Tuesday, November 17, 2009

481. Embracing the Paradox, Compromise, "Back to the Middle" a la Shannon Switzer!

To not embrace a paradoxical, contradictory existence is to deny the notion of being human. Believe it or not, this is me, Victoria, actually trying to be clever. Maybe I can convince my sister to put this quote on her facebook! An old friend said, "Everything in moderation, including moderation itself!"

This list has emerged from several different conversations. First of all, my friend Shannon has been thinking long and hard about writing a book called "Back to the Middle," and we have had long discussions realizing that embracing "the middle" or the "compromise" of what has become "extreme polar opposites" (hence the origins and existence of , really weird, obscure "special interest groups" with a very linear, hedge-hog-like visions for issues that have non-linear multi-dimensionality) (1) requires acknowledgment of paradoxical relationships between these values/ideas and (2) requires "complex, nonlinear, layered understandings of reality" with multiple values stacking on top of each other like a pile of jenga blocks, and therefore requires "layered messaging" when speaking to wide audiences about these issues. This type of thinking requires us to view reality as a "prism" or "gradient" of perspectives rather than the very linear "us versus them"or "both sides of the story," because it turns out that most worldly issues are not two football teams butting heads with each other on a field.

Secondly, I had a reinforcing conversation with a Ph.D. student named Stephanie who rightfully griped about how her writing needed paradoxes and contradictions even though several writing instructors are uncomfortable with that notion. So here I am, my brain filling up with ideas... and now I need to do a blog brain dump.


Beginning a list of paradoxical notions, as well as case studies.

(1). SOCIOECONOMICS AND CONSERVATION. The Paradox = "compassionate murderer" "kind-hearted hunter" aka "sustainable fishing and hunting" aka "take what you need for yourself and your local community, but nothing more" "love and respect the organisms that you need to kill for your own survival" ("go hug a fish and then eat it for dinner!")
The Extremes = (a) profit-driven socioeconomics, pathological killing-overfishing without considering the long-term health and viability of the resource (b) extreme preservation, extreme conservation, don't kill or take fish at all, animal rights activism. Do you enviroettes and peta people EAT any food at all?! Let alone have the RIGHT to eat food based on your campaigns?

(2). SOCIALISM AND CAPITALISM. The Paradox = "political/economic degrees of freedom and constraint, socialist baseline with capitalist frosting and a cherry on top." (this is the United States folks, whether you like it or not!)
The Extremes = (a) buzz words of capitalism, competition, selfishness (b) buzz words of socialism, collaboration, collectivity, lack of individuality

(3). RESPECT A SHARK. The Paradox = "sharks are beautiful, yet fierce creatures that have significant impact on the dynamics of the ocean ecosystem. Conserve the sharks, respect them at a distance, but don't go hug a shark."
The Extremes = (a) excessive mortality of sharks and waste of their meat for delicacies such as shark fin soup in the orient (b) testosterone-infested male stunt men with massive egoes go into the water and get filmed hugging great white sharks (aka Sharkwater)

(4). SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA WILDLAND FIRE ECOLOGY. GOOD. BAD. AND IN BETWEEN. The Paradox= "controlled fuel accumulation of chaparral and pine forest such as to prevent large-scale conflagrations in extreme Santa Ana weather... but still... don't go throwing your cigarette butt out the window when driving through the forest!"
The Extremes = (a) "ignitions are the cause of fire" is a very instantaneous, short-term line of thinking; ignitions speak truth for a split second (b) "plants are the cause of fire" is a very long-term perspective revealing that fuel accumulation is a primary driver in terms of the scale of damage constructed by a chaparral/pine forest burn in southern California. (c) "Fire is bad" so suppress all fires and don't allow fires to occur at all in chaparral/pine forest (d) "Fire is good" plants and the landscapes have evolved/adapted to cycles of fire, we need to work with this landscape process such as to create an optimal management plant for the co-existence of humans within wild landscapes

The Paradox = If you can't give yourself a 20-year prison sentence to raising a kid and allowing him/her to fly from the nest as a functional citizen of society, then don't do it.
The Extremes = (a) Pro Life. The Christian Right to Life. All little single-celled humanoid organisms in your body need to live and flourish. They can't be killed even if the person stuck with the baby may not have the ability to raise it for a whole suite of reasons. (b) Pro Abortion. Humans are invasive species. Any human-like creature growing inside me is a malignant tumor in my body and a parasite to society. Massive fetal genocide, given that fetuses are truly "independently living organisms," like whatever.

Most people are not black and white in terms of their views of science and religion. They are hybrids, mixed bags of values that are usually associated with a scientific community or religious group. The sad reality is that the media portrays science and religious groups as polar opposites rather than mixed bags of complex values, and this form of reporting is hindering the progress of "skeptical co-existence of science and religion alongside each other." This issue is a huge can of worms on its own, and I shall pursue it in a later blog.

(7). THE FUNDAMENTAL PARADOX OF HUMAN-ENVIRONMENTAL EXISTENCE. The Extreme = "Net human impact on the environment (usually measured in carbon assessments) can go down to zero. The REALITY = The fact that you exist, occupy space and time, consume resources, and excrete wastes, and potentially even replicate, you as a human are fundamentally impacting and altering the environment, whether you like it or not.

I am starting to realize that the notion of "sustainability" or "the foreseeable short- and long-term co-existence of humans and their Earth habitat as to which they evolved from in the first place" requires "embracing the paradox" in most lines of thinking. Essentially placing reigns on short-term impulsivity, sacrificing for long-term visions and goals. We as humans need resources and tools to survive; it's just that we need to learn to use these resources and simultaneously setting a stock aside for the short- and long-term. In sustainability, it is almost like we need to treat this planet Earth as a "global refrigerator / global cellar" where we as a collective need to find a way to store a major portion of the reserves such as to continue a long-term supply of materials/resources for the perpetuity of ourselves, individually and as a "global society."

Aside. The notion of "regular irregularity" or non-sustaining patterns and cycles.
Okay! How exciting! I'm going to email Shannon this blog! I think she should write a short opinions piece to a newspaper or magazine such as to encourage her and launch this book idea!

KeyWords: embracing the paradox, back to the middle, compro-
mise, moderation, shark, sacrifice of extremism, prism,
compassionate murderer, kind-hearted hunter, socialism,
capitalism, degrees of freedom and constraint, fire ecology,
cause of fire is plants, fire is good-bad, science-religion paradox,
sustainability, global refrigerator-cellar


Victoria "Stokastika" said...

Concepts or notions of "embracing the paradox:"
(1) Am I a hypocrite or am I a person trying to change things in the long haul? On a daily slice of time, I look like a hypocrite, but in the long haul, I don't look so hypocritical.
(2) Describing the world as a "terrible beauty" and other forms of paradoxical terminology. Another situation. How can one say "I like people. I hate humans"?
(3) Don't Expect the Expected in environmentalism. What may be "local" and "organic" may not be good, may not be optimal. There are concepts called "natural pollution" (e.g oil seeps off the Santa Barbara Channel; harnessing the oil from the seeps through the platforms actually reduces the amount of "natural polution" in the region)

Victoria "Stokastika" said...

Other paradoxes in space and time. Living today to build a new tomorrow, but living today as if it were your last. Aka "thoughtful hedonism." Another set of paradoxes include the notion of "human-environment" entanglements in which there are no clear human-environment dichotomies and there's no clear solution or perception of what's right and wrong... so for example, expecting the unexpected: a vibrant kelp forest reef naturally accumulating on an oil rig, research showing that oil rigs presence reduce oil leeks and ocean pollution, perceiving conservation efforts as a social "intervention" aka kicking or re-arranging people and their land and their lifestyles, or the "managed retreat" at Goleta Beach (perceived as more "natural") ends up being more "invasive" (and expensive) than adding wooden pier pilings (more of an "engineered" perspective).