My backyard neighbor is a military research institute. It’s a spacious facility, with many wings and layers. There are a few big satellite dishes that you can see from far away, a field of solar panels, et cetera.
What I like about the place is the surrounding grounds—about a thousand acres of meadows and forest. You can run from my backyard across the field to a path that loops through the woods.
Out there I’m separated from my primary context, which includes buildings, roads, cars and phones, and a computer screen, with which I make money. These represent the front end of a complex industrial system (infrastructure and power, both electrical and political)—a web that extends to include the military research institute.
Sometimes it seems the web wants to be invisible (it’s hard to talk about it seriously); it’s funny that if it weren’t for the institute’s green space, and the psychological distancing it affords, I might not think about this stuff much at all; I might not really know the web exists.
We’re left with fragments of wilderness. The dregs, really—our reserves are made from land too steep to log, too barren to farm. In other cases the fragments have been set aside for another purpose, as with the institute (although here I don’t know what precisely that purpose is). Either way, what’s left is made in the image of our ambitions.
We’re always asking what to do with land. And yet the experience of being somewhere, anywhere living—as afforded by even a quick run through the woods—reminds us that living systems exist for their own sake, by definition. When we consider land solely in terms of its uses, are we weaponizing it?
What would peace be like, I wonder, as I loop back toward the highway.