Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Tue, Mar 31, 2009 at 6:49 PM
sent by Lakshmi Luthra

A farm, like a mine, is a place where our metabolic relationship to nature becomes visible. In a city, in a factory, it is possible to imagine that what surrounds us is a product of human ingenuity alone, what Susan Buck-Morss calls second nature, the world of industrial production. Sky scrapers, computers, and alarm clocks don't wear their natural provenance on their sleeves! In this sense we might see the farm as a site where the reality of our relationship to nature asserts itself. However, as we've seen over and over again this connection to nature, the way value is extracted from nature, destabilizes the opposition between industry and nature. Criticism of genetically modified foods positioned genetic modification as a crime against nature, Frankenstein being a favorite comparison ( for example).
Whatever the problems with genetic modification it seems clear that from the beginning nature is something produced through its relationship to human activity, even (or perhaps especially) when it's a nature reserve (or safari).
So the task would be to trace how historically the natural and the industrial have shaped each other. This is the territory where things like suicide seeds and lemon/avocado/tangerine trees become understandable.
I keep thinking that there is also a role for fantasy or play in finding different ways of understanding our relationship to nature.Perhaps something like Barthe's notion of second order myths.
I think of Charles Fourier's fantastic insistence on nature's abundance in the face of Thomas Malthus' narrative of lack.

Or to take a more contemporary example



Big Rock Candy Mountain

One evening as the sun went down and the jungle fire was burning
Down the track came a hobo hiking and he said boys I'm not turning
I'm headin for a land that's far away beside the crystal fountains
So come with me we'll go and see the Big Rock Candy Mountains

In the Big Rock Candy Mountains there's a land that's fair and bright
Where the handouts grow on bushes and you sleep out every night
Where the boxcars are all empty and the sun shines every day
On the birds and the bees and the cigarette trees
Where the lemonade springs where the bluebird sings
In the Big Rock Candy Mountains

In the Big Rock Candy Mountains all the cops have wooden legs
And the bulldogs all have rubber teeth and the hens lay soft boiled eggs
The farmer's trees are full of fruit and the barns are full of hay
Oh, I'm bound to go where there ain't no snow
Where the rain don't fall and the wind don't blow
In the Big Rock Candy Mountains

In the Big Rock Candy Mountains you never change your socks
And the little streams of alcohol come a-trickling down the rocks
The brakemen have to tip their hats and the railroad bulls are blind
There's a lake of stew and of whiskey too
You can paddle all around 'em in a big canoe
In the Big Rock Candy Mountains

In the Big Rock Candy Mountains the jails are made of tin
And you can walk right out again as soon as you are in
There ain't no short handled shovels, no axes saws or picks
I'm a goin to stay where you sleep all day
Where they hung the jerk that invented work
In the Big Rock Candy Mountains

See you all tomorrow!

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