An Excerpt from Jim Conrad's
NATURALIST NEWSLETTER
of August 24. 2006
Issued from the woods near
NATCHEZ, MISSISSIPPI, USA

TWO YEARS OF MAIL

Last Sunday I read through two years of accumulated mail sent to my Natchez address -- the address of my friends Jacky and Karen.

Kathy in Vermont told me about people in her area who had become "locavores," who are folks who eat seasonally and locally -- foods grown within a fifty to hundred-mile radius. Shell in Virginia told me about her community's Barter Network in which, for example, someone might barter homegrown vegetables for plumbing. Others told me of great bird sightings, of insightful things their homeschooled kid had said, about how their backyard garden was doing...

I needed to hear about these Earth-friendly, peaceful instances of activism to neutralize other things I've seen and heard lately. For instance, a poll of University of Mississippi students at Oxford finds that most students there don't even believe that global warming exists.

How can the various parts of our country be so different from one another? Why as time passes do most "red states" seem to be becoming redder, while most "blue states" are growing bluer?

I interpret it as the same phenomenon I've alluded to many times during recent Newsletters -- that when any large, complex system begins dominating its environment too much, it inevitably fractures into a mosaic of ever-more-distinct parts, which eventually end up competing with one another. If we're dealing with biological organisms, new subspecies arise; if we're dealing with a major language, then local dialects result; if we're dealing with human politics, then a patchwork of regions with different political leanings emerge.

Because this fracturing process occurs at so many levels in Nature, we can say that the political and social fragmentation we're seeing in the US right now is perfectly natural.

However, Nature also shows us that once fragmentation is well advanced and competition between the newly crystallized entities commences, that competition generally causes much suffering among all parties. Often the extinction of the weakest and/or the least adaptable also results. (Most species that ever evolved are now extinct.)

If humanity is to avoid this path leading toward complete fragmentation and the extinction of some or most of us, then somehow, someday, a critical mass of us must begin behaving unnaturally. We must use our minds and begin doing something miraculous. Specifically, we must begin manifesting the Sixth Miracle of Nature. As I postulate in my essay online at http://www.backyardnature.net/j/o/6miracle.htm the Sixth Miracle of Nature is when a living thing transcends mere consciousness and begins learning and reflecting.

When a Florida orange tastes so good in December but a "locavore" in Vermont sticks to his or her principles and eats dried fruit grown locally; when the social fabric of a community is strengthened while tax money is denied an untrustworthy and war-making government by a network of barterers eschewing the use of money, though using cash is so much easier -- then that is miraculous, and reason for hope.

The Sixth Miracle of Nature is still a work in progress, manifesting itself only rarely among the great masses of humans programmed by genes and society to obsess on sex, status, wealth, power, and the rest. For that reason it can't be said yet that learning and reflecting is "natural." When learning and reflecting do occur, it's the Creator struggling to evolve Her Earthly creation to a higher level of sophistication and spirituality. It's "miraculous." If enough of us have the Sixth Miracle ignite within us, humanity will fuse, not fragment, into a whole new miraculous thing never seen on Earth.

And my letters this week remind me that sometimes miracles do happen.