What is Artifice?

Sheep field next to the River Wye, nr Hay. Photo by me.

There seems a renewed and furious human chauvinism by some, rejecting the material reality of ecological processes to the extreme, including the principle of Rewilding (Soule, et al).

The fury seems based on NGO dominance in the field (they are certainly not democracies), plus purchasing power without local consent or participation. NGO’s aside, because alternative treaties for collective and local management are possible, without ecological succession we are talking about the proliferation of anthropogenic urbanization, suburban expansion, farming, fishing, and forestry as the default position on a central plank of Human Rights.

In reaction, particularly to the question of urbanization and suburban expansion, the legally trained and culturally-influenced capitalists (though they would deny the latter), are persisting in claiming the Rights for Nature. All arguments are, therefore, sucked into the realm of the Courts, to mainly White Eurocentric judges, lawyers, and clerks. Rights are important agreements of equality between ourselves as human individuals, there is no doubt, and they are judged in Courts by other humans versed in the language of humans and the Law. All of these Human Rights should be firmly based upon ecological and physical material reality because that is the ultimate responsibility. But let us not forget that ecological processes are incommensurable with complex Laws evolved for one, single species ~ Homo sapien. One could call the Courts an “artifice” in ecological terms.

Terribly oversimplified, there are three main interconnected effects that drive suffering and extinction of human and teresapien life.

a. Global human inequity (to include extreme capitalism, arms trade, neo-colonialism, GDP Growth, racism and poverty, nationalism, conflict and migration, et al)

b. Ecological depauperation and biodiversity declines (critical to existence)

c. Climate crisis (volatile, extreme, and includes sea level rises)

Inequity has a great deal to do with depauperation and climate, but without ecological resilience, quite frankly, we (all life) face armageddon. Food and clean water depend mainly upon b. And c. contributes to a. and b.

We are, indeed, nature. But we are not the sum of all ecological processes. We must understand moments when letting things go is as important as when, where, and how to intervene. In not allowing succession and a plethora of other life-sustaining processes–some of which we have no idea–to re-instate their own evolutionary force, we are continually arresting ecological growth, interfering with ecological cycles of entropy, and preventing niche opportunities for life to flourish. Disturbance can drive evolution over time, but planetary dominion by our species has all the features of a catastrophic, continued extinction event (pain and suffering). As Chomsky said, “we are the asteroid,” more accurately, the conscious asteroid.

Ecological processes are core to ‘life.’ Indigenous cultures greatly understand this, and we in the Westernish have a full opportunity to learn from these people and their wisdom. I agree, that without consent or agreement, all interventions, passive or active, are forms of oppression. But the most oppressed of all, we have to remember, don’t speak human.

Ecological disturbance (that’s what we are, ecological disturbers, primary and secondary consumers), is now so vast as to arrest and even undermine evolutionary succession across all biomes. Climate change is fundamentally linked by the nature of this dominion, especially in the destruction of ecosystems for the extraction and burning of fossil fuels.

There must be room for ecological succession without heavy human disturbance. Setting up Rewilding v Traditional Pastoral is a non-starter. There’s no pulling the past out of a bottle like a genie, but we can learn from all, science and indigenous wisdom, moving forwards.

What if.

What if it’s not the last 50 years of human interventions that have caused the crash in living systems here in the UK, but the last 200 years? What if it’s not the last 200 years of human intervention but the last 10,000 years? These are still relevant questions in ongoing geological discussions as to when the Anthropocene began. They are also relevant to how we perceive a need for change.

Without the development of farming techniques over the last 10,000 years, there could not have been an industrial revolution in the last 200+ years. Without the industrial revolution in the last 200+ years, there could not have been intensive development and farming over the last 50 years.

People are considering we must again, at least, adopt the traditions of, say, 50 or 200 years ago, but in many ways, these are assumptions based on an emotional but often warped sense of comfort that stems from nostalgia. Human Rights? I have outlined before and above the problems of Rights, and believe in a fundamental Responsibility for all life in all we do. Ecologies have changed, the climate has changed/is changing. Our numbers have changed. And all kinds of social patterns have changed. We need to look at each place, case by case. We are in crisis.

Urban agriculture, urban ecology, community gardening, produce share is totally underestimated here in the UK. These are lands already heavily occupied by our species. To most people, rural land is utterly unavailable. To them, rural land may as well be the deep blue sea or the rocky mountains. Cities and suburbia offer, at least, a chance to form strong community bonds with a critical mass of political will in order to form gardens, homesteads, and varying organic horticultures: Reclamation of the public place. Why do we continue to allow ourselves to be dominated by landowners, NFU, supermarkets, NGOs, and/or corrupt state politics interested only in maintaining the status quo? Bring back food/ecology into local control, where the majority of people reside, including distribution, and let locacede happen where it can be agreed and will be welcome.

Above all, we are making choices now. Claiming successional processes, or re-introducing trophic species, are an “artifice” in favour of Homo sapien farming practices 50 or 200 years old is a broken concept, because all we do about living within resilient ecologies from now on could, therefore, be classed “artifice.” Remember, and for Earth’s sake, the real “artifice” is pouring tons of chemicals onto the land, draining rivers and water tables, forcing seasonality, and being exclusive about who manages the land, whether it be farmers, rewilders, developers, or industrial biochemical and genetics companies. We can do better and for all life.

 


 

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More on Praximund.

By W. Bulach – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=64587917 Photo – the mighty Kauri, one of the most efficient nitrogen process recyclers on Planet Earth. Click on the image for more information.

Fluminism brings together my thoughts over a number of years. I offer an alternative to Biocentrism (Taylor), Ecocentrism (Naess) and, importantly, Anthropocentrism (Passmore, et al).

To be a Fluminist is to recognise oneself viscerally as part of the interconnectedness between all beings ~ Symnexia (Sanguimund), and in this realisation, to act with love, respect and responsibility in protecting these interconnections, minimising the breaking of their flows, to find fluministic ways to proliferate and send new flows ~ Praximund.

The following is an extract from my dissertation, including narrative scholarship.

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5.4 Praximund: Responsibility and the Sacred.

There are problems with the theory of Rights taking precedence over Responsibilities. Many indigenous people understand this. Rights are merely human constructs, legislatively fixed (when processes are not), but politically vulnerable and impressionable by further human culture/population dominion.

Natural processes and fluministic interconnections have evolved, are evolving. There exists intrinsic, self-willed, complex patterns across space and time. Free-willed, save for our excess. We participate, as part of nature, yes. But because of this excess of destructive behaviours, rivers, forests, mycelium and migration need more than ‘Rights’ afforded only by humans, and a minority of humans at that… for this too is dominion.

So I have a name for the responsibilities and an adherence expected. A unity of opposites ~ a natural law, but not a law. I call it Praximund (latin; process/Earth) the deepest possible respect for natural processes, and a fundamental requisite of fluministic action. Infringe only with negative consequences to oneself and all life, the biosphere, as we are all interconnected. There is honour and pride in celebration and ritual of it.

There’s credence in declaring ecological interconnections sacred as a route to the protection of life, a full sanctity of life (Kumar). Nurtured this way, perhaps, the sacred become inviolable. Constituent lives are liberated to evolve with a free-will, a flourish of nature’s effervescent, green fuse. More, by cultivating a collective reverence for the presence of a community of living beings ~ through narratives, ritual and rules ~ we may look and ‘see’ life in new ways, a wave of sanguimund spreading though each one of us, the wonder of interconnected life. There have been many before us using sacred words with similar meanings now lost, and I hope many after, with words yet to be created. All I ask that we think about creating our own sacred in and with the natural world (Milton, Bateson), building narratives and exercising rituals in what is of utmost meaning to ourselves and together. Then, defend from the profane. And that defense, in sanctity and in love, will need to be strong.

Narrative Scholarship.

Guarding the sacred is not limited to protection from human intrusion. Sometimes, the opposite is vital. Sometimes, the sacred is one’s presence or consciousness and the tending of ecosystem in a loving, fluministic way. Fenced-off zones around Chernobyl have led to non-human life returning in abundance. There is a sanctity in the absolute devotion of ecological networks of that place. But the absence of humans is not a pre-requisite of the sacred.

Churches may seem at their most holy when the bells toll loudly, when the stalls are heaving with parishioners singing hymns at the top of their voices. The sacred seems to exist somewhere in the union of the people in the nave, all facing east, a sense of reverence helped along by those clever architects placing windows in the clerestory to remind of God’s presence in beams of moted dust light.

The land can hold us with a similar sense of direction, commitment and devotion. And God need not be involved, unless he is simply love. A private moment, no less, can be the touch of grace, with such strength that it can change one’s perspective forever.

I lean over my Grandmother’s grave and remember her strength. Fused into my memory cells, she’d garden with such force as to create her own weather system. This memory seems sacred, but not her grave. I feel the difference in remembering I am her kin.

It may not be a surprise the reader that I feel the sacred most in perceiving those bristling interconnections in the living world, the living, quietly seen or unseen. A humble field maple will do it, with birds in the gnarly branches and fungi at the roots. Their Autumnal yellow glow takes my breath way and I am minded to sit for hours and just be present. It is a profound love, intense and moving.

A mother fox licking her young, a tender petal opening to a bee, these are all things bright and beautiful. Light is important to me, I have been to the darkest of dark. That the direct or diffused sunlight gives succour to life seems profound. I love the light around waterfalls. So do the mosses and the liverworts.

There are also the green rays at sunset, or during eclipses, the last and first moments of light bent and scattered through our thin atmosphere like moments of magic.

Hokianga

The sacred can also be a memory, an event marked at a place only by the truth-myths passed down through generations. From the eastern sunrise, I once arrived at the spectacular Hokianga Harbour, North Island, New Zealand, an area brimming with sacred Māori sites. Yellow dunes on the far side of the bay shone brightly sucked back into a baby-blue vacuum. An incoming tide from the Tasman sea swept the bay clean with crested wave upon wave, and variable oystercatchers flew low at blistering speed (I could just make out their uncanny calls).

I followed a sign to a look-out point high above the harbour entrance and sat on a low wooden bench. I felt an immediate essence of something profound here. I was positioned somewhere on the edge of it all, and it felt like sanctuary.

Later, I walked along nearby Omapere wharf and talked to a Māori man from the village who was fishing with a simple line and hook. I was just a tourist, yet he was so generous in conversation.

He told me his Māori oral tradition, that legendary Polynesian explorer, Kupe, of the Matahourua canoe, made first Aotearoa landfall and lived here. The story goes that he named it Te Puna i te ao marama ~ the spring of the world of light ~ until in his old age he decided to return to his island birthplace, Hawai- ki. The words he spoke as he left were, Hei konei ra i te puna i te ao marama, ka hoki nei ahau, e kore ano e hokianga-nui mai ~ this the spring of the world of light, I shall not come back here again ~ and so, granted Hokianga its name.

The vessel of the sacred contains a good measure of vulnerability. Maybe this is an essential tension that drives us to protect.

Great sacrilege occurred at Hokianga, long after Kupe’s departure, against the endemic and the Māori. The mighty kauri trees, like the blue whales of the world’s forests, were wrenched from inland Waipoua and floated down the river for milling and global export, mainly by the hands of Pakeha (non-natives). Unlike the Māori, who would take chosen trees with a reverence, for canoe- building, the Pakeha took nearly all.

And without the kauri, large parts of the forest died and many endemic species lost forever. What was left was turned over to dairy, and again those products exported globally from the Harbour. To destroy the interconnections between living things is to destroy the most sacred ~ life.

Another Pakeha, William Roy McGregor, professor of Zoology, successfully campaigned to end logging of the Waipoua Forest in 1952 and created the Waipoua Forest Sanctuary. The sanctuary is still weak from attack, with Kauri Die-back disease laying claim to regenerating forest, and climate change will be having its effect. Let’s hope this small part of a once vast, ancient forest recovers to it’s truest dynamic state of being, given full protection and time.

Unlike the great Kupe, perhaps, I’ll return to Hokianga again one day. Modern technology makes it easier for me, though I’ll have to watch those emissions (always some kind of price to make such returns). The harbour and surrounds are a wealth of flora and fauna and, until then, it will be the distant sounds of the oystercatchers, torea-pango, that will remain in my memory as symbol of the sacredness of that place. If I am quiet enough, I can still hear the sacred, right now in my head.

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The story also told here Te Ahukaramū Charles Royal, First peoples in Māori tradition – Kupe, Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand.

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For more on Māori reverence, customs, ritual and stories, including the mauri of the forest (the life-force) invested in objects and buried under important ecological places or tane trees, as acts of protection.

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End note: Waipoua Forest was bought by the settler-colonialist Government from the local Te Roroa Māori in the 1870s for around £2000, no doubt putting them under immense pressure beforehand. Locals were disenfranchised from the receipts of logging, except to be employed in some of the most dangerous work. McGregor’s protected area was a legal entity under the Laws of the New Zealand Government, yet was suspended in the 1970’s for further logging. After yet another campaign, it was stopped. I wonder, if the practices of mauri “life-force” had been continued by all, and regularly, would this infringement have ever occurred?

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