Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Is less more?

Born to run: Turn-of-the-century Tarahumara. Photo: Carl Lumholtz.

Expensive shoes will fuck up your feet. It's true! The more expensive your shoes are, the more injuries you're going to get.
There also seems to be proof that the more expenisve bicycle equipment you got, the more prone you are to injuries.
There's a good reason to be skeptical about statistics that proove the above. People who use helmets and expensive bicycle equipment surely have more miles behind them than those who ride barehead, and people with expensive shoes probably run more than those with cheap ones, right? So maybe if you calculated miles pr. accident you'd get some different numbers.
But still.
To me, this "less is more"-stand still makes a lot of sense: The more advanced shoes you got. the more grief they will cause you. They will make you run in a way your creator never ment you were supposed to run, and you will suffer the conseqences, not he. The more expensive and sophisticated your bicycle is: The more accident prone you will be. You will go to fast and imagine you are invulnerable, and for this you will pay.

Something similar seems to be the case for beekeeping, too. The ones who advocate the rather primitive "Warré-type hives" feel they have much less problems than their cousins with the more technologically advanced Langstroth-hives.
Less diseases. Less stress on the bees. Less work, all in all.
Amiong other things, ecological beekeepers feel that the dreaded honey bee pest, varroa, is simply meant to be. The bees will sort it out themselves.
This reminds me of the mentality of the few people I know who are reindeer herders. They scoff at authorities and "farmers" (people who are not nomads) for being so obsessed with ticks, flies and mosquites. "Take away the current pests," they say, "and you bet your ass something much worse is going to take it's place. That stuff about nature hating a void is true."
Then they will get drunk. Aboriginal people will do that.
Again: This about removing mosquitoes and getting something worse sounds sensible. After decades, even centuries of comabitng the honey bees' varroa, it's still with us. Sort of like the congenital diseases of pure-bred dogs. Just start cross-breeding, and they'll disappear. But instead you got lots of concerned people trying to eliminate certain traits through strict, selective breeding, even though that is precisely what caused the problems in the first place.
The Tarahumara indians (above) of Northwestern Mexico run barefoot or only with some very modest sandals. No Nike for them. I just read about them in a wonderful book called "Born to Run". There is a whole movement of barefoot runners around, one of whom is a character called Barefoot Ted, who's points concerning the benefits of running barefoot makes a whole lot of sense.
So why do people insist on vaccinations against pests, on expensive running shoes, on multi-geared bicycles? My idea is it got something to do with scale. If you need five hundred hives to make money, you want something predictable, rather than semi-feral bees. If you make shoes, you have to make them seem more comfortable than your comopetitors'. Who cares if they cause more injuries, nobody will notice when they're trying shoes on in the store.
And on and on.
But read "Born to Run". You will not use running shoes again.


Diane said...

LOVE THIS POST! I need not say anymore...it was perfect!

Hudson Gardner said...

That's really quite amazing, Bjørn. You tend to find some very interesting stuff. I wonder if this barefoot thing applies to walking and standing, too. I always find that shoes with no arch support make my lower back hurt and my feet ache.

Northmark said...

Certainly walking and standing on hard surfaces will mess up your back, as millions of nurses and hairdressers can testify. I have a pair of "Masai Barefoot Technology"-shoes I use for those occasions when I have to do a lot of walking or standing on paved surfaces. Their soles are so rounded you end up rolling around even when standing still, supposedly this is a good thing.

Cam said...

You are right about the shoes, simpler is better. I find his reductionist theory applies to tools as well. Over the years I have moved to entirely hand tools. The simpler the tool the better it works and the greater the range of possible applications. Your ryoba saw is a fantastic example.

I'm going to have to go ahead and disagree with you about the bikes though. In my humble opinion all you single speeders are slightly bent. I'm not say'in that we all need a quiver of carbonfibre designer machines that cost as much as a midsized truck. But you need to "go quality" enough to get a bike that works and lasts. I have a plethora of gears on all my bikes and I use 'em all. I live in a part of the country where there is NO flat ground. If I dinna hae gears I would be pushin' me bike - and that's nae good!

I hope you are right about the end of the world as we know it! The sooner the better.