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What Boundaries? - Cyclic Musings

Srucara's picture

Earlier this semester, I had posted a short paragraph on "What boundaries?" in my Thoreauvian walk while comparing the implications of a wall separating the campus from "the rest of the world." Essentially, I came to the conclusion that these physical, "man-made" boundaries do little to separate "bryn mawr" from the rest of the world. Our world is not entirely physical - it is also energetic, interconnected, cyclic, and continually transforming. This idea of separation of physical, "man-made" boundaries in relation to the Earth is further expanded upon by both Waring and Laduke in their respective writings.

Waring writes in Counting for Nothing, "One of the things that nature could demonstrate was that it didn't know anything about nation-state boundaries...When the ocean was demarcated into 200-mile economic zones and fishing quotas, did cod carry passports to indicate that they belonged to North America or Scandinavia?"

Indeed man-made nation-state boundaries come in very handy during times of war, economic interaction, and for statistics of measurement (i.e. GDP, child mortality, HIV infliction rate, life expectancy - see requiring distinct separation of pieces of land into their relative nations and governments. However, they do not come in handy during times in which a different worldview is absolutely required - such as during honest acknowledgement of the environmental circumstance at hand.   

Laduke states in Honor the Earth: Our Native American Legacy, "The fact is that you and I drink that water. You and I breathe that air. You and I live here. We can say whatever we want...but in the big picture of things, it is natural law in the end."

As Einstein states, "no problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it." This point may be directly applied to our current environmental issue. When dealing with our planet - we can no longer afford to meticulously calculate the distinctions between the stability of one nation-boundary over another because these calculations become null and void when subjected to the natural law. A mega tsunami will not choose exactly one nation over another and leave all other neighboring nations free of harm, in fact, it may affect the entire continental landmass if not multiple. Similarily, rising sea levels will not only affect the state of Florida - they will affect every state. When mothers milk in South Africa is contaminated with dieldrin (Waring) and when father's DNA in North America are mutated to become more predisposed to diabetes through dioxin (Laduke), it is not just these mothers and fathers and their immediate children that will be affected but generations of humans to come - and these generations will transcend nation-state boundaries due to the current mobility offered by technological advancements. We can no longer afford to negatively separate ourselves if we would like to help improve the state of the Earth. It's time to shift to a new level of consciousness, and begin working on a larger holistic level if we should begin solving the issue at hand.  

One of my favorite lines in the Winona LaDuke Reader include the following, which I think is a wonderful closing for the discussion above:

"As a person, I'm the one who has the right to determine what my destiny is...I do not relinquish that responsibility to someone else. I keep that, because that is what the Creator said. The Creator said, "You are full human beings with that integrity, and you have that right to determine your destiny."




Smacholdt's picture

Baby Steps

Froggies315, I agree with your about the idea of crisis obstructing your ability to think clearly. Crisis is an easy atmosphere to foster precisely because it relies so heavily on the binaries that our society loves so much. Either the oceans will rise or they won’t. Either we will have more devastating tropical storms or we won’t. Either humans will drive themselves to extinction or they won’t. I see these stark binaries as a perfectly accurate representation of how we think as a society, but also very limiting. What would happen in the environmental movement if we didn’t have to look at everything in black and white? What if instead of attempting to take on the monumental task of “Saving the Earth,” we simply tried to get away from the more dangerous binary (i.e. destruction.) Even if we don’t necessarily make it all the way to “saving the earth” we will have taken some small, but important steps to this aim. We won’t get anywhere in this crisis without starting to do something. We haven’t so far. 

froggies315's picture

"we will whisper but we will not pray"

This is interesting.  Boundaries are interesting.  At the most fundamental level of sense perception, boundaries are both important and inevitable.  Our senses tell us where something ends and another thing begins and this is what guides us through the world.  Boundaries are what keep us safe.  I think boundaries are important and inevitable in the grander scheme of things too.  What is a world without boundaries?  Where do I find my “right to determine what my destiny is” without boundaries?  Who am I without boundaries?  Boundaries are also created by humans, probably they were arbitrary at their inception, and often I find them infuriatingly limiting.  

What gives?

The way I see it, boundaries only become problematic when we place normative value on one side of the separation.  History and current events show us that it’s pretty difficult to avoid doing this.  Are we ready for a “new level of consciousness?"  Can we have a different consciousness just because we want it?  Probably.  Our brains are awesome things.

What obstructs my ability to think differently is crisis.  Crisis is paralyzing fear about the future.  The motif which unites nearly all of the ecological imaginings we’ve read this semester is crisis.  This rhetoric creates proselytizers.  People on the street tell me that I need Jesus, and Carolyn Merchant tells me that I need Deep Ecology. I like talking with people on the street and I like reading, so I’m happy to do these things.  These interactions certainly give me something to think about; they do not change me.  

I think that representations of a world in crisis are precisely what have created all of our very real quagmires.  Crisis begs me to become something that I am not.  I hate this.  I am not a proselytizer.  I am human being.  I think, worry, plan, read, cook, judge, wonder, sing, and love.  The world does not need me to save it.  What I need for myself is to be humble and grateful.  

the title of this post is from a song called The Wind that my friend has been working on for awhile.  Check it ouuut!

Srucara's picture

The Japanese word for crisis

The Japanese word for crisis is "kiki" and it has two meanings. Crisis and critical opportunity. I find this fascinating.