Endangered species

Unsustainability in the American North West

It is the task of every culture to sustain itself, and it is the task of every culture to provide the tools to its people, that they can use to sustain themselves after the culture is no longer sustainable. Such changes can happen rapidly. Future resilience is a function of present foresight.


Even plums, with their huge genetic variations and varying maturities, know that. It is not sustainable to pump water into the air to cool restaurant patios 6 degrees, when that water could have created a plum tree and cooling shade.


Old Glory at Full Droop in Leavenworth, Washington.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but doesn’t the USA have laws against flag abuse?

This is the ancient Icicle Creek fishing camp of Chief Owhi’s people on the Washaptum River, that saw 4,000 people fishing every year since the salmon arrived after the last ice age. Now it’s a fake Bavarian village evaporating Owhi’s water into the air because, well, because it isn’t a Bavarian village, that’s what. It’s a collapsed lumber town with an advertising budget.


It’s really not right to steal water from people (Owhi had an agreement, in writing, which was consistently and rather cynically disregarded until the document was lost, to keep this site for his people) and then throw it away for the benefit of bored, wealthy people from the rainforest across the mountains, who can’t cope with bad architecture or the heat it creates. The actual wastage of water is based on an idea from the pop culture of science — that water gets recycled in the atmosphere and is never lost. Sure, but it’s lost to here, and that matters. This is a planet, not a test tube or a high school text book. Here’s Owhi’s fishery, for the record.


And here.


Before the river was regulated by a dam high in the Cascade Mountains, water flowed among these stones and men fished among them for the prized Washaptum salmon. If you look closely, you can see where people came, just days before I arrived, and wrote lightly on the rock, in an ancient language that looks a lot like the one below, at Buffalo Eddy, a similar fishing spot on the Snake River to the east. The one on the Snake is thousands of years old. The new one is impermanent, because this kind of knowledge has to tread lightly now. It has learned to pass secretly.


Frankly, it’s the knowledge below whose days are numbered.


Does a Sausage Shop Really Need to Do this?


The same energy that would have Captain Wright of the U.S. Army ride across from the U.S. occupation of Owhi’s cousin, Chief Kamiakin’s ancient summer camp at Mool Mool Spring to haul five innocent men out of the Icicle Camp and order them to be summarily shot them to force Owhi to betray his allies so that their legal Indian Reservation stretching from the Washaptum to the Canadian border could be reversed is, I propose, the energy that can take precious water and squander it without any respect or need. There is no disconnect. Such betrayal of life energy never goes unpunished. The continued tolerance of such acts (Wright and his commanding officers went on to fight in favour of slavery in the American South.) makes all of us an endangered species, and puts all of us at the mouth of his rifle. God help us all. And against this? Against this we have plums.


That’s pretty much it.


10 replies »

  1. Some days it’s easier to keep rolling the rock than others, hey Sisyphus… I mean Harold? Thank you for continuing to bring awareness to our collective illness, it’s desperately needed.

    One thought; I know it’s semantics, but I think you can appreciate it as a word-smith and poet: We need to go beyond sustainable and think about living in a regenerative way. Not only for the land, but for our own internal healing as well. We don’t need to maintain, we need to heal and create a better future.

    Penny Livingstone from the Regenerative Design Institute said, “Would you want your love life to be sustainable”?
    I hope not, it would be much more nourishing if it were regenerative.

    Now I’m off to sit under the shade of my walnut tree where it’s much cooler. Unfortunately I don’t have a plum.


    • Thanks, Kurt.

      I’ll take your brilliant suggestion and run with it later in the week. First I want to provide the Canadian answer to the one above. Then I can try to keep regenerative from collapsing into the “bringing water to the desert” colonial thing, which is always a danger.

      Very great suggestion, thanks.




    • Ah, I should do a post on that, do you think? One way a culture sustains itself is through schools and universities, another is through the arts, another is through governmental regulations, or inclusive political traditions, or strong families, or even a strong police and military and legal tradition, but it’s also important to maintain cultures, especially cultures of thought, which explore alternative avenues rather than, as is the fashion today, simply to exploit untapped potential within dominant avenues. The latter is a dead end street. For one thing, it has no room for the young, or pushes them into an increasingly constricted set of choices which offer fewer and fewer positive choices, or choices which don’t diminish their potential. Make sense?


      • I hope you don’t mind my jumping in with my thoughts on this. Culture shouldn’t be defined by what it is, but by what it does. Culture is self-manifesting and self-realizing by individual and collective actions whether it’s intentional or unintentional. You can have a culture of a group of friends, a neighbourhood, a group with a particular interest, or a nation. We now even have a global culture which is heavily influenced by abstract things such as money and commerce, and unfortunately neglects the real world full of living beings all around us.

        As Harold points out, there are many forces that impact and define culture. We can unconsciously allow those forces to dictate culture by leading or directing us with misguided values and priorities, or we can contribute to cultural forces by being intentional in how we conduct and express ourselves individually and collectively with values that are holistic and empathetic. Our ancestors lived in regenerative cultures, so the tools are there, we just have to pull them out of the closet and dust them off.

        The problem is that they were tools that were unconscious in their implementation, like mentoring. I mean real mentoring; where older people would watch and track a younger person all of their life and drop little nuggets in their path to instill personal curiosity and growth. Done in a community environment it has an exponential and profound effect. That’s what’s really meant in “it takes a village to raise a child”. For a person to fully come alive, I contend that’s what it takes.

        In modern times, institutional learning has become the poor surrogate to village mentoring. Universally, the best teachers in academic settings are mentors rather than teachers. it still doesn’t replace life long mentoring in a village. Knowledge and understanding has moved from being experiential to intellectual. The knowing is in the doing. If you don’t live it, it’s all abstract instead of real. Reality is where connections that grow into relationships are made.

        Another is a basic practice of gratitude; regularly acknowledging those things that nourish and sustain us, as well as those that came before us and are coming after us. To cultivate this type of understanding through practice is a cultural paradigm shift. To neglect it is also a cultural paradigm shift, which we’re experiencing right now.

        Since we’re living in such narcissistic and unconscious times, these things have to be done with conscious intention to move towards a better future. It’s certainly swimming against the tide at this point, but it’s changing.

        There’s a lot of cultural wounding that’s happened from the present to perhaps 10,000 years ago, depending on where you come from. These wounds are passed on through culture, because if you think about culture as an action rather than a thing, that wounding stays there until it’s healed. We need to be conscious of this and acknowledge it so we can bring about healing.


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