Since it originally became very popular in 1992, it's pretty likely Daniel Quinn's book 'Ishmael' is old news to you. I'm sure I passed it by any number of times during my weekly sojourns to Powell's in Portland but one day last week when Crow was going through some documents he came across a picture taken of him and his old friend years ago. We talked about Ishmael's views regarding how humanity divided into two distinct groups about 10,000 years ago when agriculture first gained a foothold around the fertile crescent of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. The people who elected to stay in one place to farm the land Ishmael called Takers while the ones who preferred to continue their wandering ways he identified as Leavers.
Although his theory is valid, it's somewhat oversimplified for my taste and understanding about the general history of that period. It was just about 10,000 years ago that the last Ice Age ended quickly and produced a climate change significant enough to make food gathering much more difficult than it had previously been. The change to farming rather than following the herds while gathering what edibles could be found among the trees, grasses and tubers produced by nature was very difficult. Archeologists have determined from skeletal remains that the early generations born among the first farmers were noticeably smaller than their hunter-gatherer cousins. However, this soon changed and before long the farmer society formed divisions in its make-up we'd recognize today. Soon there were kings and standing armies to defend the land they had and grab as much more as they could defend. We can well understand that over the course of time the Leavers became more and more marginalized, until today when there aren't many left.
There's no doubt that the hardships endured by those early farmers has led to the benefits many of us take for granted today but the fact remains that our headlong rush toward continuing 'progress' has brought us to the brink of planetary climate disaster. The first Industrial Revolution began with the use of fossil fuels and since then we've discovered how to dig deeper for minerals, fish the oceans with larger nets, divert rivers with ever bigger dams and canals, appropriate more habitats of other species and cut down forests with more powerful land clearing equipment. One day last week Earth Overshoot day passed pretty much unnoticed but every year it happens a bit earlier that we exceed our annual use of the world's natural resources. It's the kind of debt the bank can't forgive even if was of a mind to do so.
because we are, in a very literal and deliberate way, at war with it.”
I see the Occupy Wall St. movement as another harbinger of a growing world-wide movement for a change in the way we live on Earth. It may not be articulated as such but people need something to work for rather than laboring to produce more and more useless stuff from dwindling supplies. Better to do nothing rather than dig one more oil well in deep water or pave one more wetland for a big box store full of goods most of us neither need nor can afford. Now that unemployment has reached massive proportions many of us are already learning to live with less than we thought we needed. Understanding that true wealth lies in a new era of progress without growth might be a smaller step than we realize. The Transition Movement is already gaining some ground in building healthy communities with thriving economies and healthy natural environments.
It's not my habit to write long posts and this one is already quite big enough so I'll end with a final favorite quote from Ishmael:
“If the world is saved, it will not be saved by old minds with new programs but by new minds with no programs at all.”
Yesterday I saw some people carrying an Occupy Halifax sign. ♡