Category Archives: Natural History

Swamplands: Tundra Beavers, Quaking Bogs and the Improbable World of Peat, a Review

The idea of individuality and control, key elements of the American psyche, are a self-deception. We can take an individual action, guided by an intention, and see its effect in the world around us, but after that, the first ‘tier’ of effects, there are secondary, tertiary and others beyond them, as what we have effected spreads out across space and time, effecting those things, beyond our focus, that nevertheless are in relationship, and do and must respond. If we’re paying attention we can see them and attribute them to others, unaware of our impact. The world is so large and complex, while we individually, commonly see ourselves as relatively ineffectual. We often don’t recognize our own agency and how collective effects propagate from our action. This can also support the idea we ‘can’t’, in a significant way, damage the systems and cycles that support life on Earth. What we must understand though is, that as members of societies and cultures, which share economies and technologies, our ‘individual’ actions are ‘shared’, they are multiplied, often many millions of times. We act individually, but we have tremendous collective impacts. By denying this we deny individual responsibility, which in effect, is a cultural denial, permitting the negative impacts to continue. “It’s just me!” “It doesn’t matter.” “It’s their responsibility, not mine!” These collective problems are then left unaddressed.

It is easy to believe this way. There is so much beyond our own control, so many problems, that it must be this way right? No. We are responsible, collectively. We never truly act independently, because we live in relationship with those around us and their, and our, influence over one another blur. Like it or not, we are a part of a larger society. To go against the conventions and norms of society, to act independently, is risky, to ourselves and the world around us…a risk which can bring with it changes, either positive or destructive. However, going ‘along with’ the norms and conventions of society, unquestioningly, is to possibly continue a potentially destructive practice. We are responsible. We have necessary roles o play. We have been relatively bad as a society at discussing our wider actions, of working to understand our impacts and insuring the security of life and its necessary conditions. Too often we comply, go along and continue doing those things simply because we ‘always’ have, forgetting that as our numbers and use continues to grow, so does the potency of our impact. We have been habitually confusing short term gain and comfort, with longer term survival and good. The consequent results of those unexamined actions can become devastating. To continue ignoring our negative impacts on others, in its broadest sense, is ultimately a threat to our own well being and security. Uninformed actions, actions taken selfishly at other’s expense, threaten the whole, because of the ubiquitous and pervasive connections to the world and between all people, places and organisms. Our denials will not change this. So, why do I bring this up? This is a gardening/horticultural post…because, what we do, or don’t do, in our gardens and across our shared landscapes, has impacts well beyond their borders. Continue reading

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