Putting it all together or taking it all apart?

jigsaw-puzzle

On one of my other websites, The Way of Nature, I’ve described many of the elements of an ecosophy that seeks to balance human activity with the natural world. These are philosophies and practices that I find attractive when thinking about the horrible mess this human world has created at the expense of the broader biosphere.

Don’t misunderstand me, I don’t see any way for the current dominant human way of life to continue much longer. There just aren’t enough resources on this the only planet we can inhabit to support 7+ billion human beings without destroying the habitats of the eleventy bazillion other inhabitants, including our own. The human world is caught up in social systems and philosophies antithetical to living in harmony with all other life. There is no sign at present of any serious movement to change to alternative lifestyles that offer any prospect for continuing into the foreseeable future.

Visualize Civilizational Collapse

A combination of environmental, social and economic collapse seems inevitable, most likely within the lifetime of those living today. A civilization (sic) based on unlimited growth coupled with exponentially increasing consumption of finite resources will inevitably expire in a much deserved collapse, just as previous civilizations and empires suffered the same ignominious end.

If there is such a thing as natural laws, this must be one of them. Any species that eats itself out of house and home will drag itself down the evolutionary porcelain parkway with alacrity. Rabbits do it. Caribou do it. Even plants do it.

The difference is that, unlike humans, non-human animals and plants have natural predators that keep their numbers in check, and that, providentially, strengthen the prey species by eliminating the halt and the weak and the diseased. But hubristic humans insist that “every sperm is sacred” and no individual shall be allowed to die without massive medical intervention to keep them alive and breeding… for a price.

So it seems truly well and good that human civilization should take its place in the good old dustbin of history and make way for what is to come afterwards.

What comes after Civilization?

It’s seems most likely that once human civilization has had its way with this planet, and descended into the abyss of evolutionary despair, there will be insufficient resources remaining for humans to claw their way back out of the hole they have dug for themselves and build a new shining city on the hill to hold dominion over all once again.

This is where the Way of Nature comes into the story.

Any future human world will, of necessity, be organized in harmony with natural cycles of resource availability, just as are all other extant species on the planet. It will be characterized by the same features as other species: diversity, adaptability, humility, cooperation and unswerving patience.

In other words, any post-collapse civilization will live by the Way of Nature.

Take some time to review the elements of the Way of Nature, and we’ll start going through them in the next post on Searching for Balance.

More reading on collapse:

  • Collapse, Jered Diamond
  • The Party’s Over, Richard Heinberg
  • The Enemy of Nature, Joel Kovel
  • Good News, Edward Abbey
  • Toward an Ecological Society, Murray Bookchin
  • Human Scale Revisited, Kirkpatrick Sale
  • The Twilight of American Culture, Morris Berman

Nature’s Way

e5dc0-horses
I’ve not been writing much of late, at least not in this forum. Tickling these plastic keys is less esthetically pleasing than scribbling in a notebook with a proper pen and ink. What to do with it then after it is written? It rarely survives the transition twixt page and screen.

But things must be said, after all. The state of the world hovers between chaos and collapse. It’s hard to tell which way we’re headed.

“More than any other time in history, mankind faces a crossroads. One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness. The other, to total extinction. Let us pray we have the wisdom to choose correctly.” Woody Allen

If we’re lucky, we’ll have another recession soon, a good one, a thorough one, an economic collapse “with four part harmony and feeling.” Clear out the dross, bring down the high mucky-muck, unto the seventh generation. Everything is stretched thin and another economic blow might just break it permanently, with little resources left for recovery.

Yes, all will suffer, especially the high and mighty who have depended on this insane system of economic and environmental oppression at the the expense of trillions of living beings with no say in the outcome. Its about time. A season for everything. The pendulum swings.

We who still defend the wild and the wildlings stand on the shoulders of those who have lead the way before us. Those shoulders are dwindling, their voices stilled. And there are fewer shoulders growing up to take their places. Our voices are drowned out by the bombastic shouting of the growth maniacs and global economists, their political and military minions, and the general populace enthralled with consumerism.

Still, this too shall pass. That which cannot go on forever, doesn’t. A thousand years from now those still alive will be those who have accommodated to reality, learned to live in harmony with natural cycles, those who have settled back into living as one species among many, with no pretense of dominion over all.

It’s Nature’s Way, the only way there is.

The Wu Way

In my search for a sane and rational way of living that does not destroy biodiversity and natural habitats for all other species, I’ve looked to other worldviews and philosophies for examples of how other cultures and societies have thought and taught about the world we all live in.

The unfortunate thing about individually focusing on Taoism, quantum mechanics, consciousness, neuroanatomy or any other named discipline is that we can’t see the forest for the trees. It’s all of a piece; the names separate out the various parts. We get so mired down in the minutia, we don’t see the whole.

As it is in the Multiverse, so it is unto the quark.

Let me take this Way in striving for a model of the totality of reality, consciousness, the Multiverse/universes/Universe and everything.

In quantum physics we identify the Multiverse as the infinite set of infinite universes, which includes our own infinite Universe. Our Universe consists of eleven dimensions, time and three physical dimensions, plus seven other tightly wrapped dimensions of which we are not consciously aware. We use mathematics to describe our Universe, the Multiverse and their eleven dimensions, because mathematics is not burdened with symbolic meaning. The “words” of mathematics are clear, unambiguous and universally understood.

The universes of the Multiverse can and do interact in startling ways, as is demonstrated in the easily reproduced double slit experiment, which also shows us that human consciousness is an intimate part of the working of the Multiverse. The double slit experiment shows us the Multiverse/Consciousness in action. When we look for light as particles, we find particles. When we look for light as waves, we find waves.

In a like manner then, consciousness consists of the Universal Consciousness as the infinite set of consciousnesses, which includes our own personal Consciousness. What we identify in psychology as the subconscious is the connection between our personal Consciousness and the Universal Consciousness through the eleven dimensional computation matrix built into the structure of our brains, as a result of human evolution within the eleven dimensional Universe. Meditation, sleep dreaming, day dreaming, imagination, intuition, deja vu and altered states are descriptions of mental states that quiet the busyness of the brain’s internal dialog so that we can experience the connection to the Universal Consciousness. This experience is difficult if not impossible to relate in words because it transcends verbal expression, cannot be objectively verified and is meaningful only to the percipient. Yet the experience is universal.

This consciousness has been known for thousands of years, by people who have tried to express the experience in many ways, many of which have become distorted, manipulated and controlled as organized religions. Others maintain oral traditions, which we call myths, that are nonetheless grounded in experience with the ineffable, and combine them with practical experiences of being a human being in the natural region they inhabit. Raven stories, coyote stories, origin stories, all carry the seed of the contact with universal consciousness.

There are some who hold that this level of human consciousness is a fairly recent development in human evolution, which would fit in with the evolution of the human brain’s eleven dimensional computation matrix. One might speculate that this development may have been responsible for the success of Homo sapiens sapiens and the demise of Home sapiens neanderthalensis.

“Where are you going with this?” says the wag in the back.

Good question!

The point of Taoism is “The Way.” This is not a judgement call; there is no “Right Way” and there is no “Wrong Way.” There is only “The Way.”

The Way is the Multiverse. The Way is Consciousness. The Way is the eleven dimensional computation matrix we carry around in this head thing of ours.

When we go against The Way, when we force things, control things, lord it over others, when we push the rope, make it happen, press on regardless, we fight against the flow of the Multiverse.

When we go with The Way, when we allow things to rise of themselves, when we wait for the cusp, pause until grokking is, go with the flow, swim with the stream, we cooperate with the flow of the Multiverse.

Our Modern Western Civilization, if that’s what it is, goes against the Way in every respect. It is the antithesis of the flow of the Multiverse. It is the cause of immense suffering in humans and untold destruction of the non-human world.

An alternative approach is wu wei, not doing, arising of itself, doing what’s natural, going with the flow. If it doesn’t arise of itself, if it feels like pushing the rope, if it resists at every turn, don’t do that!

This is a simple approach, probably too simple to have any effect. We have to start somewhere.

NOTE: I’ve referenced a lot of esoteric stuff herein without citations. If something above piques your interest, or if you respond with “Huh?” let me know and I’ll supply a bibliography. It’s about time I worked one up anyway, so I can remember where I’ve read things.

The -ism That Isn’t

It’s increasingly clear that human societies of every stripe are engaged in a program of natural habitat and environmental destruction as a direct result of their focus on population and economic growth with accompanying increases in material consumption. Mainstream politics and economics stride on in lock step toward the yawning abyss clearly visible on the near horizon.

Global warming, aka climate change, captures the minuscule imaginations of politicians and their journalistic lapdogs, while their corporate puppet masters take full advantage of the resulting fear mongering to line their own pockets. Amid this frenzy of faux activity, natural habitats continue to decline, species continue to go extinct, water supplies diminish, topsoil continues to wash away downstream and real human pollutants continue to pile up in the corners of all ecosystems around the globe.

Some social and political activists offer alternatives to the status quo, none of which, to any great extent, offer a meaningful alternative to the dominant social systems. Among these, so-called “ecosocialism” is presented as a solution to growth dependent industrial socialism and capitalism.

 

Hans Baer: “Democratic eco-socialism rejects a statist, growth-oriented, productivist ethic and recognizes that humans live on an ecologically fragile planet with limited resources that must be sustained and renewed as much as possible for future generations.”

Source: A vision of democratic ecosocialism

The above Hans Baer quote from Climate and Capitalism expresses the response of a minority of socialists to environmental degradation at the hands of a growing human population and its expansionist political and economic systems.

Ecosocialism is, of course, an anthropocentric political and economic philosophy, attempting to project environmental concern in an otherwise human centered endeavor. It fails in this attempt because it is, first and foremost, conceived by socialists who are not ecologists, environmentalists or even scientists. It merely tacks on the label “Eco-” onto “Socialist,” without challenging prevailing economic, political and social relationships among humans and the non-human world.

For example, the statement “humans live on an ecologically fragile planet” is inaccurate and self-serving. Ecologists know that natural ecological systems are robust, vibrant and adaptive. It is human destruction of natural habitat and exploitation of “natural resources” that depletes natural biodiversity and interferes with natural ecological interrelationships that leads to the erroneous conclusion  of “fragile” ecosystems. Labeling the planet as “fragile” takes the responsibility for its degradation away from human action and responsibility.

The phrase “with limited resources that must be sustained and renewed” assumes that “resources,” that is air, water, sunlight, soil, minerals, plants and animals, are solely for human use, and ignores the irreducible necessity of these resources to the non-human world. It also assumes that humans can “sustain and renew” these resources, rather than concluding that humans must instead reduce our consumption and exploitation of natural raw materials required by all living things.

Finally, the phrase “for future generations” appears frequently in ecosocialist discussion, underlining the basic assumption that preserving vibrant ecosystems is necessary for human betterment rather for the intrinsic necessity of all life.

Human impact on the natural world is the product of per capita economic throughput (consumption) multiplied by population. Ecosocialism attempts to address only the consumption part of this equation, assuming that socialist economic and social systems will result in overall population stabilization, ignoring the fact that human population has already overshot the carrying capacity of this planet, as is evidenced by increasing environmental degradation and ecosystems failure.

Humans are an animal species, subject to the same instinctive drivers of population growth as are all other animal species. The difference between humans and other animal species is that humans have largely eliminated predators that keep human population growth in check. While rapidly evolving bacteria and viruses may change that relationship at some future date, at present human population growth continues, even in countries with social conditions conducive to smaller families.

Depending on increased standard of living and improved social relationships as the sole regulators of human population growth is unrealistic and ultimately defeating. Raising the standard of living of the entire human population to a threshold level that might result in decreased population growth is rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. Whether caused by excessive consumption or excessive population growth, the ship is still going down.

What is required, if humans are to continue to live on this planet, is for human societies to function within natural ecological cycles and interrelationships, not above but side-by-side with all other species, as part of the natural world, not outside of it.

Rather than tacking “eco-” onto “socialism,” those concerned with human impacts on the world on which we live would do better to envision a human world that first and foremost exists as a contributing and cooperative part of the natural world.

The name is not important. Yet another -ism isn’t the answer.

Biodiversity is the preservation of wildness…

“In a square meter of soil one could find 1010 bacteria, 109 protozoa, 5 million nematodes, 100K mites, 50K springtails, 10K rotifiers and tardigrades, 5K insects, myriapods, spiders and diplurans, 100 slugs and snails and one, just one vertebrate—possibly the farmer or the dog.” – James B. Nardi, Life in the Soil

life
Photo by Michael A. Lewis

The incredible diversity of life that exists in even a small patch of living soil is the secret of evolutionary success of all species on Earth. No individual, nor any species lives in isolation. All are a part of the intricate web of life, the living network of biological, chemical and physical interactions.

 

Only one species deliberately ignores this simple fact, the inaccurately named Homo sapiens, supposedly the thinking ape.

“This is the assembly of life that took a billion years to evolve. It has eaten the storms-folded them into its genes-and created the world that created us. It holds the world steady.” ― Edward O. Wilson

As humans thoughtlessly consume the planet, we break the bonds of the web of life. We isolate habitats through clear-cutting, road building, surface mining, building construction, and agriculture. We destroy species through overhunting and overfishing, tearing great gaps in the web. We unquestioningly convert the Earth and its living skin into commodities for human consumption and profit.

“Examine each question in terms of what is ethically and aesthetically right, as well as what is economically expedient. A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise.”
Aldo Leopold

As if that were not enough, we humans attack and destroy each other, depleting the rich diversity of cultures that have developed ways of living in place, in cooperative, bioregional social organization, in subsistence patterns in tune with the diversity of life in which they live.

“Just as the natural environment depends on biodiversity, so the human environment depends on cultural diversity, because no one civilization encompasses all the spiritual, ethical and artistic expressions of mankind.” ― Jonathan Sacks, The Dignity of Difference: How to Avoid the Clash of Civilizations

If humans are to retain a place in the web of life, we will have to develop bioregional approaches to our relationships with ourselves and with all other species, in diverse, complex, and far more interesting societies than the one culture that dominates the world today.

“…in Wildness is the preservation of the World.”
Henry David Thoreau, Walking

What am I doing here?

“I’ve decided to try my hand at blogging, that being the Thing To Do these days. Who knows; Something Good may even come of it.”

That’s how I started blogging, on February 6, 2005, close enough to a decade of blogging to celebrate here with an anniversary+ post.

I started out on Blogger, because it was easy and that’s about all there was at the time. I had been writing on chat groups and listserves since 1985, before “blogging” became part of the Internet lexicon. I’d authored my own web sites, joined in conversation on the Whole Earth ‘Lectronic Link, The Well, which is still active, though it is no longer free. I  was  involved in a decade long conversation about Ed Abbey on the Abbeyweb, an early web site/discussion list about the author of The Monkey Wrench Gang and Desert Solitaire.

After ten years of blogging, and 671 posts as Hayduke Blogs, under the influence of the aforementioned Ed Abbey, I felt it was time for a change. On November 21, 2015, I shifted my blog to WordPress, and renamed it Words Arranged to encompass my other writing efforts.

Things are changing these days in the world of environmental activism. The word “environmentalist” seems to have tarnished a bit among the millennials, discredited by Big Green compromises to gain political power and influence, not to mention money. The concepts of bioregionalism and reinhabitory strategies have disappeared down the memory hole, “Global Warming” (sic) has taken over and subsumed all else as the be-all and end-all of “environmental” focus.

Over the past few months I’ve been reviewing the literature of the 60s and 70s, written by Peter Berg, Raymond Dassman, Aldo Leopold, Jerry Mander, Kirkpatrick Sale, Ernest Callenbach, David Brower, Ed Abbey, Dave Foreman, Howie Wolke, Murray Bookchin, and many others. I’ve found that everything necessary to understand conservation, ecology, bioregionalism and environmentalism was written by 1990, and after that, very little additional work on these subjects was published.

The confluence of Big Greens and “Global Warming” hysteria undoubtedly have much to do with the demise of environmentalism, in all its forms, in popular consciousness. Now with Johnny-Come-Latelies such as Michael Shellenberger and the “Breakthrough (sic) Institute” pimping for nukes and coal in the name of environmentalism, the concepts are further obfuscated.

What am I doing here? Why Words Arranged into sentences, paragraphs, blogs, comments and web sites?

In the past few years I’ve become increasingly disturbed with the human propensity to lay waste to the neighborhood, including the neighbors, human and non-. My orientation as an anthropologist, albeit an archaeologist, has heretofore proffered up excuses for human foibles, but lately historical analogies have paled in comparison to the very real and immediate idiocies foisted on the natural world by human growth and development.

As time grinds on, I’m feeling a greater urge to sing the song of the ultimate necessity for defense of the natural world, its habitats and resident species. There’s not many of us left to carry the tune. David Brower is dead. Aldo Leopold is dead.  John Muir and Ed Abbey are dead. And lately I haven’t been feeling so well myself. (Apologies to Samuel Langhorne Clemens)

I realize I have fewer and fewer decisions left in my life and the pressure to make them count for something increases with each Natal Day. With book publishing thoroughly mired in the corporate feeding frenzy, the chances of publishing  a physical book read by anyone other than my own family are slim to none. Blogging seems to be the only outlet capable of preserving the ideas and concepts I hold dear and presenting them to tender readers in a wider audience.

The Internet is a many-edged sword, fraught with meaningless distractions, rampant trivia, misinformation and outright lies. Nevertheless, it can be a singular avenue between my rapidly fossilizing brain and the much more impressionable cranial organs on the other side of this computer screen.

Environmentalism may not be what it used to be, but it will have to do until something better comes along.

What Happened to Bioregionalism?

I’m enjoying a double-digit birth anniversary this year: 66. The 60s are supposed to be a significant age, the time when we pass from Middle Age to become “Elderly,” or as we’re referred to nowadays, a “Senior.”

I prefer to think of myself as an elder, in the ancient meaning of “one having authority by virtue of age and experience.” As I review my life so far, I wonder what happened to some of the thoughts and movements of my younger years, those passionate pursuits I shared with many others through the 60s, 70s and 80s.

Bioregionalism, for instance.

Despite the fact that globalism and “The Global Economy”are the chief instigators of excessive exploitation and consumption of natural raw materials that now plagues the Earth, thus laying waste to the neighborhood, and the neighbors hereabout, the antonym of globalism, bioregionalism, is all but forgotten.

First, a definition: Bioregionalism:

a political, cultural, and ecological system or set of views based on naturally defined areas called bioregions. Bioregions are defined through physical and environmental features, including watershed boundaries and soil and terrain characteristics. Bioregionalism stresses that the determination of a bioregion is also a cultural phenomenon, and emphasizes local populations, knowledge, and solutions.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bioregionalism#cite_note-1)

bioregionThis is the bioregion where I live, the Central Coast of California, betwixt the Santa Cruz Mountains and the Pacific Ocean near Monterey Bay. It’s dominated by the San Lorenzo River watershed in the center and the Pajaro River watershed in the east and south. Interestingly, this bioregion is home to the University of California Santa Cruz, where Raymond Dasmann developed the principles and practice of Bioregionalism in the 70s and 80s, along with Peter Berg from the Bay Area bioregion some 70 miles north.

To a student of anthropology, bioregionalism seems familiar, logical and characteristic of human development from earliest human cultures up until agriculture began to reshape human relationships to the natural world. Almost all early cultures were organized bioregionally, usually around watersheds, since rivers were the easiest way to get around most parts of the world in the absence of roads. Alaska Native groups were organized along Alaskan river systems up until World War II, when the money economy took over most of traditional social organization.

People living bioregionally know the cycles and patterns of resource availability of the bioregion in which they live. They know when food grows and ripens, when the rains will come, from what direction and how much rain to expect. They know the habits and patterns of the animals and plants of the place and their interrelationships that help them all thrive. They know how to live in place without destroying the place in which they live.

The native people of my bioregion lived here for 8,000 years or so, in an ecosystem thriving with biodiversity and fecundity. Somehow, in the midst of such abundance, they did not over populate this place, they did not kill each other off in wars, they did not guard their food from others but practiced cooperation and sharing among their own kinship based groups and with others adjoining. They practiced a form of social storage, such that, when one group fell on hard times, other groups would give of their food and supplies, recognizing widespread fictive kinship ties in times of shortages.

When hunting and gathering, these bioregional people practiced an ancient culture in which the plants and animals were looked on as kin who were aware of the thoughts and actions of their human brethren, and were always treated, talked about and thought about with respect. The hunters’ clothing and equipment was made and decorated to please the spirits of the animals, who were always watching. Hunters took care not to speak of their intended prey before a hunt and always approached the hunt with humility and self-deprecation. When they had killed an animal, they thanked it for giving its life, gave it fresh water and cleaned and prepared the body in respectful, traditional patterns.

Similar practices were followed in gathering plant foods, speaking softly and respectfully, thanking the spirits of the plants for giving themselves for human food and never taking too much from any one place, so as to leave seeds and tubers for future plants and for food for animals who also depended on them.

In such a world, every action was suffused in meaning, a part of the eternal cycle of life and death, the turn of the seasons, the long slow march of climates. The stories told around the fire or oil lamps were the summing up of generations of experience living in place, as part of the place, part of the life and death of the place.

During my time in Alaska, I had opportunities to live with people still practicing, at least in part, the old subsistence lifestyle. They taught me a little bit of how they live in the world as part of the intricate web of life.

When I asked an old hunter foolish questions about why he did the things he did, why he butchered a seal just so, why he turned the moose’s severed head to the north, why he buried some of the bones underneath the spruce tree, he just smiled shyly and said, “Oh, that’s the way the old people did it early days ago.” He wouldn’t admit to any knowledge that would make him smarter than the moose lest the moose hear him and not present himself to be killed.

When I think back on my time with these gentle, bioregional people, and compare their lives with the frantic busyness, acquisitiveness, and overweening self-importance of modern civilized people, I can’t help but wonder where we went wrong.

How did we lose the awe and wonder of a world suffused with meaning? How did we come to worship dead material stuff and ignore the world full of aliveness? When did we lose track of the web of life?

web of life

What ever happened to bioregionalism?