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Messages - woozletracker

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Our friend Monbiot (my emph.):


[T]he natural world is even more fascinating and complex than we had imagined. And we are only just beginning to understand just how rich and strange ecological processes might be.

I promised whale poo, and whale poo you shall have. Studies in the 1970s proposed that the great reduction in the large whales of the southern oceans would lead to an increase in the population of krill, their major prey. It never materialised. Instead there has been a long-term decline. How could that be true? It now turns out that whales maintain the populations of their prey.

They often feed at depth, but they seldom defecate there, because when they dive the stress this exerts on the body requires the shutdown of some of its functions. So they perform their ablutions when they come up to breathe. What they are doing, in other words, is transporting nutrients from the depths, including waters too dark for photosynthesis to occur, into the photic zone, where plants can live.

In the southern oceans, iron is a limiting nutrient, without which the plant plankton at the bottom of the food chain cannot reproduce and grow. By producing their poonamis – sorry, faecal plumes – in the surface waters, the whales fertilise the plant plankton on which the krill and fish depend. This effect, known as the “whale pump” has been hypothesised for several years. But now there is some experimental evidence to support it. A team of scientists at the University of Tasmania collected some pygmy blue whale poo (who knew that marine biology was so rich with possibility?) and grew plankton in water containing varying concentrations of it. They found that the richer the mix, the greater the productivity. No surprises there.

Separate research, in the Gulf of Maine, estimates that whales and seals, by defecating at the surface and recycling nutrients there, would, before their numbers were reduced by hunting, have been responsible for releasing three times as much nitrogen into those waters as the sea absorbed directly from the atmosphere. The volume of plant plankton has declined across much of the world over the past century, probably as a result of rising global temperatures. But the decline appears to have been been steepest where whales and seals have been most heavily hunted. The fishermen who have insisted that predators such as seals should be killed might have been reducing, not enhancing, their catch.

But it doesn’t end there. Plant plankton, when they die, slowly descend into the abyss, taking with them the carbon they have absorbed from the atmosphere. It is hard to quantify, but when they were at their historical populations, whales are likely to have made a small but significant contribution to the removal of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. The recovery of the great whales, which were reduced by between two thirds and 90%, but whose numbers are slowly climbing again in some parts of the oceans, could be seen as a benign form of geo-engineering.

This should not be the only, or even the main, reason why we should wish them to return, but the way in which whales change the composition of the atmosphere provides yet another refutation of the idea that we can manipulate the living world with simple, predictable results.

(Goto link for his refs)

Wasn't rewilding the prairies supposed to be really good for carbon sequestration? (Though not as good as leaving fossil fuels in the ground and/or ending the industrial age admittedly.)


Archaeologists have found evidence of einkorn wheat in underwater excavations near the Isle of Wight:


This shoves the arrival of agriculture in the British Isles back a good 2,000 years to around 6,000BC. Just DNA, no seeds, so it's unclear whether it was planted and harvested there or just brought over and ground into flour by travelers. The coastline was much further out during that point in the mesolithic before the ice melted and seawaters drowned those lowlands, but the researchers seem to be working on the assumption that the wheat traveled by boat among surprisingly (to them) well-traveled human cultures:

Whichever scenario is correct, the discovery suggests a very unexpected degree of Mesolithic period maritime mobility (and Neolithic-originating cultural practice) that has not hitherto been apparent from the archaeological record.

If now-inundated coastal zones around continental Europe and Britain really were home to more technologically-developed and geographically-connected Mesolithic societies than those more inland Mesolithic cultures on what is still dry land, then there should be other differences at the Isle of Wight site, apart from just the einkorn evidence.

Remarkably, some such evidence has indeed emerged there.

The archaeologists, working there have found evidence of a wider range of flint tool styles - including some Neolithic-style  flint implements - and have also found around ten pieces of split timber, including three which had been split in a manner not seen elsewhere until the Neolithic.
Recent archaeological discoveries

The archaeologists say that the site may have been a Mesolithic boat-building encampment -perhaps the oldest such site yet discovered anywhere in the world. They have found evidence for woodworking, cooking and flint tool manufacturing. They also discovered pieces of Mesolithic string, the heel bone of a giant wild cow (aurochs) and DNA from dog (or wolf) and cattle (probably giant aurochs).

"The use of, or introduction of, cereal grains in Britain now appears to have been a much longer and more complex process than we had previously imagined," said archaeologist, Professor Vince Gaffney of the University of Bradford, co-author of the Science paper.

"Scientists' ability to analyse genetic material found deep in ancient buried marine sediments will open up a totally new chapter in the study of British and European prehistory.

My working theory on this is that it shows agriculture (aka the Neolithic Revolution) as capable of moving through forager territory much quicker than previously reckoned - although clearly much slower than the breathtaking pace of change upon first contact with the Americas and other suitable temperate zones around the globe. It throws up all the usual questions of who these people were - conquering immigrants or locals converted, either through choice or coercion, to the new way of life. How sharp were the distinctions between farming and foraging societies? Did they trade? Did they fight? How long did they coexist, with one group occupying the fertile lowlands (including those now underwater, it seems) and the other sticking to the forested highlands or the coasts? At what point did the foragers capitulate and what, if anything, of their culture and traditions remained, adopted by those who superceded them?

Interesting stuff...


Grief & Praise / Wild boar 'tragedy' in the UK
« on: February 03, 2015, 06:38:46 AM »
Tragedy for who?


The Government is to investigate how many wild boar are living in north Wiltshire after a motorist died after hitting one on the M4 through the county.

The chairman of Natural England, Andrew Sells, confirmed his department would be sending an expert to join a local deer initiative, with the specific remit of finding out just how bad the wild boar problem is in the farming country north of Chippenham and in the Bradon Forest, near Malmesbury.

The action comes after the tragic death of Raymond Green, a 47-year-old from Royal Wootton Bassett, whose car hit a huge wild boar on the M4 near junction 17 and was then hit by a lorry in the first week of January. [...]

My analysis of the news & framing terms of the article (x-posted from here):


Mr Gray said he was pleased the problem was at last being recognised. [...] once the monitoring work is completed, DEFRA will consider further steps to deal with the growing problem of wild boar

What are We going to do about the wild boar Problem?

Where have we heard this kind of language before? It often comes out as a justification just before further atrocities are committed towards an already long-persecuted population. What are We going to do about the Jewish Problem, the Gypsy Problem, the Badger Problem, the Rabbit Problem... etc. Who does the 'we' refer to and who gave 'us' the authority to arbitrarily deal out death in this matter?

Their population growth has been such in the Forest of Dean that there is now an annual cull, as gardens, parks and football pitches are dug up by the boar.

Our chosen haunts - those We create and maintain through great and continuous labour - take precedence over Theirs (wild boar are a woodland animal and their disturbance of the soil actively favours the growth of saplings in areas where grass otherwise dominates). When They invade and upset Our carefully laid schemes they forfeit their right not just to passage in those areas but to their lives even those scraps of woodland which We (in our temporary beneficence) have allowed to persist.

The action comes after the tragic death of Raymond Green, a 47-year-old from Royal Wootton Bassett, whose car hit a huge wild boar on the M4 near junction 17 and was then hit by a lorry in the first week of January.

When one motorist loses their life because of a collision with a wild boar (whose own loss of life is pointedly not considered 'tragic' or cause for concern in any way) it is taken as an call to arms to defend all motorists from the threat posed to them by the bodies of living animals. What of the threat posed to animals by the M4 and all the other rivers of flying steel which cut through their migratory routes and fence their tiny living spaces with the constant threat of death? Once again it recalls Derrick Jensen's premise:

Violence done by those higher on the hierarchy to those lower is nearly always invisible, that is, unnoticed. When it is noticed, it is fully rationalized. Violence done by those lower on the hierarchy to those higher is unthinkable, and when it does occur is regarded with shock, horror, and the fetishization of the victims. (http://www.derrickjensen.org/work/endgame/endgame-premises-english/)

Natural England does not carry out any formal monitoring of feral wild boar populations

There is a snarl behind the word 'feral' and further coded meanings behind the word 'wild', despite the attempts of some to rehabilitate them in a more positive light. At the heart of it lies disavowal: We are not 'wild' or 'feral' animals, and this is where our judge, jury & executioner authority comes from. We have cultivated ourselves just as we have cultivated the land and are now domesticated and civilised - or more correctly domesticating and civilising because the process is never complete and never unresisted. And yet the word 'feral' describes Us down to a 't' if you take it to mean an animal that has not discovered its place in the ecosystem, and which (until it manages to do this) causes great damage to the native flora and fauna leading to simplification and ecological impoverishment, with only the strongest and most flexibly adapted capable of resisting its onslaught.

But the disavowal allows Us to ignore all that we have in common with these wild boar, which we in turn perceive entirely in terms of Them, which permits us to go on destroying them or keeping them down (it's always a pushing down, coming from a fear of what may rise up after such long repression) as we see fit. That's the point of this article.


Wild boar have recently re-established a presence in the UK after being driven to extinction probably during the 1200s. George Monbiot had a good article about them a few years back:


What parallels can we draw between their rewilding experience and our own? How can we make alliances and start to protect them (and maybe have them protect us)?

Thoughts welcome


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 :)

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':

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...


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


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:

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]

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.


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'.

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:

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...


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:



and here's a decent review:


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:

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:

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.


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

Rewilding Mind & Heart / Re: Uncivilisation - The Dark Mountain Project
« on: October 20, 2014, 10:52:09 AM »
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:

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?


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:

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

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.


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.

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).


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.


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