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Becoming Native To This Place

Becoming Native To This Place

Wes Jackson
Series: Blazer Lectures
Copyright Date: 1994
Pages: 136
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  • Book Info
    Becoming Native To This Place
    Book Description:

    " The New World -- this empty land dazzlingly rich in forests, soils, rainfall, and mineral wealth -- was to represent a new beginning for civilized humanity. Unfortunately, even the best of the European settlers had a stronger eye for conquest than for justice. Natives were in the way -- surplus people who must be literally displaced. Now, as ecologist West Jackson points out, descendants of those early beneficiaries of conquest find themselves the displaced persons, forced to vacate the family farmsteads and small towns of our heartland, leaving vacant the schools, churches, hardware stores, and barber shops. In a ringing cry for a changed relation to the land, Jackson urges modern Americans to become truly native to this place -- to base our culture and agriculture on nature's principles, to recycle as natural ecosystems have for millions of years. The task is more difficult now, he argues, because so much cultural information has been lost and because the ecological capital necessary to grow food in a sustainable way has been seriously eroded. Where to begin? Jackson suggests we start with those thousands of small towns and rural communities literally falling down or apart. We have no money to pay for the process and little cultural awareness to support it, but here are the places where a new generation of homecomers -- people who want to go to a place and dig in -- can become the new pioneers, operating on a set of assumptions and aspirations different from those of their ancestors. These new pioneers will have to "set up the books" for ecological community accounting. If they dig deep enough and long enough, urges Jackson, a new kind of economy will emerge. So will a rich culture with its own art and artifacts.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-4647-8
    Subjects: Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, Environmental Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. ix-x)
    Richard C. Edwards

    The necessity for social progress—economic, political, cultural, technological—has long been such a bedrock assumption in the American ethos that challenges to it have rarely been taken seriously. True, it is admitted, there are certain costs attendant upon making progress, but these costs are seen as slight compared to the benefits. Moreover, the usual assumption is that many of the costs derive from lamentable—but in principle avoidable—excesses. If early twentieth-century miners despoiled the fragile richness of the Rockies, the fault lay not with ʺprogressʺ (and its concomitant voracious search for industrial raw materials) but rather with an...

  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Prologue
    (pp. 1-5)

    When one of my great grandfathers swept into Kansas with the white tide on May 30, 1854, the first day he and the others could legally do so, the day the Kansas-Nebraska Act was signed by Franklin Pierce, our nation had fewer than 30 million people. Had national policy at that time been directed toward urging all Americans to become ʺnativeʺ to this place, the nature of our relationship to the land today would be very different from what it is. Today, too many people and the products of the technology explosion, interacting with our desires and our perceived (as...

  6. 1 The Problem
    (pp. 6-13)

    In 1992, the people of the Americas acknowledged and celebrated Spainʹsentradainto the New World half a millennium ago. Few remembered that half a century after that event a young crew of Spanish adventurers were dispatched into the heart of the North American continent to locate the mythical Seven Cities of Cíbola. They penetrated the continent to what is now central Kansas. The trek of these young conquerors amounted to the establishment of a line that would divide history and prehistory.

    The Coronado expedition of 1540-1542 began when Francisco Vázquez de Coronado left Compostela, Mexico, and headed north toward...

  7. 2 Visions and Assumptions
    (pp. 14-26)

    Wendell Berryʹs classicThe Unsettling of Americadescribes the sequence of conquest and settlement. Natives, not ʺredskins,ʺ were living on this land to which European conquerors came. From the moment these natives became ʺredskins,ʺ they became surplus people; the ʺredskinʺ designation validated killing them off or moving them off, making their land available foroursettlement. Without realizing it, we established a precedent. In due time the descendants of those settlers also became surplus people—the new redskins, so to speak. The old farm families were removed and their rural communities destroyed as the industrial revolution infiltrated agriculture.

    Just as...

  8. 3 Science and Nature
    (pp. 27-60)

    It is August 1968, the Tokyo Prince Hotel, the International Congress of Genetics. I am attending my first international meeting. I am a young scientist with a one-year-old Ph.D., pretty full of myself, figuring that my paper, ʺIntrogression and the Maintenance of Karyotypic Integrity,ʺ is sure to be a hit. But beyond my little part in the proceedings, I am excited because I know I will see nearly all of the major figures in the world of genetics at the congress, an event held only once every four years. I am excited, not only because it is my first trip...

  9. 4 Nature as Measure
    (pp. 61-86)

    The argument runs like this: We have the poor and starving and we have wilderness. We canʹt save both. The wilderness advocate: ʺThe poor will be with us always.ʺ Even Jesus said it. And besides, their numbers keep multiplying; we canʹt feed them indefinitely into their next few doublings. ʺWe should do the best we can to feed them, but not at the expense of wilderness, for once wilderness is lost, itʹs lost forever.ʺ And: ʺThe ecosphere gave rise to us. We did not give rise to it. We must keep its creative powers intact.ʺ And so on. We might...

  10. 5 Becoming Native to Our Places
    (pp. 87-103)

    It seems to be a characteristic of life that no matter what the level of organization, the juvenile stage is characterized by an excess of potential energy and an inefficiency in use of that energy. This seems to be as true of the early stages of an ecosystem as of a teenager. But we have seldom considered a corollary—that an excess of potential energy cangeneratea juvenile condition. The industrial revolution really hit its stride after World War II. It was only then that we became a truly affluent society. The Depression and the war contributed to making...

  11. 6 Developing the Courage of Our Convictions
    (pp. 104-118)

    Most of our modern assumptions are so deeply rooted that either we count them as ʺjust naturalʺ or we have no recognition as to what they really are. A major part of that consciousness comes from being raised in a society dominated by science and its technological arrangements, most of which would not be here without the high energy that comes from fossil fuel and nuclear power. We have a ʺhigh-energy consciousness,ʺ a monetarily cheap energy consciousness that is a mere blip in human history, but a consciousness that now ʺcomes with the milk.ʺ (George Bernard Shaw once said that...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 119-122)