Notes from a conversation regarding the "Classics" of Sustainability and the idea of using Bickerton's argument [that language has separated Us from nature as a framework for exploring the "classics"... that we have to fight our own inherent nature and processes to stop harming the Earth]...
I appreciate Nicole's point about loss of cultural diversity as more than a byproduct but actually an erasure of the cultural knowledge base of how we might alternately organize ourselves and collaborate with earth systems in generative ways. I agree that this is where Bickerton's construct requires extension and expansion. We need to extend the thinking beyond language itself into further emergent complexities such as particular cultures (which includes language but also other things, human and non-human cultural adaptations and evolution) and cross cultural relationships. We need to expand the thinking outside of the box of Western industrial dominator/oppressive (technocratic etc.) culture (whatever name you want to use to refer to it) [which is itself only a subculture, there are many and diverse strands of wisdom inside of "Western civ" so I am not intending to demonize at all but rather get specific about the cultural/social virus which sources the multiplying ravages of separation, disconnection, and harm-causing- truly a virus, adaptive and (I know I'm sounding like I agree with Dawkins here, please, let's talk about that another time!**)]. IMNSHO, Bickerton suffers from some intense cultural mypoia conflating Western industrial civilization and culture with the inherent result of all language use. Classic Western academic mistake. In other words, he skips at least two levels of complexity between language, culture, meta or cross-culture and misses the rich diversity of relationship wisdom embedded in other language/cultures. (Note here I am using the word culture complexly to signify human culture as embedded in and coevolving with the particular other species/biota/landscape/etc. within which it arises - perhaps I should be saying bioculture, would that be more comprehensible?) Culture includes not only language but also patterns of behavior and activity. That's why the work of Falk's Finding Our Tongues (2009) is so much richer, because it approaches the inquiry in a more embedded way rather than through such a reductionistic lens.
It is a penchant of W. civ to find bad things and try to fix them (Cartesian world as machine mentality). Or the habit of the past couple thousaind years in some cultures to think we are inherently messed up [part of the virus I mentioned above] and have to redeem ourselves. This is a bit what Bickerton is doing in his framework that I object to. Continuing to think about things as PROBLEMS TO BE SOLVED or SINS TO BE ATONED or whatever perpetuates the virus in the thinking. [Multiple levels of irony that Bickerton's most recent book is called Adam's Tongue.] And I actually have a sense that the sustainability "classics" are more about fresh and direct experience, about removing ourselves from the social virus in thinking rather than perpetuating it.
What if we adjusted our thinking to harvest wisdom strands, locating processes, language, cultural practices that were generative -- to reweave ourselves? To trust to the fathomless unfolding life processes of this planet, of which we are an immeasurably valuable and embedded part? To nurture and be nurtured by the generative co-evolutionary planetary system, in which our molecules are infinitely renewable resources? To catalyze and re-active our co-presencing with the strength of this planet's story? Language and cultures of blessing, of generativity, cultures of increasing biocultural diversity and complexity, this is what the Earth invites me to and us to. We are not despite ourselves but from the very strength of us, not even toddlers in the span of a mammalian species' trajectory, so incipient in our possibility. The tens of thousands of years of so many diverse, earth-loving cultures, each an experiment. It's so much more richly textured than good/bad, constructive/destructive. We are more than a line or hopscotching back and forth over a line. We are rapidly diversifying songstreams, whalesongs of complexity. It is from this framework, this deep weave that I would like to explore the wellsprings (rather than classics) of insight that have watered so many gardens of exploration.
What are other metaphors of connection, nurture, and support that might inform our inquiry?
Image Credit: From an article citing Elizabeth Barber's research, about the Mummies of Urumchi, ancestors were Old Europeans from millenia ago, these were peaceful, arts-based communitarians who travelled to Tibet via the Silk Road thousands of years ago. An example of advanced weaving work with spirals.