environmentalism

Mothers

mothers

I am reminded, on Mother’s Day, of those mothers that do not have a voice, but love nevertheless.  I am reminded that all of life has a mother; one who loves in their own way, even if it is not ours.  I am, of course, referring to the mothers that we all often forget.  I am reminded of them when I walk out my door.

I hear them in my yard and see them scamper up trees and into the wood pile out back.  In the mornings I see them walking slowly through the forest on our property.  And sometimes I hear them in the back and have seen their black flash run through the woods.  I read about them and see pictures of them lovingly licking their young children or sleeping.

I must admit that I have disturbed a few when I lifted some wood or mixed the compost pile.  They look up at me and I feel a shutter run through me.  I quickly replace the wood, or cover them back up; them and their young.  I hear them chatter angrily when I let the cat out, and I hurriedly pack poor old Fimp back inside.  I know there are mothers that are afraid, that are hunted by the heartless among us and they too have mothers.  I cannot seem to get myself to read or watch about these things.

I would ask all of you to give a thought to all the mothers of the world and consider that they all, in their own way, love their children.  I think, especially in this age of inconsideration, that it is time that we consider those that deserve much more than just a passing thought.  I love my mother, and she loves me.  I also know that there are others do the same.

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Material Goods and Good Material

materials

It’s been snowy and awfully cold here these past few days (-7 f) and the wood burning stove has been busy in the shop, as have I.  But one thing on my mind has been in these holiday  times: materialism.  Of course, it is with us in the west most everyday, but during Christmas it seems, well…so over bearing.

However, recently I was reminded that there is a difference between material goods and good material.  We do live in a material world, but we need to remember that we live in a material world; a world of things and stuff.  These things need to be treasured and looked upon as the good that they are.  I was reminded of this yesterday while trying to decide what to do with the two massive cherry slabs I recently acquired.

These slabs remind me of the importance of putting importance on material things.  There is a cost to all the things that we buy, from iPhones to cherry slabs but it is not only the monetary costs, it is the real, the material costs that we need to always remember.

Looking out over my acreage, it is covered in forest, I am reminded of how much lesser the land would be without its beauty; I am reminded that this beauty is not wasted, but is wonderful; it is not resources, but reality.  The difference between material goods and good material is the real cost of taking these things from the world that we live in and the world we want to live in.

 

Perma-mess

perma mess

This year I tried a permaculture approach to the garden. I have hops, viola, and tomatillos vying for space in a single bed while across the boardwalk, there’s squash and red cabbage throwing around with tomatoes and potatoes. Walk a way down and I find asparagus poking through the long tendrils of the leek bedded down for winter. I look over the garden from the asparagus and notice the peppers peering around the eggplants and what’s left of the cauliflower. One bed has a few kale plants readying themselves for winter; the rest of the bed being laid fallow, compost and manure being soaked in by the soil and the worms wiggling around in it.

The garden is unorganized, unplanned and well, messy looking. But a walk through it and I find that the plants are thriving, healthy, and somewhat natural looking in their environment. However, this is not the English garden that so many have in mind. Recently, I’ve been reading about permaculture and the idea that we should learn from nature. I’ve found much of permaculture is permeated with types of new age thinking, but this is not the permaculture that I recognize.

There is nothing new about permaculture. In fact, it is as old as the earth itself. Permanent agriculture, the full name, refers to a train of thought that is Zen like in its simplicity, but takes the patience of a saint and the wherewithal to understand that such agriculture is not measured by profit or product, but by quality and produce. It may be that this way of thinking is not profitable. But, it is sustainable, which in this day and age we are finding to be more and more necessary.

One thing that I must come to be accustomed to is the aesthetic of permanent agriculture. First, I learn that I must relinquish control. Secondly, I must learn that such agriculture is time-intensive and in a time when attention spams are measured in minutes, permaculture can seem very unappealing. Lastly, I am learning to take chances and to trust what I have put into motion. Put in and step back is my new motto.

The consequences are messy and disorganized. However, at this late date in the season I’ve found a certain beauty and even pride in the necessity of stepping over vines and cabbage leaves to get to the tomatoes buried among the basil and asparagus. Time, I think, is something that we have available to us, but to take the time often messes up our lives. We have come to like efficiency and modern cleanliness. Permaculture is not that efficient and is certainly not appealing to the hard line English gardener. However, the permanence of permaculture is an acquired taste; a taste that given our environmental problems and looming changes is necessary.

So, give up the ghost to a natural and often fun way of gardening: permaculture. I think you’ll find that permanence is a lot more fleeting than you may think!

Limits

limits

I recently completed a one thousand mile motorcycle ride (in one sitting) to visit my family. Nineteen hours later (fuel stops included) I was standing (not sitting) at their kitchen counter drinking a beer. I was thinking about limits. The ride had reminded me how important it is to know your own limits, and while riding through the Missouri hills I thought about how important limits are to all of us.

Right now most of us are not aware of limits, but a motorcycle (in my case) is a very bad place to first learn of them. I think I was at mine when I was singing loudly into my helmet a version of “Spiderman” that I called “Bobblehead”. Any athlete will know their limits, how to stretch them and when it is a good idea not to. Not to know your limits will sometimes cost you your life and other times just make things a bit uncomfortable; in the former you met your limits and in the latter you stretched your limits.

There are limits that we must all abide by, both our own and the ultimate limit that we all share: reality. Right now we do not seem to understand that the ultimate limit applies to all of us; no matter what, and no matter who we are. I once read that if a jet engine had a purpose, that purpose was to blow up. That struck me in an odd way. Evolution is a blind machine that, perhaps, has the same purpose. Watching a beehive, for example, is a brutal reminder of that “purpose”.

So, what do airplanes and Evolution have in common with this kinda-sorta preachy little bit about limits? Well, for one thing neither evolution nor airplanes have limits: extinction and explosion are not limits. Such things simply act as their nature (and nature itself) dictate. We humans are a bit different: we have the capacity for thought and the belief that we can act upon those thoughts. We have limits that we can stretch for these reasons. Or do we?

Is it the nature of human beings to destroy themselves, to not stretch but break the natural confines in which we live? Such a thought is disturbing to many and for many reasons. First, we are doomed if this is so. Secondly, we are not free if this is so. Third, the capacity for thought is an illusion. Perhaps we are just another blind alley that Evolution follows. I don’t like to think so, but I am wary of not doing so.

Destruction is part of nature, it is inevitable, but our own destruction at our own hands (I would like to think) is not; it cannot be. However, in order for us to learn how to stretch our limits, we must first know that we have limits. Perhaps it is time for us to find a way to define our limits before those inextricable and inescapable limits cost us the very thing that we are so fond of: living at any cost.

Rant #1

extinction

“Our global society has started to destroy species of other organisms at an accelerating rate, initiating a mass extinction episode unparalleled for 65 million years.”     -http://sciencemag.org

When will we remember that we are not the only species on this planet, nor are we the only one that matters?  The time for most creatures on this planet is nearing an end, because of us.

We are arrogant.  We are selfish, and we are violent.  We do not deserve, nor will we inherit this planet.  The weak will not inherit anything except pain and misery before they die.  They will welcome death long before it comes.  The strong will win nothing.  They will live to see their children die and the things they’ve cherished so much go to ruin and realize in the end that it was not worth the price they paid.

Human beings are capable of so much, including choice, but we tend to choose the easiest, the shiniest, the quickest, and the most at the cost of the best, the right, the quality, the moral, the many,  and the few.  We create amazing ideas and horrible monsters.  We are capable of love and torture, of empathy and psychopathy.  We are our own saviors and our own destroyers.  We are capable of intellect and kindness and act stupidly and mean.  We understand how to understand the universe we live in and dismiss the the only method that will give us Truth for superstitious mysteries that will lead to our demise.

We dishonest with ourselves, even when it comes to saving our selves.  This is on us, our parents, and our grandparents and it will be our children that will bear the brunt.  We know this and yet we soldier on.  We talk about problems rather than solve them because we do not face them and hence cannot find solutions; solutions that are often right in front of us.

Mother nature is the ultimate assassin; she takes no prisoners and we will not be an exception.  We can pretend and we can lie, but we cannot change that truth.  We can argue, we can choose not to confront, but like us truth will also soldier on…blindly.  Mother nature will win; there is no contest no matter how much we believe that there is.

There is only one thing left to do, and that is the right thing.  We know what it is, and we know how to do it.  It is only left to us to humble ourselves, to realize that we share this planet, and must work together and within the parameters that it holds us to.  We must earn the respect that we believe we are entitled.  We must make the most of our capacities and act like the intelligent human beings that we are capable of being in order to save the animals that we are.

Focus

focus

I’ve read a rather telling aphorism once: the greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged on how it treats its animals. I think Gandhi was quoted as saying it. Nevertheless, the aphorism both horrified me and struck me as very true. I wonder, as Wendell Berry and others like him have often done in the pages of their essays, if the greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged on how it treats its land? At the very least, I believe that how we treat animals and the land around us is a consequence of what we think of each other and ourselves.

Up to this point, this blog has considered perspectives that do not put human beings as a centered focal point but rather as a part of a greater reality, one which is grounded in objectivism. That being said, I would like to explore the homesteading theme, the environmental and creative themes that have been addressed from a perspective that does consider human beings as a center focal point. First, look outside of your window and consider what is important to human beings. Secondly, consider the cost of putting a value on that human importance.

Homesteading, small-scale farming (whatever it may be called) seems to be one of those human endeavors that shifts importance from the farmer to the farm: its environment and its animals. Of course, there are exceptions. However, those exceptions aside, I believe that this desire of some to be a part of an environment that is greater than themselves rather than to think themselves as greater than their environment comes from a deep-seated understanding that whatever our convictions the reality remains: we are not important.

Some view this as humanistic blasphemy. However, viewed from the point of view that we are part of a greater whole, the admission that we are not important leads us to ask: what is? I believe that those that have discovered the possibility of homesteading on a small-scale sustainable farm have realized what is important. Truth is important and sustainable practices in all their forms are a part of this truth. This is often presented within the framework of environmental arguments, but those arguments assume that the environment is somehow innately important. I would have to disagree: the environment is important because it reminds us that we are completely and absolutely dependent upon it for happiness not to mention our survival. The truth is, we are not important to the environment, but our environment is of utmost importance to us.

However, we do not seem to be interested in the truth of our situation: our total and utter dependence upon the environment for our happiness and survival. It seems that we put importance upon the façade of independence and the fascia of truth. The façade and fascia of independence and truth are much easier for us to achieve than is the achievement of true independence and the realization of Truth (capital T intended).

If we value comfort, then comfort will be prioritized over all else as will ease and wealth and whatever else we deem as valuable. I think that how we treat animals and the environment as a whole does mirror our false assumption that we are the focal point of the world we live in. Although the world cannot and does not care, we can and perhaps we need to start valuing our capacity to do just that.