Friday, April 13, 2007

Development Unincorporated: Ethnobotany, Languages, and the Bioregional State

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"The twentieth century is not going to be remembered for its wars or its technological innovations, but rather as the era in which we stood by--neither actively endorsed nor passively accepted--the massive destruction of both biological and cultural diversity on the planet....You know genocide as the physical extinction of a people is universally condemned, but ethnocide--the destruction of a people's way of life--is not only not condemned, it's universally in many quarters celebrated as part of a development strategy....In the end then it comes down to a choice: do we really want to live in a monochromatic world full of monotony or do we want to embrace a polychromatic world of diversity." --- Wade Davis

Development, Inc., to Development Unincorporated: the Bioregional State as Ethnobotany Preservation, Expansion, and Encouragement

This is one major issue that I think about, as important in the grain of the bioregional state. It's actually the major point I pondered long before penning the bioregional state. Whether we see it in the formal institutional ecological checks and balances against unrepresentative developmentalism and state corruption, or see it in watershed commodity ecology arrangements, the bioregional state is a framework of protecting preexisting forms of ethnobotany and human diversity. Species die for lack of diversity, including humans. Species as well die because of ignorance of the destructions of their environment--because bodily their environment is themselves.

However, the bioregional state is more than wistfully or sentimentally protecting pre-existing forms of ethnobotany and human diversity, it is a manner for such frameworks to be the developmental and political economic program itself--expanded as much as protected, institutionally.

Ethnobotany can be defined as...

...the study of the relationship between plants and people: From"ethno" - study of people and "botany" - study of plants. Ethnobotany is considered a branch of ethnobiology. Ethnobotany studies the complex relationships between (uses of) plants and cultures. The focus of ethnobotany is on how plants have been or are used, managed and perceived in human societies and includes plants used for food, medicine, divination, cosmetics, dyeing, textiles, for building, tools, currency, clothing, rituals, social life, and music.

Such ethnobotany capacities and knowledges can be maintained via different watershed's versions of commodity ecology. In other words, people living sustainability in their areas as knowledgeable about how particularities of their area can be usefully utilized-- instead of ignorantly ignored, clear cut, or paved over.

Ethnobotany is heavily tied into specific ecoregional uses of languages--as the carrier for the knowledge base. The bioregional state is simultaneously a form of ethnobotany preservation arrangement, as much as it is an encouragement of making further ethnobotany reweavings for areas that have been completely lost. Since Fifty Percent of World's Languages Have Been Lost in Last Six Years according to the Harvard anthropologist Wade Davis, the bioregional state is more required than ever--as a way to "regrain" ourselves into particular environments--to learn about locality as the basis for sustainability as well to encourage it being the metric for maintaining human diversity as a whole.

As Dr. Mercola writes about this 22 minute filmed lecture of well traveled anthropologist Wade Davis:

"If you're as concerned as I am about the environment and how it impacts your health, chances are good you might've missed a huge cultural shift. This absolutely fascinating video lecture by a very articulate Harvard anthropologist tells you how we are losing our heritage. By Professor Davis' estimate, about half of the world's 6,000 languages are disappearing, as they are no longer being taught to children, meaning the origins of our world, ethnicity and spiritual life -- what he calls the enthnosphere -- are vanishing. With language serving as "a watershed of thought" -- not just uncountable sets of grammatical rules keen to trip us up when we least expect it -- among various populations around the world, languages will die unless something happens soon to change it."

TEDTalks: Wade Davis
22 min 45 sec - Mar 28, 2007

One issue that Wade Davis only lightly touches upon in some instances is that ethnobotany material practices of living in particular areas is going with the languages. Is that sustainable? No.

By the conclusion, I'm surprised that Wade Davis believes that, like Hegel, changing individuals minds through National Geographic TV programs massively aired across the world is going to change developmental practices. It may start as ideas, though without being translated into an institutional arrangement, it will only be stillborn.

Instead of ideologically or culturally driven unsustainable development, the argument of the bioregional state is that we're dealing with institutional frameworks of self-destruction and political corruption as a form of development. Thus, only other institutional frameworks of mutually secure "polychromatic" instruction in how to maintain and encourage "regraining" of durable local economies and lifeways, is going to change that monochromatic corruption (Thanks John Perkins.) In other words moving from a corrupt Development, Inc, to Development Unincorporated is really a Development Democratized.

I think Wade Davis should know about the bioregional state. Someone put him in touch.

How fast is consumptive consolidation and monocultural ignorance being created worldwide? Robert Neuwirth, author of Shadow Cities: A Billion Squatters, A Urban New World, says in his TED Talk here, 'The "shadow cities" of the future', that 1 billion people right now live in 'unauthorized' urban slums, where governmental action toward them is basically the attempt to knock their homes and deny them official citizenship status after economic shakeout caused by 'ethnosphere destructive development' has made their capacities to sustain themselves elsewhere impossible.

I have some caveats and fears about Neuwirth's laudable attempt to humanize these slum dwellers in the eyes of the "official city" people and their governments, because he extends that humanizing into saying that this is a laudable developmental policy to simply allow this to continue. First, laudably he mentions that it is important to see these places as true communities in the making. Second, he laudably mentions that some countries like Turkey have an interesting "staggered legality" policy procedure toward granting legal status to such self-made settlements (where slums of 2,000 can petition to be recognized as an incorporated area, thus electing its own government and arranging for taxation powers and other frameworks of infrastuctural funds). However, he says that in 2030 there may be a doubling of current 1 billion slum dwellers to 2 billion, and by 2050 that may be 3 billion people. So, on the flip side, the massive scaled plantation agriculture and point source waste from the disembedding of several billion more people (most against their will) from ecoregional areas worldwide into the human equivalent of gravitational black holes fails to sound sustainable to me. This is almost a given since historical politics of large urban conglomerations have hardly been those of generation of sustainable political pressures with regards to consumption. Instead they are simply creating captive mass consumer markets, political corruption, and more massive pollution.

(With regards to human rights pressures though, large urbanization is quite different and even progressive: large conurbations have been core areas of most democratization of state social policies [so powerful that corrupt and degradative U.S. corporate elites spent much nefarious thought in the late 1800s and early 1900s how to electorally engineer urban political power destruction, yielding issues like: 'Dillon's Rule' (discussed previously, at the bottom of that post); suburban incorporation laws as separate fiscally and politically from their own city connections; and urban "at-large" vote districting--just a few examples which were (and still are) forms of divide and conquer or gatekeeping in the U.S. against very progressive social pressures of urban areas. Unrepresentative state elites failed to want to integrate into their policy making the progressivism of place and the political concerns and singular voice of fine grained place. So there is a Janus face to larger urbanization: environmentally degradative from the clientelistic consumption encouraged and the point source pollution, at the same moment when such urbanized population pressures gain progressive rights. Just one of the bizarre counterbalanced things about the world to consider, I guess. It fails to have to be that way, only that historically this is typically the materials arrangement given the 'exit to voice' quotient in urban organizational economy participation, in terms of purchasing strategies. This leads to a tendency, instead of a social law, to typically have a much larger aggregate consumer pressure of 'exit'--which fosters a politics of consumptive clientelism slack in organizations. This allows for unsustainable polluting supply-side material dominated choices of materials instead of pressure of consumer 'voice' against it, because of the organizational slack. 'Voice' based economic institutions for more sustainable choices are easier to organize in rural areas and the 'rural' areas of the world, against such things. Unless of course a foreign country invades and overthrows your country once you start to succeed in making the politics of place more important. The Venezuelan coup by the state oil company CEO, Camora, in league with consolidated Venezuelan corporate media (with approval of the neocon U.S.) is one example of the politics of place succeeding in Venezuela and coming against politics of supply-side placelessless attempting to re-engineer state institutions--via coup and murder--to demote it. Of course 'the revolution will not be televised' when that occurs typically. Corporate media cameras will turn away or run soap operas while the coup is going on. Therefore, it is a rare event to capture it live on film, as was done at that link.)

Slum world. Half the world in slums by 2050. Thanks World Bank and WTO. Thanks for nothing.

So still, material integrative changes in these slum areas is required, as well as ways to demote the upcoming scale difficulties of such point source pollution and further pushes for scaled agriculture to be generated.

For the slum issues, Cameron Sinclair seems to have an interesting solution that may lead toward more rapid ways of addressing this slow motion pile on into urban slum areas: by generating more sustainable housing infrastructures cheaply--and interestingly, arranged through a Creative Commons arrangement for architects. It's a particularly good idea to use Creative Commons uses for Architecture to solve some of the social barriers of people unwilling to have their designs stolen by other for-profit uses.

Cameron Sinclair's TED Talk Prize wish was Open-source architecture to house the world, and he got his wish:

TEDTalks: Cameron Sinclair
23 min 14 sec

"Accepting his 2006 TED Prize, Cameron Sinclair demonstrates how passionate designers and architects can respond to world housing crises. The motto of his group, Architecture for Humanity, is "Design like you give a damn." Using a litany of striking examples, he shows how AFH [Architects for Humanity] has helped find creative solutions to humanitarian crises all over the globe. Sinclair then outlines his TED Prize wish: to create a global open-source network that will let architects and communities share and build designs to house the world."

We've seen the dystopian plan of the "World Bank's world". Here's William McDonough's version of a "cradle to cradle" world and of urbanization without wastes--where urbanization is intimately fitted to a particular landscape. We might even say urbanization fitted to support the ethnosphere durability that Wade Davis speaks of in his talk above. In McDonough's world, wastes become useful items back into the city with the aim for durability of "all time." Just so you avoid thinking this is some "pie in the sky" plan, he shows you some schematics of the already agreed upon plans to build twelve cities in China in a "commodity ecology" sustainable fashion.'

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(McDonough hired by Chinese Government to build cities based on Cradle to Cradle, starting 2012)

When built as a model to us all, China once more may justify the title of Middle Kingdom, core of the world. This talk is only twenty minutes as well, though represents a lifetime of work in which many other similar ecological design projects are mentioned.

TEDTalks: William McDonough
20 min 11 sec

"Architect and designer William McDonough asks what our buildings and products would look like if designers took into account "All children, all species, for all time." A tireless proponent of absolute sustainability (with a deadpan sense of humor), he explains his philosophy of "cradle to cradle" design, which bridge the needs of ecology and economics. He also shares some of his most inspiring work, including the world's largest green roof (at the Ford plant in Dearborn, Michigan), and the entire sustainable cities he's designing in China."

The larger issue instead of just slums and architectural provisions is the 'humanitarian crisis' of avoiding the economics of such consumptive consolidation in the first place and its political implications toward more environmental degradation.

Toward that, the commodity ecology framework of the bioregional state would seem to fit right in with Sinclair's open source architectural model as well as McDonough's view of sustainable cities: to simply serve as a networking source for connecting various designers, businesses, aid workers, architects and what not.

With commodity ecology, it's a similar open source issue as Cameron Sinclair discusses though its not limited to merely building materials issues of suitability and integration. Instead, a website and team is required that could facilitate connections 69 times his idea, i.e,. as one that aids in organizing for each watershed in the world a coterie of the 69 different material production groups interested in finding sustainable ways to integrate and utilize their locally available materials and mutual wastes without pollution or without being unsustainable for their areas. (The number has been updated after a bit more puzzling from that edit.)

This is similar to Gavoitas--though worldwide. It seems more required than ever to avoid the economic, political, and environmentally degradative effects of the 'pile on' that will be along by 2050 at the earliest--unless material issues are changed over and unless more sustainable mechanisms of allowing people to 'site themselves' more durably in areas, instead of simply being forced by economic shakeout to move toward urban cores.

If Cameron Sinclair and William McDonough are working on sustainable urbanism, the bioregional state is as well working on adding checks and balances on the state as well as consumptive consolidation politics itself, so that corrupt forms of developmentalist politics will be checked, to preserve their sustainable creations instead of demote them.

And the most bizarre thing is that all these talks are sponsored by Mercedes Benz commercials, sort of like asking the drunk pilot of the Exxon Valdez to sponsor the opening of a marine ecology preserve. Perhaps they want to make sure that Wade Davis or others avoids talking about the polluting oil industry, similar to the high conspiracies revealed recently in its formation by Edwin Black's most recent book.


Blogger ericswan said...

I got a form letter from Amnesty International many years ago, soliciting funds. There was a bit of room on the form where I scrawled a pleas to help me out. I'm a political prisoner here in Canada. One of my favorite native artists, Lawrence Paul was raised in the town I am now living in. His mother had to deliver him in the local hospital in a room designated the "squaw room". My wife works in that hospitial. She doesn't believe me when I tell her that natives were only allowed to deliver in one room and that no mixing of native and whites was allowed there. Lawrence Paul's father was a shaman. At the age of 17 his father had been transplanted to a catholic reservation school where the conditions were so bad that he got "scurvy" and all his teeth had to be pulled. Lawrence described this treatment on the program "Ideas" on CBC (tape available at last week where his father's head and hands were strapped down and "all" of his teeth were extracted without anesthetic.
Lawrence wants to know why they don't have Remembrance Day for the 75-possibly 200 million native Americans that have been slaughtered since the white man came here.

I'm in the process of building a greenhouse and accoutrements on my lot in Kamloops. I collected all of the material for the construction by extracting it from waste piles headed for the landfill. I know what it's like to extract a lifestyle from a landfill. My good fortune is that I don't have to "compete" for other peoples garbage. Our society just wastes it and dumpster diving just happens to be something I'm passionate about. There are other dumpster divers but they aren't interested in 3/4 inch plywood or panes of glass. It's hard to move big stuff around in a grocery shopping cart.

Anyway, I have all the material I need and have excavated a level spot in the yard. I'm wondering if your architects are flexible? Can they take X materials and graft a floor plan? Timing is everything.

4/15/2007 1:30 PM  
Blogger Mark said...

If nothing else, Cameron Sinclair sounds pretty flexible on materials. :-) Give that network of hundreds of humanitarian architects a call and see.

4/16/2007 10:30 AM  
Blogger iridescent cuttlefish said...

Hey Mark!

I just dropped this link amid of flurry of my usual rantings over at one of ericswan’s blogs (the wild & woolly FSHOD), after a post he wrote, The Warming Debate and thought you might like it, too. It’s called Life-Enhancing Agriculture, by Jeane Manning, "a review of the agriculture section" of the book Living Energies: Viktor Schauberger's Brilliant Work With Natural Energy Explained, by Callum Coats.

The stuff I was talking about started off in the old & familiar Paperclip weedpatch, but then it turns in a sustainable earth, bioregional sort of direction. If you're interested, you can find my comments here, at Tuesday, April 24, 2007 12:56:00 PM and Thursday, April 26, 2007 11:47:00 AM (pretty far down the page, near the bottom actually.)

I'm also working on something I'd like to share with you and a few like-minded individuals in the near future (Dave West, of Low, Dishonest Decade fame and Big Gav, my Australian Peak Energy friend, for starters.) That comment link was a taste of coming attractions, sort of. Hope all is well...


4/27/2007 2:41 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

11/24/2007 9:18 PM  
Blogger blogging blog said...


There is a new documentary coming up this year about preserving the knowledge about plants of the people in the Amazon, tracing the steps of Richard Evans Schultes in Colombia, inspired by Wade Davis' One River.

This documentary was done with a lot of effort, personal funds from the producers and some government grants, there is no promotion budget. We liked your blog so we added you to the blog roll. It would be interesting to have you as a guest blogger.

3/23/2008 12:19 AM  
Blogger Mark said...

To "blogging blog,"

Thanks for the invite. I salute your project. The singular flows of the Amazon certainly have a difficult time being split across many different abstract jurisdictions, particularly in states like Brazil that are unable currently to find a way to stop destroying the area and their state's durability in the process?

What do I do at that website you mention? Just comment if I see fit? Some webpages have comment locations. Is that what you are talking about?


Another film of interest about the Amazon is mentioned in this link.

It was produced by the BBC, called "The Secret of El Dorado". Instead of gold, it is about the rich black soil of the Amazon, the terra preta, and how it might be more important to the world than gold to understand how it was created.

Sustaining local land tenure with a less slash-and-burn based agriculture is crucial I think in economically providing incentives and securities of local populations from being ecological refugees. An agriculture based on self-sustaining terra preta creation would be such a thing.

More on that in the film: people are unraveling the 'secret of the terra preta' the mysterious dark soil of the Amazon. Much of the current evidence shows that it was an anthropogenically created soil indicating that a large urban-agricultural society existed in the Amazon and then collapsed as soon as the Europeans brought in epidemics. Only one European explorer saw it. Then a generation later, the Amazon had swallowed up all evidence of it. Except for the durable terra preta.

So instead of only the Inca, the Aztecs, and the Maya--perhaps a fourth major area of urbanized societies in Latin America before the European Conquests will make it into the history books soon: the Amazonians.

The Amazonians seemed quite sustainable in their agriculture--and we can still learn from them:

(It seems that these links on that page are broken since they were removed from YouTube and Google Video. You may find the documentary or its filmed scientists useful if you want to provide a historical view of the Amazon in your Amazon documentary project.

It would be an interesting angle, our unsustainable, self-destroying, current society learning from long gone sustainable one destroyed before we knew its value. A tale of ecological redemption in the Amazon.)

Because [1] there are plenty of material and technical solutions available for sustainability, and [2] from other blog posts, because the majority of the world supports such things, I think our difficulties are entirely political organizational when we start to talk about sustainability and degradation. Gatekeeping and corruption based political economies keep sustainability from happening, instead of degradation happening due to the lack of solutions or concern. There are plenty of solutions, and it is a global majority concern.

Therefore just put the state in sync organizationally with this concern (with some of the suggestions in the bioregional state).

It's more democratic and more sustainable simultaneously. As degradation, corruption, and lack of democracy go hand in hand, you can work toward all being solved with the bioregional state.

Regards, Mark

3/23/2008 3:10 PM  

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