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Do Humans have an ecological niche?

 
Gilbert Fritz
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Do Humans have an ecological niche? Every other creature does. Are we the sole exception? What would happen if we vanished? Where on earth do we belong? HOW do we belong (what do we have to do to belong)? What ecosystem services do we supply that no other creature can? What other creatures, besides domesticated ones, depend on us? Any? How does all this impact how much of the earth we can or should use? What kinds of ecosystems do we fit into best?

I have some answers, I think, but I will wait to see what you say.
 
Alder Burns
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I have been myself mulling this problem for years. Why would the planet spawn such an aggressive, ambitious species? I find myself warming more and more to the radical idea that we are to be the agent of Earth-originated panspermia.....that the ultimate "agenda" is for humans to colonize space and other, currently lifeless worlds.....making life an interplanetary phenomenon, moving life out of the way of killer asteroids, and expanding sun, nuclear disaster, and so on. Every crucial need should have more than one source.....and a planet harboring life is both a crucial need and a crucial resource......
 
David Livingston
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Yup we are the pointy haired bosses of the planet https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pointy-haired_Boss
 
Tyler Ludens
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I think Humans (used to) often share a niche with other top predators such as bears. As permaculture gardeners, or horticulturists, we can live as harmlessly as any other large dangerous animal.

The author Daniel Quinn wrote extensively about the place of man in nature and pointed out that it isn't humanity, but instead civilization and agriculture that are the problems.

Jason Godesky wrote a series of essays about it: https://theanarchistlibrary.org/library/jason-godesky-thirty-theses

Another essay he wrote about it: http://kennysideshow.blogspot.com/2008/05/agriculture-or-permaculture-why-words.html
 
paul wheaton
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If you will allow a bit of ... uh... speculation ....

This is something I said many years ago and somebody made a lovely meme:

 
Bryant RedHawk
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Native Americans or First People or indigenous people, how every you want to term it, occupied a niche of predator and planters.
It was only when the white eyes showed up that nature here on turtle island took major hits that continue today.
The people lived for thousands of years with nature, then the invaders showed up. They had left a land that they had destroyed and came to turtle island to repeat their insanity.

My culture understands that humans are here to be care takers of the earth mother.
We are not here to pillage we are here to make sure that all is still here for those who are not even born yet.
Those who think they can rape, pillage and burn the earth mother for their own profit are the problem.
It is not wise to poison the planet, kill all the trees, cover the soil with asphalt and concrete, killing off that which allows you life.
When our earth mother dies, all die with her.


So my answer to this question is: Humans have a niche, it is not however the destroyer niche that humans seem to want it to be.
We are the care takers, the nurturers, the planters of seeds, the hunters of game for our sustenance, it is insanity to destroy the place you live and that gives you life.

Luta Ceta
(Redhawk)
 
John Weiland
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@Alder B: "Why would the planet spawn such an aggressive, ambitious species?"

Maybe for the same reason that the 1918 influenza virus decided to have a go at it...? It is a species in its own right and found an ecological niche in a densely packed, susceptible host that traveled far and wide. Oil plays a pretty important role in the niche(s) that recent human populations were able to occupy and in which to thrive (graph below).

@Bryant R: "Native Americans or First People or indigenous people, how every you want to term it, occupied a niche of predator and planters......then the invaders showed up. They had left a land that they had destroyed and came to turtle island to repeat their insanity."

My sentiments run pretty parallel to this even if being descended from the invaders. The expanded position, however, that I do find most accurate is the one popularized by Daniel Quinn: That all continents tended to have either a larger or smaller sub-population of humans at any given time that "occupied a niche of predator and planters" and valued balance with the world/cosmos over exploitation. In the Americas, from the Moche and Inca, through the Aztecs, Mayas, and upward to Cahokia, I'm not sure if one could say that these civilizations were occupying a niche of predator and planter. They appeared to have suffered the same fate as many past civilizations, although this could be debated. But I agree with what limited information I have gleaned from reading and in discussions with local Lakota and Ojibwe, that it was a rather insane wave coming across the pond that was interfacing with pockets of sanity at that time in terms of more stably occupying an ecological niche. I have yet to find a good description of what more sane interaction with, for example, the Euro-landscape looked like in times past. Seems any historical record from there is just a recount (head count?) of one dual, skirmish, battle, war, or blood-bath after another. But that's the historical *record*, and will ignore lots of other information and description that would be useful to the present discussion. So in general it seems as though throughout time and place there have been, and continue to be, many examples of a more harmonious interaction with the planet of the kind that you describe, but have been marginalized in written history.

As far as Gilbert F's question of "What kinds of ecosystems do we fit into best?", it seems difficult to qualify. The Inuit seem pretty at-home in the far north.....about as at-home as equitorially-adapted populations seem in theirs. Minimally, the dance between mutation, selection, and adaptation is going to produce some pretty divergent outcomes even within a species. Add speciation to it and the possibilities really take off.
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Gilbert Fritz
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Bryant, I have a question. Isn't it said American first peoples helped to wipe out the mega-fauna of the continent, leaving pawpaws, avocados, honey locust, Osage orange, and coffee bean tree as 'ghosts of evolution"? In that case, humans were a key piece of the American ecosystems that Columbus and crew found, but those ecosystems would have been radically different then those the first people found.

Isn't that what all species do when they arrive in a new land, change an ecosystem such that they become a part of the whole?

I'm about to start reading the book "Tending the Wild."
 
Gilbert Fritz
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Tyler, I have a problem with calling civilization bad a such, because there is always another level to go back down to. There is a story that when writing was invented, the gods were not impressed; they thought it would eliminate culture by downplaying memory and tradition. Writing is a technology, and I'm sure the cavemen had plenty of technologies. So at what technological level do we count a population a civilization? In any case urban "civilizations" seem to be an emergent property of humanity.
 
Gilbert Fritz
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Alder, here we come down to it; this is why this post is in the cider press forums!

If one believes in any sort of Gaia theory, then one can't actually criticize any action humans take. Maybe Gaia want us to burn up all the oil getting life to other planets before this one runs into a space rock, as you posit. Maybe Gaia wants us to release a flood of radiation to evolve things to the next level. Etc.

I believe that the earth was made for humans; thus any action that works against its stability can be judged as wrong. (In effect, we can't steal the earth from the next generation.)

So I believe that we do have a niche where we can actually make things better just by getting our living, just as beavers and wolves do.

But I'm not sure where/ what that niche is.

It seems not to be on small islands in the ocean, say.

 
Tyler Ludens
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I use the word "civilization" to describe settled populations in towns who depend on agriculture, and have standing armies. There are other criteria but those are the main ones which separate civilizations from other human societies from an anthropological point of view. The Godesky essays go into more detail, especially essay#8: Human societies are defined by their food. https://theanarchistlibrary.org/library/jason-godesky-thirty-theses#toc9 All human societies have technology, it is one of the characteristics of humans, even before Homo sapiens.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Gilbert Fritz wrote:
So I believe that we do have a niche where we can actually make things better just by getting our living, just as beavers and wolves do.


I strongly believe this also, and in my opinion the niche is as a gardener. Permaculture is at its root a system of living in a garden, so I think the appropriate society for humans is a permacultural one.

geoff lawton says you can solve all the world's problems in a garden. I agree.

 
John Weiland
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@Gilbert F: "....urban "civilizations" seem to be an emergent property of humanity."

Based on this>>>Online Merriam-Webster: "Simple Definition of humanity : the quality or state of being human--: the quality or state of being kind to other people or to animals--: all people"
--could you please indicate the definition, singly or collectively, of humanity to which you are referring?
 
Gilbert Fritz
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Homo Sapiens; it seems that wherever we are, we get together in larger groups and build towns of some sort eventually.
 
Todd Parr
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I think most humans are a larger version of wood ticks.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Most human societies have not been civilizations. Civilization, anthropologically, is rare and new. And seems to have been a generally bad idea. http://discovermagazine.com/1987/may/02-the-worst-mistake-in-the-history-of-the-human-race
 
John Saltveit
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It seems that most groups of people who have become large enough in number have evolved into civilizations. I'm not sure that's a good thing. I believe there is a lot of pressure in forcing people to adopt a narrow and inhumane view of the world (Greed is good) that can be self reinforcing in cities that I believe we should work against.
John S
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Bryant RedHawk
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hau Gilbert,

I believe that if you check, the authors that hold up that idea, you will find they are of European decent and looking for a scapegoat as usual.
I think if you look back, most mega fauna went away because of a change in the atmosphere ( 02 and CO2 levels changed ) more than what any two legs could have done.
In the time of the Mega Fauna O2 levels were around 40% not the 20% we have now.

I doubt the ancestors would have wiped out anything since everything is sacred to us.
Look at which peoples are able to gather in council with the white man, you will find that the red men are always excluded.
There is a prophecy of ours "Only when the four colors of man come together in council and talk and listen to each other, only then will mankind be whole and peace can be found".


While it is true that we ran herds of Tatanka over cliffs on occasion, there were still many millions of them roaming the plains.
It took the white man to kill so many that they almost didn't survive extinction.
This was done under the pretense of a fur trade but it was part of the starvation of the nations policy of the US federal government to get rid of us, something not even the Romans would do.
Of course we warred, we fought over territory but once the fight was over, there were still many of each nation left standing, and territory would end up shared. Many wars were about counting coupe, not killing.
I've never heard of this happening with the Europeans. I have read many accounts of how they would leave no one alive, the "Kill them all and let god sort it out" mind set seems to be the norm.
Those of European decent also made it their mission to do away with cultures that were different from their own, they tried to take our customs, rituals, languages, all that makes up our very souls.
They tried to place the blame for Custer's defeat on us, yet was he not a murderer? Attacking villages when the warriors were gone, killing women, children and the elderly is not an act of heroism it is very similar to Hitler's actions against the Jews.
We caught him, surrounded him and gave him justice, same as police do to mass murderers today. The only reason he is considered today is because of lies published about him, he was no hero, he was insubordinate and demoted in rank because of it.

Europeans came here mostly because they had used up their resources by 1. over harvesting trees for lumber for houses, ships, and fires. 2. they fished out their home waters and food was becoming hard to find.
Whaling is a great example of how those from the east came here and proceeded to do what they always had done in their home land, destroy most everything.
The Old growth forests are gone, cut down for dollars in the pocket, and some shipped to Japan for $5.00 a tree, not 5.00 a 2x4.
The only ancient trees left are supposed to be protected by the same government that allowed most of these giants to be killed.

We are all one people!
We are supposed to help those who are less fortunate and care for the elders.
I have never met any human that did not bleed red blood.
We are supposed to honor all living things (and there is nothing that isn't living)

No, not all species arrive and decimate their new ecosystem, they may change it in small ways but they do not remove an entire forest to build houses to live in or so they can sell wood.
We did not hunt any species to extinction as the whites did with the passenger pigeon and other species. We never cut down millions of square miles of trees either.
Some of our ancient food plants are hard to find now simply because we no longer care for them as we used to, the neglect has proven fatal for these species it would seem.
Because of this, I do not think that what is done with care and forethought poses a threat to what was already there when men arrive on the scene.
You do not become part of the whole by removing everything you don't hold dear or see as sacred. You become the destroyer by doing that.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Most human societies didn't evolve into civilizations, they were conquered and killed. I wish folks would read those essays, they cover a lot of these ideas.

Permaculture may enable permanent settlement in a way which is not destructive, but instead, beneficial. We don't know yet, because there hasn't been a permacultural human society yet. It may be the next stage in human social development.

 
Tyler Ludens
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Bryant RedHawk wrote:

I believe that if you check, the authors that hold up that idea, you will find they are of European decent and looking for a scapegoat as usual.


Yes, the "overkill hypothesis" was apparently invented by one guy and never questioned as "the truth" until recently when most paleontologists agree extinctions were primarily due to climate change. Humans would have played a role in population change as would any apex predator such as bears, wolves, big cats, with whom humans share a niche.
 
Gilbert Fritz
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Interesting take about the oxygen, I suppose that would make giant animals rather counterproductive. Seems like the only megafauna that survived are in very warm climates or in the water.

I don't doubt that many groups were wiped out on the way to civilization. But I think there were more classes of agricultural town builders they you might think. In South America, most groups seemed to be agricultural, even the Amazon dwellers before contact wiped them out due to disease. Almost all European groups, not just the Romans, were agricultural several thousand years ago. North American groups included the various Southwestern tribes, and also the Mississippi valley mound builders. In Africa, the Egyptians were agricultural 4000 years ago, similarly in the Middle East. I'm not sure about the rest of Africa, when they transitioned. In Asia, China has had farmers for 4000 years, and India does not seem to be far behind. Only Australia and New Zealand did not develop agricultural groups.

Also, I think there have been some permaculture style agricultural groups; the chestnut agriculture of Corsica and Spain, China's "farmers of 40 centuries" etc.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Agriculture and hence civilization, developed in several areas, rather recently, and with generally poor results. Here's a really excellent talk by toby hemenway, which discusses these ideas: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8nLKHYHmPbo
 
Gilbert Fritz
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Bryant,

So Humans would then play a role of regulators; both by hunting and also be keeping a mosaic of different disturbance densities going, so that all species had niches available.

What do you think, then about proposals to set aside half the world as non-human habitat? Does nature need humans? Or can nature just tolerate well behaved humans? If we actually have a niche, ecosystem function ought to go down when well behaved humans are removed from an ecosystem. But I can't find any hard evidence of this. It fits my philosophy of life; that God put us here to tend His garden. As you point out, it certainly seems to fit the ethic of most Native tribes. But I realize that a philosophic opinion is not a scientific proof.

In one sense, we have it easy. Ill behaved humans have degraded so many ecosystems that just about anything we do is better then the status quo on much land. In my yard for instance, I've torn out a homogeneous lawn of non native species, and there is now a terraced garden with dozens of different micro climates and mulch types, and a steadily increasing diversity of plants. There is also a greater abundance of micro nutrients in the soil.

This should provide much more habitat for other creatures. It will also provide me with lots of food. But I can't use this as an example, because humans have already degraded the preexisting high plains to make the lawn. Maybe if my garden hosted MORE diversity then the old high plains? But now we get into the difficult territory of how to gauge ecosystem health; hard to do. I will start another thread for that topic.
 
Gilbert Fritz
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Hello Tyler,

I read Toby's paper giving the same points. It was quite convincing. My only quibble with all these ideas is that the terms agriculture and civilization is so amorphous. And if the definition of civilization is made to depend on the presence of agriculture, then it becomes really difficult to decide. I will do a little more research and see if we can get a definition that makes things more clear, and will look into your links more when I have time.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Please read the Godesky essay: http://kennysideshow.blogspot.com/2008/05/agriculture-or-permaculture-why-words.html I think it will clarify things.

All humans have culture. Most human cultures have not been civilizations. For instance, there used to be at least 500 cultures in North America, only a few of which might have been civilizations, prior to colonization by Europeans. Now there is only one culture, our civilization.
 
John Weiland
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@Gilbert F.: "Does nature need humans?"

Personally, I feel that the minute we separate "humans" from "nature" we are going down a very slippery slope.
 
John Saltveit
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Many Native American elders have talked about how the reason that many important native edible plants are going extinct is because we aren't taking care of them like we used to. That is our job!
John S
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Bryant RedHawk
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Gilbert, yes humans are regulators (similar to the other large predators) the difference comes in our being able to also plant and grow most of our nourishment needs.
My wife and I follow our ancestral diet which consists mostly of vegetables, fruits, nuts, berries with some meat for protein needs.
Our role is to make sure all living things continue to thrive, this way we always have what we need. (We do not go hunt for sport nor do we fill a freezer with game animals, we don't live where that is a necessity for survival through a long harsh winter)

I do not think the proposal of setting aside half the world would work. The reality of that idea lacks the acknowledgement of the fact that 2/3 of this planet is water covered, so exactly where is this half of the world they propose to set aside?
I think it more feasible to set portions of each land mass aside and free from human interference. This way humans can go there to learn but they can't live there long term, which seems to be how humans really screw things up.

The "Bible" has passages that say that the creator put us all here to tend his creation. Humans have a tendency to read this book and take meanings that suit their purposes over reading it and just doing as it says.
Interpretation of this book has led to many justifications by those who claim to do the creator's will, even though their actions show otherwise.

Until recently humans have, for the most part, destroyed everything they touched due to either their greed or simply a lack of caring about the effect of their actions as well as how it affects every living thing here.

Any time we can make things better for our animal, bird, fish and insect brothers, we are doing a good thing. Usually this means making the land more like it was before two legged foot prints were all over the earth mother.
Most humans are hard for me to understand since I am a spiritual person rather than a religious person. There is a huge difference in those two words, and usually the misunderstanding is readily seen in those who feel they should be the shepherds of "the flock".

Science is a method meant to help us understand and explain the workings of nature and the world. Those who use it properly do not expect their answer, they expect the real answer. This, unfortunately seems unattainable to most who would call themselves "scientist".
I would think that the best gauge for ecosystem health would be to inventory all the life in an area, prior to human intervention (impossible to do now-a-days) then make sure there was no change caused by human intervention.
There are precious few places on this planet that have not felt the sword of human intervention, we humans have destroyed over 1/2 of the world's rain forests, creating parts of the current weather changes. These forests will not be able to return since the soil where the trees used to be is now dirt.
A rain forest is so fragile that once the trees are removed, the organic matter that made the earth beneath the trees feet soil, rapidly disappears and you are left with dirt, completely dead earth. It is impossible for new seedling trees to grow as they did before the destruction.
True renovation of this land back to rain forest will take at least 100 years (if we apply permaculture techniques we might be able to shave off 10-20 years of that time needed for leaf matter and other detritus to reform and recreate soil that can support life.

I have hope for the human race, but it will require a great wake up of those who think money is the end goal. The end goal is survival for eons, something which won't happen on the current path humans have chosen.
It can change, it must change, for if it doesn't then we are all doomed and no one need worry about our sun turning into a red giant, we will have ceased long before that even starts to happen.

Be well kola, I like your philosophy of life.

Luta Ceta
(Redhawk)
 
Tyler Ludens
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Bryant RedHawk wrote:
I do not think the proposal of setting aside half the world would work. The reality of that idea lacks the acknowledgement of the fact that 2/3 of this planet is water covered, so exactly where is this half of the world they propose to set aside?
I think it more feasible to set portions of each land mass aside and free from human interference. This way humans can go there to learn but they can't live there long term, which seems to be how humans really screw things up.


I don't see it as setting aside some arbitrary half of the earth, but rather as you say, set portions of each land mass aside and free from human interference, those portions adding up to at least half of the total land area of the planet. If our own systems are abundant and efficient, I don't think we need more than half for human purposes*. This is discussed in more detail in the Zone 5 thread.

* to say nothing of the fairness of demanding more than half of the entire land mass just for our own particular species.
 
Rene Nijstad
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I gave this some thought since this morning. When we place an animal element we look at needs, products and intrinsic characteristics. If we would do the same for humans we might get a permaculture answer. I'm not going into 'needs' and 'products' now, but we can describe characteristics of humans. We think, plan and fantasize. We make tools. Most people are compassionate, we have an urge to protect what is weak, to see things grow and develop. So yes that makes us caretakers by definition. From a permaculture perspective we should be on earth to make it better.

So where did mankind go wrong? Maybe that answer comes from another permaculture perspective. Forced function leads to chaos and stress. I would consider normal human behavior as tribal in relatively small scale tribes. Most people however find themselves in gigantic herds in the cities. People still try to organize themselves in tribes within the herd, but that's always temporary when you're with a group doing something specific. After that you disappear again in the big crowd. I think that drives people mad and with madness come all sorts of problems. Add to that that most humans are more disconnected from nature and our living planet than ever before and you see how totally disfunctional we have become.
 
John Saltveit
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It is hard for me to imagine that people would choose to stay off of the land. Even if their government told them. Sometimes the government itself doesn't agree, like Andrew Jackson and John Marshall. When I think about how many humans have violated treaties in which they said they would stay off a certain land, it's difficult for me to imagine that it would occur.
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Tyler Ludens
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As Bryant points out, cultural attitudes toward land vary. In some cultures, some areas of land are sacred and are only visited on special occasions. We could redevelop a culture of seeing certain lands as sacred, and choose to stay off them. We don't need governments to tell us what to do.

 
Bryant RedHawk
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hau Tyler,

Wouldn't your proposal first require that all humans got along well together?

I have studied the religions of mankind, and even though some of these tell the followers that they should get along with everyone, they seem to always get into fights when put in close proximity.
It is this reason I no longer desire to be of a religion ( I went to Jesuit Seminary when I was 14 and was finished before I turned 16). I see religions as attempts to control the populace, for that seems to be their true function when observed from the outside.
All those splits from the Catholic church seem to be at odds with each other and that's just one grouping.
 
John Weiland
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@Rene N: " Most people however find themselves in gigantic herds in the cities. ....... I think that drives people mad and with madness come all sorts of problems. Add to that that most humans are more disconnected from nature and our living planet than ever before and you see how totally dysfunctional we have become."

Hence the book title "Nature and Madness":

"Once, our species did live in stable harmony with the natural environment (and in some small groups it still does). This was not because people were incapable of changing their environment or lacked acumen; it was not simply on account of a holistic or reverent attitude; rather, there was some more enveloping and deeper reason. The change to a more hostile stance toward nature began between five and ten thousand years ago and became more destructive and less accountable with the progress of civilization. The economic and material demands of growing villages and towns are, I believe, not causes but results of this change. In concert with advancing knowledge and human organization it wrenched the ancient social machinery that had limited human births. It fostered a new sense of human mastery and the extirpation of nonhuman life. In hindsight this change has been explained in terms of necessity or as the decline of ancient gods. But more likely it was irrational (though not unlogical) and unconscious, a kind of failure in some fundamental dimension of human existence, an irrationality beyond mistakenness, a kind of madness..." -- Paul Shepard, "Nature and Madness".

@Tyler L: "We could redevelop a culture of seeing certain lands as sacred, and choose to stay off them."

Perhaps a wild thought much contested and with only oblique and rudimentary scientific support (even if well supported by anecdote), but we will project (psychologically speaking) the unconscious of our earliest days onto and into our adult human and non-human relationships. Part of the reason that the American Humane Association is allied with child abuse prevention efforts is that they see the parallels between those, young and old, who would maltreat animals as themselves having had a past history of maltreatment at the hands of those charged with their care. This possibly gets more to the heart of Alder B's question of "Why would the planet spawn such an aggressive, ambitious species?". So it may be one place to start, that if the next generation is held as sacred and imbued with a sense that their world is sacred, lasting change will take place, even if more structured measures will be needed in the interim.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Bryant RedHawk wrote:
Wouldn't your proposal first require that all humans got along well together?


I don't think we need to get along much better than we do now, not better than we're capable of getting along, anyway. You mention it here:

Bryant RedHawk wrote:Of course we warred, we fought over territory but once the fight was over, there were still many of each nation left standing, and territory would end up shared. Many wars were about counting coupe, not killing.


In my region, the German settlers and the Comanche made treaties which were kept until the Anglos (or American settlers or whatever you want to call them) broke the treaties.

I think the changes in attitude that are required for us to stop killing the planet will be sufficient for us to be able to do the things required to stop killing the planet, such as setting aside land for the other beings. If we can't change our relation to the world, we will certainly destroy it, and ourselves along with it.

I refer everyone to Chapter 14 in Mollison's big book, which talks about how we might form permaculture nations.
 
Tyler Ludens
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John Weiland wrote:

Perhaps a wild thought much contested and with only oblique and rudimentary scientific support (even if well supported by anecdote), but we will project (psychologically speaking) the unconscious of our earliest days onto and into our adult human and non-human relationships. Part of the reason that the American Humane Association is allied with child abuse prevention efforts is that they see the parallels between those, young and old, who would maltreat animals as themselves having had a past history of maltreatment at the hands of those charged with their care. This possibly gets more to the heart of Alder B's question of "Why would the planet spawn such an aggressive, ambitious species?". So it may be one place to start, that if the next generation is held as sacred and imbued with a sense that their world is sacred, lasting change will take place, even if more structured measures will be needed in the interim.


From inside a culture of violence and abuse, it's difficult to imagine anything different, and we tend to accept this as the "natural state of man" when it isn't, it's our culture. As Daniel Quinn said "We are not humanity."
 
John Saltveit
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I agree that it is important that we actually act in line with a more cooperative philosophy. As a substitute teacher, I get to connect with a lot of "normal" people, who look at me and think, "Shouldn't you be making $80,000 a year selling toxic things to rich people or at least be a principal and be able to boss people around?" but then they see my lunch, they talk about the food forest and hear about the outdoor sports I do and they kind of go, "Oh, I get it." It's pretty much the same with my baseball group and my neighbors. We are changing the culture. I learn things from them too.
John S
PDX OR
 
Gilbert Fritz
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Hello Tyler,

Please read the Godesky essay: http://kennysideshow.blogspot.com/2008/05/agriculture-or-permaculture-why-words.html I think it will clarify things.


I read it; very interesting, though the site that it was posted on was just . . . weird.

So, gardens good, fields bad; our ecological niche is making gardens, because lots of species like gardens.

Good as far as it goes. But let's imagine a world with 50% wild area and 50% perfect permacultural garden settlements.

Would this be as good as, better then, or worse then a world of 100% wild land?

In other words;

A beaver pond is not said to "do very little ecological damage, while feeding the beavers on the least possible space, leaving plenty of room for other wildlife." A beaver pond blocks floods, stores water, guards against fire, and provides homes for countless creatures that wouldn't exist in that area without the beaver pond.

Would the same be said about human gardens, or not? Can we offer something that wildlands can't, like the beaver pond offers something the stream can? Or is the best we can do creating gardens that feed us on the least possible space while doing very little ecological damage?

So, my garden in the converted lawn. It has (in a sense) replaced a 250 square foot patch of native high plains prairie; 150 years ago, farmers and ranchers converted the prairie. 60 years ago developers bulldozed the ranch and created a subdivision along the old irrigation canal. 3 years ago, I started ripping out lawn.

Now, no doubt we should restore a lot of wild prairie outside of Denver. But will my garden + prairie be better then prairie + prairie, or am I always to be second best? Scraping out a living while knowing that I'm a blight (if an interesting and minimally harmful blight) on the face of the earth?

I would posit that garden + prairie is better. But I don't know where/ how to provide hard proof.

How does one measure ecosystem health?

I would think that the best gauge for ecosystem health would be to inventory all the life in an area, prior to human intervention (impossible to do now-a-days) then make sure there was no change caused by human intervention.


If this measure was used, there would be no difference in prairie plus garden and prairie plus prairie.

 
Gilbert Fritz
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Hello Rene,

I gave this some thought since this morning. When we place an animal element we look at needs, products and intrinsic characteristics. If we would do the same for humans we might get a permaculture answer. I'm not going into 'needs' and 'products' now, but we can describe characteristics of humans. We think, plan and fantasize. We make tools. Most people are compassionate, we have an urge to protect what is weak, to see things grow and develop. So yes that makes us caretakers by definition. From a permaculture perspective we should be on earth to make it better.


Great, I like it!
 
Gilbert Fritz
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Sacred lands:

I like the example I gave in the first post of the Ethiopian Church forests, from E. O. Wilson's book.

In Europe, there are quite a lot of stories about hermits or monks providing sanctuary not only to human fugitives but also to animals.

On a related note, the European coppice systems seems to have created a diverse system that promoted a wide range of wild life, while providing efficiently for human needs. Very much like beavers, in fact, since beavers tend to "coppice" willow trees for fodder and building materials.
 
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