Sunday, October 23, 2016

Lopez and Williams on Eco Ethics

I stumbled upon these quotes from two powerful writers in just one day. They perfectly frame my book's project, and hit at the heart of a subject I've been trying hard to flush out and express -- namely, how hard it is for humans to act ethically toward other species. What do you think?

“Because mankind can circumvent evolutionary law, it is incumbent upon him, say evolutionary biologists, to develop another law to abide by if he wishes to survive, to not outstrip his food base. He must learn restraint. He must derive some other, wiser way of behaving toward the land. He must be more attentive to the biological imperatives of the system of sun-driven protoplasm upon which he, too, is still dependent. Not because he must, because he lacks inventiveness, but because herein is the accomplishment of the wisdom that for centuries he has aspired to. Having taken on his own destiny, he must now think with critical intelligence about where to defer."

"No culture has yet solved the dilemma each has faced with the growth of a conscious mind: how to live a moral and compassionate existence when one is fully aware of the blood, the horror inherent in all life, when one finds darkness not only in one’s own culture but within oneself."
 -- from Arctic Dreams by Barry Lopez

"Most people are not comfortable making a connection between racism and specism or the ill treatment of human beings and the mistreatment of animals. We want to keep our boundaries clean and separate. But isn't that the point, to separate, isolate, and discriminate? We create hierarchies, viewing life from the top down, top being, of course, God, then a ranking of human races, and so our judgments move down 'the Great Chain of Being' until we touch rocks. This is the attitude of power, and it hinges on who is in control. Who has power over whom? How does this kind of behavior infiltrate the psyche of a culture? And what are the consequences of scala natura?"

"Arrogance is arrogance, and cruelty committed to a person or an animal is cruelty. We would rather not think too much about 'what is being done to those outside the sphere of the favored group,' yet I believe it is time in the evolution of our imagination to make a strong case for the extension of our empathy toward the Other."

— from Finding Beauty in a Broken World by Terry Tempest Williams

Friday, October 21, 2016

Prairie in Fall Reflection

In fall the prairie is dipped in bronze, brown, and ochre. An hour before sunset and the sun is already creating halos around the thick seed heads of indian grass, while bees, skippers, and a few crescent butterflies find the last of the aromatic asters and Canada goldenrod hidden among short and tall bluestem turning crimson. Atop even a moderate hill the air is warm from the day, but follow a path down a few dozen feet and an evening chill swarms my legs like grasshoppers disturbed from the vegetation. If I’m lucky there is silence – no cars on the nearby road, no planes on final approach for the airport, no gunshots from the nearby police shooting range. There is the riptide of grass in the wind rising against the horizon, and the deep breath of getting down on my knees to admire a fringed gentian, so blue it’s almost violet and giving birth to a bumble bee laden with pollen.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Autumn Images

Several photographs from the three main gardens at home base, more of which I share liberally on Instagram.

I add some corten steel to the new back meadow. Love it.

Late September

Switchgrass is a rainbow of flavor.

Last sulphur migrating through on aromatic aster.

Wild senna seed pods need a shave

Sunset in the main garden. Ho hum.

My 15 year old Manx buddy.

Coneflowers in the front, de-lawned yard.

Monday, October 3, 2016

The Environment is Not a Political Issue

I have long said that the environment is not a political issue, which seems confounding to many as it often takes human law to conserve, protect, and steward. And that's EXACTLY the problem. The environment is not a political issue -- it's a moral one. How can we ever hope to conserve, protect, and steward if we don't come to these practices ethically? How can we not see the world through other human classes and regions, let alone through the eyes of other species? Protecting the environment must come primarily from an ethical and moral center that doesn't even take into account human laws. Perhaps if we began with ethics in mind we wouldn't even need laws or politics. Maybe if our culture came at life from the other end of the spectrum -- through the other -- this entire discussion really would be perplexing.

Many political groups twist the spirit of environmentalism and turn it into a political fight, thus degrading and devaluing the ethical center of the primary argument; or, they take out the heart and the compassion and replace it with human-centered agendas of exploitation and hubris. It's like saying we need to protect our natural resources -- but nature is not a resource. Nature is nature, just like you are you and I am Benjamin.

While the political process may make some strides in doing good by our ethics, too quickly and too easily those ethics are eroded or washed away by human wants and the need to make concessions or bridge the aisle. So when I say the environment is not a political issue and is instead and ethical or moral one, I am saying that our world is not the real world -- and it never was.