“To heal is to make whole. This applies as well to the ‘industries’ of landscapes: agriculture, forestry & mining. Once they have been industrialised, those enterprises no longer recognise landscapes as wholes, let alone as homes for people and other creatures. They regard landscapes as sources of extractable products. They have ‘efficiently’ shed any other concern or interest.”
Wendell Berry. Our Only World p6
This quote by Wendell Berry above sums up why I do not like the name (and explicit framing) of our renamed public department ‘Ministry of Primary Industries‘. It disturbs me when the technocrats, especially those who see the world through the myopic lens of dollars and markets alone, have the power to fundamentally shift from a metaphor of culture – agriculture, silviculture, apiculture, horticulture, viticulture, aquaculture – to a metaphor of ‘industry’.
And this is the point that the industrialists and narrow technocrats don’t get. They also lose in this new industrial framing. They do not see that a woodland, a wetland, a tall pastoral ley, a soil that sings within a pastoral setting does many things that not only provide for people and the landscape wonders with which we share our home, but also are better at the hard business considerations of cost savings, input reductions, risk reduction, productivity (output per input) and profit. They think that their ‘efficiencies’ and focus on mechanical homogeneity and scale makes our world better when it does the very opposite.
And so they fail to realise the opportunity, and continue adding more costs and struggles to the people within their land, ever sicker.
You cannot heal a place by industrialising. But you can create Mordor, where inevitably the people ourselves are reduced to meaningless ‘resource’, ‘waste’ and ‘tradeoff’. That way leads to work camps and death.
The heart of any healing perspective is to see through the eyes of culture and the fullness of landscape, never industry.
Chris Perley is an affiliated researcher at Otago University’s Centre for Sustainability with a governance, research, management and policy background in provincial economies, rural sociology and land use strategy.
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