So . . . What’s Up?

Homo Sapiens is the only species of life we know which has the abilities to choose how it lives in the world. Right now, we are living in a dangerously destructive manner and threatening all life on Earth, including our own.

Imagine a large flock of birds living in a mature, deciduous tree – a Big Leaf Maple in my part of the world. These birds have found a food source in the seeds of the tree and an even better one in the insects that live in and under the tree’s bark which they can expose by pecking and pulling the bark off the tree trunk. Ideal nest building material is available within walking distance from the small root fibres of the tree which the birds scratch up with their feet and pull off with their beaks. Life is good and the flock thrives, increasing its population with every passing year.

Until the catastrophe. One spring the tree buds do not appear; there will be no seeds in the fall. Insects are plentiful and easy to obtain as what bark is left is now dry, curled up and easy to knock off the tree. When the birds run down to the ground to gather nesting material, they find that the rootlets are also dry and do not bend into a suitable shape for nest building. With the females ready to lay, a decision is made to move to another tree.

There are no other Big Leaf Maples nearby as no seeds have survived to germinate for many years. The birds find that their wing structure has atrophied from lack of use and they can no longer fly well enough to reach another stand. Eventually, the eggs are laid in shallow nests on the ground but predators ensure that none hatch. Although the mature birds survive well enough for their normal lifespan, no new chicks are ever produced and the species is extirpated from that locale.

Now imagine a massive population of large, self-aware mammels living in a way that destroys all the resources they rely on for life.The air they breathe, the water they drink, the food they eat, the clothing and shelter that protects them from the elements. Oceans are acidified, soils made barren, forests denuded, grasslands turned to deserts, wetlands drained, aquifers polluted or emptied, severe storms amplified. Evidence abounds to show that the change being made by humans during the anthropocene epoch is greater and compressed into a shorter time period than corresponding changes during any of the five preceding great extinction events.

Many non-scientific people believe that new and wonderous technologies will emerge to save humanity and the rest of life from these depredations. Perhaps this accounts for the popularity of fantasy, magic, wizardry, super-heroism and other phantasmagorical subjects in current fiction. So far the two most promising candidates for feeding ourselves might be Soylent Green, which was foreshadowed in a 1973 Hollywood movie and Soylent Pink, which we already have in abundance.

Looking for ideas for the weekend? Soylent Green and 1984 would make a good pairing for a depressing late-night home theatre extravaganza.

Roderick Haig-Brown – echoes of the past

Author, soldier, law enforcement officer, international conservationist, magistrate and judge, University of Victoria Chancellor but, above all Roderick Haig-Brown was a consummate angler in the mold of Izaak Walton. Below is a short excerpt from his last book, “Bright Waters, Bright Fish”, completed in September 1976 – one month before his death.

“So Canadian anglers have in their heritage three unfortunate concepts: there is an unlimited supply of fish, regulations are unnecessary, and fishing should be free. These concepts must be eliminated. The resource cannot support a meat fishery, it cannot be enjoyed for long without close regulation and management, and if it is to be managed properly, there must be a source of revenue — it cannot and should not be offered without direct cost to the participants in the form of licenses.”

“All this regulation is gain rather than loss. The resource is put in proper perspective, as something of immense value, to be cherished, used respectfully and passed on unimpaired to future generations. True, management also brings about some loss of wild freedoms and in some sense a loss of quality; but these are penalties of increasing population. Angling, if it is to persist, can only do so as a sport of high principles, strong ethics and intelligent recognition of the true nature of the resource. Such principles, like the ordinary concrete regulations that bind him under the law, are not a burden upon the angler but positive enhancements of his chosen pursuit. To be fit to make proper use of the fishery, he has to bring something more with him that a rod, a line a hook and a desire to kill fish.”

Now, 37 years later, we are faced with the entire resources of Earth’s biosphere threatened by those who, like Haig-Brown’s meat fisherman cannot think beyond the desire to kill fish or, in this case, to convert natural capital into accumulated personal wealth. The difference of course is that, while few people worldwide have had their lives threatened by a group of fly fisherman who can’t practice restraint, the entire human species is now threatened by the capitalist wealth accumulators who suffer from the same unprincipled greed.

Over the years, I have bored many friends, family members, colleagues and casual acquaintances (I try not to discriminate) with my stories of lost quality of life and I still consider that, in my case at least, Quality of Life and Standard of Living exist in an inverse relationship — as one goes up, the other goes down. I’m not going to expand further at this point (maybe in a later post) but if we run into each other when you happen to be looking for a way to kill some time, ask me to explain . . . . .

A 50th Anniversary Surfin’ Safari

For those too young to understand, Surfin’ Safari was the title of The Beach Boys debut studio album, circa 1962

I want to take you along on a “Surfin’ Safari” that started with a trip to the International Organization for a Participatory Society (IOPS) which I had previously identified as a nascent organization with which I might have a good deal of common ground. A post by another traveller on a pathway similar to my own led me to his primary idea mill, a WordPress blog titled “What should democracy look like?”. The blogger describes his work this way: “Exploring possibilities of what democracy can be is what this blog is about. It is being written by someone who is an advocate of democratic ways of looking at human potential, who sees everyone’s perspectives as valuable especially for creatively contributing to shaping a new world.” It sounded like we were on parallel routes to a very similar destination so I looked deeper . . . . .

. . . . . His Reprogramming the matrix of culture post made me promise myself I would watch the Matrix series again from a new perspective. As a start, I followed a link from the post to . . . . .

. . . . . a Wikipedia entry for The Matrix (franchise). Before finishing my reading there, I took a side trip . . . . .

. . . . . to an investigation of the meaning and history of utopian and dystopian fiction, the latter being a genre which is looking less and less fictional as the time passes with, as yet, no action to engage the global crises of the 21st century. A read through this entry comfirmed that I would be using “dystopian” as well as “utopian” a lot more in my writing in future. I still believe humanity is on the cusp of an evolutionary jump into a utopian existence . . . but we have to jump. If we sit on our collective cusp for too long we fall and the dystopia in which we would find ourselves is one we would probably not survive. By this point, descriptions of well-known works of dystopian fiction were beginning to look like many of the news items I read every day. I chose . . . . .

. . . . . The Handmaid’s Tale by Canadian author Margaret Atwood, described as “wherein a Christianity-based theocratic regime rules the future United States” – reality really bites. I can even visit the “Republic of Gilead” without so much as a ferry ride off my Canadian island, at least until the next federal election.

I seriously ask you to take a few minutes to ride the same wave I did, I think you will find this instance of Art becoming Life to be uncanny and disturbing. As for me, I now have three films and a book to add to my ‘Buck It’ list – I’d better get at it . . . . .