A mature oak can produce twenty-nine thousand acorns a year. Each has the chance to sustain our people, heal the world some, and spread where it can.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Foundational Acorns

I've been criticized in the past (by people who don't bother to actually converse with me) for advocating and teaching skills such as foraging, gardening, hunting, fishing, and permaculture as a means to create social change. "How is eating acorns going to help the poor, stop women from being raped, stop corporations from blasting the tops off of mountains?". The primary misunderstanding that people have (showing quite clearly that these people aren't interested in listening or conversing, but merely preaching) is that this is ALL I'm doing, which is patently false. Rather, as my comrade Marco was talking about in his speech in reference to hip hop some months ago, my goal (and the goal of those who rewild) is to build something new, specifically sustainable neo-indigenous cultures, and subsistence activities merely provide the base or foundation for these new cultures by using old blueprints, and the "tools" of the people who've been able to maintain such cultures in the past.

A culture's relationship with the land and how the people in a culture make their living (i.e. find subsistence) are directly related to how that culture treats human and non-human people. In essence, sustainability is essential to any truly meaningful efforts for human rights and social justice. It isn't merely a huge coincidence that, for instance, non-agricultural peoples do not take part in slavery of any sort. Communities that live in such a way as to maintain and even improve their surroundings can find subsistence in those surroundings with sufficient ease that slavery would make no sense, even if the idea of enslaving another creature were acceptable to these communities. Agriculture, on the other hand, is both unsustainable and backbreaking, therefore requiring at the onset coercion to get people to spend all their time planting and tending, and after the land is degraded and dead it requires importation of resources. In reference to that, Derrick Jensen further elaborates:

Two things happen once you require the importation of resources. One is that you can never be sustainable, which means that we can all become the best little natural capitalists in the world, and it doesn't matter so long as there's this fundamental system in place, it's not sustainable.

The other thing it means is that your way of life must be based on violence, because if you require the importation of resources trade will never be sufficiently reliable. If you require the importation of resources, and the people in the next watershed over aren't going to trade you for it, you're going to take it. We could all become junior Bodhisattvas, and it wouldn't matter; the U.S. military would still have to be huge, because how else are they going to get access to our oil that just happens to be under somebody else's land? If they require that oil, they're going to take it.

So essentially, empire is rooted in unsustainable, exploitative/extractive economic systems which require exploitation and enslavement of people. If the goal is to create something new, a way of life in which humans and non-humans are not exploited, in which salmon and pines and bears and deer aren't viewed simply as resources, in which women are viewed as individuals instead of as stereotypes or orifices, in which all creatures are allowed decent lives... what sense does it make to base it on a foundation that requires exploitation and violence? None. It also makes no sense to practice a form of subsistence that produces less food per acre with a monocrop than complex polycultures do, considering the number of starving poor in the world, but we can talk more about that later.

Using this foundation, the foundation of food subsistence activities like the preparation of acorns I shared with some of my friends on Saturday, we can build a healthy, sustainable, egalitarian culture. Even in the small group of people who gathered at Lincoln Woods one weekend in September 2009, we had sparks of cultural activities and intellectualism happen alongside the discussion of subsistence strategies, such as my brother Chris playing guitar, or my friend Katrina (a dedicated feminist) discussing feminism and its relation to healthy cultures with my partner and I. As we're building our foundation, we're laying the beginnings of the building on top of it, setting out the pattern to build up when our foundation is finally stable.

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Twenty-Nine Thousand Acorns by Daniel Q is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License. Photoshop Tree Brushes created by Obsidian Dawn. Photoshop custom dandelion shape created by MyMimi. "Broken Acorns" photograph in banner taken by modcam. Layout by Kris.