[ Fascinated by machinery, a Japanese farmer bought a big foreign tractor to grow his corn and apples in northern Japan. Thirty years ago he had a conversion, however, to growing organically, a conversion that involved learning about sharing, about participating in nature's gift economy. Below is one of his experiences. ]
The giant tractor transformed the overgrown waste land into fields at an amazing speed. The power was sensational. Neat fields of corn of the sort found in those foreign magazines appeared amongst the dense thickets. They were the Honey Bantam variety. It was probably thanks to the fertile soil that they grew so well.
However, he was troubled by the damage caused by racoon dogs. Just when they were ready to be harvested, the plump sweet corn was ravaged.
‘I placed traps in several places around the fields, but ended up trapping a young raccoon dog. The mother stayed next to it, and didn’t run away when I approached. When I tried reaching out to release the trap, the young raccoon dog bared its teeth and got really upset. It seems harsh, but I held its head down with my rubber boot as I released it from the trap. It didn’t run away though. Right in front me, the mother started licking the young one’s wounded leg. Seeing that, I felt I’d committed an awful crime.
I told them ‘Stop eating our corn!’. But then I started leaving small piles of second-rate corn around the edges of the fields. When you produce corn you end up with quite a bit of corn that looks something like my toothless mouth. They’re not good enough to sell. I left it all. The next morning when I went to the fields, they’d completely disappeared. But the raccoon dogs had caused no other damage at all. So at harvest time I decided to stop using the traps and put out the cobs with kernels missing. After that, damage by the raccoon dogs stopped almost completely. So I figured that farmers suffer this sort of damage because they take everything. That was what came to mind. After all, we’d turned what used to belong to the raccoon dogs into fields. I worried that if I actually fed them, the raccoon dogs would end up being even more bother, but that didn’t happen. Which I thought was strange. I suppose you could say that my eyes were opened to the mysteries of nature. Anyway, I realized that nature didn’t work in the way that most people thought. This was probably the turning point as far as my ideas about so-called ‘efficient’ agriculture were concerned.
--Akinori Kimura, in Miracle Apples
I fed the racoons too, but they began to breed so well because they had a steady supply of food that we ended up with far more racoons than I could support with "extra" food. I loved those racoons as my own children but had to let them go back to the forest and some of them had to leave or die because there were far too many of them with a steady, sure food source and supply. Such is the laws of Nature. But I do like the idea of leaving the damaged kernels at the edge of the field, and sharing the harvest instead of just killing them. A very good way to start. I have heard of planting "one for the birds, one for the squirrels, and one for the people who want to eat in the garden" or some such thing as that.
This piece is profound in its pointing out a big tragicomedy in life. Whenever we act without reflection, without understanding nature, the results take us further away from nature and create many more problems. And when we try to understand nature, most of the problems we face disappear, and those that remain have simple solutions.
In a chat with my father-in-law, he shared a story. Malaria is on the rise in India, and has increased after efforts to spray and destroy the parasites. It turns out that the sprays, instead of killing the mosquitoes carrying the parasite, ended up killing the fishes in the swamps where mosquitoes breed. If left alone, the fishes would be eating up mosquito larvae. So, with an intervention that did not try to understand what was so, matters became much worse. Tragicomedy abounds. Now, it turns out, using fish to control malaria was a traditional solution in India, until modern science brought with it DDT :). Worked temporarily, more expensive, and now the mosquitoes are resistant to DDT. We're going back to observing and harmonizing with nature, according to this BBC article.
It seems to me that understanding nature properly must be preceded or accomplished by understanding our own nature, for there doesn't seem to be two natures here. I believe Kimura learned more about himself as he learned more about the nature of raccoon dogs.
My takeaway is that if we make the spirit of abundance our starting point, then our mind might clear up to discover it in our universe, and we might get closer to our true nature, where boundaries don't reach.[Hide Full Comment]
Quite inspiring. God made all things to work in harmony andc when we break that cord, nature is harsh and we wonder why. Thank you for reminding us.
"Hope is nature's way of enabling us to survive so that we can discover nature itself"
Namaste one and all, and all in one. : ) I appreciate and am grateful to Aunty and Uncle and the larger Mehta/Metta family for opening their homes and hosting Wednesdays worldwide. And, I want to thank and acknowledge all the behind-the-scenes work and those involved in making Wednesdays happen in the spirit that they do. They biomimic/model/display/exhibit the gifts and mysterious/serendipitous wisdom/intelligence of nature/the natural world/life as it is (all about sharing, giving/gifting the abundance and taking/doing what is needed, and balance—all haves, no have-nots—work like ecosystem processes and services/gifts). I have seen the term biomimicry used to model technology/construction/design off of natural things and qualities, but the system itself (ways/laws of nature) can also be modeled. If only our economic system modeled ecology, equity and the beneficial partnerships/interdependence of all, and we knew and understood the word “enough.” This is true/real progress/development/reform. Reminds me of the quote by R. Buckminster Fuller: “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.” And a quote by Albert Einstein: "A human being is a part of a whole, called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest... a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty."
This passage really resonated with me—perhaps, due to the environmental theme. And although I’ve been termed a “nature person,” the truth is that we are it/the environment, and it/the environment is us. We are a mere part/speck of the larger whole/scheme of things (world/planet, universe/cosmos, energy). There is no distinction really between what is “outside” us and “inside” us (no “other”), in the ultimate reality of things, or the bigger picture (as seen/experienced by Indigenous people and enlightened beings). Environmental health really equals environmental justice. The health of us human beings is greatly dependent on the health of the environment at-large (environmental and human/public health are one and the same; they are so closely connected, they are inseparable). As one of the newest/youngest species on the planet, it’s amazing that we’ve forgotten or have gotten so off-track with this, or think that this is mysterious (maybe we are not the most evolved?).
Learning to treat others (including other organisms/life forms—both animate and inanimate, and the ambient forces/elements), as part of us/ourselves (higher Self), is a lesson that I feel can make a world of difference. We are all part of a whole. I feel the Wednesdays experience is part of this (embodying and exhibiting that “sharing is caring,” “charity begins at home,” and “home is where the heart is.”). I know that it is easier said than done, but it would address consumption/profit, power/domination/subjugation of, treating nature/natural things as subordinate/inferior, and exploitation of the earth (of each other—people, other life forms, the ambient forces/elements—in sum, the gifts the Earth/Mother Nature provides). It is a challenge/opportunity we all face.
In addressing the ecology of regions and taking into account that the natural world (air, water, lands/foods) and its inhabitants (humans, animals, plants, fungi, and all other forms of being) have fundamental/inalienable/unalienable/inherent rights (as all have worth/value/price/cost—with these terms, it’s more than the association with a $ and market society), I believe we can start a global people’s movement where local citizens advocate for the rights of those without voices, or languages different from our own, who are seldom heard in society.
This passage addressed sustainable agriculture and development (and I associate this with local decentralized governments/self-organized cooperatives/healthy participatory communities and democracies), ecology—the dynamics and interrelationships/interdependence between species, organic (more than just the label/tag, but the inherent design/process of things—cradle-to-cradle, instead of cradle-to-grave manufacturing/production/economy) agriculture/agoecology/agroforestry/permaculture, the gift “economy” (nature’s way of handling things). It reminded me of permaculturalist Bill Mollison (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bill_Mollison), and Masanobu Fukuoka, a Japanese farmer (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Masanobu_Fukuoka), the do-nothing/natural farmer (letting nature take its natural course, as nature is both right/correct and bright/intelligent to model off of, and not interfere with).
In a description of Alaska (a place I’ve lived and worked) by Sheila Metzner, she states: "I was born in the city- in Brooklyn, where I live now. The world I grew up in is a constructed world, though very magical in its own way. But in a place like this, there's a real connection with higher forces, whatever they may be. It simplifies the concept of what's really important in life, what you value." My experience in Alaska made me rethink the environmental crisis we are in (global in scope), because what we do to the environment we do to ourselves.
The article also touched on corn. I can go on at length about corn (“maiz” en Espanol/in Spanish; one of the most genetically-engineered crops) and its potential ecological and health risks. It’s amazing (or should I say, “a-maiz-ing”—pun intended! ;) ) that the wise Indigenous people on the planet who have cultivated corn the traditional way for centuries, if not millennia, have preserved the biodiversity/multi-colored varieties (beautiful in sight, taste, and importance, among other properties). And the more varieties/greater biodiversity, the ecologically stronger the environment (for evolution to take place, and in case of environmental disasters). I really admire those who contribute to planetary health, human and non-human beings, stewards of the environment that provide the associated intellectual, social, and ethical groundwork for new solutions to global environmental/public health issues.
The article also touched on raccoon dogs, which reminded me of raccoons (a nocturnal mammal that many people fear, or consider as “pests”). A woman I’ve noticed, in the city where I’m based, feeds both raccoons and stray cats (cat food from cans to both species, I think) to satiate them so that they don’t need to go rummaging in garbage cans around town near homes, and risk being attacked by humans, dogs or other beings. I first thought that this was odd, but now see the reasoning behind this. I also have come across raccoons at night while walking, and I can’t describe in words the experience making eye-contact connecting with them, and confronting the associated “fear” with this animal.[Hide Full Comment]
Nice story! It's too bad the farmer had to resort to using a cruel trap. Instead he could have used a have-a-heart trap. It traps the animal without injury. Then the animal can be relocated or set free.
Just love to read this :) animals teach us such wonderful lessons, they have not left their values :)
They still eat as much as they need , dont store food, kill only for survival not for comfort or as it is an easier survival technique. The animals allow each other to exist peacefully and have not developed hatred, jealously etc. They are like God's innocent children who follow all laws of nature and teach us to do the same.