Racism and Noise in Canada

My neighbours above eat sour weeds because of racism in Canada, which created weedlands for them at the same time it created Indian reserves for their people. Right now, the country’s writing community is tearing itself to pieces over racial issues, between loosely (and poorly)-defined indigenous and non-indigenous communities. It is even lecturing itself on the tragedy of indigenous voices being silenced by uproars about race. I don’t think voices like this are meant:

They should be. Other recent writings on race circulating in the writing community assume that earth experience is all about race, when humans get involved with it. That’s rather self-absorbed. It’s called looking into a mirror. It would be more helpful to say that human experience of a certain kind is that. It can also, however, be described as dehumanization, dispossession, silence, rape, enslavement, genocide, murder, love,

wariness, respect and noise. None of those are solely human. All are powerful. Let’s remember that in the indigenous game of s’lahal, noise is meant to distract players and their spirit guides from the game. Let’s remember the silent ones, the animal peoples, and that it’s not about us. The earth is dying. Let’s stop that form of human self-absorption, because that’s the critical outcome of this whole horrible story.

It’s caring for the other peoples of this earth, including but not limited to other great apes, including the mis-named homo sapiens, that makes us human, not some frightful story of skin colour, evolution and human brotherhood or the lack of it. That’s predator talk with an old patch that is just, simply, exhausted. Let’s make something better together.

 

The alternative is continued silence and noise.

Tragedy in the Spring Snow

Our little herd of nine does had two fawns last year. The coyotes got one last week. This doe is now being very protective.

It’s hard, though. Forage is reduced by overgrazing, the orchards that maintained the deer are now blocked off for miles by fencing, the males are aggressively hunted, and coyotes, which can slip through the net of fences and feast on domestic dogs and cats, grow in numbers every year.

It’s called nature. It’s not. It’s an entirely new planet that follows new rules.

Filthy Air in the Okanagan

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.p1450985

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.

p1460011

Let’s stop selling the Okanagan as a place with a clean environment. It just makes things worse.

Gravity Engines in the Okanagan

I left you with this image yesterday and said that all the balance and water we would ever need was here.p1440741

Now that you’ve had some time to live with the image, let’s talk. To locate it, this is an image of the west arm of Okanagan Lake at Minus 19 Celsius. It is in the process of freezing. This lake:

p1440337

There is clear sky, fog over open water, and (in close) ice. The ice is covered with white spots. They are not snow. They are tiny fluffs of hoarfrost that has frozen on surface of the lake:

p1440332

What you cannot see in the image is the water evaporating into the cold air — at minus 19. It drifts for a bit less than a metre then vanishes. Along the way, it builds frost.

p1440726 The specific texture of the ice surface doesn’t seem to matter.p1440717

Perhaps, though, specific atmospheric conditions do matter; some of the ice, which should be evenly covered with frost feathers isn’t: seemingly a goose broke it …

p1430930

…at a critical point and the newly open water caught the hoarfrost upon freezing, while the older ice didn’t, or at least not so much.

p1440345

All in all, what we’re really looking at is a relationship between the lake and the sky.

p1440447

And the sun.p1440526

And the wind.
p1440523

With the geese …

p1440500

…as tricksters in the process.p1440584

Poor things. I told them that migration might have been a good option. They barely had the energy to hiss. Still, a few things are easy enough to observe. First, hoarfrost is heating in the sun and evaporating into the air, despite the cold (and the geese.)

p1440389 Second, it is drifting on a breeze and condensing again.  These two effects don’t have to happen at the same time. p1440360

It’s likely that the clear, dry, high pressure sky is absorbing the evaporated frost, which was likely laid down when fog moved in off the open part of the lake at night.p1440377

Third, this frost holds the directionality of the wind, and forms in incredibly thin structures. Likely, this shape that allows them to melt despite the cold, and evaporate into the dry air.p1440418

To rephrase all that: darkness and cold bring the heat of summer across the ice, where the heat drops away to leave water behind; together the sun and the night move water across the ice and deposit it (store it), for later release. All of this couldn’t happen without a sky that has been stripped of water by its journey over the mountains to the west, and which creates a pressure vacuum, a kind of wing, that accelerates the evaporation process. After all, if the sky were heavy with humidity, it would simply snow. Now, let’s place this activity into context. There is frost moving across the lake, storing energy and releasing it across time…

p1440489

… and there are leaves, trading electrons across a membrane to create sugar …

p1230205

and there are lungs that trade gasses from air to blood by pressure differences, photovoltaic cells that trade electrons across a threshold and there are nuclear reactors that knock atoms apart so they can reassemble, in a process controlled by temperature and pressure. There is, in other words, the shifting of material across space and time by utilizing energy shifts across thresholds of form. The processes can be complex, but they’re also elegantly simple. The surface of the lake, for instance…

p1440461

… which is made out of the intermolecular and surface tension of innumerable molecules of water (in other words out of an atomic charge)…

p1440614

 

…is a plane of energy on a particular wavelength between water and air, which invites frost to form little differently than the way in which a leaf manipulates carbon dioxide and water atoms to transfer electrons across a membrane by inviting molecules to sit in just the right position that further atoms slide into the correct places for building sugar, and no other. It is a passive process, but a powerful one.

p1440715

There is nothing in the process that could not be managed to create, store and move energy in a landscape, and nothing in it that could not be used to create technologies that would do the same in built environments. This is an atomic reactor at work:

p1440704 p1440750 p1440680

That it is not seen as one is probably because scientific traditions are built around measurement by devices, with the goal of building further independent devices, on the model of the independent human observers who implement them. They could, however, be built instead around environments, with the goal of building further environments, on the model of the biological observers who implement them.

p1430923

Using our valley to manipulate heat and cold, pressure and water through the cooling and evaporative process available to us, driven by the energy wing of the mountains, would lead to a situation in which this slope of the lake  …

p1270104

 

… is, like the lake, the reactor. It wouldn’t look like this, of course, all weed-choke, because it would be managed for energy effects. In this context, the sage brush below …

p1270149

… is frost which has condensed as a reaction to a pressure environment …

p1440414

and this bunch grass…

p1420818

… is a complex device that uses a column of evaporated water to hold water against both the gravity within the soil and the pressure effect (also a gravity effect) in the air. In other words, this particular atomic reactor is a gravity reactor. If we use it wisely, there will be water for all.

icecracks

If we don’t, the water will blow away in the wind.

p1420765

An Okanagan university would be working on these processes day and night.

Sustaining the Okanagan 21: The City of the Okanagan

In keeping with my conviction that we would do better to build things than tear them down,  I would like to propose a new form of civilization in the Okanagan Valley. By “civilization” I mean the creation of city environments and the forms of human organization that follow. The current form of civilization gives us this:

p1430256

That’s an image from Kelowna, a Canadian-American city in the Okanagan Valley, but not an Okanagan city. You can tell because what is for sale on this car lot is an extension of American industry, focussed, through trade agreements and from there through a beleaguered  automobile manufacturing culture in central Canada, a place called Ontario, which is full of Americans with a different form of government from those down south, but not that much different, as the American technology sales centre above shows. The city, you can see below, is designed for this technology, and not for people.

p1430247

It is remarkable. If Kelowna were an Okanagan city, it would be filled with local technology, offering local culture, and extending its roots into the future. What it is currently extending is its connections to the Canadian and American rust belts, and, as you can see above, to the investment culture centred around global big oil. To understand that clearly, let’s take a step back to the big picture.

p1410547

The Okanagan Valley, a former grassland in British Columbia, is a collection of droughted weeds between certain foreign cultural interventions including golf courses, vineyards and subdivisions. It has severed its ties to its grassland past through the hard work of a lot of people, including some in the tourism industry who sell the current city’s American-Ontario offerings instead, like this:

Urban and rural; nature and culture; playtime and downtime: Kelowna isn’t just one destination. It’s a whole bunch of them, located in one uniquely beautiful place.

Kelowna lies in the heart of British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley, the largest city on Okanagan Lake. Whether you’re looking for a family-friendly holiday, a romantic getaway, a weekend with friends, or all three, you’ve come to the right place. https://www.tourismkelowna.com

Tourists will be well-catered to, in concrete hotels in strip malls, on golf courses or on ski hills, eating at chain restaurants, and taking trips out through subdivisions to golf courses and vineyards and ski hills. It is, in other words, a theme park, a kind of Disneyland. The real economic driver behind the enterprise, though, is the sale of property in the sun to people from the colder Canada to the east: a kind of permanent tourism.

V0021656

The newcomers are happy, because they are living within their dreams. The people who’ve been here for a couple generations or more are not, because they are forced to live in the dreams of others, within an environment further degraded to support them because any environment can only support so much. This is called progress. It is based on the principle of “change”, which, in this water-starved environment is really the principle of desertification. It’s not a very successful form of civilization that can’t last more than four generations without being aquatically bankrupt. Currently, the valley is attempting to manage the acute, self-created water shortage of an improper civil model by limiting access to water on both a class basis and on the claim that the valley is a desert, and people need to learn to live in one. The thing is, it’s not a desert.

P1150953

It’s just that  there’s not enough water to sustain the current imported civic model. We need something better in its place, something in keeping with the climate we live in. The grasslands were good at that. We can solve many of our water issues and our social issues by rebuilding them. Other positive things we can do include developing new water technology on the model of our grassland plants, instead of new smartphones apps or new animated films to be shown on TVs or small screens across the world. At the moment, we have an American-Canadian-American cultural education institution, absorbing the talent of our children, who live in Kelowna and use the former grasslands not as a classroom or a living room but as a foundation for imported playgrounds (ski slopes, beaches, golf courses, vineyards and so on) as we have for generations.

Centre for Arts and Technology Kelowna is one of the top audio engineering schools, film schools, animation schools, fashion design schools, interior design schools, and photography schools in Canada. We are home to dedicated photography, interior design, and fashion studios, a film production studio, two digital recording studios, and 2D and 3D animation labs. https://digitalartschool.com

Sadly for our kids, we can’t afford this gentrified luxury any longer. The land and water are calling in our debts. All the petrodollar-based tech money flowing into the valley in the world just won’t create more water, or reduce the social strife that lack of attention to water has caused. Luckily, though, if we can keep our technology clean, simple and inexpensive, we could take it around the world. That’s one way we could sustain the Okanagan: by making it a part of the future instead of fighting to retain a past through advertising imagery.  We can only, after all, convince ourselves of so much before the gap between reality and fantasy is just too great to sustain. This is a problem coming down on us like a runaway train. We might as well face it now. To do so means that instead of following the culture of the United States we are going to have to replace it. We are going to have to learn to be home, which is a new thing for Canada, but there’s no longer any way around it, except into poverty. I have spoken about these ideas earlier on this blog. Today I’d like to add a note about civic organization, because it’s the principle of civilization that the method of organization creates the result. We have subdivisions and weeds today? They are both the result of how we have structured urban life here, period.

land

They are the same thing, viewed across a class divide.

P1050220

Neither is sustainable. The subdivisions are mining the wealth of communities across Canada, to which they belong, and the weeds in the grassland display the removal of water-carrying capacity from the land, which the presence of subdivisions and the technology that supplies them has created. The reasons are complex, but, as I mentioned, a reorganization of civic principles would be a good start to addressing them. But don’t take it from me.

Whenever and wherever societies have flourished and prospered rather than stagnated and decayed, creative and workable cities have been at the core of the phenomenon. Decaying cities, declining economies, and mounting social troubles travel together. The combination is not coincidental.

So, what do we have right now? We have a chain of communities, which were all once about the same size but have grown differently, according to different development models. They are spread for about 200 kilometres on a North-South line. The biggest of these towns today are Osoyoos, Oliver, Okanagan Falls, Kaleden, Penticton, Summerland, Naramata, Peachland, Westbank, West Kelowna, Kelowna, Lake Country, Vernon, Coldstream, Armstrong and Enderby. They all have an equal cultural claim to the valley, whether they are small ranching towns, farming towns, indigenous towns, former orcharding towns, former railroad towns, former real estate development schemes, former sites of Belgian Congo rubber money laundering schemes or former enclaves of the English aristocracy, and yet I was at a winery in the town of Okanagan Centre (in the city of Lake Country) three years ago, at which the young woman serving me wine chatted to me in a conversation that went much like this:
Young Woman: We have the oldest gewürztraminir vines in the Okanagan.
Me: Really? Older than the ones at sumac ridge in Summerland?
Note: I drove a truckload of gewürztraminir vines up from Sunnyside, Washington, USA, in 1978. That would make those almost a decade older than the ones she was referring to.
Young Woman: Well, but I mean here in Kelowna.
Note: Kelowna is the largest city in the valley, at the middle of 135-kilometre-long Okanagan Lake. It has 100,000 people and most of the advertising copy-writers.
 Me: But this is Okanagan Centre, not Kelowna.
Note: the towns of Oyama, Okanagan Centre, and Winfield joined together a couple decades back to prevent being absorbed into the city of Kelowna, which would have meant a loss of political agency over their own affairs.
Young Woman: Well, those of us from Kelowna call it the Okanagan.
And that’s the thing: it’s not. The Okanagan is not an American-Canadian city plunked down in the middle of a valley, dominating the valley with its imported culture. It’s the whole thing, including the ignored grass and its indigenous people. Now, we could complain about the gap between the colonial model and what we need to survive here, but that’ll get us nowhere, so we might as well stop with all that and join together into a common vision instead: one valley, one people, many centres, great diversity, one environment, new technology and every attempt at centralization to be met by dispersal. That means building not only technology but culture out of the local environment, what we need in it, and what it can teach us. To be clear, that doesn’t include grapes, which are European plants, or at least tearing most of them out as the water-hungry weeds they are. It means building an urban model that lives in the valley, rather than from it or upon it, and that ultimately supports the valley’s land, air and water rather than concentrates them in imported, dream environments, which create deficits elsewhere. The environment should not be a space for class struggle. It should be a space of class cooperation. To achieve necessary change, the current competition in the valley, between rural and urban space, between industrial and residential water, between indigenous and stolen land (well, it is), between grasslands, wetlands and asphalt lands, between farmlands and sidewalks, between water and ethics, between one town and another, between gentrified restaurants and greasy spoons, between food banks and ice wine vineyards, between low crop yields and high profits, between foreign workers and unemployment, has to end. It has to be replaced by a system of mutual support and celebration. The valley is weakened whenever one of these threads is focussed onto the particular urban model of Kelowna, where the rooftops are surrounded in razor wire so that local people don’t sleep on them. We can come up with 100,000 reasons why this isn’t practical, with many historical models, and many sociological studies, but the simple fact is: we have fouled our nest and have to do something completely different to get it ready for our grandchildren; doing more of the same, or refining what we currently have, is not an option, because it will lead to what we already have. This, for example, is not a life-sustaining environment. It is a view of a dead arm of Okanagan Lake.
p1430523
Traditionally, this kind of work has been the role of the arts. It still could be here as well, but the principle of dispersal will have to take place first here, too. At the moment, the valley’s largest cities, Kelowna, Vernon and Penticton have all built large performance centres to showcase American and Canadian (largely a sub-branch of American) “big-name” talent. They are, in other words, American cities, or at best Canadian colonial versions of them. It is part of the program that sees New York called a “major city” and Oliver, in the Okanagan. as a small town, with this slogan:
Oliver is located near the south end of the Okanagan Valley, in south-central British Columbia. Just 25 km north of the USA border, Oliver sits in the only desert area of Canada. The attractive climate fosters popular tourist activities including summer water sports, golf and sight-seeing. Oliver is an ideal setting for growing Okanagan wine grapes and producing among the best rated wines in the world! Of course, its mild weather year-round, also makes Oliver a great place to live for local residents. http://www.oliver.ca
This relationship was set by New York, not by Oliver. We can change this. The first step is to develop the remaining farmlands and grasslands within the cities of the Okanagan as more than viewscapes —to build them as integral parts of the civilizing experience. And I don’t mean this:
p1430561
And I don’t mean this:
mh
This is good work, worthy of our young people and our ancestors on this grass. We will know we have succeeded when the downtown core and the heart of our 200-kilometre-long city looks like this:
We will know we are deceiving ourselves when it continues to look like this:
 Let’s be people our grandchildren can admire, and thank.

Art and Ethics on the Okanagan’s Ancient Water

The sun rises.p1430784

It draws the night fog off of Okanagan Lake. It’s early and 18 Below Zero. The gulls sleep on.p1430791

The gulls that seem to have erupted from the lake. The lake that is feathered with frost.

p1440107

The frost that is like eiderdown. Such mysteries here. p1440285

Such beauty.p1440345

The lake turned into art by geese.

p1430918

Geese with cold feet.p1430923 That warm the lake in goose-shaped blotches to get those feet warm.
p1430930

Artist geese.p1430934

What a show! p1440028

What a beautiful earth, all linked together like frost.

p1440021

Under the open stars.

p1440280

And the Milky Way.

p1440305

With a view right to the Big Bang.

p1440332

Ah, but what’s this?

p1440294

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.

p1440337

This is our shame. Look hard. This is what a failure of ethics looks like.

Bunch Grass: the Beavers of the Grasslands

Look at the wonder that is bunchgrass. In this country in which snow falls and soon evaporates into the air, the amount of water a plant can keep from either flowing away in the sun or evaporating in the dry air is crucial. The bunchgrass in the image below, taken today on Turtle Mountain, is preventing both evaporation and flow. Effectively, on a forty-degree slope it is holding water in place and changing the seasons. Have a look. This is technology that we can develop further and put to extensive use.p1430045

See that? The grass has two aspects: uphill stalks that climb up to the sun, and downhill ones that follow gravity to the earth. The sun that catches in the grass lying on the snow…p1430079

… melts the snow to water …

p1430135

… ever further and further back. It soaks through the snow on the downhill side of the grass …

p1430081

… ready to be captured there by the extensive root system of the plant and delivered back, uphill, to its core under the lifting power of the sun.

p1430046

Effectively, each bunchgrass pumps water up hill to a distance of the length of its stalks, in a process that uses cool weather melting to store water and the drying effects of the sun to keep water from following gravity to the valley floor. Water only flows downhill here in any volume when the grass is broken. It’s no different with beavers.

 

Plants Always Stare Into the Sun

They just don’t see in colour.p1420366

Darkness, what’s it to them?

p1420374

What’s it to us?

p1420376

 

Everything? Do we look into the light to see its boundary with darkness?

p1420379

Plants react to our quirks.

p1270354

These choke cherries are for us, not for birds. Well, for us and the bears.

chokes

We can share, right?

The Bounty of Water in a Dry Country

This is water.

p1410911

It is called Okanagan Lake. In Icelandic, where indigenous European language survives, it is a vatn, specifically a space of free water. Of that, it is a special form, called a læk, or a lick: a domesticated space of water, of agricultural use. Metaphysically and socially, it is both of those, but in terms of its own essence and how it works in this dry landscape, it is neither. This is water.
p1410817

It is also called a weed, or an unwanted growth. It grows on disturbed land, or land set aside for agricultural use but then abandoned and left in this state of abandonment, which is called wild, after the Old English (essentially Icelandic) wildeornes, a point (nes) for wild (wil or wild) beasts (deor.) In this dry country, such a space is one that is removed from agricultural space and given, generously but purposefully, to our brothers and sisters. This is water.

p1410825

It is an industrial orchard and garlic field (in winter ground cover), irrigated by industrially-supplied high country water along the model of the California Gold Rush of 1849. It is not vatn and is fenced against wild and other humans. It is, thus, as constricted as the flow within the gold rush technology that supplies its water. It is a form of sluice box (a hand-mining technology that harnesses water and gravity to separate gold from gravel.) This is water:p1410838

It is also known as crested wheat grass, an introduced pasturage species to replace blue bunch wheat grass, the native grass of this grassland, which doesn’t suffer well the predations of cattle. It is not vatn, læk or wildeornes, but because it has chosen to escape the rather loose boundaries set for it it is known as a weed, and is called wild, or nature. It is none of those. It is water. This is water:

p1410550

It is also known as grazing land, a kind of dry læk, although it has been grazed down to cheatgrass (an invasive weed, green in the image) and big sage (which is covering land denuded of blue bunch wheatgrass by cattle, in the land’s attempts to stop water from seeping out of life as vatn). This is water.p1410538

It is also known as a deor trail (or path, from pad (tread), from pfot (foot)). It passes through a mixture of weeds, big sage and blue bunch wheatgrass, like a river. A dry river. This is water:

This is the Columbia at White Bluffs, the great river of my grasslands, in the smoke from a grassland fire. It is what is known by the mouth, the throat and the lungs as a RRRRRR! A roar, a run, a river. It is known by them at the same time as an OOOOOO! A Strom (or stream), a roar, a flow. It is a flow, not a substance. This is water:

p1410222

It is known as blue bunch wheatgrass in the fall sun, waiting for the rains that it will gather and hold through a season, keeping them from leaving the land as vatn as long as they can. It is water doing that itself by climbing a ladder of carbon and hydrogen towards the sun. Look at it catch the sun. Look at it re-create it:

p1410388

Each drop of water is now a tiny earth called a seed. If one places, or plants, this seed, it will respond with a gesture of growth equal to the intention of the planting, whether that is done by the wind, a bird, a deer knocking through the grass, or the intention of a human hand. This is water. That’s the way it is here.

p1410396

That’s what you know if you live here.