Monday, November 29, 2010

Mexican wolf recovery: a classic hegemonic struggle?

Hegemony is defined as the ascendancy or domination of one power or state over another. It's often political, but there are cultural, religious, and monetary hegemonic forms articulated in theoretical literature. Here in the western United States we have the cultural hegemony of the welfare ranchers: having obtained power through federal hand-outs of Native American land, and maintained power by thus far retaining control of the western land base and the various federal agencies, that power is now being successfully challenged by common ecological sense. And, boy, does it piss those cowboys off!

So, take the case of the Mexican gray wolf: having been exterminated once because of livestock's basic and general incompatibility with the natural elements of the southwest, the species was reintroduced in the largest wilderness area in the lower 48 states, an area that is 96 percent public land and 98 percent unoccupied. The livestock industry has opposed this recovery at every step because it a) threatens their ultimate power over the landscape by being less dominant than the Endangered Species Act, and b) gives them another chance to whine for federal dollars while simultaneously pretending to be rugged individualists. [Ed: we're generally opposed to whining here at DL]

And then, along comes this opinion piece from the Salt Lake City Tribune suggesting that if ranchers can't make peace with the lobo, then the lobo cannot be recovered. the battle between our deep-seated fears and our hopes, the wolves bear the greatest burden. There is no new narrative of coexistence, of respect for all creatures on the land. We seem stuck in the stories of the old days, when wolves were the enemy that must be eliminated.

Until we change that perception, wolves in the Southwest won’t have a prayer.

Yeah, well, you know what? Fuck that. Let's change the perception that ranchers have any say in the matter instead. Let's let the new power- the power of the majority of voters who want wolves back on the landscape (democracy) and the power of ecological common sense (that predators are important- duh!) be the new hegemonic force. People can't make a living with their cows wandering around in wolf country? Then take a buy-out. Seriously. It isn't rocket surgery how this could work. It's just that opinion writers, academics, bloggers, and even some environmental groups can't seem to imagine a cultural revolution. They are stuck in the old narrative, the old power structure, thinking that we need to adapt to that.

No, sir. We do not.

And moreover, we must not. We need to overthrow the old mindset and power relations that have subjugated the Earth and oppressed its inhabitants to the detriment of us all. The cowboy culture of the American West is just one example. There are many, and each one of them spells doom for native species, native habitats, and ultimately, for humans, too.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Quote from "River of Empire" by Donald Worster

Book review forthcoming, but this little gem for now:
If history teaches us anything unequivocally about empires, it is that they sooner or later begin to falter. The illusions on which they are constructed eventually begin to lose their hold over the minds of people. Contradictions begin to mount, legitimacy to crack and flake away. The unanticipated social and ecological consequences of empire become increasingly unmanageable, just as they always have, and Leviathan starts to wobble, clutching more and more frantically to panaceas......

For all its seeming motion toward some grander destiny, nature is mainly a set of cycles, a tireless repetition of old ideas. ... History is a kind of river too, returning over and over to beginnings, completing cycles, if one stands and watches long enough. How long is hard to be precise about; the time required to complete the cycle of empire cannot be predicted with any confidence. But nothing is more certain in the modern West than that the next stage after empire will be decline.
Put that in your pipe and smoke it.