Democratic Forest Trusts (PDF)in Watson, Alan; Dean, Liese; Sproull, Janet, comps. 2006. Science and stewardship to protect and sustain wilderness values: Eighth World Wilderness Congress Symposium; 2005 September 30-October 6; Anchorage, AK.Democratic trusts with leadership elected by citizen-members promise to solve many of the problems afflicting both traditional government and corporate ownership of forestlands.Â This article explores these issues in some depth.Complexity and the Dream of Human Control of Eco-Systems (PDF)in Watson, Alan; Dean, Liese; Sproull, Janet, comps. 2006. Science and stewardship to protect and sustain wilderness values: Eighth World Wilderness Congress Symposium; 2005 September 30-October 6; Anchorage, AK.The title captures it.Â I then explore the kinds of institutions compatible with both nature and the modern world that are implied from this analysis.Rethinking the Obvious: Modernity and Living Respectfully With Nature (PDF)The Trumpeter: Journal of Ecosophy, Winter, 1997.Modernity is usually considered a wrong turn in terms of respect for and sustaining the environment.Â I argue the reality is more complex, for modernity has freed us from personal dependence on agriculture, ended the economic value of children, radically reduced the likelihood of large scale wat, and shifted much production to intellectual rather than material capital.Â This partially decouples society from nature, which gives us important opportunities as well as problems.Towards an Ecocentric Political Economy (PDF)The Trumpeter, Fall, 1996.This paper begins my effort at showing how liberal modernity can be harmonized with an ecocentric perspective on our relationship with the natural world.Â It is a corrective to much “free market environmental” literature that sacrifices Nature to money as well as to anti-liberal attacks by well-meaning but economically naÃ¯ve environmentalists.Unexpected Harmonies: Self-Organization in Liberal Modernity and Ecology (PDF)The Trumpeter, Journal of Ecosophy, 10:1, Winter 1993This is my initial paper exploring how what I term ‘evolutionary liberal’ thought can be an important means by which society and nature can be brought into greater harmony.Â The other Trumpeter papers build on it.Deep Ecology and Liberalism: The Greener Implications of Evolutionary Liberalism (PDF)Review of Politics, Fall, 1996.Liberal thought and deep ecology are usually regarded as mutually exclusive. But the “evolutionary” tradition offers a way to integrate the two through commonalties in the work of David Hume, Michael Polanyi, Arne Naess, and Aldo Leopold, providing a stronger foundation for liberalism while strengthening the case for an ecocentric ethic.(Related subjects: Ecology)Saving Western Towns: A Jeffersonian Green Proposal (PDF)in Writers on the Range, Karl Hess and John Baden, eds., University Press of Colorado, 1998.Developmental pressures in the rural and small town West involve three groups: long term residents, new arrivals, and environmentalists. Today their interests often conflict. This conflict is in part the outcome of institutions which prevent harmonizing competing interests. The concept of developmental trusts, both for rural regions and for small communities offers a means whereby these interests can be harmonized for the benefit of all concerned.(Related subjects: Politics)Social Ecology, Deep Ecology, and Liberalism (PDF)Critical Review, 6: 2-3, 1992.Murray Bookchin is considered a leading radical environmental theorist. However, his analysis is incapable of leading humankind towards a more respectful and sustainable relationship with the natural world. Criticisms of Bookchin from both the deep ecology and evolutionary liberal perspective complement one another, pointing the way towards a better understanding of how modernity relates to the environment.The paper as a whole offers an early discussion of issues that are more clearly addressed in later papers, particularly Deep Ecology and Liberalism (1996) and the three Trumpeter articles in 1997, 1996, and 1993. However, there are other ideas in the article which have not been developed more thoroughly elsewhere.
Do the words we use to describe
something powerfully influence what it is we actually experience? Years ago, when I was first studying
German, I was amazed to learn their word for the taste of a hot pepper was
‘scharf.’ It made no sense to
me. In other contexts scharf
translates into English as sharp, like the blade of a knife. Why not the word ‘heiss‘ which is
German for hot, as in the weather is hot?
Years later I had several close
German friends and colleagues who were as fluent I English as I am. I got curious, and asked them whether,
now that they were fluent English speakers, they agreed with me that ‘hot’ made
more sense than ‘scharf‘ as a word for the taste of an jalapeno pepper. Unanimously they answered “no.” One elaborated that he found the word
‘hot’ used in that context the strangest thing he had to get used to after
coming to the US.
Both ‘hot’ and ‘scharf’ are
metaphors, words with more basic meanings which are adapted to describe
something else because of an important similarity, and George Lakoff and Mark Johnson have effectively argued that, at bottom, most of our thinking is metaphorical,
ultimately rooted in bodily experience.
So words derive their meaning from their relationships with other words.
But on first take most of us would assume that the world to which words
ultimately refer is itself in some sense just what it is.
At this point the question of how
peppers taste begins to get very interesting to me.
The metaphorical similarities that
‘hot’ and ‘scharf‘ identify with the taste of an jalapeno pepper are different,
so different that it is only with a significant effort of the imagination that I can see how ‘scharf‘ applies to a
pepper’s taste, and apparently my German friends have a similar problem with
‘hot.’ While most languages I have
inquired about tend to use their equivalent of hot or sharp, not all do.
Spanish uses the term ‘picante‘ but in Spanish the weather is never ‘picante’ and the blade
of a knife isn’t either, although maybe its tip could be- I dunno. Friends
who speak Spanish tell me that ‘picante’ has reference to experiencing pointed things that
Now, for me, here is where it gets even
more interesting. Let’s say
there is this experience we have when tasting jalapeno peppers. We use metaphors to describe the taste,
because that is what we and the Germans do. Each metaphor points to some aspect of the experience, but
they point to different aspects. A child learning a language simply
accepts that this is the term, and integrates it unquestioningly, and as their
fluency grows the word takes on the shades of the other words with which it is
metaphorically connected, what my friend Jim calls “The Dance of the
In the process of gaining fluency
that dimension of the experience becomes perceptually dominant. Young German and young English speakers
learn to live in different worlds, even
if their pre-linguistic experiences were presumably identical. Once learning to experience peppers in
that way, they continue to do so and in time have difficulty understanding how
the other metaphor could apply. Socialization and hypnotization have a lot in common.
If something so basic to our encounter with the world as taste can
be so strongly influenced by the subtleties of language, what else can? Speakers of different languages to some
degree live in and experience different worlds. Becoming fluent in another language involves learning to live
in a different world, although if the experience of my German friends
is indicative, one may never be able to live equally completely in two
worlds. One will always be home.
So far as I know, powerful
spiritual experiences are universally said to be beyond words. People try and put them into words when
they talk about them, but seem always to say that ultimately words do not do
their experience justice. Certainly
that has been my experience.
When we combine this widespread
testimony with the fact that we learn to live in different linguistic worlds
that can importantly shape even how we experience such basic phenomena as
taste, I think the implications for learning about spirituality are
profound. The one I want to close
on is that there can never be a complete translation of a spiritual experience
from one language to another, because the experience is never able to be
completely incorporated into the experiencer’s language. That language
takes its meaning from living within the complete linguistic world of the
writer. Outsiders reading a
translation are at least two steps removed from what the original writer was
trying to communicate.
It is easier to translate a
detached description of someone else’s experience, but that is even farther
removed from accessing the originally experienced reality. There is even more room to get it wrong because the person doing the initial description is not the person having the experience.
We Pagans do not have sacred texts. Some people, particularly many scholars,
see that as a shortcoming. A
sacred text would certainly make blogging easier: how does verse 23 of chapter
4 in The Book of Gerald apply to my situation today? And to yours?
Increasingly though, I see it as a