Terrafurie = Earth Anger

Terrafurie

(From Earth Emotions (2019)

 I was asked to create a new word by ecologically minded friends, who felt a common anger about what was happening to the world but could not put that precise form of anger into meaningful English. I responded with “terrafurie” or earth rage.[1]

Terrafurie expresses the extreme anger unleashed within those who can clearly see the self-destructive tendencies in the current forms of industrial-technological society but feel unable to change the direction of such tierracide and ecocide (see below). The anger is also directed at challenging the status quo in both intellectual and socio-political terms. Terrafurie is anger targeted at those who command the forces of Earth destruction. I think of it as a protective anger, not one that is aggressive. However, in Chapter 6, I explore the type of strength and anger needed to protect the protectors of this Earth from harm.

Many before the present generations have felt a precise anger at the destruction of our own support environment, and the homes of countless other beings who want nothing other than to live and reproduce. J.A. Baker, author of The Peregrine, also wrote a short essay, ‘On the Essex Coast’, in 1971, where he argued in support of those opposing the further development of this last remnant patch of wildness in South East England. While out walking on the coast, he came across a dead oil-soaked diver (Loon). His reflection on how this bird lived and died prompted an outpouring of solastalgia, and, also, very precisely directed anger. Baker gives vent to this anger:

I blunder on across the saltings, in too great a rage to see or hear anything clearly. After a day of peace, I have seen the ineffaceable imprint of man again, have smelt the insufferable stench of money. A Yellow Wagtail flits ahead of me, a brilliant torch flaming up into the sun. That at least seems to be still clean, still untainted. Yet who can know what insidious chemical horror may be operating beneath those brilliant feathers? [2]

There is a deep-seated anger here about the injustice of human impacts on the rest of nature, and the death and sickness unleashed by our industrial forces. It is also a political anger, directed at politicians, as he warns the rest of us not to be “soothed away by the lullaby language of indifferent politicians”.[3] I can only imagine the terrafurie of Indigenous people the world over as they are forced to experience the destruction of their land and culture.

Terrafurie is likely to become a more common emotion as Earth insults become more prevalent and widespread. As in the Upper Hunter of NSW, the technologies now being used to terraform the Earth are so powerful that ‘rage against the machine’, as well as against the owners of the machine, becomes the only sane option.

Terrafurie can also be expressed both as a form of environmental rage and of out of creativity. I wrote a terrafuric poem in April 2007 that drew together a number of themes. It was written on the release of information about the feminization of the population of Aamjiwnaang First Nation people in Canada and of the wild Snapping Turtles. Twice the number of girls are being born than boys, and the ‘feminized’ male turtles have diminished penis size. Pollution from ‘chemical valley’ in Sarnia, Ontario, is thought to be implicated.

Benjamin Chee Chee was a Native American artist, now famous for his portraits of Canada Geese and other birds. He committed suicide in 1977 at the age of 33. I interpret his simple, graceful and highly structured artworks depicting geese, as an attempt to keep the world in order/balance. As a Native American, it was his way of trying to defeat the personal and cultural pathology and tragedy of nostalgia and solastalgia. The Aamjiwnaang tell of geese trying to land on a pond in Chemical Valley in a cloud of benzene and dying before they hit the water. Chee Chee’s suicide, the problems of Indigenous people and the death of order in Canada Geese seem connected.

Life Out of Balance

 A thousand years of Aamjiwnaang dreams

spirits touched by pure steam

from sweat lodge rocks

that release a culture’s memory.

One hundred short years of inversion

in the Chemical Valley

fugitive emissions into every space

Is the maple syrup really sweet?

Geese struggle for formation in miasmic air

benzene tears in the artist’s eye

reveal the reasons for

Benjamin Chee Chee’s suicide.

Sweet innocent boys go missing

So too the Snapping Turtle penis

shrinking in the chromosome chaos

the Hopi call Koyaanisqatsi.

A hundred long years of restoration

Geese, turtles and children

once again in perfect formation

life in beautiful balance.

Beyond the spontaneous expression of terrafurie, eco-activism directed at the forces of destruction is a positive outlet for anger. Anger can be transformed into activism. In the past, with the exception of violent actions such as tree spiking to prevent logging (monkey wrenching), ecological activism has been largely non-violent. As the anger builds and the indifferent or even hostile politicians keep wrecking the Earth, terrafurie just might flip into violence directed at those who allow the “insufferable stench of money” to continue to corrupt and kill life-forces.

[1] Albrecht 2017a. (Terra, the Earth; Middle English furie, from the Latin furia, from furere, to rage).

[2] Baker 2017, 215.

[3] Baker 2017, 215.