An Excerpt from Jim Conrad's
NATURALIST NEWSLETTER
of May 2, 2004
Issued from the woods near Natchez, Mississippi, USA

THE MIDDLE PATH

I have grown accustomed to people referring to my views as extreme. They assume that even I accept that I am an extremist. However, I think of myself as a true disciple of the Middle Path.

It is a matter of perspective. I am taking the long view.

Humans have been around for 5-7 million years. Until only about 300 years ago when the Industrial Revolution began, people were NOT spending most of their waking hours doing repetitive, often unfulfilling jobs for businesses and institutions. The manner of life we now accept as normal and inevitable has occupied us during only about 1/500,000ths of our existence. Our society's priorities of attaining mostly unnecessary material wealth, and our obsessions with individual personal liberty and self gratification instead of the maintenance of a healthy and just society, constitute a very recent phenomenon.

Our society's present consumption-oriented manner of living must be and will be replaced by a different system, if only because it is unsustainable. The most obvious reason it is unsustainable is because maintaining the kind of lifestyle we live consumes resources faster than they can be replaced, if they can be replaced at all. Unsustainable behaviors either change or go extinct. To my mind, to persist in indulging in unsustainable living patterns is extreme. It is not extreme to live sustainably.

Moreover, the life I live is hardly an extreme case of "going back to nature." I buy cornmeal and wheat flour milled from grain grown in other states, wear clothing sewed together on the opposite side of the planet, ride a bicycle that is a marvel of engineering, and use very sophisticated technology to learn about the world and keep in touch with others. I take what I need from the outside world and in the process produce more pollution as a consequence of my purchasing than I like. Very much of what enriches and gladdens my life comes from far beyond the gardens, forests and fields around me. If anything, in seeking the Middle Path I err too much toward consumerism myself.

In my view, average US consumers are extremists. As they gather so much needless clutter around them and focus on their own hungers, their own comfort and their own status in an unsustainable social system, they are abandoning sustainable living patterns pioneered by many kinds of living organisms during 3.5 billion years of life on Earth.

In contrast to this extreme behavior, I am truly the most mild-mannered, hard-nosedly conservative, middle-of-the-road person I know. Moreover, for the future I aspire to orient myself even more directly upon the sustainable Middle Path. Facebook Icon.