IN DEFENCE OF LIFE – A BOOK REVIEW
Julian Rose has an unusual combination of skills and interests: he is a trained actor, an organic farmer, someone acutely aware of the environmental crisis we face, a political activist, and someone with spiritual awareness. Throw all these together and you have a powerful combination. His book `In Defence of Life: Essays on a Radical Reworking of Green Wisdom’ draws on all these strands of interest to offer ideas for how we can address the mess we find ourselves in.
Rose argues for combining our spiritual awareness of the Oneness and sacredness of life with the ‘fire in our bellies’ that refuses to knuckle under the behemoths of governments or corporations and instead becomes openly rebellious – challenging the status quo, refusing to conform. The book starts with an essay drawing parallels between acting and political awareness. He suggests we have grown too used to being passive members of the audience, admiring the ‘stars’ on the stage which is elevated and separate from us. He urges us to engage in the ‘experimental theatre’ of political activism, in which the audience joins the actors on the stage. Passivity of the masses is the product of consumerist culture and his essays are trying to wake us out of the `consensus trance’ of accepting the status quo, to stand up and say `Enough!’
We need this kind of message, and though Rose sometimes seems to be haranguing us too much, better by far to err on the side of passion, and when we consider the gravity of the threats to life on Earth a little ranting can surely be forgiven. His solutions to the mess are eminently sensible: his idea of ‘the proximity principle’ whereby each town becomes self-sufficient may seem unachievable, and yet this is precisely the goal that Transition Towns are working towards, and because a solution seems impossible to achieve should not make us shy away from trying it – when not trying it is leading us so clearly to ruin. His information on factory farming, processed foods, the madness of excessive food miles and GM may all be familiar to anyone with a green awareness, but Rose writes about it with inside knowledge – he was instrumental in fighting off legislation to ban raw milk, for example, and has an intimate knowledge of the machinations of the agro-industrial complex. Having read his account of the effects of EU agricultural policy I have done a U-turn in my thinking – I’m not at all sure now that the EU is a force for good.
Above all In Defence of Life gets us thinking and encourages us to get radical – to actively engage in the defence of the Earth and all life, to wipe the sleep from our eyes and to creatively engage with the challenges that face us.