Allopathic Environmentalism ~ Resilience
PART 4. — CONCLUSIONS AND STRATEGIES ~ RESILIENCE
“Rural America is a colony, and its economy is a colonial economy…The business of America has been largely and without apology the plundering of rural America, from which everything of value — minerals, timber, farm animals, farm crops, and “labor” — has been taken at the lowest possible price.” (Wendell Berry in his response to Nathaniel Rich’s article in the New York Review of Books, March 2017)
I was born and raised in the Democratic Republic of Congo. With a European mother and an America father, the USA never quite felt like home until I was an adult. Those of us who grew up straddling cultures are often call Third Culture Kids (TCK’s). Such an upbringing comes with many challenges as well as certain skills. I may never quite feel 100% rooted in one place, one group of people, one culture, but I can enjoy squatting over a communal pot of fufu and mwambe while telling stories next to an open fire, just as much as listening to a university professor lecture on Levinas, deconstructing a smoker who flirts with the void. In other words, TCK’s tend to have practice engaging in different venues where there are fundamental differences in how people think and interact. In order to assimilate, those living out a cross-cultural existence are forced to put their normal structures of interpreting the world in abeyance (as much as possible), giving the ‘other’ a chance to imprint their values, thought patterns, and modes of communication. This is no easy task, and requires a great amount of restraint, empathy, and imagination. Restraint is needed to suspend judgement long enough to get a sense of the whole. Empathy and imagination are what enables us to see through a different person’s eyes. These cross-cultural skills are the very same requirements needed to explore narratives of complex systems precisely because they are concerned with understanding context. Unfortunately, so many of our worldviews and models of reality are lacking in imagination, and are often frighteningly void of empathy. When issues are interrelated and complicated we cannot rely on old, lazy, and contextually-blind reductionistic frameworks, because such faulty and overly simplistic thinking will inevitably lead to faulty and overly simplistic solutions, causing great harm.
After finishing up high school in Africa, I came to the United States for university and studied philosophy. One of the great things about majoring in philosophy was that my best teachers were less concerned with what exactly I thought, and stressed rather, the teaching of how to think well. Philosophical topics, by nature, tend to be concerned with difficult and complicated issues that might very well be wrestled with till the end of time. Good thinking leads to better conclusions. Set conclusions lead to ideology and sterility in imagination. I am not an expert in many of the subjects I have been writing about. In fact, for much of the issues at hand, I often check with dog-eared books in my library or respected websites to make sure I’m getting things relatively correct. Truth is, I am less concerned about getting the exact percentages or being exactly right, than about having a sense of the whole and how the pieces interrelate with one another.
In these modern times, information and facts are not what is lacking. In fact, we are overwhelmed with data. What is so often absent is the ability to explore comprehensive and discerning narratives that can give us a fresh grasp of the whole as a means to provide insightful ways to understand how the information and facts fit together. Culturally, we are in a deadlock of polarized world views, each side unwilling to suspend judgement and actually listen to the other. The arguments seem old and tired, with neither world view fully engaging with all the facts at hand. We are in desperate need of refreshingly imaginative and empathetic narratives to help us know by which resolution to view our facts and give us clues as to how the data fits together and interrelates. One of my favorite illustrations of restructuring narratives has to do with planets, once called the wandering stars. When the earth was thought to be the center of the universe, the path of planets through the night sky was an enigma, as they didn’t follow the circular patterns of other stars. Roughly two thousand years ago, Ptolemy developed a very accurate mathematical formula to predict where these ‘wandering stars’ would travel. It was based on visualizing the planets circling the earth like this:
It wasn’t until some fifteen hundred years later that Copernicus proposed that the Earth revolved around the sun. 50 years after that Kepler proposed that the orbits of the planets are elliptical. As wary as I am of Ockham’s razor, Kepler’s elliptical and heliocentric model did not win out solely on its superior predicting abilities, as Ptolemaic equations had performed quite well for over a millennium. There was also a religious bias in favor of perfectly round circles. Circles may be fine specimens indeed, but for those willing to suspend judgement there was a certain elegance to the elliptical model, and as it was explored, so many more facts seem to find a home. Essentially, the imaginative appeal to aesthetics had to suffice since the heliocentric model could not be observably verified until centuries later. The heliocentric model must have been a hard sell indeed, as it contradicted the daily fact that confronted everyone as they clearly saw the sun rise in the east, traverse the sky, and descend in the west. Certainly there were countless people, having heard the explanation of the Earth’s rotation along with its revolution around the sun, would have shaken their heads and insisted on the very logical and fact-based paradigm that the sun clearly spun around us.
Some of the most difficult conversations I have had with my conservative family and friends have been about issues surrounding problems that are systemic in nature. A regular point of contention revolves around the hidden supply and value chains of massive multinational and transnational corporations that crisscross the globe. I make the point that there are numerous moral issues connected to supplying our country with the commodities that make up our way of living. From wars fought over the control of oil, to child labor for clothing factories, to the pollution and trash that destroys our soils, our water, and our air — simply living a normal life makes the modern civilian complicit in a multitude of ways. The most prevalent response goes something like this: It is not a sin to fill up your gas tank. In fact, the economic transaction is what makes the world go round. I got something I needed and I reciprocated by paying what it was worth. There is a jarring mismatch of narratives between one of personal sin and a narrative that takes into account feedback loops of systems that often have a cascade of unintended and unpleasant effects. The tension is, as I see it, a difference of resolution. Clearly, within very narrow and personal parameters, there is nothing inappropriate going on at the gas station. Not stealing, but paying one’s gas bill is obviously an important ingredient for a stable and safe society — I can see just as clearly as the next person that the sun rises and sets. But broaden the parameters and zoom out to focus on the systems from a different resolution, and things fall into place in very different ways.
The contrast between personal sin and a systemic approach to complicated and incriminating issues has an historical component worth delving into. Writing decades ago in The Hidden Wound, Wendell Berry explores the peculiar fact that his ancestors, as was common, went to church with their slaves.
“I have been years realizing what this means, and what it has cost…First, consider the moral predicament of the master who sat in church with his slaves, thus attesting his belief in the immortality of the souls of people whose bodies he owned and used. He thus placed his body, if not his mind, at the very crux of the deepest contradiction of his life. How could he presume to own the body of a man whose soul he considered as worthy of salvation as his own? To keep this question from articulating itself in his thoughts and demanding an answer, he had to perfect an empty space in his mind, a silence, between heavenly concerns and earthly concerns, between body and spirit. If there had ever opened a conscious connection between the two claims, if the two sides of his mind had ever touched, it would have been like building a fire in a house full of gunpowder: somewhere down deep in his mind he always knew of the danger, and his nerves were always alert to it.
But also consider this congregation of masters and slaves from the point of view of the pulpit…If a man wanted to remain a preacher he would have to honor that division in the minds of the congregation between earth and heaven, body and soul…Thus the moral obligation was cleanly excerpted from the religion. The question of how best to live on the earth, among one’s fellow creatures, was permitted to atrophy, and the churches devoted themselves exclusively and obsessively with the question of salvation.
How do you get to heaven?…The churches, with their strong ties to the pocketbooks of racists, felt obliged to see it another way: the way to heaven was faith; one got there by believing. And to this day that continues to be the emphasis of such denominations as the Southern Baptist: to be saved, believe!…The favorite texts of such churches are John 3:16…I have heard these passages quoted with obsessive reiteration all my life. When the ministers of these churches turned their attention to the world, they did so with the puritanical passion of St. Paul, violently opposing such ‘sins’ as drinking, failure to attend church, and ‘immorality’ — sins of somewhat questionable status in the first place…The great moral tasks of honesty and peace and neighborliness and brotherhood and the care of the earth have been left to be taken up on the streets by the ‘alienated’ youth of the 1960s and 1970s.”
Wendell Berry provides us with an example of granular resolution, narrowly honed in on personal salvation, serving as a pathological avoidance of broader incriminating issues. This historical contradiction echoes in the present mindset of those who, without any sense of irony, value both patriotism and friendships with their black neighbors, all the while flying the Dixie flag — a symbol unextractable from secession and the right to own slaves.
The lesson to learn from complex systems is that all levels and calibrations of resolution are essential, and solutions are only effective when appropriately addressing these different resolutions simultaneously. To hearken back to the example of paying one’s bill at the gas station, the economic transaction is indeed a pillar of any society, just as it is within the economic exchanges between the organisms within soil (Devastating Omission). The individual economic exchange is the granular resolution of personal integrity. Yet in the globalized world of today, there are many complex issues attached to the gas we fill our tanks with. Understanding the in’s and out’s of supply and value chains requires us to adjust the lens of our focus, zooming out to observe much broader patterns and systems. Were we to dilate our gaze and focus solely on the global issues and insist the injustices give one the right to simply take the gas without an economic exchange, our society would rapidly break down. To sharpen our focus and hone in only on the personal economic exchange without awareness of the complex issues of global supply chains, is to remain ignorant of some of the most heinous atrocities enacted against humanity for the sake of the modern day conveniences. Integrity is needed at all resolutions.
Environmental issues embody similar differences of resolution. Wrapped up in these different calibrations of focus is the marginalization of rural communities by the nation-wide slant that favors urban systems and institutions. In his prolific writings, Berry makes it clear that it is not just those in the Bible Belt that have let atrophy their ability to engage with broad, systemic, and incriminating moral issues. This same author who critiques his own religious heritage, spares no words for the urban dwellers and modern American lifestyle in general. Exploitation happens at many resolutions, and one of the worst is the colonization of rural America. Much of Berry’s writing over the decades painfully chronicles and bears witness to this raping of the rural land and communities. Whether it is the mountaintop removal to provide energy, or the extraction of food to ship away, or the brain drain of the rural communities’ best and brightest, the systems of our nation are set up to plunder and transport all these extracted goods to the cities. (The politics of the dystopia of the Hunger Games is not as far off as one might imagine.) Such colonization is, in fact, a worldwide trend.
The urban city dweller may point to the poverty and disenfranchisement of the inner city, but the unjust plight of the poor within the urban systems should never obfuscate the reality of how the overall current of society extracts and moves commodities from the countryside to the cities. Much like the Confederate flag wielder, who expounds on heritage while claiming her black friends as absolution from racism, city folk will insist they value the rural, flyover states and that the proof is found in their desire to retire in some bucolic, nostalgia-inducing countryside. Both scenarios exemplify ignorance of the broader, systemic pressures that perpetuate injustices.
Racial segregation is officially over and sustainability is in vogue, but neither of these facts means the work is done. In the same vein of a call to change our resolution in order to address systemic racial issues, we need similar thinking for the environment and climate change. At the individual level, there has been some progress. Many of us are trying to do our part. Maybe we recycle, even compost. Maybe we’re buying less toxic cleaning products. Using less plastic. Biking more. Maybe we’re protesting environmental injustices. Maybe we’re gardening or even sourcing our food from regenerative farmers. All efforts are vital, even when they seem impotent in the face of worldwide trends.
Personal responsibility is always the best place to start. We can only hope that the momentum will build until it is the norm and those not mitigating their carbon footprint become the outliers. Personal responsibility is an important ingredient for our global society to be stable and safe. Yet changing one’s lifestyle to be more environmentally friendly is only the granular resolution, much like having a black friend, much like paying for your gas at the station. Widen the parameters, pull back the resolution, and another host of issues compounds one upon another. Our modern way of life is fundamentally based on harnessing and extracting fossil fuels out of the slow carbon cycle as well as the global infrastructures and regional, bloody conflicts that keep the oil flowing. A thousand other issues of extracting resources spin off of this rift within the slow carbon cycle, all requiring energy to extract, energy to transport, energy to process, energy to transport again, and energy to facilitate the consuming of numberless products that make up the modern lifestyle. I am thinking of fuel, plastic, clothes, wasted water, golf courses, synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, landfills, processed foods, campaign paraphernalia, packaging, styrofoam, cell phones, roads, cement, vehicles, and all the embodied energy in the myriad of consumables — from un-reparable appliances to the materials with which we build our houses. The list is endless. We can work to chip away at mitigating energy use from a personal angle, but the systems that involve trillion dollar, multinational enterprises are behemoths of the most intimidating proportions, requiring mitigating efforts that involve all scales of change.
The task of effectuating change is as daunting as the issues endless, but to not engage is to allow for the kind of empty space and willed moral ignorance that the slave masters cultivated as they went to church with their human property. One day a week, the slave owner’s actions attested to the sacredness and dignity of the lives they otherwise exploited and claimed to own as property. Today, we hear a multitude of voices crying out for environmental justice, also accompanied by a willed moral ignorance. This ignorance is belied by their modern lifestyle and all its commodities and amenities that embody the very abuse the environmental champions claim to be fighting against.
The economy of the American southern states was dependent on slave labor, and when abolition won out, the economic blow was crippling and devastating. Slavery was the cheap energy of the day. When it comes to the environment, to meaningfully engage will be as explosive and as fundamentally restructuring as the abolition of slavery was to America. This is to say, there is an enormous price we will pay if we phase out the destructive and cheap energy of our day — fossil fuels. Clearing our heads of this willed ignorance that shields us from modern atrocities will open our eyes to our moral complicity that runs as deep as that of a system that once rose to power based on a continental land grab and slave labor. This means we will be compelled to pay attention to, and actually care, that Congolese children are turned into drug-addicted soldiers so that we can cheaply acquire coltan in order see our digital devices better. We will no longer be able to defend the wars we foster in the Middle East with some vague rhetoric of spreading democracy, and we will see it clearly as the policy that it is — to keep the oil flowing into the maw of our insatiable civilization. We will no longer be able to gloss over the fact that we are turning this land grab into a desert. That we are poisoning our oceans. That we are rendering species extinct at unprecedented rates. To effect change, the restructuring of our personal lives and our global systems will need to be as profound and as comprehensive as is our moral complicity in the systems that have extracted comfort at the cost of the less fortunate and the Earth itself.
In light of the weight of our moral burden, I offer two overarching principles under which to strategize for the overwhelming task at hand. First, we must recognize that we have already failed. Bear with me. Remember Bill McKibben’s 350.org was named such because 350 ppm was considered the best estimate of the threshold of carbon in the atmosphere that we would need to stay under to avoid the tipping point where the warming cycle really takes off. The organization was founded in 2008 when the current numbers of carbon were already above 380 ppm. The organization’s purpose was to mobilize an effort to reduce emissions in order to get the global numbers back down to 350. In 2020, we are now well over 400 ppm and rising, with no sign of slowing. Glaciers are melting, sea levels are rising, weather patterns are becoming more dramatic, and average global temperatures are constantly climbing. Our Department of Defense has already recognized the inevitable change in global climate. Whether it is the new accessibility of the Arctic or the challenges of naval bases situated on receding coastlines, those tasked with our security are already strategizing accordingly. So, too, are the massive energy companies that extract the carbon.
The recognition of failure changes the perspective from one of prevention to one of resilience in the face of stresses. If we could ever find the political will and means to bring down atmospheric carbon, we would not be preventing disaster, but mitigating the extremity of it. In all likelihood, our ineptitude as a species to resolve such a global problem means that mass scale disaster is inevitable, and emissions will simply be stemmed by the accompanying collapse of systems and infrastructures. With the lion’s share of supply and value chains owned by a handful of companies that depend on global routes, a failure in one sector will reek havoc on vast portions of the human population. The ensuing cascade of failures will stem much of the emissions from energy use, but the toll of suffering will be immense. Regardless of whether the governments of the world can coordinate to enact any meaningful solutions, we must strive to make our regional environments as healthy and resilient as humanly possible. Alongside the environment, our local systems of governance, of food production, of distribution, and even our bodily health, must also be ready to respond, adapt, and transform.
America is a relatively young country, with vast resources to depend on, but this should not blind us to the fact that climate chaos, particularly with the breakdown of water cycles, is already playing its hand all over the globe. For example, the Syrian region is facing the largest displacement crisis of our time. Chief among the causes is the scarcity of water. Droughts drove a massive migration from the starving rural lands to the cities, and the ensuing violence evolved into the civil war of today. As 12 million people move to other regions, the resources, particularly water, are strained, causing more tension. The war fought in Darfur had to deal, in large part, with oil, but just as importantly, with water and its supply into the Sudd. The Chad Basin conflict affects millions as the lake rapidly disappears into nothing, leaving us with a striking example of how irrigation can be at the root of violence. In fact, every conflict in these dry, arid regions cannot be separated from the environmental issue of water. These are but a few examples, but the point is the same all over the globe. The chaos is at hand.
The emphasis of resilience over prevention leads directly to my second overarching principle. To promote and develop resilience requires a shift in how we value rural versus urban issues. To have any chance at keeping the chaos of climate change from devastating our lands, we must champion, cherish, and provide meaningful support for our rural communities and spaces. On the flip side, we must focus austere mitigation efforts in the cities; both from a carbon perspective and from that of water. On NASA’s website you can find pages concerning climate change. They make the claim that “About three-quarters of fossil-fuel carbon dioxide emissions come from about 2 percent of the land surface — the cities and the power plants that feed them.” (nasa.gov) Ironically, those from this small percentage of land and responsible for three-quarters of emissions are constantly blasting those in the countryside as the great polluters, particularly anyone raising meat. It is true that agriculture and country folk have got to clean up their shit, so to speak. But our most appropriate response to the cities is to please get that sequoia-proportion-log out of your own eye first.
If regenerative agriculture, with rotational grazing at its core, rises up and becomes the dominant practice of the day, among many benefits, we could sequester an enormous amount of carbon. Yet, the truth is, we have a long way to go before we even regain the health and carbon within our soils that we have squandered over the centuries. Only then, could we begin to consider whether soils and forests and oceans can effectively mitigate for the carbon that is pumping into our systems from fossil-fuel emissions. In the loosest of senses, only once the countryside has atoned for its own ‘sins’ can it then turn to participate in atoning for those of the cities. Meanwhile, the urban areas must mitigate and cut as much carbon emissions in as many ways as possible without pointing fingers.
Water mitigation is even more crucial. In Part 3, I tried to make it clear that the concrete jungles of the city not only deprive the area of soil and plants that would keep the area cool, but they collect an astronomical amount of sensible heat making them islands of temperatures that can instigate feedback cycles of destructive weather patterns. By default, those in the countryside become the stewards of what is left, caring for the land that will hold water to counter the heat of the cities. Rural communities and businesses have failed in many ways, but this is all the more reason to empower and champion those of us who are sequestering water and buffering the effects of aridity. In a very real sense, the green lands of the countryside are the line of last defense to the desertification of our country. This is the context in which my essays concerning soil, Devastating Omission and Beyond Mitigation, are arguing for the central role of proper animal husbandry needed to literally save our land. Meanwhile, cities and towns must make water retention an absolute priority. Green spaces, green roofs, even urban gardens are key, but where such activity cannot happen the water that is physically swept into the sewers and eventually into the oceans must be reclaimed and reused in some capacity. We must also, as a civilization, stop literally shitting and pissing in our drinking water.
While the scope of the problems requires us to address the issues at multiple scales all at once, one key aspect of resilience is the reinstating of the preeminence of local structures and solutions. Resilience of governing is tightly related to the correlations that happen with scale. The larger the institution, the more dependence there is on reductionism and seeing the plethora of parts as interchangeable. The smaller the institution, the more context can be at play. A healthy skepticism towards larger scale certainly allows for outside help from broader infrastructures, be it state, federal or even international, but these must remain subservient to the local systems present that will have the best handle on what solutions are appropriate to their specific region. Outside help remains most beneficial when it amplifies the local structures, rather than replacing or undermining them as they so often do. This general subservience of larger institutions to those of a local region needs to be in place both in the public and in the private sector. Beyond appropriate context, local also means a faster responsive time for emergencies as well as a faster ability to adapt to changing circumstances. It also means that more often, a number of smaller institutions will provide essential services rather than one giant corporation. In other words, local favors diversity and redundancy, strengthening the whole social, economic, and environmental ecosystem.
The mitigation strategies for cities and their heavy fossil fuel addiction need to be legion, however, I have little expertise and can only encourage broad systemic, strategic, and imaginative thinking. On the other hand, I can speak with some authority on the issues surrounding agriculture and will limit myself to two major areas of strategic ‘pressure points’.
The most pervasive and systematic rural pressure that keeps us on this devastating ecological trajectory is that of subsidies. The irony of American capitalism is that at the very foundation of the economy, i.e., our food production, there is not a free market. Since the apocalyptic time of the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression, grain has been propped up by the government through subsidies. What might have started as a stop-gap measure has become the dominating current in agriculture for almost a century. Essentially, we have favored, financed, and enabled the growing of grain, particularly corn, at the expense of nearly everything else. The practices of growing grain at such scale are utterly dependent on fossil fuel energy for each and every step of the process. From tilling, to planting, to weeding, to fertilizing, to harvesting, to transporting, to processing, and to distributing. All claims concerning the efficiency of giant-scale agriculture, is dependent on both the financial handouts from government, and the cheap available energy of fossil fuels. American subsidies for large commercial farming is the largest welfare structure on the planet, funneling in vast amounts of fossil fuels to keep the infrastructure oiled and running. On top of the energy-dependent methods, grain growing is extraordinarily destructive to the environment. Our soils may not be blowing away in the winds quite like they were in the 1930’s, but the current rate of soil loss and degradation will eventually have the same result and on a larger scale. Granted, systems cannot be changed in a heartbeat, but the phasing out of grain subsidies is absolutely essential if we want to make any ecological headway to mitigating our destruction and working towards resilience.
Second, and tightly woven with the issues of subsidies and energy-dependent agriculture, is that of scale. The government push, championed by Earl Butz some fifty years ago, of “get big or get out” must be eradicated immediately. This sort of massive scale thinking is the diametric opposite of resilience, pushing for mass production that tends towards mono-culture production and mechanization rather than championing the local. This means that funding must be reorganized to de-incentivize the farms of ridiculously large scale. A focus on soil inherently requires that diversity must be rewarded — both in product and in scale. Emphasis on diversity, of both scale and product, will also require that regulations will have to move beyond one-size-fits-all. Despite the extra work it may involve, tiered regulations, which reflect the differences of scale, must replace the cumbersome, reductionistic regulations that favor the large corporations. We need all hands on deck, with particularly attention to supporting those that have been historically discriminated against.
Strategically targeting subsidies and regulations will arguably get us the most bang for our buck, simply by changing the systemic pressures that inevitably mold our agriculture. An initial focus on the most broad and most destructive pressures, by no means, implies that the solar system of other issues surrounding agriculture can be ignored. We must, at the same time, strive for change at every level of civilization, from soil, social, and environmental angles. We must address issues of land ownership. Of race. Of ethnicity. Of labor. Of equitable distribution. Of animal husbandry. Of nutrition. Of governance. Of foreign policy. And umpteen more issues that spin-off and interweave with all that makes up our civilizations.
A few notes of caution.
- Mitigation must involve a drastic move away from fossil fuels, but renewable or ‘green’ energy is not, in any way, guaranteed to be environmentally friendly. A reductionistic approach tells us the falsehood that we can keep living as we do and simply substitute renewable energy for dirty ones and all will be well. ‘Green’ energy is dependent on extraction as well. Whether it is the lithium mined in South America needed for batteries, or the coltan in the DRC for our cell phones, there are nightmare environmental and social issues at play to supply the increasing demand. And when was the last time you recycled your cell phone? Or even had the option to replace the battery?
- Technology typically eschews context, and therefore tends to gravitate towards reductionism. To counter this bias within technology itself, we must remain vigilant and be wary of all mechanistic solutions. For one, the technology of the day is typically heavily energy-dependent. But beyond fuel and embodied energy, technology tends towards amplification. Lacking context, any restraint within our technological-oriented systems will be up to us as the human component.
- Beware of middle men. While the farmer has always needed industries that support and interconnect with their operations, there is a long tradition of middle men inserting themselves into systems where they don’t belong. Rather than supporting the farmers, the middle men become parasites. Parasitism has become all the more prolific as the digital world of software and apps seeks to insert itself into every area of our lives. One of the saddest truths is reflected in the stats that show how many cents to the dollar the actual producer, i.e., the farmer, gets from the sale of food. Typically, the farmer’s share is less than ten cents to the dollar, and ironically, for grain, is often lower than two cents on the dollar. Sometimes the packaging is more expensive than the actual contents, a frightening indicator of our cultural values.
- Scale needs context as much as everything else. While get-big-or-get-out has been the name of the game, some farms of very small size have managed to find niches that enable them to survive, some even thrive. However, to replace the sheer quantity of food from giant-scale agriculture, a very large contingent of niche farmers will need to scale up from the postage stamp-size farm model. Having argued for the pivotal role of animals to keep our ecology healthy, I also think we need farms large enough to recreate mini-ecosystems that incorporate plants, animals, and communities. This is precisely the ‘middle’ size farms that government pressures have eradicated. Reinventing this scale of farming will take all the imagination, wisdom, and cooperation we can muster.
As much as I hope this concluding essay can be interesting on its own, it makes far more sense and impact in light of all the ground work laid out in my first three essays, all under the title of Allopathic Environmentalism. Although allopathy — namely the medical strategy of addressing symptoms, often at the expense of a deeper search for root causes — has not been discussed explicitly in this essay, the concept is never far from my mind as I write. An obvious offspring of reductionism (of which I have consistently criticized), an allopathic mindset distorts a great deal of the thinking surrounding environmentalism, and at great cost. An appeal for the alternative of systems-thinking is essentially to argue for a strategy that identifies root causes, providing a meaningful path towards effective solutions.
While western medicine has indeed performed technological feats of wonder, its allopathic tendencies to treat symptoms over root causes has made it impotent against the chronic illnesses that plague our country today. The reality is that we will not stumble upon some miraculous drug that cures our metabolic diseases, because such chronic sickness is a function of our failing systems under relentless and continual pressure. As discussed in Part 1, you simply cannot pour sugar into your system day after day and not be at high risk of insulin resistance. You simply cannot pour oxidized vegetable oil into your systems without the ensuing free radicals causing cascading effects throughout the communication pathways of your internal systems. Drugs may help, but the true answer lies in lifestyle changes that promote metabolic health. The same is true for the environment. Technology will not save us. It may treat some symptoms, but ultimately allopathic environmentalism is impotent in the face of continuous and relentless pressure. We simply cannot pour carbon from the slow cycle into our atmosphere day after day without vast systemic consequences. We also cannot continue to lose our soil and the water within it without suffering terribly. Like promoting metabolic health, true environmentalism will have to address the pathological global patterns and systems, while championing regional resilience. The parts are innumerable and overwhelmingly complicated, but in the end the overarching principle — to be engaged with the full breadth of our reasoning, imagination, and our bodies — is to do right by our fellow man and right by the Earth that sustains us.