Perennial Turning

It’s pretty clear by now that a transformation of agricultural practices will be a necessary part of any just transition to a healthy Earth community. Several people and organizations engaged in this transformation have recently posted articles on One of them, the Land Institute, has published an open-access book called The Perennial Turn: Contemporary Essays from the Field. (You can download the free e-book from that site.)

The first article (by Wes Jackson, Aubrey Streit Krug, Bill Vitek, and Robert Jensen) takes a look at the global situation in which this ‘Perennial Turn’ is taking place. One paragraph strikes me as especially cogent:

Revolutionary change in theory and practice, not minor course corrections, are needed; we cannot assume that modifying the existing trajectory of the human species is adequate. If there is to be an ongoing large-scale human presence on Earth, the energy/resource consumption that most affluent humans take for granted—and which many non-affluent humans aspire to—cannot continue.

The time we are living makes it increasingly risky to take things for granted – even things like a steady supply of energy, food, water, clean air, health care, mobility, employment and so on. If philosophers are those who don’t take things for granted that people commonly think they know, as Merleau-Ponty says, maybe this is a good time for open-access philosophical essays like Turning Signs. —That’s about as close to self-advertising as this blog ever gets … but we can all use a bit of ‘beginner’s mind,’ whatever the time.

Spiritual revolution?

My ‘transition time’ post (which is below, if you are reading this on the weblog) referred specifically to solar power and electric cars. But it’s clear to me that technology alone will not save us from the mess we’re making of the biosphere. Public policy, set by governments at every level, will have to change radically. But many of our political systems seem to be dragging their feet on this, and some (such as the current president of the U.S. and premier of Ontario) are actively obstructing the transition. Partisan politics generally are not up to the task. We need some kind of revolution, in a more-than-political sense of the word.

Maybe it has to be a spiritual revolution. But that’s a loaded word; and even people who value the “spiritual” side of life often take a dim view of the organized spirituality we call “religion.” This is not surprising, given the history of oppression and mutual hostility we’ve seen from religious organizations. Still, how can people work together toward social change without being organized in some way? What can motivate people deeply enough to carry forward that kind of change, if not religion? Greta Thunberg has been called a ‘prophet’: if she’s not a spiritual leader for our time, who is?

These are not rhetorical questions. They are the kind of questions we hope will spark a deep, open and honest conversation among our guests at the movie night we’re hosting tomorrow, at the Honora Bay Free Theatre on Manitoulin Island. The conversation will follow a movie called The Gate, about the prophetic figure who led a spiritual revolution in 19th-century Persia that prepared the way for the Bahá’í Faith. This is part of a worldwide celebration marking the 200th anniversary of the birth of the Báb (whose name translates into English as “the Gate”).

Another question is: in what ways does the Báb’s spiritual revolution connect with, or differ from, the kind of movement we need almost 200 years later, in 2019-30? The film shows how violently the Báb’s movement was resisted by the religious/political establishment of the time, and we can probably relate to that. As for the religious aspect of it, at least one blogger, Adrian Ivakhiv, argues that going forward from our time, some kind of ‘ecological religion’ will need to come together, uniting the various forms that now exist into a global movement that can ‘connect with social, political, economic, and other conditions/needs/movements.’ Religion as he defines it is ‘something like a system of symbols’ encompassing beliefs, deeply held values, and practices ‘by which people, in a more or less structured community, actively locate themselves in a world of power, meaning, and value that transcends yet includes them.’ We need to talk about how this can happen.

Our movie nights on Manitoulin are strictly local, of course, but i’d be happy to hear from other readers of this blog any comments they have on these questions.