I’m Sian, and I’m a fossil fuel addict: on paradox, disavowal and (im)possibility in changing climate change
Once upon a time in the wild west
Sometimes life brings experiences that give pause for thought.
In recent years I have returned to west Namibia to work with elders of families I’ve known for over almost 30 years – a legacy of a childhood split between Britain and southern Africa. We have been documenting histories of land connections prior to a series of clearances of people from large areas of the west Namibian landscape, that occurred some decades ago.1 Often now perceived as an untouched and pristine wilderness, our work instead draws into focus a landscape intimately known, named and remembered by people who once lived there. Oral histories recorded as we find and revisit places my companions knew as home, have increasingly struck a chord as a record of lives lived more-or-less untouched by fossil fuels.
In the contemporary terms defined by modernity, industrialisation and capital, theirs was an economically impoverished existence. But this is not how they define and describe their experience.
Beyond the nostalgia that people tend to have for times past, their prior existence is valued in some of the following ways:
- for the freedom to move to locations where particular foods could be acquired, and for the pleasure of meeting and sharing food, songs and dances with friends associated with different places;
- for harvesting a series of highly appreciated foods: the endemic cucurbit (melon-plant) !nara (Acanthosicyos horridus) processed from ‘fields’ managed far west in the dunes of the northern Namib desert; the seeds of sâui (Stipagrostis spp.) and bosûi (Monsonia spp.) collected from harvester ants nests found further inland; and the fruits of xoris (Salvadora persica) found in ephemeral rivers traversing the landscape;
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