Some things are just beautiful, that’s all.
Note: A prop is a support for an over-loaded fruit tree branch — technology unused for 30 years now, if not 50.
Ideology is an Invasive Weed (Part Two)
In cold post-glacial lakes there are no weeds. The weeds grow in wetlands draining into the shore. In Canada’s version of the Okanagan Valley, it’s not quite like that, as I showed two days ago (Click.) Why, one would think that Canada is trying to turn this lake into an image of the famous muskeg of the Boreal Forest (Perhaps around the tar sands of Northern Alberta?), or maybe just the algal bloom and general over-fertilized muck of Lake Erie (tobacco field petroleum-based fertilizer runoff). I dunno. The geese do, though.
Florida 1. Okanagan 0. Third inning.
Poor things. They’re grossed out at the hell that human mis-reading of grassland lake systems as summer boating and swimming paradises have made out of the lake (see yesterday’s post) and are hanging out at the children’s playground instead of dipsy-doodling down on the lake shore, which isn’t really a shore anymore.
Playgrounds are Designed to Teach Children the Skills Required to Do the Work of Adults in Society
Complete with wheelchair ramp. Note that these training devices for domesticating the wild human body don’t reference the natural habitat of such creatures (the earth). This playground is a visual representation of contemporary ideology. It should be a warning. Shouldn’t children be playing in the lake? Na, they’re probably grossed out by it too. They’re also smart enough to pick up that it has certain approved roles in adult society, and not others. No point wasting their time, eh.
The geese don’t know a thing about the niceties of economic triage, which is a cozy term to describe the ideology that holds (with trumpets) that all things in the world are subject to the practical demands of reducing public expenses to allow for increased corporate profit. The political class of the city in which I live (Vernon, British Columbia) holds that it is the business of the government to reduce costs above all other things, and to create opportunities for private investment and profit. This ideology holds that it is the role of government to provide services that have only costs (roads, sewers, and so on), but no potential for profit. Did you get the irony in that? The government’s role is to reduce the costs that it’s responsibility is to provide? Kind of like this, I think.
Adventure Playground Ideology by Another Name
In the terms of contemporary society, this is called “reality” and “practical thinking” and even “good government.” It is only good, however, if viewed from within its own ideology. When looked at from the world of the geese, maybe the world looks like this?
Sometimes the Worst Picture from a Human Perspective is the Best
Ah, but these are publicly-kept non-migratory geese that have their eggs destroyed every spring so that they don’t have more geese, which will mar the expensive trucked-in sand choking out the lake’s natural boundary with goose poop and making it useless to the ideology of summer. (Without cheap petroleum, no one would have thought of trucking sand across entire mountain ranges to make a place for half-naked humans to lie and soak up the sun and dream they were in florida.) Sure, go ahead.
Like the geese, I’m grossed out, too. This is like an oil spill.
Would you play there? No. The problem with that is that, by extension, the question could be asked: Would you play on the earth? The answer is, sadly, God no.
The whole playground that has been made out of the earth because of the cheapness of petroleum and the ability it gives to create ideologies without connection to the living earth is based around the principles of a) the earth can be discarded because we all outgrow our childhood fantasies and b) wildness will always heal what we do once we have done that. In ideological terms, this is called, “growing up”, and “it’s just business,” and “we need balanced development.” It’s even called “responsible.” Sure.
Impromptu Curling Rink on Okanagan Lake
It’s not just the shore that gets eroded.
For some reason, nonmigratory geese, which choose not to migrate (and to self-domesticate instead), and which are further domesticated by human intervention, are called wild. I think these images show that the humans have become domesticated, too. I’d say what has been done to the lake and these geese has also been done to us. You won’t read it in water management reports or civic government public information session promotional brochures or proselytizing Ministry of Environment apologies for goose egg coddling initiatives, but you sure can read it in the lake. Like the playground, it is our mirror.
Sad news. My beautiful lake, with its jewels of melting ice reflecting the sky …
is a bit of a sewer, too, when the freezing line gets in close to shore and the wind kicks up. Well, even a teeny little bit of wind, really.
Water management in the Okanagan Valley sometimes is interpreted as “managing budgets” by chopping up invasive Eurasian Water Milfoil plants with a big waterborne threshing machine so that people can swim a hundred yards out in the summer and not get tangled up in the icky weeds (a gift of summer boating visitors two generations ago).
Tons of chopped up milfoil leaves and stems are then left to rot all the winter long. In land-based terms, this is called a compost pile.
More like compost soup.
Given that a lake breathes through its shore, well, if we want a living planet, this makes no sense whatsoever. But, what the heck, the pebbly volcanic shore has already been replaced with ancient ocean sandstone. In lake terms, that’s the equivalent of covering the lake’s lips with duck tape.
This is a form of environmental triage. It would cost millions to try to deal with the milfoil problem, or the nitrate problem that is feeding the damn stuff, or the missing fish that have no oxygen because of a) milfoil and b) rotting chopped up milfoil crud, or the tourism and agricultural industries that babble on about the pristine water. They do. They babble on about that. Presumably, someone must believe this mutually-agreed-upon delusion.
Not to mention the shrimp that were imported to the lake some 40 years ago to feed the fish but lo the shrimp ate the same food as the young fish, so that was a flop. Worse than a flop. It was a disaster. It would cost millions to deal with that, too, so there is an experimental shrimp fishery now, on a trial basis, to see if harvesting shrimp is economically viable.
Economically viable? What on earth does this have to do with economics? How about environmentally viable? I think ideology has gotten the better of us. I think people can say the nicest, smartest-sounding things, when what they’re really looking at and promoting full throttle is death.
Even if we scooped up the damned weeds when the wind drove them onto shore in October we’d be better off than this, but, of course, there’s no budget for that, either, because governments are run like businesses and ministries of the environment are really ministries of the manipulation of public opinion to keep things exactly as they are at the expense of the earth, and light.
What is nature? I’ve been asking people, and they’ve been looking at me strangely, and have said things like, well, you know, green stuff. Sometimes people answer like this, too: natural things. Or even: wild things. I think I’ve got it now. This is considered nature:
Gull in a Midwinter Thaw on Okanagan Lake
Shucks, though. What if it isn’t nature? What if it’s actually a representation of a matrix of ethical, social and physical issues? What if it is, in other words, human? Sure, sure, sure, it’s a gull, but that’s not what I mean. I mean, what if it were something actually pretty much like this:
At first glance, it’s a few cat tail rushes buried under ice and covered with a skiff of snow. Or maybe that’s at fifth glance, or something. I don’t really know.
I find it an intriguing idea. This is, after all, something that only a human could make, a kind of intersection between physical forces of energy and human capacities for perception and their cognitive processing.
A Bear Would Not Make This Image
To put it in a language that bears (and dogs) can understand: it smells of human.
That’s because it’s not “nature”. It’s “human nature.” I don’t mean “human nature” in the sense of “what humans do”, but in the sense of “the earth and humans are mirrors of each other; nature is human.”
Just Another Neighbourhood Human Hanging Out in the Rushes
There is also, of course, “bear nature”, but that’s not exactly the same thing. Nor are “grouse nature” or “golden retriever nature” or “green sweat bee nature”. There is, mind you, a kind of nature in which these various natures come together. We cannot see this nature.
This is Still Human Nature, Everywhere You Look
It’s there, though, in the way in which two genders come together to produce a new generation and humans and their physical extensions come together to produce new life, a kind of spiritual and ethical life like this…
Image of Ditch Ice Looking Like a Fish’s Head
aka a physical manifestation of ethics
I’ve been talking lately of how a human (such as myself) who came to consciousness through relationships with the physical earth comes to see no boundary between the earth and himself and herself. For such people, the earth is both body and memory. A waterfall across the valley is, in this manner of presence, for example, a way of thinking. It is part of the thought process of such people. To give another example, here is a kind of self portrait …
A Human Self Image
It is called Human Nature. No, no, no, not a middle-aged grey-haired, grey-bearded human with twinkling green eyes and a sense of goatish fun, but something very serious indeed: a way of restoring or maintaining the integrity of living, organic systems through a process of continual self-observation, reflection, and adjustment. You can call that beauty and you can call that love. I do.
Humans Everywhere You Look!
Or, rather, not humans. When a human and its natural environment are one, there is no environment and there is no human. There is only human nature.
This post is for Betsy who suggested the term “Human Nature” for what I’ve been trying to describe.
And what is “human”? Ah, that’s coming soon.
Today, let’s go on a little journey to my home valley, the Similkameen. I’d like to show you the link between a part of the earth, my recent posts on photography and light, and how this blog came about as an exploration of the power within earth systems to generate, store and move energy. This is more than personal. Here’s the old Similkameen moon.
These photographs were taken from an orchard I was pruning in Keremeos. I was a child and learned the ways of the earth five miles to the east. What I want to show you today is consistent in both places. Here’s the view east to my home farm.
Lousy pictures, I know, but, hey, I was pruning. The pic is just good enough to show you that in an environment like this the whole idea that the sun rises in the east and sets in the west is not immediately apparent. Here, this is the view to the North over the eastern shoulder of Puddin’head Mountain and the post-glacial flood chute leading to the Okanagan.
See that? Same darned sunrise! What about to the south?
See that? Moon’s going down, sun’s coming up (to the south!) and it’s doing so on the mountain itself, not in the sky. Now, just imagine Harold at 4 years of age, sitting in the crotch of a peach tree and learning about the world from a trickster valley like this… and contemplating this kind of stuff:
See that? The mountains are the sky. Clouds skitter across the earth most everywhere, but not always in the air. When you look up to read the weather, you read the mountains. If you crane your head up to look at the atmosphere, not only are you risking hurting your neck but you’ll only see chopped up bits of blue and white (black and white at night). At no time do you get the idea that there is a dome of air above the earth, or an atmosphere around a nearly spherical planet: you get a river of light above a sky of stone. The moon shows itself and disappears at wildly different times, too. And what is the moon’s light? Why, a reflection of the sun.
Spots of light like this change by the minute.
When I was 5 years old I was sitting on a branch of a ponderosa pine tree, kicking me feet and watching the mountain (again.) My favourite spot was a grove of aspens trees high up above the farm. Every fall they turned bright yellow. I thought they were talking to me. I also thought it was the sun. The sun part was right. Well, it’s the wrong time of year for golden leaves, but here’s Young Harold’s grove of trees, a bit blurry, but, hey, it’s been half a century, right?
Notice how the shadows and light have changed places. In the Similkameen, the twists and turns of the valley, and the steepness of the valley walls, mean that different vertical faces get heated differently by the sun, and at different times. The result is wind, either from cold air flowing into the valley from an unheated slope or air shifting from one side of the valley to the other because of heating high up. If you’re thinking of Young Harold in his pine tree, remember that the branches are swaying and the needle brushes of the pine are scattering light in all directions as they move. After enough years of this, you’re going to start putting things together and coming up with a project about environmental energy harvesting using the power of the sun as it intersects with the forms and energies of the earth, and, presto, you have this blog. Not only that, you have this:
The town of Keremeos remains in the shadow of K-Mountain. It’ll take awhile for that to change.
I’d like you to contemplate those clouds as a form of photography: light and shadow making patterns on a mineral plate. It’s just, well, ever-changing, that all. It’s not “fixed” in a single image. Here’s a form of photography that’s a bit more fixed in that sense, though:
Macintosh Apple Trees
I mean, aren’t trees the same thing as a photograph? Light strikes the earth and forms an image, that remains stable over time? Well, yeah, it grows and changes, but that’s where 12-year-old Harold comes in. Harold?
12-Year-Old Harold: I’m learning to prune apple trees this spring. My father is teaching me by putting me out among the trees and letting me figure it out on my own. It’s very frustrating.
But isn’t it a great way to learn? Think of the close attention you have to pay to how the trees are growing!
12-Year-Old Harold: Ask me in 44 years. Right now it’s just hard.
It’s beautiful, though, and the branches are warm in the sun.
12-Year-Old Harold: Yup.
I’ve thought for years that that pruning was my first art form, as it was very sculptural, but I realized yesterday as the sun and the moon and the clouds played across the stone sky of the Similkameen that, really, it was a kind of physical photography, that I learned to walk through. Here’s some of that light glowing like the moon Puddin’Head Mountain, a big heap of basalt and shale over towards the ancient volcano at Crater Mountain.
I guess that with this kind of photography the developed image is in the mind of the observer. I guess that if you’re a kid there, you become the photograph. Well, that’s a human thing. You become the environment that raised you. It imprints itself on you and you become it. If I had been raised in a city, human-earth relationships would not be so vital for me, or I’d understand them cognitively and wouldn’t be out in Keremeos at 8 a.m. pruning on a February morning, watching the eagles catch those valley winds and soar almost a mile above me. That’s why I’ve been taking so many pictures of ice lately, taking the energy of this valley one further step.
Next: Ogopogo — a step further yet!
I’ve been talking about human bodies in the grassland, represented as lines, fields and houses. I think it’s very important at this point of human domination over a living planet to overturn the common human assumption that everyday human life is “reality”. It’s only a human reality, within a certain circumstance. One way to demonstrate this, is to show you some bodies that you might find out in the grasslands.
Notice the eyes looking over the valley, and the stairs leading up to the sleeping area at the top of the head. Notice how weather is kept out, by both architecture and sprayed-on petroleum.
These miniature earth bodies are spread throughout the grassland, where they act as concentrators of water, heat attractors and conservers, and animal shelter — pretty much as the earth as a whole. If you see this as a stone, look again. It is creating entirely alternate seasons on the grassland and extending the growing season by months. The earth was made suitable for life in the same way. If we did nothing more than strew a million of these on the grass of the Okanagan, we would be doing more positive for our valley than all the blue bag recycling programs in place today.
Yes, time is a body. We say that, actually: “A body of time.” In this case, it’s the tracks of a coyote heading up into the hills mid-afternoon today, about fifteen minutes before I trudged along. We could call this a “track”, but look again: the time of the coyote’s presence is here all at once. A dog would read that out of this scene. Dogs (and coyotes) pass through a landscape of time, extended for a few days into the past, all of which is immediately present in fine 4-D, although finely nuanced and layered. Dogs don’t notice. They kind of let their tongues hang out and lollygag along. 4-D perception is normal to them. It’s also normal to people like us, who are humans, but not through smell (we might smell but we don’t smell, if you get my drift). Smelling is what dogs do best. Humans see in 4-D by sight. We see this extension of time as a line of footprints, but only because we’re so darned used to it. It’s not a line; it’s a special dimension of space called time.
And here’s the thing: this lone, weather-battered saskatoon is another island in the grass. It is a body that other bodies take on to increase their bodily strength. Like the island of stone I showed you previously, it concentrates life, which departs it for the grass, and then comes back to it. No magpie or flicker gets from the top of the mountain to the bottom (and they love to make the trip over and over again, day in and day out) without stopping on these trees for a puff of breath. Hawks use some of them too. Very handy. A cool factoid: most of these bushes get started in the special wet environment that a stone island has created in the grass. Now, here’s a cool thing about saskatoon bodies and time (about 2 kilometres along the ridge line):
To get to this body and the altitude it provides requires a 10 minute climb across 300 metres of rather steep 3-D space (and, remember, 3-D space is your body, dear human), or, and this is the cool part, it requires 300 metres of rather steep 3-D space to travel 10 minutes in time. If that seems obscure, ask a coyote. She’ll explain it.
If you’re going to live where it’s cold, mounding your body up creates and stores heat and increases your growth. Notice that this is not a house. In fact, it’s not human at all, but it is an effective way of living in the grass, especially on a stone that is only habitable in the late winter and late fall. But don’t be fooled. The rain washing off of this stone, and the wind blowing over it, spread the spores and bodies of this moss across the entire soil surface, where it forms a thin version of the complex community you see here. That thin biological surface is the earth’s skin. The earth actually breathes through it here. If you break it, the earth breathes out, but not in. Not a good idea. Luckily the mound body is always on the stone, to rebuild broken skin. But it doesn’t have to be a mound…
If this moss on this cliff face looks like it’s in the intertidal zone, it is. It’s just that the tides here aren’t those of salt water, but of the rain that comes off of salt water, and the drought created by the drying effects of rained-out air falling from the volcanic arc to the west. Those are the seasons here, and they interchange far more often than a few times a year — if you live on the rocks, they change every time it rains, or every time the sun comes from behind a cloud, or dips into one. To survive in that, you need to be a creature of the rain. Hiding in the crack does the trick. You can block all the rain, plus you can get out of the sun. So, that’s three forms that moss takes: Mound Bodies, Flat Skin Bodies, and Crack Bodies. Sister lichen goes a few steps further, by building coral-like structures. Here we are on top of Turtle Mountain. There’s a sign up there that says this is the Northern Edge of the Great Basin Desert. I think the person who put it up must have been half asleep. This is not a desert. It’s more like arctic tundra than anything.
The way to get this beautiful is to live where not even a deer or a marmot will step on you, and especially not the porcupine with his big flappy feet or the badger, who has a thing about digging. For that, sheer bare rock is best. By taking this shape, and by joining together, bodies like this ensure that water does not pour off of the stone. These creatures might look like rock dwellers, but that’s not really true. They are rain dwellers. Again, not a human adaptation. Rain bodies sometimes take on other forms. Take a look:
If you have a large variety of species of moss and lichens, each able to use water in specific ways and able to catch it at various angles and on various surfaces, and each responding differently to light, the entire system is resilient and able to quickly deal with any disturbance, such as this out-of-place alluvial stone that some kid must have carried up here in his pocket and, well, chucked.
The body I want to show you is not the beautiful orange lichen here, but what it indicates: the presence of this lichen indicates that the stone is covered in urine, because a bird or a marmot uses it as a perch. That means that the lichen is a urine body, but the stone is a combination of a 4-D Time Body and a Tall Body (filling the body space of a saskatoon bush). This is one of the versatilities of stone bodies: they fill various body-ecosystems, in a complex web. A lesson for humans is that they have bodies like that, too, which are diminished if they are all considered to be the same. A human society does not function if everyone is judged along the same lines, because humans are filling various body niches in society. It’s the same for stones. They are not just ‘stone’. That’s a human 3-D illusion commonly known as elementary science, which excels at dissecting complex bodily systems into simple parts. It’s a powerful system, but it misses something: this multi-niche function of bodies is a 5th Dimension. That’s a big thing to miss. Now, one more image for today might help with that.
Mule deer, bunchgrass, sagebrush, hillside, all these are grass bodies. In fact, in the 5th Dimension, they are all one body. Not only that, but this complex dimension has added another dimension: movement. That’s six.
More bodies tomorrow. I think it’s important to explore all of our bodies. I think it’ll help us all live in the grass.
Here’s something cool about dogs.
Dogs follow edges. When you’re a dog, you don’t even think about it. You go for boundaries, and you stay there. Since the boundary in the above image is straight, the dog has gone straight along it. It’s not because the dog likes straight lines. He doesn’t. He likes edges, and if you put him on a hill, like one of the coyotes around these parts, he goes along the ridge lines of small gullies and canyons, follows the base of the gully itself, if it is clear of trees, and follows the contour of the land. In other words, he is following an energy curve. No need to think about it. It’s the most natural thing in the world. Now, humans, who learned to be humans from hanging around dogs, make use of lines, too.
Just not as well. Poor things. They tried to pick it up, but weren’t really paying proper attention. You can’t blame them. They got the idea that lines were some kind of magic, that you could make a line around a piece of earth and a horse would stay there, because to a horse a line is uncrossable. The barbs on the wire are actually military technology, not for dogs or horses but for humans, who see a line and want to cross it. They don’t even think about it. To them, it’s the most natural thing in the world. And a pheasant? Ah, yes, they’re not even on the program. Where humans and dogs are, they go the other way, five minutes before or five minutes after. They don’t have to think about it, either. It just makes sense that way. Actually, it makes a lot of sense. Clear out, I say. Those things (dogs and humans) are dangerous.
So, you can see, perhaps, why dogs follow edges? Edges bend lines.
Otherwise, human tracks are the ones you follow, because when you’re a dog you not only track edges but you follow, and because you’re a wolf that learned to be a dog by hanging around humans, you bend your energy line to the straight lines that are all that humans can manage, because they follow light, which moves in straight lines, rather than land, which moves like water.
And what do the humans like? Apart from defeating themselves with a simple wire, this kind of thing:
And what is the defence against? Well, it’s not necessarily defence, that’s the thing. Remember: humans aren’t so good at lines. It’s more like offence. After all, this fence was put up around an apple orchard. Apple trees don’t escape. And it wasn’t to keep the deer out. They go over and under. And coyotes? Sorry, right under the wire. And pheasants? Over we go! In fact, the fence is useless except for one thing: it keeps humans out. And out of what? Aha, that’s the thing. It doesn’t keep them out of a line. They’re free to follow it and be a dog all they like, but not to cross it and be human (or a pheasant.) What is inside the fence is this most important thing:
That’s what humans like. Nice two dimensional spaces: not lines but flat expanses that represent the human body in space. Humans can’t help themselves. Pay it no mind. Oh, and what are that darned coyote and those magpies doing in that human’s body! Well, that’s the thing isn’t it. Eeeyew. It’s like getting a wasp down your shirt, isn’t it. Well, that’s what happens when a human doesn’t occupy the space he claims. It’s not his. Line or field, space is social, and the social group involved is not just a human one, like it or not. That’s interesting, but it’s not my main point. My point is that the next time you catch yourself looking at a field as if it were a normal thing and part of the earth, stop for a moment, look your field in the eye and recognize it for what it is: something that humans make to represent themselves. They can’t help it. They might suck at the point of lines, but they do boundaries around two-dimensional space very well. They get so sure of themselves, they even do this:
They fill their bodies with lines, all of them straight and going nowhere. This is hardly the grounds for a system of economy that will lead to a healthy planet.
Tired of one and two dimensions? Well, come back tomorrow, for the strange and exciting story of what happens when humans move into full 3-D!
In my last post, I spoke about the Old Norse concept of a tun, a farm yard constructed at the intersection of social and physical earths. I argued that tuns created the foundations of economies because they were places of creativity. Kind of like this saskatoon bush, really:
Saskatoon on the Bella Vista Ridge
There are not many tall bushes on the grasslands, but each one is a centre for bird, animal and insect life, that comes to it from the grass and goes out to the grass from it again. They are places of commerce and energy exchange, far exceeding the energy they bring to the grasslands in the form of berries. Without saskatoons, there would be neither flickers nor magpies. They help move energy, without drawing it down. In fact, they increase it. That’s what a tun does, too. Rocks like this also act like tuns:
Moss and Hoarfrost
Spring for sure! Well, for the cold-lovers, at any rate. By the time the heat comes, these mosses will be dormant. In the meantime, they remain as islands of environmental resilience, scattered through the grasslands and ready at any moment to seed it with cold-loving organisms, should the weather get permanently icy. Tuns are resilient like that. Unlike forms of investment based around capital, they react instantly to changes in the energy yield of a farm. That’s because they are locations of energy exchange, not locations of energy consumption.
I also suggested that creativity is not a human quality, but one created through the qualities of a space, including human reactions to it. I think that’s the main point: a tun brings forth creative energy along its own model, as do other basic technologies such as a string, a field, a barn, a highway, a city, a harbour, a town square, and so on. The whole discussion is here on my Icelandic blog. This week, I’ll be showing how this principle is active here in the grasslands of the Pacific Northwest, in both natural and created spaces. So let’s begin. First, a couple houses. The neighbours, you see, have been renovating.
Magpie Nest in Black Hawthorn (red variant), Bella Vista
I met some walkers the other week who suggested that these were the ugliest nests in the world. “Not at all,” I answered, with my usual enthusiasm. “They have a door, and a roof, and are totally protected by thorns. These are most beautiful nests!” By the look on their faces, I think they thought I was stark raving mad.
Mad or not, I can spot a tun when I see one, and that hawthorn is one for sure. It is a place of doing (i.e. tun.) Oh, and up the hill, new neighbours are moving in.
This house will likely cost $650,000 once it is finished. It has a wooden chimney and a, well, like the magpie nest, a wooden everything, but that’s where the similarity stops. The magpie nest draws no energy from the natural system around it. The hawthorn still hawthorns, the rain still rains, the hawk still hawks, and the pheasant still pheasants.
The new house on the hill is also a place of doing, especially for the six months during which it is being constructed out of ground-down mountain and chainsawed forest, except this doing is a subtraction from living systems. It is, I think, a clever means of turning $600,000 of environmental debt (carbon emissions, water acidification, water degradation, habitat loss in mountain, forest and grassland locations, and so on) into $600,000 of social debt, which, once paid (to humans, not to the earth) becomes wealth. The flow of this energy, from earth to tun to humans who create from it a social energy engine of wealth based upon debt, is the foundation of Canadian economy. The only thing is, the debt never gets paid. It’s a trick. Here, maybe this will show you what I mean. Here’s a particular piece of technology even older than a tun:
How romantic, eh!
This field has a human social value of approximately $1,000,000 (I know, I know, Canadian dollars, but, still, eh.) Now, watch carefully. First, a lush grassland, capable of producing tons of food annually on every hectare. If cared for, it can produce both a surplus for human use and support thousands of microbial species, a hundred bird species, dozens of mammal species (small and large), even more dozens of butterfly species (you won’t find them anywhere else), as well as easily a hundred species of grasses and succulent flowers, most edible, some medicinal and a very, very few ridiculously poisonous. To repeat, careful husbandry creates a living profit here: by improving the natural system, humans make it more productive, and live within that created, productive space. That’s the original model. Then comes colonization. The land is given to settlers, who immediately clear that entire living infrastructure off of it, creating a massive debt to the earth, but, and here’s the magic again, the clearing of the land counts as a human social “improvement”, as does a fence erected around it, like this:
Does This Look Like an Improvement to You?
The fence, and the barrenness of the land (a few species of grass) are called improvements, because they represent the point at which the land has been made into a human artifact. Before that, it was deemed to be “unimproved” and nearly valueless. The “improvements”, such as the fence above, are written down against their capital cost until they have no value at all. After that, the land can be improved again, with a new fence (The post above is from one of these second generation improvements.), and the whole cycle of transforming human debt into wealth continues again. The only thing is, the economical calculations miss the actual source of the wealth here: life, drawn from the sun. The small amount of hay cut from this field has a debt to pay, not to bankers and investors, but to all the species, and all of their energy, that was written off to remove this land from natural production. That is not only an energy debt, but an ethical debt as well. One of the neighbours is dealing with it in his own way:
Great Blue Heron Mouse Hunting
The obvious signs of written-down natural debt are the weeds, the ornamental trees that are turned into bonfire kindling, the abandoned fence, and the lousy state of the hayfield. A less obvious sign is the human cost: all of this represents debt that some man or woman is unable to pay or willing to take on in the hope that scarcity of “improved” land will result in a rise in land prices exceeding the rise in debt. This is what happens when a technology (in this case a field and a line that bounds it) that flow freely through a tun are converted to an economic system unconnected to the earth. It’s kind of like using an eggbeater to mow your lawn.
What could be more clear?
The earth fixes problems with life and adaptation. Humans attempt to fix them by removing systems even further from life. Either that or in some way applying absolutely the wrong technology. For instance, weeds heal the soil by drawing up deep nutrients, and they’re alive, so they must be good, right? In fact, most citizens of the Okanagan are unaware that the brown grassland hills are actually brown weed hills. Does this matter? Yes. It’s like putting sugar in the gas tank of your car. Here, this is what I mean:
No, this is not a tree. It is, however, the leaves of an invasive chinese elm on a dirt roadway. In the absence of leaves, the roadway was reflecting sunlight and keeping the soil frozen in the winter, as it should be. Because of the leaves, that fall after the snow instead of before it, the leaves darken the snow surface, heat up the snow, melt it, and cause spring weeks before it should be here. This is murder on the natural economy. Literally. Snow, too, is wealth.
They are in the process of changing the climate so that food plants will not grow wild here, and only a few crops, in fields, fed by expensive water piped down from the high country, will remain. That represents a human power relationship. It is not ethical.
If it were ethical, it might look a bit like this:
And the dog, too, of course.
Pheasants are also an introduced species, but they fit into the natural system and enrich it. As the image above shows, they do this by going one way while the humans go another. At the moment, we’re crossing paths. It’s time to turn to the right, and follow the pheasants. And the heron, of course.
The alternative is unpayable debt (which, by the way, is poverty.) This is poverty:
Thanks for asking! That’s two houses (improvements), a bunch of coastal junipers (improvements) and in back a grassland and sagebrush steppe in which all the plants are piled up to be burnt … and abandoned, for five years now, because the real estate development paying for the vineyard as a lure for increasing house prices (improvement) and causing more human debt (and, for other humans, wealth), went bankrupt. Well, duh. What did they think would happen if they piled the wealth of 3.5 billion years of increasing complexity onto a heap and burnt it? And the cause of that? An accounting system. Look:
Capitalism Doing Its Worst
The productive grassland at the top of the image has been “improved” by digging it up with a ridiculously expensive piece of equipment (a most admired improvement), which replaces human labour (this is called good business management), in order to plant a single species crop (this is called efficient agriculture), which is harvested, pressed and sold as a luxury product (wine, which is called a food), of which there is too much in the world already (which is called marketing). The market that matters is the one conducted with the earth and the living world.
Fabric Dye priced out of the market by Big Oil.
We have been depreciated.