Maybe it’s a lesson lingering from my former boss and political ally George H. Russell. For years, he served as forest practice chair for the Lone Star Sierra Club. Protecting Texas national forests – our Sam Houston National Forest in particular – is an ongoing priority.
Unfortunately, one of his main foes was the National Forest Service itself, dedicated to converting diversified forests into monoculture pine tree plantations. Row on row of pine trees does not do much for other plants and animals that once lived there. But it sure makes it easier for lumbermen to bring in heavy machinery that compacts the soil and clear-cut timber for their mills.
The parallel forest near the Meers exit at the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge provides a small sample of monoculture growth. Here, cedar trees were planted in rows in anticipation of being harvested for fence posts. The project never came to fruition, but the cedars still stand where you can sight down the rows in any direction of boring, confusing sameness.
What you won’t see is the wreckage after a clear cut – so offensive that out west in our larger forests, there will often be a strip of trees bordering the highways to conceal the devastation.
But this isn’t an environmental column. For a recent look at the devastation monocultures wreak check out David Attenborough’s Green Planet series on PBS, the episode dedicated to Human Worlds.
Our concern today is the monoculture of monotonous sameness that Republicans and other fascists would impose upon the rest of us. They demand that everybody think and act just like they do – or “go back” to wherever they came from even if the families of their victims have been here longer than those of the bigots’.
Ironically, “going back” seems to be their dual-purpose mantra as they also work to send this country back to the 1950s, a time when white men dominated society and blandness was the premier cultural standard.
To do this, they are imposing voter restrictions reminiscent of poll taxes and grandfather clauses to limit minority participation. Voter ID laws have been designed to impose prices on the right to vote.
They are gerrymandering minorities out of compact districts where they could elect their own representatives. In Oklahoma City, part of a Hispanic enclave was attached to the western part of the state to make the OKC district more GOP-friendly. But minorities have no rights under a monoculture of white male political supremacy.
Then, too, we have constant attacks to strait-jacket school curriculums, libraries and librarians – to the extent that some unabridged dictionaries are dangerously, subversively, unacceptable.
[Ironically, some librarians – applying the critics’ standards – have also pulled from their shelves the Christian Bible that our censors cite as their inspiration. Something about such unsavory content as drunkenness, incest, adultery, lying, ethnic cleansing and the like – among the protagonists, no less.]
And now the monoculturists have stacked the Supreme Court with documented liars to preserve and protect their power and back their play toward a creating a theocracy, oligarchy, autocracy – anything that permits their minority rule.
Monocultures are fragile – in the terminology of economist Nassam Nicholas Taleb.
Farming exemplifies this danger. The vagaries of weather can guarantee that one farmer’s sustaining rain hits another’s crop at just the wrong time. And hail is no farmer’s friend.
Farmers sweat out the risks as their cash crops near harvest. In the old days of subsistence farming, one crop failure might get offset by productivity in another field. A farm family could get through the winter without one of its crops.
Monocultures lack that flexibility to face the eternal flux.
Two recent TV programs exemplify the value of multiple points of view. On a recent NOVA, astronomers pointed out how viewing distant objects from different points in space allows for a “triangulation” that provides a more accurate location for the object in question. During a CBS Sunday Morning interview, actress Sandy Duncan explained how damage to her left eye from a brain tumor makes simple tasks such as picking up a glass difficult without the similar triangulating effect of having both eyes to zero in on the glass.
With climate chaos now succeeding our age of unbridled greed, we will need as much diversity as we can muster in our attempt to meet and minimize these challenges.
Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano reminds us: “The best that the world has is the many worlds that the world contains: the different music of life, its pains and colors, the thousand and one ways to live and say, believe and create, eat, work, dance, play, love, suffer and celebrate.”
American philosopher Paul Weiss could have been assessing our political situation more than 70 years ago when he observed: “We progress by conquering what was once beyond conquest; we retrogress when we try to repeat the past with all its flaws, and we stand on par with the great of the past to the degree that we storm heavens as far away from us as theirs were in their day.”
We need to be looking forward, ready to storm these new heavens armed with the various weapons multicultural diversity provides. That response – not a retrogression – is healthier for the planet and those who inhabit it.