"We Know What We are Doing"

Ken Taylor's Writings

From MFA Digest, October 1987 (Vol 1 No. 3)
Director’s Report (first half)

A few weeks ago, a number of people met to put together a statement that we could all agree upon as reflecting our philosophy of sustainable agriculture. Most of us had worked together for some time and believed we shared a common, if unstated, philosophy about our topic. To our surprise, a lively discussion broke out around the assertion that the human need for dominance of nature is the primary cause of today’s agricultural crisis.


This point of view suggests that a system of sustainable agriculture must be based on cooperation with, rather than dominance of, other forms of natural life. Much of our debate centered around the question of whether or not dominance of nature is an inevitable consequence of human intelligence. And there was some debate over the notion that perhaps the earth is a better place because of this conquest process.


It was a healthy and fruitful discussion as we explored the meanings of the words involved—dominance, conquest, dominion, and cooperation. I came away from the session with new respect for the awesome responsibility that is carried by people who work the land, or are involved in other forms of “messing with Mother Nature.”


The issue, it seems to me, lies in the simple fact that we know what we are doing. Our human consciousness and intelligence has enabled us to cross over the lines of natural processes—to intervene in those processes and then observe the results of our interventions. We then have the freedom to decide how we will adapt our behaviors according to the responses we observe. Because we know what we are doing, we must take responsibility for the power we have to change the world—a great responsibility, indeed.