Earth, or machine. One increases diversity. One reduces it. Or is it so? When the Syilx managed these grasslands with fire and selective harvesting methods, they increased species diversity. The species-rich landscape that the first Europeans found here was created. The settlers called it wilderness and set out to tame it, perhaps in the way one would break a horse. Now that it is domesticated, or broken, as one would say of a horse, most of the species are gone in the wild land and the tamed land produces energy only with the input of fertilizers, water, capital, labour, petroleum and poisons. Two notes on that:
1. with the removal of one year’s intervention, the tamed land reverts to weeds and a desert — the true wilderness; with the removal of Syilx attention, the land is still reclaimable after 120 years.
2. making the survival of the land, which gives food for people, totally dependent upon the banking and petrochemical industries is to cede the power of the people to those industries; a people which has done that can only survive if the power of those industries remains unchallenged; any break in the chain leads to the poverty and starvation the first European settlers encountered on this land when, surrounded by hills literally covered with food, they proceeded to starve to death.
In this light, the vineyard above and the royal gala apple planting below are unethical behaviour.
When the apples die, that leaves 2.
Such behaviours are reckless and are based upon structures of profound disrespect. Nothing good will come of that. Sadly, once the capitalized farming model collapses, as it has done here numerous times in the last 150 years, the land is broken up into smaller pieces, resulting, eventually in its complete removal from the earth-sun cycle and its use as housing. That, too, is a dead end. Currently, the food and water deficit created by this removal and the resulting overpopulation in the Okanagan is supported by the import of food from Mexico and other areas in the so-called developing world, which are currently transforming their earth into industrialized agricultural land, while the people harvesting the crops largely go hungry. Such behaviour (the use of the earth’s energy to amass power for humans and their social structures) is unethical. It has an end-date. In the short term, it embodies an ethical trade-off: a living earth for huge volumes of food now. However, since it retains no capacity for renewal after its inevitable collapse it is as unethical as the Battle of the Somme. It has a certain beauty, though:
Does a vineyard need a gravel pit? The question is a red herring. They are the same thing. They are both forms of desertification and erosion.
Balsam roots and badgers get along famously together. Here’s a nicely tilled seedbed, ready to go.
On a hill. What a stupid place to build a house.
Here’s an image of one ecological niche filled two ways, both of which move water into light. One creates biological life. The other creates electricity, in support of a custom of social life called “Public Safety”. One creates new social and biological niches. It is called “ponderosa pine”. It lifts ants up into the wind and draws deer and birds for shelter. And the porcupine. Each of its cones is an earth on its own, flush with species that live nowhere else. The other relies on the the drowning of millions of social and biological niches and the semi-annual slaughter of millions of others to keep its transmission lines clear, to have the power to create social niches in a non-physical sphere. It is called a street light. One creates the earth. One turns away from it. It is a contemporary belief that they can co-exist. No. Not really. The effort of passing from social technology to biological life and back again eventually leads to the belief that the biological life fills a social niche within human society. Sure it does, but that’s not its primary role. This is what medieval discussions of the knowability or unknowability of God or his manifestation in time and space in the body of Christ look like today. They have been cast into the subconscious for too long. It is time to bring them again into the light, for Christians and non-Christians alike.
It is also time to bring in understandings of this niche between earth and sky, or water and light, in terms that come from non-Christian culture, such as that of the local Syilx culture, to which lone trees like this in the grasslands are seen in a shamanic context, as bridges to the sky world (and the setting of many a randy story and much good laughter). There is the real power: the one that both the Cross and the Hydroelectric system draw from. Poetry has the ability and tools to make these connections. The marginalization of poetry within contemporary Western culture is one of the reasons that the flow of power between such images is not better managed and why the efforts of civic planning and environmental protection often go wrong. Somethings need to be repeated over and over again, gently, and in a multiplicity of living contexts. This is one: landscape is ethics.
Walking through the bunchgrass. Walking through the sagebrush. Walking over the bed of an ancient sea. Looking at a supernova. Looking at planetary clusters. Looking at the solar system. Looking at the starry carpet of the night sky. Meeting a red dwarf on the path. Stopping for a moment. Meeting the sun beside Coyote’s trail. Spider lives in the sun. Walking an old story. People call it poetry now. It’s not. Neither is this an insect. People call this nature now. It’s not. You can’t walk with Wasp if you call it nature. You can’t walk with the earth if you call her Nature.
And yet there are all these words.
That’s not poetry. This is poetry.
Human Version of a River
That’s not Nature. This is Nature:
Pigeon Guarding its Barbecue Along the Rail Line
What a Lot of Words in One Place!
This, though, is an older story. This is the star road. Here’s a star being born.
Here’s the sun. We are within him, yet he has shape.
There’s the moon. Really. There she is. (Click to enlarge, if that helps. It could be that the technology you are using is not very good at seeing the moon.)
The earth is dying, because the words are about people now. Oh, she’s not dying all at once. She still feathers.
She still stars.
In all the green cheatgrass stealing her water, stealing her words away, she is still among the stars.
Still standing still. Ancient.
Here’s some images of her I made early one morning in March, when I mistakenly flipped the wrong switch on my camera, and found it was the right one. Here she is among the stars.
Here’s one of her words there.
There still are.
Refraction is the process of light bending when it strikes the edge of a translucent medium, such as glass or water. What you see below on the lupines in my garden is refraction, if you wish to limit the world to those terms. If you wish a broader sense of the world, then it’s not refraction but the nature of materials to echo their form in water and of water to amplify materials it touches. That’s not precisely refraction. In the pre-scientific world (which was, by the way, no less complex than the scientific one), the spirit of water and the spirit of lupine touch and form a new combined energy. This is, of course, the spirit of art, and was why training in art and poetry were essential parts of a courtly education: the administration of people, land and states was done on these artful lines. It is also why art remains important and why the scientific world view alone will not bring about a living world; it is artful energy that brings two things together into a new form. As the things to be brought together become ever more complex and distant, the need for art increases rather than decreases, and not just any art, either, but art that can touch the earth as well as contemporary human and urban concerns within a scientific, technical and bureaucratic apparatus. It is also why I have linked nature and ethics in previous posts on this site. Every photograph is an act of ethics. Every moment is an act of artfulness. When not, the failing is not that of the moment.
For more on truth, please see my post today on earthwords.net. Please click here.
Yesterday, I showed an image of the heron rookery in Vernon, which is, truly, a beautiful thing, and called it Oh to Be a Heron in the Springtime. Click here to see the heronry if you missed it. Today, we’re going back to the same site 4 weeks ago, before the nests were so fully occupied.
… and, well, ahem, cough cough, the herons were not alone.
And if someone drops a frog on the way home for dinner, well, the anticipation is half the reward.
The Okanagan hosts the world’s only urban heron rookery. Things are full of action there at the moment.
The Rookery, Vernon
The rookery, however, is on private land, surrounded by tire dealerships, a walled housing village, and various mechanical shops. Currently, the “owner” of the land is protecting the herons’ right to this, their space, despite the protests of neighbours about the danger these trees present. If life is to survive the industrialization process in the Okanagan, land ownership rules will change to give priority to these birds, in the way that agricultural land uses are currently protected. When all thrive on this land, all thrive. Blessed be.