Thursday, April 07, 2005

Wendell Berry is Right

My daughter is wiser than me, and more fortunate. Her study of world history, in only the 6th grade, introduced her to the ancient societies of India and China. She taught me things about those cultures I didn't know.

And just this morning, on Pacifica Radio, (an archive program run locally, so I missed the name of the speaker), a woman from India pointed out that human societies don't all produce missile bombers or use gunpowder for weaponry (China invented it, Europe used it for warfare); but all societies, to survive, must be able to provide food and water. She went on to point out that India has cultivated land for over 10,000 years. In the 400 years Europeans have been on this soil, we have despoiled vast tracts, buried rich farmland under concrete (I live on some of it), lost hectares of top soil, poisoned streams and rivers. It is impossible to imagine sustaining our industrial form of agriculture for the length of time India has done it, and all without the "benefits" of our "science."

Water tables in some portions of India, she reported, have dropped by over 1000 feet. People who for millenia drew water from wells, now have no access to that water at all. Overpopulation, you might think? No; industrialization. Commodification. Severe alteration of the environment so that it no longer stores water, but sheds it. Forests that were once sources of life, became sources of profit.

And now China and India want to join the U.S. in the industrial revolution. Commodification of water is a major problem in much of the world, where drought and flood are becoming endemic, rather than virtually unknown. People do not live for millenia in places subject to devasting flood and destructive drought. Those things occur now more because of the Industrial Revolution and the "Enlightenment" than in spite of it.

Commodification will be the end of us all, long before politics or geopolitical relations undo us.

Many posters on blogs such as this, or Eschaton, or First Draft, worry about the state of the world because of American politics. I worry about the state of humanity, because of industrialization. Not just from a spiritual point of view (I believe we are all spiritual creatures, even those of us who don't believe in spirit!), but from a very materialist point of view. But the spiritual affects the material, and the material the spiritual.

And this is only the barest beginning of this discussion.

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