Green Communities

Musings from the midden and other worthy places: remote examples.

A year or so ago my wife and I were in Kingston having a small gluten free lunch. As we sat and enjoyed our food three ladies sat down at the table beside us and proceeded to talk about I cannot remember what until the subject of mosquitoes came up, a subject near and dear to Canadians. I was listening out one side and exchanging conversation with my wife. I don’t want to suggest I am perfect, far from it. However, what I heard sent chills down my back and just this morning as I thought about that conversation I began to wonder if there are others out there who do the same thing.

This lady lived in a rural setting and apparently there was a pond near their house and being Canada the pond had mosquitoes. She did not like mosquitoes and really who does. So, she organized to kill them off by poisoning the pond. Now I do not know what she used other than it must have been some kind of pesticide concoction and of course I have no specific knowledge of what happened to the life in the pond. I was amazed. I’ll bet she enjoyed seeing swallows flying about or maybe she didn’t like nature at all which begs the question why was she on a rural property in the first place. I hope her well was not fed by the pond. “Silent Spring” indeed.

Quite frequently I listen to conversations on the radio about a variety of subjects. Not all of course, but quite a few directly or indirectly relate to the subject of remoteness.  The other day I was listening to a conversation about the composition of and life in soil. Soil is more than just sands, clays, moisture and various minerals. Healthy soil is teaming with life in astonishingly large amounts and yet it is vulnerable. By treating it well, feeding it appropriately, caring for it, soil will support the plants we want and need to grow. Treat it poorly and it will degrade quickly resulting in more vulnerable crops requiring more hi-tech input to grow crops. The more hi-tech we employ the further away from soil we get.

I have concerns about the size and location of our schools. Previously I have written about economies of scale and believe our schools should not be organized in that way, in particular for the very young students and their communities. Rather, for little people the schools should be small and intimate and located to be within easy walking distance of their homes and families. The larger the school the more centralized it becomes within a larger catchment area and consequently requires bussing. Our sons attended a small school in Scotland with about 30 students where the atmosphere was familial in character. There was lots of age mixing and opportunities to get out and explore. The teachers were able to keep a better handle on any problems that might arise and special teaching requirements were provided by visiting teachers such as in art and music. For them it was a wonderful start in education.

Walking and cycling are two other ways of being more proximate to our surroundings. Every time one steps into a car our senses are muffled so that we are divorced from our surroundings to a much greater extent than when we walk and cycle. Walking and cycling allows us to be connected to be more engaged with the environment. Over this winter so far I have made numerous trips to our barn taking hot stones for the water box to prevent the water from freezing. I do this during the day and late at night, about three short trips every day. The walks are wonderful and at night the moon and stars are incredibly beautiful. A drive in a car would prevent the experience from happening.

To illustrate what I am talking about, here is a little mind or indeed practical experiment you can do to get a feel for growing remoteness. Imagine having a nude hug with someone. It is quite an intimate, sensual and proximate experience. Now add clothing and hug again. The change is remarkable and results from a thin layer of material. The use of some senses has been eliminated. As we introduce more buffer, remoteness grows. Now step apart three feet, then across a room, go to separate rooms, take up positions at the other end of a field, talk on a phone, write a letter by hand, and email over computers. As you introduce more buffering take note of your feelings, your level of satisfaction and your sense of connectedness. Now apply your experiment to every day life. Identify the proximate and remote moments you experience and then try to reduce the remote situations. Do it over time and consciously note how you feel with the changes.

There is a saying, “Information rich and knowledge poor”. Even though we may be acquiring more and more bits of information, the information is out of our intimate context making real understanding more remote and unlikely. We need to reverse this trend.

I am Steve Tubb