Becoming Native To This Place
by Wes Jackson. Counterpoint Press. 1994. 121 p. $12.50
Here is a fine work, packed with pearls of wisdom and presented
eloquence about what it means and what it will take to become native
to a place. Short and non-technical, reading it still takes effort:
Becoming is foremost a book about culture and how we
must harmonize our society with the environments upon which we
depend. But Jackson’s perspective is
beyond anthropocentric. It is not even biocentric; it is biospheric, arguing "either
all the earth is holy or none is. Either every square foot of it deserves respect
or none does".
Jackson is a farmer. On The Land Institute, his farm and research
center in Kansas, he and his followers have been trying to mimic
the ways of that prairie landscape, to create a productive, diverse
polyculture of perennials. He admits that he is a long way off, but
defends the creed of "nature as measure", maintaining that "when
we don’t know, we should apply the mimic approach, because
by following it out we are more likely to employ undiscovered ecological
principles". His efforts to restore a worn out, abandoned farm
are meant to serve as a catalyst, or example, of the deep fidelity
and love needed to heal the land.
Jackson also has a Ph.D. in genetics
and he is not especially enamoured by the
genetic engineers, noting "it is fair to ask how long it will take our biotechnologists
to come up with the equivalent of the ozone hole". No trivial question.
"It has never been our national goal to become native to
this place. It has never seemed necessary even to begin such a
And now, almost too late, we perceive
its necessity. Unfortunately, the nature of nativeness toward which we must
work has not merely been altered but severely compromised.
"It is time for a new breed of artists to enter front and center
[as opposed to bureaucrats and technocrats], for the point of art,
after all, is to connect.
This is the homecomer I have in mind: the scientist, the accountant who
converses with nature, a true artist devoted to the building of agriculture
and culture to match the scenery presented
first European eyes."
--BECOMING NATIVE TO THIS PLACE
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