Writing about ‘home’ with the RSPB

Last week I spent two very enjoyable and inspiring days with the RSPB.  I learned a lot, talked to lots of people and listened to more.

By the end of it I understood more of the big picture about ‘giving nature a home’, that rallying cry that dyed-in the wool environmentalists so decry and criticise. Personally, I think it is a bright, clever and multi-layered message. I had been hoping that the RSPB had noticed this, even if their detractors hadn’t. Now I reckon they have.

I don’t get to go to these great gigs just to listen and learn, I get to run workshops too. This time we were talking about writing temporary interpretation especially about ‘giving nature a home’.

We talked about what ‘home’ means and how it feels. We noted all those positive cliches – how there’s no place like -, how it’s where the heart is , or where you lay your hat, or how home sweet home it is.

Armed with all this we (or actually they) started to write about homes for nature with warmth, humour, and emotion. Writing good relevant, resonate texts about places for wildlife.

It all reminded me that ecology is about the study of home – and a blog post about ecology and writing that I wrote a while ago. Here are my favourite bits of it again – with a hat-tip to the RSPB.

To understand a word you have to plunge into its meaning.


Wikianswers tells me that ‘Astonishingly, this word is attested directly to a single individual; in 1873, coined by German zoologist Ernst Haeckel (1834-1919) as Okologie, from Greek oikos “house, dwelling place, habitation” + -logia “study of.”

This is my ‘oikos’, my home – with all its implications, stories, relevances and associations.

Home. As interpreters and interpretive writers, our quest is always for points of connection, relevance and resonance. So ecology, ‘the study of our home’ is a total gift. Or would be, if it wasn’t in Greek. It  is cross-cultural, cross-generational, and dear to our hearts.  It is a rich seam.

Home. Where we live and grow and mate and breed and feed and paint and dance and sing and play and kick and scream and fight and do everything that make us alive and unique.  Not a house, not a family, but home.  The place we ‘come home to’ like ‘homing pigeons’, our ‘home town’, where our ‘home team’ plays. Feel the connections – and write from them.

The rich ecology of this woodland is a few yards from my house, and is part of my wider ‘home’.

Oikos.  The place where we fit , where we are part of it and it is part of us.  Where what we do matters and makes a difference, often a big one, to everyone around us. Where we feel their pain and joy and they share ours. Aawww – I am feeling warm, connected and enlivened already.  This is a great springboard for writing .

Ecology really is a fantastic word. It can be hard to remember that we can’t use it.

Before you ask, yes, I do know that homes can be broken, and that this has tragic and devasting, life-destroying consequences. Sometimes they can’t be repaired for generations. Sometimes not at all. Just like ecosystems.

Puffins have found their oikos disturbed and their home (at least the larder) broken of late.

I have to stop now.  My daughter moved out yesterday to set up her first home.  I need to rush round and give her, and her beloved, hugs. Great big ecological hugs to them, to you and everyone you share your home with.  Enjoy it, love it – then write it for our home planet and all we share it with.

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