Friday, August 26, 2022

News from somewhere

I have not posted much on the Garden Earth blog lately. There are several reasons for that. Being more active in my home country Sweden the last ten years means that my mind often is occupied with ”Swedish” debates. Mostly they are the same as the English, American or German debates. But the arguments are made in Swedish and the examples are often Swedish. So I write many articles and blog posts in Swedish. In addition, most of my consultancy work is also in Swedish these days which means that it is a lot more work to write articles in English based on them. 

In any case, I have now prepared four posts which form an update of the last year(s). 1) The hippos of Pablo Escobar 2) The Sunnansjö farm 3) What is on my mind and 4) What I have done outside of the farm lately.


The hippos of Pablo Escobar.

Another reason I have written little in English is that Ann-Helen (who also is my wife and I spent January to April writing a new book: The hippos of Pablo Escobar - in Swedish. 

The red thread is the interface between man, nature and culture with a special emphasis on human use of nature and how our perspectives have shifted over centuries. The story lending the title to the book is just one of many stories in it. The hippos of the Colombian drug lord is about rich people, invasive species and the conflicts around them. There are now hundreds of them (the hippos) in the Magdalena River. Most conservationists consider them problematic and invasive in Colombia. But others argue that they should remain and might even have a positive effect on the local environment and that they can fill a similar function as previously extinct species. Many locals like them and they draw hordes of tourists. 


The history of nature conservation is full of examples of interventions that were not successful ecologically or socially. The expulsion of indigenous people from nature reserves and national parks was arrogant and disastrous for the people, and in most cases also for the ecology of the area, as the people have actively managed the land. Increasingly, there are also conflicts between other local rural people and nature conservation, especially foresters, farmer, fishermen – those that actually manage the landscape for the better and the worse.

Nature protection has become a profession and an academic topic. Several global or regional treaties regulate biodiversity. This is of course good and valuable. Meanwhile, we are worried about the increasing professionalization of nature conservation and its rather narrow focus on threatened species. If people in a neighborhood protest against that a new road or more housing will destroy a wood or a wetland or just the local farm they are mostly not listened to unless they are part of the elite. But if you manage to find a threatened species the table is turned and the burden falls on the exploiters. Perhaps the focus should be on preserving and recreating vital and diverse ecosystems rather than on threatened species, even more so as much of the preservation efforts are failing?   

Some people have the idea that we should withdraw from nature and live on....air. And if we can’t do it on earth we should colonize another planet. Even if most people probably don’t agree, the narrative that we on the one hand can live without nature and on the other hand it is better for nature that we withdraw, is strong and embraced by many. But humans part of nature, we are nature. To say that we should withdraw from nature is meaningless as we would no longer be humans at all.

At the same time as the concept of Anthropocene has become mainstream it has become equally apparent that humanity is not so much in control as we thought we were. It is wrong to say that nature fights back, as it would be far too anthropomorfistic (does such a word exist? I guess you understand what I mean regardless), but certainly all those other organisms have agency one way or the other. And the Earth itself, even if she is no Goddess, is governed by processes that are outside of our control, both long term and short term. 

In the book we advocate for a re-integration of humans and the landscape and a decommodification of people and nature where the interface is governed by relationships instead of transactions. Well, those are fragments of the things we discuss in The hippos of Pablo Escobar.*


*The book is in Swedish – but if you happen to be a publisher in other languages drop me a line at gunnar at

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