Books Environmental politics Politics

From After Nature: A Politics for the Anthropocene by Jedediah Purdy

p. 16 “we have not advanced far towards Mill’s ideal of emancipated mastery over nature. Instead, the more we understand and the more our power increases, the more our control over nature seems a precarious fantasy.”

p. 17 The Anthropocene begins amid a threefold crisis  of ecology, economics, and politics. These are the three great modes in which humans make a home… The three crises share a starting point: the recognition that a system believed, or at least imagined and hoped, to be stable and self-correcting has turned out to be unstable and even prone to collapse.”

p. 18 “If we want self-sustaining world, social & natural, we must build it. Nothing inherent will produce that stability”

p. 18 “Th economists’ term ‘externality’ suggests an aberration, the incidental exception to a system that otherwise works – but here, that is the reverse of the truth. What economic analysis treats as an externality, what is invisible in market transactions, is the globe that houses all economic activity. Needless to say, everything is inside that ‘externality’. The harms that are invisible to the economy may overwhelm the system itself.”

p. 90 Thomas Paine saw the natural world as grounding a principle of economic equality. ‘Natural property was the inborn right of every person to an equal share of the unimproved world, which was the common inheritance of humanity, now artificially divided into private property. Paine’s ‘Letter on Agrarian Justice’ argued for a tax on wealth that would amount to ‘ground-rent’ paid to society by those who owned  the world, to compensate the dispossesed. The money should go to universal benefits: a payment to each person at birth, as a king of social inheritance to start them in life, plus pensions for the aged. Paine argued that this scheme would make the artificial institution of private property beneficial to all, whereas without his reforms it preserved both wealth and great poverty.”

p. 118 The Sierra Club’s “ideal was the personal encounter with nature … even as its activity was intensely social, even communal, to the point where one member described its encampments (with only the lightest irony) as short-lived socialist utopias. Club members relied on one another for comfort, survival and companionship in the high country. Even more, they relied on one another to confirm and amplify their quasi-mystical experience by hearing it and saying it back to them.”

p. 119 Thoreau reviewed a book that proposed a technological utopia. The work, by J.A. Etzler, was The Paradise Within the Reach of All Men, without Labor, by Means of Nature and Machinery, published in 1842. Etzler, a follower of the French social visionary Charles Fourier, argued that men could build a paradise on earth (and, he promised, within a decade) by harnessing what the 21st century calls renewable energy. Wind, tides, and the sun would replace human labor. … Thoreau agreed with Etzler that unused energy was plentiful:air surged and plunged over the earth: New England’s few windmills were a farcical tribute to its power. The waves and tides were even stronger, and the sun’s vast energy promised limitless power, if only people could capture it.”

p. 171 Gifford Pinchot “called on Americans to  ‘ make ourselves… responsible for [the country’s] future’. Conservation’s basic goal was well-being: it aimed to make ‘the difference between prosperity and poverty, health and sickness, ignorance and education, well-being and misery.’ Conservation’s success would be ‘patriotism in action’… conservation should teach each citizen devotion to the good of all.”

p. 195 John Muir “is probably best remembers for observing that one cannot tug on anything in nature without finding it connected to everything else -a folksy slogan of interdependence… part of a usable history for the age of ecology. .. We can love the world because it is intelligible, formed in an order that we can understand ever more richly. At the same time, it awes us because it is always older, stranger and more complex than we can grasp: in every dimension, it runs beyond our reach. … This was the new, ecological shape that wilderness advocates gave to the Romantic tradition of treating the politics of nature as the politics of consciousness. .. humility invited a homecoming – not to the sublime mountains, as Muir had urged, but to a sense of being entirely native to the planet at large. … Americans concerned with the natural world did nothing less in those years than invent something we now take for granted: the concept of the environment. .. In 1968, an urgent warning appeared in Time magazine: ‘The false assumption that nature exists only to serve man is at the root of an ecological crisis that ranges from the lowly litterbug to the lunacy of nuclear proliferation. At this hour, man’s only choice is to live in harmony with nature, not to conquer it.”

p. 109 “the seminal environmental standing case, Sierra Club v Morton. Here the Supreme Court considered whether the Sierra Club could sue to oppose development in California’s Mineral King Valley, and ruled that the group had standing to appear in court only if at least one of its members used the disputed area and would be personally affected by the proposed development. The case is most famous, though, for Justive William O Douglas’s animist-toned dissent, which adopted the language and spirit of proposals to recognise natural entities as legal actors. ‘The river as plaintiff speaks for the ecological unit of life that is part of it .. The voice of the inanimate object, therefore, should not be stilled.'”

p. 231 “as the Romantic strain of environmental imagination took hold, farmers, who animated James Wilson’s flourish American landscape, became figures of plodding, spiritless labor instead. Thoreau portrayed his neihgbors as slaves to their land, labors and conventional ideas. Emerson complained that he could not enjoy contemplating a landscape when farmers were working on it …Today a new appreciation is emerging for worked and inhabited landscapes, fertile terrains for responsible labor. This is the landscape of what one might call the food movement. It is not providential but ecological. Working  there converts ecological consciousness into concrete activity, as surely as John Muir’s walking guides did for Romantic ways of seeing. .. the physical labor of growing, gathering, and cooking food is a source of satisfaction, enriched by knowledge of the ecological, chemical and other processes that the work engages… As a cultural matter, the food movement offers a way to make abstract ecological values concretely one’s own. It poses an answer to a puzzle of post-1970 environmental thought, a puzzle presented in any effort to think ecologically. An environmental ethic that people can live by must tap into basic motives” Can either be done by tapping existing values e.g. patriotism with Theodore Roosevelt and Gifford Pinochet, or a new identity – the settler ethic and the wild-lands pilgrimage of the Sierra Club.

p. 237-8 “Ecology is the only possible home for an economy .. neoliberal environmentalists today portray the world as ‘natural capital’ … it brings nature fully into political economy, but a specifically neoliberal political economy, committed to the perspective of capital… An alternative would be to think of nature not as providing capital but doing work, work in which human labor collaborates… work is not only industry, the prodictive  action that that transforms the world, but also reproduction, the work of remaking life with each year and generation . Seeing nature’s work in this light would align environmental politics with the key feminist insight that much socially necessary work is ignored or devalued as ‘caregiving’, a gendered afterthought to the real dynamos of the economy, when in reality no shared life could do without it. This approach would also have the potential to align environmental politics with a labor movement of caregivers i an economy where an increasing amount of the work done by human beings (rather than machines) is the work of social reproduction: nursing, teaching, parenting.”

p. 253 “One might imagine, then, learning to see the global atmospheric system, the interwoven patterns of currents and winds, seasons and climatic regions, as something beautiful. It makes a world suited for human life, a world in which we have learned to live… The question to ask about greenhouse gases, in this light … is …whether they tend to mar the beauty of a system that, for all its inherent perturbations, describes a set of rough balances that we have come to find beautiful. Alternatively but not incompatibly, the global atmosphere might come to seem sublime, a brooding, powerful source of threat, beyond our complete understanding, out of the scale of our control, able to disrupt familiar worlds and make us aware of human smallness and fragility… Both treasuring beauty and feeling awe at sublimity are ways of respecting an order of things, and of valuing motives to act so as to uphold it.”

p. 286 “taking responsibility for nature and taking responsibility for democracy come together. The democratic responsibility is the responsibility of making a world, a responsibility that for much of human experience has fallen to the imagined legislation of gods. This goes for both the political and the natural world. Always bound together in imagination, in the Anthropocene these two are inseparable in fact.”

p. 287 democracy is not just the stripping away of old hierarchies; it means making the world together, including taking responsibility for our mutually shaping interaction with nature.”

Books History Women's history

Notes from Ottonian Queenship by Simon Maclean

p. 1 “one of the features of the Frankish world in the 10th century which distinguishes it clearly from the 9th-century heyday of the Carolingian Empire. The Carolingian kings and emperors of the 9th century had always married social inferiors, usually aristocrats from families within their own kingdoms with whom they wished to strengthen an alliance. Some of these queens were powerful; some left little more on the historical record than their names. But after the end of the empire in 888, one of the strategies used by kings representing the new dynasties struggling to project themselves as authentically royal was precisely to seek marriage with women from more prestigious royal families in neighbouring kingdoms. A practice which had in the early 9th century been expressly forbidden by Carolingian rulers anxious to limit the size of the royal family became, in the 10th, a routine dynastic strategy.” The historian Richer of Rhems in the early 990s claimed it was a matter of principle.

p. 2 Richer’s comment on the appropriate status of West Frankish queens was certainly informed by the spectacular power of the Ottonian empresses of his own day, whose careers and posthumous reputations mark them out as some of the most famous queens in medieval history. The Byzantine princess Theophanu, widow of Otto II, was in effect the ruler of the kingdom in place of her inant son between her husband’s death in 983 and her own in 991 – such was her status that we have a document of 990 dated to the years of her reign as ‘Theophanius imperator’”… her mother-in-law the Empress Aldelheid, was not only Otto I’s second wife but also a daughter, sister, mother, and widow of kings. She presided over three generations of Ottonian power in east Francia and Italy before her death in 999.”

Books History

From Dancing at the Edge of the World: Thoughts on Words, Women, Places Ursula Le Guin (1989)

On how science fiction faces the issue of nuclear war

p. 102 “The Post-Holocaust story must be in part rehearsal, or acting out, variously motivated. One motivation is unmistakeably desire. Rage, frustration and infantile egoism play out the death wish: Let’s press that button and see what happens! Another motivation is fear, the obsessive anxiety that keeps the mind upon the worst that could happen, dwelling on it, in the not entirely superstitious hope that if we talk about it enough maybe it won’t happen. Rationally controlled, this fear motivates the cautionary tale: Look what would happen if -! So don’t! And the stories where people flee Earth altogether would seem to be pure wish fulfilment, escapism…. A great many have come from America and England … across the Iron Curtain writers seem not to write about World War III… perhaps … feel it ethically wrong to write about nuclear holocaust, because by doing so they would trivialize and familiarize the ultimate act of evil. … for the ultimate selling job on ultimate violence one must read those works of fiction issued by our government as manuals of civil defense in which, as a friend of mine puts it, you learn that there’s nothing to be afraid of if you’ve stockpiled lots of dried fruit.”

Books History Politics

Notes from Ishi in Two Worlds: A Biography of the Last Wild Indian in North America By Theodora Kroeber

A powerful read – and a reminder of the horrors our societies inflicted on others.

p. 5 “San Nicolas Island, one of the Channel Islands of the Pacific Ocean some 70 miles offshore from Santa Barbara…. In 1835, the padres of Mission Santa Barbara transferred the San Nicholas Indians to the mainland. A few minutes after the boat had put off from the island, it was found that one baby had been left behind. It is not easy to land a boat on San Nicolas; the captain decided against returning for the baby; the baby’s mother jumped overboard, and was last seen swimming towards the island. Half-hearted efforts made to find her in subsequent weeks were unsuccessful. It was believed she had drowned in the rough surf. In 1853, 18 years later, seal hunters in the Channel waters reported seeing a woman on San Nicolas, and a boatload of men from Santa Barbara went in search of her. They found her, a last survivor of her tribe. Her baby, as well as all her people who had been removed to the Mission, had died. She lived only a few months after her “rescue” and died without anyone having been able to communicate with her, leaving to posterity this skeletal outline of her grim story, and four words which someone remembers from her lost language and recorded as she said them. It happens that these four words identify her language as having been Shochonean, related to the Indian languages of the Los Angeles area, not to those of Santa Barbara.”

p. 1 “The story of Ishi begins for us early in the morning of the 29th day of August in the year 1911 and in the corral of a slaughterhouse. It begins with the sharp barking of dogs which roused the sleeping butchers. In the dawn light they say a man at bay, crouching against the corral fence – Ishi.”

He was the last survivor of a group of Yahi who in c. 1870 p. 90 “retreated to the inner fastness of their own heartland … what A.L. Kroeber calls ‘the smallest free nation in the world, which by an unexampled fortitude and stubbornness of character succeeded in holding out … 25 years longer even than Geronimo’s famous band of Apaches’ … [initially probably 15/16, soon only “two men, two women, and a child.”

p. 94 know none of their names “not even Ishi’s, for Ishi is not a personal name, it means simply ‘man’.”

Books Environmental politics History

Notes from Of Farming and Classics: A Memoir by David Grene

p. 137 “This first farm of mine, the American one, was a splendid blend of mechanisation and old-time farming. I really cannot see why a version of this could not actually have survived. What happened is something like this: At the end of the war, the factories which had during the war exclusively been busy producing machines for the army turned back to producing tractors. They decided that the market to attack first was the area still occupied by small farms. … the farmers’ horses were in direct competition for the provision of power. So from about 1947 to 1955 advertisements and personal agents worked at selling the tractor-cum-horse farmers a little light tractor, to supplement his heavy one, to do the corn planting, corn cultivation and hay work instead of the last team These small tractors cost eight to ten times more than a team of horses and at least as much to keep up as a team…. The older horse machines were relatively cheap and simple … no tools left to use animal power.”

p. 139 “In the modern climate of opinion, where there is a strong undercurrent asserting the dullness and monotony of agriculture, there are always many people who readily accept the industrial idea that the less help needed, the better… there are fewer and fewer farmers themselves, and those who are left are forced to farm at a speed and a tension which leaves any hardship of the past simply nowhere… There have been almost no forum in which abstract questions could be raised about the value of the farmer’s work to himself… There are very good reasons for a smaller size of farm and the deeper personal attitudes that it invites. We have also seen in the 1980s a fearful decimation of farms simply because the price of land suddenly declined; and so did the farmers’ security with banks, who promptly foreclosed on them for debts incurred in the expansion of acreage and machinery, which, now on the books, they were unable to pay when the security was called in.”

p. 146 “Still the rhetoric continues, enforcing the conviction, now almost always acquired at second hand, that oil has saved them from drudgery. As though driving work animals was drudgery and driving the tractor was not; and caring for animals after the workday was drudgery, but filling the tractor or repairing it was not. Hobbies, sport and pets are of course the preferred forms of spending one’s activity and gaining pleasure. The delight in plowing and the partnership with animals in it is as old as Hesoid as he gives direction for the strength of the tree-formed plow ready to resist the power of the oxen as they struggle with a hard spot in the furrow, or in Aeschylus’s Prometheus, who gave man work-animals to be his substitute in the heaviest toils. It is there in Brueghel’s picture of the fall of Icarus as the plowman follows his mule with the little wheel in the plow in front of him already invented to hold the plow effortlessly in place at the depth desired. .. I remember about 35 years ago in Normandy watching a boy plowing with his black Pecherons, and walking alongside the horses that did not even have a rein. They were tied from bit to bit with a loose rope on the inside trace horse, which was used only when the boy was going to lead them home. When they came to the end of the furrow, he would tip up the plow … shout firm commands to his team, and round the horses would go….The beauty of those days of plowing was startling. I am thinking now particularly of the Wicklow farm. Out plowing was usually done in March or April, though sometimes also in fall or late winter, when the ground was not hard hard frozen. In a typically early spring day, one walked just fast enough to keep warm, and the gulls and rooks followed in the furrow to pick up the worms., and the sun would come breaking up the little touch of hoarfrost. I can still relive it and delight sharply, almost with pain at its loss, for I will never enjoy it again.”

Books History Women's history

Notes from The Lives of Tudor Women by Elizabeth Norton

p. 97 “The London draper’s wife, Katherine Fenkyll, had her own views on the subordinate position of wives, which she made very plain. A few years after she was widowed, in 1499, her ‘familiar and old acquaintance’ Joanne Johnson, a wealthy widow, came to visit her on confidential business. It was, she admitted, a delicate matter, since she had agreed to marry a gentleman, Robert Long of Windridge, but there was the small matter of both her personal effects and her debts. She had, she believed, around £500 in goods, including furniture, plate, money and jewels, which Long was anxious to acquire as his own property on their wedding day. Nonetheless, the widow wanted to protect herself.  She agreed with Katherine, as well as two other friends, that they would hide away £300 of the goods, intending to ‘cloak and colour the same’ from her husband so that she ‘might give and have or otherwise bestow the same at her liberty and pleasure. Instead of acquiring his new wife’s fabulous jewels, Long therefore found himself liable for her existing debts of more than £200. This was a bad bargain, and he was furious, rushing to the courts … Joanna Johnson, however, as a wife, could not be sued in court independently of her husband.She got off scot free.”

p. 100 “At the end of the Tudor years, in 1604, the aristocratic Eleanor, Lady Fettiplace, compiled a book of more than 200 recipes, complete with her marginal notes and amendments indicating that she had tried and tasted them herself. Inexperienced housewives of sufficient means could also make use of published texts, with Gervase Markham’s The English Housewife being particularly influential in the early 17th century. He considered that the first step to gaining a profound understanding of cookery was to ‘have knowledge of all sorts of herbs belonging to the kitchen, whether they be for the pot, for salads, for sauces, for servings, or for any other seasonings, or adorning. This the young wife should learn through her own labour and experience. She must know what to sow in her garden, and when to sow it.”

p. 102 “In 1511, two years into the reign of King Henry VIII, the widow Dame Katherine Fenkyll arrived at the Guildhall in London, accompanied by a young man named Henry Lenton … she confirmed before witnesses that she had taken him on as an apprentice… Two years later, Katherine Fenkyll returned again to the Guildhall, this time with Raynold Love in tow, who had also come to learn a trade from her.”

p. 103 “There was normally nothing in the way of legality to stop women taking the Freedom too – but very few did. One draper who, in 1570, arrived in the company’s hall with a female apprentice, seeking her Freedom, was turned away…This case caused much murmuring, since many in the company suspected that the woman did indeed have the right to be enrolled – but it was not a trend they wanted to encourage. Indeed, only 73 women are known to have been enrolled as apprentices in 16th-century London, among the many thousands of men… Girls could sometimes have their apprenticeships secured by charitable institutions: the destitute Margaret Gyllam, for example, who had been a patient at London St Thomas’s Hospital, was sent after her discharge to learn needlework and button-making with one John Delow and his wife in 1564.

p. 118 “Many of the more modest buildings occupied a small area of just one small room, before rising precariously high above the street. At ground level, there was usually a shop of some kind; on the floor above a hall, and then sleeping quarters higher still. Those people who were lucky enough to have a small yard squeezed into their property’s tiny footprint could keep the privy a reasonable distance from the main living quarters. For others, with no outside space, there was only the attic, leaving residents with a long trek upstairs to answer the call of nature. The inhabitants of these poorer dwellings though, did have one advnatge over the residences of their social superiors: the single chimney stack running up through the house, like a spine, allowed fireplaces in every room. .. a well in the yard behind the house meant that the well-to-do had a private water supply, rather than relying on the nearest street pump or conduit.”

p. 320 “The London hospitals not only took in women: they were staffed, in many respects, by women. Elizabeth Collston, possibly the wife of St Bartholomew’s hospital porter, was employed for more than 25 years as its matron, from 1597. She held a position of some authority, being in charge of all the women and children, as well as overseeing most of the female staff. The matron also took delivery of necessaries brought to the hospital, such as blankets and clothing for the inmates. The role of matron seems to have attracted capable, dedicated women. The first known matron was a widow named Rose Fisher, first appointed as a ‘sister’ of the hospital in 1551.. She was a no-nonsense woman, prepared to get her hands dirty. In 1552, for example, an order was given that all the ‘very feeble and sick’ inmates should eat in her presence, ensuring that she could monitor their sustenance. She also supervised the making of bed coverings for patients and the interrogating of pregnant inmates as to the father of their children, as well as being entrusted with money, collecting in bequests from charitable benefactors.”

p. 321 “Some forms of paid work could be a form of charity in themselves, and in this respect elderly women were often employed by their parishes to undertake work such as nursing care. One Mistress Peirson was paid by the parish of St Botolph’s in London to oversee the maid’s gallery in the church: she remained in office for at least 20 years and even after she had become blind… Older women, too, could find employment in the parish as ‘searchers,’ who were deputed by the parish clerk to view the bodies of the newly dead and make an appraisal of the cause … readily known to be susceptible to bribery and induced with ale, making their judgements hazy.”