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Messages - woozletracker

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1
Common Misconceptions / Re: Agriculture: villain or boon companion?
« on: September 22, 2014, 10:12:12 AM »
Found this: http://www.hilltribe.org/karen/karen-vocation.php

Quote
Traditionally, most Karen work as farmers--a profession that allows them to be indepedent and free. Liviing in the mountains and forests, they plant according to the seasons and the soil conditions of the area. Traditionally, the food they produce has been for personal consumption, not for sale to others. This holds true for raising animals. Chickens, pigs, etc. would be consumed by the family raising them, or amongst friends and relatives in the village.

However:

Quote
The ancient profession of farming amongst the Karen has begun to change, keeping in step with major changes in technology and market forces. The Karen no longer farm simply for self-sufficiency, but have now become commercial farmers, attempting to produce as much as possible for shipment to the market. In order to accomplish this, they have had to start using greater and greater amounts of land and use modern technologies to replace more traditional ways. In the past, for example, water buffaloes were used to plow the fields. Now, modern gas-powered machines have replaced them. These changes have caused Karen farmers to begin competing both against the clock and against each other, each farmer trying to produce the greatest yield possible.

Though it sounds like they're talking about the lowland farmers here (apparently there are lots of Karen spread through Burma and Thailand - wiki), those who had already converted to flooding rice paddies and re-using the same piece of land. Other depressingly familiar changes include movement from gift economy to cash and wage labour and the embracing of tourism. But the previous article suggests it's more 'traditional' up in the hills. Or at least it was back in 2004... There was this ominous bit:

Quote
However, currently, the level of economic development is increasing in the communities, and the introduction into highland areas of many new plant species which require increasingly frequent use of the land, cause soil disruption, and require the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides will result in more intense use of the land. The long-term, permanent use of the land, as opposed to the rotational cultivation system, will cause the death of the land and invasion by plant pests.

Culture erosion = soil erosion and vice versa. It's happening everywhere  :(  >:(

2
Common Misconceptions / Re: Agriculture: villain or boon companion?
« on: September 21, 2014, 03:34:35 AM »
To me, agriculture is a tool of horticulturalists, so in that was is "sustainable", in that they don't solely rely on it. To me, most of the cultures Vera mentions, and even the Karen appear to be horticulturalists. I may be mistaken but I really do think it's important to make the distinctions. Perhaps its a particular kind of agriculture that is more unsustainable, like plowing fields instead of burning, etc?


Yes, it felt strange to think of the Karen as horticulturalists, being predominantly rice farmers (for some reason I picture horticulturalists more as veg and root-crop growers)  but they fit the definition... It didn't occur to me that you could farm grains as part of a rotational system, rather than insisting on their continued cultivation on the same piece of land year after year. On the sustainability question, the main claim in the article related to soil erosion:

Quote
The results of research conducted by Chanpen Chutima Teewin of the impacts of the Karen people's rice cultivation method on soil surface showed that the rotational farming system of the Karen currently causes soil erosion below the accepted standard level (0.2 tonnes/rai/year). The study stated that the rice cultivation method of the Karen and Lua peoples uses the land in a manner which does not cause soil erosion, and that this was achieved by growing plants that do not disturb the soil, by digging holes to plant seeds, and by growing a variety of plants, such as fertilizing plants and ground-cover plants. This cultivation method is effective in lowering and preventing soil erosion in highland areas. Chanpen's study states that of ten areas studied, six areas had soil erosion that did not exceed the accepted standard, and four areas had very little soil erosion.


I suppose 0.2 tonnes/rai/year still represents some soil erosion, even at a small rate, but probably the other plant communities that come in during the fallow years build up the soil to compensate, so the overall effect might be to build topsoil rather than strip it away totally. Impressive for hill farming! By contrast the 'type 4' rice farming of 'Long cultivation-very long fallow or abandonment' seems to support clicketyclack's point about sedentary vs. nomadic people:



Quote
With the exception of the fourth type, the practice of these farming models require the farmers to establish permanent settlements.


Makes sense really - if your food-growing system depletes the soil beyond repair you have to move on once it's exhausted. Agriculturalists as the true nomads, who'd-a thought it!

how does this fit in with the fire used in a place like the pacific northwest's oak/camas prairies?


Interesting question - fire is obviously also a source of 'catastrophe'. The only major differences I can think of at the moment are that, unlike plough cultivation, fire doesn't disturb the soil in the same way (perhaps the microbial/fungal life would survive a light burn? - I don't know), and it doesn't totally reset the ecological clock because the big trees are left (in the oak system at least).

Will check out that new ag stuff in a bit. Looks v. interesting at first glance!

cheers,
I

3
Common Misconceptions / Re: Agriculture: villain or boon companion?
« on: September 18, 2014, 01:46:52 PM »
How about swidden, aka slash and burn cultivation? Still a field (ager) of sorts, but there's a rotation system in place to allow high forest to make a comeback. It doesn't even have to be grains (see: manioc) and there's plenty of 'unofficial' crops to make use of while the area goes through the various fallow stages back to the climax ecosystem. Funnily enough Vera recently sent me an in-depth piece about the Karen people - rice farmers in the Thai highlands which might be of interest:

http://www9.ocn.ne.jp/~aslan/karen/karenpmp.htm

There's some antagonism evident in their social rituals, many of which are about encouraging the rice plants and warding off incursions from wildlife or disease, but still they have strong animist perceptions and a great sensitivity to the ethics of their actions within the wider living community:

Quote
After the New Year is celebrated, the village chief begins to survey forest fallow for dry (upland) rice farming. All the villagers follow his lead and survey their new farm lands. There are many taboos regarding the choosing of forest fallow for cultivation. For example, people will not cultivate forest fallow that has caught fire, fallow that produces wild bananas, forest in mountain passes, forest in watershed areas (described as places where green frogs incubate their eggs, and so on). While surveying, fallow will not be chosen if the person hears deer barking, a "s'pgauz" bird singing, or sees a snake crossing the path. Moreover, in the night following the survey of the fallow, it is considered a sign of bad luck to dream about forest fire or the breaking of machetes that are used to cut down trees. In contrast, dreaming about elephants or about flooding is a good sign that means the surveyed fallow land should be cultivated. The Karen have many taboos regarding the selection of forest fallow for farming because they want to choose the best fallow, and also minimize impacts on the forest and the wild life.


It reminds me of Jason's way of defining horticulture as a system that involves, at some point, moving away from the 'ground zero' of annual tillage and allowing succession to take place, even if this is limited or managed. Some kind of fallow, basically. The Karen make use of hundreds of plants and animals who move into their zones of cultivation, for food, medicine, building materials, clothing etc. As such, an appreciation of these other beings is built into their subsistence practice (and therefore into cultural practices and spiritual awareness). If they were to concentrate on rice full-time, all of that would go out the window and they would begin to view most wildlife with the extreme suspicion and hostility that's so common among western farmers.

4
Visions of the Rewilding Renaissance / Re: Feral
« on: September 11, 2014, 01:42:52 PM »
Thanks Peter,

Well he does talk about them as part of the ecosystem, just in a totally negative way. It's funny, all his talk of trophic cascades among other species detail what wonderful, beneficial relationships they are, but apparently humans are only capable of setting off negative chains of events. For example these couple of footnotes tagged on to the Theseus/Hercules quote:

Quote
William Ripple and Blaire Van Valkenburgh caution that the populations of large herbivores are likely to have been low, as they were suppressed by predators and subject to trophic cascades, This could have made it easy for humans to have driven them to extinction.

Again, it is worth bearing the alternative hypothesis in mind: that the herbivores could have been tipped into extinction easily, as their numbers were low. If people deprived other predators of their largest prey, those predators would have been forced to kill smaller animals (as wolves in Alaska do when hunters have reduced the moose population). This might have created a powerful knock-on effect, as extinction cascaded down the food chain.

Yes George, that's the only alternative hypothesis...

Fwiw I wouldn't deny that early human migrants may have had a destructive impact on the ecology, but surely that's only half of the story - until the invasive species becomes native. It seems like Australia would be an interesting case study for that. The use of fire by the first migrants may have thrown a lot of things out of whack, but it looks like the ecology adapted pretty rapidly to the aboriginal 'firestick farming', to the point where discontinuation had the same catastrophic results as in the US. Further study needed!

Quote
His ideas are not really that radical in my mind

No, not hugely I guess. I think it's valuable that he's managed to get this line of thinking into the mainstream though. Scrapping the Higher Level Stewardship (his main political proposal to end the insane practice of paying farmers to stop any kind of self-willed regeneration, even when they're not getting a crop from the land) would be a result, I think, if it rescued some stretches of UK upland from the endless flocks of sheep and brought back some of the trees. Baby steps...

Could you point me to some stuff on the NA megafauna please? Most of the stuff I've read is all-too eager to jump on the ecocidal interpretation. Funny how that happens.

cheers,
I

5
Visions of the Rewilding Renaissance / Feral
« on: September 10, 2014, 01:13:05 PM »
I recently finished George Monbiot's book, Feral and was interested to hear peoples' reactions here, if anybody else had read it or GM's other writing on the topic.

Overall I really enjoyed reading the book. There's lots of useful info about the state of the ecology in the British Isles before the industrial revolution and other depredations of the civilised culture. I especially appreciated the focus on sea and river life, which hasn't really figured in my own foraging adventures thus far because I'm miles away from the sea and, well, I wouldn't be comfortable eating anything from our inland waterways without first doing major research into the local toxicity issues. Amazing to consider that the North Sea would have been a different colour before the first trawlers killed off the massive populations of oysters and other filter feeders on the seabed. Also the rivers only being brown because of soil erosion due to agriculture and livestock farming...

The stuff on sheep and the uplands really struck a chord with me too. They do quite clearly act as a boot on the neck of the non-human (non-domesticated) world by favouring the growth of grass, which gets nibbled to the ground leaving a habitat of minimal worth. However he provides a long discussion with an educated Welsh sheep farmer which gets into the perennial problem of nature conservation - hands-off observation only, or human engagement via direct subsistence. I actually sympathised more with the farmer, because it seems more important to have that direct connection to the land (even if in an exploitative capacity?) than to only benefit from it indirectly through eco-tourism or other alienated relationships, which seems to be as far as Monbiot's imagination stretches (he talks about wolves and beavers in Yellowstone Park and their various beneficial effects through trophic cascades, but he never mentions the indigenous people of that region - what effects they had, and should we consider reintroducing wild humans too??)

For me the main drawbacks were his refusal to take seriously the anarcho-primitivist view of rewilding, on the grounds that Mesolithic Britain only played host to a few thousand h/gers and the old trope that  a return to that kind of lifestyle would hence require a genocide of most of the current population, and his uncritical acceptance of the overkill theory, based on recent research which seems very far from conclusive. His depiction of Pleistocene h/gers at times made me laugh out loud:

Quote
Had the Mesolithic people of the Americas eaten everything they killed , they would scarcely have trimmed the herds of game, so small were their numbers. One ground sloth could have fed a clan of hunters for months. The speed with which the megafauna of the Americas collapsed might suggest that they slaughtered everything they encountered. Among those who broke into the New World, anyone could be a Theseus or a Hercules: slaying improbable monsters, laying up a stock of epic tales to pass to their descendants. [...] Perhaps the care with which some indigenous people of the Americas engage with the natural world came later. (p.138)


The last sentence to me indicates that he knows he's on dangerous ground. There's no footnote, and he doesn't discuss modern h/gers or anthropological studies anywhere in the book, or in any of his other work that I've seen, for that matter. He speaks generously and evocatively about Mesolithic beachcombers and talks about time spent with Masai herders, but as soon as he gets back to the Pleistocene the depiction of Homo Sapiens is of an ecocidal maniac every bit as callous and mindless as modern poachers and the capitalists that support them. I find this view troubling and implicitly racist, as I attempted to explore in this blogpost reacting to an especially terrible article of his on the megafauna issue.

Also lacking is an in-depth understanding of civilisation and the agriculture that underpins it, as made clear by this quote:

Quote
While some primitivists see a conflict between the civilised and the wild, the rewilding I envisage has nothing to do with shedding civilisation. We can, I believe, enjoy the benefits of advanced technology while also enjoying, if we choose, a life richer in adventure and surprise. Rewilding is not about abandoning civilisation but about enhancing it. It is to 'love not man the less, but Nature more'. (p.10)


He doesn't seem to view human rewilding as a serious attempt to reorganise the human methods of subsistence, but more as a kind of weekend activity to relieve city-workers of their 'ecological boredom'. As such, while the rewilding he advocates may bring many benefits to nonhuman life, the core problem remains unsolved and the day job (facilitating the destruction of nonhuman and human communities in other parts of the world) will always take precedence.

Anyway... I'd be interested to hear your thoughts! What about this herbivore-led rewilding that's gained ground thanks to Franz Vera and the Rewilding Europe crowd? Some potential or another dead end? (Related reading: http://www.self-willed-land.org.uk/articles/what_rewilding.htm )

Good to see the forums back in action!

cheers,
Ian

6
Visions of the Rewilding Renaissance / Re: Tent cities etc.
« on: May 22, 2012, 05:08:58 AM »
try


or


or others following a search for 'bbc panorama america poverty'

Also dug up this old relevant conversation with a quote from heyvictor that chastened me somewhat:

'I've been a homeless person.  Maybe ya'll should consider the idea that they have some things to teach you.'

Yeah, the BBC stinks, routinely siding with the powerful against the powerless like all the major corporate media outlets (see: Media Lens). Thought this program was illuminating though, for lack of a better alternative.

cheers,
I

7
Visions of the Rewilding Renaissance / Tent cities etc.
« on: February 15, 2012, 08:08:36 AM »
The BBC ran an interesting program the other night: 'America's homeless resort to tent cities'. If the iplayer doesn't work for you, you can watch the half hour segment
on youtube
. Here's the synopsis:

Quote
America's homeless resort to tent cities

Panorama's Hilary Andersson comes face to face with the reality of poverty in America and finds that, for some, the last resort has become life in a tented encampment.

Just off the side of a motorway on the fringes of the picturesque town of Ann Arbor, Michigan, a mismatched collection of 30 tents tucked in the woods has become home - home to those who are either unemployed, or whose wages are so low that they can no longer afford to pay rent.

Conditions are unhygienic. There are no toilets and electricity is only available in the one communal tent where the campers huddle around a wood stove for warmth in the heart of winter.

Ice weighs down the roofs of tents, and rain regularly drips onto the sleeping campers' faces.

Tent cities have sprung up in and around at least 55 American cities - they represent the bleak reality of America's poverty crisis.

Black mould

According to census data, 47 million Americans now live below the poverty line - the most in half a century - fuelled by several years of high unemployment.

One of the largest tented camps is in Florida and is now home to around 300 people. Others have sprung up in New Jersey and Portland.

In the Ann Arbor camp, Alana Gehringer, 23, has had a hacking cough for the last four months.

"The black mould - it was on our pillows, it was on our blankets, we were literally rubbing our faces in it sleeping every night," she said of wintering in a tent.

The camp is run by the residents themselves, with the help of a local charity group. Calls have come in from the hospital emergency room, the local police and the local homeless shelter to see if they can send in more.

"Last night, for example, we got a call saying they had six that couldn't make it into the shelter and... they were hoping that we could place them... So we usually get calls, around nine or 10 a night," said Brian Durance, a camp organiser.

Michigan's Republican-controlled state government has been locked into a programme of severe budget cuts in an attempt to balance its books.

The cuts have included benefits for many of the state's poorest residents.

Between the cuts and the economic conditions pinching, there is increased pressure on homeless shelters.

Michigan's Lieutenant Governor, Brian Calley, was asked about the reality of public agencies in his state suggesting the homeless live in tents.

"That is absolutely not acceptable, and we have to take steps and policies in order to make sure that those people have the skills they need to be independent, and it won't happen overnight," he said.

Depression-type poverty

There are an estimated 5,000 people living in the dozens of camps that have sprung up across America.

The largest camp, Pinella's Hope in central Florida - a region better known for the glamour of Disneyworld - is made up of neat rows of tents spread out across a 13-acre plot.

The Catholic charity that runs it has made laundry available, as well as computers and phones.

Many of the camps are organised and hold regular meetings to divide up camp chores and agree on community rules. They have become semi-permanent homes for some residents, who see little prospect of getting jobs soon.

These tent cities - and this level of poverty - are images that many Americans associate with the Great Depression.

Unemployment in America today has not reached the astronomical levels of the 1930s, but barring a short spike in 1982, it has not been this high since the Depression era.

There are now 13 million unemployed Americans, which is three million more than when President Barack Obama was first elected.

The stark reality is that many of them are people who very recently lived comfortable middle-class lives.

For them, the economic downturn came too fast and many have been forced to trade their middle-class homes for lives in shelters, motels and at the far extreme, tented encampments.


Naturally the presenter's reaction was one of horror and disgust at the 'extreme', 'last resort' living conditions, with the implied solution of re-metabolising them as quickly as possible into the supposed normality of work and rent-slavery on the bottom rung of society - what Lieutenant Governor, Brian Calley presumably means by '[taking] steps and policies in order to make sure that those people have the skills they need to be independent'.

What I saw, however, was potential. I also saw where these skills I've been learning over the years (wild food foraging, herbalism, bushcraft etc.) most urgently need to go. Why not, instead of leading these people back into total dependence on the parasitic capitalist economy, teach them some true independence skills? How hard can it be to find a solution for black mould, coughs, or icy tarpaulins? There are so many simple, low-tech methods of healing, the knowledge of which could be spread about by word-of-mouth at practically no cost to immeasurably improve the over all quality of these peoples' lives without indebting them to industrial medicine. I know quite a few people in the UK who live comfortably in similar conditions throughout the year. Through choice!

As DQ suggested so heretically in Beyond Civilization, why not help the homeless succeed at being homeless? I don't see why, given half a chance, tent cities couldn't evolve to provide viable - indeed, preferable - longterm solutions for the urban poor. The one shown on the program didn't look that bad to me! Admittedly some might be worse with crime & drug problems (as pointed out by several redditors) but, as the Occupy people have been finding out, this could be seen as just another challenge to cope with & find autonomous solutions to.

As for the stereotypical pictures of a run-down quasi post-apocalyptic Detroit, depicted as the worst-of-all-possible-worlds by the BBC, I note Ran Prieur's Feb.13 comments as a counter-balance:

Quote
The permanent solution is to build alternate economies which have negative feedback, not positive feedback, in the concentration of wealth. [...] To join these new economies, people first have to get out from under the control of the old economy. Basically that means we have to get food and shelter without money. This brings us to a third, lower-profile effective political movement, which is mostly fighting at the local level: occupying vacant properties, changing laws to legalize the occupation of vacant properties, and changing laws to expand urban farming rights.

My present hosts are at the leading edge of this movement in Buffalo, which has the same opportunities that more famously exist in Detroit. They bought this house from the city for a dollar, on the condition that they bring it up to code. Yesterday they showed me an acre of contiguous lots where they're planning to make a farm, across the street from a brick building that they got in exchange for doing a few weeks of work for the owner. They've ordered 23 chickens, and Buffalo has a new lengthy and restrictive chicken ordinance, but the city is on the defensive. I'm curious to see how far we can roll these laws back, if we keep pushing.


More potential!

Anyway, for me this goes to show the importance of keeping knowledge colloquial and, as far as possible, making the effort to send it down the hierarchy to benefit those who could make best use of it in their immediate situations. Seems to me that too many wild foodies attempt to put a hefty price on their knowledge in an attempt to sell it to the high bidders in restaurants and the upper-class city folk with a transient interest. Not to say that folks shouldn't try to make a living from this stuff, necessarily. Just that they should also consider making the knowledge cheaply/freely-available to the underpriviledged who have the greatest need.

Anybody have experiences of tent cities or homeless living combined with rewilding?

cheers,
Ian

8
Common Misconceptions / Re: Agriculture: villain or boon companion?
« on: November 21, 2011, 04:25:58 AM »
And yes, I'm also kind of bummed that vera isn't in the conversation or the forum now, but I personally don't have patience for people unwilling to engage in honest conversation.  That sort of passive aggression, which I think Peter rightly identified, isn't the kind of communication we should encourage and practice both here and in our emerging cultures.


Well, having followed her blog for a while, I think throwing out those provocative lines is her way of attempting to 'engage in honest conversation'. Admittedly it doesn't always make for a totally pleasant discussion, but I've found it helps me to tighten up my own thinking in the long run. Maybe that's just me though... I agree with the general point about the health and well-being of the group taking precedence over the needs of individuals -- the tribe feeds everyone after all. As long as it doesn't devolve to the point where none of the members get their needs met (as in the current culture), only keeping the thing going through endless self-sacrifice...

Also, I see how this gets into a Jensen-style discussion of defensive rights outweighing offensive rights: what if the 'need' of one person's self-expression comes at the expense of another person's feelings? Yesterday our local conservation volunteer group played host to a man with some v. irritating, borderline antisocial habits. Opinion varies on whether there's something 'wrong' with him in a medical or psychological sense, but he talks incessantly over everyone, listens poorly, imposes the topics he wants to talk about on every conversation, fails to respond to sometimes quite obvious negative body language in his listeners, and only seems to shut up after you've ignored or not responded to him for about five minutes. My experimental approach of listening and attempting to engage with him on his terms only resulted in my 'taking one for the team' as others took the opportunity to escape, while he went further & ever-more intensely down the rabbit hole of his own preoccupations and I slowly lost the will to live. Eventually I gave up and followed the others' example of shutting down until he got bored and found somebody else to talk to. Not a very satisfying outcome from an NVC perspective, but I at least realised that my self-preservation came first!

Anyway, I guess that's for a different topic. I'll stop twisting and turning ('
like a twisty turny thing
') now...

I

9
Flora Food & Medicine / Re: Uses for Acorns
« on: November 19, 2011, 05:51:53 AM »
I've been making pan-fried bread out of the acorn flour I've made from Q. Robur here in England. The recipe is based on a 'Hard Times' practice by American pioneers when wheat flour got too expensive. I've re-christened it 'Good Times Bread' - see here:

http://ondisturbedground.wordpress.com/2011/11/17/acorns-good-times-bread/

I also did a bunch of e-research recently on acorn eating, or 'Balanophagy', which may be of interest - I was trying to build a picture of their use in Europe in historic & pre-historic times and suggesting a way forward (or backward) away from agriculture and towards 'Balanoculture':

http://ondisturbedground.wordpress.com/2011/11/04/balanophagy-for-beginners/

cheers,
Ian

10
Common Misconceptions / Re: Agriculture: villain or boon companion?
« on: November 19, 2011, 04:51:57 AM »
I'd just like to say I was sorry to see vera booted from the forums as I feel she has some important things to contribute (even if you have to get past an initial 'spikiness') and I was getting a lot out of this particular discussion which she prompted. I understand this isn't the only place on the internet to host that discussion and respect the 'my house, my rules' approach taken here. I also agree that Peter's summation, 'It's clear you're not interested in engaging the community here, on our terms' does seem fair, judging from vera's posts so far. I don't know... I guess I would request that she be allowed to continue posting to this topic if she apologises for the 'close their eyes' comment and agrees to reign in her 'combative' streak. I don't know if I'm entitled to make that request or not, but there it is.

To me this feels like a very pertinent conversation to be having right now and excluding differing points of view seems to lead to an unnecessary handicap.

cheers,
Ian

11
Related reading: classic Quinn Q&A from way back in 1997 (I feel old...):

Quote
The Question (ID Number 21)...

Ishmael portrays Man as living at peace with the world during the millions of years that preceded our agricultural revolution, but hasn't recent evidence revealed that ancient foragers hunted many species to extinction?

...and the response:

To say that Man lived at peace with the world doesn't mean he walked the earth like a Buddha. It means he lived as harmlessly as a hyena or a shark or a rattlesnake. Whenever a new species makes its appearance in the world, adjustments occur throughout the community of life­­­and some of these adjustments are fatal for some species. For example, when the swift, powerful hunters of the cat family appeared late in the Eocene, the repercussions of this event were experienced throughout the community ­­­ sometimes as extinction. Species of "easy prey" became extinct because they couldn't reproduce fast enough to replace the individuals the cats were taking. Some of the cats' competitors also became extinct, for the simple reason that they COULDN'T compete ­ they just weren't big enough or fast enough. This appearance and disappearance of species is precisely what evolution is all about, after all.

Human hunters of the Mesolithic period may well have hunted the mammoth to extinction, but they certainly didn't do this as a matter of policy, the way farmers of our culture hunt coyotes and wolves, simply to get rid of them. Mesolithic hunters may well have hunted the giant elk to extinction, but they certainly didn't do this out of callous indifference, the way ivory hunters slaughter elephants. Ivory hunters know full well that every kill brings the species closer to extinction, but Mesolithic hunters couldn't possibly have guessed such a thing about the giant elk. The point to keep in mind is this: It is the POLICY of totalitarian agriculture to exterminate unwanted species. If ancient foragers hunted any species to extinction, it certainly wasn't because they wanted to exterminate their own food supply!


Great to see the forums back!

Ian

12
Thanks for this, dubisaxel.

Quote
The Oostvaardersplassen not only challenges this assumption [about succession leading to forest], it proves it wrong.  When our ancestors tamed and corralled mammals such as cattle and horses and killed off larger ones, such as the mammoth that meant that, sure enough, where man did not intervene then forest took over.  So succession is more or less a result of human intervention.

I'd be interested to hear peoples' views on this. The end assertion seems contentious to me. In fact it doesn't make much sense - why single humans out? Surely succession happens because of the 'intervention' of all species of plants and animals, each trying to make their own living (and subsequently shaping the environment) in their own way. Also we have the usual problem of whether this accurately portrays the actions of capital-H-Humanity or simply of early domesticated Europeans - 'tamed and corralled mammals' not playing a role in the universal Human experience and all that...

I'm interested by the viewing of human populations as invasive species, gradually coming to terms with a new environment. I've been reading Heinberg's The Party's Over where he gives a crash-course in ecology, mentioning how the use of fire by the first people in Australia supposedly 'so disrupted the normal growth cycles of shrubs and trees that large indigenous birds and mammals [...] were deprived of food. [...] roughly 85 percent of the Australian animals weighing more than 100 pounds disappeared within a few millennia of the first human appearance on the scene.' (his source: 'Associated Press, 8 January 1999') However:

Quote
[...] over a period of tens of thousands of years, human beings and their adopted environment achieved a relative balance. The Aboriginals developed myths, rites and taboos: overhunting was forbidden, and burning was permitted only in certain seasons of the year. Meanwhile, native species adjusted themselves to the presence of humans. All of the surviving species -- humans, animals, and plants -- co-evolved. By the time European colonizers arrived, once again upsetting the balance, Australia -- people and all -- had the characteristics of a climax ecosystem. Many native Australian trees and shrubs had so adjusted themselves to the Aboriginals' "fire-farming" practices that they could no longer reproduce properly in the absence of deliberate burning. (pp.22-3)

'once again upsetting the balance' implies an equivalence between early Aboriginals and Europeans both engaged in a 'takeover' strategy (as articulated by William Catton) which I'm not entirely comfortable with, but nevertheless the important point seems to be that Aboriginal Australians found a way to 'manage' forests without destroying them - in fact coming to play an integral, indispensable role in the ecological community, which they shaped according to their needs.

Roger Deakin talks about this in his book, Wildwood:

Quote
'Firestick farming' describes the way Aboriginal people manipulated and changed their environment on a massive scale through the use of fire. But they never farmed in the conventional sense. The Neolithic passed them by. They used fire to keep their hunting grounds open and freshly grassed by frequent, light burning on the open plains, creating open wood pasture of widely spaced trees though which they could move easily, denying the cover of under-brush to their quarry. The early settlers were all struck by the resemblance of this lightly wooded landscape to English parkland. (p.264)

The last bit made me wonder if there was some kind of deep memory of "What a forest is supposed to look like" behind the parkland ideals. I remember reading somewhere about archaeological evidence for similar uses of fire in pre-agricultural Britain...

Anyway, the 'Ark In Space' author notes that 'people think of dense forestation when they think of wildness'. I would go on to say that 'wilderness', in the minds of those who pit their lives against it (or rather, their ideas about it), also implies an absence of human beings. The first commenter writes about the lack of predatory species in the Oostvaardersplassen as an impediment to its longterm viability, but somehow I don't think he sees humans on that list.

I think this set-aside, preservation, look-but-don't-touch approach is doomed to failure. We need to engage & relate to the rest of the community if we are to find a way to live on this planet - as inlaws rather than outlaws.

13
Rewilding Mind & Heart / Re: Sámi take on rewilding!
« on: March 27, 2009, 02:21:29 PM »
Thanks for sharing. I really like her songs.

I would be really interested in the results of your research about the Sami people and their culture.

I'll second that, and will maybe have to look deeper into the tradition myself. Especially liked the way she pounded that drum with eyes glinting defiance - a simple but powerful act of resistance.

I think it was fairly standard practice for the Christians to associate all the ancient European gods and customs with faceless 'devils', thus erasing cultural heritages and preparing the ground for their invasive seed and the new conquering heroes. So if any bridges back to the old ways still exist, I reckon we can probably take any indication of 'devilry' as a sign we're on the right track ;)

14
Common Misconceptions / Re: Are we Arks?
« on: March 18, 2009, 03:33:48 PM »
Humans actually represent the only species to ever have CAUSED a mass extinction event, equal to a massive meteor impact.  So the evidence would, if anything, point to the exact opposite (although I really don't think Gaia would create a species for the express purpose of causing mass extinctions. ;))


Ahem (::polite cough:: ) - how 'bout blue-green algae? They were responsible for a little thing that some people call 'The Oxygen Holocaust'. Perhaps their anaerobic cousins cursed them as the malignant cancer of the day, as they choked to death in the ancestral broth?

I think there's a danger in phrases like 'our species rebellion against nature'. Well, just with the word 'nature' itself really. Like Quinn says, it's a word practically guaranteed to turn whatever you're trying to say into complete nonsense. Were the blue-green algae, as mutant sulphur bacteria, rebelling against their nature, or 'Nature' itself? I think they just did what they did best like any other bacterium would, assuming their neighbours would adjust their strategies accordingly.

Having said that I think there's a difference between the two phenomena. The algae caused a dramatic loss in biodiversity (over hundreds of millions of years), but this eventually provided the springboard for a massive explosion of new possibilities, including multi-cellular life as we know it - a Gaian gearshift if you will ;) Perhaps new species will evolve to make the most of the excess CO2 and methane in the atmosphere or the plastic in the oceans, but it seems fairly clear that civilisation is not playing by the same rules and does not have this as part of its 'plan'. It doesn't 'want' new species to evolve; it doesn't 'want' any species to evolve and it's doing its damnedest to assure this outcome. If anything, civilised man's rebellion has been against evolution.

... but I like the ark idea though :)

15
Common Misconceptions / Re: "The law of accelerating returns"
« on: March 10, 2009, 04:08:28 PM »
I read "The Age Of Spiritual Machines" a few years ago. If I remember right, there is ALOT of money (from powerful institutions and corporations and individuals) going into that kind of research and experiments.


Wow, what an insane waste of money! The way I see it, these people are playing the role of modern-day Easter Island chiefs, whipping everybody up into a frenzy to cut down all the trees and quarry all the stone just to build a load of pointless statues in their glory. (Here's a Jared Diamond article: http://www.hartford-hwp.com/archives/24/042.html)

I think acting in concert with the Earth's immune system will also require us to act out a kind of auto-immune reaction within the civilised culture itself, by tearing down and defacing its treasured monuments; pulling apart its tissues disgustedly from within or turning them to entirely different uses (metamorphosis anyone? Here's a little self-promotion of something I wrote on the subject a while ago: http://ruggedindoorsman.wordpress.com/2008/09/12/autoimmunity-light-on-black-thoughts/).

What to do with the products of bullshit research like this though? What of the sickly fruits from the billions and trillions put into projects like 'Star Wars' and 'Son of Star Wars' that don't even work? What possible use will we be able to make of an aircraft carrier or a trident missile? For that matter, what purpose do these things serve even now?

When their society collapsed, the Easter Islanders toppled all of the statues they'd spent so much effort over, as if finally rejecting everything of their previous identities. And when the tourist industry finally came to their devastated island, it performed the most perfect symbolic action: it started to put them back up. I think we're going to have some awesome bonfires in the years to come, burning up all this useless junk along with the mindset that made their construction conceivable in the first place. Perhaps it'd be a good idea to leave a few charred, toppled monuments scattered around the landscape to remind future generations of the ruinous path their ancestors once trod.

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