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Messages - woozletracker

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


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.


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:

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:

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?


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...


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:


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':



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.


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

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!


Thanks for this, dubisaxel.

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:

[...] 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:

'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.

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 ;)

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 :)

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.

Music, Art & Creativity / Re: 'How I learned to improvise'
« on: February 15, 2009, 03:27:21 PM »
... pt.6, a kind of appendix discussing the social role of music/art in civilised and other societies, now up at:


I don't think I've got much more to add for the time being. Right then - as Pink Floyd asked: Is There Anybody Out There?? Any of your stories or opinions most welcome.


**READ HERE FIRST** / Re: Introductions
« on: January 27, 2009, 12:40:03 PM »
Thanks for the welcome, Willem & Rob, and thanks for the bushcraft link, Rob (again) - will definitely have to check that scene out and get my Ray Mears on  :)

I've had a hard time trying to find the long-promised 'like-minded people' in this country. I suppose it shouldn't come as a surprise that 'the most colonised nation in history' (so says Scots folk singer Dick Gaughan) contains so few people switched on to indigenous issues - it's been hundreds or thousands of years since the last of those living traditions went extinct or got absorbed into the dominator culture. Unlike in the US and elsewhere (any non english-speaking rewilders out there?) we don't have tribal neighbours or even written records of how they lived to keep this stuff in our heads and provide immediate examples to follow: all we have is the archaeological record and accounts from the fringe of our colonial expansion. I reckon the folks at the sleepy heart of Empire will face the rudest awakening of all when TSHTF. We have the most work to do to 'de-colonise our minds', so I guess that means there are plenty of places to start. Still I can understand disillusionment when faced with such a daunting task...

...which is why we need the rewilding movement to come over here! It'll be like the Beatles, only in reverse ;D

Links now up in the Music/Art/Creativity section. Eager to hear any thoughts.


Music, Art & Creativity / 'How I learned to improvise'
« on: January 23, 2009, 09:17:13 AM »
Okay, as I wrote in my introduction, I'm interested in talking about what it would mean to 'rewild music'. Giuli had a great post about this over at


which prompted me to think a little deeper on what I might have to offer in this area. Commenting there I recommended 'improvisational fluidity as a key to keeping things live in the short term and a-live in the long', so I thought the best thing might be to tell my own story, coming from institutionalised music and breaking out into other forms more reflective of my own immediate, ever-changing experience.

As per my usual habit, and especially because telling this story would involve a fair amount of conflict with taken-for-granted norms, I put this on the backburner until just recently when, like Giuli, I took Jeff Buckley as my catalyst and a whole load of it poured out almost by accident:


After that I decided to finally go into my own history (a little strange to have so little of this in a blog, I'll admit) and once I'd started I kept on thinking of new things to add. So here's what I've come up with so far:






And I'm currently working on a few more things for a pt.6. Happy reading!

I mailed the first few of these to some of my musician friends who I thought might appreciate the content. So far only one of them has got back to me with any related thoughts. I guess in a weird way this shows that my attempt has been successful (in thinking 'unthinkable thoughts' as Quinn puts it). Still, I'd like to discuss the ideas with some people not entirely hostile to their implications.

That's where you guys come in! How do we cut the puppet strings, kick the ventriloquist in the balls and learn to use our own voices to once again express our own personal experiences and truly reflect the changing situations of our minds, bodies and spirits?


**READ HERE FIRST** / Re: Introductions
« on: January 22, 2009, 09:58:47 AM »
Hello there

I've been lurking on these pages, learning from all the stories and benefitting from the brilliant observations contained therein for a while now, and finally figured the polite thing to do might be to say thanks and perhaps even (breaking the habit of a lifetime) pitch in and contribute  :o

So: Thanks! and:

My name is ... erm, people call me Ian.
I intermittently E-Prime.
I live in southern England and currently have a blog at:
(the name reflects my warped sense of humour).

You guys have more or less sold me on this rewilding lark over the last year-or-so since I chanced on Anthropik via Ran Prieur's blog. I've made my share of dandelion root tea, hawthorn fruit leather and rosehip jam since Summer/Autumn '08 and done various stints on the wwoof (dot org dot uk) scheme, which I plan to continue for the useful post-higher-education practice of 'getting out of my head', but my real interests for the moment lie, I suppose, in the more philosophical/intellectual aspects of the 're-indigenised' (with an 's'!) or re-indigenising perspective.

Having tiptoed around the issue for many years mostly through fear of psychological upset, I closed last year and so far have begun '09 by finally writing about what I know best - trying to make myself indispensable as Andre Gide (via Quinn) suggests - namely music and, in particular, singing. I guess you could say that I'm beginning to concern myself with the question of what it might mean to rewild music from its civilised (another 's'!!) forms. I'll put links to what I've come up with so far in the somewhat starved-looking 'Music, Art & Creativity' section, or you could just go to the above link and read from December 31st.

Really looking forward to some in-depth discussion, and hoping to make some connections with people who don't look at me like I'm insane, or react with stunned silence when I tell them what I really think :)


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