Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Ecological knowledge and place-centered economics

These aren't dramatic revelations, just the way I'd like to live.

More than environmentalism, the term "ecological knowledge" means living in harmony with our surroundings - including our neighbors. Technology and it's uses should be people-centered and beneficial. Ecological knowledge leads one to live lightly on the earth, and encourage others to do so. I'd like to say that I feel a centered interconnectedness with all living things, but I haven't personally reached that point. The closest I've ever come to feeling truly connected to place was when I lived in Yellowstone National Park for a year. There you can become aware of the cycles of the land and seasons and you begin to grasp the intricacies and inter-relationships that exist between species and the landscape.

The basis of harmonious living is compassion for all living things. Combine that with a sense of place, not ownership mind you, but a sense of place the entails belonging. Ecological knowledge leads to a relationship of responsibility with the land, and a oneness with it. How many of us have ever felt that we don't belong, that we are somehow different? Is this just teenage angst? No, it's a general feeling of detachment from the very ground we're standing on. When was the last time you walked barefoot in the woods near your house? When was the last time you walked barefoot on land that was not paved? How can you feel that you belong here if you can't even touch the ground you're standing on?

Each member of a sustainable economic community must possess this sense of responsibility. Our survival as a species requires it. If we continually rip profit from the land and never return anything to it, the land dies and our relationship/connection with the land dies along with it, and our cultural knowledge of that which we call "wild" fades and the responsibility toward it lessens. If we pursue a rational sustainable relationship with our surroundings - not paving over everything that is in our path - our relationship, understanding and thus economic benefits will increase over time.

More later...

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