Hello Darkness, My Old Friend

  • In 541 AD, the Plague of Justinian spread from Constantinople across Europe, Asia, North Africa and Arabia killing an estimated 30 to 50 million people — about half of the world’s population.
  • The Black Death, which hit Europe in 1347, killed 200 million people in just four years — one-third to one-half of all Europeans.
  • Smallpox killed 90 to 95 percent of the indigenous population of the Americas in the 15th century, after it arrived from Europe. Mexico went from 11 million people pre-conquest to one million.

Could the planet be responding to the critical state it’s in right now? Fossil fuel electricity is one big factor, as are cars. A myriad of other assaults on planetary health (exacerbated by this criminal American adminstration in eliminating any and all environmental rules) have pushed planet earth into a crisis.

The Gaia Hypothesis, promulgated in the late 1970s by James Lovelock and Lynn Margulis, which proposes (as defined in Wikipedia) “…that living organisms and inorganic material are part of a dynamic system that shapes the Earth’s biosphere, and maintains the Earth as a fit environment for life. In some Gaia theory approaches, the Earth itself is viewed as an organism with self-regulatory functions.”

The planet is a living, breathing entity, conscious in ways we cannot imagine.

I’ll go even farther into woo-woo land here. In the ’60s, when I was living in Big Sur, I’d always thought of the idea of hugging redwood trees as being New Age lameness. But one day I thought I’d see what hugging a redwood tree was like. I wrapped my arms around it, laying my cheek against the soft bark — and I felt a jolt, a connection. This thing was alive, and it knew I was there. Well, well.

A number of books have come out lately, including Underland: A Deep Time Journey, by Robert Macfarlane, describing the discovery of the “wood wide web,” or the “mycorrhizal network” going on underground between mycelium and tree roots, which share nutrients and information. In one case I read about an alder tree that was attacked by beetles: it sent this information to alders quite a distance away to get ready, and the latter manufactured some kind of antibody to resist the beetles.

Trees, as well as the living and breathing earth, are alive in ways we can hardly comprehend.

Is the virus sending us a message?

About Lloyd Kahn

Lloyd Kahn started building his own home in the early '60s and went on to publish books showing homeowners how they could build their own homes with their own hands. He got his start in publishing by working as the shelter editor of the Whole Earth Catalog with Stewart Brand in the late '60s. He has since authored six highly-graphic books on homemade building, all of which are interrelated. The books, "The Shelter Library Of Building Books," include Shelter, Shelter II (1978), Home Work (2004), Builders of the Pacific Coast (2008), Tiny Homes (2012), and Tiny Homes on the Move (2014). Lloyd operates from Northern California studio built of recycled lumber, set in the midst of a vegetable garden, and hooked into the world via five Mac computers. You can check out videos (one with over 450,000 views) on Lloyd by doing a search on YouTube:

7 Responses to Hello Darkness, My Old Friend

  1. Selwyn Gossett says:

    Despite our beliefs (emphasizing beliefs, even science, in which smart science is based on doubt, is system of thought ultimately grounded in basic beliefs), that Man is the pinnacle of creation and that the wise monkey continues to move forward under the banner of ‘progress’ etc. the tale history tells is a jumble. Nobody has yet scientifically defined, measured and provided a verifiable basis for an ecosystem, the venerable Peter Warshall aside, bless him. Because we do not yet understand enough to make calls on what should be left alone or if there are too many of us or if we consume too much.
    It should be somewhat clear what the rapid spread of the virus is telling us: destroy that which birthed you, created you (humans arose from the natural system), destroy that which makes clean air and clean water and unleash microbes and viruses into our packed humanized landscape and see what happens.

  2. Andy says:

    Regarding hugging the redwood, I cleared English Ivy that had been choking a magnolia tree in our back yard. I’m as skeptical of the ‘woo-woo’ as they come, but felt both a connection and a sense of gratitude from the magnolia when the last vine was cleared. For what it’s worth…..

    Thanks for your blog, Lloyd.

  3. Jenny says:

    I’ve come to revere trees as the most beautiful creations. Mother Nature will protect them.

  4. robert, botanist and hope to be house owner/builder says:

    I was going to note that the alder was probably attacked by beetles rather than beatles, but instead I’ll just say how cool is this new enlightenment that mycorrhizal networks are the communication links between trees (and probably a lot more).

    I only wish they could help me with the ‘only komputers are fast enough to solve are you not a komputer’ quiz I had to pass several times to post this (vehicles, boats, buses, crosswalks, traffic signals .. all in inglorious fuzzy confusion…)… I should have typed & mailed instead – I’ll bet komputers are too dumb/lazy to do that!

  5. Lloyd Kahn says:

    Ooops, yes, beetles. Thanks.

  6. Jackie says:

    I just finished “Underland” too. Loved it. I knew about the connectiveness all living things have but scientific proof brings it up close and personal.
    “Understory” isn’t bad either for fiction. As I get older the conclusions of how everything is alive and conscious and part of the same matter or system is easier to understand and appreciate.

  7. Graham Hughes says:

    Hi, still loving the blog & other works Lloyd. I’ve read all of Macfarlane’s work and apart from being rather envious of his travels I do enjoy his writing.

    I’d like to also suggest ‘The Overstory’ by Richard Powers which is a really interesting piece of ‘faction’…

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