Again, Another Way
Here is one of the challenges for civilized humankind: to learn (again!) from the animals and the plants, rather than use them like dead matter or animate machines for our needs and ends. They can be sources of inspiration for adaptive techniques and technologies; they are keepers of a kind of quiet wisdom we are only beginning to appreciate.
The cow knows how to live on cellulose, the deer and the horse, too. They know how to live outside, in all weathers, needing only the barest essentials. They will still be here long after our fossil-fuel-driven civilization grinds slowly to a halt.
This is not to say that we need to “live like animals.” This is not to say that we must forswear civilization. It is simply to say that we could learn a great deal if we had a little humility; if we could allow ourselves to learn something from their radical simplicity. (Which is not so very simple, as animals are just as much the fine-honed products of evolution as we are.)
This runs counter to everything we in the modern West are taught about what it means to be human; it runs counter to the tradition of humanism and an idea of science in which humans are the only subjects; it runs counter to the great project of industrialism, in which everything non-human is raw material for processing.
But more and more of us are questioning the great project of industrialism – the efficient exploitation of natural resources for human prosperity, and asking if our present trajectory is truly one that leads to human happiness or health.
The next great project – which countless non-profits, young people, homesteaders, artists, cooperatives, farmers, legislators, businesspeople, musicians, local food enthusiasts and critics of modernity are already pointing towards and working to construct - is underway. It is the object of much inchoate yearning and determined dreaming. Although there is a timidity and confusion in the face of the great machines we have constructed and which now run on their own momentum; in the face of the ancient hatreds and the new addictions; and not least in the withering scorn of those who have no hope anymore, still the current trajectory is clearly untenable. This is not about utopia, or world peace, or end times. There is no grand plan – just us, all of us, here, now, making choices, asking ourselves: what is it that we really want?
Do we still have to defend ourselves from each other, physically and economically? Will we still have an expensive military and health-care technology to maintain, power differentials and economic disparities to contend with? Will the destruction of the forests and fisheries of the world continue? Will I wake up tomorrow and get into a SUV? Yes, definitely. The trajectory that we are on was not developed in a year or a hundred years or a thousand years. It is project of long millennia of choices and intentions. It is old, it is ingrained in our human support systems: our agriculture, our architecture, our technology, our cultures and social systems, our sense of who we are as a species, our very cells, it sometimes seems. To unwind the belief systems in which we have wrapped ourselves, in which we have inculcated loyalty to the trajectory, can be psychically dangerous. We must proceed slowly, gently, with ourselves and with others. To get onto a new trajectory is a dangerous transition; it will not be a bad thing if it is so gradual that we barely realize it ourselves. No great revolutions, no us vs. them, just the slow turning of the tide.
To allow ourselves to recognize what animals and plants can say to us is one way to loosen the hold of the belief system that ties us to the industrial way of life, one way to open ourselves to other possibilities.
This article is reprinted with the kind permission of the author from her blog. To learn more about Michelle's life on Kuahiwi Ranch and her explorations of our current human condition, see http://ehulepo.blogspot.com/
Michelle Galimba lives and ranches in Ka'u, where she is a mom and a writer, among many other things. For a full profile, see http://shegrowsfood.com/meet/michelle-galimba-of-kuahiwi-ranch/.