come to visit my flowers. We are generous, because we know it is good for everybody – in the living network, every single part is connected and depends on the others. So am I, and so are you.

You and I are not the same, but we belong together, and we support each other in many ways. As a species-rich meadow made of a myriad of beings, I make it possible for you to have food and medicine, I nourish and heal your body, I delight all your senses. The roots of my plants and my underground bacteria can capture carbon from the air and reduce the heat on this planet. The underground living beings, those who are invisible to your eye, can fix nutrients coming from cultivated land and prevent the waters from getting polluted. And the water that overflows the riverbanks does not end in your homes because I don't allow it. This is just a part of what I can do for your human- and other-than-human friends.

Being functional is not my only value. I can also be attractive and resilient. Let me reveal to you the secret of my beauty and longevity. All I need is just a little bit of care, it is easier than you would imagine. My plants are not like the ones that you usually see in courtyards and in the city center. They do not want to be mowed that often, just once or twice a year. Neither do my animals, they need those plants as refugia, to hide in between when it’s cold. What is cut can go to the seed harvesters or nourish some bigger herbivores. It should not lie and decompose here, because my soil doesn't need those nutrients and my little plants need to receive some sunlight. If my soil receives too much food, many of my plants will disappear, and so will the other beings – and I would stop being a species-rich meadow. As I grow, I need less water. I know it could seem strange to your human friends, but things work differently here, and life is beautiful because it varies. One thing I always need is the sun, and one thing I never tolerate is pesticides. Give me a place like that and I will give life to it. I can do it on the valley floor as well as below the mountain peak.

There is one important thing about the place I find myself. My plants should grow from seeds that come from older plants of that place, or at least from a similar place in the surroundings. Those seeds and plants have become what they are together with the animals, the climate, the soil and the humans of that particular place. Only if they conserve this memory from the past, will they know how to survive in the future. In this complex time-space such seeds are rare. Those human friends of yours who want to create meadows like me often plant seeds that come from far away. They do look like the ones from that place, but they are not the same – the diversity of life goes beyond the visible. I really miss the diversity and the memories that have been lost. Many beings and much knowledge have been forgotten and ignored for a long time, but now we can no longer live like this, not for long. We need to live and act according to the logic of the living network. We need to know each other and operate together to become, once again, something beautiful.

Pinselkäfer auf einem Doldenblütler_edited.jpg

We are Pollinators...

...  we facilitate the perpetuation of life. We are diverse, just like other beings, just like you and your human friends. Our bodies have various sizes, shapes, and colors. We wake up at different hours and nest in different places. Most of us find refugia in the soil, others prefer dry wood, stones, plant stems, wax cells or even walls made by your human friends. You can recognize us under many names like wild bees, bumble bees, honeybees, hoverflies, butterflies, moths. These insects, and many others, is who we are.

Once we were many and even more diverse, but some have disappeared. The rest of us do not want to do the same end. Safe living places in which we can thrive are now very rare. Weather conditions are sometimes unbearably extreme. Places where we find food are scattered and distant from each other. Flying takes us much more energy than before. The air, the water and the soil are not as healthy as they used to be. We nourish ourselves with poisons – poisons hidden in our food. We get weak, we get ill, we disappear. This is not good for us, it's not good for anyone, not even for you. We don't know how to solve this alone, but we know you can help us with it.

There are many living places that we like visiting and in many of them we also like staying. Among our favorite ones are species-rich grasslands, particularly meadows. In these living places we find large spaces for resting and plants that offer us nectar and pollen. Flowers of any kind attract us here with their shapes, colors, scents and warmth. Some of us prefer wide and open flowers, while others like the narrow and deep ones; some partner with bigger ones and others with the smallest. Flowers have their preferences too and they have been adapting to those of us they like most. We pollinators have been doing the same. We have been adapting to each other’s needs since we became part of the living network. This is why we know each other so deeply. And this is how we become together what we are right now. We still do it, because we have to respond to the changes around us. We need to survive, just like every being in this living network. Together we do it better: we give what needs to be given, and we take what needs to be taken.

When we land on a flower to nourish ourselves, tiny grains of their pollen stick to our body hair and are left on the next flowers we visit. This is why you call us pollinators. We help plants to continue their existence by providing them with the pollen that makes new generations possible. At the same time, we ensure that other beings, including you, have enough food, and that living places stay diverse and resilient. Our doing supports the whole living network. Some of us not only pollinate plants, but they also defend them from harmful beings... but this is a whole other story.

Unfortunately, just a few of us pollinators receive proper recognition. Those are the honeybees, which have been domesticated by your human friends, because they transform nectar into honey. They make the honey to feed on it when there are no flowers, such as in the coldest season. Your human friends also like this honey and they have learnt how to obtain it from the honeybees. Sometimes they use tricks to take more honey than they should. Honeybees don’t like this, but they like it when those same humans provide them with care and protection. Their relationship is not an easy one, but there are ways to make it work for both. Most of us other pollinators never learnt to make honey, we never needed it, but now that we all have to share the few flowers available, it would be so helpful: it would solve the conflicts that have arisen among some of us. We know, it is impossible that we now start making honey, but what is possible is having diverse flowers in diverse seasons, suiting our diverse needs.

Like many other beings in this living network, not even humans are all the same. Some want to use us, and others want to know us. Those who are curious about us have found many ways of getting to know us – they follow and observe us, they make images of us, they give names to us. It can also happen that they take some of us away, and never bring them back. It is not the gentlest way of getting to know each other. It is frustrating, but we are learning to trust those humans. We know they can only help us if they know our needs. They are doing it for the good of the whole living network. Other humans instead seem to be afraid of us. Probably, it is because some of us have a sting on the back part of the body. The sting is not used for fun, but as a tool to defend ourselves when stressed or in danger. Some of us even die after using it. We don’t land on your body to hurt you, unless you disturb us beyond tolerance.

If you and your human friends take a chance to get to know us, we could show you so much beauty, you could see so much clearly. You could see, for instance, that in our beloved species-rich meadows there are plenty of positive relationships, not only between us and the plants, but also among other living and non-living beings. These relationships could resemble those love stories of your human friends. They are not the same, but they both make life better for those who are involved. Unlike human love stories, these ones go beyond similarity, embracing the diversity of life in any of its forms. A multitude of love stories in which you too are involved, sometimes even without knowing it. Look at the living network! Can you see yourself among others? Do you recognize the stories of love and interconnection? Be part of them and make new ones, more beautiful ones!

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