Thursday, February 12, 2009

The Planzefreund View

The community of philosophers itself seems to have forgotten the contributions of nineteenth century German iconoclast Siegfried Schwachkopf, so it's no surprise that his ideas should be unfamiliar to the average American. Yet he and his disciples at the University of Tubingen created and elaborated a school of thought that has emerged from the dumpster of history and is making a rapid revival among a receptive following in the developed world. Schwachkopf's ideas are presented in Der Nichtkampfer feststend, generally regarded as "the bible" of his Pflanzefreund movement. The Pflanzefreunds believe that the great turning point in world history was the formation of the animal kingdom. Prior to animals, the vegetable and mineral kingdoms lived in relatively symbiotic harmony and peace. As time passed, however, a dramatic change occurred; mobile, hungry animals entered the scene. While plants continued to evolve, they were unable to keep up with the incredible pace of animal development. Plants had been able to exploit with varying degrees of success almost the entire surface of the planet but couldn't defend themselves from exploitation by increasingly rapacious animals. And animals, of course, not only attacked the plant kingdom but other animals as well. Strife and violent competition, once unknown on earth, had become endemic.

The most dedicated Pflanzefreunds visualize a world ruled by stately redwoods and majestic sequoias, pointing out that these trees can flourish for centuries, a lifespan that's inconceivable for any animal. Many realize, though, that a return to a time without animals is unlikely in the near future. These enthusiasts do what they can to alleviate the past and current animal outrages and attempt to alert the public about the future consequences of animal behavior. They point out disturbing examples: giant herds of caribou gobbling up innocent and rare arctic lichen and then defecating on the survivors; woodpeckers hammering holes in defenceless hickory trees; beaver gnawing aspen and birch to obtain the materials to build dams that create ponds that drown more plants. Even mainstream scientists acknowledge that commercial cattle operations produce enormous amounts of methane that are a major cause of global warming. Some Pflanzefreunds compare animals on earth, for instance, to cancer in an animal body, which can eventually metastasize, killing the entire organism. They predict such a possible denouement for the earth itself.

Individuals who live according to certain philosophical principles act in ways that reflect those principles. Vegetarians, for example, do not eat meat. The Pflanzefreunds have dietary restrictions as well. Orthodox Pflanzefreunds eat no vegetable matter and the flesh of no carnivorous animals. The original followers created something of a stir in conservative Germany by dressing in green leather vests and lederhosen and living in skin tents similar to the teepees of American plains Indians. Today they are sometimes mistaken for Goths, wearing long green leather overcoats. They have created a national program to return unused bicycle paths and parking lots to native prairie and woodland.

While the Pflanzefreund agenda and beliefs may be controversial in some circles, it would appear that their contention that animals are a significant source of earthly problems is beyond dispute. More open to argument is the likelihood that they may be able to solve these problems.

No comments: