I only hope this post isn’t as hard to write as the book was to read. It was so good in parts that the parts that wrankled me did doubly that which the same crock coming from a less well intended motive may have. But I promised Green Bean Dreams a review of The Path Through Infinity's Rainbow, by Michael P. Byron and that's what this is.
Seeing a possibility for humanity to not only survive the culmination of crises looming before us but to recognize our true, loving relationship to the mother we’ve been fucking like a whore since the advent of totalitarian agriculture is a fine and admirable goal. This is the possibility that is the center of my life's attention as I relearn to listen to my genetic memory and tune in to the nature of my environment and the symbiosis of my garden and actions. This is what Mike Byron intends to show us in his sequel to Infinity’s Rainbow, an earlier enumeration of the heads of the perfect hydra storm approaching.
I will now proceed to prove why I believe language was invented to bitch. If there weren’t these few major flaws in logic and self-contradictions the appeal of this book might actually serve its ostensible purpose and I would write a very short praise of the entire book, recommend it to everyone and sit back happy knowing things are getting better, people are able to make these changes. But no, I’m gonna have to dig up each bone of contention with the way I have come to see things and drag them over the coals just because language was designed to bitch.
First off — lets get this straight. Until artificially large populations began multiplying around monocultural agri-surplus distribution centers, the advent of famine was never a possibility among hunter-gathers whose diet followed the seasons as full blown omnivores. Agriculture is not the cure for famine, it is the cause. Yet we read, ”To offer an example of the process of adapting to an existential challenge through fundamental transformation, consider the first existential crisis that humanity faced as the last ice age was ending about ten thousand years ago. A rapidly warming climate led to a dramatic expansion in both the range and the population of our species. Climate change and rapid population increase made hunting and gathering, the previous methods for survival, no longer viable. Famine and widespread death were impending as a consequence. This altered set of circumstances compelled a new behavioral adaptation: agriculture. Hunter-gatherers became farmers.”
It is a fact of biology that any population will rise and fall according to its supply of food, so what did those “industrious” hunter-gatherers hunt and gather so much of that caused the population to not only rise but surpass the amount they could any longer kill or glean — requiring agriculture to come to the rescue?!?. I don’t think warmer climate has ever caused a population explosion.
He writes further, “So far, the rapid advance of agricultural technology (Monsanto, anyone?), coupled with the exploitation of previously unknown, or unused, lands has kept us one short step ahead of calamity." These advances only insure the calamity is greater when it inevitably does occur. In his epilogue Byron belies himself, “Any intelligent species that discovered their equivalent of agriculture would grow in numbers …”
Secondly, like too many born into a culture whose mythology is so inextricably interwoven with the Christian religion Byron quite scientifically speaks of the billions of years of galactic evolution but cannot credit agriculture as having origins further in the past than Cain and Able.
Ones beliefs are revealed in ones description of heresy as shown in these tidbits, “We are about to blow Life’s one and only chance to spread from this most statistically unlikely of worlds — a garden planet — across the cosmos and transform it into a living web of interacting matter, energy and mind.” As if the universe weren’t already alive and it is God’s purpose that we make it so. Give me a break.
And this, “If we are not successful in this, we shall perish in cosmic ignominy as a failed species that just could not quite manage to go the final distance and transcend its original nature.” Original sin?
Yet more, “Although if we do fail, one can only hope that some future species might evolve someday and pick up humanity’s eternally fallen banner.” … “and take a second shot at things on behalf of our planet’s biosphere.” And lastly, “If life is to accomplish anything in our cosmos…” Mission accomplished. WTF
In a typically religious gesture Byron defends his particular version of Intelligent Design against the Rapturists, or what he coins Dominionists, who relish the apocalypse as God’s recycle program by calling them a pseudo religion, as if any were more real than a fairy tale. “As a matter of personal belief, I have come to believe that the universe is not without purpose.” Yea, verily, it is his purpose, imagine that. “We are supposed to be and to become the agents of life and of consciousness in the universe.” Like calling animals dumb because we don’t understand them.
In a telling statement later, Byron seems to nail Christianity with responsibility for the whole thing, “We can only speculate as to whether this would also have occurred if, say, Chinese, Indian, or Arabic civilizations had been the ones to initiate the Industrial Revolution.”
Thirdly, Byron’s attempt to cure all problems while we’re at it has him taking on feminism for the purpose of getting women to contribute more to human productivity in this time of crisis, as if the mindless expediency of overproduction to keep up with overproduction of humans weren't already too much and proves he has learned little about the contribution of the great American thingathon to our predicament.
I do have to say he is a man after my own heart when he says, ”So here we are, our global civilization hijacked by these run-amok avatars of our own desires for wealth, set on a trajectory for certain disaster. And if we try to wrest the controls from them, the police powers of the state are now set to brand us as traitors and dispense with us without trial.” Very few have the balls to call bullshit on folks claiming helplessness before the giant when it is the individual’s responsibility for the dependence on corporations that supplies the hot air keeping that money balloon afloat. We don’t have to wrest power from anything that lives off our money, we can spend it differently and watch them either change or wither away. How much can you quit consuming corporate crap? When?
I agree that, “This process of quiet defections — of quiet secession — from the dying, planetary-death-inducing, global corporatist-fascist system would serve to further empower our Renewal movement while simultaneously hastening and reinforcing the death spiral of the old system as we withdraw from it.”
Other than his confusion about overpopulation/agriculture and the implicit grant to exploit natures bounty given Christians and Western Civilization that excuses and justifies our overpopulation/planetary rape, I recommend it to everyone and sit back happy knowing things are getting better. This post was as hard as I thought it would be.