1. We talked a lot about fishing in contrast with agriculture — but is it really true that, over the long duree of human history, fishing has been more destructive? It’s true that a farmer plants seeds for next year, this cultivating both soil and, its etymological congnate “culture,” but if we think about the widespread alteration of the land through agriculture, starting millenia ago, I wonder if farming still looks innocent.
I suspect the whole biosphere-into-nutrition spectrum — fishing / hunting / mining / farming / gathering — could use some analytical pressure. All these things deplete ecosystems, all of them have long and complex histories, all of them have different political valences in a modern environmental context. Not sure what to do with this right now, but perhaps it can shift fishing conversations out beyond fish, some of the time.
2. Circling back to the question of heroism and ecology, I’d like to state more directly the paradox I was trying to elaborate in response to Senayon’s paper. It’s a pretty simple double bind: humans can’t do without heroes, but heroic striving for distinction is not, on a basic level, compatible with ecological inter-connectedness. That’s not a problem to be solved, I think, but a condition with which to struggle.
I might emphasize, in this context, a post-modern (and post-Hemingway) resistance to the hero as such, in writers such as Thomas Pynchon, whose characters sometimes fragment into unintelligibly, in a work like Akmatova’s “Poem without a Hero” (a Russian reference for Ryan), or in various other modern / post-modern literary texts. Against the heroic drive to distinguish the one from the many, some recent writers have been working on a way to de-ego-ize heroism, sometimes with an ecological end in mind.
Eco-heroes from Rachel Carson to John Steinbeck, Al Gore, Bill McKibben: how might these figures fit on the heroic continuum?
Thanks again everyone for a stimulating conferences, and I hope our rivers flow together again sometime soon.