Without ReservationsBy Paul Reidinger
Fields of dreams
WHEN I WAS a little boy, I would generally be taken to church the Sunday before Thanksgiving a not entirely unpleasant experience (except for the soporific sermon) whose high moment was the singing of the old Pilgrim hymn "Come Ye Thankful People Come." Decades later, that melody still echoes in my heart, but I am struck in a quite different way by such lyrics as "All the world is God's own field." There is more poetry in that line than in the chilling Archer Daniels Midland commercial about turning the world into one giant farm field, but the sense of dominion is the same.
Dominion requires separation between dominator and dominated. Domination is brutal business, and if we are to rule the earth, we will find it psychologically necessary to distinguish between ourselves human beings with human fates and everything else, from farm animals to topsoil to the seven seas. Our view of the world will be instrumental, and we will find we do find ourselves committing the transgressions that former Bay Guardian city editor Christopher Cook describes in his new book, Diet for a Dead Planet (New Press, $24.95), from reckless use of pesticides to the factory "processing" of sentient creatures into supermarket food that's too often tainted with disease. An implicit theme of the book is the falseness of our prideful control and the ever present threat of biological blowback.
The theme sounds explicitly in Jeremy Rifkin's The European Dream: How Europe's Vision of the Future Is Quietly Eclipsing the American Dream (Tarcher/Penguin, $25.95). "If every human life, the species as a whole, and all our fellow creatures are entwined with one another and with the geochemistry of the planet in a rich and complex choreography that sustains life itself," Rifkin writes, "then we are, each and all, dependent on and responsible for the health of the whole organism." Because that organism includes us. There is no other way; our own health depends on the health of the world around us, of which we are indissolubly a part. When we despoil our surroundings, we are simply hurting ourselves.
Perhaps it is easier for Europeans, who have lived for centuries on a crowded continent, to grasp this obvious connection. We Americans, on the other hand, seem to be having trouble making connections of any sort these days, but we are also having a hard time accepting that the frontier has receded into myth and the country is increasingly crowded and dirty. It is no longer possible, having chopped down a forest and polluted a river, simply to move on to the next bit of virgin land. The Europeans are showing us another way, and thank god for small favors.