Alton Webteam: March 2018
'Mud, mud, glorious mud' so sang the inimitable duo, Flanders and Swan, back in the 70s. But there is nothing glorious about mud slides which have recently taken place in California, nor about the terrible disaster which occurred in Aberfan in South Wales in1966, when a slag heap, sodden with rain, engulfed a school and part of a village. In that disaster, 118 children and their teachers lost their lives.
In ancient times, such events as earthquakes, volcanic eruptions or violent storms, were ascribed to the anger of the gods of Nature and ways of placating them needed to be found by the terrified survivors. Nature was little understood and was no means regarded as benevolent, as we tend to do today. We tend rather, to find someone more earthly to blame, as some disasters can certainly be ascribed to our disregards of the laws of Nature, carelessness or greed.
The Californian disaster was not the result of either. Weeks of searing heat, generating forest fires, destroying the vegetation, was followed by heavy continuous rain. Despite all the efforts by firefighters and engineers, the hillsides developed avalanches of mud, which swept through the populated area. The Aberfan disaster might have been avoided if the spoil from the coal mines had been spread more widely or taken out to sea.
Today, old slag heaps are being levelled and planted with bushes and trees, but we are beginning to be aware of another threat in the contamination of the oceans with plastic waste, whilst not being sure what to do about it.
Of the three principles passed down to us from the great Greek philosophers, Truth, Beauty and Goodness, Nature could be said to embody the first two. How Nature works is the basis of scientific knowledge and poets will not cease from praising the beauties of Nature, whether it be a sunrise or a field of daffodils, but Goodness and Mercy are not qualities of the physical world, however beautiful. They belong to a different order of creation, the order of human relationship, of kindness, of generosity, and of self-sacrifice for a purpose not yet realised.
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