Sunday, November 06, 2011

Usufruct - A Term We Should All Know

Too many things are crashing together.  Brent Scarpo week is coming up and as a Healing Racism Steering Committee member I'll be involved with that during the week.  I want to get more video of him up, but I'll have live stuff probably soon and won't need to use the leftover skype video.  And my book club is meeting Monday night putting me in a conflict with Brent's Monday night talk.

It's especially vexing since I really like the book we're reading - Charles Wohlforth's The Fate Of Nature.   And Wohlforth is scheduled to be there.  Oh dilemmas.  And so I'm racing to finish it today and tomorrow.  It's an amazing book, using Alaska as a case study to explore the BIG ISSUES - the nature of human beings (cooperative or competitive?) and is our nature compatible with the survival of the world's ecosystem?   He takes us to unexpected places and introduces us to interesting people and their concepts and then ties them all together - a lot of time in Prince William Sound from the visit of Captain Cook,  the Russians, Cordova as it has changed from the time of the Kennicott Mine.  And Chenega from old village days, through its destruction during the 1964 earthquake, to the creation of Chugach Alaska after the passage of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA).   That's just a few of the many things covered.  And they all help illustrate a long array of ideas and theories.

There's also a section on early environmentalists nationally and how they impacted Alaska - particularly Gifford Pinchot, who was a major force in creating Chugach National Forest.  But before Pinchot, there was George Perkins Marsh who published, in 1864, The Earth as Modified by Human Action.  Wohlforth writes:
"He explained the fragility of ecosystems, the special qualities of old-growth forest, the potential to permanently damage soil, wetlands, rivers, and ocean, and he argued that environmental abuse similar to that rampant in the United States had brought about the collapse of ancient civilizations around the Mediterranean Sea.  Marsh used a legal term to define humanity's proper relationship to the earth:  usufruct, which means a loan for use only, with the obligation to leave the borrowed item as it was found."  (p. 143)(emphasis added)

Instead of reading more yesterday, I was at the CCL meeting and then at the One People, One Earth meeting - both discussing man's impact on the earth's ecosystem.  Both, in their own ways, dealing with the idea usufruct.  I also saw Penny Arcade's show at Out North last night.  More on that later, but briefly, it's the adults only version of what Brent Scarpo will be doing this week.  Penny Arcade, who was part of Andy Warhol's crowd, will perform for a couple more weekends.  But I've got to get back to reading, and there's a driveway to shovel, and a few other things to distract me.  But just lying in bed this morning reading and reading was a real pleasure.  And the end of daylight savings time gave me an extra hour. 


  1. Usufruct is also a legal term used to give surviving wives or husbands the right to live in the home owned by the couple for the remainder of their life. This prevents the other beneficiaries of the deceased from forcing a sale. I have seen this frequently in wills during my genealogy research.

  2. Casa Calvo, thanks for this other example of the term, which is consistent with Wohlforth's example.


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