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OpEdNews Op Eds    H4'ed 11/9/12

Gardungles, Morning Glories and the Apocalypse

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Gardungle: A n area within the ecosphere of the earth where the natural environment and the humanly engineered one interact to the benefit of both.

Etymology: from garden, an area of growing things dominated by human purposes and techniques and, jungle, the area of growing things that functions in accordance with dynamics that are independent of human technology.

First, though, perhaps I should define another word in the title to my article: Apocalypse.

Apocalypse: Where we are headed. The destruction of all that we know. Not with Jesus hovering in the heavens to rapture his followers. No. Just a lot of destruction. Perhaps the end of our species.

Etymololgy:from apo and kalipto which means an un-covering. That is to say, a disclosure of something hidden based on the interpretation of something that can be seen. Biblically it refers to the end times. Here the phenomenon that is being interpreted is not a dream or a vision, but my yard, and my neighbors.

Nobody knows exactly how the Apocalypse will look. It could come as a nuclear winter. It could come as a major ecological breakdown. An apocalypse could be the outcome of a humanly engineered virus. It could result from an economic meltdown, or a combination of all the above. As an abstraction, though, it's pretty simple to understand. It refers to destruction piled upon destruction. A great extinction.

You probably know what morning glories are so let's return to the first term. You won't find the definition of "gardungle" in the dictionary. The reason is that I just made it up. One of the slippery terms in my definition is "natural". From one perspective, all living things that exist, including human culture and inventions, are a part of "nature". However, in this essay we are using the term in another, more narrow sense -- the sense, I think, that the average person probably has in mind when he or she speaks of "nature" or "the natural order". It is that aspect of the ecological whole that is relatively unaltered by human activity. In this essay, I also refer to that as "jungle," as opposed to the part that is planned and controlled by humans, which I refer to as "garden."

Gardens and jungles are generally thought of as mutually exclusive. They garden depends upon the destruction of a jungle, and a jungle will be restored in a garden that is not adequately attended to. The gardungle, on the other hand, comes into existence when a garden and a jungle agree to coexist, to inter-penetrate, and to negotiate a mutually sustaining and enriching relationship. Neither overcomes the other. A new entity emerges out of this dialogue, and that's the gardungle.

Some examples might be help clarify the matter. Organic farming is based on an intuition of the gardungle concept. The natural order -- the jungle -- is not overcome. It is worked with -- cooperated with. Or think of a yard that invites wildflowers, shrubs, trees, and perhaps a few skunks, birds and squirrels to grow and interact together. Such a yard becomes a gardungle which is infinitely more interesting than a manicured lawn. Another example might be holistic health -- an approach to health that respects natural processes, and that does not see even death as an event to be overcome, but that also uses humanly created technology when it will truly enhance the quality of human interaction with the rest of creation. Perhaps we could even conceive of a gardungle approach to economics -- one that used natural resources sparingly and wisely, and did not rape the earth -- one that strove to meet everybody's needs for well-being and participation. On the macro level what is at issue is the relationship between the natural order and the humanly engineered one. When they interact creatively at their boundaries, with neither one conquering the other, gardungles emerge.

Let me tell you about my neighbor -- the one to the south of us. She requires a bit of interpretation. Her house and lawn are impeccable. Nary a weed in sight. Boo, my spouse, was in the habit of feeding an assortment of animals that frequented our neighborhood. These included pigeons, squirrels, skunks, and a gray fox. In addition I had a bulb of sugar-water for hummingbirds, and a few feeders for songbirds. When the pigeons that Boo fed roosted on our neighbor's roof and started sh*tting on it, our neighbor complained. Boo stopped feeding the pigeons but that was not enough. The songbirds spilled sunflower seed all over the ground beneath the feeders and for a while this kept the pigeons in the area, who continued to sh*t on our neighbor's roof. So I stopped feeding the songbirds. When Boo tried to point out how we were trying to meet her more than halfway, our neighbor was not satisfied. When Boo fed the squirrels, she said, it made the pigeons think that they too were going to be fed. So Boo stopped feeding the squirrels. But it was too late. Our neighbor stopped talking with us. We were afraid she would sue us. She believed that the pigeon sh*t was destroying her roof and lowering the value of her property.

I shudder to think what she would have done had she discovered that we were feeding skunks in our yard. Fortunately they came only late at night and I think she never noticed.

As I struggled to understand what was going wrong with our relationship to our neighbor, it occurred to me that this was not just annoying hassle between two neighbors with somewhat different tastes and agendas. This was a political issue. On a micro scale this was the struggle between the gardunglites and the capitalists. This little conflict of ours was replicated in a fractal-like way, on levels of increasing scale in till it reached a global level on which Gaea struggled against the dominion and ruthless exploitation of predatory capitalism. On the micro level we were surrounded. On the north side of our house a former marine spent a considerable amount of time in his yard trying to a kill each dandelion with an herbicide. Probably he used something from Monsanto. We were the only house on the block with a gardungle-like yard and attitude. As we were outnumbered on the micro level we are also at a disadvantage on the macro level where we seem to be outnumbered out-gunned and out-maneuvered.

Perhaps the matter can be further clarified by considering the manner in which two systems can interact at their boundaries. (It sometimes seems that everything of interest takes place at the boundaries between systems.) These interactions can be thought of as having two dimensions: the control system and the exchange system. The control system can be based on either domination or negotiation. The exchange system can be either parasitic or symbiotic. If we combine these two dimensions in a 2 x 2 grid, we find there are four possibilities as illustrated here. Inside the boxes I have defined the kinds of relationships that are represented there in political terminology.

The matter can best be clarified with some illustrations. In our backyard I had a garden last summer. I grew cucumbers, squash, pole beans, tomatoes, onions, beets, etc. I had a wild area in the center of the yard where I planted things I brought in from the woods. I also had an assortment of flowers arranged more or less randomly. In my gardungally sort of garden one could see a variety of relationships when analyzed in terms of the dimensions of dominion and exchange. I noticed one day, for example, that my morning glories had collected a lot of aphids, which were being protected by ants. Other insects that attempted to eat the aphids were chased off. Thus, in terms of exchange, the relationship between the ants and the aphids was symbiotic. However, in terms of control, their relationship was not a negotiated one. Clearly the ants were in charge. They carried the aphids to where they wanted them and plopped them down. It was a benevolent dictatorship. The relationship of the aphids and the morning glories, on the other hand, was parasitic in terms of exchange, and dominating in terms of control. As far as I know the morning glories gained nothing from this relationship, and in fact were somewhat weakened. They would have repelled the aphids had they been able to. This was an openly exploitative relationship.

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Write for Politics of Health and work with David Werner on issues of health. Worked in the field of "Mental Health" all my life. Am now retired. Jim
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