Tuesday, December 31, 2013

No Fungi this year is not a good thing.

This is a bit of a change from normal stuff I put up here. I should introduce myself though, it's only polite. My name is Richard Mellor and I am one of the people that writes for this blog. I sort of started it really.  I was out walking the other day and any of you that are also FB friends must have seen the videos I've taken of fungi in the wintertime.  I got a bit fascinated by fungi.  Some fungi is a bit bizarre and not all that attractive must most of it is really beautiful and often erotic stuff. I took one picture some time ago of two small fungi wrapped around each other in some sort of dance, a tango perhaps.  There are others that attach themselves to the sides of tree trunks, walls, embankments and sit there suspended little flying saucers.

Apart from all this, I like eating it. Here in California of course we have the terrifying California Death Angel or Amanita Phalloides. It will kill you. Don't go picking fungi unless you know what you're doing or with someone who does.

Anyway, at this time of year there is a lot of fungi to look at, here in the East Bay. Across the bay in Marin County and Mount Tamalpais; there is some incredible stuff. But there is no fungi over here in the main as I point out in the video.  This is the driest year on record and California is in the throws of an extreme drought.  Our winters are not generally very cold, unlike Chicago, for example; they are about rain.

What does this mean?  Something is not right for sure. Some people would say well, weather changes. We had ice ages, land formations change and earthquakes change the structure of the earth and so do great storms. But human activity influences the weather more than any time in our history.

Marx once said that philosophers have only interpreted the world, the point is to change it. That is a profound statement as it is an optimistic philosophy not simply a correct one.  Humans interact with nature and can mold it and shape it to our advantage or disadvantage. Capitalism, the present system of human organization, inflicts untold damage on the natural world and the place of all animals in it, humans included. It does so because it is an unplanned system, it is an exploitative system that rapes all natural things, the earth included. We do not collectively decide how, what or when we produce or build or construct things . A small minority of the global population make these decisions and when they think of the natural world, land for example, they wonder if they can put some houses on it.  can I get the taxpayer to subsidize me so I can put a football stadium on it, an amusement park, a mall.

Capitalism's institutions of education teach us to see things in isolation. History for example; my recollection of history, and I was terrible at it, was that this king married this queen, this battle took place at this time and side A or B won, normally it was the English because that's where I grew up. It was taught really as an unconnected series of events.  I knew when the English revolution or the American Revolution took place and could recite it easily but I never fully understood the forces at work that led to the conflicts, the different class and economic interests the northern industrialists in the US against southern slaveowners. How could an industrialists compete with a ruling class that paid no wages..  There is always the struggle to break from this method of course but the ruling class propagates it.

It's the same with the natural world. Fungi plays a role in the ecosystem. I don't really know exactly what but I know it does. There are a whole species of creatures whose existence is linked to it as well as plants; no fungi has an effect on them. No, fungi doesn't just mean, no fungi.  It reflects greater changes and events and the most important thing is not that change takes place, it always does, but that the way society is organized, an industrial exploitative system that sees nature as a source of profits, as a commodity, change is introduced in a violent and unplanned way.  Sure, the capitalists do environmental studies and all that in countries where pressure is put on them to do so, but even here, major environment degradation has not been halted in any way and capitalism will not halt it; it can't.

Rural people, tribal people, peasants, tended to see the earth or the natural world in a healthier way, were more connected to it; industrial capitalism has no connection to it other than to do what it always does, extract as much wealth from it as possible.  Only a democratic socialist society, a world federation of democratic socialist states, can prevent environmental catastrophe adn the end of life as we know it on this planet.

Amanita Phalloides: photo source


Anonymous said...

The mushroom you see, and like to pick and eat is the sexual reproductive organ of the mycelium - thread-like structures that grow in the soil and serve a very important soil ecology function of nutrient cycling that higher plants are dependent upon. They are still there, working under ground as long as there is a little moisture, just not popping out babies right now. Resource exploitation like clear-cutting or building strip malls and housing developments are far more destructive to mycilia, which can grow miles wide in temperate rain forest.
None of this is to suggest that the severe drought we are in is not a problem - as East Bay residents will soon come to realize when Freeport is put on-line and degrades our fabulous Sierra snow-pack water with the American river, as is quite likely with the current extreme lack of winter snow pack; nor that Climate Change is not a problem and that runaway Global Warming fueled by sheer greed and profit are not rapidly driving global ecosystems to collapse.
In fact, I think that is what is driving both the capitalist class' mad rush to accumulate as much wealth as possible as quickly as possible, and ultimately (perhaps ironically) its own collapse.

Richard Mellor said...

Thanks for the comments, they are useful. What I find a bit perplexing though is why someone would want to comment anonymously on such a uncontroversial topic.