Wednesday, April 28, 2010
Progress is regress?
In the summer of 1991 issue of the Amicus Journal, the publication of the Natural Resources Defense Council, an artilcle appeared called "The Reinvention of the Americal Frontier".
It's two authors described rural adaptations such as farming and logging as "extractive" industries, and sought to develop a "kinder and gentler frontier" by replacing them with retirement communities and tourism, viewed as non-extractive and therefore morally correct adaptations.
Rural areas are usually characterized by traditional adaptations based on, in their view, renewable resources.
The shift in terminology from such words as fishing, farming, and logging to "extractive industries" carries a negative moral weight, which in turn justifies the turning over of resources to the "morally superior non extractive" users.
The latent function of such thinking, however, is colonialist in nature.
It is a classic case, the hinterland is no longer permitted to export it's raw materials, its wealth, to urban areas for processing as it could in previous eras. Rather, rural sources of income in the form of trees, fish, and land are transformed into a means of recreation for tourists.
Is there not a distrubing echo here of how the original frontier was created, by means of a land grab from the aboriginal inhabitants of North America?
Must frontier creation always involve a wrestling away of resources from one owner/user by another?
What are the social consequences of such decisions?
In this 'wrestling away of frontier land' is it also necessary that these "morally superior" people consistently degrade the value of the natural resource workers by pointing out the workers lower wage --as compared to most urban dwellers?
Just because one can afford to buy expensive 'green' clothing made from recycled goods does not mean that the natural resource worker in his rugged and worn clothing should be labeled a 'bad person'.
This type of thinking promotes the argument that those of 'lower lifestyle' deserve to have the land wrestled away from them.
It is as if the tourists on the upper deck of the Titanic are saying to those below that their opinion is of no worth due to their lack of income.
And it is not often noted that many of these natural resource workers do not need but half the income of an urban dweller in order to live a very healthy, natural, nutritious lifestyle. The abundance of natural resource in such areas guarantees that the hearty natural resource worker will alway have a freezer full of fish, clams, elk and deer. Thier homes heated by wood they gather in nearby woods or washed up on the beach.
I was born and raised in the rural areas of Oregon.
Most of my life I have been on the coast and learned to love the rugged beauty of the salted air.
I have lived elsewhere up and down the coast including San Diego and Santa Barbara.
It is there that I have seen the land be taken from the resource workers and what has developed because of it.
The bulldozers are hungry and they seem to keep getting bigger as they are fed more.
In San Diego, for example, the entire agricultural district of Chula Vista was 'written off' and is lost due to the fact that the developers needed the water to fill the bathtubs and jacuzzis of new home projects.
The farmers were simply told they could no longer use the water.
And literally overnight the farms closed their 100 year old barn doors forever.
I truly hope our societies fascination with the 'green' movement also includes some respect for those people who work in nature.
Natural resource workers are some of the most fulfilled and happy individuals left in our digitized, overprocessed, genetically modified, ammonia washed fast food hamburger fed nation.
The idea of taking a young child out to show him or her how to gather fish, food, or grain seems so distant in our culture.
The average family farm used to feed 6 to 8 families.
The average farm now feeds around 100,000 families.
And you can buy a hamburger with all the fixings for a dollar-----how scary.
Efficiency is not always productive.
And progress can be regress.