Monday, October 27, 2008

"I Tame Beavers"

Pinting wanted to know more about my raccoon problem, but there really isn't a good story about it. There's a raccoon which has taken up residence in the upstairs of that barn where there's a lot of stuff. The raccoon has made a mess of things and I've been avoiding the problem for a long time. The best suggestion I've seen is to lay out ammonia soaked rags. I've done nothing but ignore the animal. The best thing is the raccoon mostly tries to keep clear of me when I'm up in the barn. I see it but we don't exchange glances. My fear is getting bit on my butt.

The title of this post comes directly from an article from the March 1968 Yankee. An electrical engineer tells in his own words how he's gotten the beavers on his property to eat out of his hand. Beavers fell trees with their sharp teeth to build dams and houses made from logs and mud. Beavers look rather cute, see this photo by krrrista at Flickr. But I'm sure I'd think long and hard before putting food in my hand to entice a beaver to eat--yikes! Raccoons can be very cute, but this photo by nal from maimi at Flickr is precisely why I want to avoid too intimate interactions with the one in the barn.

There's a good selection of Yankee magazines from 1968. That was such a pivotal year in my life. As it's now forty years on, I've been thinking quite a bit about 1968 and the aftermath all year long. One of the ways is to read writing from the sixties. One of the best books I read this year was The Secular City by Harvey Cox. I really enjoyed reading David Hajdu's Lives and times of Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Mimi Baez Farina and Richard Farina entitled Positively 4th Street. I was 13 in 1968, but I still keep wondering what the heck happened because there was such a sense at the time that the times were changing. Of course they were, just not in ways I would have predicted.

Today I was thinking about muddling along and pulled a book off my self, Muddling Toward Frugality: A Blueprint for Survival in the 1980's by Warren Johnson. Clearly that book is not from the sixties, rather it was published in 1979, but goes to my question: What happened? I can find no listings for the book on the various used book sources online, it's just such a period piece I guess nobody thinks to save it. Nonetheless the ideas in the book are still important.

The book was published by Shambhala Publications and I remember being impressed with it in those days. I also remember a friend laughing and saying something like, "Only you would love a book called Muddling Toward Frugality!" Alas I haven't been very good about putting my convictions into actions. Over the last couple of years by way of the Internet I've met Linda Nowakowski. She's in Thailand, but is from my neck of the wood. Just a bit older than me, she also experienced the sense of transformative change that seemed pervasive back in the days and which has been such a subject of fascination for me of late. However, I'm sure Linda never followed my wastrel ways. She's a great student of Buddhist economics, something I'd not heard of until I met her online.

Johnson's preface begins:
If we are to enjoy this planet for a long time, we may as well face the fact that trying to perpetuate the affluent society is going to be an uphill struggle.
An early chapter in the book is "An Ecological View of History." That chapter helped to bring together a more cohesive view of ecology. I was familiar with Hans Zinsser's famous book Rats, Lice and History along with extensions of Rachel Carson's work on pesticides steming from Silent Spring. But I hadn't really put together an ecological view of history that is a widespread idea nowadays, before Muddling. Many have read Jared Diamond's, Guns, Germs and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies. But back at the cusp of the 1980's an ecological view of history was something a specialist would adopt and not so widely understood as it is now.

Linda Nowakowski is busy helping organize The 2nd International conference of the Buddhist Economics Research Platform which will be held at Ubon Ratchathani University, Warin Chamrab, Ubon Ratchathani Thailand Dec. 5-7, 2008. So there's lots of current work for me to acquaint myself with, although the main thing is that I ought to straighten up and start walking my talk better.

Sokari at Black Looks recently linked to an Utne Reader list of 50 Visionaries who are changing your world. It's a cool list, remarkable people all, but in going down the list I was excited to see brownfemipower on it. I do enjoy blogs very much. I can say some unbelievably stupid things sometimes and I know it. The intersection of race and feminism is once place where I might get called out on my foolishness. I've learned to do a lot more listening and less talking in those sorts of places. Being called out is of course a way to learn; the trouble is, while I may be stupid I don't like to cause distress to others. Blundering in is not the best strategy. Learning not to be ignorant and callous towards others are high on my agenda.

I was tickled pink that brownfemipower was on the list. And while I was over there savoring her blog, it's always a time for putting on my thinking cap, what was perhaps a throw away line brought something in focus about myself. She wrote:
it’s working through ideas that i’ve been struggling with for a long time, and it’s doing through my ADD lens rather than my logical make sense lens
"ADD lens," by golly I know that lens! It would behoove me to learn a bit more about my "logical make sense lens," but that will have to wait for another time. Meanwhile if you're looking for some great stuff, I highly recommend checking out Utne visionary, brownfemipower.


Steve said...

The ADD lens. Interesting concept. Story of my life.

We are the soundbite generation.

We want it crisp, clean, packaged for us. And please make sure that it takes us no more than 2 minutes to consume.

I come to your blog, read your posts and leave overwhelmed - this is the same effect that this guy has on me.

So, in lieu of something real, I will leave you a soundbite.

Or maybe a little parting thought: I am of the school of thought that the preservation of the ecological environment might be a function that the ecological environment is carrying out much better than we could.

We are probably kidding ourselves if we really think that we will outlive the planet. It will survive - maybe not is in the form and shape that it is in now - but it will outlast us.

It them seems to me to be a little bit of a laugh to think that we can maintain status quo given that any on a dozen types of global natural events - the sort that take place with regular frequency like meteorite impacts, volcano eruptions, tsunamis, ice ages and so on - will leave the world a completely different place.

Daisy said...

Hey John, check out this post, it is awesome. The photos alone will just blow you away.

John Powers said...

Steve, thank you for leaving a comment. Thank you for reading, I can't imagine why anyone would ;-)

I love toli!

Mostly I think about the future generations. I've got great nieces and nephews now, and I worry a lot for them.

Daisy, Yep that link did blow me away. I've been seeing photos of Obama with kids for a while, now I know they're coming from Yes We Can Hold Babies. Chris Blattman posted a YouTube interview with a fifth-grader in Florida. I was so impressed by the reporter, better reportage than is usual on TV!