When asked to reflect (briefly) on global warming…

FirstSnow2014

“So what?” Travis snorted quietly. “Well, what about the foxes that’ll need those mice to survive? For want of ten mice, a fox dies. For want of ten foxes a lion starves. For want of a lion, all manner of insects, vultures, infinite billions of life forms are thrown into chaos and destruction. Eventually it all boils down to this: fifty-nine million years later, a caveman, one of a dozen on the entire world, goes hunting wild boar or saber-toothed tiger for food. But you, friend, have stepped on all the tigers in that region. By stepping on one single mouse. So the caveman starves. And the caveman, please note, is not just any expendable man, no! He is an entire future nation. From his loins would have sprung ten sons. From their loins one hundred sons, and thus onward to a civilization. Destroy this one man, and you destroy a race, a people, an entire history of life. It is comparable to slaying some of Adam’s grandchildren. The stomp of your foot, on one mouse, could start an earthquake, the effects of which could shake our earth and destinies down through Time, to their very foundations. With the death of that one caveman, a billion others yet unborn are throttled in the womb. Perhaps Rome never rises on its seven hills. Perhaps Europe is forever a dark forest, and only Asia waxes healthy and teeming. Step on a mouse and you crush the Pyramids. Step on a mouse and you leave your print, like a Grand Canyon, across Eternity. Queen Elizabeth might never be born, Washington might not cross the Delaware, there might never be a United States at all. So be careful. Stay on the Path. Never step off!” – The Sound of Thunder, Ray Bradbury,1952

 

Gawd bless Ray Bradbury and Edward Lorenz. By bringing the concept of the “butterfly effect” into popular culture by way of science fiction, movies and tee shirt décor at the very least the world has been exposed to it. And this is the beginning of the evolution of thought for people (I always hesitate to use “human beings” because I have a sense of that creature as a more highly evolved creature than “person” in general; think “mensch”). It is clear that the most difficult part of global warming is getting people to accept that they are not separate from their environment. That is such a huge evolutionary step. As long as we do not accept our place in and impact on the total environment, we do not have to feel guilt, regret, shame, responsible. We do not have to adjust or change and experience discomfort – the difference between climbing into our big pickup truck and climbing into public transit. For one thing the smell usually wakes you up quicker than that cup of non-fair trade coffee. If we valued public transit more the conveyances would be so much more inviting. But then I live out in the country and drink Yuban coffee. Go figure. It’s all about balance.

 

No one has to change so drastically that it unbalances their existence. Evolution can occur by small adjustments or by ‘shock and awe’. Set your own pace and ‘shock and awe’ will be less shocking and awesome. But I do think that change should always feel just a little uncomfortable, like peeking around a dark corner.

 

But let me balance this: Gawd bless some scientists too. When reading the recently-released IPCC 5th Assessment I found very clear attention paid to the tenuousness of statistics. Really good scientists (and yes, that is my judgment call; remember I’m a Thomas Kuhn disciple) always, always, always quote their source, which can only be a replicated, peer-reviewed treatment, and they always, always, always comment on the reliability of their numbers. I was HORRIBLE in math classes up and until statistics in which for some very interesting reasons I attained straight A grades.

 

Cast away government regulation; it swings with politics. Litigation has made some huge inroads with industries cleaning up their own act. If that kind of financial fear is the only leverage on the biggest polluters then so be it. Keep that tool sharp.

 

Working with individuals, giving them the tools and opportunity to experience a healthier way of doing things is the key. And then the 100th Monkey phenomenon will doubtless occur. When a shared knowledge hits critical mass in a population, suddenly and without much warning, the entire population emulates the behavior. (The Hundredth Monkey, Ken Keyes Jr; 1952 on the Japanese island of Koshima with Macaca fuscata).

 

As individuals we make choices which will impact the world and return to us in a manner that depends greatly on our intent (initial conditions). As permaculture disciples we appropriately share the information until the neighborhood  , the community, the city, each reach critical mass of knowledge. Revolution is a glorious thing…especially when it is sneaky.

The End. Namaste

The Sensative Dependency on Initial Conditions

ImageThere is an air about good soil. It smells rich, dark, alive. It is the source of “earthy”. It unfolds in your hands, revealing broken stems, shattered, dark leaf parts, wriggling earthworms. It is moist and warm and completely uncommon in this place where I live. Here, in the Big High and Dry that kind of soil comes in plastic bags…unless we create it ourselves in piles of green and brown compost. Placing a seed in this soil will bring about growth; placing the seed in the native soils reduces the probability of germination. Then, there is the seed itself and the level of potential it carries, and the condition of the shell and the life within. These are the initial conditions for gardens.

I have a terrible struggle with careful, organized approaches to creating a garden and the wild-looking result I love. I do not want to introduce harmful elements and yet I do not want to be fearful and precise. As humans we have an overwhelming need to organize the world around us. We plant in rows. But what plant releases its seeds in rows? We prune for clean lines and to remove the browned, frost-bitten tips, and then we put those clippings in bags and send them to the landfill. What forest works to remove the dead and dying to a foreign place? It seems that everything we traditionally do in the garden is contrary to what nature is.

 Soil and seed are the initial conditions for the garden. Edward Lorenz used the phrase “the butterfly effect”. Although the original comment was regarding the wing movements of a seagull, Lorenz found the “butterfly” metaphor much more attractive. A seagull leaves a much more complex image. The point was that the movement of the wings of a butterfly impacts the atmosphere and therefore impacts winds and hurricanes and fluid movements in the fabric of our air. By entering the number .506 into a formula to forecast weather instead of entering the full .506127Lorenz found that the forecast completely changed. He saw this as a reflection of the theory of a very sensitive dependency on initial conditions.

One theory of landscape manipulation offers that any action should be taken as small, slow solutions entirely based on the belief that initial conditions have long term impacts well beyond our ability to predict. And with this in mind, prepare your soil, carefully select your seed, start with a few plantings and when it flourishes, I cannot help but see that we must cast the next planting to the wind, letting the seeds find their own initial conditions to bring it back to the wild.