This blog is an expanded version of Bare Bones Biology radio program that played on KEOS Radio, 89.1 FM, Bryan, Texas. The original audio podcast may be downloaded at:
In the current blog, the ending paragraphs have been updated and somewhat modified in honor of Earth Day.
Hold up your hand flat open with your palm facing me. As though you were a policeman trying to stop an onrushing disaster.
Your four fingers and your thumb are all pointing in different directions.
Now let’s think of your four fingers and your thumb as problems or “actions” that you and other socially conscious people are promoting — spending your time, energy and money, using your life to benefit your family, the community and humankind in general. Every person using his/her best skills to address one or other of the major actions, trying to relieve the problems faced by humankind today.
Let’s say your first finger represents hunger, and all the people trying to reduce world hunger. The second finger can represent global warming. The third finger can represent conflict, for example war, politics, genocide, modern economics. And the fourth finger represents religion and spirituality. Your thumb represents overpopulation.
What I notice about this hand is that all five of the digits are pointing off toward different and separate goals. If you added together the five different problems, and the people who are working to address these problems. Well, they are not working together for a common goal – they are going off in five different directions. Often they fight or argue with each other or they simply ignore each other, rather than discussing common goals. For this reason the work of one group often cancels out the gains of one or more of the other groups.
For example, one group is working for compassion in the belief that a compassionate community will not fight. Another group tries to win because they believe that will solve all our problems. The climate change group, after a few hundred years of evidence, is finally beginning to recognize its problem is real and is trying to decide whether to adapt or deal with the root cause of climate change. The hunger group can’t possibly accomplish its goal in the face of climate change and excessive population growth. And the overpopulation group believes that no positive goals can be achieved by continuing the destructive path that caused these problems in the first place.
We imagine if all the groups accomplished their goals they would all add up to a successful community. The reality, however, looks more like a mish-mash of confusing goals and conflicting interests. Efficient and effective problem solving does not jump out into the world in five different directions at once, with the different parts of itself fighting among themselves. Modern business practice has made many serious mistakes, but at least one good concept has come out of it, and that is goal setting. Good business defines its goals, sets its guidelines, and informs all parties involved.
Our basic human goal is to live in a community that is sustainable into the future. Surely it must be, and if it’s not we should ask each other why not, because we aren’t acting as though it were. We have all these five problems, and more, dashing off in all directions at the same time. Don’t you agree that we could organize ourselves in some way that would at least have a chance of growing a positive future? I think such a future is possible. If our primary goal really is the common welfare, then we can align our four fingers to represent of our commitment to the common goal of human sustainability on this earth, in good health, at least through the lifetimes of our grandchildren. If my genuine stated goal is the same as the stated goals of people working in different disciplines – then we will cease to be all working for different outcomes.
Next, we can recognize the physical facts: (1) that nobody can accomplish anything if there is not enough food for them to eat, (2) that all our food comes from the earth, and (3) the earth now has more people than it can feed. If you personally don’t believe these are real facts, then you, as we all do, have an obligation to the hungry humans in the world to fact-check our belief system.
So we then fold our thumb under at the roots of the four fingers, to represent represent the facts: (1) that overpopulation is at the root of all of the other problems. Yes we have had these problems in the past and we did not solve them before. Blame your heritage. Now is now and now we cannot solve them if a large part of the earth’s population is desperately struggling to make a living, and ; (2) therefore, that no other compassionate goal can be accomplished when there are more people than the earth can feed; and (3) therefore, the four other goals cannot be solved in the presence of overpopulation.
Therefore, if we genuinely want to accomplish our goals. If we want our behavior to reflect our commitment to the real goal, and regardless of our personal expertise or our primary interest — hunger, global warming, conflict resolution (community) or spirituality – then it is our obligation to spend a portion of our effort, every day, to help compassionately reverse human overpopulation, first informing ourselves about why it is a problem, and then addressing that problem as it relates to our own special skills and projects. I tend to judge people’s compassion by their behavior. When I see anyone brush off this obligation with a platitude or a blank look — we all do really know how important it is. Then I wonder why they don’t really want to know. Can it be they don’t want to help carry the burden of responsibility that goes with knowledge?
And then – we all work together to accomplish both the root goal and the individual goals by enclosing all of life on earth within the fully informed, goal-oriented, responsible, compassionate hand of human kind.
And then we ask. (Everyone does.): “But it is such a big problem, what can I do?” The answer is –
1- Discuss the issues as a community. Sometimes I think many of us are pouting: “If I can’t have what I want, then I won’t talk about it at all.” This approach won’t work. Neither will war make things better, except temporarily for the profiteers. War is not discussion; debate is not discussion; passive-aggressive conflict in which neither side is willing to listen is not discussion. Anything that involves only two sides or a “winner” is not discussion. The goal of these discussions is not to “win” anything. The goal is to be prepared for what is going to happen.
We are letting the corposystem decide these issues for us. We are even letting our government and corporations decide what opinions we should have and what are the issues of our debates. Often we waste time arguing over who is to blame, instead of fixing things.
2-Educate yourself about how the ecosystem functions to maintain its balance and therefore its welfare and its life. The earth will not bow to human preferences; it is essential that we discuss ideas that will work within the natural laws that function to maintain Life. We are entering the biggest biological crisis in human history, and we are not giving it as much rational consideration as we would the purchase of a car. It’s time to get serious and work together to soften the blow for us all.
We are in a situation like an old-fashioned clock that doesn’t work properly because one of its wheels is missing. When we fail to discuss the issues with people who disagree with us, we cannot make wise decisions because part of the necessary information is missing from the discussion.
Because they hold half of the wisdom;
And we are making half of the mistakes.
If we want to “win” at the end, we must begin by discussing these issues with people who disagree with us.
To download the original podcast of this program go to:
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