My Biosphere – Matthew Warren
In order to write this article, I had a go at looking for my Biosphere. Have you tried it? It’s surprisingly tricky. Still, I thought, it must be around here somewhere. The Biosphere is that region of the Earth’s radius that supports life, but how do I identify which bit is particular to me? I think it safe to narrow my search down to the Isle of Man, but what sort of thing might my Biosphere be?
Maybe it could be what drew me here in the first place. Was I issued with my Biosphere at the border when I first arrived? I had no idea what to expect then as I was swept over the Irish Sea on the bow-wave of a romance with my Manx girlfriend. Perhaps she is the first piece of my biospherical jigsaw. I almost certainly wouldn’t have come here without her; then again, if we’re looking for the reason I’m here then the botanical gardens in Durham where she and I met would seem equally vital. Are they part of my Biosphere? It seems unlikely. Isn’t my Biosphere supposed to be more Manx than that?
Perhaps, then, I might have assembled my Biosphere as I went along, stringing together the memories that run through a landscape like roots. In that case, I could search out what makes me stay. Certainly, since coming here, the single thread of my partner has grown into a tapestry of community even to the point where I feel the absence of those that end up moving overseas. But even then, I feel a bond with these wanderers no matter how far-flung, through a shared place (and not one of them fails to still call the Isle of Man their home). So, are these emigrants and the places they now live part of my Biosphere?
I think maybe I’m overthinking this. What does one think about as ‘Biosphere’ but the greenery (and blue-ery) of the abundant non-human natural world on the Isle of Man? Watching the swallows over the last few months has been a particular joy, as was seeing an arctic tern at Manx Birdlife’s Point of Ayre Reserve. But these migrants should be on their way now–the tern to Antarctica and the swallows to Africa. Both of these places are changing with rapid ice sheet loss and desertification respectively. What will become of these brilliant creatures that feel so important to my Biosphere? Where would my Biosphere be without the places to which they migrate–the places without which there would be no such life.
What am I to make of all of this then? I don’t feel any closer to an answer than when I started except to realise that I can’t seem to pin down a part of the Manx Biosphere–the ecological system that supports life–that is distinctly mine. As soon as I feel that one particular piece of this brilliant, beautiful, perilously endangered world might be my Biosphere, I start to think–what would it be without the rest?
“No man is an Island”, writes John Donne. I do not think that even a place like Ellan Vannin is an island, “entire of itself”. It perhaps just seems that way when we forget what invisible lines are drawn through the air or the water or along and beneath the sea bed between here and every other part of this one, indivisible planet.
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