"All the World's a Stage We Pass Through" R. Ayana

Wednesday 11 April 2007

Living the Dream: Tree Changers

Living the Dream
Tree Changers  


Most in our ‘developed’ world of pleasant and well-intentioned domesticated primates live in cultures created by barbarians. Our ancestors were barbarians by modern standards, just as we live in barbaric times when viewed from the utopian futures that are within our reach (if not our grasp).

            Many people existing in urban metropolises relish the dream of escaping one day to live a freer healthy life ‘in the country’. It’s comforting to believe that out there, somewhere, there’s a place that will harbour and succour us, Mother Nature’s haven in an ustable human world. It’s nice to believe there are people actually living the dream, learning to live with the land – and there are. But in practice, almost everyone - whether living inside cities or in the agricultural lands that humans have slashed and burned out of primordial paradise - lives off the land, not with it. The phrase exposes our primitive underpinnings, the indwelling notion of a hostile and unknown universe.

            Our lifestyles and eating habits have developed at the expense of the planet’s soil and water. Deserts continue to expand, soil-stipped claypans and sand dunes created by short-sighted human aggressive culture – aggroculture. Most nations and individual landholders continue to trash the land we and our descendants depend upon, out of sight and many out of their minds. All the feelgood spin about responsible farmers and legislators turning things around is smoke and mirrors while all that’s actually done is akin to rearranging deckchairs in the face of business as usual. Big business. Titanic busyness.

            Every time you see a river or stream without a shielding buffer of uncut trees and shrubs shielding it and holding its banks for at least twenty metres on both sides you’re seeing an ongoing disaster, the inexorable creation of future desert. Every time you can see the sky through a ridgeline or through the broken or nonexistent canopy above your head you see the sun and wind drying the world through a gaping hole torn in Mother Nature’s protective shielding.

            There are no ‘untrained eyes’. When most people who have grown up in cities or towns see grassland full of fattening cows or sheep they see an image of bucolic paradise. To the eyes of an environmentalist the scene ushers in visions of thin bumfluff still sprouting on future desert. To native indigenous eyes the scene is one of Apocalypse Now.

            The cattle still graze on places where the soil hasn’t all been washed away – yet. They eat every struggling sapling and compact the soil while humans consume the thousands of species that would otherwise be there and consume the nutrients that have no way to replenish themselves without their natural biosphere. And all the meat is unnecessary, superfluous and toxic to boot.

            Right now as you read this, another few people are making the decision to buy land on which to manifest their dream or to survive the coming times. Most will have to sacrifice a certain portion of nature’s native bounty to establish themselves, building houses and outbuildings, gardens and orchards. If the land has forest cover a certain amount of it will inevitably be ‘cleared’ (a handy euphemism, like ‘final solution’ for the hundreds or thousands of species living there).

            As you read this another individual or family that imagines themselves to be pioneers pitting their wits and skills against nature is ‘developing’ another block of land, carving their signature into the tree of life. If they’re lucky or smart enough to have tree cover, many will strip the place. Trees are now worth real money ‘in the country’ – the bigger and older the better, but even young trees are now valuable, though their price can never repay the cost in species diversity, soil loss and the silting of rivers and harbours, of polluted water and air or of the loss of water to the immediate area. Trees make clean air and even produce rain (although this wasn’t scientifically proven until two years ago) and canopy cover keeps it in the area. Merely breaking the canopy up will lead to increased local temperatures and massive loss of water supply, almost as much as clear-felling strips of land.

            If the forest isn’t being seen as immediate cash it’s usually eyed as future superannuation, a dependable pension to tide one over in senescence. A human lifetime is short compared to the life of a tree and it’s hard to see the future for the trees. Many trees don’t become ‘old’ for hundreds or thousands of years and need almost as long to replace themselves. A forest takes even longer to grow – often a lot longer.

Before we attempt to manifest our dreams we need to ensure they aren’t nightmares to someone else.
 'Sea changers' who move to the beach are not as much of a problem as 'tree changers' who make the lifestyle change from the city to the land - the damage done to the coasts by individual landholders is nothing compared to what will happen there soon anyway. Words to the wise that the New Illuminati have been spreading for decades, long before global warming became the currency of daily conversation - don't buy beachfront and don't build structures there that someone will die in one day.

We blithely go on as if we can replace millennial multi-ton giants that pump out huge amounts of water and oxygen into the atmosphere with tiny seedlings that may or may not ever survive to replace the mammoths we steal from the Earth. We imagine we can replace millennial forests when the sapling trees we plant struggle in the harsh new world we’re creating, stressed by unprecedented heat and drought. Far better to stop destroying what we already have. Unlike our desperate pioneering ancestors we have millennia of mistakes to learn from and a future we know we are responsible for preserving. It’s only in times of plenty that we really have a choice whether to destroy our environment or to find a better way of living than blind wage-slave ‘consumerism’ (another spin-word for gross materialism). Shopping makes the world go browned.

Fortunately there are alternatives – plenty of them. Before you try to live the dream, study widely and carefully. Don’t use many of the ‘tried and tested’ methods of local farmers. We need to do much, much better and be much wiser.It’s not rocket science. We don’t need the reports of thousands of researchers to intuitively know that polluting the air, water and soil is a dumb idea that will reap the whirlwind.

‘Uneducated’ native people and ‘dirty hippies’ have been telling us all for quite some time, but soap opera television is so very diverting – and the modern Titanic is pull of screens. Turn them off and get some air while you have some. Smell the roses and the petrol fumes.We don’t need sages to tell us that there is something more than blind, stupid materialism (or a dum, humdrum career that destroys the world) to engage our minds and spirits with. Help create a better Millennium. 

 -R. Ayana

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