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Excerpt from Dreams

Pop Quiz (p. 157)

From chapter "Progress"

Let’s try our own little pop quiz.

The category is geography, the study of the earth and those who live on the earth. On whose land do you live? I don’t mean who owns the mortgage, that piece of paper we all agree to believe means ownership (which we all agree to believe means you have the right to destroy it). I mean, whose blood has mixed with the soil for generation after generation, going back thousands of years? Who are the indigenous humans on whose land you live? And how was this land taken from them? Where is the nearest massacre site? Where is the nearest sacred site? How did they live where you now live, and what was the land like before the civilized took it? What was their name for the place?

Once again, on whose land do you live? This time I don’t mean the human owners, but instead those nonhuman others who are native to that land, whose land it is, whose blood and bones and bark and leaves and skin and sinew and spores are the soil. Name ten species of plants on whose land you live, that is, whose land was taken from them by those who want to make the whole world (the whole universe) jump through hoops on command. Now do the same with animals, fungi, and so on.

Next question: If you couldn’t go to a grocery store or restaurant for food, could you right now find, catch, kill, and clean a rabbit or some other creature (or plant) for dinner? Can you track an animal through a forest? Can you understand the stories told by broken sticks, bird calls (or silence), or bent grass? Another question: where is the nearest stream where you could get water not contaminated by carcinogens? Okay, I’m sorry. That was a trick question: there aren’t any. The cult of the scientific, materialist, instrumentalist, mechanistic, managerial perspective has contaminated every stream with carcinogens.

Next category: astrology. Without looking on a calendar or on the Internet, when is the next new moon? Last night, what was the temporal relationship between moonrise and sunset? These last few nights, where was Jupiter in relation to the moon? Can you navigate by the stars? Can the stars help you find your way home?

Medicine: Where can you find turkey tails – hint: not on turkeys – and how could they help you? What local plants could help you and/or your partner to not conceive, or could act as abortifacients? Can you answer these questions?

Do you see the thread that ties these questions together? These questions all have to do with direct personal, experiential, intimate knowledge of the land with whom one can and should (and does, even if one does not acknowledge it) have a relationship. That knowledge, which used to be held by many indigenous and rural peoples, has been systematically devalued and destroyed by this culture, as has the land itself, and the wild humans and nonhumans who call the land their home. This devaluation and destruction has increasingly abstracted us from our own selves, our own experience, and the land who is our source of nourishment, our source of knowledge, our source of identity, the source of our very lives. And it has made us, as I have explored in book after book, increasingly dependent upon distant powers. If I can catch and clean my own dinner, why would I get a job?

Let me ask you this: when this current industrial system collapses – and this collapse has of course already begun – would you rather know the answers to abstract geographical questions, or would you rather know the land where you live? When it all comes down, would you rather know the capital of Mongolia, or would you rather know where to find food, and how to find your way home, and what the land can give you to help you become healthy, and perhaps even more important, what you can give back to the land to help it heal?