Monsanto in the Mirror

trade policyOne of the great inventions of the past hundred and fifty years is the rear-view mirror. It permits us to move forward while remaining aware of where we have come from. As we join others around the world in protest against the power grabs of one corporation it is worthwhile to take a glance backward at how we got here.

Monsanto was present at a crucial turning point in the science wars between cleverness and wisdom.

In 1962, when Rachel Carson released her book Silent Spring, Monsanto was one of the nation’s largest chemical companies and a major producer of DDT – a poison so powerful that it kills on contact, no need to be ingested. The perfect thing for home, yard, community and farm.

Carson made the claim that nature was not just an inventory of assets and liabilities but a complex, interconnected web of life – what Indigenous leaders had been trying to explain to scornful white authorities to no avail for 300 years. She described how in New Brunswick pesticide runoff into streams was killing fish and birds and all the insect life that newly spawned salmon depended upon to live. That in the real world there is no distinction between effects and side effects.

Monsanto hit back with their own literary contribution which they called “Dismal Summer” in which, without the saving goodness of pesticides, insects strip the country bare.

The CEO of Montrose, another DDT producer declared that Carson was not writing as a scientist but as a “fanatical defender of the cult of the balance of nature.” Another critic, in a letter to the editor, wrote “we can live without birds and animals, but, as the current business downturn shows, we cannot live without business.”

The chemical giants banded together, hired a PR firm and spent what would be a million and a half dollars in today’s money to destroy her credibility and her career. They failed, in no small part because she never backed down. She never backed down.

Wisdom is the knowledge of how everything is connected.

Cleverness is the ability to put parts together to make something happen.

Cleverness that is disconnected from wisdom leads to super-resistant insects, toxic proteins and the collapse of ecosystems. Duh! But now, instead of arguing with the studies that demonstrate these things they simply deny that any studies exist. And they buy politicians and security companies. (I was back home in PR this winter where M has been investing in legislators)

Cleverness is Monsanto trying to convince Indian farmers that they must fight back against the bees for stealing our pollen or publishing the claim that weeds steal sunlight that should be ours.

It is the practice of divide and conquer between us and the rest of nature!

The choice facing the peoples of the Earth is clear:

Cleverness vs wisdom. And we choose wisdom.

Convenience vs survival. And we choose survival.

Monopoly vs abundance. And we choose abundance.

Distraction vs knowledge. We choose knowledge.

These pathways mark the natural currents of a living world.

But they are blocked today by a solid wall of corporate giants, shoulder to shoulder in the service of a hallucination, demanding full control over our means of survival.

It is the sacred and inescapable duty of the generations that are alive today to bring an end to the colonial era of plunder ushered in 5 centuries ago by Columbus and that finds expression today in the form corporate colonization of people and land.

Our mission is not to beg the corporate 1% to become something that they cannot become but to bring them down, to dismantle the machinery of ecological torture and the poisonous logic of opportunism, and allow the restorative processes of nature work their healing powers on our wounded planet.

That’s what it’s about.

Given at the St. Paul, Minnesota location of the global day of protest against Monsanto, may, 2014.

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