Sunday, August 8, 2010
One Dao or Another
I just got finished watching an interview with Gwynne Dyer on Democracy Now. For the last bit of the show, they brought in Vandana Shiva to have a little debate between the two.
Dyer was saying, as part of his Climate Wars thesis, that the human race simply isn't going to get its act together fast enough to prevent significant climate change. As a result, there will be significant starvation in the global South, which will have serious military consequences in terms of mass migrations, failed states and war over dwindling water supplies. He said that as a result of this catastrophic failure to control greenhouse gas emissions the scientific community is now seriously looking at geoengineering solutions to manage the global temperature---such as seeding clouds with sulphur dioxide.
Mr. Gonzales kept trying to suggest to Mr. Dyer that "the corporations" and the military would use this sort of engineering to exploit the poor. He was also trying to suggest that even with global warming there wouldn't be any absolute scarcity of food once inequality was taken from the face of the earth.
When Ms. Shiva came on, she suggested that if people totally changed the food system to one based on organic agriculture and local food supplies, that there would be so much carbon sequestered in the soil that a large part of the problem would disappear.
Dyer agreed with Shiva about the solutions she offered. But he said that there simply wouldn't be enough time to institute all the social changes her prescription would need to actually happen. Her response was to say that the change is already happening and if people didn't live in the mindset of engineers and soldiers they would recognize that it is already happening around them.
I work at a top flight agricultural university and I haven't seen any of the big changes that Shiva seems to be talking about. I do hang with scientists, though, and all of them are deeply worried about the future. I also hang with politicians. Many of them are stupid as a sack of rocks and most of these don't think that climate change is an issue. The others feel their hands are tied because of the stupidity of the other politicians and the general public----and the enormous lethargy and torpor that our incredibly complex economic, legal and political system impose on social change.
What really struck me about the exchange was how totally and completely Shiva and Juan Gonzalez were refusing to listen to what Dyer was saying. They have a vision of why there are problems in the world and any argument or evidence that doesn't fit nicely into that paradigm simply gets trimmed to fit it---like people laying on a Procrustean bed.
I attempt to understand the world around me. I look at the flow of complex interactions and give it a name: "the Dao". And that name is how I identify myself as a religious person to the people I meet. When I watched that interchange between Dyer, Gonzalez and Shiva, I couldn't help but feel like Gonzalez and Shiva had become totally unglued from the Dao and were following some sort of delusion or mirage. It underscores what is probably one of the most important virtues that I honour: the ability to look the truth full on and without bias. I don't suppose this would be considered a Christian virtue, I'm not even sure that it is a traditional Daoist one. But it seems very important to me.