A Savanna Life in a Technological World

An Ecological Defense of Stress (and Money and Reproduction) PT 1

An Ecological Defense of Stress (and Money and Reproduction) PT 1

I traded a neighbor, an arborist, a quarter of beef for some tree work. Throwing branches on a fire is a good way to chat and we started talking about our respective businesses. He said he made a conscious decision a long time ago to limit the jobs that he took to what he could do by himself, without having to borrow extra money for equipment. In this way, he can just work part time. “Everyone is always running around trying to do more, but for what?” he said. With the aire of Moses on the Mount he said, “I once heard someone say that there are two ways to become rich, to get more or to have less.” Total bullshit.

Kidding, just kidding. But my neighbor was talking to me as if he was going to blow open the doors of perception. I was read Walden and the philosophical Taoists. I wrote a whole book centered around the idea of ‘psyche pollution.’ Everyone join me in a group eye-roll. I would argue that what was the avant-garde of the 1950’s has become the intellectual mainstream of today, “Philosophical Chill.” Don’t get me wrong, there are many many people in our society that need more Philosopical Chill, but I seriously doubt any of them are going to read this blog post. For the rest of us, it’s important to hold two ideas in our head at once.  As usual, as soon as we clearly articulate an idea, we start to over-state it. That would be a good English translation of Loatze’s famous disclaimer at the beginning of the Tao to Ching, but that it breaks its own rule.

Oh man, just as I was about to publish this, I realized I need to talk about what actually happened in an actual place. Well, went to California a few weeks ago, its warm and there’s tons of grass there. I’m about to go back. Shout out to all the homies in California. The family and I had a whole debacle trying to go to Wisconsin to see the grandparents that failed miserably when everyone got sick and had to abort halfway. But the water is going down here in Oregon fast and we have dry weather in the forecast, so, here comes the sun.

‘Philosophical Chill’ won’t work the way it is currently being practiced. It has to be balanced by this other idea; if no one is willing to get stressed over things that are important (such as land) those things will be lost. If we can’t allow ourselves to get a little worked up, how much do we really care? 

The data seems to indicate that in certain ways, some of our hunter-gatherer ancestors lived a life of blissful laziness. However, because of the ecological degradation that has occurred on the land, that sort of life is no longer possible. That degradation may have been helped along by people who were willing to take on vast amounts of stress for self enrichment, but it was only a small part of the problem. Where we stand, if no one were willing to take on any ‘unnatural’ stress, ecosystem degradation would continue to get worse. 

Well meaning people can have heart-to-hearts with their well meaning neighbors. However, people that are obsessed with status, consumption, and personal enrichment seem perfectly happy to take on vast amounts of stress. If we leave them to it, they will inherit the earth.

A too-squemish stance on stress is one of several ways that ecologically minded people lose all control by preaching to the choir. I will take up the others (money, technology, and babies) over the next few blog posts. 

Don’t get me wrong, doing all the stuff required to make the world just a tiny bit better is a real pain in the butt. I sometimes miss the peaceful little buddha I was before the responsibilities of businesses, mortgages, cattle, children. But if we don’t take those things on, we don’t have any control over how the world turns out. In fact, maybe Philosophical Chill is as great a driver of ecosystem decline as anything else.


2 thoughts on “An Ecological Defense of Stress (and Money and Reproduction) PT 1”

  • Hi Nate,

    Good post. I’m picking up what you’re putting down, man.

    I dunno about philosophical chill, but I wonder if shifting baselines and the constant erosive effects of habituation are taking their toll. These psychological forces were surely at work during the late Pleistocene as well.

    • Hey there Ariel, Hope Big Sky Country is treating you well. Seems like your doing some really cool stuff. Thanks for your thoughts! I think that is totally right. One of the things that I cut on editing cause I thought it was slightly off thesis was that the more you run away from stress the faster it runs too, in other words, your tolerance of stress goes down. That being said, I don’t think my life super similar to a pleistocene u=hunter gatherers at the moment. maybe the place to start is with just how different our world is from that of humans in the Pleistocene. All those differences are going to create a psychic world that not like our ancestral situation. But to get back to where you are coming from, no matter what we do that will be the case. If we sit on the couch and watch daytime television that will be dissimilar and I would argue be very stressful though we aren’t used to thinking about stress that way. So , even though my life is probably not that similar to a Pleistocene hunter gatherer’s in absolute terms, relative to the other options I have maybe it is the best. Or another way of looking at it would be, if I am going to be stressed one way or the other, what option makes a world where my kids might be less stressed. Take care.

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