White wash

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Diamond J. 1997. Guns, Germs and Steel: The fates of human societies. Norton. New York, United States. Chapters 4,5,6 and 8.

CBC was on point this afternoon, while I was listening to vinyl cafe stories about Tofino’s wharf, beach combing and pallets that washed ashore on the eastern edge of the pacific after the Tsunami that reaped havoc on the Japanese coast. The plummeting blue whale populations stories… Its all about the stories. It seems like coastal communities are bearing witness and feeling the impacts of climate change in a way that we cannot comprehend. We are spoiled here on the interior of BC because of our cozy nook in between he rockies and Pacific Northwest with the only signs of global warming being the shortening winters, even now, my only experience with changes in weather and catastrophes has only been the slight aftershock of an earthquake that measured 3.6 on the richter scale that I slept through. I feel spoiled. My main issue these days is the my perpetual overheating due to the lack of cold winter I have been experiencing here in Kamloops.

The sun was beating down hard in mid January and the snow was melting at a rate that I have never seen before, I was thinking to myself after reading Diamonds chapter on the haves and have nots that the primary victims of the apparent “progress” of the world were the indigenous and non white populations. Is global warming a direct result of progress? Is this the type of society I want to bring my children up in? working 5 days a week to earn my keep sounds awful, no wonder the “indigenous” were so reluctant to adopt farming. I found myself exceedingly irritated by the ignorance of diamonds statement on Page 154 “Naturally, I don’t subscribe to the obvious fallacy that every society promptly adopts every innovation that would be useful for it.” I found myself thinking “how the fuck do you know what would be useful for them” and got quite the laugh when he started to question the edibility of the mushrooms his new guinean Foré companion picked and was told to “shut up”. I felt a strange comfort in that because although this guy apparently knows a lot of “facts” about the development of societies, he was scared to even eat a mushroom and throughout the book he kept talking about the fertile crescent as if it was the greatest thing to ever happen to humanity, even though it bred diseases that the scared white people used to take over entire continents and eventually lead to the warming of the globe due to the unrestrained growth of a poison way of life, needless to say, I’m a little sore about the subject. When Lyn mentioned in class that Hunter and Gatherers only needed to forage for 2.5 days a week whereas food producing societies had to work for 5 days a week it got me thinking that we were tricked into working for a system that systematically restricts the freedom of people by forcing wage slavery upon them. If we were hunter gatherers we would have much more time for innovation and true progress. I personally think Diamond delusional speaks about the advent of food production as something advanced but I see it as a method by which humans have exploited the land to the point that its starting to burn not only the land but the indigenous people of the world, again. Its all about the story and how many believe it. I found this book speaking about the narrative of building empires from a single side of the coin. I believe, however that this story isn’t over and the fact that our society has been lagging in progression for the past 100 years due to our obsession with murder of not only our fellow humans but our planet as well has some truly inspirational lessons to be learned and dreams to be dreamt:

  1. If we can kick our addiction to oil and cars what would we do with our roads? -Imagine if we planted crops in place of our roads
  2. If we can maintain this era of peace with each other Imagine an era of peace with the land?-sure the human population has exploded and the inevitable population decline is on the horizon, but if we can control ourselves would we be able to transition from a species extinction event to a species explosion event?

I feel like Diamond has dreadfully failed to tell the story of indigenous people, although there are a lot of “facts” in the book, there is a distinct lack of “soul”. lots of great insightful information but talk about boring and repetitive in presentation.

This reminds me of a story one of my elders told me once:

There once was a white guy and a horse near a river bank setting up camp during the time of the colonials. a village of indigenous people were just up the river and they smelled him so they sent a couple of warriors to investigate the stink. When they came to the ridge that the white guy was they called in a spirit to investigate the guy so the spirit went down the hill and touched the white guy on the shoulder, he didn’t notice but the horse could see the spirit and started neighing and pulling on its ropes and the white guy screamed at the horse to shut up. The spirit returned to the indigenous warriors and said that the white guy didn’t feel it so the warriors put more energy into the spirit and sent it down to talk to the white guy at the river but when the spirit got there the white guy didn’t notice the spirit at all, but the horse started kicking and freaking out. The spirit returned to the indigenous warriors and told them that the white guy doesn’t have a spirit, and he was carrying a book that had a cross on it. The white guy was a priest.

Was Diamond just another white guy without a spirit?

 

 

 

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Botanical Granny

Pollan, Michael.  2002.  The Botany of Desire.  pg. xiii-xxv.  Random House Trade Paper Backs, United States of America.

The Botany of Desire, I sure am glad this is in free write form… so here goes.

I find myself on my green second hand chair having just finished my readings for Plants and People at 10:32 pm on a Wednesday night looking down at the notebook that has doubled as not only my lab journal, but my metacognitive diary and book of thoughts for plants and people. The first line I have written comes from a moment I had in lab when I found it sad that it is now unconventional to seriously take the plants point of view into consideration. This, for some reason or another, made me think of the fallacy of choice. Lets take me for instance, the circumstances in my life led me to this moment in from of my computer, although I would like to think it was all a choice to be here, but every decision that I look back on makes me feel like everything I did, whether I willed it or not, was just me taking the best course of action for my circumstance. In this moment I feel like the best course of action for me is to break down the title of the Botany of Desire. When I think about Botany I think of an old lady walking me through a garden and telling me stories of how this plant or another has saved her life during some pandemic or a legend about how another plant came into being. And when I think of desire coupled with botany I can’t help but wish that I got to pick herbs with my grandma Jenny, and all the stories of how she was such a wonderful woman who acted as the mom for all of the kids on the reserve, always taking them out and telling them what she needed for rabbit stew and bannock. I never had the pleasure of meeting her… She was murdered before I was born and over the past little while there has been a lot of talk of missing and murdered indigenous women and then it hit me… My grandma was one of them… I miss her without ever meeting her. Who knew that a poker game would change the face of my family forever… from what I hear she knew about all of the plants in our area, not only did she know about them, she knew how to use them to heal, to kill and to eat. She fed nine children, making miracles every time she took them for a walk. Although she didn’t wasn’t a trained botanist, she was a gatherer and a medicine women in the truest sense of the word, talking to plants to let them know she was grateful for their gifts, asking them if they would hurt or help her children. Gathering people, gathering plants, gathering children but mostly gathering love. I thought it would only be appropriate to couple botany and desire with grandma, we all have or had one… a matriarch, someone who held the family together… If she was still alive I probably wouldn’t be in Kamloops, and my dad probably would have never met my mom and Im sure my family would still be together in Cold Lake. A wise woman once told me “women are the spirit of a community” and I think its true. As women are the spirit of the community, although seemingly physically weak and tender, they feed and nourish communities and families, much like plants. If there are no women, there is no family, and if there are no plants, there is no us… Pollen talks about us being intermittently aware of our desires and plants only caring about reproduction, so I think I’ll speak for the potato – I am intimately aware of you Mr. Pollan, so intimate that my and aware that my “knobby charms” and “buttery yellow flesh” seduced you into planting my seed.-P.xv

I found the 4 desires that Pollan describes as very accurate and could feel those desires as he described them just by the mention of the plant species he describes-Apple(sweet-grandmas laugh)-Tulip(beauty-grandmas character)-cannabis(intoxication grandmas food)-Potato(control grandmas food)… sheesh I write a lot…

here is a break…

 

 

 

I found Pollans writing style very poetic and hilarious in his writing, he makes me want to read on so bad that I had to check the readings list to make sure we would be able to read more from it and thankfully we do.

He flipped the way I think upside down.”Plants are natures alchemists” on p xix reminded me how much more advanced plants are than humans, in both defence and propagation. We should consider ourselves lucky that plants chose us to take advantage of us, it was for our own benefit. “it makes just as much sense to think of agriculture as something grasses did to people as a way to conquer the trees”p. xxi-Priceless.

Today my baby radishes, peas, sunflowers and corn sprouted. 🙂 the same wise women also said “if a man can raise a seed to harvest, he is ready to raise a family.” It seems to me like all of the wise people in my life are women, I’m a feminist male who loves peas, radishes and sunflowers.

 

Diamond, Jared.  1999.  Guns, Germs and Steel.  Pg 116-130.  Maple-Vail Book Manufacturing, United States of America.

This guy is a damn good writer, talking about how to make an almond. This guy must be crazy like Lyn, because she uses a lot of what he talks about in lecture and it all flows so nicely together. He starts off with hikers in foraging for wild foods and talks about how jaded they must be which served as a great point of entry to capture me as a reader and I found myself on a journey reading about how ancient scientists used latrines as their first test plots for crops and describes the selective pressures we have  consciously placed on plants such as size, tastiness and usefulness. He also describes the unconscious features we have selected for such as seed dispersal in scattering peas and cereal grains. Its come to 11:51 and I have gotten tired and basically want to get this over with so pardon the shortness, I used up all of my story telling for one night. Diamond goes through the reasons for the domestication of plants such as a quick harvest, difficulties of apples, pears, plumbs and cherries to grow and the advent of grafting in china. He brilliantly connects natural selection with agriculture in the last sentence so Im just going to quote it out of tiredness “These principles of crop selection still serve as our most understandable model of the origin of species by natural selection.” p. 130

His language combines definitions with story and botanical use which was very well written.

that was rough, and long… next time ill cut back on the personal anecdoteish things

 

Seeds- History

Hanson, Thor.  2015.  The Triumph of Seeds.  pg. xix-18 & 55-80.  Basic Books, New York, United States of America.

Yesterday I planted my first indoor vegetable  grow operation. I started off  by planting a pot of tiny carrot (Daucus carota) seeds but I quickly got carried away and now have my table full of enough vegetables to properly have a stir fry or a salad. Some radishes (Raphanus sativus), sunflower (Helianthus), pea (Pisum sativum) and  green pepper (Capsicum annum) with a grow light and. All this effort was inspired by reading The Triumph of Seeds. I hope these seeds triumph my kitchen table.

Seeds can be such simple thing, or so I thought. I always assumed them to be quite boring until my crazy second year botany professor Dr. Lyn Baldwin opened my eyes to their variety and complexity with her near hysteric ravings about the plants and their intricacies. The path of botany was fraught with peril, forcing me to think outside of the box of anthropocentrism and come to accept that there is more than one generation and, moreover, shattering any notion that I had that humans were any sort of advanced or developed sexually. I mean if angiosperms wear people their reproductive organs would be on their forehead, and not only that we would have both penises and vaginas on our foreheads, and not only that but we would have pets that would be used as middle men in a transaction involving the transfer of our gametes for tiny niblets of flesh. It sounds like a perverts sick and twisted fantasy world, but that would be ethnocentric of me, so instead of being turned off by plants like most of my cohort, I was turned on to them and jumped in head first. All this thanks to the exuberantly quirky professor of mine who reminds  me so much of my mother.

Thor Hanson does serves to inspire in much the same way as Lyn, introducing The Triumph of Seeds by describing his struggles in attempting to crack the nut of a particularly stubborn seed he found in the rainforest of Costa Rica, his tale wonderfully shows us how far a mother would go to protect her offspring, seed or baby… although I guess a seed is a baby with a packed lunch and a winter jacket, sent out to be schooled by nature, prepared with just enough food to get a healthy start. -P. 10 and one of Lyn’s lecture. The parallels between Thor and Lyn are nuts, I think its a plant person thing… Thor weaves history with botanical anatomy  and personal anecdotes in a brilliant display of his skill as a writer and storyteller, a skill I would personally love to steal. Things I have learned about seeds from this book, mostly(directly) from the headers on pages xxiii and xxiv, are that seeds nourish, seeds unite, seeds endure, seeds defend and seeds travel. I think that I would like to be like a seed, or a botanist in the jungle fighting off pit vipers with long poking sticks, or at the very least sprout an avocado using tooth picks, a mason jar and the key ingredient to all life, water. The variety and tenacity by which Hanson presents his intimate knowledge of a topic not so well understood to most had me glued to the pages of the book for the extent of the reading and, although we were only assigned a small portion of the book, I wish we were assigned the book in its entirety due to its sheer pleasure. Thor uses imagery quite often to describe his direct experience with ancestral plants such as “the seed ferns trunk looked like lizard skin, scaly, black and orange against the tan surface of the rock.”-p. 58 while in New Mexico looking at an old coal bed, and sets a mood of instinctual parenthood of both plant and animal parents on page 67 when he describes a few gymnosperms  as “finally learning how to cover up” to his instinct to wrapping his son Noah “immediately in a big fluffy towel” because “his little naked body seems so vulnerable”. This, being so obvious to Hansen, gave me a feeling of warmth and reminiscence, bringing me back to when my own father did the same for me.

I found Thor’s the mimicry of Gregor Mendel’s Pea experiment in his Raccoon Shack an excellent way of coupling a history lesson with a famous experiment. Again relaying his own anecdote regarding night shifts on a pea farm and the involvement of his son as his accomplice truly displayed the power of seeds to unite generations,  history and science in action.

– “Scientific principles and laws do not lie on the surface of nature. They are hidden, and must be wrested from nature by an active elaborate technique of inquiry”-p. 53, John Dewy Much like the soul, it does not lie, it unites simple truths with simple needs. If you are hungry, eat, if you care, show it.

 

-Jordan Robinson

 

 

100 mile diet thoughts

March:

I was feeling quite inspired in the first chapters while MacKinnon was describing the beautiful meal he had over the rotting cabbage in the northwest end of BC, a stones throw away from the Alaskan panhandle. It seemed to be, just to be short, that these were good hearted white people trying to figure out how to live sustainably after a lifetime of being spoiled but had no idea how. They bickered about how to do it and came up with this silly 100-mile diet idea, which turned out to be a very heartwarming. They described their first 100-mile meal which included a detailed breakdown of the distances traveled of each ingredient that worked out to be 43 miles on average.

This description conveyed an intimate connection to the food they were eating that reminded me of my own conversion from being obsessed with the idea of becoming an “independent” man to an absolute acknowledgement of the truly interdependent world we actually live in. For the longest time I believed that the only way for me to get ahead in life was to be able to do things on my own but the more independent I became the less connected to people I became, losing my feeling of belonging and community. I started to lose hope in the world and fell into a state of depression because, although I was making lots of money, I forgot how important it was to belong. This thought comes to mind-its easy to fit in, but it takes work to belong. It was easy to fit in with people who took advantage me but I could never belong, but once I began investing in the relationships in my life it started to feel like family, even if we weren’t related, I started belonging without any obligations other than my presence and doing what I had to do and ended up growing exponentially . Growing a garden is much the same in that the investment in the relationship between me and my plants can give them room to grow and eventually belong in my tummy.

MacKinnon seemed to not have very fond memories with food, I love how he found his actions abstract and absurd, with the intention only to recreate the purity of that cabin meal in the woods and reduce his average meal milage from 1500 to 100 miles. I kept feeling an air of “unposed snootiness” by his language which bitterly reminds me of one of my aunt’s who walks around with the same “greater than thou” even though he outright said he wasn’t one of those typical Vancouverite couples, we all know the “type”, do good for the environment because its cool, not because they actually care empty types… I think cities have a nack for that kind of thing, anyway… it was a lot like the hipsters in constant denial of their hipsteriness. This felt like a man who didn’t know where his roots were and in the end of the chapter quoted edward hoagland who pointed out that “the problem everywhere nowadays turns on how we shall decide to live. Neither the government leaders nor the demographers have been able to supply the answer.”p. 18 “How shall we live?”P.18  I see people with no roots and, based on my discussion with Jenn and Lynn I’ve decided that I need to question the question. Why, if we are such a “progressive” and “advanced” society, don’t we know how to live? In my eyes its comes down to the land, and in my heart the answer is simple. Ask the natives how to live.

As a person brought up more native than half-breed and recently attending the healing our spirits world wide conference in New Zealand, one of the most powerful lessons that I got from it was this little anecdote:

Sure, as indigenous people we have been through the ringer… enduring everything from being exterminated like a pest using biological warfare, cultural and literal genocide, denied our rights as human beings and the list goes on and on and on and on… but in spite of all that, we have our culture, as broken and scattered as it may be, we still have our culture. Colonizers on the other hand don’t have much of a culture to fall back on, no ancient traditions to keep them sane because they killed off their own culture, with an adopted religion that was set on dividing and conquering the world in an insane attempt at homogenized the world they homogenized themselves and became the very thing they fear, terrorists and immigrants. Terrorizing indigenous lands with the “all mighty” dollar and becoming the invaders they so fear. It’s sad really, I pity them for being so divided and ignorant to the beauty of their own ancestry that they, themselves, destroy.

Even though this book came from the voice of a couple of Vancouver yuppies, I respected their ability to tell a story and found its quality excellent.

The rest up till October.

Here are a few lines I liked and my thoughts.

“A farmers market is an act of reconnection.”-p.50  in the context of the backdrop of industrial disconnection from nature and eloquently contrasted by a haul of foods and knowing the farmers by name was such a refreshing notion that it reminded me of when I started shopping at the farmers marked and started getting to know the farmers by name, shaking the hands that picked the beats and gathered the eggs that I would later consume, this book has a real knack for pulling memories from my brain hole. Among the saddest lines in the book for me was on page 57 when Mackinnon mentions that “Fewer and fewer (children and people), however, will have touched one cared for one, watched one give birth, or seen a cow give milk or its life for our consumption.” This made me think of being in superstore the other day and trying to decide on whether to buy organic or conventional (this should be reversed but were in a sad state of affairs right not) milk and my mind flashed to bloody utters and the choice became obvious. The next line that grabbed me was “If grocery shopping were always like this (an adventure of apiary variety), it wouldn’t be a chore” by Ruben on page 60.

sheesh this is getting long

The following stories of the abundance of the pacific northwest was full of vivid imagery that the likes of me have never seen, which brings a sadness to my heart and the overall tone of the month of September was filled with hope and dashed by the fact that species after species are going extinct at increasing rates and that we as a species so easily forget. The affluence of the pacific northwest cultivated and curated by thousands of years of indigenous americans who had an astonishing point of view towards nature. (The sporadic mentioning of the indigenous people throughout the book as if we were extinct was borderline offensive because the last time I looked in the mirror I was still native…) Coming from the point of view that nature was to be nurtured and viewing death as a part of life, rather than life or death being it as live then death was the beauty of the cyclical nature of things. You never know how much someone means to you until they die, maybe we should treat animals like people and grieve their loss as we would a person and hold moments of silence for our 4 legged warriors who gave their lives in the fight against… us.

“The jars were priceless”-p. 118 and so are the stories.

I guess ill stop talking now, that was quite the rant.

thank you for reading

-Jordan

  • Smith, Alisa D, and J B. MacKinnon. The 100 Mile Diet: A Year of Local Eating. Toronto: Vintage Canada, 2007. Print.