Monday, December 3, 2012

Cherished Landscapes

To me, one of the most interesting things to consider when discussing networks is the notion of location; in time, yes, as in temporality, but also in space.

As Tsing notes, this concept of location (often times extending to a sense of belonging, underpinning more colloquial notions of what a "community" is) is often threatened in a "cosmopolitan world" - the rural is not only seen as perishable, it is in fact perishing. Some say that by 2050 70% of the world's population will live in urban environments (of course, these models no doubt use demographic trends, which have a tendency to be disappointingly linear) - and although 30% of the world's population is by no means a small number, it is a far cry from the 97% of the world's population that lived in rural areas a little over 300 years ago.

This is perhaps why the opening of the section on "Movements", on page 213, struck me so vividly. Tsing presents the reader with Eku Badianta, a poet facing this very dilemma, and notes that his solution to the problem of the loss of the rural to the "forward march" of the urban, of "development", is to position these "cherished landscapes into his heart".

But can this ever truly be enough? Spatially these landscapes are only moved from one "location" to another - from the physical world the individual interacts with to the "heart" that resides within themselves. But temporally, these landscapes are, functionally, removed. Poems can exist in the cultural imagination for some time, yes, but consider (by way of terrible example) old English poetry on courtly love. While a reader might be able to appreciate these concepts, they will not feel them; they cannot cherish the landscape of courtly love as that old poet might.

This is why environmental protection is important - or rather, why one can come to feel that way. If a cherished landscape is so truly cherished, why would one want to preserve that space solely within oneself? It is not enough to move those landscapes within one's own person (as most would agree - this is not exactly a contentious assertion). Conservation is the most surefire method to preserve those landscapes temporally - for others, not just for the self.

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