Following the Thread

“Many environmental activists begin by wanting to protect a specific piece of ground and they end up questioning the foundations of western civilization.

That’s because they start asking questions and once they start, the questions never end.

Q: Why is this land being destroyed?

A: Because someone will make money; it’s good for the economy

Q: Why is most land harmed?

A: It’s good for the economy

Q: Have all cultures had economies based on destroying their land base?

A: No

Q: What is the end point of economies that are based on destroying their land base?

A: …”

Well, we know what the inevitability is. This line of questioning is apparently a thing Derrick Jensen’s friend John Osborn always says. And I’ve found it very true. It starts with an itch, an irritation, and then you want to know the entire epidemiology.

For me it started with the particular place on planet earth where I grew up. The story in the family is that we had been there for many generations, and that the wide open yards that the houses were built on, the forests, the salt marshes, the beach – that all this land was “ours.” However I felt that I belonged to this land.

This paradox, this itch has been led to a series of questions of my own:

what do you mean by a long time?

who were the first ones in the family who were here?

and where did they come from?

and why did they have to leave?

and who was here before that?

and how did our people draw a line around this place on the earth and call it “ours?”

and then what happened to those other people?

and why did they think they could do that?

and where did that idea of land ownership come from?

and why colonialism?

and who did that to them?

and before that?

And now, I am back at about the beginning of western civilization, to where the philosopher Hypatia of Alexandria, was murdered by an angry mob. And some basic frameworks were put into place:

God above Man

Man above Nature

Man over Woman

Christians over non-Christians

Rich above Poor

Looking at it in this way, it’s very plain to see that it doesn’t have to be this way. And that tectonic shifts in consciousness are possible.

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