sexta-feira, janeiro 23, 2009

red crested finch

Whatever happened to ecology?

The science of Ecology has been taken over by the cult of scientific reductionism and has become a weapon in the war on the living world being waged by industrial man.
This article of July 2002 is a greatly extended and updated version of an article first published in The Ecologist Vol. 15 No. 3, 1985.

Thomas Kuhn, in his celebrated Structure of Scientific Revolutions, demonstrated perhaps more convincingly than anyone before him [1] that a scientific theory was adopted not because it had been 'proved' to be true on the basis of some serious objective test (assuming that there can be such a test) but because it fitted in with that pattern of scientific 'wisdom' on the subject - the "paradigm" as he referred to it - that happened to be in vogue at the time.

The more credible epistemologists of the last decades, such as Imre Lakatos, Paul Feyerabend and Harold Brown, have largely accepted this thesis and have generally come to agree that scientific knowledge has no special status - contrary to what logical positivists and many scientists still maintain - that distinguishes it from common or garden knowledge.

Though Kuhn himself later abandoned the use of the term paradigm (the philosopher Margaret Masterman showed that he used it in at least twenty different ways), this has not prevented it from coming into general use, nor even from being applied to cognitive frameworks outside the field of science.

At the same time, it has also become clear that, since scientists do not live in a closed scientific community, but are also members of a society with whose world-view, together with the values it reflects, they have, like everybody else, been imbued, and which the scientific paradigm which they entertain also tends to reflect.

Consistency with the reigning social paradigm is thus, in effect, the ultimate criterion of scientific truth. A perfect example is the almost unquestioned belief among the scientific community in the Darwinian and today the neo-Darwinian thesis, according to which evolution proceeds by natural selection from random variations (or genetic mutations for the neo-Darwinists) - a crude mechanistic process (the biological version of Adam Smith's "invisible hand") that somehow has the mysterious ability to transform random variations (or mutations) into the highly integrated and perfectly coordinated parts of that most sophisticated of all creations, the ecosphere.

If Darwinism was so attractive to scientists it is that it was above all seen as providing the only coherent 'naturalistic' or 'scientific' explanation of evolution, the only alternative being some airy-fairy theory making use of supernatural concepts like Driesch's "entelechy" or Bergson's "elan vital". In this way, it marked the victory of science over metaphysics and religion.

Another attraction of Darwinism was that it could explain evolution without recourse to Lamarck's theory of the inheritance of acquired characteristics which was not reconcilable with the mechanistic paradigm of science. For one thing mechanical systems do not inherit acquired characteristics, for another, they are passive, and do not evolve as a result of their own efforts, as living things were seen to do by Lamarck. Clearly they require as well an operator to make them function. [2] Hence Darwinism was consistent with the management ethic so critical to the very notion of progress as a scientific, technological, and industrial enterprise.

It was, and remains, attractive too because it provides a reductionist approach to evolution, one that justifies the study of the living world by examining its components in isolation from each other. This too is important as science, since Bacon, [3] Descartes and Galileo, is above all an enterprise designed to transform and dominate the world, and to do so it must be reductionistic, the contemplation of totality having little role to play in this suicidal endeavour. The postulate of randomness is also critical in order to make it appear that what order there is in the world is a product of this transformation. [4]

All of this was clear to the great geneticist and embryologist C. H. Waddington, who wrote:

"Since Darwin's time and in particular since the rise of Mendelian genetics, the emphasis has been placed on the discreteness of the individual genes, the randomness and non-relational nature of the mutational process and the unimportance of the reaction of the organism to its environment." [5]
In the 1940s and 50s Julian Huxley, George Gaylord Simpson and others developed the "Modern Synthesis" which seemed to be an advance on the neo-Darwinism of William Bateson and August Weissmann, in that it replaced the vague notion of "the survival of the fittest" by that of "differential reproduction". That meant that those who survived the terrible competition that was seen to be a necessary feature of the living world were not just the "fittest", a vague concept, but those who succeeded in having the most offspring, something that could be accurately quantified and hence that was seen as being very scientific.

As already intimated the main reason why Darwinism was so attractive to scientists is that it served to rationalise the socio-economic trends brought about by the industrial revolution. Among other things it postulated the principle of perpetual change on "progress" as well as individualism, egoism and competition, the qualities most admired by the new industrial middle-classes, while ignoring the old values of tradition, cooperation, and sociality.

For Polanyi, neo-Darwinism is firmly accredited and highly regarded by science though there is little direct evidence for it, because it fits in beautifully into the mechanistic system of the universe, [6] which is critical to the modern world-view.

The Austrian biologist - and founder of General Systems theory - Ludwig von Bertalanffy felt the same way:

"That a theory so vague, so insufficiently verifiable and so far from the criteria otherwise applied in 'hard science' has become a dogma, can only be explained on sociological grounds. Society and science have been so steeped in the ideas of mechanism, utilitarianism and the economic concept of free competition, that instead of God, selection was enthroned as ultimate reality." [7]
What few people seem to realise is that precisely the same thing has happened to ecology. Ecology developed as an academic discipline when a few biologists realised that living things do not live in random aggregations but are instead the differentiated and interrelated constituents of larger natural systems that were originally referred to as 'associations' or 'communities' and that once they taken in conjunction with their geological substrate and atmospheric environment, were and are now referred to as 'ecosystems'. [8]

For a long time communities or associations of living things were seen to be so closely integrated that they could be compared to biological organisms - and were even referred to as "super organisms" by early ecologists such as Clements and Shelford, [9] who were particularly influential at the time, The ecologist Daniel Simberloff referred to the notion of the community as a superorganism as "ecology's first paradigm". [10]

It is important to note that the holistic ecology of the early days had much in common with the world-view of primal people. It was also reconcilable with the world-view of the natural theologists such as Ray, Kirby, and Paley in the 17th and 18th centuries, who interpreted the close interrelationships between the living things that made up the natural world and the extraordinary harmony that existed among them as proof of the existence of a divine creator. [11] It was also consistent with the world-view of the romantic poets such as Coleridge, Wordsworth, and Goethe, as it was with that of Thoreau and Aldo Leopold, the great precursors of today's environmental or ecological movement for which it provided the necessary theoretical justification.

On the other hand real ecology could not conceivably serve to rationalize and hence legitimise the atomised and aberrant society that economic development gives rise to. It is necessarily holistic rather than reductionistic, it seeks to understand why things happen in their total context rather than apply statistical methods to the study of isolated cause and effect relationships. It is organismic or vitalistic rather than mechanistic.

What is more, the concepts in terms of which it is formulated such as wholeness, the balance of nature, teleology, morphogenetic and behavioural fields and organized (as opposed to random) complexity, are very difficult to quantify, which in the eyes of modern science means that they lack precision, are very difficult to study in controlled laboratory conditions, and are thereby 'unscientific'.

It follows that in the 1950s, when pressure developed to set up departments of ecology in US universities (they had been fairly rare up to that time) ecology had to undergo a radical transformation. This led to the revival of the reductionist and mechanistic ideas of the botanist Herbert Gleason, [12] which had caused a big controversy 30 years before. The environmental historian Donald Worster in his brilliant book Nature's Economy tells the story of this transformation. Though he obviously deplores it, he admits that if it had not occurred

"ecologists might have disappeared as an independent class of researchers and would not occupy today such an influential position among the sciences." [13]
Daniel Simberloff also describes how

"ecology has undergone, about half a century later than genetics and evolution, a transformation so strikingly similar in both outline and detail that one can scarcely doubt its debt to the same materialistic and probabilistic revolution. An initial emphasis on similarity of isolated communities, replaced by concern about their differences: examination of groups of populations, largely superseded by the study of individual populations: belief in deterministic succession shifting, with the widespread introduction of statistics into ecology, to realization that temporal community development is probabilistic: and a continuing struggle to focus on material, observable entities rather than ideal constructs ..." [14]
Robert McIntosh, perhaps the best known historian of ecological thought, also notes how

"much of the revolution in ecology in the 1950s and 1960s took the form of increasing quantitative methodology, the introduction of diverse external bodies of theory into ecology and efforts to merge ecology with other bodies of biological theory, especially genetics and evolution."
Noting that both genetics and evolution were and still are largely reductionistic sciences. At the same time he tells us that "classical Clementsian, climax theory was reassessed and found wanting by plant ecologists", while "the long submerged individualistic concept of H. A. Gleason became the 'individualistic hypothesis' and was incorporated into new general ecology textbooks" [15] - and, he might have added, has now become gospel among modern ecologists.

One of the most influential promoters of this new reductionist ecology or anti-ecology as it would more appropriately be referred to, is William H Drury whose last and posthumously published book is entitled Chance and Change. [16] Its very title could not of course be more revealing. Indeed it implies that the living world is constantly changing and in a totally chance or random direction.

It goes without saying that such a world is by its very nature totally indestructible. Transnational corporations can thereby annihilate our forests, erode, desertify and salinize our soils, pollute the living world with tens of thousands of toxic chemicals and transform the chemical composition of the atmosphere to their hearts' content. How can it degrade let alone destroy the ecosphere, if the latter has no necessary structure and is constantly changing?

Complexity and stability
It is worth considering to what extent the old ecological principles have been rejected. To begin with a well-established principle of ecology is that, as natural systems become more complex, so do they become more stable. But this principle became an embarrassment to scientific ecologists and had to be discredited so as both to justify the systematic replacement of complex forest ecosystems and traditional agricultural ecosystems with the endless stretches of monoculture required to satisfy the requirements of our modern economy. Drury makes no bones about it. He tells us that there was a time

"when widely quoted ecologists were making the seductive arguments that species diversity is critical to the health of ecosystems. Diversity it was argued, leads to stability by adding connections in food webs. It seemed evident that when species diversity decreases, a community is destabilized. This in turn provided dire forebodings for the destabilizing effects of drastic reductions in species diversity by deforestation of the wet tropical jungles." [17]
Such dire forebodings had of course to be dispelled if the scientific discipline of ecology could serve to justify economic development.

Succession to a climax
Another well established ecological principle is that of ecological succession towards a climax. Eugene Odum expresses the holistic view of succession in describing it as "an orderly process of community development that is reasonably directional and therefore predictable" and that "culminates in a stabilized ecosystem or a climax ecosystem". [18]
This is totally unacceptable. For one thing it is irreconcilable with the individualistic concept since succession does not involve the action of but one, but the concerted action of all the living things that make up the community or the ecosystem. It is also a strategy geared to the achievement of a particular goal - a stable state - after which change comes to an end save for the purpose of maintenance and repair.

This is also a teleological concept with all its scientifically unacceptable metaphysical and theological connotations. It is also irreconcilable with the principle of randomness as it is with that of perpetual change and thereby of progress and economic development, its most obvious manifestation.

The idea of succession seen as a strategy leading to an ecological climax is also irreconcilable with the gospel of neo-Darwinism. For Drury succession has to be no more than a series of ad hoc moves, for

"Random change is consistent with Darwin's theory of natural selection on the basis of which there would be strong selection pressures for favouring members of 'early successional' species to suppress their successors, and strong selection pressures opposing those individuals that enhance the growth of competitors." [19]
The reductionist ecologists of today do not seem to realize that ecological succession is only one specialized instance of sequential development that is a feature of all life processes at all levels of organization. This is true of the development of an embryo in the womb, as it is of day-to-day behaviour such as getting up in the morning, having breakfast, and going off to work. Each of these processes occurs in a specific order, nor is it a random one, for each is totally purposive, as indeed is ecological succession to a climax. [20]

The balance of nature
The notion of the balance of nature is critical to holistic ecology. It is largely another way of expressing the principles of order and stability. For instance, in any ecosystem the balance must be maintained between the populations of living things at different trophic levels. If there are too many predators or not enough decomposers then the balance would be disturbed which could only result in instabilities. Similarly the balance must be maintained within our internal ecosystem, between man, for instance, and the populations of micro-organisms that necessarily inhabit him and without which his normal metabolic functions could only occur imperfectly.

The balance too must obviously be maintained between the different chemical substances that make up our atmosphere. If global warming is occurring today it is precisely because we have not maintained this balance, the carbon dioxide content of the atmosphere having increased from the norm of about 288 ppm (parts per million) to about 350 ppm, and continues to do so.

The principle of balance is so evident and so critical to an ecological world-view, that it is almost impossible to believe that any serious student of the world of living things could possibly reject it. Yet it was so rejected by Darwin himself and by his contemporary Alfred Russel Wallace, as it was by Charles Elton, one of the most distinguished British ecologists of the inter-war years, and later by McIntosh, Simberloff, and just about every other modern ecologist of note today, with the exception as usual of Odum and Rowe.

For Drury the balance of nature, or rather the "equilibrium conditions" that he equates it with, together with the climax that gives rise to it "seem to be direct descendants of the divine order of nature's plan, which Western people inherited from their pre-scientific past", which for him could not be a more damning indictment. He also tells us that

"Equilibrium theory, the characteristic ecology taught in introductory textbooks, clearly provides the intellectual foundation of politically active environmentalists." [21]
Here again he reveals the close connection between his ecological 'science' and his socio-economic ideology. Elsewhere he rejects the notion of balance because he says it separates humans from nature. "Environmentalists", he writes, "continually assert that humans and their technological society have destroyed nature". Before that occurred, of course, "nature was peaceful and harmonious. This is a distorted and unsubstantiated view". It is "not realistic or helpful", and "leads to an unjustified pessimism among environmentalists". [22]

The whole is more than the sum of its parts
Even the most fundamental holistic principle that "the whole is more than the sum of its parts" has been rejected by modern ecologists. Arthur Tansley was among the first to deny this key principle "These wholes", he wrote, "are in analysis nothing but the synthesized actions of the components". A mature science, he insisted, must isolate "the basic units of nature" and must "split up the story" into its individual parts. [23]
However, to deny that the whole is more than the sum of its parts is to deny that there is such a thing as organization - a concept of course that scientists geared to quantitative methods cannot begin to deal with (though they have tried unsuccessfully to measure biological organization in terms of Shannon and Weaver's [24] information theory).

To deny organization, however, is to deny the most basic feature of the living world. All living things are made from the same materials, they simply differ in the way these materials are organized, As the French philosopher Edgar Morin notes, "there is no such thing as living matter, only living systems" and he might have said "living organizations". [25] However, this is conveniently ignored by the proponents of reductionism and mechanism.

Drury once again makes no bones about his motives. The reason why he considers "that nature works on the basis of one-to-one species interactions, variability and chance", he tells us, is that he is "uneasy with the repeated assertions that nature's norm is balance, and that this balance is fragile, and that current human activities invite the collapse of entire complex ecosystems". [26]

It must be clear to all that as a result of this transformation mainstream scientific ecology no longer reflects the ecological or cosmic world-view of primal people, of the natural theologists, of the Romantic poets, of the early academic ecologists, nor of the environmental or ecological movement of today.

Most people in the environmental movement of course still assume that ecology as a science, as it is taught in today's universities, provides the theoretical justification for the war we are fighting against the multinationals that are destroying our planet - but quite the opposite is true. It is the destruction that the irresponsible activities of the multinationals are giving rise to that modern ecology serves to justify.

Significantly modern scientific ecologists bitterly decry the use of the term 'ecology' as it is applied to our subversive movement. An exception is again Eugene Odum of the University of Georgia, the doyen of the ecological world, whose textbooks (Fundamentals of Ecology and later Basic Ecology) were regarded for 40 years as authoritative in American universities. He, on the contrary, welcomes this use of the term, and the reason is not difficult to gather.

Odum, together with Stanley Rowe of the University of Saskatchewan, are about the only two prominent holistic ecologists left today, and their writings remain totally consistent with the aims of the ecological movement for which they provide a theoretical justification. We must be grateful to them.

Notes and references
1. Michael Polanyi said much the same thing in his seminal book Personal Knowledge in 1958. What Kuhn refers to as a "paradigm" Polanyi calls a "cognitive framework". See Michael Polanyi (1978 edition). Routledge and Kegan Paul, London.
2. Descartes, the father of mechanistic science, remained a deist, so for him (officially at least) God was the supreme mechanic. Today, however, God has been abolished, so man and other living things that mechanistic science still sees as machines have neither a manufacturer nor an operator. They are very strange machines indeed.
3. Both Bacon and Descartes explicitly stated that the goal of science was to control the world and bend it to human requirements - as, in their ignorance, they interpreted them.
4. Significantly, Daniel D Botkin, Professor of Biology and Environmental Studies at the University of California and Santa Barbara, who is highly influential in ecological circles today, denies that there is any order in nature. "If there is to be any harmony", he tells us, "we must overcome this apparent discord". Nature in the 21st century, according to him, "will be a nature that we make".
As Worster points out, "Botkin thereby rejects nature as providing a norm or standard for human civilization". This is the underlying theme of his well-known book Discordant Harmonies which provides "an assertion of the human right and need to give order and shape to nature". In other words, Botkin's book, and one might say modern ecology in general, explicitly, provides an "ecological" justification for economic development - the very process that is creating a global, ecological, "disclimax", as Odum would refer to it, and thereby systematically reducing our planet's capacity to support living things. See Donald Worster, The Shaky Ground of Sustainability.
5. C. H. Waddington.
6. Michael Polanyi, 1978, op.cit.
7. Ludwig von Bertalanffy.
8. The Oxford ecologist, Arthur Tansley, coined the term in the 1930s.
9. See Frederic Clements and Victor Shelford, Bio-Ecology. Wiley, New York, 1930.
10. See Daniel S. Simberloff, 1980, "A succession of paradigns in ecology" in Saarinen Esa ed., Conceptual Issues in Ecology, D. Reidel, Dordrecht.
11. Their writings were influential even in the time of Darwin.
12. The reductionist approach to ecology is normally traced to the writings of Gleason whose article "The Individualistic Concept of the Plant Association" was first published in 1917. Significantly Gleason's individualistic theory was, to begin with, totally rejected by the ecological community for it simply did not fit in with the holistic ecological paradigm of the times. But as ecology became 'scientific' and respectable it was revived with alacrity just as Darwinism was revived under the guise of neo-Darwinism with the rediscovery by the scientific world of Mendel's reductionist genetics that for a long time had been ignored.
13. Donald Worster, 1977, op.cit.
14. Daniel Simberloff, 1980, op.cit.
15. Robert P. McIntosh, 1975, "H. S. Gleason, individualistic ecologist: his contribution to ecological theory", in Bulletin of the Torrey Botanical Club Vol. 102.
16. William H. Drury, Chance and Change.
17. William H. Drury, ibid.
18. At the ecological level, it is the climax ecosystem that is the most highly organized, while it is the "pioneer" ecosystem - one that is in the earliest stages of development, after having been ravaged, for instance, by some discontinuity such as a volcanic eruption or an industrial development scheme, that is the least organized.
In a pioneer ecosystem there is little diversity as many of its constituent species will have been eliminated by the discontinuity in question. In addition, because the terrain is unprepared and inhospitable the species that first appear - referred to as pioneer species - are highly opportunistic, individualistic, and egoistic, and appear to be ranged in a disorderly or random manner. Such an ecosystem is also highly unstable and punctuated by population extinctions and explosions, which are gradually ironed out as it develops towards a climax. In other words, a degraded, pioneer ecosystem or a disclimax", as Odum refers to it, which economic development necessarily brings about, displays precisely all those features that Gleason, Drury, and other reductivist ecologists of today attribute to ecosystems in general. In this way, such ecologists can pretend that the degraded world that development brings into being is the norm - which of course could not be further from the truth.
19. Drury, op.cit., p.185.
20. See Edward Goldsmith, "Ecological Succession Rehabilitated", in The Ecologist Vol. 15 No. 3, 1985.
21. Drury, op.cit. p.193.
22. See Donald Worster, 1977, Nature's Economy, Sierra Club, San Francisco.
23. Drury, op.cit. p.1.
24. S. M. Dancoff and H. Quastler, "The Information content and error rate of living things", in Quastler, ed. 1953, Information theory in Biology, University of Illinois Press, Urbana.
25. Edgar Morin.
26. Drury, op.cit.

quinta-feira, janeiro 22, 2009

Archaic societies and cosmic order - a summary
This is an edited version of Chapter 61 of Edward Goldsmith's book The Way: towards an ecological world view, published by Themis Books. Published in The Ecologist Vol. 30 No. 1, January / February 2000.

"What man most passionately wants is his living wholeness and his living unison, not an isolated salvation of his soul. I am part of the sun as my eye is a part of me. That l am part of the earth, my feet know perfectly well, and my blood is part of the sea. There is no thing of me that is alone and absolute except my mind, and we shall find that the mind has no existence by itself. It is only the glitter of the sun on the surfaces of the waters."
D. H. Lawrence

Across the world, from the beginnings of prehistory, the belief that society must follow a certain path - or 'Way' - in order to maintain itself, and the wholeness of the world around it, has been a common theme running through many societies and cultures. This Way, which a society must follow in order to maintain the order of the cosmos, is defined as that which conforms to traditional rules, or laws -laws which the Ancient Greek referred to as the Nomos or the Dike - meaning justice, righteousness or morality. The Dike was "the way of the World, the way things happen". [1]

The Way was also referred to by the Greeks as Themis: "that specialised way for human beings which is sanctioned by the collective conscience". [2] Themis was also taken to be the Way of the Earth, and sometimes the Way of the cosmos itself - that which governed the behaviour of the gods. When these concepts later became personalised within Greek mythology, Themis became the goddess of law and justice, and hence of morality. It also coincided withMoira, the path of destiny or fate. In Homer, [3] the gods are seen as subordinate to Moira, and also to Dike - cosmic forces that are older than the gods themselves and that are moral. Against fate - hence against moral law itself - the gods can do nothing.

The Way, then, according to the Greeks, was to be followed not only by all human beings, but also by the natural world, by the cosmos and the gods themselves. There was thus a single law which governed the whole cosmic hierarchy. As Pythagoras writes,

"Themis in the world of Zeus, and Dike in the world below, hold the same place and rank as Nomos in the cities of men; so that he who does not justly perform his appointed duty may appear as a violator of the whole order of the universe." [4]
Much of the country's vital force or sacredness was concentrated in the person of the king. So it was critical that he should religiously observe the Way. Thus Odysseus tells us that when a blameless king maintains the Dike,

"The black earth bears wheat and barley, and the trees are laden with fruit, and the sheep bring forth and fail not, and the sea gives store of fish and all out of his good guidance, and the people prosper under him." [5]
The concept of the Way was probably entertained, explicitly or implicitly, by all vernacular societies. Thus, in ancient China, the Tao refers at once to the order and the Way of the cosmos. The term is applied to the daily and yearly "revolutions of the heavens" and of the two powers of light and darkness, day and night, summer and winter, heat and cold,

"It represents all that is correct, normal or right (ching or twan) in the universe; it does, indeed, never deviate from its course. It consequently includes all correct and righteous dealings of men and spirits, which alone promote universal happiness and life." [6]
The Tao was considered "not only as vaguely informing all things, but as being the naturalness, the very structure of particular and individual things". [7] Feng Yu-Lan sees the Tao as "the all-embracing first principle of things". [8] All living things, including humans, are part of this all-embracing natural order. "Tao as the order of nature, governs their very action". [9] Humans follow the Tao, by behaving 'naturally'. This means abiding by Lao Tzu's principle of Wu Wei, for "when all things obey the laws of the Tao, they will form a harmonious whole, and the universe will become an integrated organism". [10]

In Ancient Egypt, the concept of Maat fulfilled a similar role. It meant "the right order in nature and society as established by the act of creation... what is right, what is correct, law, order, justice and trust" [11] - not only in society but in the cosmos as a whole. Re was at once lord of the cosmos, lord of the judgement of the dead and lord of Maat. Although Maat came into being with creation, nevertheless it had to be renewed and preserved. It follows that it

"is not only the right order, but also the object of human activity.Maat is both the task which man sets himself and also, as righteousness, the promise and reward which awaits him on fulfilling it". [12]
The centralised kingdom of ancient Egypt was ran by a sacred king, whose role it was to maintain Maat, the order of the cosmos. "The sky is at peace, the Earth is in joy, for they have heard that (the king) will set right (Maat) in the place of disorder". [13] Tutankhamun "drove out disorder from the two lands and Maat is firmly established in its place: he made lying an abomination and the land is as it was the first time". [14]

A similar concept existed in Vedic India. It was referred to as R'ta. We read in the Vedas that "The rivers flow R'ta". According to R'ta,

"the light of the heavenborn morning has come... The year is the path of R 'ta. The Gods themselves are born of or in the R 'ta; they show by the acts that they know, observe and love the R'ta. In man's activity, it manifests itself as the moral law."
R'ta also stands for the truth. Untruth, though sometimes termed Asatya, is usually expressed as An-R'ta hence as a divergence from R'ta or the Way.

The Vedic poet fully realises that to obtain nature's bounty, man must obey R'ta: "for one who lives according to eternal law, the winds are full of sweetness, the rivers pour sweets. So may the plants be full of sweetness for us'.' The great Vedic Hymn to Earth clearly expresses the belief in humanity's dependence on the order of the cosmos and in humanity's role in maintaining it by observing the ancient law.

Later, the concept of Dharma was also used by Hindus in very much the same way.

"That regularity, that normality of the universe, which produces good crops, fat cattle, peace and contentment is expressed by the word Dharma which means 'support', 'upholding'." [15]
It describes the way in which animals, men or things are expected to behave; it is natural law. The sun is sometimes identified with Dharma because it regulates the seasons. Among the gods, Varuna is the Lord of Right, who lays down ordinances for the universe. The king, on his accession, is seen to have become to his people what Varuna is to the gods. For that reason he too is known as the "Lord of Right".

In Balinese Hinduism, Dharma is seen as

"the organising force that maintains order, the organisation that governs the universe as a whole, the relationships between various parts of the universe and actions within the various parts of the universe." [16]
The concept of Dharma was also taken up by Buddhists, who brought it to China. There, the Dharma of Mahayana Buddhism was identified with the Tao. The Buddhist Dharma is the universal law that embraces the world in its entirety.

"It exists for the benefit of all beings, for does not its chief manifestation, the light of the world, shine its blessing on all men and things?" [17]
When a Buddhist Lama sets his prayer-wheel turning, he is performing a ritual that has deep meaning both in terms of Dharma and R'ta. He finds himself in sympathetic touch with the Wheel of the Universe; he performs the act, "Justice-Wheel-Setting in motion. He dare not turn the wheel contrariwise; lest that were to upset the whole order of nature". [18]

In the Persian Avestas, the Way is referred to as Asha, the celestial representative of justice on Earth.

"Justice is the rule of the world's life, as Asha is the principle of all well-ordered existence and the establishment or accomplishment of justice is the end of the evolution of the universe". [19]
In ancient Judaism, the terms used are Mishpat meaning justice or right judgement and sedeq - most commonly translated as righteousness. These virtues are attributed to God, but "the overarching vision is of human society in harmony with heaven". This harmony is Shalom, or peace. But in reality, it is a wider term, standing for the harmony between Heaven and Earth, the cosmic order or "the right functioning of all nature as God created it". [20]

Wrong Turnings
According to this world-view, for a society to divert from the Way is to threaten the order of the cosmos itself, and thereby give rise to the worst possible discontinuities. The society is then best seen as following the Anti-Way; An-R'ta in Vedic India, adharma in Buddhism, ou Themis amongst Ancient Greeks or Isft (disorder) amongst the Ancient Egyptians.

For the Greeks, ou Themis was seen on such occasions as taking on the form of Nemesis, related to Nomos and Nemos, the sacred grove that was almost certainly the original place of worship of the Ancient Greeks, as it was of the Celts. Nemesis, the woodland goddess, identified with Artemis or Diana, inhabited such a grove. She was also a goddess of fertility, closely allied with Fortuna,

"the Lady who brings forth the fruits of the Earth. She who dispenses good things can withhold them or dispense blights instead of blessings, the awful power which haunts the Nemos may blast the profane invader of her sanctuary." [21]
Classical mythology abounds with stories of the Earth taking her revenge on those who destroy the natural world. So, Erysichthon, whose name means "Tearer of Earth", cut down a tree inhabited by a dryad in spite of the tree spirit's protests. The spirit complained to Mother Earth, who afflicted Erysichthon with insatiable hunger. Orion boasted that he would kill all the animals in the world. This too was reported to Mother Earth, who sent a monstrous scorpion to sting him to death. Their star-signs oppose each other in the sky even today - a message, perhaps, to those who live now of the consequences of adopting a world-view that is in direct opposition to the interests of the Earth.
estou mesmerizado!! Não consigo parar de me babar!...

Recommended books:
- Coastal Navigation

- Captains of the Sands

Both by Jorge Amado

- The Missionaries: God Against the Indians
by Norman Lewis

- The Corporation (and movie of the same title)
By Joel Bakan

- (& new)Tales from the Mountain
by Miguel Torga

- In the Absence of the Sacred: The Failure of Technology and the Survival of the Indian Nations
by Jerry Mander

- The Western Spirit Against Nature
By Frederick Turner

- The Bible Unearthed: Archaeology's New Vision of Ancient Israel
by Israel Finkelstein & Neil Asher Silberman

- Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder
by Richard Louv

- In The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism,
- No Logo

Both by Naomi Klein

- Way of the Earth
by T.c. Mcluhan

- The Practice of the Wild: Essays
by Gary Snyder

- Against the Megamachine
by David Watson - Peak Everything: Waking Up to the Century Of Declines
- A New Covenant with Nature

By Richard Heinberg

- The Way: An Ecological World-View
by Edward Goldsmith

The Flamingo's Smile: Reflections in Natural History
by Stephen Jay Gould

- A Greener Faith: Religious Environmentalism and Our Planet's Future
by Roger S. Gottlieb

terça-feira, janeiro 20, 2009

Todos ficam deslumbrados com as cores do Udu Coroado, mas reparem na originalidade das penas da cauda, que terminam em raquetes...
Esta espécie é uma das aves mais cobiçadas para qualquer fotógrafo da natureza. Os que conseguiram fotografá-la gabam-se com razão, já que se tratam de animais esquivos e que se escondem bem entre a folhagem – mesmo quando nos observam de perto. Para aqueles que, como eu, não recorrem a dispositivos sonoros, nem qualquer outro gênero de artifícios, para atrair os animais, é sempre uma exultante surpresa fotografá-las (mesmo que em más condições de luz, como tem sido regra até agora).

Para aliviar um pouco a cabeça de tantos problemas...

terça-feira, janeiro 13, 2009
Enfim, conseguiram pressionar a Drª Ursulina ao ponto de ela desistir de Alpiarça e mudar-se (certamente para melhor). Agora temos que continuar a aguentar os médicos que comummente se comportam como mercenários arrogantes e displicentes, perecendo ter esquecido os maiores ideais dessa profissão teoricamente indispensável – mas se é para tratarem os pobres abaixo de cão, dispenso-os bem... Felizmente, no contexto nacional, há outros centros de saúde com profissionais muitíssimo mais competentes.

segunda-feira, janeiro 12, 2009

Mas esse povo é mesmo besta! continuam a vitimizar a minha mãe pelas coisas que eu digo, como se ela tivesse algo que ver com isso. Ela nem comenta comigo o que se passa aí na "santa terrinha"; sei-o ou por constatação directa ou por outras fontes que considero fidedignas.
Estão a tentar emular Jeová (a personagem literária mais hedionda da história!), que ameaçou destruir as vidas dos descendentes (até à 5ª geração) dos que ousam ofender esse deus filho-da-puta?!
Deixem a senhora em paz, seus covardes!!!

An Interview with Jerry Mander by Catherine Ingram

When Jerry Mander suggested in his book Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television, published in 1978, that television was not reformable no matter who controlled the medium, it represented the first time anyone had dared suggest that we do away with television altogether. Mander argued that television is a primary tool in the ongoing mediation of human experience, the visual intoxicant that entrances the viewer into a hypnotic state and thereby replaces other forms of knowledge with the imagery of its programmers. It infuses young children with high-tech, high-speed expectations of life, so that a walk in nature would likely seem interminably boring. It is the tool used not only to sell the resources that have been dug up, melted, forged, and otherwise appropriated from the earth, but to sell us back our feelings, which the entrancement has eclipsed. Television colonizes its viewers by way of an artificial reality replete with its own values. From a political point of view, it is particularly dangerous because "it is the one speaking to the many," as Mander describes anyone from the corporate sponsor to the nightly anchorperson. And it is bad for our bodies as well, creating mental and physical sickness by the mesmerizing phosphorescent glow of its artificial light.
Mander's latest work, In the Absence of the Sacred: The Failure of Technology and the Survival of the Indian Nations, took him ten years to write, thirty years to think over. It expands on themes in his earlier book, including the inherent tendency of a given technology to predetermine its use and render the technology anything but neutral, and the marriage of technologies with large corporations that stand to reap the greatest benefit from the manipulation or sales of them. Mander carefully analyzes the fundamental assumptions that have led us to accept almost every technology that has come on line, and he reminds us of the price we pay--in ecological and social breakdowns--for those assumptions. The book also examines alternatives to the technological way of life--alternatives that can be found among tribal peoples who lived for thousands of years in a harmonious relationship with the earth, and who exist to this day.
Mander has that rare quality which makes his views about technology particularly potent--the insider's perspective. His experience in commercial advertising shifted over the years to advertising for public interest groups, primarily in the environmental movement. But he first became aware of the plight of native peoples when he was working in commercial advertising in the mid-sixties. A shipping company sent him to Micronesia to assess its impact on the area. During his two months in Micronesia, Mander glimpsed for the first time the ways of traditional peoples. He returned to San Francisco to give the client his recommendation: move the company out of Micronesia and leave those islands the way they are.
A process of self-examination was underway for Mander by this time. Although he had realized his dream of success, going beyond the aspirations of his immigrant Jewish parents, he was no longer comfortable writing ads for audio equipment and Land Rovers by day only to turn to environmental issues by night. He began to feel the contradiction between advocating more consumption while, at the same time, perceiving consumption as one of the root causes of ecological destruction.
Mander had also begun to feel personally disconnected from nature. On a cruise off the Dalmatian coast in 1968, he hit an "emotional bottom" as he discovered he could "see" the spectacular views with his eyes, but he couldn't experience them within himself. Nature had become "irrelevant," and he was terrified to realize that "the problem was [him], not nature."
Meanwhile, his ad agency had been hired by the Sierra Club and later by Friends of the Earth, both under the leadership of David Brower, the renowned environmentalist, who would have a powerful professional and educational influence on Mander. Mander wrote many of the ads that eventually saved the Grand Canyon from the construction of dams, blocked development of the American supersonic transport, and established Redwood National Park and North Cascades National Park. He also wrote the ad that caused the Sierra Club to lose its tax-exempt status while creating sympathetic news headlines and a groundswell of support. As David Brower explains it, "People across the country who didn't know whether or not they liked the Grand Canyon knew they hated the Internal Revenue Service." Mander had also begun to work with Hopi Indians on blocking the Black Mesa Mine, again strengthening his ties to native peoples.
By 1972, Mander's firm had decided that trying to balance commercial and environmental activities wasn't working, and the agency was dissolved. Mander went on to form the first nonprofit advertising and public relations agency, Public Interest Communications. A few years later, several of its founders, including Jerry Mander, wound their way to Public Media Center (PMC), an offshoot of the original nonprofit organization. PMC has since initiated almost every major environmental ad campaign in the country, as well as campaigns for Planned Parenthood, gun control, and to block Robert Bork's nomination to the Supreme Court. Jerry Mander has written many of these ads and, as a senior fellow of PMC, continues his work there to this day. As David Brower remarked in a recent interview, "Whenever we get into a new environmental battle and we need a full-page ad to help win it, I say, `Where's Jerry?'"
But it has been through his books that Mander has managed to weave together the threads of what he has learned in studying the ecological and social issues of the past thirty years. In the Absence of the Sacred paints a comprehensive picture of how the multinational corporations and the major financial institutions, combined with new technologies, form a juggernaut unhindered by any governmental control and which, day by day, constricts us further.
How can we ever remedy all this? Is Mander actually proposing that we turn back? After all, we're a long way from the hunting and gathering communities of former times. Mander says that it is unlikely that we will go back "and hunt for beavers in the Hudson Valley." But he says that there are, indeed, native peoples from whom we can learn a great deal about life and that we should begin that process by respecting their right to exist. Furthermore, according to Mander, there are a few basic principles--understood best by traditional peoples--which we will need for the survival of this planet: we must abandon values that emphasize the accumulation of commodities and growth economics; we must reduce world population; we must abandon technologies that are incompatible with sustainability and diversity on the planet and we must study the forces which have caused the social and ecological crisis we now face. "This is not going back, " says Mander. "It is going forward to a renewed relationship with timeless values and principles that have been kept alive for Western society by the very people we have tried to destroy." Among those people, Mander believes, lies the key to our survival.
-- Catherine Ingram

INGRAM: America has had a love affair with each new technological wonder. You suggest that with most of these technologies, we assumed a best-case scenario. What are the questions we should have asked before they came on line?
MANDER: The point is the way new technologies are introduced to us without a full discussion of how they are going to affect the planet, social relationships, political relationships, human health, nature, our conceptions of nature, and our conceptions of ourselves. Every technology that comes along affects these things. Cars, for example, have changed society completely. Had there been a debate about the existence of cars, we would have asked, do we want the entire landscape to be paved over? Do we want society to move into concrete urban centers? Do we want one resource--oil--to dominate human and political relationships in the world? The Gulf War resulted from our choice of the car a hundred years ago. INGRAM: But who could have possibly foreseen any of that?
MANDER: Well, when a technology is invented much of its effects are already known. A study at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology examined what was being said about technologies at the time of their invention. It turns out that most of the effects of technology are actually known by the people who invent and disseminate them. This is logical because those people put a lot of money into figuring out all possible uses of those technologies. They can then develop marketing strategies based on the assessment of the positive effects. At the same time, they figure out possible negative effects and proceed to downplay those. The car is promoted as freedom--private and noiseless travel, comfort, and so on--without any suggestion of its profound multidimensional effects. There's no mechanism in our society for hearing the downside. There are no controls on technological invention or evolution.
So the trick is to develop the worst-case scenarios, publicly broadcast those, and then develop a general debate about whether or not society wants to go in those directions. Then we should have the political ability to say no to a technology when it is decided that saying no is the most logical solution. INGRAM: In a way we've had this experience with nuclear power. Nuclear power came into existence without much debate, but then there came a period of great debate, and it was brought to its knees as a viable source of power. Now, we are seeing a resurgence of its popularity.
MANDER: Nuclear power is the exception that proves the best- case/worst-case rule. The worst-case scenario was visible the first time we ever heard of the thing because nobody knew about nuclear power until it killed eighty thousand people in Hiroshima. It had a staggering impact on everybody's consciousness, and people were frightened by the possibilities of this one piece of technology, no matter where they lived. The best-case scenarios came in the second stage of public debate. Anything that the developers of nuclear power tried to say--that it was going to provide clean, free, unlimited energy--was in the context of Hiroshima; everybody was scared and horrified by it. It is rare that we experience the worst-case scenario before the gigantic sales campaign. Even so, the sales campaign goes on about the positive uses of nuclear energy. Nuclear energy survives as a viable option. It's used in a lot of places and there's a big movement now to employ it even more. INGRAM: Let's talk about biotechnology and organ transplants, since those are some of the next major technologies. I just read about a woman who conceived a child in order to have a bone-marrow donor for her older daughter, who was dying of leukemia. This situation calls for hard choices. What mother wouldn't save her child if there was the technology to do it? As our organs become interchangeable, we may have to decide whether or not to give a kidney, or an eye, or whatever we can spare, to a relative. Biotechnologies raise still other questions: if there is a genetically engineered cure for AIDS, are we going to say no to that cure just because we think that, on balance, biotechnology is a bad thing?
MANDER: Our culture lacks a philosophical basis, an understanding of the appropriate human role on earth, that would inform these developments before they happen. Such an understanding would enable us to say, no, we cannot go in that direction because, as in the case of genetics, it is a direct desacralization of life. The title of my book, In the Absence of the Sacred, refers to the failure of any sense of groundedness in the natural world and a lack of any sense of limits. You see, once you're living in an industrial, technological society, choices become much more difficult. Even if you believe that cars are inappropriate, you almost cannot function unless you have a car. You can't function if you don't have a telephone--unless you retire from participation. INGRAM: With a lot of money.
MANDER: Well, not necessarily. I wouldn't say that you need a lot of money to withdraw from the system, but withdrawing from the system means letting the system go on as it is. If you are interested in changing or affecting the system, then you don't withdraw.
However, you can make a lot of personal decisions about what you will or will not do. I do not use computers myself. I do not appear on television. I try to live in a relatively low-tech fashion. I try to limit the amount of technology that I use. And I try to live according to certain principles. Now we all live according to our own principles, and I'm not telling anybody which set of principles is appropriate for him or her. But I'm saying you do make decisions. This society discourages people from making informed decisions. This society tells you that the way to live is to accumulate more and more, and that technology is the solution to our problems.
Now you can devise questions, as you just did, about genetics. The questions and the individual responses may change; what does not change is the fundamental fact that it is wrong and dangerous for society to go in a direction where these are the solutions.
In this culture, we have science and technology as religion. We no longer have a religious or philosophical basis for making choices regarding the evolution of technology. All those decisions are made in the corporate world. But there are other societies where taboos, the very concept of taboo, still exist. Taboo is probably the only concept that is taboo in this society. But in traditional societies they have had centuries-long discussions about whether to plant or whether to continue being nomads or whether a certain kind of agricultural relationship is a good idea or not. Taboo constitutes a philosophical framework. INGRAM: Yet people in our society would see this kind of control--saying no to something before it was developed--as fascist.
MANDER: Yes, without realizing that this attitude keeps us on a path of development from which it is very difficult to return.
Now when you ask a specific question about bone-marrow transplants, you're dealing with a very emotional situation--one would do anything to save one's kid. I'm for getting rid of those systems of technology where such questions get addressed to individual people, and replacing it with an agreed-upon lifestyle and philosophical system that has its pleasures and values on a different plane than what we have now, a plane where such questions just don't come up. INGRAM: I think people often tend to make their decisions from a very emotional and often selfish point of view. This has propelled the human species throughout history. Maybe there are wonderful examples of people who have not been propelled by this aggressive force, but--
MANDER: May I interrupt and disagree with that point? The statement that people are propelled by their self-interest or their greed applies primarily to industrial society. It may also apply to those who have been deprived of community by the effects of industrial society, where a formerly integrated, cooperative, reciprocal mode of being in nature has been destroyed. But since the beginning of recorded history, there have been many communities that have existed alongside the so-called Western historical civilizations, and which exhibit to this day a mode of experience and living in the world that is cooperative, community-based, consensual--and not primarily in terms of self-interest.
I just read a piece in The New Yorker about the Penan people in Indonesia. They were on trial for blocking a bridge that the lumber trucks use to destroy the rain forest. During the trial it became clear that they didn't understand the concept of crime because apparently they didn't have crime. They were asked to give an example in their society of an act that others would disapprove of. They had a little huddle and discussed it, and then said that if someone doesn't openly share what they have, he or she would meet with disapproval. That was the only crime they could think of. So I have to reject the idea that selfishness is instinctive. It's come to be understood that selfishness is part of human nature, but I think that's in the context of the lives that we have now. We are so isolated that we tend to act only in our own self interest. INGRAM: We somehow got to this point. Something within propelled us, and it seems to be quite contagious. It spreads.
MANDER: I agree that it spreads. Once the intrusion of outside models breaks down the traditional structures where people were acting in concert and on behalf of the whole community, then it's catch as catch can. INGRAM: Then how do we address the greed, the aggression, our unwillingness to give up anything? How do we reverse this? How are we to come back into the presence of the sacred and how are we to do this on a mass scale?
MANDER: This is one of the great mysteries--how do you actually achieve that and how do you keep from falling into despair about the difficulties in achieving it? I don't have a tight little answer that would inspire a slogan but it's obvious that what we have now is not working. The fantasies of utopian existence promoted by proponents of the technological, industrial mode of life for the last one hundred years are now demonstrably false. That's not what we got. What we got was alienation, disorientation, destruction of the planet, destruction of natural systems, destruction of diversity, homogenization of cultures and regions, crime, homelessness, disease, environmental breakdown, and tremendous inequality. We have a mess on our hands. This system has not lived up to its advertising; in developing a strategy for telling people what to do next, we first have to make that point. Life really is better when you get off the technological/industrial wheel and conceive of some other way. It makes people happier. It may not make them more money, but getting more money hasn't worked out. Filling life with commodities doesn't turn out to be satisfying, and most people know that. INGRAM: You say that in the case of computers, as with television, it's not a matter of who benefits, but who benefits most; that while the environmentalist derives some benefit from computers, the corporations, military, and financial institutions benefit most. But I would ask you, why then should we have no benefit? If we can put a few twigs in the dike, we're still a little ahead of having no twigs in the dike.
MANDER: I do not tell do-gooders or other people working on Public Media Center activities not to use television. What I say is that we should have no television at all. The same could be said of computers. I argue that life would be better, power systems would be more egalitarian, we would have a more even playing field in terms of information flow, and our media would be more democratic, if there were no television. We'd also have a less-alienated population, less pacified, less inundated by other people's imageries. But I also recognize that you can't just remove television and keep everything else in place. It's the nervous system of the technological machine. It's part of a very integrated system, so we have to talk about all of technology when we talk about television.
Now, you can certainly put a few twigs in the dike. My argument is that, on balance, television is going to do a lot more harm than good. It's an idealistic, utopian fantasy to think that the medium could be reformed, given the nature of the technology. It is most efficient at centralized, top-down usage which imposes imagery and programs people accordingly. The imagery remains in them and then they imitate the imagery. It is a powerful brainwashing and homogenizing machine. It's ludicrous to think that you and I or our friends are going to suddenly get control of this medium and turn everybody into meditating philosophers. The real question is not whether you can put through one or two good things on television; the real question is what are the overall effects of the technology. INGRAM: Let's talk about virtual reality.
MANDER: I've never experienced virtual reality. I'm very skeptical about it. I think it's like every other technology in the sense that it has some entertainment value and maybe it has some interesting uses. I've heard that a new use for virtual reality programs is in training bomber pilots. Aside from such uses, which I find disturbing, what annoys me is the way virtual reality is embraced and celebrated by those who ought to be smart enough to see their way out of this technological maze. INGRAM: You mean the new age crowd.
MANDER: Yes, it's such a sign that the new age has misunderstood something about itself. Proponents of the new age place primary value on the expansion of human consciousness toward some apparently higher level of understanding. They regard human beings as the ultimate expression of evolution, and they regard themselves as the explorers or the astronauts of human consciousness, trying to develop human abilities and live up to their maximum human potential. Such a view justifies any technological or even political development if it somehow is supportive of the drive toward expanding human consciousness. That's why the new age so favors space exploration and almost any other technology that offers new games, new ideas, new capabilities for human expression without any sense of the political or social consequences.
For example, a lot of new age proponents claim to celebrate Indians but they're truly celebratory only of what they think is Indian mysticism, without any appreciation of where that comes from, how that's rooted in community, in the earth, and in egalitarianism. Their interest in Indian spirituality attaches no importance to the political situation that native peoples face on the planet. If the knowledge of native peoples is going to be preserved, then you have to get involved politically to help them. And new age types are not interested in that; they're interested in skimming what they regard as the cream--the mystical aspects, the peyote rituals, or maybe the art. This is just personal aggrandizing, ego-oriented self- indulgence. It is politically right-wing and very counterproductive to the ideals of a survivable, sustainable world, and healthy human consciousness. It sustains a value system that is causing the problems. That kind of new age thinking is, to me, revolting. INGRAM: There are some who say that there is nothing which is not sacred, that all of existence is just a grand manifestation of life in its various forms, and even if it's playing out its swan song, that is part of the sacred as well.
MANDER: To say everything is sacred implies that everything is acceptable, which merely permits whatever situation exists to continue existing, and leaves it to other forces to change that situation. INGRAM: Do you think it's possible to work to relieve suffering wherever one sees it, while adhering to the view that everything is sacred? That our work to effect change, relieve suffering, and the suffering itself are part of the great picture of life unfolding-- part of the same whole?
MANDER: Well, you're asking if we can say that nuclear energy is sacred because it's a further manifestation of creation, and still work against nuclear energy. I don't know. As a practical matter, I don't adopt that view. I don't find it a particularly useful way of thinking. Instead, I think about it in the sense used by Native American and other native aboriginal societies: an integrated understanding and relationship with other life which is honored and maintained. When people in the rain forest come up against a dam, they are not going to look at that dam and say, "This is a further sacred manifestation of creation." They're going to look at it and say, "This kills life. This destroys life. This is against the earth." I think this is a much more helpful way of viewing the matter than to say that all things are sacred. What matters to me most is how people view sacredness in light of their activities. Native peoples' view of the sacred involves a value judgment concerning what is OK and not OK to do. INGRAM: Randy Hayes, president of Rainforest Action Network, told me that Native Americans might interchange the term "sacred" with the concept of "functional" or "useful."
MANDER: I was at a conference that considered the relevance of native spirituality and native ceremonies to non-native communities. You know how, in the beginning of a conference, you go around in a circle and say who you are? Our tendency is to say something like, "I'm Jerry Mander, and I work on such and such." INGRAM: Yes, when we are asked to say who we are, we usually say what we do.
MANDER: Right. Well, a woman from one of the Canadian Indian groups took forty-five minutes to describe who she is. She started with her great-grandparents and described where they lived. Some of them were river people, some were mountain people, some were bear people, some came from the other side of the mountains. Some were ocean people. Then she spoke about what she knew about the other ancestors in the area, who they were, what they were like. Then she said that all of those people are her. That was just the historical part. There was a spirit part as well, which had to do with what she does in the world right now and how that is an amalgamation of all those ancestors. What I'm getting at is when you ask who she is, she is telling you something that has to do with her ancestors, with nature, with her community and the way that community has related to that place.
She was saying that you can't talk about spirituality as if it's a codified system, because spirituality comes from conditions existing in the place where all those integrated relationships are manifested. The result of all that is spirituality. When she addressed how we could work toward relating to native spirituality, she was saying that the work lies in preserving the community conditions by which spirituality arises. We seem to have it backward. In the absence of the sacred, anything goes, because we're completely spun off, unrooted, with no sense of consequences, no family, no community, no nothing. INGRAM: Well, we do live in a time of tremendous alienation. Life is so terrifying that many people find solace in watching television or playing their video games. Certain technologies serve as drugs. How are we to take those away and replace them with anything else?
MANDER: These technologies do act as drugs. They are what society offers to make up for what has been lost. In return for family, community, a relationship to a larger, deeper vision, society offers television, drugs, food, noise, high speed, and unconsciousness. Not only are those the things that are available, but those are the things that keep you from knowing that there's anything else available. It's easy to see why people go for those things and why they become addicted to them, because each one offers some element of satisfaction. Watching television, for instance, keeps you from thinking about other things, it passes the time, it provides "entertainment," it can make you laugh sometimes. It tells you a little bit about what seems to be happening in the world, although it discourages any relationship you might have to it. Now if you're asking how we might change that pattern, I can only say that you have to create alternative visions; you have to get people to experience what they've lost. INGRAM: But as you described in your book, within a couple of years, the Dene and Inuit cultures were decimated by the introduction of television. Why is it that watching "Dallas" on television was more appealing than traditional modes of entertainment?
MANDER: It wasn't that their cultures were decimated by television. The impact of television was tremendous, and they asked me to come there because they were concerned. That was a sign of consciousness, not unconsciousness. And it was a sign that there was an alternative reality still available to them. That is the difference between native peoples and Western peoples: there are still people who know about what came before, and who know that there's still wild nature available and that they have a relationship to it. Among the native cultures of the world there's still a memory and a philosophical base for resistance.
As to why some people don't resist and are done in by it, I'd say it results from a complex of factors. Politically, they're overpowered. Technology overpowers them; they're not only being invaded by television, they're being invaded by oil companies, and in the case of the Dene, by the Canadian government, which wanted them to turn into Canadians to become workers in the oil fields. They are constantly told that the way they are is not OK and that they should be another way. We look at them and we ask how they could give up what they have, but we already gave it up. We're uprooted, alienated Westerners feeling vindicated by the fact that now the Indians are also going for it. We look at them and say, "They're going for the snowmobiles and they're dropping the dog teams, and they're dropping the traditional communications in favor of television."
Listen, technology has an inherent appeal. It's shiny, it's new; human beings have a genetic programming that relates to new things with great curiosity. When we lived in relationship to nature, we needed to know when something new was coming along that would affect us. So there is an innate human response to something new. In addition to that, machines are very interesting: they announce that they are going to do something, such as bring an animal down from four hundred yards away or move water from here to there or take you someplace much faster, and they do those things. So it's very natural, when faced with a new technology, to think, "How great; this is terrific; let's use this." But once you use it you begin to understand the downside. In our culture, it's taken a very long time to understand the downside. My experience is that native people see the downside faster. INGRAM: I've heard that in the United States, some of the young Indians who went off to cities became disillusioned and went back to the reservations. Is there a resurgence of traditional ways among the young Indians?
MANDER: Yes, it's a great phenomenon, and it's particularly encouraging to see in the United States because these are the people who have been most influenced by outside forces. There is a collaboration in the United States among the young and the old. It's the middle that is sort of gone, the ones who were ripped away from their families when they were young and forced into Bureau of Indian Affairs schools, where they were not allowed to speak their native language, were not allowed to wear long hair, had to wear only Western clothes. This happened all over the United States; they were separated from their families, instilled with a terrible self- hatred, forcibly trained in Christianity and Mormonism. Mormonism teaches that white is good, and that you become white by giving up being Indian. INGRAM: In your book, you describe corporations as entities that enjoy the rights of an individual but not the responsibilities. Will you elaborate on this?
MANDER: Up till now, corporations have not been critiqued as technological forms, or in terms of their inherent characteristics which would reveal why they behave as they do. The common wisdom said that we can get corporations to behave more responsibly if the people in the corporations could be educated in better values and saving the earth and so on. This is naive. The corporate form predetermines the way corporations have to behave. In order to sustain themselves, and be financially viable to banking and other institutions, corporations must produce a profit and they must grow. Profit and growth are absolutely required.
Corporations live in a kind of nether world where they have all the rights and protection accorded individuals by our laws. For example, you can't regulate corporate speech in any way, because they've successfully become "fictional persons" and therefore have the same rights as an individual to free speech. But the difference is that the individual is only able to use handbills and maybe do a little article in a magazine now and then, while the corporations are able to spend a billion dollars in advertising to tell you what to think.
Corporations have many of the rights of human beings: they can own property, they can move, they can speak freely, they can sue if injured. But they have none of the commensurate responsibilities. Communities cannot control them because they can always move to other communities. They do not have corporeality; they can't be executed. You can imprison certain people within a corporation if they engage in criminal acts. The corporation itself, however, lives beyond the people in it.
There are two recent examples where you see the difference between the human being and the corporation and what the inherent problems are when a human being tries to behave responsibly. These are the cases of the Exxon Valdez, where a tanker spilled oil all over a pristine wildlife area of Alaska, and the Union Carbide case, where a chemical explosion in Bhopal, India, killed 2,000 people and injured 200,000. In both instances, the chief executives of the corporations were horrified and made public statements expressing their remorse. Union Carbide's chairman of the board said that he was going to devote the rest of his life to making amends for this mistake.
Now when those executives made those statements they did so as feeling human beings. But the corporation cannot permit them to behave like human beings, because in order for the corporation to survive, it needs to grow and it needs to make a profit. According to United States law, if a corporation doesn't behave primarily in the interest of profit, shareholders can sue the management of the corporations for disregarding their rights as shareholders. In both cases, the chief executives retracted their initial statements. They said that they hadn't been responsible and that they were going to fight all the lawsuits. The chairman of Union Carbide said later that he had "overreacted" initially. At first, they behaved as human beings; later on they realized they were part of the machine and that the purposes of the machine were different from the purposes of the human being. We see it every day in environmental issues. Corporations are talking green now. But it's all just public relations. INGRAM: In your book you say that the corporation is lying when it presents itself as environmentally concerned; if it did feel much responsibility toward nature, it would not need to use expensive commercials saying it did.
MANDER: Corporations will advertise whatever isn't true because if it were true they wouldn't have the image problem in the first place. If the corporation were a good citizen it wouldn't need to say it is. The truth is that corporations generally act in direct opposition to nature because profit is based on the transmogrification of raw materials into a new, more salable form. INGRAM: Let's talk about the global merger of economies, such as GATT [the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade], the EEC [the European Economic Community], and so on.
MANDER: In addition to the EEC, there are plans for the U.S./Canada Free Trade Agreement, the U.S./Mexico Free Trade Agreement, the North America Free Trade Agreement, a Western Hemisphere Free Trade Agreement, a Southeast Asia Free Trade Agreement, and a Pacific Basin Free Trade Agreement. Eventually there will be an East/West Free Trade Agreement.
All such mergers are coordinated to maximize the profits of the largest corporations. With GATT, local standards for health, safety, wages, standards for milk, regulations against pesticides or radiation, or any level of local control would be sacrificed to the central agreement. If California wants to ban pesticides, it won't be permitted to do so under the trade agreements. In Japan there is a law that prohibits large department stores from locating on the same block as neighborhood groceries--mom and pop stores. It's a way of preserving the traditional, small-scale economy that still exists in Japan. But in the GATT agreement, the United States is seeking the elimination of this law, so that if a big department store wants to buy up a block, then you let the market determine whether that's going to happen or not. All the protections for small-scale, self- sufficient economy are going to be lost. What you get from GATT and all these other agreements is the smoothing of the path for the largest corporate giants. They will be outside the control of any neighborhood, city, state, or even nation. INGRAM: You describe the last two uncharted wildernesses as space and genetics. Do you also include consciousness itself as a wilderness that is uncharted?
MANDER: One can say that the human mind is a kind of wilderness that is uncharted. But in speaking of space and genetics, I mean that they are the last ones the corporate world intends to turn into industrial forms that can be made into profit.
Now television, of course, is also deeply engaged in this "commodifying" process, the purpose being to commodify feeling, consciousness, desire, awareness. The human mind has already been grist for the mill even before the genetic structure and space. Consciousness has already been reshaped to fit and accept the commodification of nature. The invasion of the mind happened a long time ago. The reshaping of the mind is what advertising is there to do. Television does this. The media does this. These are more effective tools than we used to have. Advertising enters human feelings and offers them up in images. Are you pretty enough? Are you cool enough? Are you lively enough? INGRAM: Have you phoned that person you love today?
MANDER: Right. Those are all related to your feelings. They are presented in images; you then react to yourself; and then you have to pay something to get back the feelings that they took from you. It's an amazing process. INGRAM: In your descriptions of the West Edmonton Mall, EPCOT Center, and San Francisco as a theme park, you suggest that the advent of these artificially controlled environments--technotopias-- is worse than the ecological breakdown that we face.
MANDER: Right. What you have in those theme lifestyle communities and the mega-malls are utopian creations of life as synthetic re-creations. I try to make the comparison between those places and domed existences in space. INGRAM: Terraforming, you call it in the book.
MANDER: Right, the bubble existences in space. The West Edmonton Mall is a domed city in space. While EPCOT Center doesn't have a roof on it, every blade of grass and every animal is preconceived for its mix in the experience. It's the ultimate suburb. They envision a life where there's no relationship to nature at all and where everything has been done to destroy one's sense of connection to anything outside of what the corporation and the technological world can provide. And it's done in a way to make it seem very attractive. EPCOT Center's book about itself says that its purpose is to get people comfortable with the highly technologized change that is going to take place in the future. These visions are basically a sales system for a future where all human experiences are reduced to push- button experiences or glorious travels with packs on your back through space and time. They envision a general make-over of the world, where authentic places, such as England--old England, or old Norway--would be re-created entertainments of themselves, like theme parks. That's why I use the phrase "San Francisco, the Theme Park," because this is already happening here, but it's also beginning to happen everywhere else; authentic places are beginning to advertise their features in order to promote tourism. They become commodified versions of themselves. INGRAM: The irony is that we are trying to re-create what we've been busy destroying all these years. It's like the example you give of advertisements on television selling us back our feelings of connection. Now we'll have to buy back Eden--in a dome.
MANDER: Yes, people will have nature inside domes, but little nature outside anymore. INGRAM: I saw in the European edition of the Wall Street Journal a front page story about a scientist's idea to blow up the moon in order to improve the atmosphere on earth. In your book, you described such technological solutions as the proposed plan, supported by the National Research Council which advises Congress, to spray hundreds of thousands of tons of iron powder onto the seas in order to stimulate algae growth and soak up the carbon dioxide, as the forests have done previously.
MANDER: All of those solutions are insane because they're so disconnected from any sense of the ramifications of drastically altering an ecosystem. But they're driven by the profit motive, because those are the solutions that work inside the capitalist system.
Gary Coates, a professor at Kansas State University, makes the case that these steps toward re-created life in artificial environments, genetic engineering, space travel, bubble domes in space, and lifestyle parks are really examples of our being already lost in space. We're already adrift like astronauts, without a sense of groundedness, without knowing where we came from, which way is up, which way is down. And what we're really trying to do in all this is to get back to Eden. We're trying to go back to the source. The loss of Eden is the operative myth of Western society. INGRAM: Let's talk about some of the stereotypes and formulas that affect perceptions about native peoples, such as the idea that they are always fighting each other and that they have an inability to govern themselves.
MANDER: In the West, our view of Indians goes back to the debate several centuries ago in the Catholic Church over whether or not Indians were even human beings. The Church was trying to determine whether Indians had souls and were therefore worth saving, or whether they should be slaughtered or made into slaves. There was never a thought given to whether Indians had validity on their own terms. One can quickly see the analogy to nature, because right now people are beginning to talk about whether nature has validity on its own terms, rather than being in service to human beings.
In the case of Western industrial countries, Indians are viewed fundamentally as of the past, out of date; primitive in the negative sense, meaning unable to sustain governments or societies, unable to think great thoughts, contribute to Western ideas, or leave behind beautiful architecture. They're criticized in all the areas that we think we are good in. But there is substantial evidence that the philosophical basis of the U.S. Constitution comes from the Great Binding Law of the Iroquois, which goes back at least to the 1500s; the Iroquois say it goes back a thousand years before that. The Great Binding Law is a system of egalitarian, federated governance with absolute democracy and strong checks and balances, and it actually continues to exist in some ways at present. Now the U.S. Constitution must have borrowed many of those principles because there were no other democratic and federated models available in the world at that time. In my book, I went to a lot of trouble to talk about Indian governmental systems.
I also talk about Indian economic systems, because the rhetoric of Western society is that technology and Western forms of development deliver people from suffering and slavery. A little investigation of traditional native economies shows that people were able to survive in most parts of the world, certainly in the temperate zones, but even in the extreme zones, with very little work, maximum pleasure and fun, and a minimum of technology. INGRAM: And they worked only three to five hours a day.
MANDER: On the average. And that is when they worked. There were lots of months when there was no work at all. INGRAM: What did they do during all those hours and days off?
MANDER: They hung out. They flirted. They played a lot of music. They slept. They seemed to have a good time. They related. There was a lot of community life. But who knows? I mean, you'd have to go into a Stone Age community now where some of this activity is still alive. People who do go in say that they have a great time hanging out. Not everything is perfect. There are all kinds of intrigues and taboos and so on, things you're not allowed to do and things you try to get away with, and there are retributions. But it's a very intense personal experience. INGRAM: They must feel a heightened sense of belonging.
MANDER: That's what they've got. See, the Western view of Indians is based upon no contact with Indians. The average American has never met an Indian, except maybe a drunk Indian in the city. Indians live in wilderness areas for the most part--in areas where we aren't--so we don't really interact with them, and they are not represented in the media in any accurate fashion. The media presentations have all been stereotypical. First, Indians were presented as savages; then it was as noble savages. Both are inaccurate. They are really just ordinary people living in an ordinary society that has certain structures which have been very workable. So our awareness of Indians is just fantasy. We really have no way of knowing what their societies were like.
The native tradition is a philosophical tradition. Native societies sustained themselves successfully for thousands of years because they had developed a philosophical system rooted in their relationship to nature. INGRAM: Are these primarily oral traditions?
MANDER: They're strictly oral traditions. They don't believe in codification in the same way that we do. Oren Lyons, an Onondaga leader, stresses the importance of the oral tradition of law. When the Great Law was written down, it was filled with distortions because it's actually more fluid than that. Everybody gets together and talks it over and figures out what is right in a given situation. If you spend time with Indians you find out a lot about how the oral tradition works, because their memories are incredible. They remember what you say very clearly, for a very long time, and without the use of tape recorders or notes. INGRAM: What accounts for that?
MANDER: It's because they are awake in that process. They are listening. I believe the oral tradition trains listening. For instance, if you have a digital watch, you don't have to figure out time in the same way. It's all done for you. Calculators destroy the ability to calculate. If we have systems of recording what goes on, then we're not paying as much attention and we don't use our memory. I've seen that so often. In the mid-sixties I was involved in a meeting down on the Hopi reservation. I had gone there to discuss something and everybody sat in a circle and the meeting took the entire day to deal with one subject. When the meeting began, all these people were sitting around the circle with their eyes closed. I thought they were asleep. It became apparent to me only much later in the meeting that they were absolutely awake, and they heard everything that was being said. And not only that, they had a lot to say about everything that was being said, but they had their say very slowly, in turn, at great length, and with absolute, vivid recall. INGRAM: In your book, you say that one of the reasons we're not told the truth about Indians in history is that we don't want to face our own guilt, it is not considered good television to show what we did to the people of this land when we came here. I heard that when test audiences were shown a version of "Dances With Wolves" that ended with the slaughter of the tribe, it got a terrible reaction, so they changed it to have the tribe getting away.
MANDER: Well, I was grateful for no slaughter in the film. INGRAM: My point is that we don't want to see what we did in the past; moreover, it's not an old story, it's happening all over the planet--here and now.
MANDER: Americans are the most resistant to admitting their flaws. Lately, many nations have apologized for various acts. The Germans have apologized to the Israelis. The Russians have apologized to the Poles. The Poles have apologized to their people. These have been formal apologies; they've been negotiated and resolved. The Indians are asking that we apologize for the past as well as for the present, and that we return a lot of the lands we stole from the Indians, because the land is crucial for traditional cultures to survive.
It's time we did that, and if we did, it would surely benefit us at least as much as the Indians. I'm not speaking only of the psychic relief--letting go of that guilt--but, more important, the benefits of sustaining cultures and communities that still have access to an ancient earth-based knowledge that we have lost, a knowledge of the appropriate way for human beings to live on the planet.