I’ll continue on the logical path from the last picture of the farmed and industrial landscape. What attracted the European settlers to the Maritimes at the beginning of colonisation in the 17th and 18th centuries, was the abundance of fur that the invaders could steal from the animals and of fish. Later, farming, mining and quarries were added to the list of exploited «resources» and today the region is highly contaminated with the aerial sprays of DDT and contemporary pesticides, fungicides, and herbicides as well as with the mining industry.
Prior to European fisheries and farming, the maritime ecology was gushing with biodiversity. Many of the peoples who inhabited the land were the Abenaki, the Algonquin, the Attikamek, the Micmac, the Montagnais, the Nipissig, the Ojibway, and the Ottawa. Across tribes, they communicated in the Algonquin language and spoke a variety of other languages.
J. V. Wright in A History of the Native People of Canada describes the archeological evidence for the existence of thousands of years of maritime cultures: early, middle, and late starting from ten thousand years. During the Woodland period (1000-1 BCE), apparently shellfish gathering became an important base for human diet.
This would make sense, since farming in particular, but even hunting, require more energy, effort and destruction of the environment than gathering, particularly in such places where the incredible high and low tides offer an abundance of seashells and other gathering possibilities from marine life and the forests. In the Bay of Fundy and the Ungava Bay tides rise and fall up to 17 metres and according to Heike Lotze, a marine biologist from Dalhousie University, and Inka Milewski, a marine biologist and environmentalist from New Brunswick, this region has sustained indigenous human and non-human populations for thousands of years. But today, we are facing an insane rate of the degradation of marine and coastal biodiversity that began in the past several hundred years and escalated with the introduction of high fishing technologies in the 1960s that scraped off the bottom of the ocean and bays and destroyed fauna and other forms of life
«For thousands of years, native people lived, fished, hunted and cultivated land around Passamaquoddy Bay…. European explorers first visited the shores of the Bay of Fundy in the early 1600s, but permanent settlements were not established until the late 18th century. Then, however, the new settlers transformed the region culturally, economically and environmentally within a matter of years» (Lotze & Milewski 2002).
What a tragic and wasteful attitude towards life on our planet. How selfish, ignorant and apathetic the contemporary, civilised human being is. And yet, ironically, it is this being – the one who is the least fit to survive on our planet, the creature who has failed to adapt to life on earth and cannot fathom life without air conditioners in the south, heaters in the north, without clothing, without housing, without suffering, without torture, without murder, and without fear — it is this devastating and most dangerous creature who so adamantly clings to the myth that evolution through «natural selection» and the «survival of the fittest» leads to superb creatures most adept to living on the planet. The civilised human animal cannot even conceive itself of surviving without artificial limbs, other creatures’ fur, in the cold or in the heat.
«What? You’re radical, you’re insane, if you ask me, the Civilised Human, to abandon my sadistic, predatory, egocentric and maniacal way of life and to walk out into the forest naked. You want me to die?»
Unfit to live in the world, this creature clear cuts the forest and annihilates wilderness; that is, because of its selfish fear of life, it spells out death to all.
Inka Milewski in her tribute to Rachel Carson and the Rivers of Death says that even though the poisons of the 60s, such as DDT and which were sprayed over thousands of hectares of forests and farmlands, have been replaced by more biodegradable substances, «recent research demonstrates that a key contaminant in that chemical soup is endocrine disrupting compounds (EDCs) – compounds which do not outright kill a fish but affect the fish’s behaviour, compromise its immune system, alter its reproductive capacity, and reduce its overall fitness. EDCs have been linked to disorders in human sexual development and reproduction and include such compounds as DDT, DDE, dioxin, furans, and PCBs. EDCs are potent at levels much lower than the allowable limits of exposure set by current government standards».
Needless to say, farming and animal husbandry require intense chemical interventions because keeping creatures miserable, incarcerated against their will, alienated from their wilderness, crowded, stressed out, traumatised by witnessing their kin and brethren ruthlessly slaughtered, ultimately, leads non-human and human animals to all sorts of diseases and disruptions. Any attempt to annihilate competition (even though pests comprise less than 1% of the biodiversity that surrounds any one living organism) creates other problems for whose solution the civilised apply more «science» and chemistry. This produces a cycle of high water and air pollution that requires further pollution to deal with the problems caused by having killed or damaged along with the pests the remaining 99% of the much needed bio-diverse symbionts – all of which leads to the failure of the immune system of ecosystem and to environmental destruction.
For example, «Factory Hog Operation» in New Brunswick has been in the news for a couple of years now. The fact that the terminology remains technical, alienates people from the true meaning of the holocaust waged against non-human animals and veils the horror of what it means to be a victim in such a «factory», forced to be unhealthy and obese and to know that they will be next in line to be murdered like their fellows and kin before them and that the train shall carry their corpses to the feast of the ultimate predator, the most greedy of viruses, the most unhealthy of the diseased: the human animal. This terminology denies us the possibility to be a part of the world we chose to modify and strips us of our dignity that comes with the compassion for the despair of those trapped in this concentration camp with no exit. This lie allows people to continue to daily devour the dead flesh of their victims, consuming their pain and despair.
«According to Inka Milewski, Science Advisor for the Conservation Council of New Brunswick, the scientific evidence is stacking up against intensive livestock operations (ILOs). “In jurisdictions where these operations have been studied, large quantities of nutrients are discharged into watersheds resulting in severe degradation of freshwaster and marine ecosystems.”
“The problem I see is that the scientific evidence is way ahead of the regulations and policies we have in place to protect human and environmental health. For example nutrients, which are a class of contaminants, are not even regulated in Canada. In New Brunswick, ILOs are not subject to full environmental impact assessments”».
Numerous anthropologists have observed that even in the harshest of climates, self-sufficient, sustainable livelihoods have been liberating while the technological organisation of contemporary society has been enslaving. Lasse Nordlund, for example, conducted an «experiment» on how much time and effort were needed to sustain a gathering lifestyle in the cold climate of eastern Finland and arrived at a maximum of 4 hours/day give and take depending on the season (a bit more in the summer and less in winter).
«What is economically viable cannot be ecologically gentle, and for that which preserves nature, it is impossible to find economic viability,» he says in an essay titled The Foundations of Our Life: Reflections about Human labour, Money and Energy from Self-sufficiency Standpoint. The reason, he says, is that the production of technology and machines requires much more energy than manual labour, which is the most efficient way of sustaining life. Thus, the production of technology itself depends on energy from «abroad» (he mentions the Middle East) — I would add to that the food and human labour needed to mine (mines and quarries are one of the most important industries in Quebec and the Eastern provinces), to produce raw materials for the machine parts, to invent the machines, etc. He calculates that the equation of input and output energy always works on deficit since the production of newer machines depends on previous machines and the energy that went into their production.
«The pressure to intensify production by feeding more energy into the system has a particularly disastrous effect on the energy balance of primary production, where productivity has its natural limits. Directors of finance may talk about overproduction in agriculture, but this only describes the amount of commodities in the market compared to the demand. The more realistic situation in terms of nature is that we have the greatest shortage in primary production in history. We use hundreds of times more energy to produce a unit of food than the Stone Age human. Within the scope of a pricing policy, part of the “overproduced” goods may be disposed of to keep the prices stable, which makes the energy deficit of our way of life even worse. Agriculture, which used to collect renewable energy, is one of today’s biggest users of nonrenewable energy» (Nordlund, p.8).
For over 15 years, Lasse has been living on mushroom hunting, berry gathering, small-scale farming, and fishing, making his own clothes and tools such as fishing nets, wooden shovels, spinning wheels or weaving looms. He abandoned animal husbadry because it was superfluous. This has gone beyond experimentation and has become a chosen and more rewarding way of life for him: he now has a family with two children. Again, his «experiment» took place inland, in one of the world’s harshest climates in the north. Imagine the possibilities offered by an ocean washing up shells and clams on the beach.
I remember, the first stroll along an ocean coast that I’ve ever taken; it was on the Atlantic coast of Brittany and Normandy in 1988. I was dazzled by the variety of wonders of ocean-life scattered among the rocks and crawling creatures trying to make it back into the water. Heading to the Maritimes in 2009, the Normandy picture conjured an image of expectation to be embraced by the skies, wilderness and life. But I saw only empty rocks, void water, and lifeless skies whose silence was occasionally interrupted by military helicopters and planes. The whales stopped coming to Digby Neck. Someone mentioned that we had to go to special places to see them, rent expensive tours on motorboats to venture out into the open ocean to make sure to catch a glimpse of the frolicking sea-mammals, who our friends on Digby Neck said only a decade or two ago used to be a regular sight from their home. And even expensive tours did not guarantee anything.
Shouldn’t this all strike people as a worrisome sign? Still, politicians continue to talk about «sustainable» politics, «hope», and «change» flashing these empty slogans that are as lifeless as the inept creatures who have «evolved» into the deadly planetary tumour.