A forum response
By Lucas Hall at Mar 30, 2008
I have only the sparsest knowledge of parecon so will not comment on it's virtues nor it's deficits, except to say I believe it's nature is one that deserves more than the violent repulsion demonstrated here.
What I would like to comment on is this idea that seems to permeate through this posting of the equilibrium achieved by indigenous hunter gatherer societies, an idea that primitive economic relationships inherently entailed a harmony with nature.
This is an idea that comes up a lot when people in my country, Australia, talk about our indigenous aboriginals. There is a romanticised image of the aboriginal living and consuming in such a way that not only did he/she leave no ecological footprint, but that they in fact aided the natural world.
I'd like to discuss this in two points. Firstly, some of the practices that aborigines employed to sustain there living areas grew out of massive conservation mistakes made by the first settlers, mainly that excessive hunting of Australia's giant marsupials drove these animals to extinction, plunging a growing aboriginal population into a self-caused famine. Along with this, the idea that the Aboriginals that encountered the first European settlers had somehow evolved into an utterly sustainable people is a complete falsehood. There are numerous reports of the large piles of refuse left in the open to rot while the Aboriginals moved on to different areas. While of course this is minute pollution compared to modern corporatism we can see that 'civilisation', as you call it, does not have sole rights to ecological mistreatment. (Frankly I would call any culture, such as the Australian Aborigines, advanced enough to sail the oceans to discover a new land, then spread across it's entirety, creating diverse languages and myths, art and laws, a true civilisation).
The second reason reason Aborigines engaged in sustainable activities was due to a combination of the harsh, arid landscape and their technological primitivity. They could do nothing else lest they perish. In fact, in northern Victoria, where there is now just dustbowl, there were once rich lush lakelands filled with eels, the Aborigines who lived in this area developed a method of farming these eels, and began to settle in a fixed locale, basically the same way our civilisation's were created. It was only with the change of weather patterns ad the onset of the drought that turned Australia into the desert country it is now that these Aborigines took up the nomad lifestyle that characterises so much of the Aboriginal population. So as you can see, the Aboriginals didn't choose this lifestyle out of some desire to be harmonious with nature, it was there only option.
I don't want to sound like I'm disparaging a culture that I have the utmost respect for, I do believe there is an awful lot we can learn from the Aborigines in terms of conservation, but let's be blunt, the Aborigine's and all other hunter gatherer societies lived short, harsh, painful lives you would not wish upon anyone.
One other thought I'd like to raise is this idea that local is in someway better than global. My thoughts on this is that by demanding people live local 'sustainable' lives you are condemning humanity to continue with the gross forms of disparity and inequality we experience today, but probably making it even more widespread. Individuals who were lucky enough to be born in areas of rich natural resources would enjoy a life so markedly better than those who were unlucky enough to be born in a poor area the heart screams out at such injustice.
Finally, I'd like to state that no culture is sustainable. We must all go one day, whether frozen over by the next ice age, flooded by rising sea levels, or absorbed in the darkness and flames of a supernovae, humanity's time shall end. I know I'd like to spend my time here fighting for the best way we can all enjoy the extroadinary wonders of modern society, equitably, justly, sustainably more so, for as long as we are permitted.