Letter to Larry

“The Rev. Dr. Samuel Hamilton-Poore preaches from Exodus 20:8-11, January 23, 2011, about 24 minutes. Breathing Space: Just Stop! Linger! Rest! That’s what God’s sabbath keeping commandment—and His invitation—are about. San Francisco Theological Seminary Assistant Professor. (You can go to Lafayette-Orinda Presbyterian Church website or email me for a podcast of the sermon-LL)

“I thought he made some relevant points about our society’s inability to act on issues of ecological degradation despite the knowledge we already have. Knowledge doesn’t seem to be enough. Rob Hopkins’ Transition Handbook also has a chapter (Ch 6) about the stages of change that addresses the same issue. This looks to me like the biggest challenge we face.”

Indeed I think it is the biggest challenge we face. When I decided to deal with the problem, I wrote a factual booklet describing how energy flows through the ecosystem to keep the whole thing alive. I stressed levels of organization and also, because Larry brought to my attention our lack of understanding of this issue, the necessity of biodiversity to generate resilience in the ecosystem so that it can respond to stress.

But I had to change my opinion that the information is enough. Right now my “simplest solution” that I have described is my audiocast ( http://www.barebonesbiology.com)

We would have to add two more specific dimensions to the knowledge:

First we must articulate a common goal. We think we are talking about something different and more important from each other (we being politicians, religious, the different major camps). We are not. We all want the same thing, but we each seem to think we have a special handle on getting it. Therefore we need to have a common goal so that as we all point toward the same goal we will be coming closer to understanding each other, rather than flying off in all different directions cancelling out the efforts each of the other. I try to articulate this concept in every discussion, not that I can — well, my goal is to make the world better rather than worse for my being here. You see, then it becomes necessary that we be willing also to talk among ourselves, because we have to figure out what better means. Articulating a goal is necessary before we can effectively use either facts or any other approach to bring about change.

Second we must find some way to incorporate compassion into our manipulations of the factual problems we face, because humans are hard-wired for compassion, but ecosystems are not. And ecosystems require for their survival things that humans consider un-compassionate. There is our deepest dilemma, and it needs to be discussed with compassion. To do that we need to understand that the levels of our biological organization (individual, social, corposystem, ecosystem) are different in their requirements.

We can not resolve an ecosystem dilemma using human compassion unless we inform our compassion with the factual needs of the system we are trying to influence. Humans will not cooperate with a solution they believe to lack compassion. They don’t understand that there are also levels of compassion. Innate simple heart compassion is not the only kind. We will require also to apply wisdom compassion that tries to accomplish the least amount of suffering for all of life, based on our factual understanding of reality.

The simplest possible solution:
A common goal; measurable facts; heart compassion; wisdom compassion.

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