Thursday, October 24, 2013

Feral (Rewilding)

Beneath the pavement in London, archaeologists have found the bones of hippos, elephants, giant deer, giant aurochs, and lions.  The Thames watershed was once a gorgeous, thriving, wild paradise.  In the early Mesolithic, the western seaboard of Europe, from Scotland to Spain, was covered by a magnificent rainforest.  Europe was once a thriving wild paradise.

Evolution created utterly fantastic masterpieces.  The megafauna of the Americas grew to enormous size, in the absence of too-clever two-legged tool addicts.  Ground sloths weighed as much as elephants.  Beavers were the size of bears.  The Argentine roc had a 26-foot wingspan (8 m).  All of them vanished between 15,000 and 10,000 years ago, about the time you-know-who arrived, with their state of the art hunting technology.

On a damp gray dawn, the English writer George Monbiot woke up screaming once again.  He suffers from a chronic spiritual disease that he calls ecological boredom.  Living amidst endless crowds of two-legged strangers can become unbearably unpleasant for sensitive people with minds.  Human souls can only thrive in unmolested wildness (the opposite of England).  He leaped out of bed, packed his things, and moved to the coast of Wales, where there was more grass than concrete.  He hoped that this would exorcise his demons.

They weren’t demons.  Obviously, ecological boredom is a healthy and intelligent response to the fierce madness of twenty-first century life, and it’s curable.  What’s needed to break this curse is a holy ceremony called rewilding.  During five years of country living in Wales, Monbiot wrote Feral, to explain his voyage and vision.  It’s a 500-decibel alarm clock.

Humans were wild animals for millions of years.  In the last few thousand years, we’ve declared war on wild ecosystems, in our whacked out crusade to domesticate everything everywhere, and lock Big Mama Nature in a maximum-security zoo.  Rewilding is about throwing this sick, suicidal process into reverse.

It’s about allowing long extinct woodlands to become healthy thriving forests once again.  It’s about reintroducing the wild beings that have been driven off the land — bear, bison, beavers — a sacred homecoming.  It’s about creating marine reserves so aquatic species have places of refuge from the insane gang rape of industrial fishing.  Importantly, it’s about introducing our children to the living planet of their birth.

Wales was a land of lush forests 2,100 years ago.  Today, it’s largely a mix of sheep pasture and other assorted wastelands.  One day, Monbiot climbed to a hilltop in the Cambrian Mountains, where he could see for miles.  He noted a few distant Sitka spruce tree farms, and a bit of scrubby brush, but otherwise, “across that whole, huge view, there were no trees.  The land had been flayed.  The fur had been peeled off, and every contoured muscle and nub of bone was exposed.”

Some folks now call it the Cambrian Desert, whilst shameless tourism hucksters refer to it as one of the largest wilderness areas in the U.K.  To Monbiot, rural Wales is a heartbreaking sheepwreck, reduced to ecological ruins by the white plague — countless dimwitted furry freaks from Mesopotamia that gobble the vegetation down to the roots, and prevent forest recovery.

One day, Monbiot met a brilliant young sheep rancher, Dafydd Morris-Jones, who had no sympathy for rewilding at all.  His family had been raising sheep on this land for ages.  Every rock in the valley had a name, and his uncle remembered all of them.  Allowing the forest to return would amount to cultural genocide, snuffing out the traditional indigenous way of life, and erasing it forever.

I had great sympathy for Dafydd’s view.  In 1843, my great-grandfather, Richard E. Rees, was born in the parish of Llangurig, Wales — deep in the heart of sheep country.  His mother was a handloom weaver.  They lived down the road from the wool mill in Cwmbelan.  My ancestors survived for many generations by preventing the return of the forest, deer, and boars, by preventing an injured land from healing.  Of course, for the last several thousand years, none of my ancestors had been wild people — they suffered from the tremendous misfortune of having been born in captivity.

Every generation perceives the world of their childhood as the normal state, the ideal.  Many don’t comprehend that the ecosystem was badly damaged long before they were born.  What they accept as normal might give their grandparents nightmares.  Monbiot refers to this shortsightedness as Shifting Baseline Syndrome.  The past is erased by mental blinders.  Each generation adapts to an ongoing pattern of decline.  Humans have an amazing tolerance for crowding, filth, and stress.  The result is the wounded wheezing world you see around you.

Monbiot gushes with excitement when describing the amazing changes that followed the reintroduction of wolves to Yellowstone Park.  They promptly corrected deer overpopulation, which led to forest regeneration, which led to healthier streams, which led to more fish.  When they reduced the coyotes, the result was more rabbits, mice, hawks, weasels, boxes, badgers, eagles, and ravens.  Here is Monbiot enthusiastically discussing this process in a 15 minute TED talk. 

A number of European organizations are promoting rewilding.  Pan Parks has protected 240,000 hectares (593,000 acres), and is working on a million more.  Wild Europe is working to create wildlife corridors across the continent.  Rewilding Europe promotes the reintroduction of missing species (here is a brief video trailer).  Pleistocene Park in Siberia is reintroducing many species in a 160 sq. km. park (62 sq. mi.), which it plans to expand to 600 sq. km. (232 sq. mi.).

In continental Europe, the rewilding movement is building momentum.  Wolves, bears, bison, and beavers have begun the path to recovery.  Not every effort succeeds — Italy reintroduced two male lynx, and the cute couple mysteriously failed to produce offspring.  Britain and Ireland remain out to lunch.  Most of the land is owned by wealthy elites who are obsessed with preserving a “tidy” looking countryside — treeless and profoundly dreary.  They enjoy recreational hunting, and wolves would spoil their fun.

Monbiot delights in goosing every sacred cow along his path, and readers of many varieties are sure to foam at the mouth and mutter naughty obscenities.  For me, Feral had a few zits, but they don’t sink the book.  He leads us to the mountaintop and allows us to view the world from above the haze of assumptions, illusions, and fantasies.  Who are we?  Where is our home?  Where are we going? 

He rubs our noses in the foul messes we’ve made, hoping we’ll learn from our accidents and grow.  He confronts us with big important issues that we’ve avoided for far too long — the yucky stoopid stuff we’re doing for no good reason.  I like that.  This is important.  He recommends intriguing alternatives to stoopid.  It’s about time.

Monbiot, George, Feral — Searching for Enchantment on the Frontiers of Rewilding, Allen Lane, London, 2013.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Across Arctic America

One hundred years ago, the expansion of the white world into the Arctic was disrupting the traditional culture of the Eskimo people.  Into the far north came guns, traders, missionaries, educators, gold miners, and industrial hunting and fishing.  Also, the diseases of civilization slammed the wild people who had no resistance to them.  Eskimos seemed to be getting close to extinction. 

Knud Rasmussen organized a scientific expedition to learn more about the Eskimos before they disappeared forever.  From 1921 to 1924, they traveled by dogsled from Greenland to Siberia, covering about 20,000 miles (32,000 km).  Rasmussen was born in Greenland, and Kalaallisut was the first language he learned.  He was surprised to discover that the Eskimos of Alaska spoke a similar dialect, and told similar stories, despite many centuries with no contact. 

Rasmussen was not an arrogant bigot.  He respected the natives, while also imagining that modern science, religion, and technology was better.  At every opportunity, he sought out the elders, won their trust, and learned their stories, songs, and beliefs.  Rasmussen published ten volumes of notes, and then summarized his grand adventure in Across Arctic America.

I’ve read several books about the Eskimos of Greenland, learning of the endless challenges of Arctic survival.  But the Greenlanders had it easy, compared to the Eskimos of northern Canada who had no access to the sea, and a less dependable food supply.  These inland people had neither blubber nor wood to use for fuel.  They spent the long, terrifically cold winters in unheated huts, dining on frozen meat.  They lived primarily on caribou and salmon.

In the old days, their settlements were located along the caribou migration routes.  Men hunted with bows and arrows, which required extreme patience, waiting for an animal to (maybe) wander within range.  Later, they got guns, which could kill from a greater distance, making it much easier to fill the freezer.  In response, the caribou abandoned their old routes, and went elsewhere.  The hunters starved, and their settlements became Arctic ruins.  While one group starved, another group several miles away might be feasting on abundant meat.

In Eskimo society, when daughters grew up, they married, and joined their husband’s family.  Sons, on the other hand, had obligations to their parents.  Sons were the hunters and fishers, and more sons meant more security.  “It is a general custom that old folk no longer able to provide for themselves commit suicide by hanging.”  Nobody wanted to be a burden on others.

Male infants were usually kept, and most females were killed, except for those who were spoken for.  With the gift of a harpoon or pot, a marriage could be arranged for an infant daughter.  One family had 20 children — ten girls were killed, four sons died of disease, one son drowned, leaving four sons and a daughter.  The mother was happy to have four sons, which would not have been the case if the daughters had been kept.  She had no regrets.  This was normal in their culture.

Unfortunately, when the sons grew up, they discovered a grievous shortage of potential brides.  Polyandry was common (marriages with multiple husbands), but these often generated friction, resulting in an unlucky husband dying violently.  No matter what a group did, overpopulation was impossible, because the supply of food was finite.  Starvation was very common, and there was no shame in cannibalism.

The carrying capacity of the Arctic ecosystem was small, and it varied from month to month.  Each group needed a huge territory.  Warfare was common in some places, even massacres.  Sometimes the expedition came across piles of human bones.  Eskimos fought both Indians and other Eskimos.  It seems to me that the root cause of violence is crowding; humans do not tend to be violent when they have adequate space and food.

Modern consumers, who forage in vast climate controlled shopping centers, might perceive the Eskimo way of life as being unpleasant and undesirable.  But, according to Rasmussen, “they were not only cheerful, but healthy, knowing nothing of any disease beyond the colds that come as a regular epidemic in spring and autumn.”  “A notable feature was their lively good humor and careless, high-spirited manner.”  The women worked very hard, but “they were always happy and contended, with a ready laugh in return for any jest or kindly word.”  Eskimos perceived whites to be uptight and coldly impersonal.

Rasmussen’s book contains many photographs of the wild people he met along the way.  I was spellbound by some of the faces, which were gentle, radiant, and relaxed.  Reading, writing, and arithmetic were unknown to them.  They had no roads, clocks, or understanding of the outside world.  I imagine that the knowledge they possessed was mostly real, practical, and sane — like a deep, clear stream.  My mind feels more like an enormous landfill.

As the expedition got into its homestretch, they passed through gold mining communities, bubbles of prosperity for the lucky ones.  Eskimos were drawn into the cash economy, where they sold handicrafts and acquired sewing machines, kerosene lamps, and cameras.  Hunters were paid high prices for skins, and they hunted “without any consideration for the future or their old age.”  Civilization makes people crazy.

Rasmussen and his two Eskimo companions sailed to Seattle, and then travelled to the skyscraper world of New York City.  The book concludes with an exclamation by Anarulunguaq, his girlfriend for the journey: “Nature is great; but man is greater still.”  Would she have a different opinion today, as man’s great imbalances are destabilizing the Arctic ecosystems, and the rest of the planet, too?

Before sailing from Alaska, Rasmussen spent a few hours with an angakoq (shaman) named Najagneq.  He spoke about the  great spirit called Sila.  When Sila is happy, life is good.  But when men abuse life, and feel no reverence for their daily food, Sila communicates to man “by storm and snow and rain and the fury of the sea; all the forces of nature that men fear.” 

Rasmussen, Knud, Across Arctic America — Narrative of the Fifth Thule Expedition, University of Alaska Press, Fairbanks, 1999.  [Originally 1927]

Thursday, October 10, 2013

A Druid Perspective

John Michael Greer is a writer, philosopher, bookworm, mage, and Grand Archdruid.  He’s brainy, articulate, and a notorious outside-the-box thinker (see his interview on PeakMoment.TV).  On some issues, my conclusions are different from his, but he’s a stimulating lad.  I’m just going to jabber a bit about a few of the ideas presented on his blog.

For many years, I struggled to find a solution to the Earth Crisis.  I learned a lot along the way, but was never able to discover a silver bullet cure.  I failed because I didn’t comprehend the vital difference between problems and predicaments.  A problem is something that can be eliminated by a solution — if my bicycle falls over, the solution is to lift it back up — the problem ends.  A predicament is something that has no solution, like the Earth Crisis.  No matter what we do, we can’t make it go away.  All we can do is experiment with various responses, and some may be more helpful than others.

When I was a schoolboy, there was an imaginary line that divided the world.  On one side was capitalism (good), on the other was communism (evil).  Today, it’s democracy (good) and terrorism (evil).  Are you a liberal or a conservative?  Are you saved or damned?  Binary thinking limits perception to just two possible variables: A or B, where A is the opposite of B.  Devious creeps are famous for using binaries to confuse and manipulate the unclever.  “Gosh, if I’m not A, then I must be B.”  Whoa boy!  What about C, D, E, and F?  In his classes for druid cadets, Greer would have them find the numerous binaries in the daily paper and identify the options not mentioned.  Once you grasp this, binaries become easy to see and step around.

One of Greer’s job titles is mage (synonyms: conjurer, sorcerer, wizard, etc.).  It’s an art with old roots.  Magic cannot fix the Earth Crisis predicament, but it can influence how we think and behave — for better or worse.  Dion Fortune, a venerable magician, once defined magic as “the art and science of causing change in consciousness in accordance with will.”  Will (desire) is essential.  Most consumers lack the will to abandon their quest for excess, so efforts to change their consciousness will fail.  According to Greer, magic “can be seen as the use of psychologically potent symbolism to influence consciousness and, through consciousness, the universe as we experience it.”

A popular tool for magical work is incantations.  For example, “drill, baby, drill!” encourages infantile fantasies.  Incantations can also be used for good.  During World War II, Rosie the Riveter posters had this incantation: “We can do it!  This empowered women to leave home and work in factories to help the cause.  Hitler was a master of dark incantations.  Magic without ethics is toxic.

“We are passing from an age of unparalleled abundance to an age of scarcity, economic contraction, and environmental payback,” says Greer.  This is a predicament, because neither magic nor science is capable of providing us with infinite quantities of cheap, environmentally harmless resources.  It is possible for magic to change our consciousness, but first we must wrap our heads around the notion that the sun is setting on the age of reckless excess.  We must be willing to hurl our illusions overboard, and open our minds to exploring new realms of thinking, but few are willing to do this.  No will, no magic.

Many are lost in a trance.  The myth of progress bombards us with a dodgy incantation: “the future will be better.”  Almost none of our ancestors lived in an era when they anticipated a brighter tomorrow.  They just played the cards that life dealt them, to the best of their ability, without daffy daydreams. 

Modern folks, suffering from vivid hallucinations of utopia just around the next corner, are hobbled by irrational expectations.  For protection against this incantation, Greer gives us the counter spell:  “There is no brighter future ahead.”  This spell provides grounding and strength to those having the will to resist the trance, but it’s meaningless to the legions of the lost. 

The collective imagination of a society shapes its culture, which is based on an assortment of narratives, or stories.  Most folks whine when he calls them myths, but that’s what they are.  The myths of our culture are like water to a fish.  Most of us have blind faith in the myth of progress, for example.  We are the greatest.  Better times are coming.  More is better.  In an era of calamitous change, the old myths are wheezing and sputtering, and the new ones remain embryonic.  This leads to confusion, and cripples our ability to reason.  Greer refers to this as cultural senility.

Greer has some issues with the activist community.  Folks who protest climate change “show no signs of accepting the limits that they hope to impose on others.”  They typically demand “that somebody else do something.”  Also, organizations tend to oppose the bad, rather than envision the good and pursue it.  Greer believes that the path to healing must include wrapping our minds around L.E.S.S. (less energy, stuff, and stimulation).

A powerful tool for transformation is mindful contemplation.  “What you contemplate, you imitate,” says Greer.  If I contemplate recreational shopping, and focus on all the cool stuff I want, I’m likely to wander away to the mall.  Or I could contemplate the satisfaction that would result from living less wastefully.  I could contemplate the vital difference between wants and needs, and redefine my priorities.  I could contemplate the responsibilities involved in living an honorable life.

Modern societies (“magician states”) manipulate the minds of the masses.  Popular culture conjures “mass thaumaturgy” (a powerful spell), which induces a trance state in many people, who seem to be sleepwalking.  The trance weakens their mental powers, making them easier to manipulate.  The air is always thick with trance-inducing incantations trying to penetrate your mind.  Remaining free of the trance requires clear thinking and a strong mind.  Find paths that distance you from the fog of dark incantations.  Deliberately reduce your exposure to them.

 (1) Completely disconnect from popular culture inputs, “your television will do you more good at the bottom of a dumpster than it will sitting in your living room.”  It’s a fire hose of garbage, and it hobbles the mind.  Stop this toxic habit right now, cold turkey, not gradually.  This will free up many hours for pursuits that enrich your journey.

(2) It’s very easy to receive popular culture incantations second hand, from people who live in the trance, whose minds seem to consist of little more than mass media sound bites.  You don’t need to live in a cave, but it is wise to be mindful about who you hang out with.  Don’t let the zombies bring you down.

(3) Replace the garbage inputs “with something worth reading, watching, hearing, or doing.”  Seek out living green oases in the desert of the collective consciousness.  Seek what helps you grow.

Stepping outside of the mass mind can provide a thrilling sense of liberation, like waking up from a nightmare.  It reveals new and better paths.  It’s good for you.

Techno-hint:  Google allows you to restrict a search to the contents of a single website.  For example, to search all of Greer’s blogs for “Apollo,” type this command in the Google search field:

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

The Ainu Saga

Once upon a time, I was flipping through an encyclopedia of hunter-gatherers, and came to the Ainu section, the wild people of Japan.  There was a photo of a longhaired man, with a long beard, standing knee deep in a stream, a fish hanging from his spear.  I was immediately fascinated.  The image did not blend in with my other images of Japan — images of highly efficient people who spend their stressful lives indoors, as we do.  The wild man struck an ancestral chord — many of my wild European ancestors were salmon people, too.  I had to learn more.

Japan is not an archaeologist’s paradise, because the climate is wet and the soil is acidic, so much of the evidence from the past has been erased (annual rainfall is up to 120 inches / 300 cm).  No one knows when humans arrived in Japan, but it was not less than 32,000 years ago.  During the ice ages, sea levels were sometimes 500 feet (152 m) lower than today, and there were periods when land bridges connected Japan to Korea and mainland Russia.  All the main islands of Japan were also connected.

In Paleolithic times, Japan was home to mammoths, Yabe giant deer, Naumann elephants, giant elk, brown bears, steppe bison, wild boars, Siberian lions, aurochs, wolves, tigers, and horses.  This also did not fit into my image of Japan, because it was so incredibly wild, pure, and powerful.  Our modern world is so empty.  Most of these large animals vanished between 15,000 and 10,000 years ago, and humans played a role in this, as did a changing climate.

The standard folk history declares that the Japanese were the original human inhabitants of this land, but modern research strongly indicates that they didn’t arrive until maybe 400 B.C.  The Japanese seem to be closely related to the Koreans, but this notion is extremely offensive to both nations, because of centuries of fierce mutual loathing.  The immigrants from the mainland got rolling on the island of Kyushu, in southern Japan (close to Korea), in what is called the Yayoi period, which spanned from 300 B.C. to A.D. 300. 

When the Yayoi colonists arrived, Japan was already inhabited by the indigenous Jōmon hunter-gatherers.  The Jōmon period spanned from 12,000 B.C. to 300 B.C.  The analysis of DNA and skull shapes indicates that the Jōmon people were more closely related to the Ainu than the Japanese.  They lived in a land blessed with an abundance of wild foods, a paradise for hunter-gatherers.  This enabled them to live in permanent villages, in population densities that were unusually high for hunting people.  They may have engaged in horticulture on a small scale, and they probably planted useful trees.  They had no livestock, chiefs, or classes.

The Yayoi colonists were poor mainland farmers moving into a land of prosperous hunter-gatherers.  Japan was also a farmer’s paradise.  Rain was abundant during the summer growing season, which led to plant productivity that was well above average.  Some locales may have planted two crops per year.  In the wake of 12,000 years of Jōmon stability, the invasion of Yayoi farmers sparked an era of accelerated ecological disruption, which continues to this day.

The colonists imported the Iron Age to Japan.  They brought full-scale wet-rice agriculture and full-scale warfare (moats, watchtowers, metal weapons, and abundant battle casualties).  They brought domesticated pigs, wheel-thrown stoneware, and hierarchical society.  Rapid population growth spurred ongoing expansion into the lands of the wild folks.  From their start on the southern island of Kyushu, they spread northward, onto the main island of Honshu. 

It is likely that the ancestors of the Ainu once occupied all the islands of Japan.  Many locations have place names that are Ainu, including Mount Fuji (Fuji means fire goddess).  The Ainu language has no relationship with any other language.  In their appearance, the Ainu resemble Caucasians, but their genes are Asian.  The men have long beards, and “the most profuse body hair of any people,” according to Jared Diamond.

Over the centuries, the rice farmers spread northward, eventually occupying much of the main island of Honshu.  Hokkaido and northern Honshu remained Ainu turf for a long time, because the climate was not ideal for rice, and invaders were clearly unwelcome.  The Ainu heroically resisted ongoing Japanese expansion, fighting major battles in 1457, 1669, and 1789.  They lost all three, and eventually fell under Japanese control.

Meanwhile, the Portuguese arrived in 1543, bringing with them guns, missionaries, and smallpox.  The visitors were expelled in 1639, having worn out their welcome.  Missionaries were either killed or deported.  Their 300,000 converts had to choose between renouncing their faith or death.  All guns were rounded up, melted down, and recycled into a huge statue of Buddha.

Japanese farmers acquired two new exotic crops, potatoes and sweet potatoes, both highly productive.  A population explosion soon followed.  By 1720, Tokyo was the biggest city in the world.  To feed the growing mob, efforts were increased to acquire more food from the Ainu regions, via unsustainable commercial hunting and fishing.

Eventually, the Ainu became dependent on the trading posts for their survival.  Acquiring goods, primarily rice and sake, required them to hunt and fish at levels well beyond traditional subsistence levels.  At the same time, diseases like smallpox, measles, cholera, and tuberculosis took a devastating toll.  By the time of the Meiji Restoration in 1868, the Ainu were powerless to oppose Japanese expansion.  The northern island of Hokkaido, the center of the Ainu world, was annexed, and their lands were redistributed to Japanese settlers.

On Hokkaido, the hunter-gatherer way of life survived until the nineteenth century.  Missionary John Batchelor arrived there in 1877, and some of his Ainu friends still lived in the traditional manner.  In the woods, they hunted bear, deer, raccoons, foxes, and hares.  Along the coast were herring, cod, sardines, mackerel, sole, plaice, sharks, swordfish, black fish, bonito, whales, seals, walruses, porpoises, large crabs, shellfish, and seaweed.  The streams provided abundant salmon, pike, mud trout, and perch.  On a small scale, they grew sorghum, millet, beans, barley, and some vegetables.  Old-timers remembered the abundance of wildlife in the days of yesteryear, but this wealth was unknown to the younger folks.

The Ainu seemed to be close to extinction, just a few hundred survived.  Batchelor wrote a book, to preserve the memory of them.  He lamented, “Whenever I think of the quiet, free, un-anxious life they lived up there and compare that time with the present I cannot help sighing.  But those halcyon days departed when the tax collector and modern civilization came in.  I quite enjoyed seeing their life of quiet security and simplicity, alas, now gone for ever.”

The Hokkaido Aborigine Protection Act was passed in 1899.  The Ainu were forced to speak Japanese, take Japanese names, abandon ancient cultural practices, and become farmers.  The Japanese oppressed and exploited them.  By 1945, the Ainu language was nearly extinct.  Officially, in 1984, there were about 25,000 Ainu in Japan, but the actual number was probably closer to 200,000.  Many hid their identity to avoid discrimination.  There are few full-blooded Ainu today, but many of mixed blood.

In 1992, the Ainu were officially recognized as indigenous people by the United Nations.  At that time, the Japanese government still did not recognize their existence.  In 2008, the government finally recognized them as “an indigenous people who have their own language, religion, and culture.”

In 1853, the American Commodore Perry sailed into Tokyo, bringing an end to 200 years of isolation and self-sufficiency.  By 1914, Japan had become a bustling industrial nation.  Between 1910 and 2010, the population of Japan exploded from 51 million to 128 million. 

Japan is the world’s third biggest producer of nuclear energy.  It has 50 reactors, of which six are at Fukushima.  All will need to be safely decommissioned at some point in time, at great expense, to avoid future horrors, hopefully.

According to the CIA World Factbook, Japan is the world’s second largest importer of natural gas, and the world’s third largest importer of crude oil.  There will come a day when the supply of fossil energy becomes far more expensive and unreliable, and this will close the curtains on industrial Japan.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Japan is the world’s third largest importer of agricultural products.  Based on total calories consumed, Japan imports about 60 percent of its food each year.  In the coming decades, feeding the people will be a growing challenge.

The Ainu story is just one more rerun of farmers stomping wild people.  On the bright side, they were lucky to enjoy a beautiful existence for thousands of years, as our wild ancestors once did.  The Japanese story is just one more rerun of becoming addicted to an unsustainable habit, leading to reckless overshoot, zooming down the fast lane to helter-skelter.  Circle the progress in this picture.  Following the collapse of the global civilization, could we turn off the reruns?  Could we learn some vital lessons from our mistakes?  Could we envision a way of life that works?

Batchelor, John, Ainu Life and Lore, Kyobunkwan, Tokyo, 1926.

Diamond, Jared, “Japanese Roots,” Discover Magazine Vol.  19 No.  6 (June 1998).

Fackler, Martin, “Japanese Roots Surprisingly Shallow,” The Japan Times, August 31, 1999.

Hudson, Mark, “Japanese Beginnings,” A Companion to Japanese History, edited by William M.  Tsutsui, Wiley-Blackwell, Chichester, U.K., 2009.

Kambayashi, Takehiko, “Japan's Ainu Hope New Identity Leads To More Rights,” The Christian Science Monitor, June 9, 2008. 

Lee, Richard B., and Daly, Richard, eds., The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Hunters and Gatherers, Cambridge University Press, New York, 1999.

Starr, Frederick, The Ainu Group at the Saint Louis Exposition, The Open Court Publishing Company, Chicago, 1904.  [Free download from Google Books, well illustrated.]

The Ainu: A people, at Last,” The Economist, July 12, 2008.

Walker, Brett L., The Conquest of Ainu Lands — Ecology and Culture in Japanese Expansion 1590-1800, University of California Press, Berkeley, 2001.