While I was in the village, Linda’s colleague Shu Hao took me out on a nightwalk. This is his specialty. He’s the Rice Harmony expert on biodiversity, so his job is to keep an eye on all the other (non-human) lives that proliferate alongside the rice.
Tracking biodiversity is a method for gauging the health of the local environment in which the rice is being grown. To put it bluntly: the more toxic chemicals there are, the fewer species will be present.
Night time is when many of these small creatures come out, and so Shu Hao loves to go on a walk with a torch to see what he can discover. Frogs, toads, tadpoles, crickets, grasshoppers, stick insects, moths, fireflies (fireflies!!), caterpillars, ants, spiders, snails, slugs, beetles, bugs: we saw multiple varieties of all of these, and Shu Hao responded with fascination and respect every time. He paid close attention in order to observe the patterns of behaviour of each of these animals.
Here’s a beautiful green stick insect that Shu Hao photographed on my arm:
And here is a short audio recording in which you can hear the cacophony of the night in the village:
I recently attended a talk by Hildegard Westerkamp, one of the pioneers of “acoustic ecology”. She spoke of the use of audio recording as a method for documenting the biodiversity of a geographical location. The idea is that you return to the same spot at the same time of year, over several years (or decades) and then by comparing the audio mix, you can get a sense of what is changing in the ecosystem.
At this point, the diversity of life forms in the Rice Harmony village seems very strong. In fact, Linda explained to me that one reason why they selected this place to set up their social enterprise – that it was still part of a relatively healthy environment.
Shu Hao never really stops working. The next day we were out on the road having a breather, and he spotted a micro-movement in the grass. He sprung over to take a close-up photograph of an orange butterfly:
Shu Hao loves insects.
His whole body reaches down
To get nearer them.
“ShuHao and the Insects” is one of three blog posts about my visit to Xiangyang Village in Guangdong.
In the first post, I spend time with Linda in the mud of the rice fields, and in the third and final post, I accompany Eshya to visit some agricultural bureaucrats, and sip tea with some rice farmers.
This adventure in the rice paddies was brought to you by Guangzhou Delta Haiku.