Back to the Land


Letting land rest as an act of love, independence and Gaia worship

By Dr. Glen Barry

July 1, 2004

Gaia is the global ecosystem in total and it is alive, with the biospheremaintaining conditions conducive for life. Cataclysmic destruction to the Earth's land ecosystems threatens these processes.

They are not making much new land, and much of what exists is in a poor state. Millennia of poor land management practices which have intensified in the past few centuries have degraded or even made uninhabitable huge swathes of land. Gaia is not dead yet - but she is hemorrhaging badly.

If land is to continue providing humans their habitat, a profound shift is needed in how we relate to land and all nature. We must learn to live with and not on the land, as productive and symbiotic member of the land's natural community. Our and Gaia's salvation lies in letting damaged lands rest and wild lands be.

This essay will focus on the land imperative - the urgent need to reduce humanity's burden upon the land. I will recommend that you find a piece of land to love and become its long term custodian. The task of our time is to wrest a small piece of the biosphere from the global economic growth machine, protecting and restoring land in a manner that maximizes its life-giving potential.

A disciple of Gaia may choose to devote their being to protection of the wild end of the spectrum - working as an advocate for large, natural ecosystems. Alternatively one may work to temper the excesses of urban industry - bringing smart growth, green spaces and urban habitat to our cities. Or one may focus on sustainably living with the Earth on the pastoral lands that lie in between. Each is a highly worthy activity that would provide the basis for a satisfying life of service to Gaia and her humanity.

In my own modest effort to live an ecologically righteous life, I spent over a decade organizing for the protection of Papua New Guinea's rainforests. I tried many avenues to agitate for their continued existence - ranging from landowner awareness to propaganda to protests to working for the World Bank.

That whole period of my life proved to be a mixture of extreme joy and utter despair. But I can say with pride that as I "handed off" the task to others that the rainforests had largely been protected on my watch. I am convinced that my efforts in conjunction with others lead to more - perhaps much more - intact PNG rainforests today than would otherwise be the case.

I exhort you to find a special wild place to love and defend. There are innumerable large natural landscapes and smaller biodiverse remnants that need stewards. The best conservation in the world is being done by a handful of dedicated people around a kitchen table with the beverage of their choice, working to establish biotic preserves as no go zones for industry.

Organize, educate and agitate. Begin by learning about the place, organizing information, and using it creatively to keep wild lands wild.

You may diversify into community based ecologically sustainable development, radical protest to inform and obstruct, related social struggles and/or seeking to broaden the movement including identifying your successor(s).

Further, in making a call to get back to the land, I wish to emphasize the need to rewild the pastoral portion of the natural spectrum. In the countryside - not city or wilderness but somewhere in between - there exists much potential to achieve land sustainability, while pursuing self-sufficiency and personal ecological sustainability.

Much of the world's countryside has been over managed - as industrial farming and resource extraction have caused much diminishment. Yet much that is natural remains and there exists great potential to assist fragmented nature to expand and reconnect. In areas where land is managed as gardens, there is great potential to create agricultural ecosystems that are resilient, stable and sustainable, and which are integrated with natural ecosystems.

On my small piece of land in northern Wisconsin I have begun to work to liberate seven acres from the megalomaniacal American marketplace. I was raised there by parents that had gone back to the land to homestead. I grew up raising animals and growing a large garden, and couldn't wait to leave for the city as I came of age. Twenty years later to the day I am back.

The vision for these old farm fields is of a self-sufficient organic ecologically sustainable homestead. This will take time and hard work.

An initial focus is ecological restoration of woodland - hundreds of trees went in this year. Given the strength, I plan to expand into permaculture and homesteading, integrating ecological restoration with sustainably producing my family's sustenance. Appropriate technologies such as the Internet allow me to continue my activism on behalf of Gaia while living with and restoring particular land.

As the industrial economy bursts, land will provide a refuge from ecological and social collapse. Those that are connected to land will have a better time of it. Only autonomous collectives of dark greens are likely to provide know how and vision to pursue post-industrial livelihoods and conservation rehabilitation of the natural world.

From green seeds, landed communities of hope that are just, equitable and sustainable will spring forth.

The task of our time is to protect what land remains, restore what has been ripped asunder, and find a new way to live as a member of the land community. Land gives you something you can not buy - life. Gaia - the sum of all Earthly life - will be maintained one piece of land at a time.


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Juli 2004

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