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Messages - woozletracker

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1
Common Misconceptions / Re: New Theory on N. Am. Extinctions
« on: December 02, 2014, 09:00:06 AM »
As far as I know it's still an open question why the horses stopped migrating past Solutre. Not that I've read any in-depth scientific study of its prehistory... Equally ignorant about herd migrations but I can think of dozens of potential reasons for the yearly patterns to shift over time (eg: changes in food availability, decreased desirability of the destination, obstacles forcing a change of path, overarching warming or cooling trends etc. etc.) What convinces you that there was an intensification of hunting, and that this led to their local demise?

Welcome back :)
I

2
Anyone watching this recent BBC documentary series? Full of the standard nature porn, complete with small fluffy animals for the youtube generation... But what most caught my attention was the way it describes social relationships and conflicts among other animal species entirely in terms of civilised humanity. I think the purpose of this is to basically legitimise the inhuman power structures which we're forced to endure on a daily basis by pointing to the 'animal kingdom' and saying: "Look, they're just like us! Everybody acts this way so our chosen way of life (hyper-violent, male-dominated hierarchies) is justified!" Here's the intro to the fourth episode, titled simply 'Power':

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Now [after animals 'learn the lessons of childhood, enter the adult world and find a safe home'] they must battle for dominance, because those with power get privileges: the best food, the best territory and the chance to beat rivals for a mate. But only a lucky few will ever reach the top. (http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/p026vhmr/life-story-4-power)


They look at kangaroos, meerkats and archer fish among others, but the real propaganda coup comes with the focus on a band of chimps in which one adolescent is trying to 'rise up the ranks' and assert his dominance on an existing male leadership. The description is full of loaded words like that, and you almost feel that you could be listening to Attenborough narrating power struggles in the corporate world, with 'vigorous young go-getters' taking on the old guard. All the footage is of action, squabbles, conflict, again typical of nature docs. You never see animals snoozing for half the day, slacking off or foraging lazily & peaceably with their peers. I guess the producers would say that doesn't make for good TV. But crucially it does nothing to challenge the very civilised concepts of resource scarcity, life as a constant struggle for survival, the need to 'get ahead' even at the expense of friends and family, the requirement to never let a moment pass and to always be seeking to improve status, expand your own personal empire etc.etc.

Seems to me it would be valuable to collect counter-examples in an attempt to show civilised folks, through the observation of non-humans, that life doesn't have to be this way. Probably an examination of noncivilised human cultures would be a powerful way to do that too.

Can anyone point me to books, articles, other documentaries that challenge this idea of the whole natural world being rooted in dominance and power? I need to wash Attenborough's smarmy narration out of my mind...

cheers,
Ian

3
R D-O does a c-span book reading (mainly from the introduction of the History) and discussion:

http://www.c-span.org/video/?321631-1/book-discussion-indigenous-peoples-history-united-states

Lots of good points. Andrew Jackson was an evil mother£$%*er. You will remember the phrase 'settler colonialism', and maybe end up using it in conversation to confound and enrage your more ignorant peers (she uses it about 100 times). The parallels with modern-day Palestine are striking throughout. She cites the UN definition of genocide:

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Article 2 of the convention defines genocide as

    ...any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:

        (a) Killing members of the group;
        (b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
        (c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
        (d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
        (e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

    — Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, Article 2[2]


5
Thanks for that, Goblin Girl. Good to see that some of the migrants acted differently and did not share the same ideology of manifest destiny imagined (and acted upon) by the elite. It's curious now to see the same elites giving lectures about integration, multiculturalism etc. to the poor, desperate migrants who dare to cross 'their' borders and attempt to make their way in 'their' land. I suppose if they came with conquering armies and a mission of genocide that would be okay! But seriously, that impulse to integrate and make peace seems like an important thing to work with in the process of making the dominant invasive culture go native and end its conquering ways.

cheers,
Ian

Oh, on scalping, wikipedia says it 'independently developed in various cultures in both the Old and New Worlds', citing the Crow Creek Massacre of 1325 where, out of around 500 bodies '90 percent of the skulls show evidence of scalping'.

6
Thanks, didn't know about this (although have read about how some of the power stations are shifting to biomass in a big way over here). I notice the environmentalists quoted in the article still haven't come up with a better reason for preserving these habitats than their value to us (ie: industrial civ) as a 'carbon sink'. This is just pathetic:

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If nothing else, the new inquiry provides an emerging forum for examining ways to make working forests more bird-friendly. “We’re forging partnerships with landowners, loggers, scientists, and even hunting clubs that lease large swaths of bottomlands,” says Curtis Smalling, director of land bird conservation for Audubon North Carolina. “We understand that healthy timber markets can have an upside for conservation, and there are lots of ways to work together.”

Fucking quislings...

cheers,
I

7
This looks like a good'un! Real News interview in 3 parts (two up for now, will post the third when it arrives) with historian Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz:

http://therealnews.com/t2/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=31&Itemid=74&jumival=12560

http://therealnews.com/t2/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=767&Itemid=74&jumival=12568

and here's a decent review:

http://oldwars.wordpress.com/2014/10/10/book-review-an-indigenous-peoples-history-of-the-united-states-by-roxanne-dunbar-ortiz/

The part I found most interesting was her explanation for how the first European settlers repeated the same kind of patterns of colonial exploitation practiced in Ireland (and, I assume, other 'internal colonies' like Wales, Scotland, Cornwall, and probably other regions under the other colonial powers of Europe). It sounds like not only the oppressors carried on the same work with the Native Americans, but even the oppressees turned on them, failing to see any cause for solidarity in their own history. It's like the way child abuse gets passed down from generation to generation (see Alice Miller & others). From the review:

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European ideas of property also played a crucial role in the colonization of the Americas. Peasantry dispossessed of land and livelihood, especially in British occupied Ireland, comprised the rank-and-file of newcomers who came to make a life of their own. They had little choice in the matter when faced with the alternative of starvation and death at home. With them also came soldier settlers, or Ulster-Scots, who were seasoned and violent settlers in the colonization of Northern Ireland. They also brought the practice of scalping, which they first used on the Irish, and the tools of colonization necessary for violent war making against Indigenous peoples. These Scots-Irish settlers formed the wall of colonization as both fodder for the “Indian Wars” and as militant settlers who pushed frontier boundaries. They willingly or unwillingly cleared the way for “civilization” by transforming the land into real estate. The myth was born that white European civilization was “commanded by God to go into the wilderness to build the new Israel” and “entitled to the land through their blood sacrifice.” (55)


(It was also news to me that scalping was (originally?) a European practice. Bloody savages, eh?)

Also good to see is a challenge to the historians who put the greatest emphasis on epidemic disease as the major cause for the demise of Indian societies:

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Dunbar-Ortiz works against the so-called “terminal narratives” to which many U.S. historians subscribe, that Indigenous population decline was mainly due to biological factors such as disease. Conveniently absent from these narratives is over three centuries of colonial warfare waged against Indigenous peoples. “Commonly referred to as the most extreme demographic disaster—framed as natural—in human history,” Dunbar-Ortiz writes, “it was rarely called genocide.” (40)


I like her style: such devastating analysis presented quietly, unassumingly from such a small frame! We need more warriors like that.

I

8
Rewilding Mind & Heart / Re: Uncivilisation - The Dark Mountain Project
« on: October 22, 2014, 03:55:38 AM »
My pleasure :)

9
Rewilding Mind & Heart / Re: Uncivilisation - The Dark Mountain Project
« on: October 20, 2014, 10:52:09 AM »
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language and terminology are obviously important, though at a certain point, less important than the overall message, and the work being done. there will always be someone who interprets your words differently than you intend.


Amen. I don't mean to say PR has no value either, just it's not the be [sic] all and end all. As the old (Chinese?) saying puts it: Don't look at my finger, look at the moon!

Possibly of interest: 'Five years on a mountain' - DM founders Hine & Kingsnorth give a retrospective talk at the Schumacher College in Devon five years after the publication of the manifesto and shortly after the 'last' festival:

Earth Talk: Five years on a mountain - Paul Kingsnorth and Dougald Hine


Or if you'd prefer something to read check out Dougald's piece, 'Remembering Uncivilisation', also published in the 5th DM book. Sample:

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Someone said, one Sunday morning, almost embarrassed, that this was the closest thing they had to going to church. All along, it was there, the awkward presence of something no other language seemed fit for, the wariness of a language that so easily turns to dust on the tongue. Here is one way that I have explained it to myself. A taboo, in the full sense, is something other than a reasonable modern legal prohibition: it is a thing forbidden because it is sacred and it may, under appropriately sacred circumstances, be permitted, even required. Now, the space that we opened together, as participants, was a space in which certain taboos had been lifted: some that are strong in the kinds of society we have grown up in, some that have been stronger still in the kinds of movement many of us have been active in. Not the obvious taboos on physical gratification—most of what they covered is now not prohibited so much as required, in this postmodern economy of desire—but the taboo on darknesses and doubts, on naming our losses, failures, fears, uncertainties and exhaustions. In response to our earliest attempts to articulate what Dark Mountain might be, people we knew—good, dedicated people—would tell us, ‘OK, so you’ve burned out. It happens. But there’s no need to do it in public and encourage others to give up.’ Instead, it seemed, one should find a quiet place to be alone with the disillusionment. Perhaps become an aromatherapist. If I have any clue where the power of Dark Mountain came from—knowing that it came from somewhere other than the two of us who wrote the manifesto—then I would say it came from creating a space in which our darknesses can be spoken to each other. (From here, among much else, we may begin to question why the movements we have been involved in seem accustomed to use people as a kind of fuel.) By the second or third year of the festival, though, I found myself wondering if the sacred nature of taboo might not work both ways. If a group of people creates a space in which taboos are lifted, perhaps this in itself is enough to invoke the forms of experience for which the language of the sacred has often been used?


cheers,
I

10
Rewilding Mind & Heart / Re: Uncivilisation - The Dark Mountain Project
« on: October 19, 2014, 04:59:51 AM »
Yes, I can vouch for the affinity, having been involved with the DM folks from the second unciv festival. All questions answered to the best of my abilities :)

I had similar misgivings about the choice of 'uncivilisation' as a banner word, although it did appeal to my darker desires to see (perhaps participate in) an active 'unraveling' of the dominant culture. I doubt that was the intent behind it though. Here's the relevant bit from the manifesto referring to the early 20thC poet, Robinson Jeffers:

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Jeffers, as his poetry developed, developed a philosophy too. He called it 'inhumanism.' It was, he wrote:

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a shifting of emphasis and significance from man to notman; the rejection of human solipsism and recognition of the transhuman magnificence ... This manner of thought and feeling is neither misanthropic nor pessimist .. It offers a reasonable detachment as rule of conduct, instead of love, hate and envy ... it provides magnificence for the religious instinct, and satisfies our need to admire greatness and rejoice in beauty.


The shifting of emphasis from man to notman: this is the aim of Uncivilised writing. To 'unhumanise our views a little, and become confident / As the rock and ocean that we were made from.' This is not a rejection of our humanity--it is an affirmation of the wonder of what it means to be truly human. It is to accept the world for what it is and to make our home here, rather than dreaming of relocating to the stars, or existing in a Man-forged bubble and pretending to ourselves that there is nothing outside it to which we have any connection at all.


(Although typing out that Jeffers quote makes me wonder if he means what the DM authors take him to mean. The 'reasonable detachment' part sounds pretty dodgy to me...)

At the end of the day, what's in a word? Is the point to encapsulate everything the movement stands for or to invite further discussion and elaboration? The Occupy crowd did lots of useful stuff IMO, despite some highly pertinent criticism of their choice of word from indigenous people whose perspective and understanding of 'occupation' was much more keenly felt than most of the other participants.

'Rewilding' has already turned into a buzz-word meaning hundreds of different things to different people (see here, for example). I think most have little or no understanding of its use in the kind of context employed on this site. What's the response to that - dump the word and come up with a new one? Make an effort to articulate the different connotations of the word? Struggle to hold onto it and monopolise the meaning? Use it as a back door to slide the philosophy sneakily into the public consciousness? Loads of options, but isn't it all just PR in the end? Why not simply focus on what makes sense to you & yours in the here & now? A lived philosophy. It can spread by example without the need for a name, and thus hopefully avoid the dangers of co-option.

cheers,
Ian

11
Common Misconceptions / Re: Cultural Appropriation
« on: October 18, 2014, 05:58:18 AM »
Thanks for this and your other posts, Mindy - very nicely written.

'Feeling like a stranger everywhere' indeed. I've heard African-Americans and -Europeans speak in a similar way about trips to their ancestral land. On the one hand it feels like coming home, but at the same time it's a strange place and they feel a greater (or different, but stronger) sense of belonging to the places they were born and raised up. What does it mean to 'get in touch with your roots' when your family line was transplanted generations ago to a totally new continent thousands of miles away? Plants don't really have a choice about where their roots go: it's straight down into the soil they're standing on. Transplanting is a hugely traumatic process, but the fundamentals of getting adequate water and mineral nutrients for survival don't change.

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I do want to have compassion for even the most idiotic-seeming cultural appropriators. It's hard having the history and nature hammered out of you.


Yes, I agree. Watching the documentary Peter linked to above (
Becoming a Native American in the Czech Republic on Vimeo
) about the Czech 'Indians', I had a similar reaction: while sympathetic to the appropriation argument and understanding that there's really no excuse for pirating another culture's traditions, I was left with a curiosity about just how weird it was, and how it came about that these young people felt they had to live in that way. (One thing I learned from anthropology was that it's pointless to judge another culture from your own culture's standpoint - you don't learn anything by doing that.) I have Czech ancestry myself and have seen quite a few examples of the fetishisation of 'wild west' 'cowboys & injuns' culture, as they perceive it. A close family member is a fan of Ernest Thompson Seton (who got namechecked in the film) and has a summer house in the mountains where he has built teepees and totem poles, and hosts a 'potlach' every four years or so where all his old Czech buddies come to get wasted, have ceremonies and music round a big fire, and play boy-scout type games the morning after. It's a lot of fun! But yes, this topic has made me question many aspects about that culture. I'm thinking of sending along some of the above material to see what my relative has to say...

It was interesting that the Native Americans who did the documentary and visited the Czechs, while having their initial reservations, eventually went away thinking of it as a positive phenomenon over all (discussion from 1:03). Although there was an account of others who denounced what they were doing in very strong terms as well, which was hard to argue with. The excuse the leader came up with - that he had suffered oppression and destruction of culture at the hands of the communists in a similar way to the Indians - didn't wash for me.

Anyway, that leads to the question of where to locate my own identity, born into a strange land with two foreign parents unsure from the first how to make their way, and an ancestry scattered across Eastern and Western Europe. It's a difficult one, to which I haven't come up with many answers (other than the one about embedding your roots into the ground where you stand).

best,
Ian

12
Rewild Camps, Events & Meet-ups / Re: Acorn Camp
« on: October 18, 2014, 05:14:09 AM »
I'll have to get my hands on N.Turner's stuff then, I guess. Not sure how I might implement some of that in my current circumstances! I might stick to keeping a load of grounds in a paper bag at the back of the cupboard for now...

'Off' years are depressing. This one hasn't been so bad because Beech, Walnut and Sweet Chestnut have been quite abundant, but a few years ago I had the 'no nut blues' for about six months after only Chestnut gave a tiny harvest. Hard not to take it personally! Cool of you to focus on other aspects of the relationship. Hope it goes well.

cheers,
I

13
Rewild Camps, Events & Meet-ups / Re: Acorn Camp
« on: October 14, 2014, 10:28:00 AM »
I'd be interested to hear how the skillshare goes, or how it went if you did it already. Been thinking of doing the same kind of thing over here, but unfortunately it's an 'off' year for the oaks. Might have to try the percolation method next time. Let us know how that works out too?

One question that's been nagging me for a long time and would love to hear an answer for: what does an acorn-based culture (or any other culture using tree crops for their main subsistence) do when the trees don't produce, or only produce a little? Are there special pruning techniques that ensure a yearly harvest? Do they rely on surplus crops stored over from previous years? Or do they simply move their efforts to other plants/animals to see them through until the following year?

cheers,
Ian

14
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The exportation of exploitation is something that most people don't realize.

Yup. 'The battle outside raging / Will soon shake your windows and rattle your walls' sang Dylan in the 60s, but it hasn't quite happened yet. Another example that strikes me is fracking and other 'unconventional' oil extraction. On the one hand it's horrifying to see it being rolled out in this country, with politicians framing the laws so that nobody has the right to refuse the fracking companies if they decide to go ahead and drill next to your house. They're going to wreck this Green And Pleasant Land if there isn't a strong counter-mobilisation. But then how come it's so pleasant here when Britons consume more gas and oil products than practically any other people on Earth (with honourable exceptions :) ) This country used to be a grimy shithole - not pretty but at least it was honest. Now that stuff has gone out to sea or off to Nigeria and the middle east. In a very weird way I'm almost happy the fossil fuel industry is coming back here: chickens coming home to roost and all that. It will certainly wake a lot of people up. Trouble is they will be going for the poor, deprived areas first. Already there's a disparity between the protests in the wealthy South-East (lots of media exposure, some successes) and those up North (heavy-handed policing, minimal media coverage). ie: the bubble is not going to burst everywhere at the same time, and the powers-that-be will play us off eachother and attempt divide-and-rule colonisation tactics to the last...

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each new generation normalizes the level of destruction they are born into

'Shifting baseline syndrome'? Monbiot talks about it a lot, though I'm sure I've heard others say similar things. Crazy to consider the importance of freshwater fish (including ocean-going migrants) providing a large proportion of the protein in British diets up until very recently. As a serious forager I never even considered looking to the rivers for food.

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if 50% of the worlds wildlife was destroyed in 40 years by a population of 3-7 billion people, how can we use that to predict a timeline for the total destruction of wildlife?

Interesting question. Sickening to even think about it really... My first thought was that it might actually take longer because, a bit like the peak oil situation, civilised humans have gone for the most easily-accessible & meatiest fish, mammals, birds, and the ones left behind might not be worth the effort. But then it's not just direct hunting that's causing the losses, but habitat destruction and the conversion of diverse ecosystems to monocrop farms. Most of the loss of diversity is happening in the tropics at the moment, especially in the rainforests. That's where the 200-extinctions-a-day are mainly coming from as far as I know. But does that represent a wholesale loss or are we talking about a process of simplification as has happened in temperate Europe, Asia and America - ie: loss of many large keystone species and mass deforestation, but a continuation of species adapted to open grassland-type environments? Agriculture seems way more destructive in the tropics, more rapidly leading to soil erosion and desertification etc... I keep returning to the fact that it's total numbers, biomass that we're talking about, not just diversity. All those wild bodies literally being converted into the flesh of domesticated humans and their small band of plant & animal allies, many more simply going up in smoke, lost to the massive entropy of civilised subsistence... But when will it come to a halt? How can we bring it to a halt? More unanswered questions...

Sorry to hear about the suburbs taking your forests. I had another think, and I remembered at least one invertebrate species that has massively declined in my lifetime: the honeybees. They've been decimated in recent years. But I've noticed lots more bumblebees around, perhaps compensating? Frustrating how you can never really know for certain with these things.

I'll stop there before I get even more depressed!

cheers,
I

15
Meant to mention this article, which makes a few important points:

http://www.theecologist.org/blogs_and_comments/commentators/2576309/to_save_the_worlds_wildlife_first_we_must_love_it.html

...especially this one about the true tragedy not being the final extinction of individual species, but the environmental degradation and simplification over the decades, centuries, millennia leading up to that final death:

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Extinction is the end of long period of attrition

What most interests me about this report is that it is looking at the numbers of animals themselves. Too often the attention is focussed on the demise of a species. But the moment of extinction is really rather trivial compared to the decades before.

Thom van Dooren described this well in his book, Flight Ways. The loss of the last of a species is nothing compared to the loss of the mass of individuals before that one, which is nothing compared to the loss of functionality within the ecosystem and which is topped off by the evolutionary loss - the millions of years and individuals that have gone in to creating that one, last creature.

All of this is being wiped out by our violence. Van Dooren describes it as a "violence that is often rendered invisible ... by its slowness."

How can we stop that violence? The first thing is to become aware that it is going on - and this report is a valuable step in that direction. But we need to look deeper than a simple awareness as that will tend to give us a false sense of security.

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