[permaculture] Major histocompatibility complex

Michael E. Peter mpeter1 at austin.rr.com
Thu Mar 20 21:54:46 EST 2003

At 03:47 PM 3/20/2003 -0800, you wrote:

>This takes me to a politically incorrect place: Perhaps indigenous 
>cultures are like early successionary species (hmm, like weeds), 
>exploiting resources via a limited array of methods (hunter-gathering, 
>digging-stick agriculture) while industrial cultures have evolved a 
>diverse array of specialties (smelting, drilling, military logistics, 
>accounting, etc.) for exploiting resources unused by the earlier 
>inhabitants. I don't much like where this takes us, as it creates a 
>justification for the idea of calling some cultures "primitive,"  but 
>then, that's only when we view them through the lens of technology or 
>ability to exploit certain resources. If we change the criteria to, say, 
>plant knowledge, intact families, or integration of spirit into culture, 
>then western culture is the primitive one. But this successional viewpoint 
>does explain why western culture is colonizing most of the planet. We're 
>more effective at turning everything into a "resource" and using it to 
>fuel our cultural expansion, regardless of the consequences, crowding out 
>the early occupants.
>My point then, is that thinking of the spread of certain cultures as 
>"weediness" is not as good an analogy as succession and aggressive 
>resource exploitation. Westerners convert the whole planet into their 
>habitat, but weeds are limited to bare soil.
>I'm happy to have this idea battered down, refined, or amended; it leaves 
>me a little depressed.

I wouldn't be too depressed. An established ecosystem has its checks and 
balances, but when you
introduce an exotic species, with no natural checks or controls, it can 
rapidly out-compete and
overrun those plants or cultures that are in balance. Especially when the 
invaders have a large body
of resources from which to pull from their point of origin. Most exotics 
can't continually ship over
their own nutrients and pollinators from their home environment when they 
move into a new system.

But western culture can.

Stick a westerner, or western cultural unit, into a new environment, like a 
rain forest or outback,
and they only survive by the graces of the indigenous culture. But allow 
that unit to dip into
resources from back home, and they can decimate the indigenous culture. 
It's not what I would
call natural at all; it's an aberration, and why we need things like 
permaculture, activism, email
lists to discuss these things, and authors like Daniel Quinn and yourself, 
to point out where and
how the natural order went astray.

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