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Cultivating Place: Earth Wisdom – John Muir, The Accidental Taoist – With Author Raymond Barnett


Spring is a time of awakening and full sensory immersion in the world around us - even if we aren’t gardeners or nature lovers. It is hard to avoid, ignore or miss Spring’s reckless abundance and generosity. It is the perfect counterpoint to the winter’s restful, healing darkness and dormancy. In appreciation for all of spring’s growing energy, I am pleased to be joined this week by Dr. Raymond Barnett, author of “Earth Wisdom: John Muir, Accidental Taoist, Charts Humanity’s Only Future on a Changing Planet,” which he published in 2016.


In this season of worsening news about our health of our world’s climate and ecosystems, and the seemingly ever more threatening nature of political abuse of what few protections we have in place for our water, air and planet’s diversity of life in the pursuit of in misguided financial “gain” - a book like this one catches my eye, my imagination and my heart. 

In our interview Ray shares the story of how he came to write the book and the his own journey of studying and embracing the ancient Chinese Taoist philosophy and his recognizing its tenets in his deepening study of John Muir over the past 5 years. What results is his comparing of Taoism and John Muir’s separate but interestingly parallel “immanent world views,” in which Ray sees profound hope for the life - and heart - of our world.  Once understood and adopted, Ray believes, from this immanent world view - pillaging our earth’s natural resources, abusing or dismissing the equal importance of all of its many life forms, make no sense at all to anyone, no matter your political, spiritual or economic interest. In this "immanent world view” Ray sees “three pillars”: 1. That this earthly world is our true home - there is no better place, this is not a test; 2. that we as humans are equal to, and intimately related to all other living things. Humans are not “higher” and do not have “dominion” but are 1 part of a very complex and interdependent whole; 3. That in all of life there is a critically important balance always being calibrated between opposite energies - light and dark, hard and fluid, female and male, Yin and Yang, and that if any individual, culture, or ecosystem is out of balance and overly dominated by any one energy, then it is not healthy and will not be able to sustain itself over time. It is a compelling and thought provoking conversation - join us!

Ray is the author of 7 previous titles, which encompass the varied fields of study for which he has not only deep passion, but also expertise, including: evolutionary ecology, particularly that of California, Natural History, mountaineering, traditional Chinese Language and Culture, mystery fiction and John Muir. 


Audio extra

Jennifer Jewell is the creator and host of the national award-winning, weekly public radio program and podcast, Cultivating Place: Conversations on Natural History & the Human Impulse to Garden, Jennifer Jewell is a gardener, garden writer, and gardening educator and advocate. Particularly interested in the intersections between gardens, the native plant environments around them, and human culture, she is the daughter of garden and floral designing mother and a wildlife biologist father.