How (capitalist) money and nature intertwine and bring multiple life-worlds into being is one of the themes of Anna Tsingʻs book on the matsutake mushroom, highly valued in Japanese culture and cuisine as a signal of autumn and a nostalgic reminder of the rural bounty of pre-industrial Japan. Tsing, who teaches anthropology at UC Santa Cruz and at Aarhus University in Denmark, is part of a network of thinkers who are forging new ways to write about human interactions with nature. Like the South American anthropologists associated with Eduardo Viveiros de Castro, the Santa Cruz cohort centered around Donna Hathaway have built a framework that allows the conversation between humans and non-humans in making landscapes and worlds to be taken seriously in academia. This is one step to making such thinking possible in the wider culture, rather than marginalized as the ravings of women and mystics or backwardness of indigenous people and cultures. Tsingʻs book, which has won numerous awards, is a lively and personal account of the people who interact with the matsutake mushroom, whether immigrant Lao or Mien mushroom foragers in the regrowth forests of Oregon, Yunnanese middlemen who use traditional ethnic ties to construct a supply chain, or the Japanese customers who relish the mushroom resonance with rural ways of life. Tsingʻs project is a study of the Anthropocene and “The Arts of Living on a Damaged Planet” (the title of her more recent edited volume) and the kind of “arts of noticing” and thinking that she champions as so urgently necessary to change the way we think about and relate to our world.
How many times do we say: “Well, it would be better in the long term if we all did X but it would not make money?” Or, “there isn’t enough money?” Or “it would not be competitive?” Or even worse: “We all know that X is a destructive thing to do but we all have to make a living.” In a sense, we say that last line to ourselves every day because that is how our economy works; it is built on “growth”, which, as the world stands, is a code word for exponential extraction and destruction of natural and social resources.
How did it come to be that we are controlled by money? How is it that our creation is controlling us? It’s fashionable to worry about the advent of AI (artificial intelligence) – and with good reason. We have already created a technology, a relatively simple technology, that is out of control – money and the system of valuation that underlies it. It is for money that we are burning up the only world we have. We are already fooled by and the slaves of our own creation, and our financial system is nothing as sophisticated as what it will be when augmented by AI, blockchain, cloud-computing and big data.
Now would be a good time to get a handle on our creation. Now would be a good time to think about where we are going. Continue reading “Money & Life”
Found this treatise nailed to the door yesterday without an identified author or return address. Someone has been thinking hard and working hard on where to go from here. I leave it without comment.
I’ve been thinking a lot about how to address climate change in terms of policy at the local level, at the smallest organized unit of government for my area, which is the County of Hawaii, encompassing the island of Hawaii. I am not an expert on climate change or climate change policy in any way, shape, or form, but this may well be the mother of all situations where we will need to learn by doing, rather than waiting on expertise that does not yet exist. Continue reading “Climate Change: Do Politics or Do Nothing?”