Is this smoke bush wild?
No. It was planted to give some red colour to a lot of green shrubs. Is the fact that it is growing a “wild” characteristic? Perhaps, but wouldn’t it be sad to say that life on earth is “wild” if not controlled by human intent? Wouldn’t it be at least as accurate to say that humans are wild, i.e. they have escaped the boundaries of balance that make stretches of land into living, mutually-enabling or mutually-supporting communities? Is this apple tree, then, wild, because it has been freed from human care?
Or was it wild before it was cut down? Yeah, the one on the top is the Golden Delicious apple tree I was nursing from a stump (i.e. wild, you see, as in not-intended) into a tree for a friend. We were one year away from a crop of lovely golden apples when someone got through or over or around the fence and chopped it down. Humans are terrible predators; most human laws and arrangements are set up to keep humans from preying on each other. Few are set to keep them from preying on the earth. Perhaps it’s all that humans can manage. Species-specific behaviour, however, is self-destructive behaviour if it doesn’t recognize its kinship with the life around it. The image below shows a non-human social group at work. These ants could easily be called “people”, with no loss to human social identity. In fact, we’d all be richer for it.
Ants Feeding in the Cottonwoods
In any event, what to my friend and I had been made domestic, i.e. household, a Golden Delicious, was to some other man “wild”, and thus presumably of no value. Against that big ethical error, there was that moment at which we brought the tree in from the wild and accorded it human care. After that point, the human act against the tree was an act of predation of one human against another. Now, let’s look at that another way: what happens when “wild”ness invades human social space? This, perhaps:
Scotch Thistle: a Noxious Weed
It is against the law to harbour weeds like this, yet this vineyard owner can do it with impunity… yet, what is the point of the law? To protect grazing land. And what is grazing land? The right of other men to set their (domestic) cattle to graze off the last of (wild) indigenous flowers and grasses from either private land or public land to which they have purchased private grazing rights. Is it ethical to ignore such laws?
Tough questions. At any rate, If we had not accorded our apple tree care, the ethical transgression against the earth might not have been noticed, or at least might be viewable as the same act as climbing over a fence to chop a bunch of scotch thistles down. A man’s land is an extension of his realm of care. “Wild”-ness is, like “wilderness” or “nature” or “rogue state” is an infinitely moveable line. It is just a word, which contains a knot of contrary energies, which it poorly modulates or contains. “Law” (or hand saws) is not going to untie that knot. Talk is. And the earth needs a voice at those talks.