Wednesday, March 31, 2010
Our path 'is not the only one available'
Wade Davis, in The Wayfinders: These lectures set out to ask 'why ancient wisdom matters in the modern world.' The phrase is somewhat flawed, implying as it does that these many remarkable peoples we have encountered are somehow vestigial, archaic voices stranded in time, having at best a vague advisory role to play in contemporary life. In truth, all the cultures I have referenced in these lectures -- the Tibetans and the San, the Arhuacos, Wiwas and Kogi, the Kiowa, Barasana, Makuna, Penan, Rendille, Tahltan, Gitxsan, Wet'suwet'en, Haida, Inuit, and all the peoples of Polynesia -- are very much alive and fighting not only for their cultural survival but also to take part in a global dialogue that will define the future of life on earth...
Why should their voices be heard? There are scores of reasons... but to sum up, two words will do. Climate change. There is no serious scientist alive who questions the severity and implications of this crisis, or the factors, decisions, and priorities that caused it to occur. It has come about because of the consequences of a particular world view. We have for three centuries now, as Thom Hartmann has written, consumed the ancient sunlight of the world. Our economic models are projections and arrows when they should be circles. To define perpetual growth on a finite planet as the sole measure of economic well-being is to engage in a form of slow collective suicide. To deny or exclude from the calculus of governance and economy the costs of violating the biological support system of life is the logic of delusion.
These voices matter because they can still be heard to remind us that there are indeed alternatives, other ways of orienting human beings in social, spiritual, and ecological space. This is not to suggest naively that we abandon everything and attempt to mimic the ways of non-industrial societies, or that any culture be asked to forfeit its right to benefit from the genius of technology. It is rather to draw inspiration and comfort from the fact that the path we have taken is not the only one available, that our destiny therefore is not indelibly written in a set of choices that demonstrably and scientifically have proven not to be wise. By their very existence the diverse cultures of the world bear witness to the folly of those who say that we cannot change, as we all know we must, the fundamental manner in which we inhabit this planet.