Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Charlottesville and violence of aggression vs self-defense

As some of my readers know, I was born and raised in Charlottesville, VA. I moved away at age 21 (almost half a lifetime ago, wow...) I've followed the reports from last weekend with shock, correlating sites which are now major flashpoints to my naive childhood memories of these places. But I don't feel any more knowledgeable about current events there than anyone else who can read the news, and I wouldn't normally spend the time to write about current events anyway. But a relative still living in Charlottesville sent a group of us a vile piece by David Horowitz which I couldn't let pass without a reply. So I may as well post the reply here.

My relative commented on the piece:

Right on!
I am sick of the lawlessness condoned in our country.

I replied:

Dear [relative],

I'm really confused. From what I've read, the neo-Nazis and their supporters were posting copiously in advance of the gathering about their plans for violence, showed up armed and defended as if for rioting, and then carried out their violent threats to the point of murder. (And committed dozens of incidents of vandalism, harassment, and physical assaults, which would be shocking were they not overshadowed by the vehicular homicide.) Trump's statements implicitly condone this lawlessness, and the piece you sent is in support of doing so. Why do you say "Right on!"?

The piece also greatly misrepresents the facts:

No one believes the racists came to "defend a historic monument" (Lee's statue is not under threat; it's simply being moved from a place where it has no historical relevance except in its use to enforce institutional racism, to somewhere more appropriate/relevant.) (See also: National Review perspective.)

Trump's politics have been racist from the start. He's deliberately appealed to a white working class base who've been screwed over by the capitalist system (as you taught us, the rich get richer, and the poor get poorer -- and this has only gotten more extreme over the decades.) White working class economic interests would be best served through unification with the working class of all backgrounds, but Trump (not the first politician, surely not the last) has successfully used this wedge issue to divert their energies away from economic inequities and against people of color as scapegoats. It's incredibly disingenuous to claim that "the anti-Trump left [is using] race to divide America."

Characterizing BLM and Antifa as "violent groups" is equally disingenuous. (As you know, corporate media is heavily biased towards maintaining the status quo, so independent research is required if you want to understand these groups.) Most crucially, there's a clear legal and moral difference between the violence of aggression and the violence of self-defense. Trump and Horowitz are deliberately conflating the two to obscure how deeply racism is embedded in our society, how we (whites, especially white males) benefit, and the struggle necessary to obtain social justice.

"Who started the fight is really immaterial." <--- Classic line of abusers.

Of course you're in an ideal situation to talk with people who were on the ground, so I highly recommend you do so if you want to understand what happened over the weekend. That would give you a much more accurate picture than the opinion of an author trying to capitalize on events to sell his political agenda, or any other distant observer such as myself.

If you can't take advantage of your opportunities to talk directly with locals who were there, you can also read r/Charlottesville for eyewitness accounts.

Love,
Norris

Friday, June 02, 2017

Incredible Wild Edibles by Samuel Thayer: pre-order now!

Samuel Thayer, my favorite foraging author, is finally coming out with a third book. If it's anything like The Forager's Harvest (read my review) or Nature's Garden, then this is well worth getting. Of the three dozen profiled plants, I recognize at least two dozen as either growing around Portland or already under cultivation in my old garden. I'm sure that after I read this, I'll wish I'd known then what I know now...

Although very few of these plants are likely to grow for me in my new home of Hawai'i, I plan to buy the book anyway. Thayer's entertaining writing is reason enough for a plant geek or rewilder to pick up the book, and I'm sure I'll learn some new things about the old friends I had to leave behind.

I was happy to organize group buys in the past for Thayer's books to get us all wholesale prices. Although I can't do so for this one, you can pre-order the book directly from Samuel Thayer for $18 with free shipping. You can support his superb work while getting yourself a great discount on what's sure to be a great book. He's also offering discounts on his first two books if purchased along with the new one.

Enjoy!


Description of Incredible Wild Edibles From Samuel Thayer's website:

Sam's 3rd book on wild edible plants.  There is no overlap in what is covered in this book or his previous 2 books.  The plants contained in this book include:

  • Black Mustard
  • Bladder Campion
  • Sweet Flag (Calamus)
  • Caraway
  • Chickweed
  • Chufa
  • Creeping Bellflower
  • Fennel
  • Wild Garlic
  • Gooseberry
  • Hickory
  • Hops
  • Japanese Knotweed
  • Kentucky Coffeetree
  • Maple
  • Miner's Lettuce
  • Mulberry
  • Pawpaw
  • Persimmon
  • Poke
  • Prairie Turnip
  • Purple Poppy Mallow
  • Purslane
  • Quickweed
  • Rose
  • Sassafras
  • Shepherd's Purse
  • Sochane
  • Strawberry Spinach
  • Sweetroot (Sweet Cicely, Aniseroot)
  • Violet
  • Watercress
  • Water Parsnip
  • Wild Radishes
  • Wintercress

Incredible Wild Edibles covers 36 of the best edible wild plants in North America: fruits, berries, nuts, shoots, leafy greens, root vegetables, culinary herbs, teas, and syrups that boast exceptional flavor and nutrition. The plants chosen represent every habitat and every region in North America, from the northern forests to the southwest deserts, from the largest cities to the wildest mountains. Rather than cover hundreds of species in brief accounts that leave the reader unsure of how to proceed, Samuel Thayer encourages readers to thoroughly learn one plant at a time. Each of these traditional foods has a rich culinary and cultural history―a wholesome past that is still relevant for our health and happiness today. The text is fully accessible to the novice, but remains botanically accurate and has the in-depth information that seasoned foragers crave.


     Sharing the wisdom of a lifetime of daily foraging, the author answers all of the reader’s questions about each plant: How do I identify it? What might I confuse it with? Where can I find it? What part do I use, and when is it ready to be picked? How do I gather and prepare it? How can I be sure to harvest it responsibly? This discussion is accompanied by more than 350 color photos showing all the key features for identification, including potentially confusing species. Photos also depict the exact parts to use and the proper stage for collection. All of this is delivered in a familiar but authoritative tone, along with humorous anecdotes and insights from extensive real-life experience with each plant covered in the book.


     Incredible Wild Edibles contains an index, bibliography, illustrated glossary, range maps, and foraging calendar. This third volume in Thayer’s Forager’s Harvest series has no overlap of the plants covered in the first two volumes.

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Book Review: Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer

Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants

"I fear that a world made of gifts cannot coexist with a world made of commodities."

Robin Wall Kimmerer transcends boundaries, and so does her latest book. Simultaneously a botanist and author-poet, scientist and Potowatomi Nation citizen, professor and mother, she brings together unusually diverse perspectives and ways of knowing. The result is a gift to readers: beautiful writing exploring knowledge and ideas often buried in academia or dismissed as "unscientific." As in her first book, Gathering Moss, her enthusiasm for nature and learning comes through strongly, a joy for any nature lover to read. She softens and contextualizes modern hard facts by relating them to indigenous worldviews developed over thousands of years. She reconciles art, appreciation of the natural world, and science (in many ways just now catching up to traditional knowledge.) Rejecting human exceptionalism, she considers all the beings with whom we share the earth while addressing deep questions of ethics and morality.

Braiding Sweetgrass draws on stories from elders and on Kimmerer's own experiences for its 32 chapters. Each could stand alone, ranging across seemingly disparate subjects: relationships between masting nut trees and squirrels, gift economies vs market economies, the Haudenosaunee Thanksgiving Address, harvesting plants in a regenerative manner, and what it means to be a good citizen. But the chapters are tied together by recurring elements, most notably the titular sweetgrass. Sections entitled Planting, Tending, Picking, Braiding, and Burning Sweetgrass organize the individual chapters, and sweetgrass appears again and again as part of traditional legend, knowledge, and practice. The book is densely multilayered, with specific material practices seamlessly integrated into broader teachings about the physical world, and then into deep philosophy. The real magic comes from Kimmerer skillfully interweaving themes of relationship, gratitude, and responsibility into a story larger than the sum of the parts. Her art mirrors a well-lived life which has transformed individual experiences into holistic wisdom.

The overarching theme, drawn forth through the dozens of stories in hundreds of ways, is reciprocity. A fundamental difference between the culture of civilization and those of indigenous peoples is a mentality of exploitation vs one of gratitude. Derrick Jensen defines sustainability as giving back more than you take, and Kimmerer richly depicts a worldview in which that ethic is held first and foremost, even (or especially) when harvesting the lives of others. Her multiple detailed accounts, backed by science, of human interactions with other species to the benefit of all rebut the belief that humans are intrinsically destructive. We have the potential ― indeed, the responsibility ― to take up a supportive role in the web of life.

Building on this revelation, Braiding Sweetgrass challenges the reader to consider how an individual, or a culture, can become indigenous to place. With the vast majority of the earth under siege by settler cultures with a domination mindset, this is an urgent task. Sooner or later (hopefully sooner), collapse will render industrialism and globalization infeasible, reigning in civilization's ecocide. But local cultures unable to develop reciprocal relationships with their landbases are doomed to continue the destruction, even if at a smaller scale.

Perhaps the most important lesson is that everyone has gifts. Birds have the gift of song, stars the gift of shining. But with each gift comes a responsibility to use it in the service of life. Birds have a responsibility to greet the day with music, stars to guide night travelers. What gifts do humans have, and what responsibilities? And more personally: as Carolyn Raffensperger asks, “What are the largest, most pressing problems that you can help to solve using the gifts that are unique to you in all the universe?” With the world at stake, contemplate the question. Find your answer. Then take action.


Review first published at the Deep Green Resistance blog


Braiding Sweetgrass is available as a paperback, ebook, and audio book.

Derrick interviewed Robin Wall Kimmerer for the September 25, 2016 episode of Resistance Radio. Readers who enjoy Braiding Sweetgrass will probably also enjoy Derrick's The Myth of Human Supremacy, and vice versa.