In Abundant Earth, Eileen Crist not only documents the rising tide of biodiversity loss, but also lays out the drivers of this wholesale destruction and how we can push past them. Looking beyond the familiar litany of causes—a large and growing human population, rising livestock numbers, expanding economies and international trade, and spreading infrastructures and incursions upon wildlands—she asks the key question: if we know human expansionism is to blame for this ecological crisis, why are we not taking the needed steps to halt our expansionism?
Crist argues that to do so would require a two-pronged approach. Scaling down calls upon us to lower the global human population while working within a human-rights framework, to deindustrialize food production, and to localize economies and contract global trade. Pulling back calls upon us to free, restore, reconnect, and rewild vast terrestrial and marine ecosystems. However, the pervasive worldview of human supremacy—the conviction that humans are superior to all other life-forms and entitled to use these life-forms and their habitats—normalizes and promotes humanity’s ongoing expansion, undermining our ability to enact these linked strategies and preempt the mounting suffering and dislocation of both humans and nonhumans.
Abundant Earth urges us to confront the reality that humanity will not advance by entrenching its domination over the biosphere. On the contrary, we will stagnate in the identity of nature-colonizer and decline into conflict as we vie for natural resources. Instead, we must chart another course, choosing to live in fellowship within the vibrant ecologies of our wild and domestic cohorts, and enfolding human inhabitation within the rich expanse of a biodiverse, living planet.
The domestication of plants and animals is central to the familiar and now outdated story of civilization's emergence. Intertwined with colonialism and imperial expansion, the domestication narrative has informed and justified dominant and often destructive practices. Contending that domestication retains considerable value as an analytical tool, the contributors to Domestication Gone Wild reengage the concept by highlighting sites and forms of domestication occurring in unexpected and marginal sites, from Norwegian fjords and Philippine villages to British falconry cages and South African colonial townships. Challenging idioms of animal husbandry as human mastery and progress, the contributors push beyond the boundaries of farms, fences, and cages to explore how situated relations with animals and plants are linked to the politics of human difference—and, conversely, how politics are intertwined with plant and animal life. Ultimately, this volume promotes a novel, decolonizing concept of domestication that radically revises its Euro- and anthropocentric narrative.
Contributors. Inger Anneberg, Natasha Fijn, Rune Flikke, Frida Hastrup, Marianne Elisabeth Lien, Knut G. Nustad, Sara Asu Schroer, Heather Anne Swanson, Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing, Mette Vaarst, Gro B. Ween, Jon Henrik Ziegler Remme
Copublished with the Utah State Historical Society. Affiliated with the Utah Division of State History, Utah Department of Heritage & Arts.
Throughout prehistory and history, junipers have influenced ecosystems, cultures, mythologies, economics, politics, and environmental controversies. In terms of their effects on human lives the juniper may be the most significant tree in the interior West. Interwoven explores these interconnecting aspects of junipers. Ghost beads, biotic communities, gin, tree masticators, Puebloan diapers, charcoal, folklore, historic explorers, spiral grain, tree life cycles, spirituality, packrat middens, climate changes, wildfire, ranching, wilderness, and land management policies are among the many different threads the book follows. These and other topics shed light on a fascinating organism, but the book is more than a compilation of facts. At once a scientific, experiential, historical, and metaphorical walk among junipers and their interrelationships, Interwoven may change readers’ experiences with these trees and the natural world.
Finalist for the Utah State Historical Society Best Book Award.
Finalist for the 2019 ASLE Book Award for excellence in ecocriticism and environmental creative writing.
Named a “notable book” by the prize committee of the 2018 Sigurd F. Olson Nature Writing Award.
Lessons from Plants
Beronda L. Montgomery Harvard University Press, 2021 Library of Congress QK46.5.H85M65 2021 | Dewey Decimal 581.63
An exploration of how plant behavior and adaptation offer valuable insights for human thriving.
We know that plants are important. They maintain the atmosphere by absorbing carbon dioxide and producing oxygen. They nourish other living organisms and supply psychological benefits to humans as well, improving our moods and beautifying the landscape around us. But plants don’t just passively provide. They also take action.
Beronda L. Montgomery explores the vigorous, creative lives of organisms often treated as static and predictable. In fact, plants are masters of adaptation. They “know” what or who they are, and they use this knowledge to make a way in the world. Plants experience a kind of sensation that does not require eyes or ears. They distinguish kin, friend, and foe, and they are able to respond to ecological competition despite lacking the capacity of fight-or-flight. Plants are even capable of transformative behaviors that allow them to maximize their chances of survival in a dynamic and sometimes unfriendly environment.
Lessons from Plants enters into the depth of botanic experience and shows how we might improve human society by better appreciating not just what plants give us but also how they achieve their own purposes. What would it mean to learn from these organisms, to become more aware of our environments and to adapt to our own worlds by calling on perception and awareness rather than reason? Montgomery’s meditative study puts before us a question with the power to reframe the way we live: What would a plant do?
Moveable Gardens explores how biodiversity and food can counter the alienation caused by displacement. By offering in-depth studies on a variety of regions, this volume carefully considers various forms of sanctuary making within communities, and seeks to address how carrying seeds, plants, and other traveling companions is an ongoing response to the grave conditions of displacement in today’s world. The destruction of homelands, fragmentation of habitats, and post-capitalist conditions of modernity are countered by thoughtful remembrance of tradition and the migration of seeds, which are embodied in gardening, cooking, and community building.
Moveable Gardens highlights itineraries and sanctuaries in an era of massive dislocation, addressing concerns about finding comforting and familiar refuges in the Anthropocene. The worlds of marginalized individuals who live in impoverished rural communities, many Indigenous peoples, and refugees are constantly under threat of fracturing. Yet, in every case, there is resilience and regeneration as these individuals re-create their worlds through the foods, traditions, and plants they carry with them into their new realities.
This volume offers a new understanding of the performances and routines of sociality in the face of daunting market forces and perilous climate transformations. These traditions sustained our ancestors, and they may suffice to secure a more meaningful, diverse future. By delving into the nature of nostalgia, burrowing into memory and knowledge, and embracing the specific wonders of each deeply rooted or newly displaced community, endlessly valuable ways of being and understanding can be preserved.
Contributors: Guntra A. Aistara, Aida Curtis, Terese V. Gagnon, John Hartigan Jr., Tracey Heatherington, Taylor Hosmer, Hayden S. Kantor, Melanie Narciso, Virginia D. Nazarea, Emily F. Ramsey, Krishnendu Ray, David Sutton, James R. Veteto, Marc N. Williams
During the vast stretches of early geologic time, the islands of the Caribbean archipelago separated from continental land masses, rose and sank many times, merged with and broke from other land masses, and then by the mid-Cenozoic period settled into the current pattern known today. By the time Native Americans arrived, the islands had developed complex, stable ecosystems. The actions these first colonists took on the landscape—timber clearing, cultivation, animal hunting and domestication, fishing and exploitation of reef species—affected fragile land and sea biotic communities in both beneficial and harmful ways.
On Land and Sea examines the condition of biosystems on Caribbean islands at the time of colonization, human interactions with those systems through time, and the current state of biological resources in the West Indies. Drawing on a massive data set collected from long-term archaeological research, the study reconstructs past lifeways on these small tropical islands. The work presents a wide range of information, including types of fuel and construction timber used by inhabitants, cooking techniques for various shellfish, availability and use of medicinal and ritual plants, the effects on native plants and animals of cultivation and domestication, and diet and nutrition of native populations.
The islands of the Caribbean basin continue to be actively excavated and studied in the quest to understand the earliest human inhabitants of the New World. This comprehensive work will ground current and future studies and will be valuable to archaeologists, anthropologists, botanists, ecologists, Caribbeanists, Latin American historians, and anyone studying similar island environments.
The Indigenous Canela inhabit a vibrant multispecies community of nearly 3,000 people and over 300 types of cultivated and wild plants living together in Maranhão State in the Brazilian Cerrado (savannah), a biome threatened with deforestation and climate change. In the face of these environmental threats, Canela women and men work to maintain riverbank and forest gardens and care for their growing crops, whom they consider to be, literally, children. This nurturing, loving relationship between people and plants—which offers a thought-provoking model for supporting multispecies survival and well-being throughout the world—is the focus of Plant Kin.
Theresa L. Miller shows how kinship develops between Canela people and plants through intimate, multi-sensory, and embodied relationships. Using an approach she calls “sensory ethnobotany,” Miller explores the Canela bio-sociocultural life-world, including Canela landscape aesthetics, ethnobotanical classification, mythical storytelling, historical and modern-day gardening practices, transmission of ecological knowledge through an education of affection for plant kin, shamanic engagements with plant friends and lovers, and myriad other human-nonhuman experiences. This multispecies ethnography reveals the transformations of Canela human-environment and human-plant engagements over the past two centuries and envisions possible futures for this Indigenous multispecies community as it reckons with the rapid environmental and climatic changes facing the Brazilian Cerrado as the Anthropocene epoch unfolds.
Pythagoras, the ancient Greek mathematician, did not himself eat fava beans in any form; in fact, he banned his followers from eating them. Cultural geographer Frederick Simoons disputes the contention that Pythagoras established that ban because he recognized the danger of favism, a disease that afflicts genetically-predisposed individuals who consume fava beans. Contradicting more deterministic explanations of history, Simoons argues that ritual considerations led to the Pythagorean ban.
In his fascinating and thorough new study, Simoons examines plants associated with ritual purity, fertility, prosperity, and life, on the one hand, or with ritual impurity, sickness, ill fate, and death, on the other. Plants of Life, Plants of Death offers a wealth of detail from not only history, ethnography, religious studies, classics, and folklore, but also from ethnobotany and medicine. Simoons surveys a vast geographical region extending from Europe through the Near East to India and China. He tells the story of India's giant sacred fig trees, the pipal and the banyan, and their changing role in ritual, religion, and as objects of pilgrimage from antiquity to the present day; the history of mandrake and ginseng, “man roots” whose uses from Europe to China have been shaped by the perception that they are human in form; and the story of garlic and onions as impure foods of bad odor in that same broad region.
Simoons also identifies and discusses physical characteristics of plants that have contributed to their contrasting ritual roles, and he emphasizes the point that the ritual roles of plants are also shaped by basic human concerns—desire for good health and prosperity, hopes for fertility and offspring, fear of violence, evil and death—that were as important in antiquity as they are today.
“It dazzles as a piece of scholarship.”—Daniel W. Gade, University of Vermont
In the midst of spiraling ecological devastation, multispecies feminist theorist Donna J. Haraway offers provocative new ways to reconfigure our relations to the earth and all its inhabitants. She eschews referring to our current epoch as the Anthropocene, preferring to conceptualize it as what she calls the Chthulucene, as it more aptly and fully describes our epoch as one in which the human and nonhuman are inextricably linked in tentacular practices. The Chthulucene, Haraway explains, requires sym-poiesis, or making-with, rather than auto-poiesis, or self-making. Learning to stay with the trouble of living and dying together on a damaged earth will prove more conducive to the kind of thinking that would provide the means to building more livable futures. Theoretically and methodologically driven by the signifier SF—string figures, science fact, science fiction, speculative feminism, speculative fabulation, so far—Staying with the Trouble further cements Haraway's reputation as one of the most daring and original thinkers of our time.