It’s Ours, Like it or Not

I woke up at the ranch this morning. Actually I didn’t wake up, I was pummeled up by Bitsy’s tail thwacking the bed with the force of a jackhammer. Crawled out, stumbled over the cat, opened up the door wide, turned on the radio, and started sweeping the aerial (which is a longish bit or wire) to see if some location might give me KEOS, 89.1. Gave up and dropped it, and in came my voice, loud and clear, expounding about problem solving.

Good advice if you have a problem, but it suddenly struck me that the people I am trying to talk to might not exactly know that we do have a problem. We all do. The same problem. So, please, as you read the transcript of this day’s Bare Bones Biology, realize that I have been here since quite a long time before the Green Revolution, and I am a career biologist, and I do know that we all still have the same problem that The Green Revolution handed over to the corposystem to solve for us, and we aren’t solving it any better than they did. Worse, because the longer we put it off the fewer options remain.

The problem is basically that the corposystem is sucking the ecosystem dry, trying to convince you that we do not have a problem. We do. You and me and even Rush Limbaugh. He is making it worse – I guess just for fun. And we can’t stop him, so let’s you and me not do that. Let’s fess up and face up and don’t give the grandkids what our grandparents gave to us – make it better. How? I say start with learning about the REAL energy problem. That all the energy for food for all the people and machines comes (or came in the case of fossil fuels) from green plants. And technology can’t make food – and even if it could that would make global warming worse. Then let’s get together and deal with this growth problem, because not dealing won’t make it go away, and it’s our problem. For all of us. Not only biologists. So I finished thinking about that and posted the latest transcript at

Meantime, Bitsy ate her (transformed) green plants and ran out to let me know the raccoon is still living under the hood of the abandoned car. It reminds me of the Bryan Deputy, called repeatedly by one neighbor to complain about the other neighbor’s barking dogs. The deputy, who was no slouch when it came to problem solving – or dogs – found a raccoon living between the two houses. Once the neighbors stopped butting heads and realized they had a common problem — poof!

You don’t have to call the Sheriff. Anyone can do it.

Bare Bones Biology 026 transcript

We live in a culture that tends to paint everything right or wrong. You know that. But you might not have thought how this can be used as an excuse to avoid the effort of problem solving. Last time we talked about the winner/loser model that actually makes more new problems while attempting to submerge the old ones under a pile of aggression. This head-butting method can have any number of players, It generates a ton of energy but most of the energy goes up in flames without actually solving any problems. I have posted a diagram of the headbutting method on my blog, but I’m sure you could make one just as good or better.

This brings to my mind the time I actually was headbutted by a sheep named Big Ben, who I thought was my friend. Actually, I think he was my friend, only we had different ideas about what friendship is. It hurt me, quite a bit, but I excused him because I know that sheep don’t spend a lot of time thinking about what they’re doing. I guess they can’t. But we can. If we really want to solve our problems.

Today I want to talk about an opposite method of avoiding problems, and I’ll put that diagram also on the web site. It’s opposite in the sense that the arrows are all pointed outward, so nobody butts heads, but also no problem-solving energy is generated. That’s what I call the California model, or the “I’m OK, You’re OK” model.

The problem is that some things are not OK. They’re not OK if the perpetrator is a nefarious evil black-hearted incorrigible criminal; and they are also not OK if the perpetrator is a sweet little old grey-haired lady wearing hiking boots that are patched up with duct tape. We will not resolve this kind of issue by not talking about it or by pretending everything is fine if the perp meant well, or if he couldn’t help himself, or if he had psychological problems. If it’s not OK, it’s not OK, and the reason is that individual human people are not the center of the universe. We are a social species, and we have an equal or greater obligation to the whole of our human and nonhuman community as we have to ourselves. There could be no better statement of this fact than my father’s mantra, which he repeated until it was burned into our brains: “My freedom ends where your freedom begins.”

That’s why we have a rule of law. The rule of law is not meant to provide everyone their personal freedom to do whatever he or she thinks is OK. The rule of law is more important than that. And it’s purpose is to provide us with our basic needs for a reasonable quality of life. To provide all of us with what we need, not to provide all of us with everything we want.

I think many of our NGO’s have forgotten, in the blaze of heat they generate, butting heads over individual rights, that the rule of law is primarily meant to provide safe and healthy communities for all the people. Not to become enraged over this or that individual act, while ignoring that the ecosystem is burning up whole communities.

So what is the solution to the I’m OK you’re OK model for not solving problems?
Discuss the issues. If you’re too afraid of other people in your own community to discuss the issues that affect the whole community, then our rule of law is already failing, isn’t it, and really the only way to get it back is to discuss the issues ANYWAY, even if you are afraid of the other people.

Now – you know I do not mean to fight over the issues. I do not mean to stand over your own opinions with sword in hand and challenge all comers. How silly is that? Those are not the only two choices. There are a zillion possible solutions to every complex problem, and it takes time and effort to find one that will work.

I mean, talk real issues and talk nice.

Anyone can do that.

The Truth is Not Mine

It belongs to all of the creation.

If you believe you are doing a good thing and someone else believes you are doing a bad thing — do you have the responsibility to investigate your own belief to see if there is any hard evidence one way or the other?

Or at least define what you both mean when you say “good” “bad.”

Or are we only responsible to ourselves?

Whatever we believe may change how we perceive reality, but beliefs do not change whatever is. That’s why scientific analysis of measurable facts is more powerful than human beliefs.

Technology is basically a human belief system or a corposystem set of beliefs that incorporated some factual data from science. Whatever technology can do or whatever the corposystem believes will not change measureable facts.

Survival at a reasonable level of comfort requires that we recognize the factual limiting factors of our existence within the ecosystem. The biggest of these is that all the energy to sustain life (food) is produced in present time inside the ecosystem only by photosynthetic organisms — that would be plants and photosynthetic bacteria.

My friend Ivy says that God made the ecosystem to function the way it does function. That is, to maintain the balance of it’s requirements for life. I have studied the ecosystem because I am concerned with human suffering. Most people have excus – pardon, reasons – for not paying attention to the basic ecological problems we face today. The most recent one I have heard is that we can change the way in which the ecosystem functions. This reason has three versions: (a) someone has a straight line to God; (b) technology will save us; (c) energies we don’t understand (or I don’t understand) will save us. Not to mention the power angle (can we make a dog? Despite claims to the contrary the answer is no. I say if we can’t make a dog we should not be planning to fiddle around with how the ecosystem functions). But my then my question is whether or not we believe ourselves to have more wisdom than God has. And whether or not God will do what we tell him to do. Up to now, I think He did pretty much what HE thought was right.

Bare Bones Biology #025. Problem Solving II

Last time, we were talking about problem solving skills, and the first one I mentioned was the idea that each person should do whatever they are good at as hard and as fast as they can and keep doing it. According to the American Myth, if we try hard enough, we will succeed. By which we mean, we’ll “win”.

There is actually a lot of truth to that. Fun to think about. Pretty much it’s fun to do if you like competition and if you actually end up winning. But there is a big question of whether or not winning is a good problem-solving skill. We can agree that you won, but did you succeed in solving more problems than you generated. By succeeding, I mean solving a real problem in a way that’s sustainable into the future.

In order to win you have to beat someone. I know some people claim that everybody is a winner, and to them I say it’s better to deal honestly with situations than to make up fairy tales about them. Most people don’t like to be beat. They will wait generations for their revenge, if necessary, a fact that is easy to prove with examples from around the world, including our own civil war. So war, that is, the attempt to win, and that’s at any level from silent disapproval to physical battle, should be a last resort, not the first line of flag-waving. The more times you win, the more enemies you end up with until finally everyone is afraid of everyone else. Eventually, you’re afraid of anyone who is not your supporter and you have cut yourself off from the people who are the most useful for solving problems – that is, people who have ideas that are different from your own. So in trying to solve problems with the win/lose approach, you cut yourself off from the people you need the most.

Furthermore, you have cut yourself off from most of the good solutions, because winning and losing are only two of the available options. No problem is so simplistic as all that; there are always at least three possible solutions, even to the most simple problems, and usually many more. And while we’re killing ourselves trying to win, or not to lose, there are hundreds of other possible solutions we just don’t care to hear about because they don’t involve winning. Or we’re too busy. Even though they very likely might succeed in resolving the problem.

And then, there is another difficulty with the win/lose option, and that is you probably might lose instead of winning, and end up a bitter and lonely old man with no friends. I probably don’t need to explain why that’s not desirable.

So, what to do? Try this one. Whenever you get the idea that “the end justifies the means,” stop yourself. Or, if you think, “that’s the right way to do it.” Stop right there. Sit with yourself for half an hour at least, and ask very seriously if you believe the proposed action really does justify the method you plan to use. Will it really help solve your problem or will it just cause more problems later on? Is it maybe somebody else’s idea of how to solve a problem and doesn’t apply to your own problem. So that takes a little practice.

After you can do that, try this one. Go out and find somebody who disagrees with you and of course somebody who can talk rationally at the same time as disagreeing. First establish what is your common goal with this other person. There’s always a common goal. Just figure out what it is. And talk. Talk about the problem. Talk nice. If both sides genuinely want to solve the problem, you might succeed. And without all the bother and chaos of trying to win something. Or. You might not.

There are all kinds of twists to the win/lose method of problem solving, as well as any other method. For example, as Ann Garrin said recently with regard to senatorial problem solving: “They’d rather have the issue than the victory.” In other words, they’re not interested in solving problems. But that doesn’t change the fact that winning always causes more problems than it fixes.