An Unsustainable Paradigm

An Unsustainable Paradigm
The Buffalo Hunt
Before White Man (BWM)
• 75 million buffalo ranged prairie BWM.
Migrate over 100 sq. miles for water and
food in herds of 1,000 under alpha bull
• Herds stampede ex, Coronado 1541 saw
them fill an entire ravine
• Natural threats wolves, coyote, bear and
lion, grass fire and freeze
Human Ecology---Plains Indian
• Nomads in search of Buffalo
– Commanche see which way horned toad hop
• Hunt by running down herd or infiltrating in hide
• Women skinned and tanned with brains
• Buffalo provided food, hide, teepee, tools, toys
and ornaments. Use everything. Pemican.
• Animism. Tongue eaten in post-hunt feast;
smoke blown in 6 directions
• Happy Hunting Ground---heaven + buffalo
• Not imagine world without buffalo
Enter the Whites
• Buffalo main food on plains. Thirst/warmth.
– “A stake cooked on chips needs no pepper.”
• Whites join hunt in 1830s, reduce to 40 m.
• Threaten Indians---Buffalo wars 1860s
– 1867 Treaty of Medicine Lodge trade
reservation life for saving Buffalo.
• 1871 Buffalo became commercially
valuable; by 1883 nearly all destroyed.
Trade in Buffalo Robes with hair
Trains---sports hunting excursions
Ham and tongue became delicacy in US
New arsenic tanning technique 1870s made
hides valuable.
End of Civil War---unemployment. Hunt drew
Sharps 50 cal rifle 1872---kill from stand at 600
U.S. wanted Indians confined to reservations
Ranchers wanted prairie cleared.
First Conservation Movement
• Commander Richard Dodge, Fort Dodge:
– “I have counted 112 carcasses of buffalo inside a
semicircle of 200 yards radius, all of which were killed
by one man from one spot in less than ¾ hour.”
• By 1873, hunters left for Texas, then Dakotas.
• Movement to stop slaughter, SPCA, soldiers
– Territorial legislation---too late except Nebraska -1875
• 1879 hunt uneconomical
• By 1883 less than 1,000 Buffalo remained
• Bones then used for fertilizer and sugar, once
picked up, only wallows remained
• Frontier Society vs. Sustainable Society
– Colonization versus maturity
• Engineering Fallacy: Use of technology to
extend control beyond natural limits
• Economic fallacy: Utilitarian values of economic
system applied to all relationships, ignoring
• Confusion of Capital and Nature
– “Natural resource”
– Commodification of nature
Distorted Values 2
• Man Over Nature vs Part of It
– Ambient vs environemnt
• Homocentric vs biocentric shift
– Replace Buffalo in ecosystem with controlled
and owned cattle as resource
Human Ecology
Frederick Clements
• The North American Grasslands biome
was a climax stage of an arid region
exposed to dry winds and shallow rainfall.
• Plains Indian and Buffalo were partners in
a stable ecological association there
• White men destroyed the stabile climax
A Lost Harmony and Unity
• 1800s---building on notion of limits (Lloyd and
Malthus)—organic movement
• Industrial Revolution
– Dickens “Rivers Running red….”
• Oikos Greek for Home---economy and ecology
• “Nature is a great economist” Gilbert White
– “The recreation of one animal is the support of
another.” The Natural History of Selbourne 1789
• Arcadian harmony with nature needed for peace
and contentment
• Henry David Thoreau--Walden Pond 1852
– later daily observations of same 7 mile area
• Local Env. History---New England BWM?
– Concord settled 1638: dense pine, oak and maple
forests; 10 s.m.: 5 black bear, 2-3 puma, 2-3 grey
wolf, 200 turkeys, 400 deer and 20,000 grey squirrel
– Puritans tamed wilderness---1700 cleared ½ million +
acres for farming; 1800 Primordial forest gone
– Learn from nature: succession, service of squirrels
• Transcendentalism. Gods in nature.
– “All nature is alive with pulsing energy.”
– Offset overspecialization of science loses of reality.
– Emerson “Nature” :“Nature is more than a resource to
exploit, but a resource for human imagination.”
The Gospel of Progress
Malthus---“God has created a world in
which the power of the eater to reproduce
himself is of a superior order than that of
the earth to produce food.” Therefore:
– fear of starvation stimulates man to be
industrious (thus civilizing wilderness to
accommodate growing population)
– Misery is inevitable
Science Fits Social Thought
• God created man to be happy and comfortable
• Man’s is the top of natural hierarchy (i.e. the food web).
• Man’s work is to utilize nature to his advantage --- to
exploit not preserve
– Adam Smith: “Nature is the storehouse of natural materials.”
• Nature’s economy designed to maximize productivity
and efficiency
• Science is attempt to understand the design and will of
the creator. Lineaus---Nature’s Oeconomy.
– taxonomy of plants and animals “rational ordering of all material
resources in an interacting whole.”
• Construct the “Environment” by “reducing plants and
animals to insensate matter”
Ecological Imperialism
• 1800s Period of Discovery---conquer living world
through ecology
• Civilize savages---1850s Anthropology
– theory of ascent of man---Inevitable transformation
reflected by trapper, hunter, pioneer, homesteader
and urbanite. White settler was civilizing influence.
• 1835 Darwin’s voyage on HMS Beagle
– New anomalies demanded new theory
– Origin of Species 1859: Natural selection explains the
evolution of organisms better equipped to deal with
environmental conditions who drive out competition
under conditions of scarce food
Social Darwinism
• Law Of Progress:
– Civilization is a declaration of independence
from nature by subdue, control and exploit
– Domination through science and technology
– Native inferiority shown by failure to achieve
• Law of Competition:
– Might makes right; conflict is inevitable
– Competitive struggle makes poor inevitable
– Competition is means to advance
Lester Ward, 1893, the Psychic
Factors of Civilization
Experts must plan (no laissez faire)
Organize nature where it is inefficient (ex. winding
Engineer a paradise on earth
This is our moral imperative (we are over the
primitive and ape).
We can pacify nature by expanding the Garden of
Eden through a moral equivalent of war.
Later Technocrats Movement in U.S.
In sum…
“nature’s economy is a world of self-seeking
aggression; such a system has produced
remarkable evolutionary progress; it must
work for the human economy too, since
man is part of nature; man’s increasing
technological domination over nature is
proof that survival of the fittest and the
reality of progress is part of the scheme of
things” (D. Worster)
James Steinbeck-Grapes of Wrath
“The tractors came over the roads and into the fields, great
crawlers moving like insects, having the incredible
strength of insects. They crawled over the ground, laying
the track and rolling on it and picking it up. Diesel
tractors, puttering while they stood idle; they thundered
when they moved, and then settled down to a droaning
roar. Snub-nosed monsters, raising the dust and sticking
their snout into it, straight down the country, across the
country, through fences, through dooryards, in and out of
gullies in straight lines. They did not run on the ground,
but on their own roadbeds. They ignored hills and
gulches, water courses, fences, houses….
James Steinbeck-Grapes of Wrath
“The man sitting in the iron seat did not look like a man;
gloved, goggled, rubber dust mask over nose and
mouth, he was part of the monster, a robot in the seat.
The thunder of the cylinders sounded through the
country, became one with the air and the earth, so that
earth and air muttered in sympathetic vibration. The
driver could not control it---straight across country it
went, cutting through a dozen farms and straight back. A
twitch at the controls could swerve the car, but the
driver’s hands could not twitch because the monster that
built the tractor, the monster that sent the tractor out, had
somehow got into the driver’s hands, into his brain and
muscle, had goggled him and muzzled him---goggled his
mind, muzzled his speech, goggled his perception,
muzzled his protest….
James Steinbeck-Grapes of Wrath
“He could not see the land as it was, he could not smell the
land as it smelled; his feet did not stomp the clods or feel
the warmth and power of the earth. He sat in an iron seat
and stepped on iron petals. He could not cheer or beat
or curse or encourage the extension of his power, and
because of this he could not cheer or whip or curse or
encourage himself. He did not know or own or trust or
beseech the land. If a seed dropped did nto germinate, it
was nothing. If the young thrusting plant withered in
drought or drowned in a flood of rain, it was no more to
the driver than to the tractor....
James Steinbeck-Grapes of Wrath
“He loved the land no more than the bank loved
the land. He could admire the tractor…he did not
own or love, proud of the power he could not
control. And when that crop grew, and was
harvested, no man had crumbled a hot clod
between his fingers and let the earth sift past his
fingertips. No man had touched the seed, or
lusted for the growth. Mean ate what they had
not raised, had no connection with the bread.
The land bore under iron, and under iron
gradually died; for it was not loved or hated, it
had no prayers or curses.” 49
The Dust Bowl
• The 1930s brought the Great Depression
and with it the end of Laissez Faire.
• Beginning April 14, 1934 black bowl of
dust covered M.W.
• The dust covered Washington D.C. and
blew onto ships in the Atlantic
• Presage the dust bowls of today
Dominant Social Paradigm
Man is above nature
Nature is a resource at man’s disposal
Growth and Progress are perpetual
Technology solves all problems
Individual Interests over Community
Rich and Poor get what they deserve
Na Na Na Na Na Na Live for today