But in the meantime maybe you would like to watch a little video from TripleJSporthorses
is on hiatus for two weeks, until August 1, for the purpose of getting a very factual book to the publisher. The book is The Colors of Mice, about pigmentation genetics, publisher Wiley.
P.S. Don’t ever try to write a factual book. You have to get all the facts right. It’s so much easier to just make things up.
P.P.S. As soon as this one is finished we will begin writing another factual book on the subject of Biology for the People. It will describe the interacting streams of energy, materials and information that are necessary for the ecosystem to function, and it will describe the LOGIC of how the whole thing works — it will not be a list of facts that we ask you to believe just because we are — ahem — SCIENTISTS!! The ecosystem does make sense and we need to understand it as best we can. It is, after all, our only home.
I heard an interview on radio the other day. A man was touting his charitable activities in Africa that only cost $38 per person.
The interviewer asked something like this: “If what you are doing is helping to solve the problem in Africa, then why do things seem to just keep getting worse in Africa?”
Bottom line, it doesn’t matter how good it looks or how enthusiastic you are about whatever is your project — that won’t change the reality of whether or not your action is helping.
Before you actually DO something, you should THINK about the good and the bad of what you might be adding to the mix.
Most people believe that they have an important role to play in their communities, and if they do it very well — and if everyone else does their job very well — then it will all add up to a positive result.
Everyone positively contributing will add up to a positive result.
It doesn’t work that way, because different people have different ideas of what is positive. I believe that fighting wars only makes more fighters to make more wars. Other people believe their children’s deaths in war are a great sacrifice that will bring peace. If I work harder and harder to stop them from going to war, and they work harder and harder to force other people to stop attacking us — that does not end up with a positive result. It also doesn’t end up with “survival of the fittest,” but I already discussed that a couple of days ago, so let’s stick with this idea.
If everyone devotes his/her life to promote whatever he/she believes to be right — we will not go anywhere for two reasons:
1. Nobody will be asking the right questions. Important problems are big, and individual efforts are not big. It takes many people with different skills to understand all sides of a big problem.
2. Whatever you are doing is inhibiting whatever I am doing and vice versa.
What is the better solution?
1. Assume that each group has a good reason for what they believe. Find out what that reason is;
2. Recognize that every reason is valid but it is only part of the picture;
3. Add up all the REASONS for the actions until we ALL have a bigger picture of the real big problem and can together find a better way to solve it by understanding the root cause of the problem finding solutions that do not make the problem worse.
This is the difference between working at the lower level of understanding and working at a higher level of understanding. Working at lower levels is divisive; working at higher levels is more powerful (as the corporations have demonstrated) but you must be very careful that what you are working to do is to address the problem — not to make it worse (as the corporations have also demonstrated.
If you want to know how evolution REALLY works, it does not primarily work at lower levels by picking out individual organisms and letting them survive. Evolution works at a higher level than the individual. Evolution selects entire populations that are able to deal effectively with the real problems of living in a balanced way within the living ecosystem.
Evolution is a population thing. Either the whole population survives or it doesn’t. Rather like an economic crash, an evolutionary crash decimates the entire population, even if the crash was caused by only a few individuals.
Our whole population of humans can not be “fit” in the evolutionary sense, unless we learn to understand the whole problem that we are trying to fix and then make our decisions according to the foundational cause of the whole problem. Instead of fighting among ourselves over the symptoms.
That would be real survival of the fittest. Evolution is not about survival of the fittest individuals. It is about a whole gene pool (that is all the people together) that can function positively. In that population, as we have human brains, our solution must be:
1. To listen to each other until we understand all sides of the issue(s) so that individuals can choose (or not) to spend their time HELPING without making things WORSE. So long as we don’t understand the whole problem, we don’t know if we really are doing more help or more harm;
2. To use the media for real education, that would be sharing the factual realities that make up the problem and stop training our children to be emotionally unfit for social interactions. Teach them how to listen, learn, and share different ideas.
Photo by Anne Preston
I once wrote a little story about population growth. It’s not a story about anti-anything; it IS a story about facing factual reality as it exists and together finding better ways to deal with it. Well, it’s really a story about not facing factual reality.
On an island in the Pacific Ocean there were 100 people and food enough for 110 to live a good life, nurture their children, and grow the culture into something warm and kind.
Modern medicine came along, but did not bring with it provision for a better life for those it saved. And the population grew to 120, many of whom were living below poverty level.
The aid agencies then came along with extra food, but without making provision for a better life for those they saved and the population grew to 150 and people began starving.
And so I told my story and then I said:
“This is not curing any problem, it is only making bigger problems. We should instead treat the CAUSE of the problem, which is not a shortage of food but an excess of people, at the same time we help the suffering people.” And everyone around me said:
“What do you want — to do like China?” And I said:
“China has probably saved the world a horrible war with its efforts to feed its own people. But why are you changing the subject? This is not about China; it is about the beam in your own eye. Your food aid charity is probably causing more suffering and devastation than anything China has done, not that there is any point measuring relative devastations. Now there are 40 starving people on that island that had none before you intervened; the technology is now available to REALLY help them; and I keep wondering why you aren’t. If you didn’t intend to create suffering, then why don’t you STOP causing more suffering and begin to make it better? What is the exact purpose of your food aid charity? Is it to make you feel superior and useful? Is it to grow your economy and fatten your wallet. Hmmmm. If we resolved the problem would that perhaps put you out of a job?”
They didn’t like that, so they said:
“What can we do? There is nothing that we can do.” And so I pointed out several things that we could do and they gave twice as many reasons why all of the things were impossible. And then they went away.
Not long after, I had a really long layover for changing planes and met an aid worker who had just fled from East Timor or Africa or the Sudan or someplace like that, who put my story into its real context. Her story is real — about real people in real families who are so desperate for food that they make one extra baby — to starve that baby so they can qualify for food aid and try to save the rest of the children. This is not a fairy tale; it’s a first-hand true account from an expert in the field. And so I said:
“Why are we doing this to people?” And she said:
“The folks who make the decisions sitting in New York City won’t listen to the reality. They only listen to the money.” And I said:
“Which is worse, China or us?”
Maybe it’s time to stop pot-calling and DO SOMETHING because our ecosystem is a biological island in a sea of physical phenomena that can not sustain life. In spite of the 50-year-old mantra “There is enough to feed blah,blah.” that was probably promulgated by some corporation to sell stuff to someone. It doesn’t matter who there was enough to feed when that was true. There is NOT enough to feed everyone forever, and the shit is hitting the fan NOW. If we had abundant biological resources on earth the ecosystem would be in balance and we would not have climate change. We do have climate change as the ecosystem tries to adjust her balance to the reality of life on earth today. We should be helping her to do that, rather than spinning our wheels making it worse.
I can certainly understand why you might not want to get into an airplane and go to your island and distribute condoms. What I do not understand is why you are unwilling (or is it fear? Is it we aren’t afraid to kill each other but we are afraid to talk with each other?) to talk about the problem in a rational way with friends, neighbors and your local politicians. Instead of hiding behind an army of volunteer soldiers and aid workers. Because in the long run we can’t hide from need. No way; no how.
Right now I am dealing with three questions:
1. What is my obligation to today?
2. What is my obligation to tomorrow?
3. I wonder, is that the same as asking about the difference between my obligation to myself and my obligation to the community of life?
I guess it’s the same old “eat, drink and be merry” question, but I believe that was coined at a time when people did not have the power to control the future of human civilization within the ecosystem, and now we do. We have the technology; we have the brain.
It’s a heavy load.
Buttermilk Pie likes to run out the door when the sky pinks up in the morning and we both set back on the front porch to listen to the birds wake up.
After the fresh brewed Ethiopean Harrar coffee, I enjoy an early morning ride on Mahonia before the day starts to sizzle. Mahonia would rather eat, but we don’t work hard. Just a nice ride, and then breakfast for us both.
On a July past, when I came home after a long, sad search for my lost American dream, I was ill in body and mind. Several Julys later, I am now well and happy, and on such a pink-sky morning I can sometimes believe that I should have looked inside myself for the Dream. That it might have been hiding there the whole time — unrecognized.
And so I sit with BP over the second cup of coffee, relaxed and refreshed from my morning ride, listening to the Mockingbird sing from the top of the cedar tree:
“It’s a wonderful life; it’s a wonderful life.”
And I could almost recapture the Dream. If I would just stay right here on my own paid off property and collect my well earned social security.
And then I remember who paid the bigger price for my security.
Other lives around the world,
Whose nightmares paid off
my American dream.
(Bottom photo by Zoriah)