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A bit on Nature, a bit on Ears, a bit on Rewilding and a bit on Creativity.

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  • Kate Morley

Updated: Mar 28

This winter has been a frantic time with the Devon Wildland Tree Hub team planting over a thousand trees across the landscape and in my 'academic world' I've been knee-deep in my ethics application to the University of Exeter Medical School ethics board. The whole ethics process has been an exercise in reflection and writing- and rewriting- my project in a way that is understandable for an academic audience.


However, yesterday I was really lucky to spend some time with a great group of people, not only discussing my PhD but learning skills to articulate my personal thoughts, feelings and concerns in relation to the climate and biodiversity crises. The workshop was facilitated as part of the University of Exeter's Environmental Intelligence Art Lab with Dr Sally Flint from 'We Are The Possible' encouraging us to reflect on our own feelings of loss and eco-grief about climate change. Sally reflected; "In a story there is conflict of some kind, something changes working towards a resolution - so they are the perfect form to share climate facts, findings and feelings. Research shows scientific data and doomsday narratives don't work in provoking positive climate action... we can use stories as a catalyst to create new narratives that show how 'despair' can shift to 'hope' in our fast changing world".


In the afternoon we worked with Sally and the brilliant Fine Artist Harriet Poznansky to create a handmade small visual art piece that pulled our discussions and reflections together.


I was hoping to condense down some of the 'natters' we've been having in the Tree Hub, as well as weave in some of the themes that have been flavouring my reading surrounding Disability Justice and Environmental Justice over the winter. I have also recently particularly enjoyed the series of seminars facilitated By Dr Sarah Bell and the Sensing Climate team with a selection of 'Conversations with...' wonderful activists and academics that aims to "embed the expertise of disabled people in new strategies to navigate a changing world."


During the Weaving Words workshop, we discussed the need to widen the debate beyond our echo chamber to include those people who do not have the privilege, time, energy, connection or money to participate in the current debates, particularly in issues relating to Nature's decline.


This workshop is part of a wider project that We Are The Possible is running, which is co-creating 12 stories for 12 days of COP29, with the idea to present climate-themed narratives at the next COP meeting which is being held in Azerbaijan. As with most recent COP meetings, there has been scrutiny of the host nation and their reliance on fossil fuels and concerns about greenwashing. This year a spotlight has fallen on the human rights record of Azerbaijan. A scramble to add 12 women belatedly to the organising committee which had previously been only all-male, has done little for COP's recent reputation of being unrepresentative of a climate transition that will be inclusive, just and fair. It will certainly be interesting to see whether disabled people from Azerbaijan and around the world are at the table. Let's hope the embarrassing multiple access failures seen at Glasgow COP 26 are not repeated. As Lynn Stewart-Taylor, founder of 'Where Is the Interpreter' said: “It’s another day feeling empty, forgotten, feeling we are not worthy of knowing this vital information". Time will tell if this will be the year where the urgent rapid action that is needed by decision-makers transfers to meaningful change on the ground.


So amongst all the noise, it was refreshing to step away from the laptop. I thought I would share my creation here with insights on my thinking behind it as a way of reflecting on my developing PhD, but more widely how this helps me articulate my eco-grief and approach to Nature recovery, and how my new ways of knowing my self and the land here are a work in progress...


Please excuse the rough around the edges finishes (and typos)!

More Just, Liveable Future for All.


Picture of a red phoenix with the words More Just, Liveable Future for all spread across wings emerging from flames with Hope, Urgency, Action, Working Together, Learning from varied knowledges and Collaborative solutions emerging from a fire pit with Climate and Biodiversity Crisis held up by Capitalism and Individualism

The first image is of a red Phoenix with the words 'More Just, Liveable Future for All' spread across its wings.


I chose to draw a Phoenix as it is a mythical being that rises from the ashes and is a symbol of hope and new emergence.


It is emerging from flames with Hope, Urgency, Action, Working Together, Learning from Varied Knowledges and Collaborative Solutions emerging from a fire pit. Azerbaijan is known as the Land of Fire and the Yanar Dagh, the burning mountain, is a natural gas fire that is of significant cultural and historic value to the people of Azerbaijan. The fire pit which is labelled with the Climate and Biodiversity Crises is held up by Capitalism and Individualism. A 'More Just and Liveable Future for All' encompasses the need for change for both human and non-human nature's futures.


The Interconnectedness Chain

A paper chain across the book with words on each lnk of chain. This includes the words: Interconnectedness, Human Nature, Limitedness, Reciprocity, Environment, Human Health, Disability Justice, Environmental Justice, Embodiedness, Non Human Nature, Cross Movement Building, Anti-capitalism, Mending Not Healing, Intersectionality.

The words across the chain read:

  • Interconnectedness,

  • Human Nature,

  • Limitedness,

  • Reciprocity,

  • Environment,

  • Human Health,

  • Disability Justice,

  • Environmental Justice,

  • Embodiedness,

  • Non-Human Nature,

  • Cross Movement Building,

  • Anti-capitalism,

  • Mending Not Healing,

  • Intersectionality.


Disability Justice is a social justice movement that was developed in response to ableism and how this intersects with other forms of oppression such as race, gender and class. Disability Justice centres: "disabled people of colour, immigrants with disabilities, queers with disabilities, trans and gender non-conforming people with disabilities, people with disabilities who are houseless, people with disabilities who are incarcerated, people with disabilities who have had their ancestral lands stolen, amongst others." The key principles that were created by Sins Invalid a group of disabled activists who encountered racism within the 'disability activist' space and ableism within the 'racism activist' space. I have written before on the ideas surrounding Disability Justice and Environmental Justice and I'm hoping that my PhD will explore real-world impact on those with lived experience of disability and multiple oppressions. As part of the Weaving Words Workshop, I depicted the Earth with ears and two hands holding it and wrote:


"Climate change and the biodiversity collapse is driven by injustice. In order to challenge and come up with solutions to these 'wicked' problems we need to learn from the themes of Disability Justice, some of these include:


  • Interdependence

  • Anti-capitalist politics

  • Cross movement solidarity

  • Sustainability

  • Recognising Wholeness

  • Leadership of those most impacted

These are fundamental principles that are built on Intersectionality and commonalities of injustices. "We do not live single issue lives" (Audre Lorde), so there should be "Nothing about Us, Without Us" to move towards collective solutions, collective access and collective liberation."

Natural Limitedness

Rolling Hills with the words 'Myth of the Wilderness, Allowing Nature Space and Time to Thrive, The Importance of Edges, Being Present with Damage and destruction, Learning from the Small Stuff, Finding Solitude, and Nature is not just over there, it's everywhere. With Trees and scrub in the distance and a slow worm, glow worm and lizard on the edge of the path
The words read: Natural Limitedness is the title. Everyone has a different was of knowing and being in Nature, Everyone's connection to Nature is valid, Everyone can feel Nature's loss acutely. Everyone is connected through Nature. Everyone's health depends on Nature. Nature has it's limits and so do we.

"Nature is not just over there..."


"Nature is not just over there- it is everywhere."

"Nature is not just over there- it is inside me."

"Nature can cure..."- Can it?

"Nature can kill."

We have high expectations for nature.

Nature must pay for itself.

Nature must be a '-based solution.'

Nature in a capitalist culture is only valued as to what it can do for us...

But Nature is Us. "Nothing About Us, Without Us."

We must reciprocate. It is time to give back and allow it and Us to mend.

It is time for us to value all life for its intrinsic LIFE.


Languages of Nature


The final page was a reflection of some of the ideas around connecting to Nature with a hearing loss and how the missing sounds of Nature such as the howl of the Wolf can be indicative of a gap in the functioning ecosystem.


But to also explore ideas of language and how we communicate with Nature and how we communicate Nature. Robin Wall Kimmerer explores this extensively in her book, Braiding Sweetgrass as well as her essay; "Speaking of Nature- Finding language that affirms our kinship with the natural world." She talks about how the language of Indigenous people was suppressed as an act of colonisation and so too the ways of knowing and connecting to living beings in their landscapes. The language is one of reverence; "Birds, bugs, and berries are spoken of with the same respectful grammar as humans are, as if we were all members of the same family. Because we are. There is no it for nature."


There are real parallels with the oppression of British Sign Language (BSL). In 1880 the International Congress of Educators of the Deaf passed a resolution banning the use of sign languages in schools around the world with the aim of eradicating the use of sign language in educational settings. What followed was a century of language deprivation including physical abuse where some Deaf children had their hands tied or slapped if found using sign language and parents discouraged from using signs with their children leaving many Deaf people in 'limbo land' unable to access a hearing world but forbidden from forming their own cultural landscape driven by a shared language.


There is still much work to be done here and there have recently been calls for Audiologists to up their game in suggesting the use of sign language to complement the use of hearing technologies, rather than thinking that hearing technologies are the only answer. There has also been a campaign to help parents of all deaf children rapidly access funding for BSL lessons.


The passing of the BSL Act in 2022 means that BSL is now legally recognised alongside English Welsh, and Gaelic. It is now up to the Government to embed BSL in all of their department's work, something which they have so far been slow to do. However, the proposal for a GCSE in BSL to be introduced in 2025 may well be a real game changer.


There has also been some really exciting work from the Scottish Sensory Centre expanding the glossary of the scientific and environmental curriculum for British Sign Language (BSL). Not only will this save time for BSL users not having to finger spell long-winded words but the signs themselves are descriptive and offer a window into the natural world for those BSL users who want to explore it and/or pursue a career in Science or Nature's recovery. Similarly, the proposed GCSE in Natural History, long-championed by Mary Colwell, (which will hopefully be introduced in 2026) has the capacity to rewrite our relationship with Nature.


As Robin says; "Can we unlearn the language of objectification and throw off colonised thought? Can we make a new world with new words?"



Here is my piece of reflection for the Weaving Words piece:


Title is The Celebration of the birth of new British Sign Language for the biodiversity crisis. As the middle finger strokes the chest, and the index finger strikes up and down we have a sign for biodiversity. As new words and language are born, the debate grows. MOre people notice, more people care, more people take action. The language may not have been there but now the concepts have signs. Now the complexity is expressed. Silently the rage from our beautiful Earth swell. To gesture and expression shows the world we care.

The Celebration of the birth of new British Sign Language for the biodiversity crisis.

As the middle finger strokes the chest,

and the index finger strikes up and down we have a sign for biodiversity.

As new words and language are born, the debate grows.

More people notice, more people care, more people take action.

The language may not have been there but now the concepts have signs.

Now the complexity is expressed.

Silently the rage from our beautiful Earth swells.

To gesture and expression shows the world we care.


Green coloured Brimstone butterfly on brown bracken

Thank you to all of the other workshop participants, and Dr Sally Flint from the We Are The Possible project.

Thank you to Margaret Bolton and Harriet Poznansky for facilitating the University of Exeter Environmental Intelligence Art Lab.

Thank you to Prof Hywel Williams for allowing science to be blended with art in these times of crises.


Further Information and Links:




Updated: Dec 14, 2023

I was delighted to have an article I wrote about the necrobiome published in the Autumn/Winter 2023 edition of Bloom Magazine.


I explored our relationship with death and its importance for driving life in the landscape in a previous blog, which can be found here >>>


The wonderful illustrator Sophie Della Corte was commissioned by Bloom to create the beautiful artwork.


Copies of the Bloom Magazine article can be found at their website:



Illustration of dead deer carcass with animals and insects feeding on it including fox, raven, insects


  • Kate Morley

July is Disability Pride Month and since 1990 it has been a celebration of the varied cultures, identities and contributions that disabled people make to society. It is also a good time to reflect on where the Disability Rights movement has come from, and the many individuals over the years that have fought, and continue to fight tirelessly to campaign for equity in society for disabled people. Reading through some of the histories of the Disability Rights and Disability Justice movement (as well as listening to some cracking podcasts) there have been some striking quotes that have stood out. Some of these have been used to summarise the uprising of rage and the call for change, and some of these have been reflections of the lived experience of disabled people.


To encapsulate some of these I thought I would create some land art by using some contorted and twisted Ivy stems (sp.Hedera) that had come down on the land in a recent storm.


Ivy is a species that has a chequered relationship with humans in the UK. Many people mistakenly thought it was a burden to the host tree and 'choked' the life out of the tree, so people meticulously removed the ivy, to 'tidy' up the tree. Walking around many local woodlands the scars of the severed Ivy can often be seen, where people hacked away thinking they were saving the tree from harm, when in fact we now know that this has now been to the huge detriment of many insects that use Ivy as a late source of pollen, as well as bats that often roost in Ivy. Ivy is resilient, it can still survive even if the original associated tree dies and can adapt by co-habiting multiple trees at once.


After gathering the stems from the land at Hill Crest I pyrographed them and then took them back into nature to photograph them, and created some tags and photographed them on a garden variety of ivy.


"Rights Not Charity"

See Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC)

Ivy branch pyrographed with Rights Not Charity  with green ivy leaves
Brown luggage tag with white string on Ivy leaves with the writing: "Rights Not Charity The slogan used by the Disability Rights Activists in 1977 that called for accessibility and rights in the US."

"Piss On Pity"

Check out the brilliant film, 'Then Barbara Met Alan' which outlines the origins of DAN (Disabled People's Direct Action Network)

Ivy branch pyrographed with Piss on Pity with green ivy leaves
Brown luggage tag with white string on Ivy leaves with the writing:  "Piss on Pity A slogan coined by Musician Johnny Crescendo in 1990 to protest stereotypes of disabled people. Challenged the charity model of disability."

"Our Space is Not Our Space"

From a conversation between Dr Theo Blackmore and Inclusion London's CEO, Tracey Lazard from the Discover Voices podcast

Ivy branch pyrographed with Our Space is Not Our Space with green ivy leaves
Brown luggage tag with white string on Ivy leaves with the writing:  "Our Space is Not Our Space From a conversation between Theo Blackmore and Tracey Lazard discussing the importance of disabled people organisations

"Every Story is a Disability Story."

As quoted in Riva Lehrer's memoir, Golem Girl.

Ivy branch pyrographed with Every Story is a Disability Story with green ivy leaves
Brown luggage tag with white string on Ivy leaves with the writing:  Every Story is a Disability Story. Brian Zimmerman as quoted in Riva Lehrer's Memoir Golem Girl

"We Do Not Live Single Issue Lives".

From Audre Lorde Intersectionality and racial oppression

Ivy branch pyrographed with We Do Not Live Single Issue Lives with green ivy leaves
Brown luggage tag with white string on Ivy leaves with the writing:  We do not live single issue lives. From Audre Lorde's 1982 speech exploring intersectionality and the multiple forms of oppression

"Disabled People Are the Canaries In The Coal Mines"

From a conversation between Dr Theo Blackmore and Dean Harvey from the Discover Voices podcast

Ivy branch pyrographed with Disabled People Are the Canaries in the Coal Mine  with green ivy leaves
Brown luggage tag with white string on Ivy leaves with the writing:  Disabled People are the Canaries in the Coal Mines From a conversation between Dean Harvey and Dr Theo Blackmore about Intersectionality, describing how disabled people are treated is an indicator of systemic failures.

"Nature Is Wayward and Perverse, There Is Wild Inside What We Call Abnormal."

From Riva Lehrer's memoir, Golem Girl.

Ivy branch pyrographed with Nature is Wayward and Perverse there is Wild inside what we call abnormal  with green ivy leaves
Brown luggage tag with white string on Ivy leaves with the writing:  Nature is Wayward and perverse there is wild inside what we call abnormal. Discussion around What is normal and extinction of disability due to modern medicine by Riva Lehrer

"You Have To Ramp The Human Mind Or The Rest Of The Ramps Won't Work".

George Covington as quoted in the 'Opening The Door to Nature For People With Disabilities' article.

Ivy branch pyrographed with You Have to ramp the Human Mind or the rest of the ramps won't work with green ivy leaves
Brown luggage tag with white string on Ivy leaves with the writing:  You have to ramp the human mind or the rest of the ramps won't work. George Covington Former White House adviser on disability

Hopefully, as I read and learn more about Disability and Urban Nature, this collection of quotes will grow and further pieces will be added.


Using the Ivy stems to frame the quotes has made me think and explore Disability Justice as well as reflect on my own identity as a disabled person.


About ten years ago I ordered a swanky new anatomical model of the human ear for one of my new audiological practices. This would be handy to explain the mechanisms of how the hearing and balance system worked and the medical framing of where the 'disease, pathology or abnormality' of the ear's physiology was manifesting itself as a 'problem for the patient'. It arrived with no tympanic membrane (ear drum) or attached malleus and incus (two of the small bones-ossicles-of the middle ear). I phoned the supplier and explained the issue and they said "Oh just chuck it away it's no good for anything- we'll send you a new one". Which they duly did and the new ear model was used... a lot...


For some reason I couldn't bring myself to throw the "malformed" ear away... maybe I thought I could fashion a new ear drum... maybe I thought I could use it for a dusty window display...


But here's the rub. I don't really have a hearing loss... as my cochleae never fully formed to their full extent. Around six weeks after fertilisation, when I was an embryo something happened to disrupt the process (as well as jumbling up a few other organs). So I never had 'normal' hearing to lose. My ears are as unique as the rest of me.... just that some frequencies are less heard... with a few other physiological differences thrown into the mix! But am I deaf? As someone who was trained to be an Audiologist when the proud Deaf Culture was emerging I felt like an interloper... not deaf enough... not a signer... partially deaf... was I hearing impaired? Was I 'hard of hearing'? Always on the edge.


This internalised ableism was probably fuelled by the countless times when my hearing was a source of debate for others which still linger... whether that be when an Ear Nose and Throat Consultant during my first week at work proclaimed that "she can't be an Audiologist as she has a hearing loss," or a group of laughing Hearing Aid Dispensers asking me at a professional conference whether I had sex wearing my hearing aids. The list is pretty endless.


The problem for many disabled people is that they have to inhabit parallel worlds. One where they may see the social model of disability in aspects of their lives (see my previous blog here) and wish to work towards Disability Justice, but are forced to inhabit the medical model of disability; constantly having to be explicit about their impairments and conditions, justifying or categorising themselves in order to obtain funding or ‘reasonable adjustments’ in order to function in a world that is determined to mark them out as 'other'. The investment of time and energy to self-advocate becomes exhausting to the point when they think “Why did I mention it in the first place”- better to struggle along and if necessary hide the impairment than enter this perpetual cycle.


One thing we have seen recently, with threats to environmental legal protections and threats to the financial support that some disabled people receive in order to live independently, hard-won rights and protections should never be taken for granted; progress made in the past can be undone by a stroke of a pen.


The more I learn about Disability Justice and its empowering framing of interdependence, sustainability, recognising wholeness, anti-capitalist politic and commitment to cross-movement organising, it helps me to frame my life generally and perhaps frame my disability too.


I'm glad I kept that old ear... here it is out on the land... Nature's Ear... with the help of a bit of Hawthorn, Stitchwort and Forget-Me-Not... Happy Disability Pride Month!


Plastic Large model of human ear with white stitchwort flowers, white hawthorn flowers and blue forget me knot flowers, in the ear canal with the green landscape behind and sky which is blurred out as the ear is in focus

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