Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Changing of the guard?

Welcome. Thanks for stopping by. Despite the warm, wonderful weather, this evening's anticipated fish chowder and home made bread is going ahead as planned. We'll see if temperatures in the mid-seventy's are a decent fit for chowders and stews and warm bread fresh from the oven. Don't get me wrong, I love this kind of weather. Don't you? Snow lovers will get their Alberta Clippers soon enough. Meanwhile, we can enjoy a smooth transition from Summer through Autumn to Winter.

photo of white pines dropping needles
white pines dropping needles    © harrington

Pine trees don't loose all their needles at once. I'm starting to wonder if being first to market yields a true competitive advantage if we're looking at the kinds of changes I think we're going to need in the future to have a more sustainable Minnesota. Look at electric cars. They actually need substantial support systems, charging stations, reduction in range anxiety, better batteries. It's more like an ecosystem change than a new product. (Personally, I'm looking for something like an all-wheel drive Volt pr a hybrid Outback.) Evolution often happens more gradually because, I think, all the pieces have to work together. This is like the concept of Integrative Design in sustainable development. All the subsystems need to be working together or they'll fight with each other a lot. Waterfowl, during Spring migration, tend to follow open water north and often arrive en mass. This can make for some tough times if a late storm and refreeze arrives. That would put major populations at risk if the storm were wide spread. In the Autumn, migration is often a trickle south affair. Although, I've been in western Minnesota at times when it seemed as if every duck and goose in the universe was flocking up to take the same train south.

loafing waterfowl             © harrington

These reflections have started me wondering how much we might benefit from applying biomimicry concepts at a broader scale. I think we need to look at something like that because I don't believe we're going to be able to make the transitions we need by using technology alone. To paraphrase someone like Bill McKibben or Anne Leonard, it's hard to see how we can "consume" our way to a better world. Jane Hirshfield has an interesting perspective on the kind of changes we've been reflecting on in this poem.

To Judgment: An Assay



You change a life
as eating an artichoke changes the taste
of whatever is eaten after.
Yet you are not an artichoke, not a piano or cat—
not objectively present at all—
and what of you a cat possesses is essential but narrow:
to know if the distance between two things can be leapt.
The piano, that good servant,
has none of you in her at all, she lends herself
to what asks; this has been my ambition as well.
Yet a person who has you is like an iron spigot
whose water comes from far-off mountain springs.
Inexhaustible, your confident pronouncements flow,
coldly delicious.
For if judgment hurts the teeth, it doesn’t mind,
not judgment. Teeth pass. Pain passes.
Judgment decrees what remains—
the serene judgments of evolution or the judgment
of a boy-king entering Persia: “Burn it,” he says,
and it burns. And if a small tear swells the corner
of one eye, it is only the smoke, it is no more to him than a beetle
fleeing the flames of the village with her six-legged children.
The biologist Haldane—in one of his tenderer moments—
judged beetles especially loved by God,
“because He had made so many.” For judgment can be tender:
I have seen you carry a fate to its end as softly as a retriever
carries the quail. Yet however much
I admire you at such moments, I cannot love you:
you are too much in me, weighing without pity your own worth.
When I have erased you from me entirely,
disrobed of your measuring adjectives,
stripped from my shoulders and hips each of your nouns,
when the world is horsefly, coal barge, and dawn the color of winter butter—
not beautiful, not cold, only the color of butter—
then perhaps I will love you. Helpless to not.
As a newborn wolf is helpless: no choice but hunt the wolf milk,
find it sweet.

Thanks for listening. Come again when you can. Rants, raves and reflections served here daily.