Appreciating Natural Gifts Category Explained:

The raw outdoors is huge but only by half. The other half is a kaleidoscope inside our minds. We owe everything to nature. Efficiency, however, makes nature a dominion over which human law tries to supplant natural law. This mistake is resolved by looking at lightning, watching a wild bear, seeing a dandelion flower open.

I have chosen articles for this section from writers who agree with me, such as:

”The problem with efficiency as a numerical ratio is that there is no formula, no rule, no general principle for choosing. The choice of a ratio can be quite arbitrary - or, as we will see, strategic. Consequently, the very act of choosing a ratio determines value and the distribution of value.”

‘A Philosophy of Walking,’ by Frédéric Gros


The act the French philosopher Frédéric Gros describes in his athletic new book, “A Philosophy of Walking,” has more in common with what Americans call hiking and the French call la randonnée than with what they are likely to think of as simply “walking.” But for Gros this is the only kind that matters: City dwellers can only ever be “strollers,” stretching their legs in fragmented moments between street-crossings. Gros’s true walker leaves the pavement far behind.

McClinton, Delbert., and Gary Nicholson.  "Too Much Stuff." ­
Nasty Cat Music (BMI) ­

Big house, big car, back seat, full bar

Houseboat won't float, bank won't tote the note
Too much stuff, there's just too much stuff
It'll hang you up dealing with too much stuff

Hangin' out on the couch puttin' on the pounds
Better walk, run, jump, swim, try to hold it down
You're eatin' too much stuff, too much stuff
It'll wear you down carrying around too much stuff

Nicole Fox,  Against the Machine
Washington, DC
Island Press, 2002
ISBN 1559638605

Page xii

The followers of Ned Ludd took up weapons against the machines that were destroying their lives, but the essence of Luddism is not violence. Far from it. It is a respect for and a confidence in those things that make us human, with a concomitant rejection of the mechanistic approach to being that devalues our humanity. It is a philosophy that respects tradition, intuition, spirituality, the senses, human relationships, the work of the hand, and the disorderly and unpredictable nature of reality, as opposed to a mechanistic or reductionist construct of the world. It questions the domination of science and the elevation of efficiency to a superior value. It rejects materiality.

The Machine, by which I mean all the agencies of order, regularity, and efficiency, whether social or technical....
Lewis Mumford, In the Name of Sanity

Page 13

Such resistance can generate open hostility for the simple reason that technophiles, or those who for whatever reason have cast their lot unwaveringly with technology, understand that the act of resisting is a quiet but determined rejection of the very principles that undergird Western culture: efficiency, industrialism, sometimes science, and usually capitalism or least commercialism, and most certainly materialism. Registers mock all that.

Thomas Princen,  The Logic of Sufficiency
MIT Press
ISBN 0262162326

Page 88

The problem with efficiency as a numerical ratio is that there is no formula, no rule, no general principle for choosing. The choice of a ratio can be quite arbitrary - or, as we will see, strategic. Consequently, the very act of choosing a ratio determines value and the distribution of value.

I may claim my farm is efficient because I get more bushels per acre. But my neighbor claims she is more efficient because she spends less on machines per acre. I’m highlighting the value of production volume; she’s highlighting the value of minimizing capital costs. It is impossible to say which of us is doing better. I may like filling my silos to the brim each year; she may like extracting another year’s life from her grandparents’ old tractor. Both of us may be terribly efficient, given what we value.

Stilgoe, John R.  Outside Lies Magic
Walker Publishing
ISBN 0802713408

Pages 1 and 2

Get out now. Not just outside, but beyond the trap of the programmed electronic age so gently closing around so many people at the end of our century. Go outside, move deliberately, the relax, slow down, look around. Do not jog. Do not run. Forget about blood pressure and arthritis, cardiovascular rejuvenation and weight reduction. Instead pay attention to everything that abuts the rural road, the city street, the suburban boulevard. Walk. Stroll. Saunter. Ride a bike, and coast a lot. Explore.

Barry Schwartz, The Paradox of Choice
New York
ISBN 0060005688

Page 19

A recent series of study, titled “When Choice is Demotivating,” provide the evidence. One study was set in a gourmet food store and upscale community where, on weekends, the owners commonly set up tables of new items. When researchers set up a display featuring a line of exotic, high quality jams, customers who came by could taste samples, and they were given a coupon for a dollar off if they bought a jar. In one condition of the study six varieties a jam more available for tasting. In another, 24 varieties were available. In either case, the entire set of 24 varieties was available for purchase.

Ellen J. Langer.  Mindfulness
Addison Wesley Company
ISBN 0201523418

I don't like the idea of a unitary subject; I preferred the play of a kaleidoscope: you give it a And the little bits of colored glass form a new pattern.


Roland Barthes, The Grain of the Voice

Will one day, at a nursing home in Connecticut, elderly residents were each given a choice of houseplants to care for and were asked to make a number of small decisions about their daily routines. A year and a half later, not only were these people more cheerful, active, and alert in a similar group in the same institution who are not given these choices and responsibilities, but many more of them were still alive. In fact, less than half as many of the decision-making, plant-minding residents had died as those in the other group. This experiment, with its startling results, began over 10 years of research into the powerful effects of what my colleagues and I came to call mindfulness, and its counterpart, the equally powerful destructive state of mindlessness.

Jamey Smith,  “Open the Windows And Let Summer In”
in My Turn
August 3, 2003

If you're like me, you can go for days without ever breaking a sweat or even taking a breath of fresh air.

EACH YEAR, AS SPRING ROLLS into summer, I close every open window and crank up the air conditioner. Even if it's not yet hot outside, I want that AC humming. This year my tussle with the mini-blinds was interrupted by a thought: exactly when did we become a nation of shut-ins?

When I moved into my partner's 1950s era house four years ago, I discovered that all but a couple of the windows had been painted shut, thus rendering them useless in letting in anything but light. Many of our friends live in a similar setting, and several commute to a work environment that is just as sealed off from the natural world.

Blumm, Michael.  “The fallacies of free market environmentalism.”
Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy

Spring92, Vol. 15, Issue 2
p371, 19p

A number of critical assumptions of an efficiently functioning free market invariably are absent in environmental decisionmaking, such as complete information, fully internalized prices, and rational, wealth-maximizing bargaining. The pervasive failure of markets to produce reliable information about risks, costs, and benefits of alternative courses of action makes efficiency at least as unlikely in marketplace ordering of environmental resources as in public decisionmaking….

Soule, Michael E., and Gary Lease. ­  Reinventing Nature?­
Responses to Postmodern Deconstruction.­ D.C.
ISBN 1559633107

“Cultural Parallax in Viewing North American Habitats” Gary Paul Nabhan

Does conservation of wilderness imply excluding residents who practice traditional forms of human subsistence? The debate over this issue is relevant to the question of the past human role in the "construction" of native ecological systems. What is original, untrammeled nature – primitive America? Is it pre-Columbian, implying that Native Americans walked softly and lived in harmony? Or did they and their ancestors deforest large areas, cause the mass extinction of mammals, and change the landscape everywhere by burning?

Wes Jackson,  “Agriculture: A Reversible Accident?”
Annals of Earth
Volume XX, Number 3

Page 8

From the beginning, cellular life and later among all other hierarchical levels of structure; tissues, organs, organ systems, organisms, ecosystems and the ecosphere itself, life has had to operate within the constraints of the laws of thermodynamics. The hypothesis has a sort of corollary assumption: Darwinian selection operates up and down the hierarchy and optimum efficiencies have been derived through integration.

Gandhi, Mahatma.  The Essential Writings of Mahatma Gandhi.
Raghavan Iyer, editor
New York
ISBN 0195632087

Page 383

June 17, 1932 -- I, for one, daily realize this truth from experience, that Nature provides for the needs of every living creature from moment to moment, and I also see that, voluntarily or involuntarily, knowingly or unknowingly, we violate this great law every moment of our lives. All of us can see that, in consequence of our doing so, on the one hand large numbers suffer through over-indulgence and, on the other, countless people suffer through want.

Richard L. Grossman,  “Wresting Governing Authority from the Corporate Class,”
Annals of Earth

Volume XX, Number 3

Page 15

When we change perspectives, pull the camera back and view violent acts of the natural world on a larger community level, something happens. Different patterns begin to reveal themselves. Instead of seeing only death, we see a dance of life—a great round of living and dying. Wolves, for example, are one of the top predators in the Canadian North, yet even as top predators, they only take up to thirty percent of an existing population of caribou. There is death, but there is not holocaust.

Coyle, David Cushman. ­  Conservation: An American Story of Conflict and Accomplishment.­
New Jersey
Rutgers University Press

Pages 56, 57 and 58

The conservation of natural resources normally becomes necessary as the population grows, for the danger of running out of raw materials grows at the same time. Wherever people are scarce and raw resources are plentiful -- as in pioneering days -- the people will naturally save their own labor as much as they can at the expense of a lavish use of the local raw materials. As the population increases and raw materials begin to grow scarce, the people finally will have to pay a high price for the preservation and increase of these valuable materials.

Barbara Kingsolver.  Small Wonder
Faber and Faber Ltd
June 2002
ISBN: 0571215769

Pages 109-130, 109 and 112-13

Lily's Chickens

My daughter is in love. She's only five years old, but this is real. Her beau is shorter than she is, by a wide margin, and she couldn't care less. He has dark eyes, a loud voice, and a tendency to crow. He also has five girlfriends, but Lily doesn't care about that, either. She loves them all: Mr. Doodle, Jess, Bess, Mrs. Zebra, Pixie, and Kiwi. They're chickens. Lily likes to sit on an overturned bucket and sing to them in the afternoons. She has them eating out of her hand….

Bo Lozoff, Utne Reader
September-October 1996

Page 43

We’re like a child standing in a beautiful park with his eyes shut tight. We don’t need to imagine trees, flowers, deer, birds, and sky; we merely need to open our eyes and realize what is already here, who we really are—as soon as we quit pretending we’re small or unholy. My practice of quitting has already led me to experience the truth of this, so I’ve become a more and more devoted quitter.