Danger! Homo fatuus brutus at work

Gail pointed me to this post on Palingates (thanks, Gail!). I threatened to steal it, and, well, the thread was open after all… so I snuck in and lifted it (see below). Fair comment on my dream, Gail; I have to add a rider to point out that in this future I picture, there is more than enough wilderness* set aside to make up for the overly-manicured bits; and we’ll have far more than enough energy being generated by fifteenth-generation artificial leaves and other true renewable energy, all for free.**

* I should also add another disclaimer concerning my dream future, in which we will be expert stewards of the land; humans will not be excluded entirely from areas declared as wilderness. Some peoples will want to, and should, live there. For several millennia prior to industrialisation we lived in harmony with, in partnership with the land. The present threat to the Serengeti (a place that was once known as Maasailand) — see video above — is a case in point. We belong in Eden.

** This will, of course, never happen because the Dark Lords of Koch won’t allow it.

And now, because I said I’d steal it, here ’tis (thanks TexasGal and Palingate):

A wide lawn with active water-sprinklers
GOD
“Frank, you know all about gardens and nature. What in the world is going on down there on the planet? What happened to the dandelions, violets, milkweeds and stuff I started aeons ago? I had a perfect no-maintenance garden plan. Those plants grow in any type of soil, withstand drought and multiply with abandon. The nectar from the long-lasting blossoms attracts butterflies, honey bees and flocks of songbirds. I expected to see a vast garden of colors by now. But, all I see are these green rectangles.”

St. FRANCIS
It’s the tribes that settled there, Lord. The Suburbanites. They started calling your flowers ‘weeds’ and went to great lengths to kill them and replace them with grass.

GOD
Grass? But, it’s so boring. It’s not colorful. It doesn’t attract butterflies, birds and bees; only grubs and sod worms. It’s sensitive to temperatures. Do these Suburbanites really want all that grass growing there?

ST. FRANCIS
Apparently so, Lord. They go to great pains to grow it and keep it green. They begin each spring by fertilising grass and poisoning any other plant that crops up in the lawn.

GOD
The spring rains and warm weather probably make grass grow really fast. That must make the Suburbanites happy.

ST. FRANCIS
Apparently not, Lord. As soon as it grows a little, they cut it — sometimes twice a week.

GOD
They cut it? Do they then bale it like hay?

ST. FRANCIS
Not exactly, Lord. Most of them rake it up and put it in bags.

GOD
They bag it? Why? Is it a cash crop? Do they sell it?

ST. FRANCIS
No, Sir, just the opposite. They pay to throw it away.

GOD
Now, let me get this straight. They fertilise grass so it will grow. And, when it does grow, they cut it off and pay to throw it away?

ST. FRANCIS
Yes, Sir.

GOD
These Suburbanites must be relieved in the summer when we cut back on the rain and turn up the heat. That surely slows the growth and saves them a lot of work.

ST. FRANCIS
You aren’t going to believe this, Lord. When the grass stops growing so fast, they drag out hoses and pay more money to water it, so they can continue to mow it and pay to get rid of it.

GOD
What nonsense. At least they kept some of the trees. That was a sheer stroke of genius, if I do say so myself. The trees grow leaves in the spring to provide beauty and shade in the summer. In the autumn, they fall to the ground and form a natural blanket to keep moisture in the soil and protect the trees and bushes. It’s a natural cycle of life.

ST. FRANCIS
You better sit down, Lord. The Suburbanites have drawn a new circle. As soon as the leaves fall, they rake them into great piles and pay to have them hauled away.

GOD
No! What do they do to protect the shrub and tree roots in the winter to keep the soil moist and loose?

ST. FRANCIS
After throwing away the leaves, they go out and buy something which they call ‘mulch’. They haul it home and spread it around in place of the leaves.

GOD
And where do they get this mulch?

ST. FRANCIS
They cut down trees and grind them up to make the mulch.

GOD
Enough! I don’t want to think about this anymore. St. Catherine, you’re in charge of the arts. What movie have you scheduled for us tonight?

ST. CATHERINE
‘Dumb and Dumber’, Lord. It’s a story about…

GOD
Never mind — I think I just heard the whole story from St. Francis!

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About pendantry

Phlyarologist (part-time) and pendant. Campaigner for action against anthropogenic global warming (AGW) and injustice in all its forms. Humanist, atheist, notoftenpist. Wannabe poet, writer and astronaut.
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11 Responses to Danger! Homo fatuus brutus at work

  1. Gail says:

    Hm. I watched the trailer about the Maasai and will get to the whole movie. It reminds me of the movie I watched last night (http://witsendnj.blogspot.com/2011/06/tar-sands-and-why-they-matter.html) of the theft of land from the indigenous people of Canada – in their case for tar sands instead of tourism – in a couple of ways.

    One, both land-grabs are immoral with horrible consequences for the displaced (and of course there are so many other examples throughout history and currently, like the Amazon where environmental activists are being murdered). The other though is that it is a little more complicated – not the immorality, that is crystal clear. But the environment gets wrecked by hunter-gathering people too, only far more slowly. Humans started causing extinctions of other species about as soon as they found fire and weapons, just not as effectively as they have been since the Industrial Revolution and the discovery of coal followed by the internal combustion engine. I guess I’m not convinced that there was ever a time when homo sapiens lived in harmony with nature, without exploiting resources to whatever level was possible limited only by available technology.

    And although the tar sands must be stopped for the sake of the ecosystem, including future generations of humans, the people depicted in the movie now are – ironically, naturally – just as dependent on fossil fuel as someone dwelling in Manhattan. It was a little awkward to see them rallying against the tar sands extraction of fuel and destruction of their land, and then hop on snowmobiles to go hunting, or fly in an airplane to survey the damage!

    Cynical, I know…

    • pendantry says:

      I haven’t watched the whole film myself. I was trying to find the documentary I saw on some channel or other a week or so ago: I’m buggered if I can remember what the channel was, or what the documentary’s title was (so I’m unsurprised that I can’t find it again). I do recall that it focused on the plight of the migrating wildebeeste, which are in theory restricted by arbitrary man-made map boundaries, within which they are protected, outside of which they are simply not. And as climate changes, their path changes — but the ‘wildlife park’ boundary doesn’t.

      However, the trailer for ‘A Place Without People’ could easily be a trailer for this other documentary, and that put what was, to me, a convincing case: the Serengeti now is not what it was fifty years ago, and that is simply because humans are now excluded from this ‘wildlife park’. Without the presence of humans who had been stewards of the land for generations, the landscape has changed, and continues to change.

      The Maasai chap interviewed in the trailer says: “We were moved out of the crater in 1975 by the Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority. They claimed we were destroying wildlife. However, we did not and do not kill wild animals.” I have no reason to doubt him.

      I don’t deny that man has caused the extinctions of many species; however, in the past, these effects were localised and restricted to a few species. Over time, the rate of damage has accelerated — to the point where we’re now in an era of mass extinction the like of which the planet has only ever seen a handful of times before. Those other mass extinction periods weren’t as a result of our presence (there were simply too few of us), but this one most definitely is.

      The way I see it, it’s easy to live in harmony with nature when there are only a few of you. And when there are simply too many people (demanding ever more and more resources) it’s not only not easy; it’s impossible. See overshoot.

  2. Gail says:

    I hope you don’t think I am presuming to quibble with the Incomparable Wibble!! I agree with your fundamental points.

    It’s just important to me (for some obscure reason – what does it really matter?), when I wonder about our place in the cosmos, whether our failure as a species was ordained from our inception. Humans seem predetermined to aim for exponential growth, which has in the past been controlled by famine, disease and war. Even of the Maasai wiki says – “The measure of a man’s wealth is in terms of cattle and children. A herd of 50 cattle is respectable, and the more children the better. A man who has plenty of one but not the other is considered to be poor.[35] A Maasai religious belief relates that God gave them all the cattle on earth, leading to the belief that rustling cattle from other tribes is a matter of taking back what is rightfully theirs, a practice that has become much less common.”(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maasai_people).

    So of course you are right, now we have reached the point where any more growth is impossible, and there is going to be a terrible correction the likes of which earth has never seen – never mind people have experienced on a global scale. Even the mass extinction currently underway is already faster than the past 5 events, according to biologists. Most people just, incredibly, haven’t noticed yet.

    • pendantry says:

      “… our failure as a species was ordained from our inception” — I think that’s right. We’re mammals, descendants of small rodents. Qn: What happens when there’s a glut of food on a farm? Ans: A plague of mice. What’s happening here is the same, on a global scale.

      We (humans) think we’re smart — but if we’re so smart, why are we spoiling our nest? All our smarts have done for us is ensure that we can outcompete all the other beasts trying to do the same thing. We’re no different; we’re not special; we’re certainly not ‘incomparable’. Well, I’m not, anyway 😉

  3. A great blog (I heard about you over on Gail’s blog)…people do belong with the land. Seems to me that the culture we live in has forgotten that and destroyed so much of the land in the process.

    I have a dream, too, that people someday will return to living in harmony with nature, or at least we will regain the freedom to do so if we choose.

    We could learn a lot from the indigenous peoples of the world. Concerning how the indigenous people effect the landscape and wildlife around them, I highly recommend the book “Tending the Wild” by M. Kat Anderson. Native people were the caretakers of the “wilderness” white people found when they dicovered California, and likely many places in American. I don’t think humans are naturally distructive….but certainly the culture we live in is destructive. Seeing the destruction all around me is almost unbearable at times.

    I am horrified that these people in the video, and so many indigenous people around the world as well, are being forced to leave the land of their ancestors…I will watch the entire video, thanks for the introduction to it.

    • pendantry says:

      I believe we are, collectively, fools (hence my renaming of ‘homo sapiens sapiens’) — and we’re even more foolish because we don’t recognise how truly stupid we are. Knowledge that humanity has acquired over generations of interaction with the natural world is falling away from us. Much of it is already lost. Civilisations have fallen in the past, but what’s different now is that those who failed before us did not do such a thorough job of eliminating past knowledge. Is there still time to turn things around? I hope so, but fear not.

      Thanks for the book recommendation. Tending the Wild, another to add to my reading list!

      Amazon UK’s description (paraphrased, hyperbole elided, my emphasis added):

      ‘Tending the Wild’ examines our understanding of native cultures and shows how we might begin to use their knowledge in our own conservation efforts. M. Kat Anderson presents a wealth of information on native land management practices gleaned in part from interviews and correspondence with Native Americans who recall what their grandparents told them about how and when areas were burned; which plants were eaten and which were used for basketry; how plants were tended […] dispels the hunter-gatherer stereotype long perpetuated in anthropological and historical literature. We come to see California’s indigenous people as active agents of environmental change and stewardship. ‘Tending the Wild’ persuasively argues that this traditional ecological knowledge is essential if we are to successfully meet the challenge of living sustainably.

  4. dwighttowers says:

    Like the site! There’s a book I think you’d enjoy, that looks at the politics of national parks (why they were established, who objected etc etc) and a lot lot more. It’s called “Ecology and Empire: Environmental History of Settler Societies”. It’s a collection of essays inspired by/extending/critiquing Alfred Crosby’s “Ecological Imperialism” idea.
    http://www.amazon.com/Ecology-Empire-Environmental-History-Societies/dp/0295976675

    I’ll be reviewing it shortly over on my site.

    All best wishes

    • pendantry says:

      Hi, thanks for your visit, and the book recommendation. It does look interesting!

      Amazon UK’s editorial review (paraphrased — and duplicate and bullshit text elided, my emphasis added):

      Think locally, but act globally‘ becomes more than a bumper sticker in the authors’ hands. This text, considered by some as a primer in its field, will help anyone wishing to take up the task. Ecology and Empire moves the debate beyond the North American frontier by comparing the experience of settler societies in Australia, South Africa and Latin America. From Australian water management and the crisis of deforestation in Latin America, to beef farming in the Transvaal, this topical book provides a broad comparative historical approach to the impact of humanity on the ecological systems on which settler societies base their livelihood.

  5. Pingback: Perception is everything | Wibble

  6. Jennwith2ns says:

    Clever. I’ve often had those thoughts about the ubiquitous grass in suburbia myself.

    I lived in East London in the late 90’s/early 2000’s, and when I moved back to the US, I started coursework in Denver–which is mostly suburban sprawl in the midst of gorgeous mountains. I was looking for a job (ended up working as a door-to-door carpet-cleaning saleswoman, but that’s another story), and interviewed with a woman who waxed eloquent in her despair over her inability to water her lawn because they were having a drought. It appeared that was the sum total of her life concerns. No doubt it wasn’t, but the whole interaction was very off-putting.

    • pendantry says:

      I’m often reminded these days of Pete Postlethwaite’s masterful rendition of the line in the Age of Stupid:

      It’s like looking through binoculars, observing people on a far-off beach; running around, in circles, fixated on the small area of sand under their feet — as a tsunami races toward the shore….

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