At this time of year spider webs are more noticeable than usual; as I walked along a narrow path through the nearby wood recently I felt several strands of spider silk break against my face and on a dewy morning I saw this web, made by an invisible spider, on my garden hedge.
Something else that’s been very active this month is the organisation Extinction Rebellion. XR made the news when they prevented the publication of some newspapers because, they complained, the press gave very little publicity to the problem of climate change, habitat destruction and species extinction.
Many people would rather not hear about climate change etc. Western civilisation has for centuries encouraged people to think that humans are superior to all other species and, more recently, that our super intelligence can find a technological fix for any problem. It’s not easy for everyone to accept that we are not the masters of the earth and that the survival of the human species depends on intricate processes and interactions between all living things and the earth on which we live, and that pollution, habitat destruction and excessive consumption may have calamitous consequences for us as well as for other species.
Barricades outside printing presses may bring the dangers of climate change and species extinction to the front pages (though with a blast of disapproval for the tactics of XR) but effective action on the environment will only happen when many more people are moved to see our life on earth in a new light.
This s a job for storytellers, poets, songwriters, film makers, and artists of all sorts. My contribution is ‘Spider Regina’ in which a spider goddess talks about the nature of her earthly queendom.
SPIDER REGINA I am the Spider that cradles the world in gossamer webs of incredible strength; my spinnerets exude a perpetual flux of protoplasm, I entwine streams of organisms in coils of life and death, my webs incorporate the microscopic threads of mitochondria and the spirals of the double helix. I select mutations that originate phenomenal diversity in tiny scraps of plankton, I feed the whales with songs that echo oceans’ depths and assemble shoals of fish in scudding clouds that swirl across the seas. I am inordinately fond of beetles, each one of half a million species that whirr and skitter through the air and scurry under clods of earth as they bombard my forests and savannahs, and when the dinosaurs have somehow vanished in a haze I raise exaltations of skylarks and scatter hares beneath the moon. Long ago I taught the termites how to build their towering nests, I placed the ciliated corals in their reefs. and lately I evolved the convoluted brains that flood the minds of men with more sensations than they can consciously interpret. They have struggled to know my name, I have been called Gaia and Isis, Venus and Kali, Mati-Syra-Zemlya. Sometimes men are afraid of my bewitching powers, they narrow their gaze and only recognise the motherhood of Eve and Mary Mother of God, recklessly forgetting that my earthly queendom embraces everything that lives or has ever lived: amoeba and Madonna, echidna and Spinoza, for I am the Spider that spins the web of life.