The queen of the hill, that’s who.
Look at her blending in!
The queen of the hill, that’s who.
Look at her blending in!
The award-winning journalist Alex Migdal, this guy…
… knows, apparently his Google, and works for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, for whom he recently wrote this:
‘Huge amount’ of carbon in soil
Irrigation — the watering of land to prep it for agriculture — might not seem synonymous with climate change. But researchers at UBCO want to know how it affects the storage of carbon and nitrogen in soil.
This is a pure example of White privilege in the Canadian Indigenous context. Think of what he wrote there:
Irrigation [is] the watering of land to prep it for agriculture.
By Alex’s definition, a few things are important:
Not to mention this:
Irrigation might not seem synonymous with climate change …
but the way in which it is will be defined by researchers at the University of British Columbia Okanagan, who
want to know how it affects the storage of carbon and nitrogen in soil
… which is a cute game, because it suggests that…
6. Irrigation affects climate change due to its ability to change the rates of carbon sequestration by plants…
…with no mention of food, or that irrigation is synonymous with climate change in a far more profound way than aerial carbon dioxide is, especially in local systems, which includes the farms Alex has his sights on. It used to be that journalism asked hard questions. Here it is repeating an elite (university) position, in a kind of dance of courtiers reminiscent of the Court of Louis XVI. None of the assumptions above are true outside of the boundaries set by privileged class positions in society. But, Alex, who presumably, judging by the respect shown in his interview of a Tsawassen elder below, knows better…
… has nonetheless the privileged authority to define water, agriculture and the social relationships between them and land, as granted to him by his position within an elite cultural institution, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (perhaps as a series of powerful colonial forces within a medical or oil industry metaphor or perhaps just out of ignorance of water, plants, the earth or how any of it fits together, both inside or outside of Canadian colonial contexts). In the end of this display, only the privileged authority remains, and the earth, and her people, loses. More than that, a much-needed discussion about water, culture, ethics and power is off the table, because of the weight of the CBC, and nothing changes that must change. The people who are not of the earth also lose at this point, and the authority of the CBC is diminished.
That is simply not good enough.
The replacement of lawn with gravel to save a rain shadow valley from drought is based on the principle of laying plastic down over the living earth and smothering it so that its natural creative energy is killed.Or so it seems. After only two or three years, the earth reasserts herself and begins to bury the stones.
Any decorative appeal, which was gained at great expense, is soon lost.
Things begin to look like hell.
What a lot of work it is to kill the earth. Sometimes it’s just easier to give up and grow a garden.
Dang, but a few years will nix that, too. Whew.
Best to give that up to and relax by the lake. A cool brewsky. Kids playing in the sand. Corn on the cob. Nature, you know? Nice. Here’s the corn, coming along.
Oh, crap. Of course, you don’t have to kill the earth. You can use plastic to bring her to life, too. Water, you know.
A society gardens in its own image. That’s the thing. If you want to know your country, look to its gardens.
Please, forget carbon dioxide for just a minute, if you can. It’s a symptom, not a cause. There is worse.
Nature in Canada
This mule deer doe is trapped by fences on this hill. The collection of weeds (all introduced by cattle farming, except for the sagebrush, which has choked out the hillside, is also a result of cattle farming. This is an industrial ruin.
Nature in the Swiss Alps.
These alms in Unterwasser, in Alt Sankt Johann, feature a flock a sheep around the ruins of an old croft, a pasture water dam (centre of image) on an old creek (dry), and machine-hayed, state-subsidized farms on the beds of old forests. This is an industrial museum, used as a pharmaceutical to enable people who live in urban areas to survive as biological entities in artificial environments causing physical and emotional stress.
Nature in Zurich
This is an indigenous city. Here the celts became romans, adapted, and became better romans than the romans. After 2000 years of that, they raise their children in cages. This is a school playground.
In this context of adaptation, biological nature is an artform. You can find it at the graveyard across the street.
The Art of Death and Life
It’s an ancient celtic thing, that lives on. It’s called landscaping, because that’s the fashionable way to talk about it, learned from the roman britons of the 18th and 19th centuries: another group of indigenous people who romanticized nature to survive the brutality of states built as cages, and built new cultures out of it.
The wealth created by spreading these new aestheticized cultures around the planet, and living off of the conversion of other indigenous spaces into romanticized nature, or wilderness, has powered the global economy for a long time. We all live in the industrial ruins (corpses) these compromises have left behind.
Industrial Ruin on Vancouver Island
The ancient salmon forests and rain forests of the North East Pacific Coast are largely gone now. A few trees remain, but that’s it. Some of the oldest trees, however, ancient Nuxalk, Kwakwala, Haida, Nu-chah-nulth and Tlingit trees, for example, that grew huge in a shared ecosystem of humans, human shell middens, salmon and bears, litter the shores of British Columbia now, where they are called driftwood. They are not. They are ancient forests, chopped into logs, and torn by storm out of log booms. They were intended as houses, for immigrants in the United States and Canada, as well as structural timbers for Allied Aircraft, and so on. The indigenous people of this land were sacrificed, in other words, to create homes for people displaced elsewhere.
In an industrial culture, such views of industrial ruin are romantic and beautiful. In this case, they are called nature.This large stone on the shore of Discovery Passage, for example, is called, in the language of nature, a glacial erratic, and in romantic, colonial language, a grizzly bear that froze just as it touched the shore of Vancouver Island, and mythological evidence of why there are no grizzly bears on Vancouver Island. The tale was made up by a 19th Century missionary, along the lines of the Just So Stories of Rudyard Kipling. It is a part of a far older series of ancestral myths. Its attraction for artists of the industrial age is a testament to its ongoing power of attraction. For humans, this is a kind of industrial mirror.
Nature itself, a European concept, is a series of ancient indigenous forests (celtic), sublimated as principles of regrowth and renewal. It is what grows within industrial settings, returning them to the state of the Garden of Eden. In that regard, this colonized and industrialized foreshore is a Christian landscape, which is why it is so attractive to European cultures:
Ancient Kwakwala Clam Garden, Willow Point
This is also a Christian Landscape, this time above the Rhine at Sankt Goarshausen, in the celtic and roman heart of Europe. This is a catholic landscape, from a time in which the Catholic church was a political and industrial institution, when it was, in fact, an adaptation of an indigenous culture (rome) to an invasion and takeover by its own slaves. The resulting new rome was catholic. It produced images of itself, just as contemporary Canada produces images of its colonial processes along its own shores.
Wilderness in Sankt Goarshausen
These vineyards, and tens of thousands of steep hectares just like them, were farmed by hand two centuries ago, and even one, to create wine, which was marketted to dirty, industrial cities as a healthful, peasant alternative to industrial illnesses, containing simultaneously the power of the land, the power of simple people who rose from the land, and the hierarchal and imposed power of the church and God, who brought the power of the sun, and diefied power, into the grapes through the action of human hands subjugated to industry and piety. In its time, it was a beautiful compromise, creating a beautiful culture. It is all gone. Modern industrialization of wine land has created a price structure that cannot support hand labour. This spiritual industrialization is now a ruin and, unsurprisingly, the churches are empty.
Wilderness in British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley
Another name for this form of industrial ruin, or nature, is White Privilege. This is a landscape that became racialized in 1858 and which continues along the process of racialization. In the centre of the image above is Siya?, one of the four food chiefs of syilx culture. Everything else is a series of feral European weeds. In other words, Siya?, and the valley’s earth-based culture, live marginally within the unintentional consequences of racial abuse, dehumanization, and the separation of culture and landscape. But perhaps I am being unfair. Here, have another look:
Wild Rose in a White Landscape
In a Canadian context, she is called a weed, while the real weeds are called “grassland” and “nature.” That’s how far we’ve come.
What is the Canadian vision today in British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley?
White Privilege: The View Over Indigenous Space
This is the outdoor, garden space of a home for Canadians retired from the petroleum industry to the East. It looks out over The Commonage, an indigenous pasture land that has been under land claim since 1895. This “house”, or viewing platform over a regime of power, will cost about a million bucks once the dust has settled.
You are looking at echoes of European architecture, filtered through the indigenous slavery cultures of the colonial American Southwest, and built out of machine-chipped wood, which is called “added value.” Bricks and European or Arizona-style adobe and plaster will be laid over these faux pillars and arches, to give the illusion of old world comfort and aristocracy. It is, however, only illusion. Not only will it not last, but it comes at a price that only people of White, industrial privilege can afford. Well, not quite.
You can, if you like, buy a town home and live on the edge of the privilege of your oil-wealthy neighbours up above, with a view over an industrial orchard. This too is called nature. This home is built on 5 metres of infilled gravel, into which 50 cm-thick (approximate) concrete footings were poured at -20C in the middle of the winter. Notice how the spring rains are wearing away the foundation. Expect the walls to settle.
Meanwhile, in Europe, nature becomes a gesture.
Rüdesheim am Rhein
Palm trees in the old Catholic wine-making town at the entrance to the Rhine Gorge.
The tourists are growing old now. They walked five years ago. Now they are hauled around in diesel “trains”, which clear all pedestrians out of the streets. This is wine culture today: not wine culture at all. These people are not buying wine. They are buying a tour of a museum town. What is on show is indigenous culture, through the filter of the compromises it has had to make over time to survive. This way people have of surviving in cages can be quite beautiful to people who live in cages.
Here’s the Okanagan Valley equivalent.
Indigenous Food and Medicine Crop in the Ruins
aka Arrow-Leafed Balsam Root in the cheat grass.
Most often, though, it just looks like this:
Or this: In White language, this landscape is called a desert, a term which increases its attractiveness and value (hence those American Southern indigenous-slave-culture architectural forms promising aristocratic ease), but it isn’t. The wheat grasses below (also an introduced weed but intended to replace the original grassland for grazing purposes), show just how much the land isn’t a desert. This grass is growing immediately beside the dead cheatgrass above.
Not a Desert!
“Desert” is a White term here.
So, please, forget carbon dioxide as a cause of global warming for just a moment and hang out with your mule deer sister. Look how afraid she is, racing through the weeds and a few indigenous plants that, like her, are surviving in this cage, and on which she grazes.
Carbon Dioxide is not a cause. It is a symptom. The cause is “Nature”. “Nature” is a racial term. The abuse it causes is the cause of Global Warming. It is a ruin. It has many forms. Similarly, the salsify (French) below along the old (Earl) Gray Canal Trail (British) in the old Syilx Illahie, is not a cause of ecosystem degradation but a symptom, and the source of new beauty.
This post-apocalyptic view, too. The regrowth here takes on special poignancy against the background of failed industrialization and rust.
This failed industrialization and adoration of death, shows up in the backyard image below: plastic chairs model after handcrafts from the American East, in the ruins of a Japanese orchard converted to gardening space int he 1970s, converted now to a lamp of bones over a new-age bowl of magical crystals, with partially-emptied jugs of home-made wine, with ground cloth and gravel to keep the old syilx land from growing through and creating the need for hand labour.
Death has been internalized. It is all powerful and we attempt to survive biologically within its grip. Global Warming is a logical consequence. Industrialization is not the cause. De-indigenization is.
Some things are sobering. Here’s a cold frame (a glassed-in seedbed, for early growing) from 1978, updated for the new Okanagan in the age of vineyardization. Before 1978, this was an orchard, that supported a family and grew apples, peaches, cherries and plums. After 1978, it became a place where people could raise that food for their families themselves. As people turn away from the land today, hire Mexicans on special temporary permits to do “their” agricultural labour (actually, the produce is for export, a series of capital-intensive cash crops; the produce locally eaten comes from California and Mexico), and pressure the water system with overpopulation (yet blame the water deficit on global warming) while continuing to extol the fruitfulness of the land (heavily-taxed wine, affordable only to tourists and the wealthy), gardens transform into a new image of society.
A couple things to notice: the black cloth is intended to allow water through but to prevent weeds (or life of any kind). It has been augmented by some rocks, likely formerly a decorative garden wall, to keep it down, and has been growing some cheatgrass (like the green stuff in the foreground) in the fir needles (the tree is an important local hawk perch) that the stones have gathered. The yard is decorated with a pre-fabricated aluminum garden shed. The yard next door, which has replaced its garden with a small, decorative patch of lawn amidst a vast swath of rocks and gravel (because of that global warming, but also because yards are now large barbecue entertainment areas, not spaces for gardens, i.e. they are now interior spaces), has collected un-needed garden equipment behind its new (large) garden shed, which mustn’t be for garden tools. It’s likely for general storage. Welcome to Canada in 2017. It took us some work to create this, but we managed in the end.
A little bit of European flair goes a long way. Invasive species?
European Collared Dove and Fungus-Struck Black Walnut
Well, aren’t we all.
Show your stuff. That’s the way!
The difference in colour between the air in the foreground and the background of this image looking from Bella Vista (surely a misnomer) to Okanagan Landing and the Commonage in Vernon yesterday is a measure of how much filth we have put into only five kilometres of air.
Every cubic metre of that air holds extra heat from the sun. The colour shows that. It is as much a part of global warming as the weedy trees that have crept down the grassland hill, whose dark colour holds the sun’s heat in winter, melting snow that should be melting into the grass later, and then ejecting it into the atmosphere as water in the summer heat, where it is blown away to the east, and gone. The grass wouldn’t have done that, but in our ignorance of grass we did. Forget global C02 measures. We just need to step outside and look at the water. This is what “development” as an economic strategy leads to: dirt. Wear a mask. Because, when you get up to 650 metres on the hill, you can smell this stuff. Here’s what 15 kilometres of it looks like.
Let’s stop selling the Okanagan as a place with a clean environment. It just makes things worse.
The sun rises.
It draws the night fog off of Okanagan Lake. It’s early and 18 Below Zero. The gulls sleep on.
The gulls that seem to have erupted from the lake. The lake that is feathered with frost.
The frost that is like eiderdown. Such mysteries here.
The lake turned into art by geese.
Geese with cold feet. That warm the lake in goose-shaped blotches to get those feet warm.
What a show!
What a beautiful earth, all linked together like frost.
Under the open stars.
And the Milky Way.
With a view right to the Big Bang.
Ah, but what’s this?
Oh, bugger it, that’s not fog. That’s smog spewing north from Kelowna, a collection of wineries, wine bars and chain stores skirting a thirty-kilometre-long strip mall of car dealerships and bars twenty kilometres down the lake.
This is our shame. Look hard. This is what a failure of ethics looks like.
Five days ago, I found a psychological diagram attached to a dropped hand-out for the truth and reconciliation process for creating healthy selves in adults who had suffered personal or cultural violence during Canada’s residential school program, which was intended to erase indigenous political issues in Canada by removing indigenous languages and cultures, including attachment to land and place. The diagram was a black and white variation of this famous pyramid:
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs
It works on this principle: you need to sustain your body; only then can you look after your security; only then can you love and build community; only then can you receive positive reinforcement and find pride; only then can you actualize a particular technology within your body, called a self, which directs this step-by-step program and internalizes exterior cultural and environmental forces.
I was struck by how colonial this process is, and how it is, in itself, a form of de-indiginization. After all, it contains a hierarchy, in which having a “self” is given priority, on this hierarchy:
Nothing could be more “US American” in the world. In Indigenous identity, the very premise of this hierarchy is not present, because identity and environment are one. That means that there are no resources, that safety and food, or community and earth, or praise and shelter, and so on, are not separate as they are on this list, but are all present at once in a unity, which is not “the self,” actualized or otherwise. Sort of like this:
Toad Hanging Out
… or this Native American image of all that:
There is no hierarchy here. The diagram shows four different forms of the same energy, which is the energy at the centre of the wheel, or this (for example):
Thule Reeds and Kayak Waves
Houses, mats, food, sources of feminine power, vital trade goods, and important energy for many other living forms of energy, such as loons and dragonflies and beavers and trout.
In comparison to that, all that this …
… can do is to replace indigenous identity with a social code, for use in interacting with a non-indigenous culture that forms abstract patterns and divisions in place of unities. And that is the colonization project in a nutshell. It has some use in a power-oriented society based on certain classes of privilege, but at the very least the image could include a foundational step, called Earth Needs. At best, it should be a circle, with the understanding that humans are part of their environment, are formed in response to it, and that all points of self, from 1 to 5 on this chart, are always present, although always formed by what comes through from the “previous” level. If the levels are barriers, or doorways, then only what can pass through barriers or doorways can pass and be available for the next level. If the transfers are points of unity instead, then what can pass through unity will be available for the next energization. If all transfers transfer unity, then 5 won’t be self-actualization but world actualization, instead of the actualized self living inside a 5-walled fortress, in a world it has a part in only by “taking” and owning. I’m sorry, but we can do better, by giving not taking, along a unified flow between spirit, body, mind and emotion, from one to the next, within unity. Like our sister, Siya?
Who gives. Who we know as the sound of children moving through her and accepting this gift, among birds and deer and bees. Who we care for so we can give her to them, and them to her, for their training. These children who bring us berries on her behalf. Berries which bring us into the afternoon summer sun:
World actualization, earth actualization, valley actualization or indigenous actualization would all help sustain us in our earth. This…
…does not. We should put it in a museum.
I know, I know, Chinese elms are a weed.
They grow well here, though.
Their flowers feed spring birds.
In turn, those flowers have a zillion seeds …
… and pop up everywhere.
Thing is, though, they do a couple interesting things. For one, in environmentally simplified landscapes capable of only producing social stratification symbols for humans, who like that kind of thing, a lot …
Golf Course at the Rise
From 200 species to 1. It gives aficionados a shiver of power right down the back of the neck. Much desired in elite social classes.
… in a kind of stratification that is often quite remarkable for its naked power …
The simplification here is from earth-as-living-and-working-space to earth-as-recreational space (the recreational activity is “looking” or “aesthetic enjoyment.”) It watches life flow away, as if human intelligence were not part of it.
Well, human intelligence is what you make of it, and what I’ve shown you so far today are social representations of human power. The elm, however, for all of its problems, offers a different one. It offers habitat, where habitat has been destroyed, while offering as well human social good, such as beauty …
… and the transformation of water into storable energy.
Check out what the lightning did a month ago.
That is transformed water there, bound with the sun and storing carbon for a human generation. No hydroelectric dam necessary. No one wants it, for some bizarre reason. It is quite portable…
…and can be used in measured amounts, according to need… the rest can be stored for many years.
When its elements are returned to the earth as water, energy and carbon, new elms will take them up again.
(Note: One doesn’t have to “remove” carbon from the atmosphere to remove problem carbon. One has to replace elemental understandings with process.)
The thing about elms is they grow everywhere in this climate, can be harvested quickly or after a generation, can be stored for a short period or for a generation, and can be used in measured amounts, in balance with new plantings.
What’s more, they take up water that otherwise flows as an element through a species-poor earth (made of lone elements), and in the process provide habitat for species that are otherwise homeless. They are arks. Yes, they are weeds, but they are healing the kind of error below, which wastes potential.
That’s a green of the Golf course at the Rise behind the young Douglas fir at the crest of the slope. The patch of green in the middle of the image is yellow clover that is mining water that has bled out from the single-species (well, two, a fir) zone of the golf green. Excess water and waste fertilizer is collected in the road cut you can see just below the fir, which spills down the infill from the road. It wells up as a wave over the bedrock under the post-glacial gravel. This is a way in which the earth heals herself, by giving forth life from gravity. From gravity! Here’s a paper wasp, finding forage in the yellow clover that would otherwise be lost — weightless, shall we say, only a place for elements to pass through, like subatomic particles in a cloud chamber. Weeds, however, turn deserts into life.
A reasonable goal would, I think, be to create the greatest amount of life, to use the greatest amount of water within the systems of life, and to harvest the excess as human social energy. This must be the definition of sustainability. Mustn’t it? Because this isn’t:
Death Maker: B Reactor, Hanford
This machine makes nuclear bombs: the most horrific human social arbiter of them all.
So, here are the elms (below), in a hillside reduced to knapweed, an abandoned landscape nursery, rock, yellow clover, mustard, gold finches and wasps. The gold finches feed in the elms in the early spring. They feed in the clover in July.
After a generation of drawing off carbon from the very technological excess which has allowed for the bulldozing of this living landscape and its reduction to a single-species vineyard and a single-species golf course up above, both human social displays, it can keep us warm in the winter dark, cycling water through human social space not as liquid but as life, and giving to us life, and roots, rather than liquidity, that either evaporates (witness the promise that the bulldozing attempted to fulfill) or flows away, leaving a desert, or, in human social terms, poverty. Choose life. Oh, and plant sunflowers, so the gold finches have something in August …
… because whatever they ate naturally is gone, and looks like human social strategies to turn the simplification of the earth into human class power (in this case, the irrigation of a vineyard to increase the social display value of houses, through the removal of that water from the earth):
… and without gold finches, and the memory of them across a span of fifty years or more, as is mine, from the elms that sifted them out of the air in migration in the Similkameen fifty years ago, for a few hours every spring, to the present …
… without that, we live in a desert, a desert which includes the barrenness of human individual life, crying out for connection but ultimately leading to isolation. In the image below, a lot of water was removed from life to create this coloured plastic, as a place for a human child to play in nature — a nature known as “outside”, and one otherwise unwanted, except for the social distance it provides between the next human “inside”. It is space — almost empty space.
Water is life. That is not a metaphor. If we take it away from life, it is just technology creating the illusions that are human social display …
Winemaking in Okanagan Falls
…and human class power.
This isn’t a war. We’re in this together.
We don’t have to remain alone.