“This reality-things once possessed that cannot be done without-is so powerful that it occupies our unconscious.” ~Wes Jackson
Calling all homecomer’s!
What would it mean if we took to task the job of building communities? Not cities, not suburbs, but communities that are diverse and rich with experts in many areas, communities that would share collective hopes for a different world, communities that were much more self sustaining than the ones we have created over the last century?
Wes Jackson thinks that investing our time and energy into communities is the answer to our ecological dilemma and goes about arguing this point in his book Becoming Native To This Place. He is of the mind that over the last 60 years or so, we have been so focused on the economy and economic development that we have been pulled away from small, local communities, that were more ecologically sustainable.
“We have been through the hypocrisy of the church, the atrocity of the nation-state that peaked with Hitler, and now we are devotees of economics, the encoded language of human behavior that directs us toward ecological bankruptcy. It is time to move more aggressively on to the fourth phase, already under way, ecology.”
How often do you give pause to what you purchase and where the money actually goes when you have signed on the dotted line? Does it stay locally for the most part? Or is your money re-directed to some other area of the world into the hands of people far, far away?
“In a similar manner, the forces of power, particularly corporate power, are impatient with what is adequate for a coherent community. Because power gains so little from community in the short run, it does not hesitate to destroy community for the long run. The malls at the edge of town are a perfect example. We forget why they were built. Their designers did not say, “Let’s make them ugly, wasteful, and devoted to consumerism.” They turned out a design to export wealth away to their stockholders, most of whom reside in distant cities. Malls are suction pipes, designed to export regional wealth.”
How many of us buy blindly? How many of us are following what the corporate and media enterprises without much thought in our daily activities? What effect is this having on us mentally? What affect is it having on us socially? What effect is it having on our environment that we need for basic survival? Can we change?
“An extractive economic system to a large degree is a derivative of our perceptions and values. But it also controls our behavior. We have to loosen its hard grip on us, finger by finger. I am hopeful that a new economic system can emerge from the homecomer’s effort-as a derivative of right livelihood rather than of purposeful design. It will result from our becoming better ecological accountants at the community level.”
What if we, as a society changed our values? What are some ways we could change our current dynamic of corporatism dictating to us what and who we should be?
“Our task is to build cultural fortresses to protect our emerging nativeness. They must be strong enough to hold at bay the powers of consumerism, the powers of greed and envy and pride. One of the most effective ways for this to come about would be for our universities to assume the awesome responsibility to both validate and educate those who want to be homecomers-not necessarily to go home but to go someplace and dig in and begin the long search and experiment to become native.”
“The economists have come along and taught us to believe that checks on self-interest are not only unnecessary but harmful. In their minds, self-interest behavior is rational behavior. Now that this ethos has become the dominant force at work in the market, wittingly or not, given the technological array that has popped up, the earth, including countless life forms, has become a mine and an overflowing sink for our wastes. That is not the way a healthy prairie works, where wastes become ecological capital.”
There are so many dog eared pages of this book in my lap, and I want to share with you all of it. But the overall concept is that we learn to be native to the areas in which we live. We observe how nature operates in that region and we mimic her; she knows what she is doing. We come ‘home’ and become responsible and ecological business owners. We invest in social relationships in our communities by buying locally, making locally, celebrating locally.
The ‘local’ movement is underway as we speak. At Whole Foods I am bombarded with local tags on produce that grew right in our state. Farmer’s markets have popped up all over the place and become the place to ‘be’ on Saturday mornings, your senses overwhelmed with the smell of roasting chili’s, and fresh dill; by live local musicians, and the eye feast of locally made wares.
But is it enough? People are still flooding away from America’s open lands where food can be grown, and people more self sustained, to the cities and suburbs, hoping for a ‘better life’.
But is life really better for most of us?
This book isn’t about saying we never should have left the agricultural life, and not created technology that saves lives. Not at all. What it is saying is now that we have done that, lets reevaluate that which we have created and make adjustments where they need to be made. I would highly recommend this read to anyone who is in to environmental ethics. It is a small, quick read, he does seem a bit cranky at times, and some of it was out of my realm regarding genetics. But it poses a lot of philosophical questions that if we don’t face right now, at some point we will be forced to.
By then will it be too late?
Spill it: Thoughts?