Saturday, July 26, 2014
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.