Bare Bones Biology 122 – Human Hands

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. A podcast can be downloaded later this week at:

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 don’t believe these are real facts, then you have an obligation to the hungry humans in the world to fact-check your 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, you ask. (Everyone does.): “But it is such a big problem, what can I do?” The answer is – in this sequence:

1-You can recognize that this is not about “me.” It’s not about who does what at the level of individual decision making. Do not promote the fake debate ( over family planning, which is corposystem propaganda meant prevent us from growing our personal and community power ( the ecosystem. Instead study the real overpopulation threat, which is about human suffering at the level of the population, and at the level of survival of the whole living earth.

2-Do not waste time blaming anyone; it will not accomplish our common goal. Instead educate yourself and others about the suffering of populations of humans who do not have access to family planning because our corposystem is withholding that resource from them.

3-Education yourself about how the ecosystem functions to maintain its balance and therefore it’s welfare and its life (you could start with the Bare Bones Ecology Energy Handbook downloadable from the right side of this blog site).

4-Discuss all three “sides” of the issue with family and friends. The “sides” minimally can be described as the conflicting needs of individual persons, families, communities, and the whole earth ecosystem.

5-What we need most right now is the political will to make family planning available compassionately to everyone on earth who wants it and needs it for their health and well being. Work as a citizen to bring this to the people who need and want it.

Bare Bones Biology 122 – Human Hands

The Good Life or That’s Not How it Works

I once wrote a little story about population growth. It’s not a story about anti-anything; it IS a story about facing factual reality as it exists and together finding better ways to deal with it. Well, it’s really a story about not facing factual reality.

On an island in the Pacific Ocean there were 100 people and food enough for 110 to live a good life, nurture their children, and grow the culture into something warm and kind.

Modern medicine came along, but did not bring with it provision for a better life for those it saved. And the population grew to 120, many of whom were living below poverty level.

The aid agencies then came along with extra food, but without making provision for a better life for those they saved and the population grew to 150 and people began starving.

And so I told my story and then I said:

“This is not curing any problem, it is only making bigger problems. We should instead treat the CAUSE of the problem, which is not a shortage of food but an excess of people, at the same time we help the suffering people.” And everyone around me said:

“What do you want — to do like China?” And I said:

“China has probably saved the world a horrible war with its efforts to feed its own people. But why are you changing the subject? This is not about China; it is about the beam in your own eye. Your food aid charity is probably causing more suffering and devastation than anything China has done, not that there is any point measuring relative devastations. Now there are 40 starving people on that island that had none before you intervened; the technology is now available to REALLY help them; and I keep wondering why you aren’t. If you didn’t intend to create suffering, then why don’t you STOP causing more suffering and begin to make it better? What is the exact purpose of your food aid charity? Is it to make you feel superior and useful? Is it to grow your economy and fatten your wallet. Hmmmm. If we resolved the problem would that perhaps put you out of a job?”

They didn’t like that, so they said:

“What can we do? There is nothing that we can do.” And so I pointed out several things that we could do and they gave twice as many reasons why all of the things were impossible. And then they went away.

Not long after, I had a really long layover for changing planes and met an aid worker who had just fled from East Timor or Africa or the Sudan or someplace like that, who put my story into its real context. Her story is real — about real people in real families who are so desperate for food that they make one extra baby — to starve that baby so they can qualify for food aid and try to save the rest of the children. This is not a fairy tale; it’s a first-hand true account from an expert in the field. And so I said:

“Why are we doing this to people?” And she said:

“The folks who make the decisions sitting in New York City won’t listen to the reality. They only listen to the money.” And I said:

“Which is worse, China or us?”

Maybe it’s time to stop pot-calling and DO SOMETHING because our ecosystem is a biological island in a sea of physical phenomena that can not sustain life. In spite of the 50-year-old mantra “There is enough to feed blah,blah.” that was probably promulgated by some corporation to sell stuff to someone. It doesn’t matter who there was enough to feed when that was true. There is NOT enough to feed everyone forever, and the shit is hitting the fan NOW. If we had abundant biological resources on earth the ecosystem would be in balance and we would not have climate change. We do have climate change as the ecosystem tries to adjust her balance to the reality of life on earth today. We should be helping her to do that, rather than spinning our wheels making it worse.

I can certainly understand why you might not want to get into an airplane and go to your island and distribute condoms. What I do not understand is why you are unwilling (or is it fear? Is it we aren’t afraid to kill each other but we are afraid to talk with each other?) to talk about the problem in a rational way with friends, neighbors and your local politicians. Instead of hiding behind an army of volunteer soldiers and aid workers. Because in the long run we can’t hide from need. No way; no how.

Power of Thinking

“I see a system failing,” Ms. Menon said. “It is doing something, but it is not solving the problem.” quoted in the New York Times March 13.

As Indian Growth Soars, Child Hunger Persists

Doesn’t it make you want to cry when you open the above link and see the children suffer? And read about the reality they face.

“. . .‘serious’ rates of hunger persist(ed) across Indian states that had posted enviable rates of economic growth in recent years, including Maharashtra and Gujarat.”

How much longer will we cling to the belief that growth will lift us out of our global problem that we created by excessive growth?

Economic growth is based in goods.  Money is a promissory note to deliver goods.  On this earth — in this earth ecosystem — all goods come ultimately from the earth.

The earth has reached its capacity; it can not grow more goods than it already is growing.  Yet the economists (that is, people who deal in money) continue to believe that economic growth will cure our problems that are caused by excessive GROWTH.

Why do we continue to believe this strange, toxic mantra that only works when goods are plentiful?  Why do reporters not THINK about what they are saying when they tell us that growth, GNP,  is a symbol of prosperity?  Prosperity for whom?  When will we stop evaluating every success in terms of the same growth that is defeating our efforts to achieve success?  What happened to the idea of sustainability?

I think it fell victim to our preference for making money, but that won’t change the fact that sustainable growth is an oxymoron.  Sustainable is possible — but only in the absence of growth.  Why don’t we go for sustainable?  For the children.
The power to find a better way – a way that will work — begins with the willingness to think outside the circle of our  toxic mantra.

That’s why God gave us a brain.