The Wolf & the Cherry Tree

SUBHEAD: Preaching to the choir ends up a useless sermon. Better to work and play in a sharing community.

By Juan Wilson on 16 February 2013 for Island Breath -

Image above: painting by Crista Forest of "Wolf pup and spring blossoms". From (

Stories are an important way of turning life lessons into cultural memes. Stories that last for generations may arise from specific events, but can be created whole cloth to fit a social need - example - urban myths.

Sometimes stories evolve to the level of fables with a moral.  This evolution to fable can fit a story better to the culture it arises from. There are times when two stories have the same moral, but very different effects.

One example is "The Boy Who Cried Wolf" and "George Washington and the Cherry Tree". The moral of both stories is the same - telling a lie has bad consequences.

A Tale of Two Tales

In a nutshell the two stories go like this:

Boy Cried Wolf:
A bored and lonely shepherd boy with a flock of sheep on a distant pasture finds he can get a lot of attention ands excitement by crying "Wolf" that threatens the flock. The town folk praise him and hunt for a wolf they cannot find. The boy is delighted with the results and cries "Wolf" on another night.  After a few times hunting for nothing, the townsfolk ignore the boy when a real wolf comes and devastates the flock.
Moral: Tell the truth!

Boy Chopped Tree:
A boy (George Washington) is given a gift of a new hatchet. He tries it on many things and then on a valuable young cherry tree in his father's garden. The tree dies and father is distraught. On seeing his son with the hatchet in hand he asks; "Did you cut down the cherry tree?" The boy considers and decides to admit the truth. Rather than beat his son for an act of destruction, the father praises his son's bravery to be honest with him.
Moral: Tell the truth!

Unintended Consequences
These two tales are often used to explain to children why lying is bad and telling the truth is good. It should be noted that telling these to tales to children can have unexpected consequences - like the opposite of their intent See Wikipedia (
Teachers have used the fable as a cautionary tale about telling the truth but a recent educational experiment suggested that reading "The Boy Who Cried Wolf" increased children’s likelihood of lying. On the other hand, reading a book on George Washington and the cherry tree decreased this likelihood dramatically." (Po Bronson and Ashley Merriman, New York 2009. Nurture Shock – New Thinking about Children. pp. 83–84. ISBN 978-0-446-50412-6.)
I believe The reason for this surprising result is that in one tale a lie is reward and the truth cause for punishment - in the other the the truth is rewarded and the lie a cause for punishment. Children follow what they see gets rewards whether its excited attention or praise for honesty.

Sore Subjects
Since 2003 this website has been crying wolf on a long list of issues including:
PMRF expansion • Superferry • Mddle-East wars • GMO big • High fructose corn syrup • Pesticides • Organic food • Peak oil • CO2 emissions • Global warming • Climate change • Over population • Development •  Water rights • Hawaiian sovereignty • Indigenous cultures • American Imperialism • Decentralization • Local current • Financial crisis • Bank fraud • Housing bubble • End of growth • Collapse • De-industrialization • Organic food • Peak Food • Relocalization • Bioregionalism • Sustainability • Self reliance • Civil rights • Freedom • Public access • Local politics • Social justice • Corrupted media • FERC • PLDC… et cetera.
Disaster Syndrome
Even though these issues have been true threats, there have been too many. The effect of nearly ten years of ranting on these issues has dulled the senses. As I wrote in 2009 "Here's the Deal" (
Back in the 1980's I was doing some research at the Ford Foundation, in New York, for a disaster movie script. We needed to know about people's psychological state in specific disaster situations. What we found was a series of papers on a condition called the Disaster Syndrome. It is a state where so many things go wrong at the same time that a person cannot make a rational decision as to what to do first or next.
Those afflicted become immobilized, dumbstruck, passive and ineffective. So, for example, after a tornado has left nothing but rubble and a chimney where there was once a home, the emergency workers that arrive at the site find the owner in an almost catatonic state of dazed confusion. (see
After the tornado (hurricane, tsunami, volcanic eruption, mudslide, astroid hit, nuclear blast, etc) the victims face so many things gone wrong at once that they are immobilized, not knowing what to do next, because doing one thing requires first completing another thing.

A Distasetful Message
The basic problem facing humanity is humanity itself. To much of it. We've known this for a long time - several human generations. To maintain our numbers we must take from the Earth more than she can give; we must use industrialization to mass produce what Earth cannot provide - at the cost of the future. What is it we provide?  - Soylent Yellow in the form of GMO High-fructose-corn-syrup, animal corned and corn ethanol fueled by petrochemicals.  We have been so dependent on centralized industrialization (and it "comforts") that we cannot even see the natural world we left behind.

With or without Nature we are now going through the population bottleneck. On the other side of it there will be a world with many fewer people and a lot less petrochemicals. In that world there will be no air-conditioned Chevy Volts plying smooth highways carrying lone drivers listening to Mumford & Sons while sipping on a iced Starbucks White Chocolate Mocha.  And that stresses us.

Prepare, Prepare, Prepare
Climate change will make some places much less habitable. Very hard to predict specifics. Some places may even end up more habitable. In any case it is getting late to make a new start ion a new place. If you don't have a lot of money you probably should make the best of where you are now. It takes a lot of time to become part of a new community, and your local community will be ever more important to your survival.

Even though things are way too complicated to be able know the future in detail, some things are sure - obtaining food, water, shelter and energy will be a full time job… and for that you are going to need access and some control of a small piece of land. I know - yadda, yadda, yadda.

The Moral of the Story
Act now and Save! The point is, when the SHTF you may be in the right place at the right time and your preparations may be rewarded. Those preparations will take time and practice to polish, so you probably should not be wasting your time reading this and other blogs unless you need specific help with a problem.

For much of last year Island Breath was getting an average to 2000 hits a day. That is the highest sustained readership since its inception in late 2003. Since late last year our average readership has reduced to about 1000 hits a day. This tells me that  you've heard the warnings, you know the message. Why would you need to read another formulation of the same basic theme?

Like you, most of my "free time" should be spent getting my house in order. I'm also trying to help specific projects that might enable others to do the same. So that's what I'm doing.

We will keep on posting to this website. There will likely be less ranting about the big system and more how-to and do-it-yourself stuff. But that is largely conditional on reader contributions.

Also, I hope the website can be a positive entertainment and an amusement to readers. Let us know what your doing and experiences your having with sustainability. Funny is good!



Anonymous said...

Here's a thought for the coming brave new world as climate change causes drought. Paul Stamets, Ph.D. mushroom expert spoke about grass growing in very hot springs. Turns out it was able to do this with a certain type of fungi growing within the plant enabling tolerance of 140 degree heated water. Perhaps plants of the future may be able to tolerate drought conditions with inclusion of such fungi.

Dr. Stamets, in his book "Mycelium Running" also pointed out that oyster mushrooms have been very effective in cleaning up oil spills if they are planted in the affected areas. I believe he recently reported that a certain type of mushroom is good in cleaning up radioactivity.... I think.

Anyway, everyone should consider growing these helpful mushroom which could be easily accomplished in plug holes drilled into fallen papaya trees since mushrooms like such a growing environment.

Stamets reported for an addition instance that turkey tail mushrooms are being tested by the FDA for treatment of breast and prostate cancer which he said helped beautifully cure his mother's breast cancer. He also said that lion's mane mushrooms have been shown to be effective in preventing and reversing alzheimers.

Let's all start growing mushrooms.

I appreciate your plans Juan to present "how-to" info.

Juan Wilson said...

Thank you Anonymous,

I'm not sure if you saw this. How to grow oyster mushrooms on straw.

IB Publisher

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