Somehow the last 20 minutes got truncated in the podcast release. You can watch and listen to the entire episode on Twitch.
transcript follows the show notes.
What are the conditions our communities need to see the Milky Way?
This is the question that Chanda Prescod-Weinstein poses near the end of her book The Disordered Cosmos. I hadn’t meant to include a book on astro/physics when I created April’s topics, and indeed when I first thought of April I thought only about Braiding Sweetgrass. But I follow Chanda on Twitter and she’s been on the podcast and when I saw that she had written a book it occurred to me that we don’t look up often enough, so I asked her if she thought it would be appropriate and she thought that it would be. I hadn’t read the book at that point yet, it wasn’t published until early March, but we really don’t look up often enough.
When Chanda was on the podcast I had made a cheeky comment about Thoreau sitting in the woods thinking his Big Thoughts while his mother brought him sandwiches. It’s a common remark, intended to remind people of Thoreau’s privilege and the nonsense of Enlightenment ideas about pristine wilderness. Chanda turned this over and reminded me that the people who make her meals, who empty her garbage can, who sweep the floors and do all the myriad caretaking that exists in the world are also part of the scientific process. Enlightenment ideas about wilderness are nonsense, but not because Thoreau didn’t make his own sandwiches.
So what are the conditions that our communities need to see the Milky Way?
To notice badgers and raccoons?
To gather moss?
To watch the growth of plants and their relationships to each other?
To be undrowned.
Each of this books talks about how our relationships with the world around us are made complicated and disconnected. Animals are an inconvenience. Food comes in packages. Weeds get pulled. Pets are much loved but still commodities, animals we buy and sell and who themselves live in disconnection. We learn to listen to the world around us on its own terms, not just to draw lessons from them. They are teachers, but we need to be careful about the way we think about that because they don’t exist in order to teach us. Teaching is part of reciprocal relationship, it is not transactional and as Chanda notes in quantum physics, the act of observing has consequences, it changes the thing being observed.
So when we think of the conditions that we need in order to see, to know, to gather, to watch, to be undrowned we think about all the barriers that exist. The lights that drown out the stars and the distance that you need to drive, if you even have access to a car, to be somewhere that you can see. The way that we live in cities, not the fact of cities but the way that we have constructed them to pull resources from places we call remote and then concentrate them to meet certain needs, depriving those places of the resources that they need.
We think about our location, because our location and the way that we think about it is what complicates these things. And thinking about our location helps us to work through what we might do differently. How we might imagine, and then enact, a world where Black children can see the night sky and dream big dreams that come true.
If you haven’t had time to read the books, that’s ok. Please join us anyway. I have resources for you:
This conversation with Daniel about his book Raccoon that comes out in June.
This conversation with Mi’kmaq astronomer Hilding Neilson about Indigenous stargazing.
This magical interview with Mari Joerstad about the ways in which the Hebrew Bible describes a world that is filled alive with other than human persons.
And this article about the first three months of conversations.
This month’s panel:
Chanda Prescod-Weinstein is an American and Barbadian theoretical cosmologist, and is both an Assistant Professor of Physics and Astronomy and a Core Faculty Member in Women’s and Gender Studies at the University of New Hampshire. She is the author of The Disordered Cosmos, a book connecting theoretical physics and Black feminisms.
Daniel Heath Justice is a American-born Canadian academic and member of the Cherokee Nation. He is professor of First Nations and Indigenous Studies and English at the University of British Columbia. He is the author of Why Indigenous Literatures Matter which we discussed in January as well as Badger and the soon to be released Raccoon. Daniel also writes Wonderworks, which are speculative fictions.
Neil Ellis Orts is a writer and performer living in Houston, Texas. His novella, Cary & John, is available for order wherever you order books. He is currently putting together a short story collection. Themes that emerge from Neil’s body of work include identity and religious faith, and of course grief. There is almost always someone dead or dying in his stories, having absorbed the Pauline line about death being the final enemy. His performance work often invites his audience into self reflection.
Ben Krawec is self-described forest geek. A wild harvesting, dumpster diving, Anishnaabeinnini.
Celeste Smith is an Oneida woman living in Anishnaabe territory and the founder of Cultural Seeds, a plant-based business rooted in Traditional Indigenous Knowledges.
More info on this yearlong series of discussions about Indigenous Literatures at daanis.ca/ambe
TRANSCRIPT: transcript is lightly edited for clarity
Surrounded by relatives
Fri, Jun 30, 2023 10:23AM • 1:09:20
land, book, indigenous, talk, relationship, plant, braiding, thought, year, writes, conversation, live, discovery, people, growing, called, fight, medicine, discovered, hear
PK I am so happy to be here to talk about being surrounded by relatives, these books that we've that I've collected are just some of them were really surprising to me. I hadn't. I don't think any of my high school science teachers had ever thought that I would pick up a physics book again. But I really, really enjoyed The Disordered Cosmos. So what I was reflecting on, you know, as we're kind of going to move into the introductions was last night on medicine for the resistance, we talked with Helen Knott, and she had written a memoir, in my own moccasins:, a memoir of resistance, and we were talking about loss, the loss of relatives, the loss of place, the loss of connection, and we have been talking about connection to place and going home, and the feeling of the land remembering me when was the first time that I went home and how incredibly powerful that was, because I hadn't been expecting. I wasn't used to thinking in that way at that time. And so to have that feeling of the land, remembering me was really surprising.
And then I was and of course I've been I was thinking how Kerry, you know, my co hosts would hear that either she's part of the black diaspora doesn't know where that land is that would know her ancestors. And then Helen made a comment. later on in the conversation, that her grandmother had told her what medicine shows up, you know, her grandma, she was going through some stuff, as we all do. And her grandmother had made a comment about medicine showing up. And in the context of what we had said a few minutes earlier, it sounded like the land reaching out and offering something of itself, you know, to any one of us and it sounded to me, you know, in the context of thinking about Kerry and how she might have heard earlier comment, you know, the earlier part of the conversation and the loss that would be associated with that for her. You know, I asked her about that. You know, what, what medicine shows up for you. In what way does the land reach out to welcome you and to know you and so that in the context of our conversation, that's kind of what I want to hear from each of you as we introduce ourselves and then in the chat as well. How, how does, what medicine shows up for you? How does the land or the universe of whatever, you know, whatever it is that reaches out to you, as you were writing the book, or reflecting on the book. So we'll start with Jenessa, and then she'll go take off and focus on the chat. With Jenessa what medicine shows up for you.
Jenessa: Oh my Gosh, I was hoping to just fly under the radar of that question by keeping my camera. But you still are picking on me anyway. So I was I read Braiding Sweetgrass. Well, I read Braiding Sweetgrass, like last year, but for this month, I was kind of reading Robin's other book called Gathering Moss. And I haven't actually finished it yet. But I just think, just like reading, going through the book, the way that Robin writes about moss, it almost feels like this, like love letter to moss. And I think like, just like reflecting on that I've never heard, I've never really read a book where, like, a single like, plant has been described in this way. And like, there's one particular chapter where she talks about reciprocity, it's called a web of reciprocity. And she's like, it's like, the chapter focuses on like, her journey, trying to figure out what the traditional uses of moss were, and like, figure out other like, if Moss was like, as loved by other people is like, how she loves moss. And I thought it was really interesting in this chapter, and this might not be exactly the answer, you're looking for Patty, so I apologize. But, uh, one of the things that she found was one of the ways that moss reflects it's like best gift was in the hands of, of women, most namely during their like, reproductive cycles and with babies, and I thought this was interesting, sort of like looking forward to next month's conversation where we're gonna be talking about mothers and made me think about how you can like this month was like talking about how we're all connected in us like even in this book like we’re already connecting with like, the next month's topic a little bit and I just thought that was pretty cool stuff. Oh, that is I have say about that.
PK thanks, Jen. So I'm gonna go clockwise around my screen. I don't know if this is your screen, there's my screen. Oh, Celeste what medicine shows up for you.
Celeste: Um, a couple of things. Actually, for me, water has been showing up a lot. I actually started out, as you know, because we've been friends for a long time in the city. And I gravitated out of the city and I came to Manitoulin island, which is the biggest fresh water island in the world. And I'm surrounded by water here. And when I was in the city, I would constantly try to get to the water. But it was super hard, right to do that. So now I'm live minutes from the water. And I'm always going down there and just being here. But I would get this overwhelming feeling that when I first moved here that I that I have to get in the water, it was bizarre, I would just tell people, if I'm in the car with them, you need to stop, I need to just jump in the water. And then we can continue on *laughter* I don't know what your deal is. But I moved here I was just getting off all of the stuff that was hanging off of you right some of the stress and the anxiety of so that that water just helped me and I just jump in now.
PK: That's amazing, Ben?.
Ben: Yeah. So like Jenessa, I've been really kind of diving really hard into Robin Wall Kimmerer’s work. Because I've been studying ecological restoration for the last year or so. That's pretty directly related to my chosen field. And some, something in her book, Braiding Sweetgrass, or the chapter about following in the footprints of Nanaboozhoo really stuck with me, because it's, you know, it's about becoming indigenous to place and building and developing a connection with the land wherever, where you happen to be. And that struck a bit of a chord with me because I mean, you know, like one side of my ancestry comes all the way over from Ukraine. They're displaced by war and famine. And then the other chunk, another chunk of it comes way from way up in Northwestern Ontario, which, I mean, as much as identify as Ojibwe, Northwestern, Ontario, Ojibwe is kind of a different, different brand of Ojibwe, then you get in central Ontario.
And so I on top that I've been in Toronto, for the last six months, half a year, on and off, on and off for a good long time now. And it's been, it gets really difficult to feel a sense of connection to the land when you're surrounded by so much concrete and traffic and pollution and noise. So, but what's been kind of keeping me sane out here is doing a lot of back alley botanizing. Now I've been I've been noticing that the places where I tend to feel like the strongest sense of connection to land, and Toronto, they're like, they're not necessarily the like the designated conservation spaces like Tommy Thompson Park, or the ravines it's these little places in the alleys where, like little plant like little plants have been making a go of it. And that there's these like little mounds of pigeon droppings, sand that kind of accumulate where things, things grow up. And there's this really cool thing that happens where things like lambs quarters are things in the nightshade family, it's like one little seed, we'll find a crack, and then and then grit, and pigeon droppings will kind of accumulate where this plant starts to grow. And then so you can kind of you can actually see, like gradients. As you go further and further, like through these alleys where you like, you'll see these little mounds of accumulated, accumulated soil get bigger, and the community of plants within these towns will get more, more complex. And most of these plants aren't indigenous to the area. There are a lot of them, you know, kind of quote-unquote, invasive. But if you sit and watch, watch for a little bit. It's like the birds, the birds in the area and the bugs, they don't seem to care too much. Whether or not they're invasive, you know, the birds, you know, they're perfectly happy to come in and eat and nibble on the seeds or rodents will come in and chomp on them while they're still young. I kind of just feel like I don't want to talk to point to death, but I feel like I can kind of see what I'm getting at is that sense that In life in nature, find a way, even when and attend to it. And the beauty of it though, is it's happening in the places where we didn't seek out to conserve anything we didn't set intentionally set the space aside, things just process and just showed up, and took root.
PK: I appreciate the (intelligible) Neil? What medicine shows up for you.
Neil: This is a curious question for me. So I recall, you, Patty, telling this story. When you first visited, the where you came from, and you feeling the land calling to you. And that story is kind of haunted me ever since because I I am so disconnected from the land of where my people come from, separated by an ocean, there's not a bit of indigenous-ness in me to Texas, or this whole continent. And it's made me wonder what it would be like to, to, I've never had an urge to visit Germany, but now I kind of do want to go visit Germany and see if there's an experience here because growing up on the farm I always felt very connected to that spot. And also kind of knowing I, that there are people there before me, and I remember sitting out at night, stargazing or whatever, and listening to the highway, which was a half a mile away, but hearing traffic there and wondering what the people that we displaced, what they what did they hear and what did they see and all those things. So I think I've always had a feeling of not really belonging. I don't know if that's even the word.
But when you talk about what medicine comes to me from from the land. Scents, smells are really strong for me. When I go to the to the arboretum here in Houston even though I'm surrounded by the sounds of the freeway just out of sight, the smells of that, the forest I mean it's protected land otherwise running into creatures armadillos things I run into, but the smells of the leaves and plants the dirt that is somehow resonant for me. And when I read Braiding Sweetgrass I felt like someone was articulating things that I I felt that I've never thought to speak about I don't know how many people living in Houston and all the concrete and what have you and city people or city people, so many of them have never grown a plant in their life. And so I don't even know how to talk to him about some of this. But luckily, I when I was reading, Braiding Sweetgrass, a local performance artist. had a residency where she was doing public events, and one of them was a reading group around Braiding Sweetgrass, because she's very concerned about living in the city of oil business and the pollution around that industry. You know, things explode now and then and there's big plumes of smoke that cover the whole city. And yeah, so that was also kind of a nice connection to my, my performance art world that we had. I don't know I'm kind of rambling now. But But yeah, the smells are really strong. And just sort of the wonder about connecting to the dirt on your feet.
Chanda: I feel like this is a complicated question for me. So I feel like I should um, you know, start by saying that I think sometimes the relationship that I have to land can be misunderstood because I was born in East Los Angeles. El Cerreno, if there's anybody in the audience who happens to be also from eastla. But my mom was born in Barbados. And so sometimes I get articulated is like specifically even in the context of being Black if not being Black of this land. And there's a lot of that, um, but then I think also, people sometimes imagine that having that relationship with Barbados somehow mitigates the fact that occasionally people ask me like, what part of Africa did your family come from? And I can, I will never be able to answer that question. Um, or sometimes people say, like, oh, at least your family doesn't have like, you know, the same history of slavery. And I'm like, You do realize most of the enslaved people went not to the United States, but to Latin America and the Caribbean, right?
Um, so I feel like the the question of the land for me is always very fraught. I'm and also that my mom and I have very different experiences with it. I should say like for her, it's been easier to find ways to root it into the land that she is on in ways, where she tries to be respectful with local communities. And this might be a generational thing that for me, that's more challenging. And so I bring this up to say that the last year being in lockdown has meant for the first time in my entire life, I actually sat and watched seasons in a in an area that was not urban. And so I and I found myself asking different questions and this translated into .. um I live in on the New Hampshire Seacrest. And I also read a column for new scientists. So I think probably readers of my column were really surprised when I popped up like late in spring last year with a column about how blue jays aren't blue. Because I had spent, I had found myself in this situation where I was watching blue jays and not just like, look, there's a blue jay, which had been my experience very occasionally, I would see one somewhere. But where I was actually seeing them every day and watching their behavior and finding myself curious about what they were and how they worked and and and asking all of these other questions that I had never asked because they had never really been an environment where I was really watching other creatures living on the land.
And so I think like right now, a lot of my relationship with the land is actually watching how all of the others are living on the land from the desk I'm sitting at right now, because I'm sitting right in front of a window that looks out onto a wooded area, and so like watching. I learned that blue jays are very aggressive. I watched one fight with a cardinal over a tree at one point. All of these things I am I've been watching the deer in that have recently started to emerge and consume. I'm and I guess I, I am very aware that in many ways, this is not like I can't be rooted in this land in the way that like other people are particularly the Abenaki people and I'm the Penobscot people who come from a little bit north of where I am. I'm and at the same time like part of the challenge that those of us in the Black Atlantic, find ourselves in is ways that we have to find a way to build relationships with where we are, that we are creolized in our relationship with the land. And that is a painful task. But also something that we have to learn to live with. And then not hating ourselves like not hate that. And live with the complexity of that.
I do feel like the other thing that I should mention is that I've also spent a lot of time because the Disordered Cosmos just came out talking publicly about Kanaka Maoli and Native Hawaiian land. I'm and and what's interesting is that not many people have asked me if I have been to Mauna Kea, which is you know, contested land in the fight over the 30-meter telescope. I have sacrificed professionally to fight with Kanaka folks. I have also never been to the Moana. And I don't think I need to in order to feel very rooted in that struggle and in that land. And so we think sometimes it's not about physicality, but sometimes our land ties are through political solidarity. And I think that that's like especially true for those of us in the African diaspora who have experienced such extensive displacement that our sense of the land is almost that we're rooted in all of the political struggles in the land.
And so I guess the last comment I will make about that is when I first started thinking about what to do, when I realized that Kanaka were being criminalized, is I knew that vocabulary as a Black person, I knew that vocabulary very intimately if criminalized for defending your community. I also asked myself, What would I do if it was Barbados? And I knew that I would want people to fight with me if it was Barbados and so even though Barbados is not where my land ties begin, there is something also about being Island people that tied me to the Kanaka struggle and to their land struggle. And as I say, in the book, I promise I'm not trying to sell it, I'm just pointing out that I say this. I have a chapter called Lessons from the Moana that, um, Kanaka the movement for sovereignty and the fight to articulate what has been called their apauno science saved me as a scientist and I know that that wasn't the goal, but it is nonetheless what happened. And so again, I've never been to the Mauna but I still feel very tied to it in that way. And for me, I think that I'm being in struggle with Kanaka Maoli people has been medicine.
PK: Yeah, when I read that part, because at the time that I was reading that I was also, I had just done a couple of presentations to labor groups, because I've done a couple of presentations to labor groups for International Women's Day. And then I think your book arrived a day or two later, you know, and so then I get to that part of the chapter where you're like, I can't cross the picket line. I can't cross the picket line. And that was just like, really, because of the context that I have was coming to that from it was just an incredibly powerful thing. You know, I can't cross the picket line. That's, that's, that's, you know, this is going to be my relationship. And that that was just it. And people should buy your book. Go ahead and pitch it, people should buy it. It's a really, really, really, really good book. Daniel, what medicine shows up for you?
Daniel: Well, I think it's a complicated question for me too. I mean, behind me is a picture of where I grew up in Colorado, which is not Cherokee territory, but it's where I call home. It's my heart home more than any place in the world because I'm third generation of my mom's family, who were part of the mining, exodus, or kind of influx that contributed to Ute people's dispossession. Right. And now I live in Skwxwú7mesh-ulh Temíx̱w on the Sunshine Coast in British Columbia, which isn't Cherokee territory. After the Trail of Tears, we were driven from our territory into other people's territory. And so the relationship with the land is always a really complicated one for me, too. And yet, I mean, I think that the whole issue we're talking about is how do you how are you in relation to land in ways that aren't about laying claim but asserting obligation and not just to the human peoples who call it home, but also the other than human peoples?
And I love where I live here. On the Sunshine Coast. It's a beautiful place and under lockdown as well for me, I'm an animal person, much more than I'm kind of called to plants except for trees. Trees are the plant that I'm really drawn to but I've become much more attentive to the little plant, I have .. Ben’s comments. Like I had no idea there were all these little flowers and now I'm, I'm finding out what these are. I just learned about this thing called miner's lettuce the other day, which is amazing and I had no idea this stuff existed. It’s green leaf with flowers popping out of the middle. And I think for me when I'm when I think about that relationship, trying as much as possible to have it be infused by wonder and humility. These aren't my lands This is an I will never belong to the land in the ways that Skwxwú7mesh-ulh people belong to these lands. But I hopefully can be an honorable relationship with this land and, and be continually surprised and delighted. And and sometimes frightened and confused by the relationship and the interactions here as well, because I think oftentimes when we're talking about being in relationship with land where we're kind of, we're presuming an inevitably positive one, but it's, it's complicated, just like it's complicated for our other than human kin. And I think that's important, too.
In terms of medicine, we did you know, under pandemic, we decided to put up a, a new garden bed, and I had some old tobacco from Ontario. And I tried to grow tobacco when I was in Ontario when I was North. of Toronto, and it was a dismal failure. And I planted it last year, and it went wild like it. I did not know you could have so much tobacco. I did not know what I was doing. But it was amazing. And so I had this, this really incredible harvest of old tobacco that I was able to gift to people. It was far more than I could do anything with that it was it felt very much like an important opportunity for sharing. because it came very unexpectedly to me it was not because I know what I'm doing. But it was it. It was really amazing to have so much tobacco that I could actually gift because I'm usually the one who's gifted tobacco. And so it was a it was a really beautiful experience. So I think for me, it's the unexpected part of the relationship.
And one thing that drives me crazy here in DC is oftentimes you'll hear people say that they're an uninvited guest on Skwxwú7mesh-ulh land or Musqueam land and I'm like that makes no sense. You cannot be an uninvited guest. You're either an invited guest or you're not. But like an uninvited guest makes no sense to me. You can be a visitor. You can be a hopefully honorable visitor you can be an invader. And so thinking about where I am, I'm not an uninvited guest. I'm not even an invited guest. But I hope that I'm, uh, I hope that I'm moving toward being an honorable guest at least or an honorable visitor in these lands. And if I can, if I am invited to be a guest, that's all the better. But I just, I hope that the work I do here doesn't make the relations harder for the people who are from this place. So yeah, anyway, with thinking about that relationship to land, and, and what that calls, calls on us to do I think it's very complicated for all of us in very different ways, right.
PK: So in Undrowned, by Alexis Pauline Gumbs, she writes us meditations about sea mammals. And so it's lessons on Black feminism meditations on sea mammals. And she writes about this giant sea mammal who had weighed up to 23 times swimming in the Bering Sea. German naturalist discovered Hydrodamalis gigas swimming large and large and lux, she writes. At least three times bigger than the contemporary manatee and within 27 years, the entire species was extinct. So 27 years so she you know, Amy Winehouse, Kurt Cobain Jimi Hendrix within 27 years this beautiful creature was extinct and then she makes the comment that being discovered is dangerous. And, you know, so Daniel, I'm gonna, I'm gonna stick with you. Because actually, you know your comment about being a guest uninvited or otherwise you know, a trespasser, invader, a discoverer. And in your books, Badger and Raccoon you talk about the risk. You know, the danger that being discovered had I you know, had for badgers and I realized actually that I have a badger stole that I caught at a yard sale. And I didn't realize it till after I read your book and I was looking at it's like, I think that's badger. So yes, I liberated it from somebody's yard sale, but now. Now it just has an extra little layer of meaning for me. So can you talk a little bit about that? You know, with badgers and raccoons and how dangerous how dangerous it has been for them to be discovered.
Daniel: I think when we talked about discovery, what we're talking about is exploitability. We're not talking about relations. And that I think is kind of the key moment and if you are valuable as an exploitable object, you're in danger. If you're not useful as an exploitable object, you're also in danger. And I think that that's the situation for both raccoons and badgers and for so many other beings, is your when you're thought of as a commodity, use value, either direction, puts you at risk. It's only when you're considered as a relative or a being with inherent value on your own merits. And according to your own priorities, that you're not endangered in the same way. I mean, discovery is always about exploitation. It's whether you know whether it's material exploitation or ideological exploitation. The language of discovery is about extraction. Transformation into some sort of transferable commodity.
And so I think that that's the real danger is, if so much of the conversation that we have in ecology is, you know, a lot of people are trying to communicate the value of nature, but they're doing it within a frame, that is only going to be more problematic and more exploitable. And I think that's the, that's the conundrum we have is, you know, there are reasons why people go toward capitalist language to try to communicate the importance of things but that's only to make it easier to appropriate and, and wound. So I think we have to get out of that kind of language. And you know, when, you know, Robin Wall Kimmerer has gotten a lot of deserved attention here. But I think, you know, , her piece in Orion on the language of animacy. I think it's an important direction to go in thinking about kinship and relationship. And even then, I think, I mean, how many times do we see language about relatives being language about, you know, those who are exploitable, and those who aren't. So even in thinking about relations, we also have to think about the power dynamics within those relations. So it's easy to call somebody's family and still screw him over. So I think always having that power analysis within that is important. And it's just as important for our human kin as it is for our other than human kin. But I think that the issue of languages is really important in thinking about discovery, if you're turned into if you're useful, you're gonna die. If you're not useful, you're gonna die. Discovery is about death. It's not about thriving.
PK Wow. You're right, you're right. I haven't I haven't even thought about that. But you're at you're absolutely right. Chanda, that kind of goes to what you were talking about regarding Mauna Kea, and, you know, the discovery or the noticing you, you call it? good. Seeing was good, you know, good seeing and how that has affected you know, so could you talk a little bit more about that?
Chanda: Yeah. So I think the thing that's coming to mind, particularly, as you mentioned, the question that seeing is that also this consumption happens not just to our bodies, and to our lands, but also to our with our ideas. Right. And this really kind of intersects when you start talking about what constitutes good seeing. So just to define that for everybody. One of the reasons that the fight about Mauna Kea is happening at all is because it is at a very high altitude above certain layers of the atmosphere, it's a great place to put a telescope. And this is something astronomers know partly because like native Hawaiians told them themselves about it, that when Europeans first showed up, they were really check out this awesome place, we have to look at the sky. And this was embedded in in the cosmology of Kanaka folks and their self conception.
And here I want to point to Keolu Fox who is a Kanaka Maoli geneticists, geneticists and bio ethicist who are just finding this really powerful talk, where he was talking about how our genome is shaped by the land. And then at the very end of the talk, he moved back around and said like, like, “when I say that the land is my ancestor I literally am telling you that I can show you using science that my genome was shaped by the land and so was your genome. So when we're telling you that we're fighting over our ancestor and we're fighting over our family member, that's a scientific statement like let me be clear with you that from my point of view as a Kanaka scientist, this is this is a scientific statement.”
Um, so you know, when we talk about like colonizing the land, part of what was being colonized was this idea that Europeans discovered that it was a good place to look at the sky, when that was already known by the people who were there and had developed their own sensibility. What, therefore, people's relationship to that land should be because of its specific location relative to the sky, and to Wākea the sky father, um, and so, I think that, you know, one of the pieces that can sometimes get lost in these conversations about consumption, is that it's, I think it's easier for us to grasp material consumption, that is has a physicality to it, that's immediately obvious to us, like consuming the labor of Black people consuming, you know, the, the bodies of, for example, Indigenous women, um all for all of these different ways that there's physical consumption, but also not thinking about the consumption of Indigenous ideas. That the Enlightenment is built out of Europeans traveling around the world, meeting ideas, and saying, Hey, that's cool. And taking it back to Europe and collating it and Europe becoming this unique geography for thought, in a particular sense, right? I don't want to say, objectively, were universally but in this particular sense, because all of this information is being collated in one place, which does give people this interesting opportunity to put ideas from different geographies in conversation with each other in a way that they are not in conversation with each other, elsewhere. That's not to say it's the only conversation or even the most important one.
But it does produce this one line of thought. So when we talk about consumption, material consumption, I'm, I think it's really, when we talk about discovery, that part of what needs to be thought about is how often what is identified as discovery isn’t discovery at all, even if you're taking the word on its face value definition and not sitting there doing the material analysis, and what it does to people's lives to be discovered. That what discovery usually means is just a pretty colloquially, we came we noticed you had some shit, we took your shit. I'm just like summarizing in some sense, like what Daniel said. And sometimes what we noticed was your body. Or sometimes what we noticed was your expertise. And that we will simultaneously not recognize you as an expert. We will gaslight you and your descendants for generations and centuries, and say that we were the experts. And then I just want to tie this to, to diversity and inclusion. Since I'm you know, we're talking about books that talk about science today. And then the message is we want to bring Black people into science. We want to bring Indigenous youth into science and show them that science is interesting and exciting. And it's late. Yeah, we've we've been doing rational knowledge production and analysis the entire time. Some of what y'all know, it's stuff that we told you. Right? And, and so, diversity and inclusion discourse in a real way can be thought of as like, the next step of colonialism, which is colonizing our mind to not see our history for what it was. it was.
PK: That was the chat was all I well, you know, it's led to lots of good insight from both of you on that. But yeah, I mean, you know, this guy you know, and then just the way we I like that idea and I also I really liked in your book, to Chandra where you talk about I hadn't heard Roxanne Dunbar Ortiz do the same thing. Europe being a peninsula of Asia. And just really situating it geographically for people I heard that Roxanne and you know workshops and webinars say that it's absolutely the truth and Europe I don't know why we think of it as a continent. It's a peninsula jutting off of Asia. It's, it doesn't even meet the criteria for a continent and yet somehow we think that it is because you’re right, they just kind of grabbed everything and then collate it in their own particular way and wrote it down which made it wrote it down in a very particular way, which gave it a kind of finality. Now this is the way it is and then everybody else gets compared, gets compared to that, and it's really, it really hasn't it hasn't been helpful.
Chanda: Can I just make a comment about the European peninsula of Asia thing? Because I use this term in the book. And I have to say that part of it was like the Disordered Cosmos is supposed to be like a science but a great, there's like, Okay, y'all went science, Let's Talk Science, by our scientific definition, that is not a continent. So like, it has to be downgraded if we're going to be accurate. And that was, that was how I thought about it. I was waiting for it. I actually haven't gotten any questions about it. But that's my answer. Right? Is it's not, it's an unscientific statement. Thank you. Right.
Daniel: Europe is Pluto, what you're saying?
PK: Europe is the Pluto of, of the world. So Ben, you had thought you had posted something on Facebook about your favorite thing to do when you discover when you come across brands when you you know your favorite thing to do you go for a walk and you saw ramps. So what is your favorite thing to do? And why does that matter? Why is it important,
Ben: but leave them the heck alone and keep their location secret? Because, yeah, so I'm gonna be, Daniel, so I'm sure you meet plenty of these people out west. But like there's, there's a kind of a resurgence or another is that it's becoming really trendy again, to go and harvest wild foods. And a lot of people think that living and good relation, and like loving nature and being and good relationship with nature just means knowing what plants out there good for you and how they're edible. And it's like, they're so enthusiastic about building this relationship, and they just kind of like, fly at it like Leroy Jenkins, and they jump into it without any real plan or knowing what they're doing. So I'm saying and the what, you know, the wild ramps for just about extirpated from eastern North America, by people doing exactly that. And so I think like, you know, these conversations about discovery, I mean, like, the Mississaugas of central Ontario, probably weren't too stoked when ramps were discovered by settlers. And, and yeah, and then so looping that back to relationship to land, sometimes acting in good relationship to something and acting in a loving way to something involves just leaving it the heck alone, right? Like you'd love it from a safe and respectful distance. If you are going to do something, make sure you know exactly what its lifecycle is like, how it reproduces, how long it takes to germinate, what conditions it takes to germinate it,
PK: and that's the observation piece Chanda, the observation of being at home and I think, I think braiding sweetgrass actually hit the New York Times bestseller last year for the first seven years after it was published, I think because everybody was stuck at home. And it became everyone's gateway drug into the natural world. So which is great, which is great. I love it. No disrespect to Braiding Sweetgrass. I think I was one of its biggest apostles for a long time. So it's a good book, but I don't want people to stop there. I want people to keep going and unfolding and unfolding the world. Celeste, can you talk a little bit about you have a change in direction in your life? You went from? I'm going to fight on the world stage to what are we fighting for?
Celeste: Yeah, so I I was on my way to become a lawyer in fight for Indigenous rights, human rights. Sorry, my internet is a little unstable. So it might be a little crackly. you Yeah. I mean, it's lovely here, but we have satellite internet folks. struggle is real. So, and I was working with the UN, and I discovered, I discovered in myself that what what I really was fighting for with food sovereignty was something that was not being practiced. And I thought, well, actually my great aunt passed away, and she was a great agriculturalist for my nation, and I had lost so much by not taking that time and going with her and spending that time with her. I felt like a huge fool because I thought here I was in you know, in university and wasting all this time. And the knowledge was being passed down, and I wasn't there. I was missing and I was losing it. And it just went right through my fingers. And I just felt a great sadness. And I thought what we're working towards, what are we doing? Is it ego driven? And I just had a real big talk with myself. And I thought, okay, so what do I want to spend the rest of my life doing? Is it going to school? Is it being in a colonial structure where I'm fighting every tooth and nail, academics? And sure, that's exciting. But I mean, what does that give us as a people? in the end? So I swtiched and now I'm farming, I'm doing agricultural knowledge on the land literally building a center for traditional, traditional agricultural knowledge for Indigenous women and youth. Literally bring us back on to the land, so we can learn together and practice actual sovereignty. Not just talk about it. But other academics who also want to talk about it. So what we're doing is we're is we're planting the seeds, literally, in ourselves. And I think that's gonna do a lot of healing.
So that's what I'm doing now and it’s a real journey, because there's a lot that we don't know. And there's a lot that we've lost, but you were talking about medicine and medicine is coming to me, and that's what's coming seeds are coming to me, people are bringing me things, say, can you plant this you have like, Can you can you plant this for me, and keep it going. And we're exchanging with things, and it's really moving forward. And it's just just amazing to have that physical connection and working on land justice, getting that land back. I was telling Patty earlier I was in, I was in a webinar. And we were talking about land back and I want to literally talk about land back from Nature Conservancies when I moved here. There's actually it's a bizarre place there. The island that I live, there's no, there's no public land, there is no Crown land here. And it's bizarre. It's all public. It's all private land that's been bought by Nature Conservancy's trying to take care of nature trying to, to, you know, I guess commodify it, but they don't let Indigenous people share in that. So, what are they doing with this land? So, I had a conversation with someone with one of the board members and I thought, You know what, we need to share this land and he's like, I just don't think that that's a really good fit. I don't think that's a good fit. Wow, Indigenous people are not a good fit. That's really interesting that you say that. So yeah, I'll be coming after.
Ben: Hell, yeah.
Celeste: land use and land land back. What does that physically mean? What does land this opportunity? What is foods opportunity? Well, it means these things, practical things on the ground.
PK: And I like what Eve Tuck and K Wayne Yang say. Yes, it does mean give the land back. Yeah, actually means give it back. It's not a metaphor. Give it back, figure it out. So I know Neil, you plant you plant things every see every year I watch your peppers grow. And your morning glories.
Neil: Yeah. I have a hobby. It's my balcony plants. And I live in an apartment, a second story. Second second-floor balcony with apartment with about the peppers are kind of an accident. I had bought a poblano from the grocery store and it's It's just teeming with seeds inside. I want to see if these germinate. They did. And I have two plants that have survived almost two years now on my balcony. Houston’s long growing seasons and, and I I've eaten poblanos from my bushes. They are smaller than what I got at the grocery store. They are not as spicy. They're very mild. But it's kind of a cool thing. Now I've tried a lot of other things that have failed miserably. I've tried growing beans, I've tried growing some kind of peas and other things. So it's not like my have an exceptionally green for this sort of balcony gardening. But I also have different things like I have some sort of citrus tree that I'm not really sure what kind of citrus tree it is. It could be a lemon, it could be orange or grapefruit. But it's about as tall as I am now in a pot that grew completely by accident germinate from a seed i Sometimes compost on my balcony as well. And this is where the seed germinate and it's like okay, it's green. It's growing up. We'll see what happens. It's never bloomed. I don't know that I never will. And you know, and my morning glories last year took off they'd never I've tried several times before they had never taken off before last year they did. They seem to be doing okay this year so far. But it's I don't know what it is in me that wants to do this exactly. Other than I'm a farm boy that was always around things growing. You know, besides having our gardens in our in our farmland. Mama always had lots of potted plants too. And I was always interested. It seems to mystify so many of my friends. It's like I'm doing magic or something.
PK: There is something magical about growing food. I mean, yeah, Ben’s right. I am not. I am not the person who's going to get out there and we that garden and he's done a really good job of making sure that he’s planting things that don't require care, that aren't going to be high maintenance, but there is something really magical about putting seeds in the ground. And then eating them. You know, There's
Neil: there’s a mystery about it. I grant you that. But it's also just like the most natural thing in the world. Amazing. That happens without us.
Chanda: I will say that one of the realizations I had last spring was that I found buds to be really creepy. And I realized that that's like a socialization thing. And I think it's because like so much of my experience of seeing things in their right before their opening stage was through the lens of like Alien movies. That when I was actually confronted with seeing a lot of them, that I felt like my garden was about to attack me. And I had to like kind of have this whole conversation with myself that no, the movies are based on that not the other way around.
Neil: Depending on your sensitivity to pollen, they may be attacking you
Chanda: that's fair. It definitely was kind of informative about like what happens when we get put in situations where we're not surrounded by a lot of things that are growing, or we're from different like you know, I did see things grow growing up in Los Angeles, but I saw like ice plants, which is like very hard to get started and it doesn't have these buds that pop out every spring and look like little aliens that are about to like. You can tell I still have this like, have this like *gestures like an explosion*
PK: there were two things that came together for me together for me in Undrowned, again, because I just finished it. She's writing about dolphins and whales and how they use echolocation and how echolocation and she's talking about echolocation being a kind of relationship, right because it's bouncing a sound and then getting and then getting information back. She talks about these dolphins that live in the Ganges River and it's so silty they really they can't be you know they don't have much visual visual ability. And so they're constantly saying I'm here I'm here I'm here and responding that I'm here and here and so this you know this constant echolocation. Then for me that combined in Badger there's a part in badger Daniel, where you write that the more distant we become, the more potential there is for other than human relatives to just become shallow symbols forgotten, or actively disregarded. And so for me, those two ideas kind of came together in my head that for echolocation to work we have to be we have to be in good relationship with each other because if echolocation is showing us we're showing predators where we are that is not good. You know, so we need to be close enough to be in good relationship with each other and to see each other. You know, to see each other in a good way. So I guess, Daniel, I'm going back to you, about that potential, about how we get distanced and we get distanced in city life we just get distanced. I mean even in the country, I get distance bands always reminding me that if I'm going to be connected to nature, I have to like actually go out into it.
Daniel: Yeah, I mean, this is one of those. It's a challenging conversation that a lot of ways because intimacy can also be violent. Right. So distance and intimacy, I think it these are always in context. And you know, and I think back to Ben's comment about, you know, sometimes the best thing to do is just leave things alone. There's also that idea, you know, when we're, when we are kind of asking the world for permission, what if they said, What if the world says no? What happens when animals don't want to have anything to do with us? And I think I think there's a really important tension at play between being connected and being, un. I mean going back to the idea about exploited liveness like, I mean, how many men think that love is about possessiveness, right? And then the violence that's associated with that, you know, and we do that with our pets. And I'm, I've gotten, one of the reasons I keep looking down is because my dogs are very interested in what's happening here. And one thing up, but one of them wants up on my lap, while we're doing all this but there's like even the basic foundations of pet ownership are coercive and violent. And, you know, being somebody who has furry animals who live in our house, I mean that the foundation of that relationship is still one that's very dangerous to them. Like we dominate everything about their lives out of love. And it's a very complicated tension to grapple with. I think distance, it's easier to get into a commodifying mindset at a distance. But closeness brings danger too. And I think we have to, we have to sit with the difficulties of both intimacy and distance and bring an ethical lens. And like Chanda said that they bring different ways of thinking, and different ways of relating, and different ways of imagining into those relationships. Because I think an intimate an intimacy that is based on a patriarchal mindset is murderous. So I think proximity isn't enough, we have to change the way in which we're in relationship.
PK: that actually goes really nicely into a quote from Chanda’s book, which I think is the husband's quote. “We are a quark assembly of supernova remnants on a journey to honor to know and honor all our galactic relations”. Galactic relations, I think is the part from your husband, but I just I just love that phrase, because that's kind of what Daniel is talking about. It's not necessarily about physical closeness. How do we know and honor our galactic relations when they're so far from us? You know, how do we do that? I just love that phrase, we are a quark assembly of supernova remnants on a journey to know and honor all our galactic relations.
Chanda: Yeah, so the quark assembly. That part is me. It was actually kind of a running joke that for a while I fit I had like, a bet with someone that if I put quark assembly on the bottom of my slides, of my talks, to see if anybody would ask me about it, because someone was like go you'll definitely get asked about it. And nobody has ever asked me what is quark assembly mean? Sometimes when you're giving professional talks, you're supposed to put the name of your name at the bottom of every slide, so people remember your name. So occasionally, I would slip in trying to Prescod Weinstein, quark assembly. Um, and, and it really, you know, it should be like a quark and electron is something I guess, if I was I was really being careful there. Um, but all our galactic relations is something that my spouse came up with. Um, and I also feel like I have to mention Eve Tuck here, because the moment that he said that, to me, it was like, I really love that phrase, but I also want to be careful about where it came from. And so I reached out to Eve to have a conversation with her about, you know, the different ways that might be rooted in different modes of thought and wanting to make sure that we were being respectful in its use, and so folks who pick up the book will also see that I make a point as that, that section, all our galactic relations, that's the fourth phase of the book, and that it opens with Winona LaDuke.
And that actually, I spent a lot of time on Black feminism in that last phase of the book and even so, a lot of the multiple chapters open with the words of non-black Indigenous women. And I was proactively throughout the book thinking about closing this gap of Black as non Indigenous or Indigenous as non as fundamentally non-black in in a couple of different ways, which is that you know, there are fam out there who are Black and Indigenous in the sense that we, I think we all understand the word indigenous to me and, and not just our our over men, but also folks who are Black and Indigenous and other ways, right. Um, but I also did want to grapple a little bit with, you know, the fact that my ancestors were Indigenous people who were torn away from their Indigenous communities. And in some sense, I'm the way that the word indigenous gets constructed, particularly in our academic discourses, I think our grassroots discourses can actually be more flexible. But in our academic discourses are very much you either are or you aren't. Here are the rules. And what I found this to translate into is, um, breaks in our solidarity, that I think don't necessarily need to exist in our in our ability to be in political solidarity, but also finding myself in environments where people are like, yes, our organization has Indigenous people from Northern Europe, and Indigenous people from Latin America and the United States and Australia. And then I'm like, so where are the Africans members? And they're like us, and they're like, Oh, we don't have any African members. And so then you have this whole continent that's constructed as non Indigenous somehow. And I think the vehicle hurting me the vehicle for that I need construction, I would say, as, as indigenous, is black Americans, as framing black Americans as fundamentally non Indigenous, because we can't articulate our claims to our land and to our traditional communities, and therefore, the people who remained in those communities by virtue of also being Black, in this social sense of Black, or therefore also not Indigenous.
And so I'm, you know, I was in in small ways, I think that wasn't the centerpiece of the book. I did want to push that a little bit. But in a way that felt like reaching out and being in community as opposed to I want to fight with people about this word. I want to fight with people about like, what, like, about ownership over a word, because they think in some sense, some of this is about ownership. And that I don't want to reproduce that ownership narrative. That capital, that capitalist conversation that Daniel was talking about earlier. I'm so I just wanted to share that that was kind of the story and even as the book keynote, I was nervous about it. I was like, I wonder if people are gonna Are you gonna take all our galactic relations and say this is appropriation, um, I didn't, we feel we are so hurt by white supremacy colonialism that I didn't want somebody to feel hurt. I think like even even if like I hadn't done anything wrong, that's sort of not the point. I didn't want anybody to feel hurt by a book that I hoped would feel like it was for us. And that us could maybe be more expansive than maybe we had been thinking about it.
PK: And I know that I have been really challenged by in the last few years of doing this podcast with Kerry and some of the people that we've talked about is really kind of broadening my understanding and use of the word Indigenous. Because it's particularly in Canada, we think of Indigenous as being specifically Indigenous to here, right, like all indigenous people live here, mostly in Canada, because in the United States, its native amount I guess, just it's just a really weird kind of way that we think about it. And so actually, as I'm working on my own project, I've gone back and change the language in it, you know, so that I'm not using Indigenous and kind of that Canadian way that we use it to refer to only Indigenous, you know, people who are Indigenous to this place that. Yeah, so that's something that I had that I have really been challenged on in the way that I talk. And then we did I think, and in the end, even in the way that I've shaped these conversations, because it was originally just Indigenous to here what's that I was thinking about. And then in our conversation with Tope Adefarakan, about The Souls of Yoruba People, I was like, Whoa, I need to completely reshape all of this My black authors, and then I realized how many gaps I had in my bookcase, I've got lots of Black authors in my bookcase. But it's a very narrow story that they tell like this, you know, over the course of this year, we're, we're looking at a number of different topics, a number of different things. And I didn't have any Black authors for memoir. There's a lot of Black authors writing memoirs, but they weren't on my bookshelf. So I had all these gaps. So you're, I'm feeling like, I should have known better, but you know, we're always learning right? You know, so I had to do do that work. So I really appreciate you. you know, you talking about that. And working that through in your book, I really liked that. I really liked that in there.
And now, I kind of forget where I was going. So I'm just gonna throw to Celeste and see what Celeste is thinking.
Celeste: You know, knowing everything and I just wrote down ‘knowing everything is a western concept.” Yeah. Right. So stop beating yourself up above, because we will never know everything about it and, you know, in our concepts, too, and a lot of people, you know, it's experience. It's about experience, not knowledge. Right? , because experience not knowledge, right. Even the word knowledge is right. Yesterday, something that it's not, it's a Western really Thank you for listening knowledge and we say, either traditional or traditional logical knowledge, knowledge or traditional, traditional agricultural or ecological knowledge. It's really not knowledge per se. It's really an experience
And that's how we viewed learning as experience then we can always be open and always be learning I was also making notes that it's also based on the agenda western view of life as scarcity versus abundance. Right life of scarcity versus life with abundance, you have two very have very different lives. So it's funny because that's how that's how we think about life is that it's abundant, that's why we don't so actually professor asked me years ago, you know, well, you have to have the jails. Jail versus ever and it's like, well, if you see things in a scarcity, you would think that you know, think quite a lot about scarcity and abundance, and you have to take your chances, right so that it becomes about sharing then it becomes about community and it becomes about community. Your status, sharing versus your status. Those are good,
Daniel: I also just want to piggyback on that just really quickly, that also it's about language to right? I mean, English is a thingifying language, it's about, you know, it does certain things really well but it's very much about concretizing things whereas our Indigenous languages are very often about the relations between beings. And, and it's harder to do that kind of concretizing, so it's about the ideas but it's also like we're using particular words like knowledge as though but those those words, freeze things. They aren't about relationships, they're about thingifying those things.
Ben: My partner sent me a really cool paper written by a quantum physicist, so Chanda, your little thing about quarks made me think about this and also thinking also like how the language like the structure of the language matters. But I guess my partner sent me a she's very dedicated language learner. She’s throwing her heart and soul into learning on Anishinaabemowin. I’m trying to keep up but um, yes, so this paper talks about how Anishinaabemowin is actually better equipped to speak about quantum physics than English is because of the way the language is structured. So it's like in English, you think about a healer acting on somebody who is acting on somebody who is sick with a medicine right. So healer plus, you know, like acts on the patient with the medicine, and then you get a cure for that and then that leads to a cure. Whereas, in kind of the Anishinaabemowin the way that language is structured, it kind of works out more like healer, plus medicine, plus patient equals a cure. It's it's the coming together of those three things that that results in the ceremony that gives provides the cure. And that I think that that circles back to you know, relationship with land as, as opposed to kind of like a mutualistic relationship with land as opposed to one of domination and exploitation, right?. Like I don't act on the dirt of the garden to make the food it's the me you know, me and the plants and the soil organisms. We come together and then we have and then we have abundance.
PK: I like that, even though it's still means I have to go into the garden and do things
Ben: Yeah, that was really cool. I might throw you guys are interested. I'll throw a link to that paper in the chat. It blew my mind.
Chanda: Yeah, you my mind. I'm wondering if this is maybe related to some of the work that Leroy Little Bear did, in in conversation with David Boehm, who was a theoretical physicist. He spent a lot of his career trying to theorize how to interpret quantum mechanics and Leroy Littlebear, I believe was Blackfoot and, and I think and I'll just actually I want to highlight Zoe Todd who is is an anthropologist who, who was actually just recently tweeting about Leroy Littlebear sorry, I want to mention that she was one of the reasons that that he was he was fresh on my mind. But what's interesting to me about that is you know, there's a big debate about how to interpret quantum mechanics and David Boehm had one particular interpretation that doesn't necessarily mean it's it's the best interpretation or it's one that we are settled on. But it is very interesting, that Littlebear saw a way to connect his ways of thinking and his community ways of thinking with this, this one particular interpretation. And I do think that quantum mechanics can be an interesting site for asking the question. Maybe the reason that people who come through this like very narrow European epistemology are having a hard time interpreting quantum mechanics is that this is actually a place where that epistemology is not good for the doing of science.
And the reason that I want to bring this up is that people often say, Well, like, you know, you know, it's fine that Indigenous ways of knowing are good for ecology, but like, what does it have to say for physics? Or, you know, how do you know that like this Indigenous way of knowing is equivalent? And I actually, I want us to be a little more relaxed about it in some sense and say, like, okay, maybe there are some things that certain epistemologies are good at. And then they have limits. So maybe it is the case with this particular framework that got synthesized in Europe does do certain things particularly well. But it clearly doesn't do everything. And there are things it does particularly badly. Like global warming is a technological development in that framework. And the effects of that were pretty badly. So, you know, if you're going to say that that's progress, you got to own the whole thing, the whole shebang. You got to own global warming as like a successful outcome of your technological paradigm. So I just kind of want to highlight that maybe that's a place where it's like, okay, so maybe I'm, you know, parts of physics come through better in this framework, but then there may be other parts of physics that will come through better and other frameworks and it's actually okay. For them to be working together at the interstices as opposed to in competition, where one has to own the whole thing.
PK: And that's also relationship. Right? That's, you know, like Daniel had talked about, you know, being in relationship with, you know, other than human relatives on their own terms. You know, he's brought it you brought up before the book, Motorcycles and Sweetgrass, and how Nanabush, go, you know, you know, he kind of goes off and he has this feud with raccoons and the raccoons. Just act like raccoons. It's not like a Disney film. You know, where they're talking and singing about painting with own colors of the wind. They're speaking you know, he speaks raccoon-ish to them, and he engages with them on their own terms. And as we engage with each other on our own terms, as we actually exist without forcing us all to you know, to work in this one particular way. There's some really generative opportunities for so for some really neat things to happen. And for some really neat ways of thinking and doing things.
I just wanted to pose another question to everybody, Chanda, you in your book, towards the end of your book, but the question you talked about your mom taking you out, to see the Milky Way and this question has really stayed with me. I you know, I think about it a lot. What are the conditions that our communities need? You know, to see the Milky Way, what are the things that we need? And then as I was you know, kind of reflecting on all of this as what are the things our communities need to braid sweetgrass to gather moss to see raccoons and badgers on their own terms and not as, you know, things that we buy of yard sale or pests that we need to root out of our lawn or what you know, what do our communities need to be undrowned? What do our communities need? So just I just kind of want to invite everybody as we kind of winding down as well, this time went really fast. So Chanda, we'll start with you because it's your story and your question that we’re you know, that I'm posing
Chanda: So I think that the simple answer that's like really easy for everyone to plug into is I wanted to highlight for people that if we really want everyone to have the opportunity to sit with and wonder about the night sky, that means confronting pollution, it means that people need to have enough to eat so that they are able to focus so that their stomach isn't crying to them and distracting them from thinking about what does it mean that I'm seeing this dark night sky? That means that public transportation has to be such that everybody can get to a dark night sky, but that means that parents can't be working 80-hour weeks so that they can take their children and go have that journey with them. It means also that disabled access has to, that society has to stop being disabling in a way that people only people who have like, you know, the super high tech wheelchair, that everybody who needs that high tech wheelchair has the high tech wheelchair. Um, that asking ourselves this one question about being able to just sit and wonder about the night sky actually requires really radically rethinking how our society operates.
Um, but I also in the context of this conversation, again want to situate it in terms of all our galactic relations which is even for those of us who feel very comfortable and what I’ll say like a professional institutionalized scientific framing, need to sit with the discomfort of it may be that there are other ways of knowing that feel in conflict with what we think is the right way to interpret information about the world, and that doesn't mean that you always have to change your mind about things, but you need to sit with why these things have meaning for people And be humble. I have participated in one way or another in solidarity work around the struggle for the Mona since 2015. And as I mentioned earlier, Keolu Fox's talk that I just saw a few weeks ago was eye-opening for me and it deepened my understanding of what he was talking about when people were talking about aina and family and relationship to the land. But even I was like, Okay, maybe because I didn't grow up with seeing the land as a family member that I will never intuitively feel that but then he told me that my genome was shaped by the land, and I did, and that meant that I had to have the humility of recognizing that maybe there was still something I had to learn about what people were saying to me.
PK: I really love that our genome being shaped by the land, I need to find that article. Neil, what do you think your community needs?
Neil: Say again?
PK: What do you think your community needs? You know, when you think of not, maybe, maybe not necessarily Houston as a whole. But your community? What do you think, you know, when you think of who your community is, what do they need to be able to, to see and hear the things that we've been talking about?
Neil: They need more wonder, they need more amazement. You know, I will sometimes go for walks with friends around Memorial Park here which is a just a walking/running trail. very urban, but lots of trees. And like, one day, I'm sitting there and I was actually sitting on the bench writing in my journal before I went on my walk and there were these two rabbits behind me that caught my eye. And I'm looking at the rabbits and I'm looking at other people. Just walking by, never noticing the rabbits. And a couple of weeks ago, a friend of mine from church went to went to the park with me to walk and I always felt rude so I didn't do it but I kept wanting to interrupt her that Did you see that? Look at this. Oh my goodness, look at this. And and while she she would say she has an appreciation of the things, she doesn’t notice. It kind of has to be pointed out to her and she she has to I don't know. My community needs more wonder.
We had a big Arctic vortex winter vortex in February that you know destroyed our infrastructure such as it was and you know my my hobby right now is going around and checking on all the plants. Some are coming back some are not and I find that there aren't any other people doing that. And to me that's that's that's a lack of I want to say wonder, maybe imagination. Just paying attention. I mean, it is magical to use your word. I would probably use mysteriou. I don't know we need more wonder.
PK: Yea, Ben?
Ben: so I guess I'm kind of feel like I straddle a couple communities. But we're gonna start with the, like settler community in general. It's just piggyback on what Neil was saying because I think people just need to simmer down and pay attention. Right like that that sense of wonder I think starts with slowing down long enough to notice that the plants and the animals are even there to begin with. And then if you sit down and pay attention, you can notice that they're in relation and that's, you don't necessarily need like a big park to do that. You can do that right in your front lawn. Sit down. Take 10 minutes in the morning and think right, well, what seeds, what seeds are what plants are going there that are shedding seeds. Okay, which birds are coming and eating those seeds? Where are those? Some of those? Where are the birds taking those seeds that might come out the other end undigested that whole sense of wonder kind of gets started.
And then the other side like the Indigenous communities that I'm working to participate in in a good way. I mean, honestly just straight up with need the land back. We need the like kind of very physical and a very physical and practical sense of that we need land back. And we need like so. Celeste, when you mentioned about the conservation groups on Manitoulin, fireworks started going off and gears started grinding in my brain because I think we need culture writ large to understand that humans are part of the ecosystem. We're animals on landscape just like bears and coyotes and amoebas and everybody else and we have a role to play and when you've been playing an active role in North America since the megafauna extinction and the ending of the Holocene. Right, like the eastern part of the Eastern tallgrass prairie like one of the most vital and vibrant ecosystems and interior where I live now, that developed with the assistance of people actively burning and encouraging certain megafauna to show up and intentionally spreading certain seeds. Like the Eastern tall grass prairie didn't show up without us. I mean, like the whole idea of a grassland ecosystem existing in such a hot, humid environment as North America is like that just doesn't happen without human intervention. And a place as special as Manitoulin like something where like so many different ecozones collide and like just like the idea that something that has been so vibrant and beautiful under the stewardship of Indigenous communities for 1000s of years, can thrive without the assistance of people who have like, who culturally and as a society, and have co-evolved with those systems. Like Give me a break. Get out of the way.
PK: thank you.
Celeste: So last, but dear communities need land back. But first, we need to remember that we are the land. Many of our communities have cosmologies like my own that we are literally made out of clay, taken or molded out of the clay and likeness. So we're literally the Earth itself. And I think once you know and a lot of our people like I wish that we would again, stop listen, about wonder, all of those things, right? Because they're there, right? The plants can see you if you listen. The problem is is that we've lost that right? We we've got these blinders on. It's like some sort of, I don't know whether what it is but there's an anxiety or something that kind of emanates from cities and it kind of blocks, block things out is when you you have that feeling when you get out of a city or when you go camping or when you go you just kind of forget that we've all felt it when we get into the woods and when we're surrounded by our relatives and trees, we just feel that feeling of clearness.
PK: Daniel, what do your communities need?
Daniel: I think everything everybody said here would definitely be part of that. I mean, I don't I think we need a lot. But if I were to reduce it to one thing that I would like to see more of is a greater capacity to hold complexity. With care, and not be afraid of complexity and complexity is not going to be easy. So I think complexity and courage, the courage in that complexity because I think often, we want to flatten out these complexities and have things be much simpler and more kind of manageable. And it's in the complexity that our humanity is best realized. It's in the complexity that those relationships are best lived. I'm always suspicious when we get to people who have really easy answers. to complex problems. Because that almost invariably means some violence is going to be at play. Because complexity gets evacuated. And in that evacuation, a lot of people fall by the wayside. So I think, not just a tolerance for complexity, but a real embrace of complexity and what it asks of us and to hold those tensions together. With courage.
PK: that was one of the things in Chanda’s book about, you know, the quarks and AW’s in the chat, putting in you know, they were putting in all the different, you know, gluons in and that's why you know, and all the Neil and I were joking that maybe you were making words up Chanda was like, I think this is English, but I'm not sure. And just how incredibly complex we are, on the little tiny scale and then on like, kind of this massive, universal scale, and I really feel like now would be a good time to get into the quantum ness of it. But it's already been an hour and a half. So, can you get into the quantumness of it? kind of a little nutshell how complex we are and we'll go out on the beauty of our below microscopic complexity. I don't know if that's even a fair question.
Chanda: Is that a question for me? Yes. I am going to answer and not answer your question, but just to build on what Daniel said about complexity and about the danger of simple stories and simple solutions. That there are ways in which particle physics is about, you know, trying to figure out what the fundamental constituents of everything is. So you're trying to break the everything down into the smallest thing. And it's easy to get into breaking things down and thinking about it as commodities, like what is the smallest commodity? Is it a quark? Is it a quarks exchanging gluons interacting with electrons? Um, but it also turns out that some of our greatest calculational difficulties are when we get there. And I'm so we simultaneously tell ourselves the story that the Standard Model of particle physics is complete. And then it also turns out that the Standard Model of particle physics only describes about 4% of the matter-energy content in the universe. And then it also turns out that knowing all the things we do about particle physics doesn't actually make us good at figuring out how sand stacks which actually turns out to be a really hard thing to describe mathematically. And so I think that's a really good example of how it feels simple and then turns out to be complex. I just turned in my column yesterday, where I wrote about how we can write down an equation. But being able to write down the equation doesn't mean we know how to calculate with it. And this causes us all kinds of problems. So I think that's maybe my physicist’s reflection on what Daniel just said.
PK Amazing, thank you. Thank you guys so much. Well, this time went by super fast …