Mother Nature’s borders are like rivers, fluid and changeable.
Season by season, they alter, erode, condense, the shifting of light, variable activity with each sunrise and sunset, environments change throughout the day. Animals move through them, migratory and territorial, boundless. Even territories are fluid, dependent on weather patterns, availability of food and shelter, competition and predation. Geological formations seem to be the closest thing to a border that nature creates, but as you observe a river, blocking the movement of a land based animal, all you need to do is look to the canopy above, the corona of trees creating the bridge, uniting one side to the other.
For some reason human beings love this concept of borders. We can study Neo-Lithic peoples and what we can understand from what is left of them is that they didn’t have the concept of land ownership. We romanticize who they were. Goddess worshiping peacekeepers… But we, and in our current world paradigm, we exist within boundaries and borders.
What is a border? Linear, land borders, political borders, socio-economic borders, fences, walls. Our creation of borders has shaped the face of the world. 12,000 years ago, humans shifted from being predominantly hunter-gather, nomadic communities to land based agricultural ones. The great domestication of plants and animals, the breeding and selecting of traits that benefit our idea of borders, gave us food security, in that we believed we owned our food. When in fact we became more food insecure than ever (to read about this theory check out Sapiens: A Brief History of Human Kind by Yuval Noah Harari). We bred the spirit out of wild animals, kept the docile ones, killed the aggravators. We beat and bred them to submission so they wouldn’t jump the fence, so they wouldn’t escape the border. By placing animals in confined spaces we removed their wild self, compare a domestic dog to a wolf, or a bred turkey to a wild one, a potbelly pig to a boar. The primal instinct is present in wild animals, in their quest for food, shelter, pack and mate, their survival depends on their ability to adapt. Whereas domestic animals, some bred for thousands of years, no longer have the survival instinct, no longer know how to find their own food aside from garbage in alleys and the crunchy nibbles we buy in pet stores given to them three times daily. Let your chickens run completely free and see how long they last. Set your dog free and watch it become a parasite ridden street beggar, set your cat free… well cats are a different example, they are elevated beings brought to us by the Egyptian Gods of old, who would become the dominant species if humans disappeared (check out The World Without Us by Alan Weisman for his perspective on that). Plants, fit tightly into productive rows, those who escape the garden bed, plucked out, weeded away, out of line. Millions upon millions of rows of plants, in industrialized systems are supposed to feed the world, yet all they have done is provide semi-nutritious calorie sources void of resistance and resilience, produced for ease of harvest and immediate processing. How do we keep them in line? With self terminating genetically modified seeds, and with agrochemicals: fertilizers, fungicides, herbicides and pesticides. Borders have made our plants and animals weak, susceptible to disease, flood and drought, unable to defend themselves and unable to adapt quick enough to changing conditions.
“Bring down the Wall! Bring down the Wall!”
Human beings believe borders offer them security, a mark stating this side me, that side you. And what have borders done to humanity? Fortified towns, walls, East-West, more walls, The Great Wall of China, Hadrian’s Wall, Trump’s Wall, refugee camps, work camps, us, them, mine, yours, keep in, keep out. “This land is my land, this land is your land, From California to the New York island; From the Red Wood forest to the Gulf Stream waters, this land was made for you and me.” only if you have the right documentation. Mine and Yours. Border patrol, do you belong here? Where are your papers? Illegal immigrants, terrorism, trafficking, smuggling, laundering, escaping, borders closed, borders open, gated communities, security fences, visas, property lines. Where are your papers!? You don’t have permission to be here. I find that borders and boundaries make us want more and more to be on one side or the other, to taste what we are not supposed to have. It makes us chose allegiances and identities. Tells us which language to speak and which way to think. What sports team you represent, what zip code you reside in, what taxes you pay, what school you go to. The borders tell us who our people are, tell us where we belong. Borders cause war and conflict, fights for ownership and “rights”. In school, keep your colors within the lines and the bubbles on your state tests neat. Check the box: Caucasian, African-American, Asian/South Pacific, Latino, American Indian, OTHER. Maybe, it is because I always checked the OTHER box, that I feel boundary-less, if I didn’t have a border stating my ethnic background, delineating me from the other kids, then who needed a border anyways. My grandpa broke his family rules and married a white woman, what that meant for us? No Chinese heritage growing up, disowned, diluted the genetics, crossing boundaries. Pure breeds, mixed breeds, this race and that race. Borders, limitations, what have they done to us? They have made us completely and utterly crazy.
Aren’t we all from ONE planet Earth?
I want to pose the question and the possibility, of what if human beings, the dominant species on the planet decided that we were going to take down all borders and really, like we declare in Permaculture philosophy, mimic the perfection of Mother Nature, where there is no linear time or spaces, only cycles and fuzzy edges and ecotones.
Ecotone… Many of you may have never heard of this word. It isn’t a word we were taught in Social Studies, Biology or Geography class, not that I heard of, and I am studious. It wasn’t until the study of Permaculture that the concept was brought to the forefront of my consciousness. An ecotone is where two ecosystems meet, merging two diverse biological regions, the ecotone has flora, fauna and cultural specifics from each bioregion while also embodying its own unique diversity. They are the areas that are a little less comfortable. Take a plant for example, living in the center of the field, where the conditions are just perfect, the right amount of sun, the right amount of rain, soil with the perfect amount of nutrients. That plant doesn’t have to increase or decrease its chemical makeup to adapt to change, it has everything perfect. The same species, living along the edge, by a large tree, perhaps in a boggy area of soil, constantly being nibbled at, reaching for sunlight, coping with flooding, has to adapt to its conditions, by perhaps increasing bitter alkaloids to prevent bugs from eating it, has had to stretch a bit higher to find the sun. That plant is adaptable, ready for change to its conditions, ready for something a bit easier. One season, the rains wont stop falling, the plant in the middle of the field, unaccustomed to such inundation becomes waterlogged and rots. Climate change has set in, each summer is rainier and rainier. The plant on the edge, survives, it drops its seeds, adapted, they take over the now changed landscape.