Thursday, 30 September 2010
Tuesday, 28 September 2010
A couple of warm dialogues with physicist Brian Swimme helped hone certain reflections, as did conversations with a broad range of luminous souls, among them Jay Griffiths, Kalevi Kull, Wendell Berry, David Cayley, Patrick Curry, Donna House, Omar Zubaedi, Georg Glazner, Eva Simms, Tom Jay, Will Adams, Niel Thiese, Morten Tonnessen, Stefan Lang-Gilliatt, Maya Ward, Jan van Boekel, Deborah Bird Rose, Ed Casey, Bill Plotkin, Keren Abrams, Steve Talbott, Craig Holdrege, Eileen Crist, the late and much missed Briagn Goodwin, Peter Adams, Chris Wells, Jennifer Sahn, Jon Young, Peter Manchester, and Arthur Zajonc.
Tuesday, 21 September 2010
Morten Tønnessen 2010. "Is a wolf wild as long as it does not know it is being thoroughly managed?" Humanimalia - a journal of human/animal interface studies 2(1): 1-8.
Monday, 20 September 2010
Thursday, 16 September 2010
The topic of wildness is a matter of ongoing debate in the wildlife management community. In this essay it is related to questions of shyness and actual human interference (especially on the management side). The well-documented case of the Scandinavian wolf population suggests that shyness is not a sufficient criterion for wildness. For all the wolf knows, it is still a wild animal – and it still behaves like one. But are we justified in claiming that a (more or less) free-ranging wolf is truly wild, simply because it does not know that it is being thoroughly managed? The article introduces this theme and the case at hand, covering wolf mortality, human artifacts in the life-world of wolves, and captures. The long-term goal of wildlife conservation, the author proposes, should be to restore the independent viability of wildlife. Wildness, in short, has to go beyond appearances. In a closing note, Arne Næss’ philosophy of wolf policies is critically evaluated.
At a general level, the recurring topic of this article is the opposition and complementarity of qualitative and quantitative aspects of empirical data. In particular, an attempt is made to develop means to qualify quantitative data. More particularly, however, the aim of the current text is to investigate the extent of human impact in nature in contemporary times – or more precisely to evaluate proposed representations thereof. The theoretical perspective stems from ecosemiotics and biosemiotics, with special emphasis on a phenomenological reading of Jakob von Uexküll.
An important component of this contribution consists of a discussion of the merits and shortcomings of two methodologies – the ecological footprint (a common tool in policy-making) and the ontological niche (the author's own coinage based on the theory of ecosemiotics). One of the main objectives of the developers of the ecological footprint concept was to make the general public and policy-makers aware of excessive resource use. While that is estimable in its right context, the author proposes that the ontological niche concept can complement the ecological footprint notion by covering aspects of the environmental problématique which for conceptual reasons the former cannot cover. Overcoming the ecological crisis requires awareness of the global dimension and the resource situation, but also of the personal, experiential aspects of our current predicament – our personal involvement in humankind’s material engagement in the ecosystems. The texture of reality is what is ultimately at stake here, and the ontological niche notion is introduced so as to emphasize our embedded, rather than detached, position in the world of the living.
The basic motion in this text is that from self to world. Exemplifying what the ontological niche amounts to, the author provides ontological maps ranging from the social relations of one individual to a rough sketch of the global ecological situation. In a concluding section the general problem of interpreting numerical data qualitatively is approached by way of three steps: (1) Determining existence status, (2) Determining the character of the relation and (3) Translating numerical data to characterizing terms.
Tuesday, 14 September 2010
The Umwelt trajectories of wolves, sheep and people
Abstract for the conference ZOOSEMIOTICS AND ANIMAL REPRESENTATIONS
This paper contributes to developing Umwelt terminology, and simultaneously offers an analysis of past and current interrelations of wolves, sheep and people, thus providing an application of the notation suggested.
The starting point for the author’s terminology is the concept of an Umwelt transition, which is in effect an Uexküllian notion of environmental change. An Umwelt transition can be defined as a lasting, systematic change within the life cycle of a being, considered from an ontogenetic (individual), phylogenetic (population-, species-) or cultural perspective, from one typical appearance of its Umwelt (i.e., organism-specific phenomenal world) to another. An Umwelt trajectory, the author proposes, can be characterized as the course through evolutionary (and cultural) time taken by the Umwelt of a creature, as defined by its changing relations with the Umwelten of other creatures. Thus defined it represents an evolutionary and mass equivalent of Jakob von Uexküll’s notion of the Umwelt-tunnel of a single individual creature.
As we can see, the Umwelt trajectory of a creature is the historical path of its perceptual and behavioral dispositions considered from an ecological and phenomenological point of view. As such, it is intimately tied to this creature’s ontological niche, i.e. the set of contrapuntal relations that a being takes part in at a given point of natural history. Like the Umwelt tunnel and the ontological niche, the Umwelt trajectory of a creature can be regarded as a specification of the Umwelt concept which situates it in terms of temporal perspective.
Taken as a whole the Umwelten of wolves, sheep and people represent an Umwelt triad of sorts, given that they have been and remain intertwined and codependent. This triple Umwelt is telling of both ecological and cultural developments. In cultural terms, hardly any animals are as loaded with symbolic value as the wolf and the sheep. And the shared importance is no coincidence, as the symbolism of the two animals has developed in explicit opposition to each other. Altogether the wolf-sheep duet, the human-sheep duet and the human-wolf duet – to speak with Uexküll – constitute a highly coordinated triple duet in the great symphony of nature.
The most enlivening aspect of this narrative concerns the semiotic and phenomenological interplay that takes place amid wolves, sheep and people. While the most relevant long-term process of change varies from creature to creature – evolution for wolves, breeding for sheep and cultural development for people (all of which represent broad categories of Umwelt transitions) – there are several common factors at play as well. In this paper, the author will touch upon a) the geographical range and overlap, (b) the sensory range and overlap, and c) the functional range and overlap of wolves, sheep and people. The most crucial arena for semiotic interplay (and thus semiotic causation) is that of functional interrelations, particularly with regard to companionship and enmity. In our current ecological situation, where the human species has emerged as a global species in charge of an ecological empire wherein the sheep, among other species, has been given a privileged position, even the wolf has entered into a dependency relation with our kind. For better or worse, our Umwelt trajectories have (once again) aligned.
Monday, 13 September 2010
Dinda L. Gorlée and Morten Tønnessen 2010. "Da Lotman og semiotikken kom til Norge". Pp 258-259 in Turid Farbregd and Øyvind Rangøy (Eds.): Estland og Norge i fortid og nåtid - Norsk-estisk forening 25 år. Oslo: Norsk-estisk forening.
Tuesday, 7 September 2010
Four of these I had to create:
Feel free to join me!
Sunday, 5 September 2010
1) Economic growth, as defined in standard economics textbooks, is an increase in the production and consumption of goods and services, and;
2) Economic growth occurs when there is an increase in the multiplied product of population and per capita consumption, and;
3) The global economy grows as an integrated whole consisting of agricultural, extractive, manufacturing, and services sectors that require physical inputs and produce wastes, and;
4) Economic growth is often and generally indicated by increasing real gross domestic product (GDP) or real gross national product (GNP), and;
5) Economic growth has been a primary, perennial goal of many societies and most governments, and;
6) Based upon established principles of physics and ecology, there is a limit to economic growth, and;
7) There is increasing evidence that global economic growth is having negative effects on long-term ecological and economic welfare…
Therefore, we take the position that:
1) There is a fundamental conflict between economic growth and environmental protection (for example, biodiversity conservation, clean air and water, atmospheric stability), and;
2) There is a fundamental conflict between economic growth and the ecological services underpinning the human economy (for example, pollination, decomposition, climate regulation), and;
3) Technological progress has had many positive and negative ecological and economic effects and may not be depended on to reconcile the conflict between economic growth and long-term ecological and economic welfare, and;
4) Economic growth, as gauged by increasing GDP, is an increasingly dangerous and anachronistic goal, especially in wealthy nations with widespread affluence, and;
5) A steady state economy (that is, an economy with a relatively stable, mildly fluctuating product of population and per capita consumption) is a viable alternative to a growing economy and has become a more appropriate goal in large, wealthy economies, and;
6) The long-run sustainability of a steady state economy requires its establishment at a size small enough to avoid the breaching of reduced ecological and economic capacity during expected or unexpected supply shocks such as droughts and energy shortages, and;
7) A steady state economy does not preclude economic development, a dynamic, qualitative process in which different technologies may be employed and the relative prominence of economic sectors may evolve, and;
8) Upon establishing a steady state economy, it would be advisable for wealthy nations to assist other nations in moving from the goal of economic growth to the goal of a steady state economy, beginning with those nations currently enjoying high levels of per capita consumption, and;
9) For many nations with widespread poverty, increasing per capita consumption (or, alternatively, more equitable distributions of wealth) remains an appropriate goal.
Friday, 3 September 2010
BY MORTEN TØNNESSEN
Humans are so accustomed to being the subjects of history that to many, it is provocative to claim that animals too can be actors of history. Such attitudes are enthused by our age-old philosophical dismissal of animals. A hundred years ago, nature writers William J. Long and Ernest Thompson Seton caused controversy by claiming that their writings were accurate representations of natural history. Their depiction of wolves sparked a debate about whether animals were individual creatures subject to learning or instinct-driven specimen. Charges of anthropocentrism and anthropomorphism have never silenced, and the relation between science and folklore remains troublesome.
2 “Ivan”: An immigrant from the East that was shot illegally (contemporary Norway)
3 The Galven bitch: Unaware of management zones, this sheep-eating female was the first to be relocated (contemporary Norway)
"Wolf history: Agents in hiding"PhD candidate Morten Tønnessen/"Influencing military strategy, developing chemistry, changing politics: The role of the wolf in 1800-century Sweden"Dr. Karin Dirke/"Animal agency and the wolf that saved an entire population"PhD candidate Håkon Stokland/"Controlling wolves: Attitudes towards wolves in Finland in the 1990s"Ms. Heta Lähdesmäki