By the time today’s children reach middle age, it is extremely likely that Earth’s life-support systems, critical for human prosperity and existence, will be irretrievably damaged by the magnitude, global extent, and combination of these human-caused environmental stressors, unless we take concrete, immediate actions to ensure a sustainable, high-quality future.!
As members of the scientific community actively involved in assessing the biological and societal impacts of global change, we are bringing this alarm to the world for humanity’s continued health and prosperity, we all — individuals, businesses, political leaders, religious leaders, scientists and people in every walk of life — must work hard to solve these five global problems, starting today:
1. Climate disruption
3. Loss of Ecosystem Diversity
5. Human Population Growth and Resource Consumption
“In reality, the problem we have is not climate change, it’s not water shortage, it’s not loss of biodiversity, it’s not degradation of soils,” he said. “It is overuse of the Earth’s resources by the human endeavor.”
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.
While you pursue your human goals
Believing that you help the suffering,
The butterflies are dying in your own back yard.
You can blame it on karma,
Or God’s will,
Or some evil influence,
And all of that is true.
But the slaughter continues because of the human ego
that can walk across a field of death and destruction
And only see itself.
I wrote this poem last week while watching a fine blazing sunrise that reminded me of a quote from Psalm 89.
“The heavens are yours, and the earth is yours;
everything in the world is yours—you created it all.”
Not thinking about the consequences, I immediately emailed my poem, without commentary, to several friends. Of course the moment I punched the “send” button I realized each of these people probably will assume I was writing about them personally. So then I followed up to explain what I really meant. One friend wrote back the following:
“If people think that it is about them, then maybe it is.
“But what SHOULD I do?” they will ask.
And your answer may seem nearly as difficult to them as the one that went, ‘Sell what you have, and give to the poor.’ Your answer is,
“Change your value system.
Stop listening to advertisements.
Stop feeding your emotions with STUFF; just get what you need, or genuinely want.
Get out, find some natural landscape somewhere. Breathe the air. Notice the rest of life besides humanity.
Discover what that other life needs. As a major item it needs less humans, so your main aim will be to have a small family if any, 1-2 children, and to persuade your friends and relations to do that too.
Your second aim will be to consume less goods (especially from distant places) and less energy, also less meat. There are many ways to do that.
Yes indeed, but my answer to the question of what we can do might not seem as daunting as her answer. Mine would be:
Watch the sun rise up and move across the sky as it greens the living earth. Meditate about the laws of nature that God created to generate and maintain Life, the whole earth ecosystem.
As the sun moves down every evening, consider that no opinion or no action of yourself or any other person created Life, and no opinion or no action of yourself or any other person can change how God’s laws of nature function to maintain Life of earth.
Stop wasting your time arguing over opinions and debating fake advertising propaganda that is designed by the corposystem to spread death and destruction to the living earth. Learn to know the difference between opinions, and the created facts of life. Feed your emotions by learning how God’s created natural laws actually do function to maintain Life. Specifically, how does Life stay alive? Without this knowledge, how can you function to protect Life?
Discuss these things as often as possible with other people, including people who are genuine experts. Learn to recognize expertise. (Hint, reporters’ expertise is reporting things, not evaluating them. Technologists expertise is making things and selling them to make money — that is a corposystem value, Life’s value is not to make money. Life’s value is to maintain Life. Genuine experts study how things work.)
And then understand that wise compassion is not that soft-fuzzy feeling that makes us believe we are doing good for other people whenever WE feel good. Real wise compassion is the genuine heartfelt wish and obligation of every human to provide for the welfare of Life “unto the seventh generation” or beyond. It’s our only value on earth, to protect God’s creation, the Life-System, against the evils of human ego and the human corpo-system that deals in death and destruction in the name of fake compassion.
When you do as I suggest, then I trust your good judgment. You will automatically do as my friend suggests. If you do as she suggests, then you already understand much of what I suggest. Keep doing it.
Photos by Lynn
This blog is an expanded version of Bare Bones Biology radio program that will play next week on KEOS Radio, 98.1 FM, Bryan, Texas. Bare Bones Biology is a completely nonprofit project. The podcast can be downloaded at:
For the people who read my blog, here’s a quote from The Dalai Lama.
“The model of turning the other cheek or of having an overriding compassion for all beings, however they treat you, is about the elimination of self-centeredness and the cultivation of qualities that – in a theistic tradition – bring the practitioner ever closer to the Creatior, making him or her ever more similar to God, so that life may be lived in the image of God. In a nontheistic tradition like Buddhism, compassion brings its practitioner ever closer to freedom from clinging to the narrow confines of a self-centered way of being and opens a space for the interconnectedness with all beings.”
Lynn Lamoreux: Bare Bones Ecology Energy Handbook available free under Chapters on right side of blog
The Dalai Lama: Toward a True Kinship of Faiths
The Eagle: Butterflies
I have somewhat reluctantly signed your petition. My reluctance is not because the topic is unimportant, but because I dislike our political warfare of this generation that takes the form of dividing survival topics into smaller bits that seem unrelated and using them to blame the “other guy” for the problem, which is neither logical nor realistic. So, I hesitate to sign for three major reasons.
First – I can’t believe we are ignoring the men, whose future is at stake equally with the women.
Second – If we continue to escalate our arguments over the bits, I doubt we will be able to put the pieces back together. The ecosystem is one whole living thing, not a collection of separate human-specific issues. All of our food, air, water and soil are made by the ecosystem, which I believe is God’s system for the survival of all Life on earth. Our population is threatening the welfare of every corner of the ecosystem, and that affects the welfare of every living entity within the ecosystem, some of which are humans. This is by far the most important reason that we must learn our place in the whole scheme of God’s Creation. Obviously, the human world is not caring for the women and children first — now that food is running out as a result of overpopulation. Money and petitions will not change these facts unless they change the human behaviors that cause the food running out, which is too many people eating it. So I don’t anticipate that conditions for women will improve while conditions for everyone deteriorate.
What we need to do is focus on health of the ecosystem. The ecosystem is a living entity that is deathly ill at this time, and the only way to cure an illness is to remove the cause. Only by reducing the human population can we improve conditions for women and men. Too bad we can’t just agree on this – it is a fact, and facts are things we can’t change. So it would be better to stop fighting over it and face it is a fact and focus on finding a better way to resolve our relationship to the fact – better than just blaming someone else. If we want better conditions, at this point, the only way to get them is to find a method of worldwide population reduction that is better than starvation, war and climate.
However, as far as I know, I have not succeeded in convincing even one person that facing facts is the best way to solve problems, and the matter is of massive importance to every person on earth, so I will honor your way and sign your petition,
Third – I have faith in Mr. Kerry that he will carry his responsibilities responsibly.
So in one sense, on the side of logic, I feel as though I’m contributing to the uproar rather than the solution by signing this, but I also feel, on the emotional side, that whatever works is necessary and you are doing a good job maintaining a balance between logic, reality and need.
I continue to wonder of those who oppose are as (what is the word? Uncaring?) as they seem to be, or is it only that they do not have access to the logical facts – the information about how God’s Creation functions to keep itself alive. Still, we can’t resolve the problem until we are willing to work within the factual reality, so I keep trying.
I have agreed to one more try at discussing some of these relationships by “manning” a booth at Earth Day this coming April in College Station. I agreed to discuss – not to debate. Debate is war, and it’s an un-winable war when both sides are right. There is a better way.
Photos by Lynn
This blog is an expanded version of Bare Bones Biology radio program that will play next week on KEOS Radio, 98.1 FM, Bryan, Texas. Bare Bones Biology is a completely nonprofit project. The podcast can be downloaded at:
We humans cannot succeed so long as we believe the Power-and-Glory is us. Or that the corposystem is the Power-and-Glory. That is the bottom-line reason I now concede that we are a dead species walking. Even the kindest and best intended people I know believe that the Power-and-Glory lies within humanity, rather than beyond our ability to express or understand.*
So instead of honoring LIFE, we devise more and more intricate ways to imagine one so-called solution or another that – if a person just sits down and considers the result of these short-term fixes – clearly there is no way to use them without causing further damage by further unbalancing LIFE, the whole earth ecosystem.
The bottom line cure is obvious, but the process of saving ourselves would be somewhat unpleasant and would not contribute to the ego-based culture of the corposystem that is our God. The people who might be interested in doing anything humble, rather than “heroic” — those who really want what they say they want — the common good, I guess – they are vanishingly rare in this culture.
My memoir describes my search for an organization working for the welfare of LIFE on earth that will not make things (meaning LIFE) worse (rather than better balanced). I found a lot of groups, none of which seem to envision a viable solution, even though the solution is laid out plain across the land.
I can’t cause the blind to see; I can’t even cause the blind to see me, much less help them to envision the real Power-and-Glory that always has and always would have provided us a life system within which to argue about whatever silly thing we want to argue about. It would have done this forever, in human terms — if we were not so committed fight against the LIFE system that keeps LIFE alive. Why fight? I guess, so we can “win.” Win what? We have been given everything we need.
At least I tried to serve the Power-and-Glory rather than the human ego, individual or communal. And I certainly WILL not contribute my own energy to the devastation. I will not use “sinful” methods to promote myself or to get what I want. I define “sinful” as anything that promotes an unbalance of human or ecosystem health by preying on human weakness (ego for example, or fear or anger, or even compassion, which is the current craze), or by preying on ecosystem largesse to the harm of the ecosystem (for example by wrapping every little bit of food in plastic, with zippers yet, or any one of a million other sinful behaviors that we enjoy nearly every minute of every day.)
And I will NOT use the sinful methods of the corposystem to fight against the sins of the corposystem. Corposystem style of promotion for example. Because it simply strengthens the corposystem in its war against the ecosystem.
And of course time never stops, and every generation is yet more powerful – and more ignorant of the nature of power; and people continue to plan as though we have forever to wise up.
We don’t. Probably it’s time for the living earth to start over again to find a sustainable balance of living creatures that are less eager to destroy themselves and everything they touch.
And if that is the root truth or root reality, starting over again I mean, with a different set of interacting species, who am I to proclaim my higher wisdom. If “sin” is that which destroys LIFE — then of course, starting over is necessary. Rebalancing, in response to imbalance, is an immutable part of the reality of LIFE at any level. The highest level, the Power-and-Glory, must also rebalance when LIFE itself is threatened. Even if that leaves us a dead-species-walking.
Photos by Lynn
This blog is an expanded version of Bare Bones Biology radio program that will play
next week on KEOS Radio, 98.1 FM, Bryan, Texas. Bare Bones Biology is a completely
nonprofit project. The podcast can be downloaded at:
* Heinrich Zimmer quoted by Joseph Campbell with Bill Moyers in The Power of Myth, video: “The best things can’t be told because they transcend thought. The second best are misunderstood, because they are the thoughts that are supposed to refer to that which can’t be thought about, and one gets stuck with the thoughts. The third things are what we talk about.” And I will add we are talking about things that we know are not true as though they were, because we like what we are thinking better than we like to think about something that could actually save us. So that can’t even be third best; it must be somewhere way down the list.
Life, the living earth, has been created within the universe.
We humans are only one species out of a multitude that are parts of the sustainable phenomenon of Life; we are the “temporary living,” but we are not Life itself. To emphasize the difference between temporary organisms and sustainable Life, I capitalize Life. This distinction is more fully discussed in Bare Bones Ecology Energy Handbook, which is freely downloadable from the right side of my blog under the heading of “Chapters.”
The primary function of Life is to nourish and support the ongoing process of Life.
That’s why every part of life, whether or not it is aware, supports every other part. The output of one part of life is the input of others. Around and around, the process of Life functions sustainably, for its cycles never run down. They can be modified, according to the conditions of the internal or external environments, but Life itself never runs down because the cycles of which it is composed are all balanced. Each material is available when needed to maintain the balance, and every bit that is not needed at that time and place is mopped up and carried away to where it is needed.
Oxygen, for example, and carbon, and hydrogen are cycled and recycled, together and separately. The organisms, in their variety, serve as catalysts for all the processes that nurture Life. They capture the necessary energy and carry the information to operate the cycles of Life.
Life is a unique, integrated, interconnected process that humans, in spite of all our technologies, cannot emulate. Or maybe we could emulate it if we were trying, but we don’t try to support the processes that are necessary for Life. What we do try is to conquer, to win, to defeat, to subdue life using the power of our will and our magnificent brain.
We are an amazing species with a nervous system that ties us to each other and to all of Life through our emotions, our social interactions, our capacity for reason and manipulation and compassion, that have been created by the God-imposed process of evolution as a part of the living earth. The process of Life, moving through time carries us along as an integral, living, supportive part of Itself, but only so long as we accept what we are and enhance our position as a component of Life.
Our job on earth is to support Life.
Life and living organisms uniquely carry the code for their own replication. One might say that God bestowed upon matter and energy the code of Life, which gives Life the ability to sustain Itself by responding to the changing environment within which It exists. Life exists at the confluence of evolution, time, energy and the natural law of cause and effect. We humans are living organisms, subunits of the process of Life. That is, we are not Life itself; we are only temporary manifestations of the process of life, and we therefore cannot exist in the absence of the orderly and balanced processes that operate together to maintain Life itself. Life itself, so far as we know, is uniquely the living planet earth. We are not It.
But we are a powerfully endowed species that could easily destroy Life as it is now manifested (Life as we know it) if we continue to believe that we must fight for dominance over life in order to survive. Perhaps that was true in some distant past time, but in our present evolution our own lives and perhaps Life itself on earth depend on our ability to understand how to live in accord with the laws of the universe as they are manifested in the unitary Life, rather than trying to change the laws of nature and bring them to heel like a conquered enemy.
To do this, to understand how to live in accord with the laws of the universe, we need to grow an intimate understanding of our power as communities.
This blog is an expanded version of Bare Bones Biology radio program that is playing this week on KEOS Radio, 98.1 FM, Bryan, Texas. The podcast can be downloaded at
Bare Bones Biology is a completely nonprofit project. We use the .com because we also refuse to become or behave as an integral part of the corposystem that is destroying both our lifestyles and our place in the communal life of earth.
On the other hand, the corposystem has done a magnificent job, of necessity, of squeezing on to our planet three or four billions more than the number of people the planet can feed sustainably, and temporarily avoiding the dire consequences of doing so. The corposystem has been forced to do this in response to the will of the people, so let’s not waste our time in blame placing or aintitawful when there are positive actions we could be doing, beginning with positive discussion of the collective choice we are making to destroy the planet rather than to face up to the root problem of overpopulation, and deal with it as compassionately as we possibly can.
I have today received two new examples of corposystem squeezing that I referred to above. Here are the references. One is a letter that I received from Robert Redford. I admire Robert Redford, so I don’t trash his letters. I suggest you read up on the Pebble Mine problem at:
Because the point is – if you personally have not done anything about overpopulation in the past month, then you personally have chosen, during that time, human overpopulation in preference to the welfare of our living earth ecosystem. “Doing something” means minimally, engaging in a positive discussion of the problem. “Positive” means a conversation that does NOT consist of “aint it awful” or of “aint they awful.”
It is not possible to blame the corposystem for trying to feed several billions of people more than the earth can sustainably feed, if we the people refuse to deal with OUR population problem while pretending it is someone else’s responsibility. This is our responsibility to each other and to our grandchildren, who will be directly impacted by the result of our effort or lack of effort.
This week (beginning Sunday) will kick off a new Bare Bones Biology series, on the subject of community, beginning with some perspectives about biological reality, followed by some examples of projects that I encountered during my travels that have promise of genuine community building.
How should we proceed to solve the overpopulation/overproduction problem that we humans have created within this earth biosystem? I have heard three rather different viewpoints on this questioning the past few weeks. Last week I talked about technologies. Technologies are not innately bad, but they will not help if we continue to use them to try to change the world, instead of using them to help change our own behaviors.
And you have already heard my opinion of what is needed – that is, that we should individually take the responsibility to educate ourselves about how and why overpopulation is so harmful to the biosystem, and then we should crank up our courage and discuss this issue with others. I am confident if we fulfill this level of responsibility, answers will emerge from the discussions. In the meantime we should make family planning technologies and information available to everyone on earth who needs it.
My colleague, who trains medical doctors at the university level, believes that a more pro-active approach is needed, especially in the more “advanced” societies. She says:
“I think I already wrote back about this issue of where to focus re overpopulation. Obviously I agree we should definitely be tackling the issue of couples/women who want contraception but can’t get it – and it is wonderful that Melinda Gates is now on the case. But another big part of the problem is those who CAN get contraception but still have large or medium families of high-consuming babies in rich countries and don’t realize that these babies will be part of the problem, as well as the victims of it.
“Even if we haven’t noticed any ills, the USA is one of the few countries in the world where you can still fail to notice the effects of overpopulation. Even here in Britain most people say there are too many people. The answer for those who have sacrificed some of their pleasures to help the overpopulation is that they have been right in principle, positively noble. And now the need is more like stopping at one child per couple, to get where we need to be (somewhere around 3 billion, if we want a lifestyle with a few luxuries like refrigerators). Isn’t it? You know this. And this needs to happen in all countries. Birth rate of 1-1.5 per couple, for the next 2 generations. Seven billion is not sustainable unless we all become largely vegetarians and take on a resource usage per person of – not sure, maybe about 20% of the current US average. And stop using fossil fuels.
“One or the other of those, or the Great Dieback where the fall in numbers happens through the death rate instead of the birth rate. I think you have given up believing that there are any alternatives to this. Yes, getting the world birth rate down to 1.5 is a huge “ask”; but if everyone knew what we know, maybe they might try…?” That’s the end of her opinion. She believes more good will result from reducing birth rate in the rich countries than in the poor countries.
And then there are people who believe that God will provide. To this I say that God already provided us with a miraculous biosystem that is sustainable in perpetuity if we take care of it – that is, if we do not take away or destroy what it needs to stay healthy — and then God put us in charge of doing just that that, taking care of it, and gave us our unique brain to do it with. Read the Bible. Or the Koran. Or the many Buddhist writings. We have responsibilities. We are not babies, most of us who can read this; surely we do not expect God to pinch hit whenever we fail in our responsibilities. We can be forgiven, but all the religions, including the Catholic church http://www.catholiccompany.com/essential-catholic-handbook-sacraments-p1001749/, recognize that the effects of our behaviors cannot be reversed. Whether or not we are forgiven, we and our generations must live with and in the results of our behaviors.
And here we are, having too much fun living the good life — or trying to be happy or spiritual — to worry about anyone else’s problems. Too much fun even to realize that their problem is our problem inside the biosphere. Like it or not, whoever created the living earth — created it to function the way it does function – not the way we wish it did. And it will not change for our convenience or our happiness.
This blog is an expanded version of Bare Bones Biology radio program that is playing this week on KEOS Radio, 98.1 FM, Bryan, Texas. The podcast can be downloaded later this week at http://www.BareBonesBiology.com
Bare Bones Biology Energy Handbook – freely downloadable, no strings