Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe.

Archive for August 6, 2010

We need to speed up progress and make a push to end the oil age.

Today we all recognize that we live in an economy and culture that is addicted to oil. We know that our system of industrial agriculture is, in Joan Gussow’s words, “floating on a sea of oil.” We recognize the irony that the Gulf oil spill is occurring in what is already a dead zone due to agricultural run-off carried down the Mississippi River.

We recognize, too, the temptation to become angry and frustrated. It is tempting to wage war against BP. But waging such wars makes about as much sense as trying to inject Slow Money into the gusher of fast money, hoping it will somehow “top kill” it…

…let’s remember that you can launch a war, but you cannot launch peace. You can launch money into an investment portfolio, but you cannot launch peace of mind. You can launch chemicals into the soil, but you cannot launch fertility. Peace, health and fertility can only be found through what Wendell Berry calls “millions of small acts of care and restraint.”

It is not surprising that we find ourselves, today, captive to markets that are themselves captive to the enormous momentum of the economic growth that they have made possible.

What is surprising, however, is the degree of our reticence, our impotence, our unwillingness–in the face of the collision course between unlimited economic growth and the limits of culture and the biosphere to absorb our accelerating levels of extraction, consumption, and pollution–to dare to imagine another way.

We have to start growing up. This won’t be easy, of course. Getting there will require a concerted, planetary effort, and the ascendance of values — reverence, humility, love — bigger than the ones that drive the age of oil.