Started during hyperlink.academy's rare and precious Metacourse, this is a course on radically intimate ecology that I have titled Fantastic Beasts for the Home and Garden. The intention is to cultivate animal familiars, plant companions, and fungal allies through this project-based course on intimacy, ecology, and what it means to be human in the post-anthropocene.
One cohort has taken the course, and it went fantastic! You can check out the course page on Hyperlink by clicking here.
What follows is not a complete syllabus, but rather a collection of topics and sources that reflect the core concepts of the course.
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This week we will begin to cultivate awareness of our local non-human neighbors, and start to sketch out some ideas for a habitat to build.
✅ companion species ✅ familiars ✅ habitat
🍄 Together we will introduce ourselves and introduce some of the species we already live beside - dogs, cats, potted plants, sourdough, odd-smelling mold growing in the back of the fridge.
🌱 All of us can spend some time brainstorming about the kinds of species we will work towards forming relationships with. Throughout the course we will use different hands-on idea-generating techniques to inspire creativity and self-reflection.
🌱 Continuing our brainstorming activity, we will begin to sketch out some prototypes for our project.
🏡 Homework: get permission from your chosen companion species to make space for them in your life. We will talk in class about how this conversation can be started.
Ever since I found out that earth worms have taste buds all over the delicate pink strings of their bodies, I pause dropping apple peels into the compost bin, imagine the dark, writhing ecstasy, the sweetness of apples permeating their pores. I offer beets and parsley, avocado, and melon, the feathery tops of carrots. I'd always thought theirs a menial life, eyeless and hidden, almost vulgar - though now, it seems, they bear a pleasure so sublime, so decadent, I want to contribute however I can, forgetting, a moment, my place on the menu. - from Bonfire Opera by Danusha Lameris
This week we will choose the species we will make friends with and learn some more about their needs, wants, and pre-existing relationships.
✅ endosymbiosis ✅ trophic cascade ✅ food web
🍄 Everyone can share their prototypes and what they have learned in the past week about their chosen companion species.
🌱 Using what we've learned about our chosen species, we can begin to construct a mind-map of all the inputs and outputs for our constructed habitat.
🍄 Our class will spend some time discussing the balance of ruthlessness and compassion within ecological systems. What do we, as stewards, want to cultivate? What do we want to harvest, and what obligations will we have to our new companion species?
🏡 Homework: continue to prototype example habitats that take into account the complexities we discussed and discovered this week. Continue to interact with your companion species.
Some have two feet and some have four. Some have six feet and some have more. Where do they come from? I can't say. But I bet they have come a long, long way. we see them come, we see them go. Some are fast. Some are slow. Some are high. Some are low. Not one of them is like another. Don't ask us why, go ask your mother. - from One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish by Dr. Seuss
This week create a long-term care and maintenance schedule for our habitat project, and we will explore stories of deep time, co-evolution, and multi-generational land stewardship.
✅ co-evolution ✅ stewardship ✅ interdependence ✅ domestication
🍄 We can all share our journey so far in courting a companion species, and what kinds of habitat designs we have developed over the week.
🐚 In class we will explore big-scale and long-term ecological relationships. As it turns out, the healthiest habitats on the planet are human-facilitated. Wolves becoming dogs, grass becoming wheat, primates becoming horsemen: all these are examples of companionship over eons. What will come next?
🌱 For our project, we will develop a plan for maintaining the relationship with our companion species. What will the habitat look like in a year, five, ten? Can you make more habitats, or continue making additions? Will your children play with the children of your companion?
🏡 Homework: prototyping is over - get to work on your final project!
Great fleas have little fleas upon their backs to bite 'em, And little fleas have lesser fleas, and so ad infinitum. And the great fleas themselves, in turn, have greater fleas to go on; While these again have greater still, and greater still, and so on. - from A Budget of Paradoxes by Augustus De Morgan
This week we will finalize our projects and extend our growing animistic instincts to include a wider and more compassionate understanding of life.
✅ animism ✅ panspermia
🍄 We can share our progress towards our final project and any more lessons we have learned from our soon-to-be companions.
🐚 In our final class together we will explode into bigger and stranger ideas that expand our perception of life. Ideas themselves are alive, as are buildings, planets, computer programs, wee tiny microbiota, quantum particles, corporations, languages, stones... and so on, ad infinitum.
🌱 Thinking about all things as alive, we will take some time to interact with our companion species and our habitat in new ways. Most of this class session will be spent inviting our companions into the new space and introducing ourselves.
🏡 Homework: finish your project! We will schedule a meeting in one month to check on everyone’s habitats.