Bare Bones Biology 007B – You Can’t Do Nothing

130611-Miller-ASC_3449RLSsToday I’m sitting on my new back porch tucked in the cleft between two out pouchings of Monero mountain, listening to mty little wren greet the morning from the top of the lilac tree planted in the 1980’s by Ila Blomberg. Bitsy is chasing rats. The air stirs, as the sun rises, the temperature changes, the process of photosynthesis accelerates. The canyon breathes in the silence of a new and different day.

This day I’m thinking about Shodo Spring and her group, who are on their way to Denver to take off for the Compassionate Earth Walk. How perfect, I think, for this occasion is Bare Bones Biology 007, and so we will repeat it. You can get the podcast at http://www.barebonesbiology.com, the most recent post.

I’m sitting on my back porch in the dark, watching the lightning flash, listening to the thunder growl over the little hill behind my house, drinking a cup of green tea, and remembering just such a night five years ago, when I sat in a Japanese hot bath at the Green Village Youth Hostel in Niibo-Uryuya listening to the grumble and crack of just such a storm.

For two months I had been reading Huston Smith, the Dalai Lama, Terry Tempest Williams, and the story of the living earth described by James Lovelock. And trying to write. To write anything that might help the children of human technology understand the most important bits of biological reality. But what is the use? I will never be a Terry Tempest Williams, and I don’t see any sign that the children of human technology are interested in what I have to say. Why try to write, when the books I read express my worldview so much better than I ever could say it?

That Japanese night I was reading, The Pine Island Paradox, by Kathleen Dean Moore, holding the book high over neck-level water, when she said. “You can’t do nothing . . To love a person or a place is to accept moral responsibility for its well being.” And so I hauled myself out of the bath and climbed up the stairs to my room to try again.

But Kathleen, you didn’t say. How do we know what is best for the well being of the one you love? Almost everyone I talk with thinks they know what is best. As a biologist I know that most of them — no matter how convicted and well intended — are simply wrong about what this place needs. Biologically. If we care about anything we can’t do nothing, but isn’t it even more important that we should not do something that will cause more harm. And it’s way past time we can care about one place on earth without caring for the whole of it, because it is all one life.

The answer came at that time from Huston Smith, in his book, Why Religion Matters.

“My way relates to world views. I am convinced that whatever transpires in other domains of life — politics, living standards, environmental conditions, interpersonal relationships, the arts — we will be better off if we extricate ourselves from the worldview we have unwittingly slipped into and replace it with a more generous and accurate one.”

I think he means we should listen to each other and compare notes before we decide what we should do. But I can’t make anyone else do that, and I can’t just sit here in a hot Japanese bath or on the back porch of my own home and smile and remember that I have had the best of life, so it won’t really affect me very much, whatever happens, and watch the younger folk working their little hearts out trying to fix the mess we have made, convinced they are doing something new and different to help, and making all the same mistakes we made, but with a great deal more power behind their efforts. If we care, we can’t do nothing And so finally that Japanese night I fell asleep while the storm grumbled and cracked outside my window.

The next day I got an email “where are you and are you having fun
Where am I? I haven’t moved from this place that I love.

Am I having fun? When someone asks an irrelevant question, should you answer the question or ask a better one? Were we put upon this earth to “have fun?” On my headstone, what? “She wasted her one shot trying to have fun?” Wall Street wants me to have as much fun as possible; should I dedicate my life to Wall Street? And a few more questions along those same lines, at least one of which might contain the words God, love and responsibility.

I don’t remember what I really said.

This is Bare Bones Biology, a production of FactFictionFancy and KEOS FM radio, 89.1, in Bryan, Texas. A transcript will be posted Wednesday at

, where you can leave your comments.

I have been asked to define the word ecosystem. If I can get on kline for long enough, next time I’ll give that a shot – Or maybe I’ll report on Chama Territorial Days, where they have stick horse racing and in the end they hang Chicken-Stealing Charlie . I don’t know what happens to the chicken.

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