20 August 2009

108 Days - Safeguarding the Future Isn't a Question of "Either/Or"

Safeguarding the future should be, must be, a "Yes, and..." proposition.

But in the last 24 hours, I've read of two situations where two authors duke it out because they can't see that they're both right, and that life isn't all about either/or. Life offers a series of alternatives and possible solutions.

In the first example, Peter Ward declares that James Lovelock's Gaia theory is responsible for encouraging a set of fairy-tale assumptions about the earth (he probably means the Earth), and is determined to puncture them with his new book, The Medea Hypothesis: Is Life on Earth Ultimately Self-Destructive?

See the either/or that Ward sets up? He purports that if he is right, then Lovelock must be wrong. But this planet is more like the Hindu pantheon of gods and goddesses — a spectrum ranging from those who give life to those who take it away — than the Old versus New Testament either/or proposition of the warring and vengeful Jehovah versus a compassionate and merciful Jesus.

Why must our view of the world be either life-giving or life-taking? It's so obvious to the rest of us that it is both. As a friend so aptly put it, "Why do white Western guys have opposing theories instead of complementary, inter-meshing, completing ones? Nature creates, nature maintains, nature destroys."

In another example, George Monbiot and Paul Kingsnorth go at each other in a series of letters published 17 August 2009 in the Guardian, under the heading Is there any point in fighting to stave off industrial apocalypse?

Monbiot and Kingsnorth seem to be arguing about whether to do nothing or do everything possible, whether to let the climate crisis take its course or try to "stave it off."

Again, it's all about either/or. Gentlemen, please. (Maybe this is a Western white male thing?) Sure, it might be good fodder for the newspaper, but except for the very beginning and the very end of life (you're either born or you're not, you either die or you don't), the rest of living here on this planet is not about either/or. It offers a range of possibilities and alternatives.

Not only that, but at no time do you mention that compassion might play a role in this "fight," as you call it. (Though Monbiot does suggest that losing billions of people through doing nothing is a little harsh.)

Alas, my point is that every time we catch ourselves thinking in terms of either/or, let's explore what's in the middle — all the possibilities between the either and the or.

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I would appreciate hearing your thoughts or questions on this post or anything else you've read here. What is your take on courage and compassion being an important part of the solution to the climate change emergency?