December 14, 2009
Colonial Ecology Rules?
On the news last night I heard about doctors doing cutting-edge research on helping old people live longer and accident victims regain the use of various appendages. The problem here is the amount of money being spent on doing this when so many babies and mothers are so poor and hopeless as they are now. These doctors must be as clueless as Wall Streeters about people's daily reality around the world, for them to be patting themselves on the back when so many lack the basics of survival - clean air and water, healthy food, and snug shelter. It would be far simpler and cheaper for them to just write prescriptions for these necessities, whose absence sabotages more expensive health care.
Then in the paper this morning I read about Monsanto's uber-Frankenstein desire to not just imitate but monopolize Mother Nature. According to the classical theory of hubris, the plans of men are the jokes of the gods. And karma suggests that monetizing bits of the ecology, as Monsanto continues to do, is rather asking for it. Still, as Prof. Shapiro suggests, ordinary people en masse are already buying in to technology that is equally opportunistic, narrow, and risky.
But what does all this have to do with colonialism or ecology? Well, colonialism is when one entity infects another somehow, acting from within as well as without. And ecology is a system, a network, where the effects of such actions are seen. Both entities, as well as their surroundings, can be seen as systems, definable and interdependent. And so much intercontinental biological cross-contact and colonialism has already occurred, I think we need to talk about how to somehow reintegrate ecologies from where they are now.
For example, I still mourn the eucalyptus, a few giants cut to the ground at a newly-formed nature preserve south of Sacramento. The idea was to eliminate non-natives, but in a place where there were few trees, I didn't like the idea of getting rid of what was there without having something comparable to replace it. When I do that in my garden, I get self-invited botanical invaders.
So what principles should we use to make such decisions? How can we co-evolve with what's here to be more sustainable and less opportunistic, as a species?