Sustaining the Okanagan 17: Environmental Depreciation Tax

At the moment, farmers can mine gravel on their land and deduct the income from their taxes, as a loss of value. The result can be a vineyard, like the one below. Yes, a vineyard… do you see any grape plants? No, there are just roads, gravel, and dumped concrete scraps used as fill. The grapes are up higher.P1180299

Above this weedy bank.


Early this summer, the farmer spent many thousands of dollars building a loading area and a lovely wide road big enough for a semi-trailer, to a small vineyard block at the end of his property.


The cost of doing that is called an expense and can be written off against farm income. Of course, this behaviour comes with an environmental cost, which subsidizes that income but does not otherwise enter into the accounting. Private income, in other words, is subsidized by public loss. We can fix this. Putting through legislation requiring environmental values to be maintained … well, we already have that, and it’s not much use. But there is a way. Currently, farmland is taxed at a low value, which is a direct subsidy for farming, on the principle that farming provides public value. Such taxation subsidies could be removed for land that is stripped of environmental productivity. The same for land developers of any other kind. The housing development below, for instance. In this case, the yellow clover is doing its best.


Even the trashed, unproductive grassland in behind. Squeezed between an inability to develop land into housing and an inability to trash it wantonly, farmers and developers, who are very smart people, would do the right thing.


Mariposa Lily: a Grassland Crop Not Just for the Sweat Bees

Sustaining the Okanagan 16: Let’s Get Syrian

This is one of a series of posts  on creating sustainability in the Okanagan/Okanogan, a valley between the Monashee, Okanagan and Pasayten Ranges in north western North America. This valley, and the shrub steppe it is the shore of, is hot, dry, wet and cold, depending on when you encounter it. My part of it is also flush with Canadians seeking an American South all of their own. The “American” part of it is flush with families from the American South, who came seeking industrial farms, after the collapse of slavery made industrial farming questionable in the South. What my beautiful country doesn’t have a lot of is people who regard it on its own terms and learn to move lightly on its land. For that, I suggest a large influx of Syrians. Instead of another generation of people from Canada, retiring to my northern half of the valley for an image of wine bars and Eden, and another generation of people from Seattle retiring to the central region of this shrub steppe for the same gosh-darned thing, let’s have a people who know how to live on hot, mixed climactic zones. Let’s have our brothers and sisters from Syria, who have been driven away from the land into the cities of Europe, Turkey and North America, where they are not at home. Here, we could learn from them. We need to learn from them. This, for example, is here:P1050165

Vernon: the Canadian VersionP1120768

Yakima: the American Version



Lake Lenore Caves, the Sinkiuse Version

And this is Syria.

This is Syria, too:


There is so much talk of the political danger of bringing people from the Middle East to Canada, but, for the love of Allah and Jehovah, at the heart of Islam is the land. This land:land_jabal_tareeq_hama

And by the heart of Islam, I mean the individual heart of each of the faithful. Our brothers and sisters have been keeping the land for, what, 20,000 years? 50,000? Let’s welcome them home from the wars colonialism dumped on them like shrapnel. Let’s say, “after your long journey, welcome home, look how beautiful you are.” And let’s sit at their feet and work at their sides, turning our bungled retirement subdivisions into living space:


And I don’t mean for us. For a hundred generations hence. Sure, we could just go to the Okanagan Indian Band and achieve the same thing. Let’s do that, too. As for beauty, look:


Look again:

UN Warns Half the Syrian People on the Move

Look again:


Aren’t they just great? I need these people as my neighbours. I don’t need this bullshit:


Let’s stop drugging ourselves.

Sustaining the Okanagan 15: Time for Thyme!

We don’t need lawn. Or gravel.


But what about thyme? P1180964

No mowing. No watering. The thyme below is just growing at the side of the road.P1180965

Flowers for the bees!P1180980

Something for the kitchen (black cherry tomatoes, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, thyme and a hot frying pan.P1180981

Replace that gravel, too.


Make pretty steps.P1180463

Better than bark mulch, which is supposed to “look” productive, but is a boondoggle.P1180469

Nothing grows in that stuff.P1180468

Make the valley live again. Whoo-hooo!P1180466

Plant thyme.


p.s. the water system in the images above could be ripped out. It’s there out of habit.

The Hamlet Syndrome


Private land is not land. To illustrate that, here’s some private property, degraded from a grassland supporting a few hundred people to a weed land for about three cows, for about three weeks. Yet, it is socially very valuable, to one man.


Let’s look more closely. Here’s the land. As you can see, to a human it’s about a road. This road, a line of will, leads into the land, where it becomes diffuse.

When this land is considered in its entirety, though, you can see how human perception, and the road which represents it, leads to a horizon, not to the land. It is a boundary. There everything changes.horizon

At that point, the body stops representing itself as the land but represents itself as potential, energy, and a limitless future.


It’s a trick of human intelligence. It creates a human narrative — ownership, or social posturing — out of unity.


In this way, humans become aware of themselves. “To be or not to be,” said Hamlet, in a tragedy that was really a love story, in which the lovers, Hamlet, a gloomy sort, and Ophelia, another gloomy sort, were gloomy because they were separated. The separation led to high drama and tragedy (and to Hamlet usurping Ophelia’s story, sigh, which led to her death —logically, as she had been turned into nature)…


The thing is, she isn’t, and neither is this:


It is an act of separation, which creates drama. The problem with drama — and separation — is that the lovers die.


Wouldn’t it be better if we helped them? No more To Be or Not to Be, for one thing. Love,  “land” and identity are not “not being” or “being” or any combination of them. Those are tricks of language and consciousness that divide earth from sky. Christ suggested that we bring them together. Then we brought him down.


Peter Paul Rubens, The Descent from the Cross, 1616

The point was not the separation of body from spirit, but the union of sky and earth, potential and realization, self and other, right here, in every moment. That is not a narrative. That is consciousness. Selling consciousness, or Christ, or Ophelia, as a view is Hamlet’s problem.



We could at least try to not make it ours.





Sustaining the Okanagan 14: Plant Tech

We exceeded the valley’s population carrying capacity 25 years ago. Our issue is water. You’d think it would limit human population expansion, but humans are socially clever and limit social access to water instead. To forestall an inevitable class revolution, it’s time to develop new water technology now. The plant world offers many examples of what can be done. All that is absent is the application of human cleverness to something other than social manipulation and IT. For example, the beautiful weed, Bladder Campion…P1180659

Silene latifolia


Look at how the flower forms around an open chamber, with a spray of petals around its lips.


This arrangement is not designed to capture water, but no matter. We have the technology to use this example to create water collection devices, which could stand inert until it rained, catch the rain, and store it by funnelling it from their petals into their bells. At that point, the water could be drawn down a hollow stem (tube) into a larger collection device, or when the level in each bell reached a certain weight the bell could tip, the water would pour out into a trough, which would then deliver it to a collection or distribution point. Alternately, little collectors like this (or banks of them) could be placed beside individual plants. They could collect rain, just as the plant, its root systems and the soil do, with this exception: when the water evaporated out of the soil with the sun that follows rain these little bladders could release more water, slowly, to make up for the loss. I’m sure devices could even be built that could be laid out as sheets, or which could be laid out in banks like solar panels. We have the technological intelligence, we have the manufacturing ability, we have a university, we have the thunderstorms, we have a great need, we have burgeoning social pressures, and we still have the possibility of a bright future. Bright futures are made. We would do well to get in focus.



The Mystery of Surfaces

Do surfaces have edges? Or do edges have surfaces? Is an edge the limit to a surface? Is a surface the space between two edges, that is given substance because the edges separate it from the nothing around it?P1180691

Cat Tails

And that nothing around it, that is called “air” or “space”, what is that stuff? Is it a surface or an edge or, as our ancestors put it, a room? Is that why we say “children need room to grow?” Is the lack of such a room an edge? If so, does that make a room a surface? Is a three-dimensional surface a room? Is a two-dimensional room a surface? Is a one dimensional surface an edge? And what about the surface of water? What’s with that? 


I ask, not because I want to unravel the mysteries of the world (I love them just fine) but because these are really questions about the human mind and how it sorts the world, which is a unified whole and, I suppose, not a room. Look how complicated edges and surfaces can get.


Mustard in Her Finery

And yet we can read them perfectly. Why not. We are looking at ourselves. What the world  looks like, well, that’s the wrong way to approach it. It doesn’t look like anything.