I was going to talk about this when I first saw the quote in question, but became distracted, probably by shiny things. A few moments ago, however, I drew the Green Man card from my Heart of Faerie Oracle, which I just bought last week (review to follow, short version: this deck is FUCKING AMAZING).
The quote in question was from one of the many Facebook groups I haunt, I believe the topic was Heathenry and caring for the environment. To paraphrase this person, they thought it was important to “strive against nature” like the ancestors did. I don’t remember the exact quote obviously, but I remember that phrase quite clearly.
The thing is, I can’t help but think that striving against nature is what got us into this mess in the first place.
Now, I’m not going to go into discussing environmental boogeymen like “peak oil” or “climate change” (although climate change is most definitely a thing) or dig up frightening statistics about pollution and such, because you’ve probably heard it all before, and I’m not into scare-mongering even if what you’re saying is true (and the thing about statistics is that they lie) but that’s not the topic of discussion for today.
It is March, there is snow outside, and it is cold, but I don’t have to worry about the cold because I have indoor heating and a fireplace that can really heat up the house when it gets going. In summer, I’m lucky enough to have an air conditioner that does a great job of keeping my family cool (and ice cream, ice cream helps). The temperature outside doesn’t matter, because as long as I stay in my climate-controlled house, I can walk around naked and the cold and heat won’t bother me (I don’t actually do that, BTW, I’m just using it as an example).
If I’m hungry, I can go to the grocery store and find all kinds of food, even stuff that doesn’t normally grow in my local area. (Actually, I can’t go to the grocery store on my own, but I can get my groceries delivered to me via the awesomeness that is the Internet). Even in winter, my fridge is stuffed with the same kind of food I eat every year. Apples, oranges, bananas, strawberries, blueberries, you name it, its there. If farmers have had a bad growing season, the worst that will happen is that there’s a shortage of something, and I’m economically secure enough that I probably won’t notice.
The thing is, that’s so different from what our ancestors faced, and I’m not even talking about ancestors from back in Ye Olde Dayes. My grandmother’s situation was very different than mine (for starters, she baked all the bread her family ate, all the time, because they didn’t have grocery stores where she lived), but basically, this is how you break it down for someone whose life is so dependent on nature’s whims:
Your crops fail? You starve to death, unless you have nice neighbours or neighbours that don’t hate you enough to tolerate your presence. You get lost in a snowstorm? You die. Attacked by wild animals? You get eaten to death. Manage to escape with your life? You’ll probably still die if your wounds aren’t treated properly.
Basically, life in an agrarian (or hunter-gatherer, or pretty much any pre-modern) society is like playing Dark Souls if Dark Souls had a harder difficulty setting than “fucking sadistic”: Prepare to DIE!
The thing is, what makes this idea of striving against nature so silly to me is that we….don’t really need to do it anymore. In fact, it would be better for us to ease up a little (and by us, I am of course talking about North Americans, especially middle class white ones, like me, Western Europe, and well, first world countries in general). We, unlike our ancestors, haven’t had to fight tooth and nail to carve out a space for us to live in the Wilderness. Dark forests aren’t so scary anymore (the way they are in fairy tales.
If anything, we need to start caring more for our environment, not flail about with our battle-axes screaming “NATURE IS BAAAAAD! EVIL JOTNAR HURR DURR!” /vikingbro.
People who say things like the stuff I just said are often accused of believing that nature is all fuzzy wuzzy cuddly cotton candy rainbow farting unicorns, and my response is “Seriously?”
No, nature is not nice, from my perspective, the tornado that steamrolls over my house is not very nice, and neither is the hurricane or the forest fire (although forest fires can be very good for some trees). Nature is not nice, it’s not particularly concerned with your welfare, it just kind of….is….
Nature is not nice, on the other hand, humans haven’t been very nice to nature either (and I’m not going to make the mistake of claiming our ancestors were environmentalists, because they weren’t) and, you know, despite that thing about not being completely dependent on nature, we still need food, and clean drinking water, forests to give us oxygen and flora and fauna to keep everything running smoothly. We need the wild places to awe us and keep us humble, we probably even need the yellow jacket, even though yellow jackets are EVIL INCARNATE AND MUST BE DESTROYED!
And what do the Aesir and the Vanir do when they’re stumped about something? They visit the wild places and chat up the Jotnar (and then they either screw them or smash their skulls in, usually).
Also, the Earth is, like, Thor’s Mom (or Nerthus, if you’re Vanatru, Hertha, and Gerda and Laufey count too), do you REALLY want to mess with Thor’s Mom?
I didn’t think so.