Sunday, November 23, 2008

Biodynamics: Worthwhile Geomancy

I'm no believer in biodynamics. I wouldn't've been in the 30's when it originated and I'm decidedly not now in an age where slapping on a Demeter Biodynamic label increases the value of your vineyard's acreage a squizillion-fold.

That being said, Joe Eskenazi is seriously missing the point in his SF Guardian article.

I encourage you to read it. It's somewhat enlightening as to the history of biodynamics and sheds some light on a largely occult-based practice that has gained considerable traction in grape growing (and, actually, agriculture in general in many parts of Europe). But for those of you not interested in reading, he essentially decries biodynamics as"voodoo on the vine" and no better than organic farming (at best) and an eerie occult practice whose adherents are a half-step away from Heaven's Gate members (at worst).

Here's the thing: everything he says in the article is, as far as I know, 100% true.

1. Biodynamics does involve a lot of elaborate "preparations" for vineyard management that do involve things like cow blood dilutions and mouse ash dilutions and on and on. However this is little different than the widely-accepted (in Europe) practice of homeopathic medicine, the basic premise that like treats like. Homeopathy does involve the human consumption (in heavily diluted doses) of, amongst other things, crushed up honey bees, arsenic, and belladonna (better known as poison nightshade). Basically, if you have a mouse problem in your vineyard, douse your vineyard in a dilution of mouse ashes; if you have a bee sting, ingest a dilution of powdered honey bees. Is it bullshit? More than likely. Does it have its psychological, procedural, and placebo value? Sure.

2. Biodynamics is not "ultra-organic." It's decidedly not. In some technical ways biodynamics isn't organic since biodynamics (rightfully) allows for the use of sulfur dioxide in the wine-making process, something which the USDA does not. Biodynamics is simply a schedule of generally accepted procedures whose adherents submit for evaluation by a third party regulatory board to receive certification. Just like organic produce, the MPAA ratings system, the State Bar, and on and on and on and on.

3. Most people don't know what biodynamic means. This is true. The vast majority of wine drinkers, waiters, sales reps, and even retailers have little if any understanding of biodynamics. This should change. It should change specifically because it's misleading (as is organic labeling in wine). Virtually all quality small production wineries practice relatively sustainable farming practices. Many producers, organic or otherwise, practice some degree of dry-farming. Many farmers plant cover crops. Almost all use only non-chemical pesticides, though they'll keep the big guns on hand if something should severely threaten their vineyards. Think of it as the homeowner with the shotgun above his bed. He's not out shooting folks every night, but if there's a threat to his home and family, it's coming off the wall.

4. Biodynamics is no better than organic. Sure, that's true. And hell, just to repeat it, biodynamics is no better than simple sustainable low-yield grape growing practices.

But my response to Mr. Eskenazi is, "So what?"

Other than the ignorance of consumers, there's nothing damning in his article. So that's my response. So what? So some people believe in something weird and mystical based almost entirely in occult speculation. That sounds like, well, any religion. Or societal convention. Is believing that having an union between two people that is recognized by state or religious institution somehow a more legitimate expression of love any different than believing that harvesting on the full moon yields fuller fruit flavors?

Only within their respective contexts. It's all constructs, so go along with it. Love is what's in your heart and tastiness is what's in your face, everything else is just a label.

Eskenazi's doing the journalistic equivalent of saying, "pssh, you believe in God? That's stupid. You believe in an omnipotent creator living in a palace in the sky? You're a retard." He's simply missing the point.

What if I were to tell you to free your mind from your worldly ties, spend a good amount of time each day sitting silently, breathing deeply, and clearing your mind, and wearing comfy pants? Sounds good, but would you do it? But what if I tossed you a copy of the Tibetan Canon and "Richard Gere's Zen for Dummies." Startin' to sound a whole lot more appealing, no? I mean, did you see American Gigolo?

And sure you could just decide to lead a good life, try to be a net positive for the world, and enrich the lives of those around you, but being a Christian just has a better ring to most people. And hell, if believing in a magic spaceman who's going to throw the mother of all massives in the next life for true believers is a deal breaker for you to be a decent human being, than I guess I'll roll with it. No skin off my back,

My point? If ascribing to biodynamics is what it takes to get consumers to purchase responsibly farmed produce and growers to pay closer attention to their crops then, well, I'm okay with that. Most things are 80% crazy, but if it takes 80% crazy to produce 20% quality and the 80% crazy doesn't get in the way of others living their lives, then fuck it.

Great expose Joe Eskenazi. Way to attempt to show that ascribing to a belief system that's a net gain to the world is a sham. I think that makes you a net drain. Cheers.

Though I still won't see anything that's been within ejaculation distance of Mel Gibson. I have my own belief constructs to stick to.

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