Reinventing the Informal Economy

This one is cross posted from Casaubon’s Book, a blog all about living in a world crashing towards a lower energy future, and all the myriad ways that we can be part of peacefully and responsibly birthing that new world. In the veign of transition towns, permaculture, and decentralizing, the ruminations below are all about interpreting the growth of the domination, energy-intensive, oppressive system that is now shaking in its foundations around us, and what we can do to anticipate and survive its collapse. Good stuff, thanks Sharon.

Reinventing the Informal Economy

Sharon May 29th, 2009

One of the most important things to know, I think, is that the growth we depend on (including the “green shoots” we might or might not be seeing) is always fed by taking something from somewhere else.  That is, we tend to talk about growth as though it comes, magically, from nowhere – we all of a sudden wake up and realize we need VCRs and then, the VCR industry emerges, the economy grows, we move on to DVDs and Blu-ray or whatever, and on and on.

But this is not all the story.  Many people who read this will be familiar with one part of the story that was left out – the energy equation.  That is, all growth depends on energy as a master resource, and the assumption that energy consumption can always grow, is, well, a problem.  Those of you who are peak oil aware will have seen many versions of this account, revising the classic economic assumption that we’ll just find more energy when we need it.

But there’s another piece of the story that doesn’t get told quite as often – that energy is only part of the equation.  In order to grow, we have to use a lot of energy, of course, but that energy use *has never* come without also bringing many more people into the economy as well – while energy does reduce human labor in some ways (ie, one guy can do with a tractor what 40 guys did with horses), the net demand for human labor in growing economies is always positive – you need more and more people.

Continue reading


A Weekend in Wise

Come to Southwest Virgina for a Weekend in Wise, a Weekend for the Mountains
The people of Southwest Virginia are not giving up…and neither should you
A chance to see the mountains and meet the people threatened by corporate greed, and to stand together for a sustainable future!

Join us for a Weekend in Wise County, in the incredible mountains of Appalachia. The weekend will include tours of Mountaintop Removal sites, service projects, local music, hiking and canoeing trips, as well as trainings on how to bring the fight for a clean energy future back to your own home town. Meet the folks leading the charge against the greed of coal and energy companies by standing up for a brighter future. See the beauty of the land we are all fighting to protect, and see the devastation that threatens the future of Appalachia.
Events will begin on Friday evening at 8 p.m. and will end on Sunday at 5 p.m. with a Prayer Vigil for the Future of SW Virginia. Friday night will include dinner, a movie and an update on the state of the campaign to stop Dominion’s dirty coal plant in Wise County.
Plan to stay Sunday afternoon for a Prayer Vigil for the Future of Southwest Virginia with Christians for the Mountains. The vigil will take place from 5 – 6 p.m. in Wise County.

Where: Wise County, Virginia
When: September 12 -14
Why: To learn about mountaintop removal and to experience the beauty of Southwest Virginia.
What to Bring: You, your family, your friends, a tent and sleeping bag for camping (other options are available by request), a camera, notebook, and an open mind.

Food and accommodations will be provided at no cost, but donations will be gladly accepted to support local efforts. Travel scholarships are available by request.

Stay Tuned for more information, or go ahead and email your questions. An agenda will be posted shortly.
To all Virginian Climate activists, a space is set aside Sunday for a planning session for Virginia Power Shift.
This is our opportunity to stand together, across the region, to say “No Mountaintop Removal! No New Dominion Coal Plant in Wise County” and “YES Clean Renewable Energy, NOW!” Together, let’s show Dominion that we’re not backing down.

Activists To Ratchet Up Climate Heat

Hitting the Web Waves

Activists To Ratchet Up Climate Heat

by Haider Rizvi

NEW YORK – Teams of environmental activists are planning to take to the streets over the coming weeks to put the spotlight on policy makers who they say are prioritizing corporate interests in the coal and oil industries over the impending threat of global warming.0727 02“Climate change is here and more and more people are refusing to sit by waiting for governments to act and watching them fail,” said Alicia Ng, an activist associated with the international campaign called “Climate Convergence 2008.”

The Climate Convergence is part of a global campaign that calls for acts of civil disobedience to draw policy makers’ attention to the threat of climate change and its impact on the natural environment and indigenous communities across the world.

Apparently inspired by the success of British environmental protests against the expansion of Heathrow Airport in London last year, those who have launched the Climate Convergence campaign say they plan to stage direct actions in a similar way in several U.S. and European cities in the next two months.

As part of their worldwide campaign, a little over a week ago, thousands of activists gathered in the Australian town of Newcastle to register their protest against over-reliance on fossil fuels. They stopped all rail transit of coal for a short time, in a blockade that cost the industry an estimated $1 million. Later, they also shut down coal shipments from the coastal city of Kooragang.

Campaigners describe their direct action gatherings as “camps,” where the protest-related activities are not merely confined to speeches or sloganeering, but also include workshops and music to highlight the issue of climate change and the sustainable approaches that are needed to cope with its adverse impacts on communities and the planet.

“Whatever we achieve in our local struggles this summer, they are amplified by the achievements of the five other climate camps around the world,” said Connor O’Brien of the British Camp for Climate Action. The camps are part of a global movement to “[build] pathways to a sustainable future,” he added.

Those running the Climate Convergence campaign are particularly critical of the Group of 8 (G-8) most industrialized countries’ policies toward climate change.

“The G-8 are making pitiful noises and insulting our intelligence with their so-called targets,” said Lizbeth Halloran from the Australian camp. “With world leaders clearly demonstrating that they serve the corporate fossil fuel agenda, it’s up to ordinary people to put the brakes on climate change when no one else will.”

The G-8 club of powerful nations includes the United States, Canada, Britain, France, Italy, Canada, France, Japan, and Russia. Despite worldwide protests by environmentalists, leaders of the G-8 countries, which consume much of world’s fossil fuel, have so far failed to agree on concrete actions to turn to clean energy sources.

Despite strong criticism from a large part of the scientific community and civil society groups, the G-8 countries are also pushing for the increased use of nuclear technology as an alternative source of energy. Many environmentalists hold that nuclear energy is not only expensive but also poses serious risks to the health of the planet.

Mining uranium for nuclear power plants produces radioactive compounds that often contaminate groundwater, air, and plant life, explains the nonprofit Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, adding that the byproducts of nuclear energy include plutonium, which remains hazardous for 240,000 years.

The Climate Convergence campaigners say they want dramatic reductions in greenhouse gas emissions to avoid catastrophic effects of climate change, which are not possible without a rapid transition away from oil, coal, and nuclear-based energy production.

For their part, the largest oil corporations are not only resisting such calls, but are also continuing to exert their influence on policy makers to block legislation that would divert the use of fossil fuel-based energy sources and increase reliance on cleaner energy technologies.

In April, as oil industry bosses gathered in Washington for a congressional hearing, they faced angry protests by thousands of environmentalists who questioned their role in addressing the issue of climate change. In the first week of that month, sizable protests also took place in several other industrialized countries, including Canada and Britain.

The Climate Convergence camps are due to take place in Eugene, Oregon and and High Falls, NY from Jul. 28 to Aug. 4; in Kent, England from Aug. 3 to Aug. 11; in Louisa County, Virginia from Aug. 5 to Aug. 11; and in Hamburg, Germany from Aug. 15 to Aug. 26.

© 2008 One World

Permaculture Experiment Photos

Here are some photographs to illustrate the post about the Harrisonburg permaculture project. More photos to come as we make progress!

Creating Alternatives: Local Permaculture Group Starts Backyard Garden

An informal community group in Harrisonburg, Virginia has come together with the mission of educating each other about small-scale sustainable food production; specifically with the goal of learning principles of permaculture through doing. The group has several permaculture experts and many permaculture beginners with a strong desire to learn. Meetings have consisted of informal workshop sessions including one on medicinal plants, as well as planning sessions of a backyard garden space. The group’s meetings have recently been transformed into workdays to create that garden as the weather has turned.

Installation of a rainwater collection system with rain barrels took place several months ago. More recently, the group constructed a raised bed to resist the incompatibility of many desired plants with the black walnut tree in the backyard. A “keyhole” style ground garden was also prepared. A compost pile with organic kitchen waste as well as donations from various sources collected by a group member is being utilized in this process, teaching the gardeners through experience (and research!) about how to create and maintain healthy and useful compost.

Some vegetables that were started inside and transplanted outside are already sprouting. Carrot, onion, and lettuce seeds have been planted directly into the ground. More seeds have been started inside to be transferred out, and many more seeds will go directly into the ground in coming weeks and months.

This garden is a wonderful step to build experience and share productive quality time in a wonderful community. It is important to recognize the value of sharing important skills like food production in order to create alternatives to corporate factory agriculture with its harmful environmental and social effects. This garden is by no means an entire solution, but rather a step in the right direction for positive change and learning how to take care of ourselves.

Updates and pictures to come!

Eco-Fiction Experiment: Harrisonburg, A Space of Hope

This is a rough draft of an eco-fiction story I started back in December. It takes off from a work called New World: Spaces of Hope, which I encourage you to check out. It localizes the world that Harvey writes about in that story. I would love to co-author eco-fiction stuff with anyone out there that might be interested, just let me know.

Alot of this world is possible, and part of the idea of eco-fiction, at least for me, is to dream up very doable worlds that we can begin to create in place of this toxic babylon cancer thing that has got us all so well trapped. Let me know what you think. peace

A brief timeline of Harvey’s New World (a more thorough reading of Harvey’s work is encouraged):

2012: InterNational economic collapse

2012-2020: Dark Times. Military juntas combine with religious hierarchies to produce oppressive yet orderly societies that impose sustainable transportation schemes in an attempt to moderate the effects of climate change. Dissent is brutally crushed, and in supreme Orwellian style, a great unending war is begun between three superNational global powers. Freedom of movement is nearly obliterated, while resources become scarcer and scarcer.

~2020- A mass movement, The Mother’s of Those Yet To Be Born, sweeps the planet, linking oppressed and those yearning for freedom from the chains of hierarchy.

After 2020 – A new society begins to take form, from the networks organized by The Mother’s. Sovereignty rests somewhere between the individual and her Hearth, or home-unit/family, instead of in States and Nations.
Tight federations of Hearths make up Neigbourhoods, loose federations of Neigbourhoods make up Edilias, looser federations of Edilias make up Regionas, and loose, fluid, and functional federations of Regionas make up Nationas.

As a new society grow up around them, The Mother’s form nomadic collectives for disabling weapons of all sorts all over the world. They set the stage for new, quasi-nomadic communities and collectives, mutually sustaining every interconnected community.
Technology, while accepted is used as sparingly as possible, particularly considering the reduced availability of energy, the collapse of federal subsidiescoal and climate chaos ending

A rearranged value system places weight on reciprocity, eco-harmony and the development of Natural Capital.
Sexual connection networks take the place of online dating systems, and dating or coupling between people in any sort of exclusivity is a much rarer practice than in the old world.
Child raising is done collectively, in Pradashas that are situated within Hearths.

Nearly all food, building materials, clothing and necessities are produced locally, though unique goods will travel from Regiona to Regiona.

Every individual is encouraged to and economically supported in taking year-long sabbaticums every seven years, to nearly any Hearth in the world. Labor exchanges are often organized by different Regionas, and some Hearths are nomadic, making their living where their services are needed.
Time reckoning systems are quite varied, ranging from modified gregorian calendars, to thirteen-moon calendars, to the many time-systems originating in the Asian cultures, to the shared calendar of the Mother’s Movement.
Trade of services as well as goods and sexual exchanges take precedent over currency exchanges, though many Regionas and Edilias do establish their own local currency systems.

Canals for transporting good Regionally.

Changed aesthetics
neutralization of weapons
women as changers of worlds
Experiential learning key

Zinidine awoke breathing hard, the blood pounding in his head, visions of his nightmare flashing behind his eyes. The sky outside his window a soft grey, night still lingering as the sun cast its first few rays over the mountains to the east. It must have been the dinner conversation, he thought; towards the end of the evening one of the younglings who had spent the day with her nose buried in a book about the old world had asked Jake, an elder who had been raised before the end times, what happened to lanEdilia labor that had been spent in recycling and detoxifying the Valley landfills. In his dream, Zinidine had been buried alive beneath mountains of waste, suffocated beneath the weight of discarded desires.
What a strange way to live he thought, as he swung his feet off his bed, feeling the sourness in his muscles. And destructive, but he pushed that thought away, choosing, as most, to not dwell on the atrocities and darkness of the time before the Mother’s movement. Last night was his first night back in his home Hearth in over three months. In that time he had travelled with the Edilia’s rail collective: from Roanoke to the Finger lakes, the Shenandoh Rail Thumpers had repaired and worked maintenance on over 1200 miles of rail, laid over 200 miles of new track on top of reclaimed road beds prepared by the Potomac Train Spotters, and prepared an extension of the Shenandoah-Potomac connector system, an Edilia labor exchange that had been worked out a few seasons back.
Zinidine stepped quietly through the home, making sure not to wake the nurse mothers who he had heard in the middle of the night comforting the two toddlers sick with chicken pox. The women now lay next to eachother before the dying hearth-fire, the young ones between them, all looking very content and full of the best dreams. Zinidine made his way out the back door, the warm, late-dark-season morning greeting him, fog shrouding the garden.
As he began a series of sun salutations, he thought of all the spikes he had driven, the mountains he had walked through, the beautiful people he had eaten with, danced with, and slept with along the way north. The piles of snow near the finger lakes, snow like had not been seen in a life time. Up north, they say, the climate chaos was felt the strongest, and stability was still some generations off, but the snow had returned, and this made them happy.
Casting his eyes to the zenith, following the direction of his outstreched, warrior-pose-hands, he cast his memories to the Bay. Like everywhere else, the Chesapeake was recovering, slowly but surely. There remained toxic, dead places throughout, where the waterlife collectives spent moons on end planting detox flora and the detox microorgs, slowly bringing life back to the dead zones. In other places though, the Bay was flourishing, and Zinidine had never seen such life, the water teeming with fish, the air filled with the cry of birds.
At the last full moon the Rail Thumpers had gathered with other Chesapeake Regiona Rail, Road, Sea and Sky collectives to discuss transport within the Regionaite edifice largely covered by the art of the youth that ran amok in this raucous Edilia, yet its remnant aura/energy and its history speaking of horrors unimaginable, a past that was decaying, yet palpable. Zinidine, though, felt it was right to reappropriate the space, and not level it like many of the old, imposing retail-distribution centers that had blotted the landscape after the last capitalist attempt to squeeze profit from a sickened and tired population.
The gathering went well, reportbacks detailing a positive state of the rails, another 530 square miles of parking lots, highways and other impermeable paved surfaces down-cycled to gravel, and three new passenger Zeplins built. As always, there was heated debate on the next Regiona development project to be taken on. Although a consensus could’nt be reached, feasibility analysis for three proposed projects were planned, and a tele-gathering set for the mid-year New Moon. Zinidine, though his maximum of six seasons as a rail worker would be met by then, had been most excited by the proposed NorFolk-DelMarVa bay connector path that would feature a tidal powered sea-rail with coral habitat.
The sun now peaked brilliantly over the hills beyond Massanutten, and Zinidine settled from Cow, to Childspose, to Lotus, feeling his blood flow smoothly through his veins, the sun warming his face as he finished the morning Yoga he had come to perform religiously while on the rails, schooled expertly by Squirrell every day. He laughed a little as he thought of the lanky, goofy kid: a devout Lunnite from a Rastafari Neighbourhood near the Potomac-Shenandoah confluence Edilia, known as Harper’s Ferry. Squirrell was apt to stop in the middle of a hammer swing to mark the changing of the solar tone, spouting out the moonspell from his memory, his well thumbed thirteen-moon calendar obviously readily internalized by his thirsty mind.
As Zinidine settled into a deep meditation, he could hear the morning sounds of the Neigbourhood as Hearths slowly awoke. His Hearth, home to a newly organized Pradasha, was essentially six pre-World-War-Era houses on the East side of the Harrisonburg Edilia. They were connected by greenhouse tunnels, and surrounded a prolific court-garden, the source, like all healthy Hearths, of nearly three quarters of their own sustenance. The first sound he heard was the laughter of one of the younglings unaffected by the chicken pox as they carried out some mischief on a sleeping adult, even the groan of protest could be heard through the screen backdoor. Zinidine said a quick praise to the morning sun, bowing his head in thanks to its returning. He thought of the folks of the megacities who had gone months without seeing direct sunlight for the dark smog that had choked their cities in the days before the End, and said a prayer for their souls.
Not yet ready to go back inside, relishing the quiet of the morning, fog still holding onto the grass and birds beginning their songs, Zinidine began to run. A quick jog along Black’s Run, he thought, would help reground him to his home place, and help him think of all the things he must take care of in the few weeks before starting his second sabbaticum at the time of the New Growth moon.
The feel of the compacted, mossy grass of the street on his bare feet was wonderful, the thought of the black pavement that had been here until just after he came to Harrisonburg as a youth made him shutter. As the fog lifted further, he could see the other Hearths appearing on either side of the street, the sun now reflecting brightly off the solar panels on roofs, the smell of herb butter on toasting bread drifting out kitchen windows. Zinidine turned south onto the greenbelt near the rail station, picking up speed as he passed the growth boundry and entered the stretch of open forest and livestock pastures that seperated Harrisonburg from the other mini-Edilia’s.
As had been the case many times while he was away, Zinidine cracked a proud smile for his home. Massanutten/Central Shenandoh was considered by many as a caring, reciprocating, vibrant and healthy city, with a restrained human growth curve that far underpaced its eco curve, a long term sustainability plan that had been in effect and effective already for nearly three generations. Of course it was no Asheville, where the end times had been forseen a generation before they struck the rest of the world, but Harrisonburg/Massanutten was healthy, and its people happy, its rivers running clean after a generation of stream rehabilitation, its cultural world vibrant with the synthesis of Mesopotamian, Slavic, Communal Mennonite, Mountain and NewGrass traditions, amongst others.
As he ran through the learning village, Zinidine spotted the fruit grove he had helped plant, and the towering, tiered, tree-house garden he had helped design during his 3 seasons with the learning Neighborhood. Again a smile as the first time he’d used the sexual connector network, and the moon-filled night he’d spent with her in the top of the tree-house crossed his mind
As the greenbelt took him near Dayton, and crossed under the rail road, he slowed, breathing hard, stopping to look up through the trees. Once there had been a super highway in this space, roaring with the thunder of super-polluting personal automobiles, a deadly black river that carried the products of people’s sweat and tears across countless bio-regions inside of monstrous boxes, senslessly following profit, leaving pain, poverty and eco-destruction at every stop along the way. Now the highway was gone, its black rock turned to gravel for roads and to structure additive for the continued, but slower construction, construction of a better world.
Eventually Zinidine returned to his Hearth, the sun now fully over the mountains, only the teens still sleeping. On the porch of one house, Jake and Miguel, two elders weathered and crippled by the great waves of change they had seen, sat smoking a tobacco-herb pipe in the sunlight, rocking and speaking quietly, their heads nodding as he walked by. They laughed, and he knew they were saying something about him, though their code switching, mostly spanglish with russian exclamations thrown in, hid their words. He knew they liked him, though, and looked forward to smoking with them and discussing his plans for the near future, their guidance always having been a help to him through his youth.
Walking around back, passing under a foot bridge connecting two of the taller houses, he walked to a corner of the court-garden, stepping up to a rain-catcher with a good stock of water, and pumped enough for a shower into the head at the corner of the house. The shower stood beneath the cover of a willow, its branches and leaves like a veil between the shower and the houses. Grabbing a bar of chamomile mint soap (with the initials of one of his Pradasha siblings stamped into it) from the shelf attached to the house, he turned on the water, jumping at but quickly adjusting to its coldness. It was too early in the day for a warm shower, all the water that had been warmed by the sun the day before would be needed for cooking and cleaning. Besides, Zinidine thought, the cold water was refreshing, reminding him of just how alive he could feel in the morning.
As the water ran off him, it flowed down a channel to a french-drain gray water system, three reclaimed kitchen sinks half buried and planted with highly absorbatant flora acting as a filter, the water eventually making its way to the small pond at the center of the court-garden. Stripping his clothes, and washing them with the same soap, he hung them over a branch of the Willow. For another second he let the water wash over him, shutting it off and wrapping a towel fashioned from recycled plastic fibers around him.
Finally he rentered the house that, by right of its massive kitchen, was most often occupied by the meal gatherings. Younger Pradasha parents and an Elder, Kim, who had been one of Zinidine’s caretakers in his youth, stood around the central island, tossing whole grain griddle cakes on the stove, the smell of bacon wafting about, the remnants of a pig that had been slaughtered before the dark season set in, a ten year old boar who had left behind his healthy genes in a small litter of piglets that would provide meat for another cold-season after a few years.
Zinidine walked to his room, grabbing a dry change of clothes: pants of local hemp, dyed brilliantly by the expert tie-dyers of a Staunton Neighbourhood; an amalgamated shirt made from brilliant patches of reclaimed shirts, a style explored to amazing depth by Mother’s in Harrisonburg in the latter seasons of the dark times.
Sitting down around the breakfast table, Hearth members all about him, Zinidine felt at home again. He missed this, he knew, when out with the rail collective, though he also loved the freedom and the every-day newness of being on the rails. Now there were four younglings in the Hearth, the two twins, afflicted today by their chicken pox, who had only seen four warm seasons pass; a toddler who had been fresh at her wet-nurse’s breast when Zinidine had last left for the rails, and Nas, a quiet but active six-year-old fluent already in three of the five tongues spoken in this Hearth.
Nas had reminded Zinidine of himself from a very young age, and they had a particular affinity for one another. When Nas had grown strong enough to walk most of a day on his own, Zinidine had taken the boy on hikes, up around the wind mill camps along the ridges, shown him the wonder’s of their bio-region, been the first to show him a few of the edibles that could sustain a clever human for days in the hills. Nas had spent his first night in a tent with Zinidine on top of a ridge as members of the Wind Collective, a notoriously rowdy group of Neo-Baachinists, drank and sang the night away, the next day’s load of maintenance hikes a long night away.
The two had sat together laughing at the hiijinks of an old German DVD, Lola Rent, in the Library Hearth downtown, catching dirty looks from the librarians. Nas had picked up German quickly from Zinidine, and the two had shared days giggling at jokes that few others in the Neighbourhood could understand. Nas had been born and raised in this Hearth, his roots already steeped in the waters of the Shenandoah. His bio-parents had both been youngling friends of Zinidine’s, and the other Pradasha parents grew up in nearby neighbourhoods. Zinidine, however, had taken a much more circuitous route to this particular Hearth.
He had been born in a Pradasha along the southern Rhine, in a Neighbourhood of guild-carpenters synthesised with emigrant, Parisian philosophe Educators. By the time he had finished his nursing and toddler seasons, a healthy growth curve in the Rhine Regiona suggested that there would be difficulty in sustaining Zinidine in any local Hearth. It was decided by the Edilia council, with many tears and with the gurantee of a sabbaticum hearth exchange at any time, that a new home, in another Nationa would need to be found.
Only two seasons passed before a hearth in an Edilia of the Chesapeake Regiona, Atlantica/Appalchia Nationa replied to the transplant post, having recently suffered the loss of a youngling to run of whooping cough. It was expressed, in every bit of the three languages that Zinidine could already understand, that he was loved, and would be thought of as always having a root-branch drinking from the clear waters of the Rhine, but that he would be loved and needed equally by the strong people of the Shenandoah. And indeed, they told him, the Appalachian mountains were not unlike the rolling Alpen foothills of the southern Rhineland.
Zinidine could hardly remember the Zeplin trip from the Cadiz port to the District, though images stood out in his memory: the white buildings of Cadiz, lemon trees and overflowing gardens sprouting from rooftops making for a green and white checkerboard over the city, and the great transport hub of the District, where he first fell in love with the sleek, fast, multi-colored, electric trains. He was received warmly in his new Pradasha, already valued for his multi-lingual abilities, and soon loved for his bright-eyed smile.

Animist Manifesto

This was posted over at Bioregional Animist a while back. I really dig it. It was originally written by Graham Harvey, and I encourage you to check out his website. What do you think of this? How close to your spirituality does this sound? Is this compatible with your cosmicview? Let us know.

All that exists lives

All that lives is worthy of respect

You don’t have to like what you respect

Not liking someone is no reason for not respecting them

Respecting someone is no reason for not eating them

Reasons are best worked out in relationship – especially if you are looking for reasons to eat someone – or if you are looking for reasons not to be eaten

If you agree that all that exists is alive and worthy of respect, it is best to talk about ‘persons’ or ‘people’ rather than ‘beings’ or ‘spirits’, let alone ‘biomechanisms’, ‘resources’, ‘possessions’, and ‘things’

The world is full of persons (people if you prefer), but few of them are human

The world is full of other-than-human persons

The world is full of other-than-oak persons

The world is full of other-than-hedgehog persons

The world is full of other-than-salmon persons

The world is full of other-than-kingfisher persons

The world is full of other-than-rock persons…

‘Other-than’ has at least three references:

it reminds us that we are persons in relationship with others,

it reminds us that many of our closest kin are human, while the closest kin of oaks are oaks, so we talk most easily with humans while rocks talk most easily with other rocks…

it reminds us to speak first of what we know best (those closest to us)

Make that four references:

it reminds us to celebrate difference as an opportunity to expand our relationships rather than seeing it as a cause of conflict or conquest

All life is relational and we should not collapse our intimate alterities into identities

Others and otherness keep us open to change, open to becoming, never finally fixed in being

Alterities resist entropy and encourage creativity through rationality, sociality (or, as William Blake said, ‘enmity is true friendship’)

Animism is neither monist nor dualist, it is only just beginning when you get beyond counting one, two… At its best it is thoroughly, gloriously, unashamedly, rampantly pluralist

Respect means being cautious and constructive

It is cautiously approaching others — and our own wishes,

It is constructing relationships, constructing opportunities to talk, to relate, to listen, to spend time in the face-to-face presence and company of others

It is taking care of, caring for, caring about, being careful about…

It can be shown by leaving alone and by giving gifts

believers in ‘human rights’, for example, demonstrate their belief in rights not only by supporting legislation to protect individuals from states, companies and majorities, but by not insisting on hogging the whole road or pavement, not insisting on another human getting out of the way on a busy street…

You don’t have to hug every tree to show them respect but you might have to let trees grow where they will—you might have to move your telephone lines or greenhouse

You might have to build that road away from that rock or that tree

Hugging trees that you don’t know may be rude – try introducing yourself first

Just because the world and the cosmos is full of life does not make it a nice and easy place to live. Lots of persons are quite unfriendly to others. Many see us as a good dinner. They might respect us as they eat us. Or they may need education. Like us, they might learn best in relationship with others who show respect even to those they don’t like, and especially to those they like the taste of.

Although evolution has no aim, life is not pointless. The purpose of life is to be good people — and good humans or good rocks or good badgers. What we have to find out is what ‘good’ means where we are, when we are, with whom we are, and so on. It is certainly wrapped up with the word ‘respect’ and all the acts that implies.

Since all that exists lives—and since all that lives is, in some senses, to some degree, conscious, communicative and relational—and since many of the persons with whom we humans share this planet have a far better idea of what’s going on than we do—we can now stop all the silliness about being the pinnacle of creation, the highest achievement of evolution, the self-consciousness of the world or cosmos… We’re just part of the whole living community and we’ve got a lot to learn. Our job isn’t to save the planet, or speak for the animals, or evolve towards higher states. Many other-than-human people are already happily self-aware, thank you very much, and if we paid attention we might learn a few things ourselves. By the way, we’re probably not alone in mistaking ourselves for the most important people in the world: hedgehogs probably think they are (but they’re spiky flea-ridden beasts so why believe them?!).

Um, when I said that ‘all that exists lives’, I’m not sure about plastic bags.

But I am certain that we should not treat objects as mere resources, somehow available or even given to us, or humanity, to use as we will or wish.

The same goes for words like ‘substances’, especially those that exist within plant and fungal persons. There are substances, but they aren’t ours until they are given, gifted to us. And then we’d better find out why we’ve been given whatever gifts we get. And we’d better ask how those gifts might be best used (whether its for pleasure, power, wisdom or whatever). This is especially true if the plant or mushroom person who offers us the gift substance has to lose their life in the process.

Maybe sometimes the mushrooms just want to help us join in the big conversation that’s going on all around us. But not all rocks, fish, plants, fungi, birds, animals or humans want to talk with us:

Sometimes they want to be quiet

Sometimes they want to be rude

Sometimes they have other concerns

Sometimes they don’t understand

Sometimes we don’t speak the language

Sometimes we don’t know the appropriate gift

The precise and proper way to show respect depends where you are, who you are, who you are respecting and what they expect. Gifts, like swords and words, have more than one side. Alcohol is a gift in one place, a poison somewhere else. Handshakes are friendly in one place, shows of strength elsewhere. Kissing is respectful to some people, an assault on others. Respectful etiquette is hard work but its reward is fuller participation in a large and exciting community of life.

Sometimes we need shamans to do the talking for us

Sometimes we need shamans to do the talking to us

Animism is just over the bridge that closes the Cartesian gap by knowing how to answer the question, What is your favourite colour? Perhaps it is the bridge. Perhaps there is no gap and animists are people who refuse to collude with the illusion

Animism is often discovered by sitting beneath trees, on hills, in rivers, with hedgehogs, beside fires… Animism is better communicated in trickster tales, soulful songs, powerful poems, rousing rituals, and/or elemental etiquette than in manifestos.

[Originally published By Strange Attractor Journal Journal number three . We would like to thank Graham for giving us the permission to publish this for the first time on line!] (I don’t especially have permission)