The Secret to Contemporary Landscape Design Success

It’s about imagining what might be there, behind the anti-deer netting.

P1240501Why Bother?

I dunno.

Check out the beautiful ground cover, too. If you’re wondering what that stuff is, apart from the petrochemical installations, it’s ground up trees from urban lots, mixed with rotted leaves and a bit of sewage outflow, that is capable of supporting zero plant life but looks rich and fertile when it’s new. You might think that if you were spending $700,000 on a house, you’d want to set it off nicely, and you’re right. This is what setting it off nicely looks like! (Note: This is what cultures look like shortly before they die from the inability to sustain their contradictions. It’s great art, though!)

 

Okanagan Easter Meditation

This is what Easter looks like here.P1230637 Do you see that? Yeah, no people. Canada is an urban country. It views its land as a resource, to be used to create more urban space. It doesn’t live in it. It remakes it. Then it’s Canada.

P1230626Earth Crushing Machinery on the Horizon, The Rise

Canada is a construction project. People live in it. Here’s one way it’s done:

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Bed Rock Becomes Road Gravel

The author Margaret Atwood once described this as a kind of fortress syndrome: early “settlers” lived inside a palisade, surrounded by hostile territory. The palisades still exist, and are the chain of a dozen large and medium-sized cities (and a few dozen smaller ones, plus a host of small towns, all of which could fit inside suburban Toronto) which are Canada. Around them are places where no one lives, like here …

P1240013Bella Vista, Looking Over Okanagan Lake to Ewings Landing

It is to be looked at. One building lot, set to appreciate the view above, on the hill above my house, is currently priced at $750,000, and rated for a house of no more than 7000 square feet. That’s a village in most parts of the world, but for Canadians the appreciation of a view of this nature requires space and silence and a sense of exclusivity. It must be private, and must contain, within that private space, all the amenities of urban space. Each house is a fortress. The people live privately, in rows of fortresses within housing areas called “subdivisions”. Here is the approach to Canada in these parts …

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It’s the West, though. Tumbleweeds still blow. Here’s a modern cowboy, out riding his steed in the orchard just below, between Good Friday and the Resurrection…

driftSpray Drift in an Apple Orchard, Bella Vista

The operator wears a moon suit. The wild bees, that he will soon need for pollinating his trees, not so much.

Do you see how that works? Everything is inside of boundaries. If things cross boundaries (bugs, for instance), they are “wild” and need to be organized. Well, people are like that. There’s no using fighting it. Here is some prime human habitat in the nearby urban centre. You can see that it is highly organized.

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Vernon Restaurant Back Patio and Rail Line

Note the incursions of the “wild” earth. They are called “weeds”. Occasionally they are beaten back with applications of poisons, called “herbicides”. The application of them is called “improving property values” and “urban beautification”.

Here is the human habitat it replaced:

yellow

Somebody messed up. There are understandable reasons. Humans are like that, for one. Christ was crucified, after all, and that was a nasty business, too. But he rose from the dead.

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Shooting Stars, at the Rise

Have you ever spent Easter in Germany? They eat white asparagus to celebrate Christ’s ascension, with cured ham, yellow potatoes, and hollandaise sauce, or with morels, or venison, or, well, pretty well anything, really, and it goes on for months, in every pub, restaurant and café. It’s an ancient tradition that goes back to the myths of death and renewal in ancient Greece. The ancient traditions here in the Okanagan are older. And newer. They’re not ancient, you see.

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They just don’t contain a concept of “inside” — or one of “outside,” for that matter. And that applies not only to space but to mind. This, for example, is mind:

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Saskatoon Blossoms on a Marmot Perching Rock

This, too:

P1230752Cottonwoods Blooming and Sprouting at the Same Time

Mind. Not something observed from social space, or from a view window, and not “art” but mind’s location. In the body. In the world. Beats me how that is different than Christ’s message, or why the settlers and developers of the notion of Canada in this place felt it needed to be replaced, except, perhaps, this one thing:

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Balsam Root Slope at Easter

They don’t live here. If they did, they’d thin out this ingrown sagebrush with fire, rather than calling it a natural process of succession, and preserving that to preserve its “wild” qualities. There is no wild in the Syilx world, and we’re not talking about something that happened in ancient Athens or pre-Alexandrian Aramia, but something that’s still present. In a region in which the landscape has been humanly altered to allow for the greatest possible diversity almost since it was washed clear of the glaciers after the last ice age, there is no so-called ‘natural process of succession,’ except a succession of urbanization over a culture of human devotion. As soon as the Syilx culture of being present in landscape is discredited, the use of such terms as “natural succession” is much the same as saying that the replacement of the Syilx people by Europeans was a natural process of succession. No. What it was a lot clearer than that. It was theft. And racism. You can even easily tell where the theft took place, because anywhere there’s anything that is called wild, like this…

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Biscuit Root below the Bella Vista Church Cross

Bread anyone?

… you know there’s theft, because before words got thrown around here like buckshot, words like “wild” and “wilderness” and even “land” as things separate from people and consciousness and story, there was nothing wild, because there was no inside or outside, and all people were the people, including this fellow:

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Western Mountain Bluebird

Making a living between worlds.

Wasn’t that Christ’s message, too? To be manifest in the world? Well, you’d think so, wouldn’t you. In 2008, I walked out of the museum of Orthodox icons in Recklinghausen, Germany one spring, and ever since everything on earth has been springing forth, out of the soil, in a perennial energy of resurrection and birth that Christ tapped into and the ikons mediate. That’s not the Canadian way, though. In Canada, where the church is an urban space, resurrection and birth take place within the individual body, within a group of individual bodies, within a spiritual space they create within a building that symbolizes their faith: a church. Christ wasn’t a man for churches, though. He was in the world. To find him, look here:

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Choke Cherry Opening on Stone

Here’s the strangest thing: if one people doesn’t want the land I’ve shown you above for any other reason than the disrespectful one of grazing cattle on it, which pretty soon leads to sagebrush ingrowth and the deterioration of pretty well any usable grazing capacity, why is the only form of resurrection of its capacity to give and affirm life that of replacing it with urban structures? There are thousands of other possibilities. Why don’t people just start raising Syilx crops on it instead? Or, heck, give it back to the Syilx, since they created it anyway? Does God have to be named to be God?

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Wild Lettuce Resurrecting on a Gopher Mound

That’s how the grassland seeds itself: right where it is. No labour is required, just attention. It shouldn’t be wild lettuce, though. That’s a weed brought on by grazing.

Actually, if you name something as God, it’s most certainly not God.

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Is This Vineyard Water Pipe God Speaking?

No. I think God likes shooting stars.

stars3

It is just as dangerous to live inside words. They were originally used for Christian and Hebraic texts in order to keep God unknowable and thus ever-present. Something went quite wrong with that over time. Now a huge amount of effort has to be spent to break the spell of words themselves and the wine made from this land, that used to be known as the blood of Christ, vital for ceremonies such as Easter, and which was grown in the vineyards of the Rhone a hundred and fifty years ago as the water of life itself that would see you through your day labouring on the slopes, is called today …

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… “a patio sipper.” For those of you not from Canada, that means “a fruity white wine, light on the palette, that is perfect for drinking from acrylic glasses on your deck or patio while enjoying the sun and your view over the lake while chatting with friends.” Given that these grapes are grown on Syilx land, that’s disrespectful. That’s just not a good enough reason to suppress and disenfranchise a people and to convert 9,000 years of human environmental history into a collection of weeds. It’s also not a good enough reason to pick up a couple shovels and a garden rake and to go to the last remaining strip of native grassland growing between the weeds in a public park up above your house and dig it out to make a bicycle racing track for your own use.

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But that’s how you make a Canada out of a wilderness of your own making. That is part of the grief of Christ’s death. Tough stuff. But, hey, this is no longer Good Friday we’re talking about, but Easter, and not only that but the day after. In a fortress culture, the image above is the resurrection, out of the stuff of the mind. I think Christ would have preferred food for the people, maybe like this:

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The capacity of the land to feed people doesn’t have to be owned. Change the terms just a little bit, to “spirit cannot be owned”, and you can see, perhaps, how Christ’s resurrection can still find fertile ground here. It’s happening all around us. Look!

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Apricot Tree Gone Wild

Well, that’s the term for it. A better term is “naturalized”. Here’s another:

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Naturalized Apricot Tree in a  Subdivision “Wild” Landscape Feature

It is leading the way.

Industrial Agriculture is Unethical

Earth, or machine. One increases diversity. One reduces it. P1220995Or 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.

P12200403 Species out of 1000: Grass, Dandelions, Apples

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:

lineVineyard Gravel Pit with Water Line

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.

 

 

 

Badgers: Gardeners of the Sun

The balsam roots are tossing in the wind.P1220733This grassland is on a hill because it is created by hills. Wind and water never stop moving there, powered by the turning of the earth among the stars.

P1220708Badgers help. They go into the hill, hunting marmots that live inside the hill.

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Balsam roots and badgers get along famously together. Here’s a nicely tilled seedbed, ready to go.

P1220762And bees.  They dig holes into the hills, too.

bee

 

Badgers, marmots, balsam roots, the turning of the earth among the stars, and bees. All on an ancient seabed ground up by a glacier.P1220745

 

On a hill. What a stupid place to build a house.

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Oh To Be a Heron in the Springtime

The Okanagan hosts the world’s only urban heron rookery. Things are full of action there at the moment.

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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.

The Earth is Dying (And Not Because of Global Warming)

I went up the hill, and I found one sagebrush buttercup.  Take a look, so you’ll be present in this scene. It’s important. It’s about the state of the earth and the state of Canada.

P1200220Sagebrush Buttercup

Two weeks ago, it bloomed in the south of the Okanagan, north of the US-Canadian border. Two weeks before that, it bloomed at the south of the Okanogan, at the confluence of the Okanogan and Columbia rivers. Two weeks before that, it bloomed at Horse Thief Butte, above the drowned centre of the world at Cellilo Falls. Drowned? Yes. There’s a power dam and shipping locks, you see.

What a welcome sight! An indigenous flower, in the spring. In the European story, life springs from the dead land, and a beautiful flower spirit dances in the wind among the blades of fresh new grass. It works in Europe. Here it is the death of the earth. In the Okanagan story, sagebrush buttercup is used to tip arrows, to make them into poison arrows, for hunting small game. That’s still not right, though, because this particular sagebrush buttercup was not alone. Three insects were living off of it: a tiny fly a few millimetres long, something smaller and quicker that I only saw as a flash as it scurried out of my way, and one young crab spider trying to make a living off of them. Here’s the spider…

hang1

Crab Spider, Hiding

The green grass here is an invasive weed. Grass at this time of year should not be green.

Do you see her? Upside down below the sagebrush buttercup and with her life hanging by a thread? Here, look again…

hang2

So, let’s put that into perspective. Out of a dozens of square kilometres of hillside existing as a bit of waste land between a vineyard and its mechanical yard and a walking path in the bed of an old irrigation canal, above orchards, abandoned orchards and houses planted in orchards abandoned earlier, the indigenous insects of this place are trying to survive on one tiny sagebrush buttercup. Well, so it seems, but no, no. That’s too rash. This community of hangers-on has company. Look at her, just up the slope and only a metre away from the gravel dribbling down from an expansion of the vineyard mechanical yard above …

P1200230A Yellow Bell!

Beautiful!

In the European story, yellow bells are pretty fairy spirits that are one of the first signs of spring from Alaska to California and which scent the air with the purest of all spring scents. In the Okanagan story, however, this is a food crop. The bulbs of this little lily mean the difference between dying after a long winter or regaining one’s health and strength in the spring. Food and health, and by extension the health of the land are the same. That’s why the people indigenous to this place call themselves the Syilx. It’s not a term descriptive of a biological or social group of humans. It’s a term descriptive of a group of living beings who care for all living beings in a place, equally, as they are but one of them and as dependent upon the unity of them all as any others. To the Syilx, this yellow bell is also Syilx, and they are it. It’s the same thing for this guy, chewing on one of the yellow bell’s leaves…

larva

Butterfly Larva Lunching 

She is yellow bell and yellow bell is her. Not to mention the flowers she will pollinate a little later in the spring … if they come up.

 So, there you go. Out of dozens of square kilometres of hillside that once fed a people and supported a host of insects, butterflies, birds and mammals, there is one little yellow bell left, and one butterfly trying to make a living out of it. It breaks my heart. In the European story, of course, or, rather, the story of Europeans who have migrated to this place, ignorant of what they are stepping on and picking for posies in the spring, this observation might be worth a shrug, because there’s no economic benefit to be made out of it. Not so fast. Here are two observations about that: 1. If this yellow bell were in Switzerland, a farmer would be paid to ensure that it survived, at a rate far in excess of the profit he would make on surrounding land, and 2. It does matter economically, not in and of itself but in what the lack of Syilx identity costs. Here’s what I mean:

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Spring Landscaping

Do you see how that works? A living, productive environment capable of supporting thousands of species has been reduced to dead soil, in which is planted a day lily, which is misplaced so that its bed becomes a footpath and a convenient receptacle for chewing gum and cigarette butts, because, get this, people respect the sidewalk, which is made out of concrete (a mountain ground to dust in the Rocky Mountains east of Banff and then mixed with gravel and water). And this is not just a single instance of the lack of Syilx thinking. The above image is from the landscaping around the Vernon Public Library. Here’s the landscaping in front of Okanagan Spring Brewery. The highlights include expensive composted earth, tulip bulbs from Holland (no butterflies eating those), a sock, a few footsteps, a cigarette butt…

P1190851 … and chewing gum…P1190865

Oh, and some bark chips. And here are some more of those, at the library…

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For some reason, the application of ground up trees, a kind of social waste made out of trees, bushes, weeds and grass collected by truck from urban lawns and mixed on a sacred part of the Syilx grassland (still under land claim, as it has been for 120 years) is considered to be caring for the planet, because burning it would contribute to global warming. Hunh? The earth is dying now, and we are worrying about it dying in the future? The future is now. This, too, is part of the same phenomenum of which global warming is a part, and the real name for it is murder. Oh, by the way, the small plants sprouting among those bark chips will be hoed up later in the spring, as part of the contracted responsibility of the landscaping company hired to maintain this aesthetic perimeter of grasses. As for aesthetics, well, here’s the brewery’s take on that:

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Okanagan Springs Brewery Staff Lounge

A little break in nature.

And here’s the library’s challenge in this regard:

P1200064 Many of the grasses are dead. They aren’t, you see, native here. Even the live ones are quite simply in the wrong place. They are planted in an ashtray. You and I and the wonderful people at the library (and they are: smart, educated, beautiful, caring, hard-working and kind — no doubt exactly the same as the dedicated people at the brewery) might not want it to be an ashtray, it might make for an incredible fire hazard as an ashtray, but there’s no getting around it: in terms of the culture of this place, this is an ashtray.P1200066What’s more, it is built infrastructure and dominates, in a way of thinking that sees nature as a thing that can be planted in the gaps between the really important infrastructure (concrete) to satisfy the ancient, heritage physical needs of the bodies that carry around the identifies of the people who are the citizens penned (civilized) in this concrete world. All this takes place in a country (Canada), which considers art and culture as being ‘heritage’ activities, which make its citizens happy and more productive at furthering the role of Canada as a global economic power among its peers, other global economic powers. In this world of the Europeans who have taken over Syilx space, the Syilx concept still applies. It’s just that rather than being applied to life, it is applied to tenuous things like identity (to be defended at all costs, but rising only from autonomous individuals, not individuals in relationship to other species) and economic infrastructure. They are all considered a unit, and fearlessly defended. The only thing is, it all leads to this:

P1190885 Vernon Veterinary Office Landscaping

That landscape cloth under those rocks cost lots of bucks. It is designed to keep things from growing. You can’t stop dandelions that easily, though.

And this…

P1190932 Self Medication Waste in Justice Park

Mouthwash for the Alcohol Addicted and Coffee for the Caffeine Crowd. The stones are meant to be a stream, but, as you can see, after a few years no one can afford to maintain that kind of thing anymore and it is given instead to the homeless crowd.

And this…

P1190900More Smoking Waste Thrown Onto More Ground Up Trees, Justice Park.

All of this landscaping, these attempts to turn living space into a concrete one that mirrors rigid lines of economic power costs a lot of money, much of it in the name of beautification and green, environmental values. A people who lived in this place would just plant yellow bells and live among the butterflies, bluebirds and meadowlarks. It would be surrounded by an environment full of beauty and food and no one would be hungry or homeless. This place is not like that now. This place is a machine, the same machine that grinds up trees into infertile tree bones and calls it topsoil, installs plants into it that have no hope of surviving, and calls the whole thing environmental care. This is a society that doesn’t live in this place, but devours it as a resource and replaces it with an image of itself. This is a place in which any person who actually lives in this place is rendered homeless. This is a colony. Wake up. The spring is supposed to look like a bit more like this here:

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Sagebrush Buttercups, Two Weeks Ago at Vaseaux Lake

Meanwhile, off in Kelowna tonight, 45 minutes to the south of my sagebrush buttercup and an hour and a half north of the one at Vaseaux Lake, an art exhibit is being launched to display what the “citizens” of the “Okanagan” are thinking about in the contemporary culture of this place, as displayed through the images they post on FaceBook. Let me make this really, really clear: the sagebrush buttercups are citizens of this place; the humans are citizens of a global non-place. And that is why the earth is becoming a non-place. The colonization of this place didn’t happen a century and a half ago. It is happening right now. Tinkering with the niceties of social culture in this place and the free expression of individuals is a great thing … for the colonial image. It helps to perfect it and helps to perfect the individual ‘identities’ of the biological bodies of humans in the virtual space called “The Okanagan”. But that’s it. Here, let me show you how that works. In the image below, the bright colours painted in the window are there to address your body, which then sends out chemical signals, which influence the behaviour of your ‘identity’.

P1190826The bushes in their gravel hell are you. The chopped up gravel is the earth. And there is nothing to eat.

 

 

100 Photographs for World Water Day

For the love of water and the love of life, I’ve collected a few photos from here and from www.afarminiceland.com. (click on each image for title and to enlarge)

I’m off to the sea for a week. I hope to bring back treasures for you.

Sagebrush Buttercup in Its Natural Environment

Sagebrush buttercup, the first of the grassland wildflowers is blooming in the US Okanogan, and up into Canada, on the south slopes, on sandy hills south of the big lakes.

P1170361Note the absence of sage and the lingering presence of deer. Note the absence of vineyards and the intact microbial crust beneath the thatch, too.

Earth is not powdered rock.

The Urban Planning Paradox

Without planning, there is chaos.
landingGoose and Gull Chaos

Oh, wait, maybe it’s with planning that there’s chaos.

P1170113Okanagan Paradise

A park bench, a valley view, and the grassland hill behind. 

Might it be that that only looks like paradise because we are trained (domesticated) to see it that way? Look again.

rec2Everything Has a Purpose …

… and all purposes can co-exist. Well, as long as one ignores the fact that the land was stolen back in 1895 and has been in land claim ever since.

Well, let’s look more closely, eh. A garbage can beside a park bench so you have to smell fermented dog feces while cars whizz by at your back, while you’re looking over productive grassland fields irrigated with sewage outflow, which are grazed by cattle, full of unexploded military ordinance (in places), used as a gravel and soil dumping ground (in places) and leased out to a forestry nursery? Maybe it’s better not to know, eh.

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Close Your Eye, Buddha Boy

That’s the stuff.

Sure, there appears to be total chaos up on the hillside, but maybe it’s not, eh. Maybe it’s a message, written crystal clear, like this:

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Gull Cleaning Up the Lake

Go, Gull, Go!

So, yeah, maybe that there garbage can is a message, and an indication of the attitude of [someone in authority] to “the people”, that might go something like this:

CLEAN UP AFTER YOURSELF!

Sensible, that’s for sure. Mind you, just a tiny suggestion for improvement? Sure, why not, in the spirit of community solidarity. Might it not make it awfully hard to enjoy the recreational opportunity provided by governmental zoning here when that message is at your elbow and dominates the scene and really says:

Peeyew!

It’s like, you know, not all that respectful, really. Maybe part of the problem is zoning and government budgeting. Maybe all that goes something like this:

1. A city truck can only deliver a pre-manufactured park bench where there is a road, so the bench must go at the roadside.

2. Same goes for a pre-manufactured concrete garbage can…

3. … and the garbage can only be collected, by truck, if it, also, is near the road, because there isn’t the budget to pay people to do this work independently of machinery.

Let’s admit it. Problems like that must bring grey hairs to city planners in a petroleum economy. Maybe all parts of the scene are dominated by messages in the same way? Like this?

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Forestry Nursery, Irrigated by Reclaimed Sewage

The hand is pointing out various slumps in the land from excess water and retaining dikes that try to contain it from filling the ditch beside the path. Maybe the thinking that lead to this expensive governmental construction project went something like this:

1. The land is covered in grass (and grazed by the cattle of the cattlemen who ahem, inherited it, blush, from the Syilx, thus it is considered farmland.

2. In terms of zoning, that allows for agricultural use.

3. A tree nursery is agricultural use. It’s about growing trees, right?

4. Agriculture requires water. Plants like that.

5. Earth purifies water. Humans like that.

6. The application of water to an agricultural use, on agricultural land, built out of earth, purifies water.

7. So we can put our reclaimed sewage up there and use the Syilx grasslands to turn it into lake water that we can swim in.

8. Gravity helps.

9. This is a very good thing and an image of environmental stewardship.

I dunno. Take a closer look.
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Forestry Nursery on Post-Glacial Lakebed

The trees in behind have largely grown in since Syilx burning was outlawed in 1920. The trees grown in the nursery are designed to renew forests like that (once they are logged), although this one, being in plain sight and all, is retained for its aesthetic properties.

Isn’t that beautiful? An ingrown forest of weeds in a grassland is zoned of aesthetic use, and it works. It makes tourists and residents happy, makes for lovely views, and sells real estate. Aw shucks, that would be enough to bring great joy, but there’s more: apparently, an appropriate agricultural use for a grassland habitat is to grow trees to represent in physical form  a racist, legal directive. These trees are, in other words, one of the reasons the indigenous people, and their forms of land use, were suppressed in British Columbia a century and a half ago. And, you know, that would be enough to turn the world into an artwork, but there’s something even more beautiful and up-to-date about it: all this is considered environmental stewardship and social support for the people, on the principle that caring for people follows the creation of “jobs”. You’d think it might be the creation of food, security and shelter, but no, that would be wrong thinking. If you find yourself thinking like that, it might be that your domestication (indoctrination) was faulty and you need some political re-training.

Note: In the upper grasslands of BC, there are between 100% and 1000% more trees than there were in 1920.

Maybe that’s a good thing, maybe it’s not, but one thing is for sure: it’s a regulatory, zoning decision that just so happens to have the result that it removes opportunity for the Syilx (or anyone else) to live from any part of the land that has not been first converted into an industrial process, or, may I add, a zoned or regulatory one. Here’s a closer look at a regulatory decision:

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This is the Kind of Post-Glacial Lakebed We’re Talking About

It started on the bottom of water, and it just loves to flow with water again, whenever you give it a chance.

If you find yourself thinking that maybe, oh maybe, when zoning is coupled with “fiscal restraint” within an industrialized culture that spends most of its human work hours to maintain the ability of linear, petroleum-dependent machinery to do work that might have been done by humans, weird things happen on this kind of a hill, you know your indoctrination (education) is wobbling again. Fortunately, even the regulators, who have a firm grasp on reality, stumble into error when their expensively-capitalized machinery intersects with planning and management issues. If that makes you feel any better. It can look like this:

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Oops!

This public trail is built out of gravel, no doubt precisely in accordance with regulations, above a drainage pipe, designed to take waste water (i.e. too much reclaimed sewage) off of the clay of the grasslands and deliver it to the lake, but this is a hill, and when the rain and snow melt it does what lake bottom hills love to do: go back down to the lake bottom. Truth is, water moves down these hills from plant to plant to plant, never being allowed to move freely. Trouble is, cattle graze the plants that are good at this, and graze the flatland prairie ones seeded to replace them, until, well, it costs a lot to put things back together again.

Maybe this kind of error is more expensive than doing things right? Oh, that’s just seditious thinking, that is. It’s not ultimate costs that matter here, but costs within a particular budgetary cycle. Paying for a path ten times over, over ten years of erosion, beats paying for it once, at half the cost, because that kind of behaviour exceeds budget capacity for any one year, and you’d have to raise taxes, and who wants that, right? So, the work is kind of a dance between budgets and time. Here’s another example:

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Forestry Green Houses

Because green houses raise plants, they can be zoned for agricultural land. That the land has to be dug up and filled with glacial outwash gravel (deposited in rivers, against walls of ice, as the glaciers were melting, while the silt settled to the lake bottom that forms the soil here) is irrelevant. Gravel is also soil, the thinking goes, and that’s agricultural, too.

It’s all logical and legal (although gravel is ground up river bars and soil is a microbial community, but let that be) and yet it leads to this:

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The Washout Begins

The gravel doesn’t want this water either.

And why is so much water trying to get away from the greenhouse complex? Ah, look…

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Forest Seedling Growing Area

Large trays of seedlings will soon be laid out on these supports. Then the spray irrigation will begin.

Take a look at the floor of that area: gravel. You can’t really grow anything on something like that, but because there are plants present, and greenhouses are defined as agriculture, thats OK. I think the thinking, among the enlightened rather than the ignorant, goes like this:

1. Gravel is earth.

2. Gravel is more stable than clay, so you can run machinery on it without mud.

3. Gravel absorbs water.

4. Gravel cleans water as water trickles through it.

5. Water that enters the earth stays in the earth, until it fills groundwater aquifers, with pure, clean, gravel-filtered water.

6. Like a fridge filter!

It’s as if the earth were a machine. And what do you do when the machine doesn’t work, because gravel, clay, hillsides and soil in a dry country grassland don’t combine according to textbook principles, because those principles are not based upon this environment but upon ones born in regimes of excess water, which adapted to that water long, long ago? Well, in an industrialized, petroleum-driven culture under budget constraints created by zoning parameters, you build a French Ditch:

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Excess Water Made to Go Away

And what is a French Ditch? Well, it’s a ditch full of rock. I.e. it’s a septic tank, a kind of sewage disposal device, that keeps excess water below ground.

You know, it’s sad. The land just wants to create a wetland, wherever it is cut or damaged, or wherever water appears. Irrigating the fields creates wetlands. They form spontaneously all over the place. Thing is, they’re kept in a juvenile state, full of algae and… isn’t that the same as a septic lagoon? Haven’t we turned the hillsides into a sewage plant? Oh my, there I go again, with my poor socialization on display for all to see. You see how rough I have it? Instead of seeing the light, I think of the ditches being filled not with semi-radioactive rock from the quarry on stolen Syilx land over the hill but with rushes, reeds and, ta da…

P1170095Weeping Willow

Weeping willows can take up  250 to 1750 litres of water per day. They also remove toxins from the water.

Here’s how you plant a willow: you cut off a twig, stick it in a bucket of water for a couple weeks, then stick it in the soil. If the soil is wet, you can just stick the stick into the soil. Hopeless, aren’t I. Well, in my defence, let me point out that among all my failings I do recognize that there’s a problem with the willow idea. All that water, you see, needs to be returned to the lake bottom, instead of being evaporated by willows into the air. It needs to replace the water that was stolen from the earth-sky-lake cycle by diverting it through the houses of the city in the first place. OK. Fine. But first, would it be completely inappropriate to ask why is the water sprayed on the dry hillsides during the day, then, when 65% of it evaporates in the first place ? Might it be that human culture in these parts is one that understands water and rain but not drought? Might it be an English culture? Might it not be imported from England? Where it rains? A lot? Maybe. Gee, I dunno. OK, what about this:

P1170146Water Cress

Here at the bottom of all the “soil-filtered” water at the bottom of the hill.

That’s what the land is trying to create here: life, rather than a system of raw elements (soil, water, air, etc). Why, instead of eroded vertical ravines, might there not be systems of stone or concrete steps that pool water on the way down, instead of fighting it, and in those pools might not a valuable agricultural crop  be grown? What if instead of algae, the result of the erroneous thinking that soils (and not the bacteria within soils) purify water, the pools looked like this?

P1170148 I mean, given that the land wants to create wetlands, to replace the wetlands that have been filled with gravel at lake level, might it not be cost effective just to create them instead of the water systems that are dysfunctioning up on the hill at the moment, because of regulations built upon wrongful understandings? It’s just an idea, you know, but you could harvest this darned stuff, you could solve any contamination problems, you could have stable paths going up and down beside it, and you could just let the people eat it, even. Why not? Why does land have to be turned into cash, which is then used to create food banks to feed the people? Why does it have to cost so much, in terms of petroleum resources, constrained by the needs of machinery for roads and simplistic solutions? Well, that’s politics and planning, of course. It doesn’t have to be like that, though. It’s not a law of the universe, only a law of a system of regulations. One thing is for sure:

P1170094Night Lights

The culture that took this productive land (absolutely covered with food crops) from the Syilx, has to create industrialized plots out of earth, use industrialized water (called “waste water”, because there’s no other planning category for it, hence it is ‘waste’ to the planning system), and even recreate the sun, in order to produce anything at all and to create enough of a surplus to pay for itself. And where does that sun come from? More machinery.

MicaDamMica Hydroelectric Dam, Columbia River, Source

It might all be good, you know, if it didn’t lead to poverty and disrespect, such as this, right back where we began…

P1170113Maybe the initial disrespect, the theft of Syilx land, is still playing itself out. Maybe that’s the ultimate zoning decision, that is constraining all acts that follow. Maybe if we got that one right, we’d set up the conditions to get better regulations and better actions to follow, and we could lead the land to death rather than an ability to even absorb water. Maybe. Man, I’m glad I’m not a city planner. It must be murder having to keep trying and trying to adjust the system, and to continually be thwarted by a dwindling reserve of capacity within the land and water and a dwindling reserve of cash from the people. It’s about enough to make a guy stick a garbage can right by a park bench, that’s what it is.