Greg mentioned Joel Salatin's excellent new book, You Can Farm
(1998), which I bought at the latest (highly successful) Ag
Alternatives conference a couple of weeks ago here at the University
of Guelph in Ontario. Among the many excellent points made in the
book, one that I will treasure (and hope to remember) is that no-one
ever *argued* anyone into changing their mind. All the facts and
figures in the world will not convince someone whose heart is not
already changed and ready to "see" it. He sees the"major course
correction type changes" in life as starting at the heart, and only
then working up to the head. Interesting thought.
He has an anecdote which is startingly frank. He says that "they
(N.B. meaning ag researchers) used to say I'll believe it when I see
it. Now, they say I'll see it when I believe it.
What a profoundly disturbing indictment of the objectivity of ag
I think there are some important lessons in this. Let me try out an
idea on you.
1. Let's say that a fair number of ag researchers, extensionists,
horticulturalists, and maybe even policymakers and bankers, are
gradually coming to a change of heart. They are beginning to lose
faith in the old paradigm. They really don't want to defend it, but
they do because they haven't yet found a "new" paradigm that they can
have confidence in.
2. So, what is the best strategy for those of us who have already
made the course correction? How can we facilitate the movement of
these people into more profitable and more environmentally sound
3. Should we be screaming bloody murder (which many of us have every
right to do) about the environmental abuses of conventional
agriculture and the vengence they heap on those of us brave enough to
stand up and be counted?
4. Or should we be striving to frame our arguments, and our
responses, in such a way to allow these uncertain leaners to ease
themselves gently out of the corner they are now backed into and find
another, more benign path to the future?
5. I would argue the latter. With such a modest level of influence
as we in the sustag movement now have, we need all the friends we can
get. I don't think we can afford to antagonize the fence-sitters,
but should give them every reason to feel comfortable striking up a
conversation with us at the local coffee shop. And if Joel is right,
and it sure sounds like a gold-placed truth to me, then all our
outrage and facts - no matter how justified - won't make a tad of
difference in the opinions of the hardcore anyway.
6. We stand to lose more than we win by losing sight of the ultimate
goal. It is not to blast the opposition - much though I personally
revel in the experience - but rather, to give them enough slack to
come around in their own hearts and minds. So, what do you think?
Dr. E. Ann Clark
University of Guelph
Guelph, ON N1G 2W1
Phone: 519-824-4120 Ext. 2508
FAX: 519 763-8933
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