Thursday, November 27, 2014

Ecopsych, part II

Hi Lee. Thanks! Um...let's see...

-Precisely. The Web of Life IS Nature. A web is a whole (the web's structure) with parts (the strands) that it is more than the sum of. Or that's how we think it, and that image is really dependent on a lot of Hollywood mood music and lighting. There seems to be some likelihood that actually living things aren't these mechanically nested fitting into fitting into fitting into... , but actually are just sort of mashed together whether they happened to fit or not, and they're all (or mostly) making the best of it. Artificially. Intentionally. Spontaneously. Deliberately. Both out of choice, and because they have no choice. A lot of it isn't beautiful, and it doesn't "just happen", which is what Nature and industrial capitalism both mean: "just existence", or "merely existing", or "environmental".
- Yes. Everything nurtures, just like everything gardens. It was actually Permaculture that helped me to understand this point about Dark Ecology (if this IS Dark Ecology that I'm talking about and not just my own totally weird spinoff on Tim Morton's idea). But the fact that nurture is not just an anthro phenomenon is the easy part to get. The hard part is that animals and plants and Ebola and termites actually all exist on THIS side of reality, with us, in human social space. We're starting to get it, with this incredible extinction we've got happening, but they didn't all just come over here when we started recognizing their presence among us; they've ALWAYS been in our space with us, we just thought we were in a different space (nurture or culture or non-nature or techno-world or humans only or whatever), while they were all over there in Nature. See, they were safe when they were over there. We didn't have to worry about being responsible for them, because Nature is like a modernized factory or "the market": it just takes care of itself, automatically.
2) A conscience is a good thing to hear evidence of. Unfortunately I also hear evidence of future "zoning". Precisely who will be at the centers (or apexes) of these self-sustaining "zones"? This is why I wish everybody would read Naomi Klein. Look, just because you've got a good heart and want to see the best thing done doesn't mean the structure of your politics isn't steeped in the same ideology that gave us agriculture. Seeing everything in terms of concentric circles (something my PC teachers actually encouraged me NOT to do) with us at Zone 0 and "the rest" in ever widening distances is the same mistake that leads to a belief in "self-sustaining" systems. There is no such thing! Not even among objects we think of as non-living. For any object X, X is only X because it is not not-X, and the only reason not-X is not-X is because it is not X. This means that X is made of not-X. Everything is dependent on everything else, and nothing comes from nothing. Of course you're meant to think that people will "have to" use sensible methods (sensible meaning you like them) or else resort to cannibalism. That's the kind of thing people who are invested in an idea have to believe. In fact, people tend not to eat each other in a crisis (PLEASE read Naomi Klein), so I don't think we really have to worry about people not adopting "self-sustaining" systems. People will build systems that sustain each other...basically just like they already do; it'll just look different from our dead old perspective that won't matter anymore. I just think it's weird to look forward (even with horror) to a future where "Omigosh, it's so sad and everybody's suffering," but also enjoying that a little bit, because it leads to more people using more sensible methods of living. We actually have no concept of how bad it can get, and we're not the ones who get to decide how to deal with it in most cases. I think it's actually quite likely that we might just keep doubling down on resource extraction and preserving (human) life at all costs, including quality of life. You ask with what funding? With what funding do you imagine we're doing it now? You realize we haven't been on the gold standard in over a hundred years, right? The Market is as made up a thing as Nature. The funding will be decided by those who define what's valuable. Who will make those decisions? That's up to people to decide collectively. So far our decisions have been pretty crap. I'm not blazingly optimistic.
3) They ARE actualizing the theory correctly; I just don't agree with the theory! Utilitarianism always ends up being about utility to humans, or at least utility to nonhumans in a way that's useful or pleasing to humans in some way. Things aren't "for" anything except being things and playing around and with other things.
4) Well, that's the trouble: how do you KNOW you're adhering to a non-anthropocentric philosophy? Isn't that kind of like saying "I am now speaking to you from a position outside the universe?" One of the things I actually loved about permaculture was it's open anthropocentrism! At least it's not deep ecology, where the anthropocentrism is all in the closet and the best thing humans are supposed to be able to do for the planet is go extinct. I approved of people having an active and deliberate role in ecology! That is openly anthropocentric, with no attempt to hide the ugly fact that we're a species, and that species act like species. Do you think walruses aren't walruspocentric? I don't even know why you're interested in permaculture if you're not interested in humans participating in intentional ecological relationships with other beings; it's just important to understand that the quality of those relationships will always be judged according to what people want, not something from outside human social space. There is no outside. Not even for walrus-space. Don't worry, I'm not interested in influencing permaculture as such. I'm more interested in influencing individuals to build different collective systems that may more or less resemble something like and also unlike permaculture. People who would get so offended by what I say that they couldn't learn from it really aren't in my audience, you know? The development of established permaculture isn't what I care about. I don't care about being excluded from a group which takes itself that seriously, and I actually am glad to hear criticism, particularly the intelligent variety, so thanks, Lee.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Reza Negarestani's "Cyclonopedia: Complicity with Anonymous Materials"

Holy Crap!

This book is blowing my mind more than I'm even ready for. Object Oriented Horrific Speculative Fiction that's Actually True if You Look at It a Certain Way...

I am not able to read this book. All I can do is drown in it while blasphemous pipelines penetrate my lungs through the story's plot holes, keeping me artificially alive and unable to drown.

I can't even tell you what it's about. I'm more than halfway through and I don't know yet! You just have to read it...but you can't. You'll drown. Buy it anyway.

I don't know whether it's a revolution in literature, or the END of literature.

Ecopsychology; the Myth of Natural Balance; "Dark Permaculture"

Ecopsychology is a very interesting field with some very important things to say about ecological and psychological trauma. Unfortunately, it's a pretty young field. Fortunately, that means there's lots of room for it to grow. Unfortunately, we've got a lot of growing to do. Fortunately, ain't nothing to it but to do it. 

This article was brought to my attention via Tim Morton's blog. Like Tim, and lots of other people (actually, the entirety of Western Civ, I suspect), I suffer from depression, much of it connected with ecological trauma and the sociopolitical denial-blowback that resists recognition of the trauma and muddies up the clarity of our decisions about how to deal with it on a political level. 

One of the most depressing realities to face is that the agrilogistical methodology identified by Tim as the source of most of our ecological problems is the very same methodology resorted to by those who wish to counteract it. For more on this, wait with bated breath for Tim's upcoming book, "Dark Ecology", and in the meantime just visit his blog. 

But the article linked above is unfortunately rife with the very same mistakes we have been repeating for the last twelve thousand years and change ("change" as in dollars and cents, the only kind it's ever achieved so far). Being familiar with established permaculture (I was very active in it for years until I saw it was being realized as basically fetish capitalist fantasy-sale), I'm equipped with the tools with which to criticize this; others--including people much smarter than me, like Tim--are likely to continue to be lulled by it. 

Even so, I'm really surprised Tim liked the article, as full as it is of the kind of passive apocalypticism I learned to expect of USA permaculture and peak oil ideologues, something Tim incessantly criticizes. Not to mention the ontotheology of the "Web of Life" that will magically repair itself when the "low-energy future" forces us to leave it alone over there in the exo-human "Zone 5" of untouched wilderness. 

Sorry to be ungentle. If my own failure to heal from trauma is any excuse, them I offer it as such. But the above is an example of how established American permaculture will have to be scrapped in favor of methodologies that are not quite so glibly sure of their own goodness if caring people are ever to be equipped to face the challenges that exist. Some offshoot of established permaculture might work, but only if/when it deals with the following problems:

1. Lovelockian webs of life in which everything happens by itself and for its own (good) reasons. Smart theologians might take a leaf out of the Book of Job at this point (God visits Job at the end and says, "You were right, I DON'T exist!"). I'm advocating the reverse of the sociobiologist perspective here: it's ALL nurture, it's ALL culture, it's ALL artificial, and we are subject to responsibility for ALL of it. Awful as it may seem, we have to learn to deal. 

2. Myths of a happy future prompted by resource scarcity. This is basically passive apocalypticism and a kind of compensatory sadist fantasy reacting to the very same social rejection that is cited in the therapy article. I know this assertion is likely to generate horror and disgust among activists who cite all kinds of data from all kinds of scientistic sources, but resource availability is best seen as an economic issue, and I know enough about economics to be pretty convinced that "peak oil" is essentially a meme-tool for the shaping of consumer purchasing attitudes ("Hey, it's running out, you gotta be careful...") so that prices will stay just high enough to be profitable. Resources (as commodities) DON'T peak, they just get more expensive and then governments have to subsidize production, as with agriculture for the last century or so. Was anyone talking about tar-sands 15 years ago? No, because mining them wasn't cost-effective. And oil is in everything: you could squeeze it out of the keyboard I'm typing this on if you thought it was worth spending the money to do it. "Peak oil" is meaningless. So is the "low-energy future" (Is the present high in energy? No, the cost is just subsidized, and it will continue to be, because of government-corporate collusion, unless this is brought under control through adequate politics). In general, the idea that we will adopt better ecological policies "when we have to", is the sound of a scorched fiddle in the charred ruins of a dead Rome. The article even briefly promotes the kind of disaster capitalism ("catastrophe as opportunity" or some such callous invocation) warned of by Naomi Klein in her excellent book on the subject. ("The Shock Doctrine".)

3. Utilitarianism. This is something permaculture has always been confused about. Though it adopts some vestige of an object-oriented view, this view remains essentially holistic-communal (chickens are "for" scratching, poplars are "for" windbreaks, sheep are "for" eating grass, deer are "for" herbivorous grazing, humans are "for" design and management and eating sheep and deer, etc.). Though some concession is made to the "intrinsic value" of objects in the basic principles, this is almost totally forgotten in the design implementation modeling phase. Which leads into:

4. Zoning. There is nothing wrong with the permaculture zones at all, provided that we remember that every object is the center of its own "Zone 0" (objects are not fitted into human-conceived zones; they exude their own zones, and it is as important that we "fit in" with their influence as the reverse, if not more so), and also that even "Zone 5" (what we call "unotouched" wilderness) is actually very touched and exists over here, with us, on THIS side, within the sphere of human responsibility, as was well understood by Native Americans and other indigenous folk. 

Will this changed idea of permaculture (we could call it "Dark Permaculture") ever be realized? I find it unlikely, given my own very disappointing history with American permaculture. The "movement" (as it calls itself meaninglessly) appears to be far too socially homogeneous and class-centered. But I don't believe it's impossible. Something like permaculture may have a significant part to play in the creative acceptance of human ecological responsibility. The answer is in our collective hands. 

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Looks like I'm a writer!

You've probably all forgotten about me (I hardly know who "you" might be at this point!) because I've written nothing of interest for a long time and nothing at all for almost as long. I have ample justification for not posting anything: I had nothing interesting to talk about.

I attended the Willamette Writers' Conference last week and very, very good things happened. I don't want to say too much yet, but let's just say that hopefully others will soon be able to journey with me into the world of the story I've written...and pay for it!!!

Archer, as I originally titled the story (and can no longer, for obvious TV-related reasons), is now not one, but THREE novels. That's right: I counted the words, and it came out to more than three times the allowed word-count for a first novel (yes, there IS a convention about these things). Meanwhile, there is almost nothing to be removed and some little bit to be added. However, NO PROBLEM! There is a perfect ending point almost exactly at the end of each third of the story! I didn't even have to try for that one. I guess I've just spent the last nine years writing three novels instead of one! That's a lot easier on my pride and conscience.

The first book in the Homestead Trilogy is An Archer of the Homestead Guard. Also, I've started up a correspondence with a leading journalist from Homestead and will be posting her articles in The Homesteader, a weekly local newsletter. Check back on Sundays...