Friday, 24 April 2015


...continuing to quote from Barry Lopez's Arctic Dreams,

In the following narratives [of Arctic exploration], it is not solely the desire of some men for difrerent sorts of wealth that becomes clear, but the suspicion that North America offered more than material wealth. It offered wealth that could not be owned, like the clarity of the air and the sight of 300,000 snow geese feeding undisturbed on the Great Plain of the Koukdjuak...We seem vaguely uneasy with the notion that a flock of snow geese rising like a snowstorm over Baffin Island is as valuable or more to mankind than the silver, tin, and copper being dug out of the Bolivian Andes at Potosí. These are not modern misgivings;  they daye in North America from the time of Columbus and Cabot...

Apologies for the long passage today. I like the idea of wealth that cannot be possessed, because it makes it a communal asset. If I don't possess A, it means that my friends can also enjoy it. But it does make me wonder about responsibility with relation to possession. If I own, say, a tree in my back garden, I have a responsibility to make sure it is safe and well looked after otherwise it will be my fault if it dies. If there's a tree on the patch of communal land outside my house, whose responsibility is it to protect that tree, to make sure it thrives and grows beautifully old?

Wealth that cannot be owned by any individual cannot be traded. It cannot be bargained for, charged interest on, entered into ledger books or spreadsheets. It makes me think of Oliver's song: "Who will buy this wonderful morning?" The rising sun is one of our most valuable assets and yet completely and utterly un-possessible. Just a thought.

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