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Wendell Berry whispered in my ear as I read your marvelous essay: "There are no unsacred places. There are only sacred places and desecrated places." This is exactly what I've been up to for a while now -- however humbly. Modern humans need a new story -- to return to the one we used to know for millennia -- that we are a tiny part of the vast web of life, not the pinnacle, not the purpose. Simply, always, one of many. Our job is to notice and celebrate.

Though I love the idea of cultivating "societal-scale reverence," I tried that for a couple decades and found that I do better on a less ambitious scale: myself, my family, friends, students, writing, creative projects. I have to trust that the ripples are going out.

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That's a beautiful whisper, Julie, and an equally lovely follow-up. Thank you. And yes, the large-scale work is easy to ask for but daunting to aim for, even on a good day. I stand here and scribble. Not sure what scale that is, exactly, but it's something I can do.

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Thank you for doing your part. (Who are we to question what the heart wants?)

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"As Daniel Quinn writes in Ishmael, we need an everyday understanding that the world does not belong to us, and sufficient modesty to recognize that we belong to the world." This is such an important call to reverence--that it requires humility. I love that you write about this and are exploring it in depth--it's maddening how the industrial capitalist machine renders lands into resources, how the need for power over runs through all of the individualism and capitalism that we are so steeped in. Grateful to find your work writing about this. 💜

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Thanks so much, Freya, for your kind words. And yes, maddening is a good word to cover so much of where and who we are in this time. Maddening especially that so many are doing so much good work, and believing so deeply in the right things, but not finding enough traction. Still, on we go.... Take care.

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Beautifully stated! We won't care or save what we don't know. I've spent the last 35 or so years growing native plants and observing them both in my garden and in nature. I share that love through my photography and AV presentations.

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Thank you, Paul, for the heartening comment and for devoting yourself to native plants. I often think that if just a significant minority of us devoted ourselves fully to anything on the spectrum of necessary tasks - protecting and restoring life - the world would turn quickly in the right direction. Thanks for doing your part.

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Jason, you are most welcome! I remember hearing a speaker's comment at a native plant conference I was attending many years ago asking, why would you care about frogs if you had never heard one?

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Well said, Jason. You're absolutely right, and I think those of us who treasure the natural world already think of it as sacred. But there are two points you missed. First, preserving the natural world doesn't just make things better, it's absolutely essential for our survival. We are currently on track to making Earth incapable of supporting human life -- or at the very least, human civilization. Second, the only way this is ever going to change is if we break the stranglehold corporations have on government. It should be obvious by now that neither people nor their governments are in charge. It looks like governments are in charge, especially when they are in conflict with one another, but under it all the captains of industry are calling the shots. It's that old adage: follow the money. As long as corporations control the money -- and they do -- they'll continue to buy politicians and defile the planet, somehow not realizing that they are sowing the seeds of their own destruction. Unfortunately, by the time that happens, it'll be too late for everyone else. Only by getting rid of corporate personhood and stopping all corporate campaign contributions and lavish gift giving by lobbyists will we have a chance of turning this around. Otherwise, multinational and national corporations will continue to ravage the planet in the quest for more money.

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Hi Jim. Thanks for two excellent points, both nicely articulated. As you know, I'm in full agreement and have written about both. With this piece I had to rein in making corollary truths connected to the necessity of sacredness. I alluded slightly to both, but I barely fit this essay as it was.

I think the corporate disconnect from consequence is fascinating. Today's news about Exxon ignoring its own topnotch climate warming assessments is the perfect example. More broadly, though, I think the disconnect is directly tied to the abstraction of purpose. If a company or industry understands its purpose as increasing profit rather than serving society, then that's the flag they vow allegiance to. It's the "corporate AI" I wrote about recently, but it's also the apparently unlimited human capacity to believe in things which neither exist nor are good for them, e.g. loving a nation's flag more intensely than the values of the country the flag is meant to represent. Once the abstract symbol of the flag is the focus, rather than the real land it's planted on, it can be made to stand for anything, regardless of consequence. Likewise, an embodied money-driven entity (the corpus/body of a corporation) stands apart from real people, with its own purposes.

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The basis of capitalism is to return as much profit as possible to the shareholders. We need to recognize the other stakeholders, who outnumber the shareholders, and maximize the benefit to them. Benefit seldom means money.

Corporations will always try to sell as much as they can, and that means make things that break or wear out quickly, convince people they can't live without those things, and that they must always have the latest version.

But we, as individuals, can refuse to play that game. We don't need a whole wardrobe of new clothes each season, or a new car every year or two. If we refuse to buy, the corporation will have no choice but to downsize and/or change its basis of operation. I'll happily pay quadruple for an item of clothing (needed) that is made with good,ecologically produced material and by people paid a living wage, than I will for some cheap, dissolve-in-the-wash piece of junk sewn in a sweatshop. If everyone did that, the sweatshop corporations would go out of business.

Ditto for household goods. If it won't last, I don't want it, no matter how cheap it is.

I also believe lobbying should be criminalized, but that's another story.

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Well said, Virginia. It's both heartening and disheartening that so many people understand all this on some level but can't muster the leverage to turn the tide.

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I belive that's because there is so much pressure to conform. to keep up with everyone else, to be like some social media influencer so people will like you. One person can't turn the tide. A thousand probably can't. But hundreds of thousands can. And that mob is comprised of individuals who each took a stand.

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Dec 3, 2023Liked by Jason Anthony

I'm with you 100% on this, and I do opt to purchase quality and ethically produced products whenever possible. Unfortunately, it is not often possible, precisely due to the forces you delineate here. When I was a kid, refrigerators would last 30 years or more. We have one at a family vacation cottage that has been around for almost that long, and it still works fine. The technology, after all, is very old, simple, and well established. But now appliance salesmen will tell you (as they have told me, shamelessly) that you can only expect 7 to 8 years out of a new refrigerator. This disgusting state of affairs is a conscious decision by the manufacturers who have decided they make more money by producing expendable crap than quality merchandise. It's a zero sum process, because we cannot simply go on forever consuming Earth's resources and then throwing it away. It's already starting to catch up with us. But barring massive revolt by consumers and/or government action, corporations will not change their ways.

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Quite true. I'm always surprised that there aren't more companies finding a good niche building reliable versions of the crap on the market, whether fridges or printers or clothes.

I'm also reminded here of my piece on corporations as AI, i.e. embodied machines with narrow, abstract, selfish purposes, and given the rights of humans with too few of the responsibilities and obligations.

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Jason, this one is a keeper. I do hope you will expand and write more about indigenous practices and beliefs... our family has a 115 acre farm close by- our daughter is the current tenant. She’s been working on removing invasive plants, getting grants for riparian work and just has decided to rewild one of the fields. Truly a back to nature move. No mow is her goal- that and planting a few Chestnut trees🙏 my best always..

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Thank you, Laurie. Your daughter's to-do list on the farm sounds like a perfect model for landowners to follow: invasives, stream and meadow/field restoration, and some rewilding. I love it. Someday maybe fields will stay uncut (or cut as late as possible) and chestnuts will be growing wild again in eastern forests.

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deletedJan 23Liked by Jason Anthony
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Excellent and useful comment. Thank you. I plan on writing a thorough review of the likely environmental consequences of a 2nd Trump presidency. It's woven into the destruction of democratic norms. We need all branches of government on a rational footing as we face up to the global tasks.

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