Featuring “Voices for Nature & Peace,” an interview podcast and “Kollibri’s Weekly Column” in which I read my essays out loud, plus “Farmer K’s Diary” an irregular video series. [ more… ]
Content also available at my YouTube channel
This essay is a response to “Redefining the Anthropocene,” by Erik Molvar, which was published on Counterpunch on May 13, 2021. I recommend that it be read first.
First let me first stress that I am not calling out Molvar personally or even specifically here. As a staunch opponent of livestock grazing on public lands, I greatly value the work of the Western Watersheds Project, of which Molvar is the executive director, and I definitely encourage people to support the organization. As for my critique of his article, what I see as an omission his part is common in environmental circles and is by no means his alone. Also, as I attempt to illustrate a bigger picture, I depart from the context of his article, and it’s entirely possible that we are in accord once I do so, and that his omission was merely an oversight.
Secondly, I totally agree with Molvar that we must work to restore “natural, functioning ecosystems” on the planet, and that this work must include both the prevention of “artificially-caused extinctions” and the protection of “healthy ecosystems.” I also support the campaign he mentions that seeks to safeguard 30% of the planet by 2030 and 50% by 2050.
Where Molvar falls short, in my opinion, is in the view he presents of “humanity.” To illustrate what I mean, here are a few snippets:
What’s missing in these quotations, and indeed in the rest of the article, is any reference to indigenous humanity, past or present. I contend that with that omission, we cannot comprehend what “natural, functioning ecosystems” are nor how to return to behaviors that encourage them.
This is for two reasons:
1) Many of the “natural, functioning ecosystems” we hope to restore included indigenous humans as a key element. They were participants in the dynamic equilibrium of their ecologies as much as the flora, fauna, fungus, etc. We can compare their absence to the lack of any other species, like Buffalo to prairies, Beavers to riparian zones, or Wolves everywhere. When they are gone, nothing works the same as it did.
2) As “civilized” humans, we are handicapped by cultural traditions that not only disconnect us from what is wild, collectively and individually, but actively work to suppress what is wild. We’ve got too much baggage and too many blinders to take on the task of wild restoration on our own. We need the help of our indigenous kin to find our way back. (Note: coming from a primitivist perspective, I use the terms “civilized” and “civilization” in a literal sense to denote urban/agricultural societies as opposed to gatherer-hunter/wildtending cultures, and do not attach a positive or admirable value to them.)
This review is based in part on my interview with one of the editors, Laila Kassam, which you can listen to here.
Agriculture is at the root of multiple crises facing humanity today. Environmentally, it is responsible for habitat destruction, topsoil loss, aquifer depletion, pesticide and fertilizer pollution, ocean dead zones, dubious genetic experimentation, and a tremendous amount of green house gas emissions. Socially, its practice depends on a permanent underclass of slave-like labor controlled by monopolistic corporate forces with pernicious political influence. Philosophically, it reduces non-human life—plants, animals, fungus, etc.—to objects to be controlled and manipulated rather than relations with whom to live in reciprocity; this “dominionism” (as enshrined by the Abrahamic religious tradition) is the toxic foundation of contemporary capitalism (and which, I must add, is too often ignored by socialist theory).
We have to eat, of course, so what are we to do?
“Rethinking Food & Agriculture: New Ways Forward,” an anthology edited by Amir Kassam and Laila Kassam, takes a deep dive into these ecological and cultural concerns, from the Neolithic Revolution to the present day, and explores sustainable solutions.
On February 26th, I interviewed Ajamu Baraka for my podcast. Baraka is a veteran grassroots organizer whose roots are in the Black Liberation Movement and anti-apartheid and Central American solidarity struggles. He is an internationally recognized leader of the emerging human rights movement in the U.S. and has been at the forefront of efforts to apply the international human rights framework to social justice advocacy in the U.S. for more than 25 years. He is a National Organizer for the Black Alliance for Peace, whose activities we discussed.
Baraka has taught political science at various universities and has been a guest lecturer at academic institutions in the U.S. and abroad. He has appeared on a wide-range of media outlets including CNN, BBC, Telemundo, ABC, RT, the Black Commentator, the Washington Post and the New York Times. He is currently an editor and contributing columnist for the Black Agenda Report and a writer for Counterpunch.
What follows are excerpts from our conversation, edited for clarity. You can listen to the entire interview here.
“On episode #42 of the Green Root Podcast, host and ex-farmhand, Josh Schlossberg, gets his hands dirty with writer, podcaster, and organic farmer, Kollibri terre Sonnenblume, to unearth the roots of the agricultural revolution, the ecological and societal impacts of industrial ag, and how humanity might find a balance between growing food and preserving nature.”
On Friday, January 15th, two activists drove eight hours from Eugene, Oregon, to a remote corner of public land in Nevada, where they pitched a tent in below-freezing temperatures and unfurled a banner declaring: “Protect Thacker Pass.” You’ll be forgiven if you’ve never heard of the place—it’s seriously in the boonies—but these activists, Will Falk and Max Wilbert, hope to make it into a household name.
The last few days I’ve been reminded of the period immediately after 9/11. That too was a media spectacle that fired up fevered emotions and over-heated rhetoric. With the word “spectacle” I am not questioning the reality or the gravity of either event; I am emphasizing that each featured a mediated aspect that itself instigated its own effects.
“Restoration of habitats and regenerative, localized food production need to be foundational in our economies moving forward. We should be turning resources towards these efforts with the same vigor the destruction and depletion was carried out with. Sucking the life out of our lands while polluting the water to grow human fodder void of nutrition and send it oversees to the highest bidder is a march toward extinction and most are chained to this way of life by the corporate oligarchies that have more rights than human beings or the very sources of our lives. Many of us know and are implementing place based solutions that ensure a future for all.”Bobby Fossek, II
(Quotations from Bobby Fossek in this article are drawn from my podcast interview with him, which you can listen to here.)
Cove, Oregon, is a tiny town in the eastern part of the state that most Oregonians haven’t even heard of. Surrounded by fields of conventional monocrops in the heart of conservative ranching country, it seems an unlikely place for leading edge cultural transformation, and yet it is, thanks to what might strike some as an unlikely partnership between Native Americans and the Episcopal Church.
I first visited Cove, and met Bobby Fossek and his family, in the summer of 2017. I was traveling in the area with a friend on a foraging and wildtending mission that also took us to Hell’s Canyon. Bobby’s place was our base camp for a few days of picking and processing cherries from nearby trees, and we cooperated together in setting up drying racks and running their steam juicer.
Bobby is a Walla Walla and Yakima descendant from the Umatilla Reservation. In his youth, he picked up some traditional knowledge from his father, but it wasn’t until later in life that he committed more fully to learning and practicing the skills of his ancestors. Perhaps ironically, the Episcopal Diocese of Eastern Oregon provided the particular means to do so that he is now pursuing.
2020, with its pandemic and its protests, was many things to many people: a hardship for those who lost homes, livelihoods and people they loved to COVID and insufficient government support; an inspiration for activists who have been working for years to call attention to police brutality; and an imposition to those who resent anything that makes them take other people into account (like demands for racial justice or requests to follow public health protocol).
What 2020 should have been for everyone was a wake-up call that the system is not as solid as it might have seemed, and further, that that isn’t all bad.
Asian countries have been far more successful than the US in responding to the COVID pandemic, but you’d never know that from the US media. Even most alternative media has been largely US- & Euro-centric. While our domestic issues here are important, we have been missing out on important lessons from other places.
A partial remedy to this dearth of information is provided by the just released, “Capitalism on a Ventilator: The Impact of COVID-19 in China & the U.S.” The book is an anthology of writing by over fifty activists and independent journalists, edited by Sara Flounders & Lee Siu Hin. (I interviewed Sara about this book for my podcast here.)