Indigenize!

Rekindle Your Wild Joy and sense of deep Belonging through spiritual ecopsychology and the arts, incl. bioregional awareness, animistic perspectives, strategies for simple living, & low/no-tech DIY fun.

Bioregional Awareness Quiz March 21, 2013

Swiss mountain painting, Riederalp, by Tina Fields

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If you want to get to know your home place, playing with a “bioregional quiz” like this one is a good place to start.

There are many versions of such quizzes out there. I’m pleased to announce that this particular expanded version of the Bioregional Quiz, which I wrote, will soon be published in Planet Drum Foundation’s updated edition of  Home! A Bioregional Reader.

How many of the questions can you answer, without referring to the internet or field guides first?

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BIOREGIONAL AWARENESS QUIZ

Bioregionalism is a call to become knowledgeable residents and guardians of the places where we live. Although we are seldom aware of it, we live in naturally unique physical, ecological, historical and cultural areas whose boundaries are more often ridgetops than county lines and state borders.

This is a call to get to know our local land and water; our local weather and sky; our local plants and animals; our local neighbors and communities. It is a call to join our hearts, hands and minds with what has been, what is, and what could be, in this place.

Getting to know the place where we live is important for both our well-being and for the well-being of our home. Becoming aware of our “sense of place” helps us to see it as a unique part of the living earth, deserving of respect, gratitude, and careful treatment. We humans can then begin to shift how we live more towards balance and harmony with the wider life community. Security begins by acting responsibly at home.

Welcome home!

This quiz provides a lot of starting points for getting to know your own living home region.

It can be sobering to realize how little we know right now.  The intention of the quiz is not to make us feel bad about how disconnected we are, but instead to gain awareness of the multi-layered things yet to discover about the richness of our home place.

Please treat it as an opportunity. Maybe you want to only choose a few questions, the ones that call to you the most. Feel free to find out the answers in any way you can: Ask your neighbors, go to the library, read the newspaper with this sort of focus, go outside, wander around, and pay attention every day. “Waste time” doing nothing but noticing our world.

There’s no way to cheat. Spend some time investigating; ask for some help. And feel free to make up some more questions of your own.

MAKING CONNECTIONS
1. Where does the water in your house come from? Trace the water you drink from rainfall to tap. Where did the cloud gather its moisture?
2. Where does the water go that drains from your sink? What about the water (& other stuff) leaving your toilet?
3. Choose a favorite meal and trace the ingredients back through the store…the processing plant…all the way to the soil. How many people, states, or even countries helped produce this meal? What went into the packaging and transportation of its ingredients? How many of the ingredients could you (did you?) get locally or even grow yourself?
4. What kind of energy do you primarily use? Where does it come from? Trace the path of energy that powers your home from its sources to you.
5. When your garbage is thrown away, where is “away”?
6. What are the primary sources of pollution in your area?
7. What are the major natural sounds you are aware of in a particular season?
8. What agencies are responsible for planning future transportation and land use in this area?
9. List three critical environmental issues in your area. What can you do to help?
10. Draw a map of your territory, the areas you travel regularly – without using human markers like buildings or street names.

EARTH
11. What primary geological events or processes that shaped the land where you live? (Extra Points: What is the evidence?)
12. What soil series are you standing on?
13. How has the land in your area been used by humans, over the last two centuries?
14. Who lived here prior to white settlement, and what were their primary subsistence techniques?
15. What was the vegetation type in this area prior to white settlement?
16. Where is there wilderness in your bioregion?

WATER
17. What is the elevation above sea level where you live?
18. What is the average annual rainfall for your area? What was the total rainfall in your area last year?

NEIGHBORS
19. What Spring wildflower is consistently among the first to bloom where you live?
20. Name seven common trees in your area. Which ones are native? For the others, how did they get here? Why were they brought?
21. Which indigenous people inhabit(ed) your region before you? Are they still here?
22. What were the primary subsistence techniques of the culture that lived in your area before you?
23. Name five edible wild plants in your region and their season(s) of availability.
24. Name three medicinal wild plants in your region, and what they can be used for. BONUS: which parts are the most effective (stems, roots, fruits…)?
25. Name seven mammals common to your area. Which are native and which are new here? From where did they come? Which animals are extinct from your area?
26. Name ten birds common to your area. (Extra Points: Which are year-round residents? Which are migratory?) (For the EXPERT: Where do the latter winter over?)
27. If you have deer in your area, when do they rut, and when are the young born?
28. Name five grasses in your area. Are any of them native?
29. Name four wild mushrooms that grow in your area, two edible (only if you are an expert) and two poisonous.
30. Describe the defense techniques used by three different other-than-human beings living in your area. (Examples: camouflage, poison, thick skin, thorns…)
31. What are the major plant associations in your region?
32. What plant or animal is the “barometer” of environmental health for your bioregion? How is it doing?

SKY
33. Sitting in your living room, point North.
34. How recently was the Moon full? What phase is she in now?
35. On what day of the year are the shadows the shortest where you live?
36. From what direction do winter storms come in your region?
37. How long is the growing season where you live?
38. How has the typical weather changed in your area since you were born? (Ask an older person to remember weird weather.)
39. Name one constellation or star that comes out only in winter, and one that comes out in summer.

FIRE
40. When was the last time a fire burned in your area?
41. What caused it?
42. How did the land change after that? What grew back first, second, third? What bugs, birds, and animals followed?
43. How is fire dealt with where you live? (Controlled burns, completely prevented, seasonal controls – what sort?)
44. What are three of your favorite songs to sing around a campfire?

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Thank you so much for thinking about these things; for paying attention to y/our home place. May this Quiz contribute to your deep feeling of belonging here.

Feel free to post your reflections on both the questions and the process of facing the questions in the Comments section below. May you have fun getting to know where you are!

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These questions began with “Where You At – A Bioregional Quiz” by Leonard Charles, Jim Dodge, Lynn Milliman and Victoria Stockley, which was first published in the Winter 1981 issue of Coevolution Quarterly and subsequently reprinted in Home! A Bioregional Reader (New Society Publishers, ISBN 0-86571-188-7, 1990).

I (Tina Fields) made extensive further additions and when it grew unwieldy, created the breakdown by category to organize the expanding inquiry.

In addition, a few of the questions were gleaned years ago from the work of Fox Tales, Chas Clifton, & the folks at the Co-Intelligence Institute. (No, I don’t remember which. But the ones about whole systems flows and changes, native peoples, and songs are definitely mine.)

The late Peter Berg started the Planet Drum Foundation. I still miss his wisdom, humor, and wide curiosity about what’s possible to create in the world.

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Just Say “No” to Monsanto March 1, 2012

Filed under: Cranky Rants — BrujaHa @ 11:05 pm
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

GMO cartoon

It’s dark, it’s cold, and as I’m a classic test case in environmental psychology, I’m grumpy. So here comes another commentary on the news. When it warms up, things will be different around here; I promise. Regardless, this is something we all need to know about.

Today, the Indigenous Environmental Network sent this Ecologist article my way:  How Dow and Monsanto teamed up over ‘Agent Orange’ herbicide, by Richard Schiffman.

Why should we care about the shenanigans of Monsanto and Dow? What’s the problem?

In a nutshell, the problem is that strong chemical herbicides, over time, goad the ‘weeds’ into growing stronger. So then farmers have to keep buying more, and stronger, poisons. These harm the water and every being who drinks of it including migrating birds and wildlife; the bees and other pollinators, the farm workers, likely their own children – and the crop, which you will buy and eat. So farmers have to then buy expensive GMO crop seeds that are strong enough to withstand these toxic herbicides, the sale of both benefiting… guess who?! And by the way, guess who manufactures anti-cancer drugs as well?

For small farmers, it’s an economic disaster. They can no longer use their own native seeds, ones that may have been passed down in their families for generations and are also, of course, free of charge, unlike Monsanto’s patented monstrosities. Farmers in India are going to the poorhouse because of that vicious cycle. Thinking they were buying pest resistance, they didn’t realize they were instead indenturing themselves to an ever-increasing use of pesticides and the purchase of patented seeds.

If GMO crops accidentally contaminate the fields of neighboring farmers through wind, birds, bugs or genetic drift, these farmers then not only have to deal with the health consequences plus business consequences if the farm happens – er, happened – to be organic, but to add insult to injury, they have to pay Monsanto for patent infringement. Check out Canadian farmer Percy Schmeiser’s story: it will curl your hair. It seems the joke slogan is, horrifyingly, coming true: No Food Shall Be Grown that Monsanto Don’t Own.

Image Further, think about this: genetic engineering is the largest uncontrolled biological experiment ever perpetrated on this planet. We have no idea what effects genetically modified organisms (GMOs) have, or will have over time, on our own health or the health of the ecosystem. Some scientists now suspect that GMOs may be playing a part in the vast “colony collapse” deaths of America’s honeybees.

This cycle is a race to the bottom for everyone involved, except the chemical companies. According to a report by Jeremy Scahill in The Nation (9/15/2010), Monsanto purchased the largest mercenary army in the world, Blackwater (now called Xe Services). So they’ve got the thug power to back up their coup. They’re now pushing Nepal to grow GMOs, according to Abi, who has started a facebook campaign: https://www.facebook.com/stopmonsantoinnepal

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But we can still say “no.” In 2004, Mendocino county, California officially banned the cultivation, production and distribution of GMO crops, and more places are following. Boulder County, Colorado, where I now live, is in negotiation about it. The entire country of Hungary took that bold stand, and to show they were serious, they destroyed 1000 acres of maize found to have been grown with GMO seeds after they were banned. Many farmers didn’t know these seeds were GMO, and were shocked. Mexico’s heritage corn is in danger of being permanently contaminated by GMO corn, and they have banned most seeds like Hungary did. Reportedly, Japan wants to as well. But the free trade agreements (FTAs) Japan and Mexico have with the USA keep that from legally being possible: they can’t refuse corn seeds destined for our dinner tables. -Yet.

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Let’s start taking care of our own and the planet’s health instead of the chemical company guys’ wallets.

Stand up and display political defiance of Monsanto and genetically modified foods. Demand labeling at least, for now, so we can have the possibility of making an informed choice about whether we wish to eat their products.

And on the everyday front, please buy and grow organic. It is really worth it.

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*** UPDATE 5/24/13:   See my related blog post, March Against Monsanto, which contains a link to a full-length YouTube film describing in much more detail why we should be concerned about GMOs.

 

A “Must Hear” Whole Systems Story January 8, 2012

Yesterday I happened to have the radio on, and caught a show that blew my socks off, a recording of Mike Daisey’s stage performance about a trip he took to China. It’s an excerpt from his one-man play, “The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs.” A self-proclaimed “worshipper in the cult of Mac,” when Daisey gleefully opened up his newest iPhone, he found four photos on it – photos taken in the factory, as a test of the camera. He began to be haunted by these images. It occurred to him that he’d never once given a thought about how his beloved gadgets came into being. So bless his heart, he went to find out.

This is one of the best whole-systems pieces I’ve ever heard. I doubt it would be possible to listen to it and not come away with a deeply expanded awareness of the need to consider the life-cycle of all of our things.

Mike Daisey did fabulous journalism, to begin with; through his detailed, evocative imagery, the listener really feels herself to be there with him, seeing and hearing what he is experiencing. When he interviews a worker whose hands were ruined by the minute repetitive work of creating iPads and then realizes that this man has never actually seen one completed, let alone one powered up and working, I was glued to the radio. The man thought Daisey’s iPad was like magic.

And it is, in a way. I’m incredibly grateful to our technology, from radios on, for allowing me to hear Daisey’s performance done thousands of miles away, and allowing you to read my words about it now.

Daisey’s honesty about the dilemmas this growing awareness poses in his life is refreshing, and it is an issue we all face, whether we think about it or not. If you are reading this on a personal computer, you are complicit, as am I. How best to deal with this reality? On a personal level, should we give our gadgets up and try to live a materially simpler life? Or is the commerce actually helping the people there, as many claim? On a societal level, does the problem simply lie with unscrupulous companies in Shenzhen (a former fishing village, now manufacturing central) trying to make the biggest bucks in the fastest time; shades of the Gold Rush in the American West; boom and bust, and damn the consequences? If so, could it be fixable through stronger governmental oversight of the tech industry and overseas manufacturing? Or is the problem actually rooted more deeply in the west’s rampant overconsumption; in the corporate capitalist industrial growth model itself? All of the above?

I intend to give Mr. Daisey and the Apple Factory to the students in my Ecopsychology in Context course at Naropa this semester as part of their required “reading.” It’s that good.  Be sure to listen to the commentary afterward, too. It’s much dryer, but contains important follow-up journalism regarding Apple’s response that will make you think even more deeply about the issue.

So what can we do? These issues are complex; to begin with, please don’t jump to immediate conclusions about whom to blame. Socioenvironmental issues like this, involving toxins, survival, workers’ rights, economic growth, and desire, are systemic problems. And when we’re talking widespread, multi-faceted processes like this, it’s often mistaken and shallow thinking to point to one minute element that contributes to it. In fact, shifting one little element in a system more often than not leads to unforeseen, unintended consequences that we then have to add to the pile of problems. (Illustrating that will be another long story.)

A middle-ground response for the individual could be to just keep the gadget you have for as long as you can before replacing it. This would help on both ends of its life, the manufacturing end and the discarding end. How about we re-define the “coolness” factor to include long-term sustainability for both planet and people?

 You can hear the piece on NPR’s This American Life website (after 7 pm Sun 1/8/12). It’s episode #454.  There’s a short promo too, so you can see if you’re interested.

Please let me know what you think about these things here in the Comments section!

 

Update 1/16/12:  Apple has responded with a new page on their website, Supplier Responsibility at Apple.

Update 3/3/13 (rather late, but I just found out about this):   NPR has retracted the story since discovering that some of this powerful piece was, sadly, falsified by Mike Daisey.

http://www.thisamericanlife.org/blog/2012/03/retracting-mr-daisey-and-the-apple-factory

http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/460/retraction

I apologize for unintentionally passing on false information. According to my keen-eyed student, Jason Butler, who brought my attention to this, it is to this date the only story that This American Life has ever retracted.

Although now proven to be at least partially fictional, it is still a powerful meditation on some of the systemic effects of global capitalism. To learn more about that, I suggest John Ryan and Alan Thein Durning’s excellent short book Stuff: The Secret Lives of Everyday Things, and the subsequent (easily Googleable) film along the same lines,  The Story of Stuff.