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Topics - woozletracker

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1
Visions of the Rewilding Renaissance / Feral
« on: September 10, 2014, 01:13:05 PM »
I recently finished George Monbiot's book, Feral and was interested to hear peoples' reactions here, if anybody else had read it or GM's other writing on the topic.

Overall I really enjoyed reading the book. There's lots of useful info about the state of the ecology in the British Isles before the industrial revolution and other depredations of the civilised culture. I especially appreciated the focus on sea and river life, which hasn't really figured in my own foraging adventures thus far because I'm miles away from the sea and, well, I wouldn't be comfortable eating anything from our inland waterways without first doing major research into the local toxicity issues. Amazing to consider that the North Sea would have been a different colour before the first trawlers killed off the massive populations of oysters and other filter feeders on the seabed. Also the rivers only being brown because of soil erosion due to agriculture and livestock farming...

The stuff on sheep and the uplands really struck a chord with me too. They do quite clearly act as a boot on the neck of the non-human (non-domesticated) world by favouring the growth of grass, which gets nibbled to the ground leaving a habitat of minimal worth. However he provides a long discussion with an educated Welsh sheep farmer which gets into the perennial problem of nature conservation - hands-off observation only, or human engagement via direct subsistence. I actually sympathised more with the farmer, because it seems more important to have that direct connection to the land (even if in an exploitative capacity?) than to only benefit from it indirectly through eco-tourism or other alienated relationships, which seems to be as far as Monbiot's imagination stretches (he talks about wolves and beavers in Yellowstone Park and their various beneficial effects through trophic cascades, but he never mentions the indigenous people of that region - what effects they had, and should we consider reintroducing wild humans too??)

For me the main drawbacks were his refusal to take seriously the anarcho-primitivist view of rewilding, on the grounds that Mesolithic Britain only played host to a few thousand h/gers and the old trope that  a return to that kind of lifestyle would hence require a genocide of most of the current population, and his uncritical acceptance of the overkill theory, based on recent research which seems very far from conclusive. His depiction of Pleistocene h/gers at times made me laugh out loud:

Quote
Had the Mesolithic people of the Americas eaten everything they killed , they would scarcely have trimmed the herds of game, so small were their numbers. One ground sloth could have fed a clan of hunters for months. The speed with which the megafauna of the Americas collapsed might suggest that they slaughtered everything they encountered. Among those who broke into the New World, anyone could be a Theseus or a Hercules: slaying improbable monsters, laying up a stock of epic tales to pass to their descendants. [...] Perhaps the care with which some indigenous people of the Americas engage with the natural world came later. (p.138)


The last sentence to me indicates that he knows he's on dangerous ground. There's no footnote, and he doesn't discuss modern h/gers or anthropological studies anywhere in the book, or in any of his other work that I've seen, for that matter. He speaks generously and evocatively about Mesolithic beachcombers and talks about time spent with Masai herders, but as soon as he gets back to the Pleistocene the depiction of Homo Sapiens is of an ecocidal maniac every bit as callous and mindless as modern poachers and the capitalists that support them. I find this view troubling and implicitly racist, as I attempted to explore in this blogpost reacting to an especially terrible article of his on the megafauna issue.

Also lacking is an in-depth understanding of civilisation and the agriculture that underpins it, as made clear by this quote:

Quote
While some primitivists see a conflict between the civilised and the wild, the rewilding I envisage has nothing to do with shedding civilisation. We can, I believe, enjoy the benefits of advanced technology while also enjoying, if we choose, a life richer in adventure and surprise. Rewilding is not about abandoning civilisation but about enhancing it. It is to 'love not man the less, but Nature more'. (p.10)


He doesn't seem to view human rewilding as a serious attempt to reorganise the human methods of subsistence, but more as a kind of weekend activity to relieve city-workers of their 'ecological boredom'. As such, while the rewilding he advocates may bring many benefits to nonhuman life, the core problem remains unsolved and the day job (facilitating the destruction of nonhuman and human communities in other parts of the world) will always take precedence.

Anyway... I'd be interested to hear your thoughts! What about this herbivore-led rewilding that's gained ground thanks to Franz Vera and the Rewilding Europe crowd? Some potential or another dead end? (Related reading: http://www.self-willed-land.org.uk/articles/what_rewilding.htm )

Good to see the forums back in action!

cheers,
Ian

2
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:

Quote
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:

Quote
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?

cheers,
Ian

3
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

http://fabulousforager.com/2008/03/whats-music-for/

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:

http://ruggedindoorsman.wordpress.com/2008/12/31/buckley-fueled-ruminations/

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:

http://ruggedindoorsman.wordpress.com/2009/01/01/how-i-learned-to-improvise-pt-1/

http://ruggedindoorsman.wordpress.com/2009/01/03/how-i-learned-to-improvise-pt2/

http://ruggedindoorsman.wordpress.com/2009/01/06/how-i-learned-to-improvise-pt3/

http://ruggedindoorsman.wordpress.com/2009/01/07/how-i-learned-to-improvise-pt4/

http://ruggedindoorsman.wordpress.com/2009/01/21/how-i-learned-to-improvise-pt-5/

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?

cheers,
Ian

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