Thursday, December 8, 2011

Between Wilderness and Garden

Thinking people everywhere  are right to identify humanities widespread  failure to look after the place of wild things in our world. Men have taken over the territory of others without thinking of anybody but themsleves - let alone the wild things that might also have their home there. 
Is the problem then just the West's alone ( we seem to be the most critical of what has happened in both spaces ).  Western critics  have been  the first to notice and the first to retreat  from the idea of dominion because the job has not been done well . But i do not accept that to dismiss humanities  engagement in restoring/maintaining a balance between wild place and cultivated  space is  right either .We can and should often be up against each other as true neighbours. We should be agreeing to some sort of fence, not ignoring the need for one.  We no longer need more land to feed ourselves ( did we ever?). The very failure of human beings to both see and to care for this issue of reasonable territory  is complex, but only human beings can really improve the situation - and they can do a lot to do that .  

As always , how we define our terms is critical to developing a discussion that takes us somewhere. There are probably many ways to define the above 2 terms,  and the places in between .
Because the Biblical tradition sets the scene for the West so strongly ,  I am going to try  to  limit myself to 2 commonly used  terms in there ( lots of variation even so for eg "when is a wilderness a wasteland ")    I am also just interested here in relation to the place question  . I am assumming therefore that the major issue is not size or content, but that the right  space should exist for each .( first base only but its a good start!)  The reason I am doing that is because the place/space  question it seems to me is the critical foundation for maintaining and improving our respect for the world around us.
While the content of these terms varies across the natural land systems of the world ( and there is much to be said for defining them in that context  whether grasslands , tundra , Mediterranean Tropical , temperate woodland or forest ) I think the argumnets from the historic  Mediterranean experince apply across the board in many ways .
Lets' assume ( whether its right of not) that humans have enough intelligence to innately know that full exploitation of their environment is counter productive . Why then do some individual and cultures go close to doing just that?

There is an argument that men taking over the territory of others is in recognition that they have infact reached /passed a level of unsustainable occupation in the territory they currently occupy . I am here to challenge that both as a very poor response and excuse,  and as an unsustainable answer .  Whatever reality is in the imperative argument , its a desperate one and not the only one .  Acceptance of space limits is a important skill for retaining and developing resilience and prosperity in all areas of life .  

Fortunately for us now in 2011, the above argument looks shallow . The earth can feed itself and Japan wouldn't have gained much by occupying the territory they sought to control in WW2. Somehow the earth works best when understood as an ecosystem of separate organisms with their own spaces than as a large organisation with a large territory. 
We can't evidently do justice to these complex matters  here, except for me to say that no modern human community should assume that it can't both feed itself and look after the wild spaces in its  neighbourhood .
 Respect for space is critical and effective and governments need to reinforce this small scale approach and not undermine it as they sometimes do .( trade and energy resource concerns add to but do not justify ignoring the constraints of governments with their first obligation to the rural/ food production  sector)  

The intellectual excuses used to undermine our respect for each other's spaces are the subject of another blog .

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Accountancy Ascendancy

AN Whitehead  knew the problem we are talking about  here was coming - he stated so nearly 100 years ago .
It was in his area of interest ( maths ) as it was also Bertrand Russell's. The point is ----in some of the more challenging professions mere stats leads to more stupidity than it  is worth .
WE all know ( those of us who have to justify with endless columns of statistics ) that all the numbers don't always make sense . The focus on the qualitative has left out the qualilitative somehow .Sure  we  scientists  love "Excel",  but its only a tool and quality product  means tools ( incl graphs) should only be used by qualified tradesman.( scientist using the method in a fixed and defined area )

There is a rat in the woodpile and few there will be that find it( mere accountants haven't got a hope )- despite the smell being thoroughly obnoxious right   across the western world.   The dummies in charge think growth is in numbers when all the time its in quality of service - something that often defies the collection categories.
The ignorance of human nature here too is appalling - as if the desire by management to get small  numbers will not build small increases in and of the desire ( at a cost to some other quality measure considerations)  .

My suggestion : Too many years of basic maths means we have a management class who know nothing else?  The stultification of society by the two column ledger brigade  "The Accountancy  Ascendancy" A  great mathematician , Whitehead, saw the dumbing down dilemma (  real world problems often  have at least 10 columns in the ledgers )coming but no one could understand what he was saying ?
Thank God , The Creator is not only a great programmer, but he knows how to hook up which wires to which connections and not trip anyone up in the process.