Bringing Life to the Political Table

Politicians represent humans and the workings of their societies. I believe that is just not good enough. For instance…

P1600064Not Represented by Politics

In a political process that is skewed towards dealing with human society separate from the greater society of which it is a part, many citizens of society have no voice. This yellow-bellied marmot, for instance, freshly up for his four months of sun. Did his appearance appear in the local newspaper? No it did not. There isn’t even a reporter covering the marmot beat. No articles on the quality of the balsam root crop this year. Nada.

One assumption behind the culture that creates human-centred political philosophies is that life will take care of itself — it’s a kind of an accidental thing that evolves and changes and adapts through a mysterious process called “wildness”. Well, when you live on a piece of land and it is your identity, there is no wildness You can only get to such a place if you assume that it is there for human use, and as soon as you assume that, you are not there. Behind that assumption is the one that humans and life are somehow different. Behind that is a notion about specialness and God (Adam and Eve munched the apple and then were kicked out of the garden.) God must be miffed to be so misunderstood. The garden is still here! Here God is, saying “deer”, and lo a deer walks across the grass, but politicians hear only “resource”. Anything else is for children. Sentimental, you know.


Half-Starved Doe

Denied a viable life by human predation on her food, shelter and travel needs, this is one half-starved critter with a nasty-looking sore on her other cheek. Locally, this is known as a “problem deer”. The suggestion is “removal.” Another word for that is “death.” Another is “no room on the planet for you.”

Here’s an idea: if it’s for children, it’s probably about right. If that doesn’t seem right, it means you left the garden and are looking for a canister of weedkiller and some rodent bait. That means you are the problem. Politicians, for example, propose ensuring the health and sustainability of the human societies they see as their business. Around here, the different ways of doing this are strangely reduced to a choice between “the economy”, which means building roads and buildings and green space, like this …


Multi-Million dollar Plan to create 4 blocks of Green Space With a Road…

… where there was a road before.This is “economy.” Vernon

… or through a thing called sustainable resource use, which is like saying, “We’re going to look after the earth…for people.” What, are we slave owners? After 17 months working on this project and paying attention, as best I can, to the land around me, I have learned a different road. Take a look …


No, not the arrow-leaved balsam root, or the last clumps of bunchgrass sheltering beside it, or the sagebrush, but the pile of old trees. Some kid came up from the orchards long ago and built himself a fort out of grassland trees. That’s a resource. You use it, it fills a purpose, and then you’re done. Meanwhile the ants, termites, birds and bees that lived in those trees are… gone.

The earth is not a resource. To say it is one is like saying that your mother is a resource, or your child, or the blood in your veins, or the spinach you planted in August  (the stuff that overwintered under the snow for four months, and now, mid-May has made a spinach pie for eight, out of 6 spinach seeds (6!) — which is what I served here last night), is a resource. No, it is not a resource. It is life. If it were a resource, it would be so to something that is not-life. Is that you? Not-life?


Skeleton Weeds Given the Heave-Ho

If you’re not in favour of public intervention in the grasslands, if you consider it wild and consider that it will look after itself, or that the budget must wait because a new sports field in town has a 5 million dollar priority, then you’re in favour of the replacement of the grasslands by this noxious weed, brand new here and waiting for no political discussions.. If we don’t stop this evil of human neglect and carelessness now, the entire valley will be wiped out of half of its life within a couple decades. Next year is too late. My year-to-date: 2000 plants removed. That is 20,000,000 viable seeds removed from the wind. You want to know what evil looks like? It is this.

So, let’s have a look at something else popular with Green politics: “The Environment”. Have you ever seen an environment? Let’s look. Is this an environment?


Balsam Root and the Earth’s Deep Mantle Blasted to Make a Subdivision

Not an environment. Life the whole way. And some reshaping of the living earth to fit automobiles (non-life).

OK, is this an environment?

P1600516Arrow-Leaved Balsam Root Gone to Seed

Hardly an environment. Many insects live on and around and off of this plant, but that doesn’t make it an environment. It means that, together, the insects, the plant, the air, the soil, the microbes in the soil, the sun, the snow, the marmots, the deer and the rain are life. Life, lives all at once. A lot of it is living off of those balsam root seeds. To illustrate that, take a look at that image of the balsam root and the ruined “tree” fort that opened this blog, but two weeks later …


Balsam Root Seeds, All Gone

The deer have been by.

The seeds are hard to gather and shell, and once you’ve done so you have a lot of work for very little… if you’re a human. That might be worth it, but the deer do it easily. They just digest the whole flower head. There’s a point in there about wildness. In contemporary thinking, that deer is wild. In earth thinking, that deer is a person — as are cattle, politicians, and grocery stores. It means that it needs a voice in politics. Since it can’t speak for itself, we must speak for it. It doesn’t mean it cannot be used for food, especially since it is such an efficient and gentle harvester of wild sunflowers, but it might mean that it can no longer be harvested for sport, because it is us. Any use of deer for food is a sacred responsibility, that starts with looking after the earth as if it were our mother and our child. Any politics that talks about resources will fail. There are no resources. There is life, and there is death. There are only our sisters and our brothers. Some of them serve a role as food, but they still have a place at the table, on their terms, not ours. Oh, and as for the Garden of Eden?

P1610744After a Morning Rain

God didn’t kick us out. All he did was give a choice: live in the garden or live in the weeds. He was kind of hoping, though, that we’d choose the garden. Every morning we are presented with this choice anew.

Up to this point, politicians have largely been the kind of people who choose weeds. I’m not kidding. I found three election signs today, all hammered into the northern flanking motion of hawk skeleton weed in the valley, the number one threat to the long-term viability of the Okanagan Valley. It makes almost every other species here an endangered species — and not in some unforeseeable future. Obviously, the people working for these politicians did not know that there is evil, or that it must be dealt with now, not with talk or pounding in signs, but by doing the real work. In my speechlessness, I offer red arrows to show where the largest of the weeds (769 individuals in total) are …

P1610841 So much for the social democrats. And …P1610837… so much for the Neo-Conservatives, and …

P1610843… so much for the other Neo-Conservatives. As for the Green Party, our most enthusiastic candidate from a city far away urges us to build an economy out of local food processing. That’s a good start. It will do amazing things for human social infrastructures. It still doesn’t subordinate humans to life, though, or bring life to the political table. When that party does that, then the economics of the other parties will become as foreign as the skeleton weed is now. I don’t want humans to continue to be that weed, or to continue to vote for it. Yes, vote for it. The state of the land is a direct representation of the state of our politics. That hurts, but sometimes it’s good to stare the truth in the face and then to start in on the real work, with renewed vigour.

8 replies »

  1. as david suzuki says: we need air to live, we need water to live, we need food to live. If we continue to destroy all these gifts of the Earth, we will have no livelihood.


    • I’d add to Suzuki’s statement, expanding it to the language of the future, which MUST include all living things: We need air to live, we need water to live, we need food to live. We, all the people of the earth, from the smallest bacteria to the largest whale, are these things. Whoever in this community continues to destroy these things and their living connections is separating life from the earth and individuals from community. Through such actions, life is destroyed and death is spread in its place. We, the people of the earth, from the grizzly bear to the salmon and the human child to the black widow spider and the tree swallow and the bull elk choose life.


    • Thanks for the support. Poets, eh. Love and curses must both be spoken of with love. Graves said that, probably in fewer words.


  2. Well said – Reminds us of the Council of All Beings which we haveparticipated with from time to time – Individuals take on the persona of the living who have little or no voice in the human body politic and come in the persona of their species – a few humans are centered in a circle of the council – the species of the council speak and represent their needs and dreams – humans get to listen –

    A practice we could bring into a more central focus…

    Thanks for helping us grow eyes and ears of perception…!!!!


  3. I keep thinking about this post – brilliant observation of how the politicians have subconsciously revealed themselves as closest in their biological alliances to invasive weeds… perhaps they need to pass an indigenous perception & listening poetry slam to qualify for listing on a ballot?


  4. Thanks. I think the language they understand is a code of ownership. If we got even 20 Syilx kids out here picking weeds, on the premise that they are caring for their land (and thus showing the treaty process for the sham it is), politicians would be scared. They should be. If we got 100 other people out picking weeds, making a totally separate land claim, the politicians would be scared as well. But no signs: “This land is cared for by the North Okanagan Boys’ Club”. No partnership with government. A clear statement that the people get to decide. Here in Vernon that would be revolutionary, as here the government believes that it has been mandated with complete power and that citizens may only comment on budgets at specific public budget meetings; letters delivered to council at other times will not be considered. Hilarious. This is why coyote howls up in the hills by day and slips through our subdivisions by night.


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