Endangered species

The Ethics of Living on the Earth

Canada administrates half of my land as a nation state. The United States administrates the other half. Within Canada, the region called British Columbia administrates half of my land in terms of regional issues. Within the United States, the region called Washington administrates half of my land in terms of a separate set of regional issues. The national border lying between British Columbia and Washington ensures that most citizens of my country are unaware that their country extends south or north of an imaginary line. It gets more bizarre. The regional government of British Columbia serves the city of Vancouver, which lies in British Columbia but not within my land. The regional government of Washington serves the city of Seattle, which lies in Washington but not within my land. Both Vancouver and Seattle are important port cities in their nation states (Canada and the United States), and are their respective links to the nation states of Eastern Asia. These two cities manage my country for the purpose of maintaining their power as city states within separate nation states. What’s more, the national governments of Canada and the United States manage British Columbia and Washington, including my country, for the purposes of maintaining their identities as nation states. The cultural identity these constructs were created to support lie on the Eastern half of North America. This is done deliberately. Truth is, my country is an ancient volcanic region east of the stratovolcanoes of the Cascade and Coast Mountains of Western North America, which, bizarrely enough, are the same range. As for politics, the southern half of my country is divided  into several voting regions, represented by different politicians. If they are to discuss the affairs of my country, or at least of their half of it, they have to meet independently of the governments of which they are a part, as there is no mechanism for their meeting together. The same happens in the northern half of my country. In both cases, the affairs of my country become through this process subordinated to the affairs of distant cities, with foreign cultures, and must be conducted through the desires of those cities and the states they serve, if they are conducted at all. It is remarkably inefficient. Negotiations are cumbersome and involve large-scale national and international negotiations and treaties. A huge amount of energy goes into this work, which is work conducted not to support my country and its ability to bring forth life and to sustain it, but to control (or foster, it all depends) the aggressive tendencies of humans. These are the practicalities of human life, which is social, complex, and rather mad. The only thing is, my country is poor, where it was once rich. More people live here now, but the land produces less and sustains fewer species in fewer numbers. You could say that in the main the people who live here do not live here. That is an ethical definition I would like to place on the table. If one lives on one’s land, one works to sustain it, not to rebuild it in the form of a distant place. You have to plant something. You have to support something. You have to make something more connected to the earth. You have to enrich the physical country and its people, or you are only living in a nation state, in a state, in a province, in a city state and its hinterland, or some other combination of human social networks. They are vital and important things to humans, but they are killing the earth. Something is missing, and that is as obvious as anything in the world. The earth is missing. It has to be given a seat at the table. When we sit down to talk, as we must, because we are humans, we need to sit down with the people with whom we share common interest, and we need to have a place at the table for the earth and its other creatures. Without that, the earth will continue to die. Every view of land or landscape is an ethical act. This is ethics:

P1310905 This is ethics:

P1310402Meyer Family Vineyard, McClean Creek Road, Okanagan Falls

It is not a business. This is ethics: P1300361Rail Line, Kalamalka Lake

It is not a transportation link for industry. This is ethics:

P1300323 Redroot Pigweed, Bella Vista Hills

It is not a weed. This is ethics:

noducksWetland, The Commonage near Predator Ridge

The turtles who live here must sit at the political table, or if they can’t we must change the table. If we don’t, we don’t live here, and we won’t, and the lake will continue to die, and this place, here, won’t be hospitable to human life. Thing is, though, I am from this place. I am this place. This is my country. My family did not come from here, but they came here, with the intent of becoming a part of this place — not a part of its social dynamic, but a part of the place itself. And it worked, and here I am, watching the citizens of distance countries and city states move in and transform the place in their own image. It is a profound forgetting. The work of Okanagan Okanogan has been a profound remembering. As humans, our place in the world is small but our effect is large. It is large because people forget, because people often choose to remain only within their social affairs. The very forms with which contemporary society is organized in this place, right down to its political divisions, ensure this outcome. All people are responsible. All landscape is ethics.  This is ethics:


This is not a bee. It is an image of a bee. It is human social act. That means it has an ethical dimension. Is it beautiful? Yes. That is an ethical judgement. Art is not aesthetic. Its purpose is not to beautify. Its purpose is negotiate ethical relations between human social networks and the planet, or God, if you will. It has always been that way. That it is not seen that way, is an issue of ethics and memory. What does it mean to remember? It means to put back together what has been broken by passing time. That is an unusual thing to say in a society that measures itself by a present that is never here, a past that has ceased to exist, and a future that will never arrive. “The moment is all,” is the slogan of contemporary times. Well, yes. It is. But it is not an insubstantial moment of time. It is all time and space in the world. It is all here. Look at it:


Swan Lake

This notion of time moving, that’s a human artwork. It is opening into itself, which is already here. It is a story. For the past two years, Okanagan Okanogan has been about learning to read it again. A pleasant task in front of me for this winter is to lay down the grammar of that reading and to lead to practical, ethical conversations and acts, ones which include the world. Much of this has passed through these nearly 700 posts. When it comes together, I think it will be astounding. It will be a country, and a map to that country, and a way of being in the world. Onward!




4 replies »

  1. Harold, This project, this remembrance, this story you are birthing is substantial. I fully support your vision and am excited to see the gift you are bringing to this place. I’d like to get together again over winter. I would be honoured to partake in some conversations of a renewed paradigm with you. Winter is the time for reflection, storytelling and celebration and I would enjoy sharing our stories. All the best!


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