Sunday, August 16, 2015

on the wagon with Crow

Upton Sinclair said, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.” Most jobs in today's world depend on not understanding nature.

The lack of discussion of how to adapt to climate change is the great blank spot in current debate because most of the people having the discussions are still trying to use the threat of an ugly future to bully people into joining a movement. You have to love the simplicity of climate change movement when the rhetoric revolves around the measurement of the amount of CO2 ppm like a speed cop on the side of the road believing that all the ills/accidents are the result of 'speeding'. Just because it can be given a number of measure does not make it more important. Our destruction of the environment is far more critical to our long-term survival as we wipe out forests, over-fish, pollute drinking water, turn soil into a lifeless conglomeration, etc. The earth will go through ups and downs in term of temperature with or without us. She is not the one at risk, we are.

If there is one thing I've come to see, it's that environmentalism was a failed movement, and precisely because a truly serious environmentalism asks too much of a rethink of industrial civilization. I can only hope that natural systems are more resilient than we realize. Of course, in enough time it will all wash out anyway, as life adapts... but I hate to admit that everything will only get worse for a long time.

There is a trajectory to every type of technology and it will find its mark with certainty. We and future generations might as well blame that first human ancestor who left the trees. Or maybe it's these damned opposable thumbs that Crow talks about.


Lindsay Byrnes said...

Hi Susan
I love the depiction of the tranquil setting of the horse and buggy setting off on what I would imagine would be a very pleasant journey for all of those delightfully depicted characters. On the question of nature though don’t you thinks it’s maybe more a matter of humans understanding nature to the extent we gained ascendancy over her to further our advancement but often at the cost of nature’s habitat.
As you have alluded to in the last paragraph .... , from the time we first stood upright and began to explore, so our ascendancy over all other species became a realty

Jared Diamond contends that following the first human migration to the continents of North America, South Americas, and Australia near the end of the last Ice Age most of the big animals subsequently became extinct within a few centuries. In other words the new found human settlements wiped out nature’s biggest creatures almost overnight. Best wishes

Tom said...

As delightful a picture as ever you have drawn. Your attention to detail that is just so 'right' never ceases to trigger my admiration. I was interested in your thoughts about climate change and environmentalism. I would suggest the very obvious point that salary is not the only problem. Having worked in an industry that was at the forefront of climate changing activity, I was continually amazed at how people could stand up for health, safety and anti-pollution measures until it came to the practices required in the normal course of work. Then, all other considerations went out of the window.

But that is not the only problem by far. One only has to look at the denuded hills of parts of Greece, for example, to realise that less industrially advanced peoples were just as capable of destroying their habitat as modern mankind. The root problems appear, as usual, to be arrogant ignorance, greed and oddly enough, success. Some weeks ago you mentioned the writings of someone advocating a return to the practices of an earlier decade. I couldn't agree with that because backward thinking doesn't work. The problem there was that having developed successful and profitable ways of generating energy, there was - and is - no drive to move forward and research and develop better methods (define 'methods' as you will) to replace existing, successful technologies. On top of that, people are remarkably lazy and anti-change.

I agree that the real threat is not to the planet but to the life-forms that exist on it. When will we learn that our function is not to dominate nature, but to work with her as stewards? I fear I have only scratched the surface here, but eventually mankind will get its come-uppance if for no other reason than that we cannot and/or will not change. And in the grand order of things, maybe we were only meant to be a short-term, transient species, filling in until a wiser race supplants us.

marja-leena said...

Depressing, isn't it? Corporations rule.

Your delightful drawing cheers me, thanks again, Susan.

susan said...

Hi Lindsay
It seems to me the ascendency of humans over nature began with our ancestors living in fear of the major predators that occupied the territory. After gradually developing the means to protect themselves with fire, rocks and pointed sticks etc. they learned the value of cooperation and went on the offensive. I think a large number of people did eventually come to understand complementary aspects of nature, but there appears to be an element among us who always prefer the hunt. As Jared Diamond's book relates (and others besides) it's a huge and complicated subject for a small blog.

I'm very glad you like the drawing. My artistic activity has been very slow this summer.
Best wishes to you too

susan said...

Good to know :) I really like this one too, Tom.

I realize that as a species it's all too easy for us to become lazy and careless of the results of the activities we do undertake. It seems apparent humans aren't at all good at planning beyond our own brief lifetimes. Whatever circumstances are the norm when we arrive at adulthood are the ones we learn to endure. Once a little time has gone by nobody remembers the great forests of Europe or the wooly mammoth for that matter.

John Michael Greer, the Archdruid, has been writing about post peak oil issues for many years. Perhaps I could paraphrase his philosophy with this quote:

“Because a thing is going strong now, it need not go strong for ever,” [Margaret] said. “This craze for motion has only set in during the last hundred years. It may be followed by a civilization that won’t be a movement, because it will rest upon the earth.
- E. M. Forster, Howards End

susan said...

It's hard to avoid getting depressed, isn't it, Marja-Leena? Nevertheless, the world is a mystery still and very beautiful in all its aspects. I'm very happy to know you like the picture. Hopefully, when it's cooler, I'll make it a painting.

Sean Jeating said...

Ha, your drawing makes me smile, Susan. A fine little medicine.

Should Fish More said...

Hi Susan
Hmm, one of the more difficult one of your posts to which to reply. You represent somewhat of a conundrum to me, I sometimes don't agree with you, but I always agree with your intentions and sensibilities. Too bad we don't live closer than 3K miles to discuss over coffee.
Anyway, environmental movements as a failed effort. It was precisely because it was focused on the road ahead so broadly that it succeeded in buying us this valuable time. As you say, we have to adapt technologically and environmentally to survive, or thrive.

Should Fish More said...

Oh, and liked the hell out of the drawing.

Lindsay Byrnes said...

Hi Susan again
Growing in the country living on and in close proximity to farmers and aboriginals, it is my view it is not really possible to revert too much to sustainable past practices because the landscape is always changing. However we can still be much more in tune with nature and what has helped immensely down under is Landcare which is made up of thousands of small groups including many farmers scattered across the country who preserve linked corridors of bushland for nature which improves both wild life habitat and yields to make a big difference. The movement is now becoming International .
Best wishes

L'Adelaide said...

I left you a rather depressing comment here but google ate it. I do love your drawing and it recalls a long-ago time when things were simple and direct. Now it is an abysmal mess in my own opinion. That is rather hotly contested yet, of course I beleive I'm rarely wrong.

Just wanting to say hello and wishing you well. I am not online much anymore but will write soon. Sending love and hope that comment showed up somewhere here. We all know just how powerful hope is... ;)

okjimm said...

well, gosh darn it all and stuff!!! I am still an environmentalist.....I saw our polluted lake again have fish...and the eagles return to the river after long abscence. It all needs to happen...and primary is the dispensing of information. It cannot stop. We are a species in flux......and I totally intend to flux my arm and have another beer.

susan said...

Good to know, Sean :)

susan said...

I know what you mean about not being able to talk, Mike. It appears I wasn't the least bit clear when I stated that environmental movements were a failed effort without adding the explanation that the movement hasn’t won any "significant policy changes at the federal level in the United States since the 1980s" because funders have favored top-down elite strategies and have neglected to support a robust grassroots infrastructure. I'm fairly sure you'd agree greenwashing isn't grassroots environmentalism.

Delighted to know you like the picture.

susan said...

Hi Lindsay
Yes, Australia's Landcare program sounds very good indeed. I've read some articles about 'rewilding' large areas of land in North America. Some of these lands would be strictly preserved, such as wildernesses and national parks, but with much to take place in buffer zones, corridors between preserved areas, in ways that would make the human-occupied matrix more friendly to nature. So far as I know not much of this idea has gone beyond the conceptual stage. As you suggest, I think Europe is doing much better at implementing the objective.
All the best

susan said...

I wish google would stop doing that. It's good to know my little drawing cheered you up and I agree that things were once much simpler than they are now. Then again, a lot of stuff happened we didn't hear about either :)

Yeah, hope and five bucks will buy a cup of coffee

susan said...

Hi Jimm. Like I said to Mike earlier the problem isn't at all with environmentalism at particular places, but with the fact that most local organizations are starved for the money needed to take on the necessary work. I'm glad as all heck your eagles have returned and so have the fish.
Enjoy the beer and continued good company.

Lindsay Byrnes said...

Hi Susan again
Not much in the USA except in Southern Virginia Landcare is protecting the rural landscapes from the development spread from Washington, DC, introducing covenants + agricultural production. But the concept is apparently is spreading to other US States.
In Canada-land stewardship for public + private land, Ontario + Alberta (Clear Water Landcare in Alberta) + there are major heritage corridors bring created and catchment replanting programs, stabilizing riparian areas in catchments + support to farmers and improving stream water quality.
Most farmers (excluding the big factory farms) aim to preserve the land for future operations, but it requires ongoing learning and an open mind to try new things. Ironically it would seem the less we use of the land the better the overall yields so that Land care makes more sense from both an environmental and also in a commercial sense. It also doesn't need much money - anyone can form a Landcare group and use the facilities / knowledge of the group.
Best wishes

susan said...

Hi again Lindsay
I'm very glad to know there's more going on to preserve wildlands than I could see by checking on 'rewilding' issues. The Landcare movement is indeed wonderful and I do appreciate yo taking the time to send me the link.
All the very best

troutbirder said...

Somehow we have to transfer our conquer or die syndrome about nature to saving it. In our rural county the last sloughs & wetlands have been tiled, fence rows removed & family farms substituted for by distant impersonal corporate machines . Yes there is plenty of reason to be pessimistic....

susan said...

I know, TB. It's difficult not to give in to pessimism.

clairesgarden said...

i love this picture! I learned to drive horse and cart when I was about 10. I was so lucky to have met the people who allowed me to learn from their horses, I was also taught how to spit properly by their gardener.. life skills.

susan said...

I'm so happy you like it, Claire, and that it reminded you of something I've never had a chance to do myself. Including being taught to spit properly :)