Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Beyond The Death/End Of Nature

Lance Kinseth, Infinite Reach, 48”x48, acrylic/gallery canvas

WE NEVER ESCAPE being “ecological.”   Bill McKibben [find his publications] says we are “post-natural,” essentially (1) removed from wildness (to be fair, not really from nature as we are inside the universe/multi-verse) and (2) having now impacted on all of the Earth so that prisine nature has ended.  Really?  Such a statement from a person who clambers about the world telling people what to do, what is wild, what is wrong, and it illustrates our eco-illiteracy at the higher levels, as people bow down, as if they have been given the very real current state of affairs.

In fact, all of our problematic “post-naturalism” is, in fact, a gut-level, core, practical eco-response from wild beings, still so very young in the Earth, but so naive that we unintentionally do many of the right things (as well as the wrong things) for this “post-modern” moment in time.  In these modern, “dark eco-ages,” there can be a sense  that we are doing something right, something so right for all of the negative consequences, that it far outdid all, All, yes, ALL, of the wondrous, kind, best-intended, most benevolent efforts of the most engaged eco-saviors.

All the introduction of the human on the landscape, from the Neolithic on, is au natural, not a dis-ease.  Cybernetics—“computer-ology”—seems so unnatural, but it is still quite primal. 

Instead of being apart from nature or, more focused, apart from wildness, we are finding ourselves to be ore deeply lost in it.  “Wilderness” was once something dangerous, then something nearly inanimate and banal needing our “use” to activate it, and now something extremely complex, likely beyond us, beyond our intellect, extremely intelligent, full of calculus without thinking, form the slime mold to the dog chasing a bone in the river, to the stars.

Bill McKibbin—shame on you for such limiting, separating, misleading metaphors.

Yes, urbanization can seem like the “end of nature” but it is so deep, so inside, and so responsive globally and dominantly with adaptive eco-features [that I was once wont to only credit the beautiful rivers and grasses as capable of actualizing].  We are doing some good work that we can build upon.  And the idea that we are moving in the wrong direction, just keeps us from it.  So much eco-work keeps us from it by envisioning ourselves as separate/apart.  We become our words.  Say “nature,” and you look out the window, and yet, you are lost inside the overriding wilderness of Earth and galaxy and universe and multi-verse].

Yes, still so very young in the history of the Earth, we do not understand how to integrate into the larger Earth community (as Thomas Berry admonishes us to do in his book, The Great Work, but are sort of doing it anyway, although folks like Bill would tell you otherwise).  It is apparent that our eco-literacy is still in its infancy, especially with regard to our sense of expressing nature.  Viewing Earthrise over moonscape in 1970, we are, at our very best, at the beginning of a renascent shift, perhaps more like Cimabue in the early Italian Renaissance—just intuitively reacting without really having a concise directive or language.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Eco Body-Mind

Lance Kinseth, How Much Does Your Mind Weigh?, 19”x33, acrylic/panel

This post is an overview of sorts—a point of entry—with  more detailed aspects such as reconciliation ecology described elsewhere.

IN EARLY HUMAN development, a sense of separation or differentiation between human and other biota and inorganic material and processes such as weather and seasons would be inconceivable.

As human populations expanded and became more reliant on culture, there was a gradual separation of human life from nature.  Origin myths shifted from a sense of coming from the Earth to a sense of coming into the Earth and exiting it in death.

In post-industrial/cybernetic times, extended sensory experience of space and time—in infinities of largeness and smallness and a sense of a geo-time of epochs and stellar birth and death—has challenged a sense of apartness.  Satellite monitory of the Earth, shared DNA across all biota, and direct experience of degrading environmental feedback to the point of threatening human health reawakens an emotional experience of inseparability.

Still, ecology is a rather new term in the popular imagination.  For all of our material sophistication, we have really yet to acknowledge that we remain quite ecologically illiterate.  We remain cultural with little sense of more fundamentally creatural, and we become our words.  And “nature” continues to largely reference something “out there,” and this is reflected in how we act.  If we can be holy but a river cannot, then we will use it or at best, with a quality of usufruct, we will steward the river as a “resource.”

If we could begin to challenge our words, we might see remarkable processes that we have overlooked.  Because of our eco-illiteracy, our most effect “interventions” in the contemporary moment likely have not been our intentional environmental activism.  It has likely been an inherent wildness, unintended but survival-driven, as with, for example, global urbanization that has erroneously appeared to be nearly the
antithesis of  “nature.”

“Stewardship” implies managing, preserving, and maintaining of a separable landscape.  A “guardian” is not necessarily the same as a “steward.”  As in the movie Avatar, the indigenous hominid inhabitants were envisioned to be an expression of the landscape and gave it first priority rights in a natural “legal standing.”  In such a view, human life is not deemed to be secondary, but rather is one reach of landscape that continues to express human life.  Giving first priority to a river and to wild grass and woodland optimizes human life, and it is the real, practical work as well as being the highest literate life rather than a reactionary step backward.

Reverence would be the first step in such guardianship.  Reverence is not worship.  Rather, reverence is an acknowledgement of the landscape as capable of caring for life. And from this perspective, human action would involve following and listening rather than possessing and managing.  If there is regulation, it would be regulation of human action to come into harmony with the landscape.

Legal standing and reverence might open the gate to an eco-literacy that still remains far beyond the inherently anthropocentric words we use to guide our actions of recycling and sustainability.  If we are to sustain for the long run of things, we will leave ourselves behind, just as our deep ancestry did to become species sapiens.  And the larger landscape will be the designer and shaper of that which we will become, as it currently is in spite of our delusion of self-direction separate and above nature.