Gaia’s Graveyards

About Gaia’s Graveyards

Celebrating the turning of the 2nd Millennium, Helena collected cuttings about animals from newspapers with our two younger, primary age children and we noticed that they were all in trouble in some way. After 2000 Helena continued to collect, broadening from biodiversity loss into cuttings around climate change, social justice and astronomy, filling the drawers in the sitting room, the floor space in the study and our hearts.

The cuttings became a central part of Helena’s research studies. Through her PhD Helena realised that this was an inquiry in its own right and set out to explore, accepting it was only possible to work with nine cuttings, not the hundreds and now thousands collected. The practice of Gaia’s Graveyards – bearing witness as first person inquiry is explored within the Action Research Journal  and is available here:

Or the article can be accessed through Research Gate:’s_Graveyards_-_Bearing_witness_as_first_person_inquiry

Helena continues to collect these cuttings as her own daily practice of bearing witness.

Six cycles of action and reflection

First – telling the story of the creation of Gaia’s Graveyards

Second – an invitation to explore Gaia’s Graveyards: six cuttings

Third – exploring the Graveyards as bearing witness and mourning the death of species

Fourth – locating the Graveyards within the wider cosmos

Fifth – Gaia’s maternity wards

Sixth – outwards into the world

Further information

First and second person inquiry

From the beginning, this story is located in daily practice and family life.  It was  Helena’s partner Phil (Barton)  who named  the cuttings ‘my graveyards’  and it was their  youngest daughter Nora who called the whole collection too depressing and suggested that a positive story was needed  to balance the graveyards; life balancing death, creating Gaia’s Maternity Wards. Helena started to include the positive stories as well.

In exploring the ideas, Helena offered workshops to explore the cuttings in groups and individually.

From 2015, working together, Phil gave form to Gaia’s Graveyards as Art Installations, exhibiting them in galleries, and Helena and Phil deliver associated workshops to faith and community groups and in academic settings.

Reflections on Gaia’s Graveyards

A Bedrock for practice

Through reflection and research, Helena came to see that collecting the cuttings becomes a practice of bearing witness to what is going on in the planet for the animals and species with whom we share the planet. Such a practice might be physically cutting out newspaper articles or it could be daily research on the web or through social media.

As analysed in Gaia’s Graveyards Bearing Witness as first person inquiry (page 315), creating bearing witness as a daily practice has a range of implications for society:

  • “For every member of society, a reminder to take action
  • Teaching students to inquire, which offers a way for them to process the terrible effects of humanity on the world
  • For researchers examining what is happening to the planet, to  engage through the heart
  • Businesses and organisations engaging with the practice of bearing witness daily as an ongoing orientation towards an ecological approach
  • Exploring a radical paradigm shift for humanity to become a participant in a living earth
  • Embedding a spiritual dimension to personal and professional practice”

Helena is interested in taking out these ideas further,  please get in  touch.


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