Posted by E.A. Blair
I sent this article through to my friend, Doctor Martin
It is worth a read – and here is a short excerpt.
THE INVENTION OF THE ‘TROPICAL RAIN FOREST’
Philip Stott unravels the emergence of myths about the tropical rain forests.
ONE OF THE EARLIEST European accounts of the tropical is found in the famous letter, dated February 1493, of Christopher Columbus (1451-1506) describing his first voyage of 1492-93. This was published in Spanish in Barcelona in April 1493 by Pedro Posa, with a Latin version appearing a little later. His account helped to establish a number of European myths about the tropics that still flourish today.
In any case, it spawned a discussion that I will reproduce here.
You gotta read this, and read my. Latest post at wittenbergchurchdoor.wordpress.com to see where I am going with the whole cutting down trees doesn’t matter.
Next time we have beers I will tell you about a visual arts presentation I saw
where the presenter discussed images about irrationality, the jungle, atavism
and juxtaposed it with the modernist position about bringing light to the
savages and all that from the perspective of the Colombian state. Of course the
method of modernization is armed conquest – modernize or disappear!
If some branches of the environmentalist movement aims at non-intervention in “the jungle” which is, if we are talking about specific places real (and not a
post-modern figment of discursive imagination), it is because it is a response
to the modernist movement which looks to combine the jungle and its inhabitants into the furnace of progress. Let us not forget that violence is often done in the name of “progress” and that the violence you attribute to anti-human environmentalists is in fact a reaction (whether progressive or not) to modernism and all its violence. It might well be that Nazism was one response, or reaction, but there could be a host of others, and contemporary
environmentalism, not just in its most elitist anti-human stance as you portray
it, while possibly misguided in displacing the aims of its affection from humans
to “mother earth”, still speaks to a malaise in modernity found among people who are uncomfortable with ideas of progress and capitalism and the resulting
inequality among citizens of different states and within states.
You and Ray might not see it from your hi-tech perches in Canada and the US
(within the capitalist heartland) where you enjoy all the products and
privileges of an integrated world market, but go to a slum on the edge of a
huge “southern city” or to the edge of a vast plantation of tropical products
fenced off from the local inhabitants where people have neither access to land
nor job prospects and ask yourselves what the real cost of cheap desserts is.
This is not an argument in favour of “gaia” but an argument in favour of
fairness, equity and regard for fellow humans. If revealing the noxious roots
of the environmental movement furthers the cause of equity and justice among
human communities then you are, in my view, on the right track, however, if by
blaming environmentalists for the problems of modernity you miss the point that modernity (capitalist expansion, the nation state, forced urbanization,
centralization of control of production in geographic capitalist, uneven
industrialisation) are actually the forces that rely on the intensification of
inequality amongst nations and between human communities, then the source of tyranny and injustice in the contemporary world order can hardly be the
You have brought up a lot of good points, but I will have to prepare a longer response.
“furnace of progress” yes progress that has brought individual rights, longer life spans, education, mobility, light, power, medicine, food, the end of hunger, the list is endless.
This is of course what the poorest among us want – a chance to improve their lives.
Remember – you are not seeing capitalism in action – you are seeing vested interests promoting specific agendas that will help them to personally enrich themselves.
You see a disregard for individual rights, and corrupt officials who do not enforce laws, if indeed there are any. Personnaly I think every man woman and child in Africa should be given a gun and 1000 rounds if ammunition, and classes on how to shoot!
Environmentalists also want people in third world countries to stay poor. They are fine with global inequality, they don’t want to have the people of the third world improve their lives, they would be happy to see them die at 35, and watch their children die before the age of 5.
Nature exists for us to use to improve our lot. As with all animals.
The problem is, do you improve peoples lives by empowering them through enforcing their individual rights, or do you do it by trampling of the individual for the sake of the “collective”, guided by an elite class who thinks they know how to run your life, for your own good.
One other thing – we need to define our terms of debate.
If by capitalism, you mean large corporations acting on behalf of corrupt governments to enrich a monnied elite, and a trampling of individual rights, then I will have to disagree with you. I would call that corporatism.
I think of capitalism in the classic sense – Adam Smith.
If you wish to call that something else, then let me know what that is.
And in terms of progress, the cats out of the bag. The third world wants a better life. Trade and economic development is natural to the human condition, and it is the way we improve our lives.
What you are talking about is a lack of respect for individuals.
Environmentalists also have a lack of respect for individuals – individual humans that is. They want us to be subjected to the collective of the “ecosphere” or whatever you want to call it.
Are we equal to a tree? Or a bug? Our human lives more important? I say yes. Animals and plants do not occupy the same plane of existence that we do. But that is another conversation.
That is exactly what Ray is talking about. You should read more of his blog.
Well talk more about this in the future
I agree on the importance of inalienable individual human rights (not applied to
corporate entities but to actual persons). I also agree that the progress of
modernity, longer lifespans, education, better access to food, housing,
consumer durables and leisure time is not only due to the inherent goodness of
capitalism but because people have fought and struggled for those things
within, with, and sometimes against the “free market”.
Giving every man woman and child a gun and 1000 rounds of ammo is an invitation to anarchy in every sense of the term and I guarantee you would not like to live in such a place (and you would not live long). Go to the poorest
neighbourhoods in Bogota and find out.
I hear you about the guns – but again only the state and the gangs have the ability to project force.
How do the innocent herd that is slaughtered daily protect themselves! Rwanda wouldn’t have happened had every village had it’s own armed militia.
There already is anarchy in Africa.
That is why the state wants the exclusive rights to the use of force, so they can do whatever they like.
Every able bodied Swiss citizen is required to own a gun and be proficient with it.
They have never been invaded.
We need to work on what is our definition if a free market.
And I agree that people have had to fight for their rights. And how did they do it? With access to weapons, so they could defend themselves and their rights.
A country such as Columbia is a failed state.
The government shows no intention of protecting it’s citizens. Citizens need to be able to protect themselves.
Mexico, which is about to become a completely failed state, outlaws the private ownership of firearms. And look how well that works out there. These aren’t capitalist states, they are kleptocracies.
Ok I’ll meet you halfway.
In Africa give every woman a gun.
And armed populace is the best defense against tyranny, of any kind.
I suppose it is true that the guns themselves are not the problem but the
intentions behind those who use them and you do point to some reasonable
examples of civilian self-organization and self-defense against tyranny.
And there it stands.