Hello world!

I have often wondered what makes one person care so much about the environment and other creatures while others are almost deaf and blind to their outside world. Why do well-educated people and many of our politicians deny the science of climate change in spite of the overwhelming global scientific consensus? Through this blog I hope to discuss with as many people as possible how researchers can better communicate the urgency and the nature of the issues now facing human society.

9 responses to “Hello world!

  1. You’ve started with an excellent question! Over the years I have pondered that too as it seems perfectly obvious to me that we are not on the right path, and that our inaction and actions are resulting in the shredding of the amazing web that connects all beings and creatures and habitats on the Earth, and, I am sure that we are all connected to the entire Universe in ways we can only begin to imagine.

    Through the years, while having children, running a natural food store and bakery, working for a number of environmental groups, I have run an informal survey of my colleagues. My question to them (and to you) is, “Did you spend a lot of time outside when you were growing up? Did you have a fort? A garden? Tell me about those times…” And to a person, the people who were most passionately engaged in the natural world as children are still bonded and connected to Mother Earth and care about that web of life to the point where they will expend their energy to set things right…

    Joseph Chilton Pearce has written about the bonds that humans form over their lifetimes–from the bond between a baby and its mother–then to its father and the rest of the family; then to the community and finally to the natural world itself if all goes well.

    Our screen-fixated culture does not seem to be nurturing those bonds.

  2. As a child, I was always outdoors, my parents punished me for doing something wrong, by making me stay indoors. I guess unless you know something, you can’t love it, and you won’t save it. How do we recreate a sense of wonder in adults when we are often so busy working that we spend so little time outdoors? Today, where I live, the sun is shining so beautifully through the trees, the red, the gold and the yellows of Fall.

  3. I too have long pondered this: “I have often wondered what makes one person care so much about the environment and other creatures while others are almost deaf and blind to their outside world.”

    My connection to this is through the world of “rescuers”… people who see wrongs that others around them might not see, and then do things about it. Throughout history, and all around us, there are people who somehow are able to see what needs to be done and then take action even when it might be of cost to them. And then there are those that don’t.

    In my family work around the Holocaust, I have run across this theme a great deal. Those that “cared” (to use Ann’s word) often felt, even after risking life and limb to save people, that they did little and could have done more, while those that did nothing felt satisfied with what they did.

    I take some guidance from the words of Rabbi Tarfon, as written in the Talmudic volume Pirkei Avot (wisdom of the elders)… “It is not incumbent upon you to finish the task. Yet, you are not free to desist from it.”

  4. “I have often wondered what makes one person care so much about the environment and other creatures while others are almost deaf and blind to their outside world.”

    I wonder if our society will ever change by education alone, or if it will take a much deeper change of the heart – one from selfishness to selflessness? If we continue to view the world through self-centered eyes, not much will change for the good.

    Manifest plainness,
    Embrace simplicity,
    Reduce selfishness,
    Have few desires.
    Lao-tzu

    • I love the quote, says it all about sustainable development. I would ask how did our current North American society become so selfish, what is it all about? Is it a change of heart or opening your heart to the possibilities, getting people to see the magic and beauty of nature. I think it is also about kindness, I would argue we have enough information, enough knowledge and enough science to act now, we need to be kinder to one another and especially to the other creatures with whom we are privileged to be on this Earth.

  5. I am not sure that there is as strong a correlation as we think between knowledge and responsibility. While knowledge is an important element to knowing what might be the right thing to do, it may not be the factor needed to take action to d the right thing. I believe the seed of knowledge needs to fall in fertile soil in order for a sense of responsibility to grow. That fertile soil is the degree of moral development or, as some may call it, state of consciousness at which a person functions. This moral character is a reflection of one’s commitment to doing what is fair, good, just, compassionate for all of life. For me where this moral character comes from is still a mystery but I believe it is connected in part to time spent in nature (either as a child or adult), but more importantly it is connected to the time we choose to spend with ourselves, our thought, our emotions, our perceptions of our connections to everything around us –wondering, enjoying and simply observing (being with) the complexity of life. I beleive this makes us humble, apprectaive, compassionate and caring. ‘Nature’ is one of the places where we can be this and be reminded that we ourselves are part of this, that we are nature and we are not alone. I believe that people are at different places in their moral development therefore we see knowledge being interpreted and used in different ways. We also see differeing levels of action for different purposes. This may, in part, be an explanation for why seemingly intelligent people deny scientific knowledge. It’s not that they are amoral, but perhaps that they have not yet invested as much time in developing that aspect of their being to its full potential.

  6. “For me where this moral character comes from is still a mystery but I believe it is connected in part to time spent in nature (either as a child or adult), but more importantly it is connected to the time we choose to spend with ourselves, our thought, our emotions, our perceptions of our connections to everything around us –wondering, enjoying and simply observing (being with) the complexity of life.”
    I appreciated reading everything here so much. If you all know the Myers-Briggs (C.G.Jung based) personality analysis, I suspect that most of you are INFP’s-Introverted-Intuition,Feeling, Perception oriented people. There are those whose natures converse with the world differently, who would not comment here, feeling too ‘different’. Maybe for this reason I find that I’ve expressed my passion for wilderness theoretically, and regularly wonder whether there might be someone ‘out there’ who could take what everyone has said and carve it into a proper philosophy, one rational enough to counter western democracies hell bent on protecting the freedom of the individual no matter what that ‘freedom’ puts into danger. Even a whole planet. It’s hard to explain what I mean. I feel that a child must get “time spent in nature” and also get from someone, somewhere in addition,(and take it in) the message that their own natural feelings, thoughts, behaviour, sensual responses to nature and perceptions are of utmost value, (not right or wrong, but an absolutely indispensable value. Without these two “receptions”, of the self in nature and of the self from a person, moral judgements and sound independent ego positions cannot be taken or made. Morality becomes synonymous with a person’s ability to make rational thinking judgements about nature and life’s events. That kind of morality bypasses a being’s ability (whatever its nature) to take in, participate in, relate to, and finally process,its fundamental natural environments in the first place: its internal biological and its external natural environments. The individualistic ideas which are the building blocks of democracy, do not consider any restrictions on freedom but that of the needs of the group. The group presents exactly the same kind of value as does the individual, but simply at a larger scale. It too has similar rights and freedoms. Democracy and our ideas about being human and behaving justly become ways of juggling the rights and freedoms of two individuals at two different scales of size. I really wish someone who knows the language of political philosophy could find a way to say that what we have here, today, being born, is another value. Its one that complements the individual rather than competes with it. The needs of nature and natural environments are different from our needs to ‘have the right of life liberty and the pursuit of happiness’. But the needs of natural environments are necessary to it and to the individual. It isn’t a matter of sentimentality but it has been made into one by mostly North American policy makers and education experts. What environmental sustainability means, its own requirements for complexity, for universal relationships upwards and downwards in scale, could surely be expressed as a political and social value? Couldn’t we try to identify rationally what many of us know intuitively? After all, that’s what happened as humanism first found expression, when the rights of ‘Everyman’ were first analyzed, turned into ideas of power and principal. Of course it took wars and bloody revolutions before they were eventually put into legal expression. But I believe that we need to do something similar with the nature and behaviours of natural environments.
    I’m so sorry I sound like such a jerk! I don’t know what I’m talking about, but I just have this intuition…

  7. Joan, good to meet you on-line, have met you at the annual Trudeau conferences. You raise some excellent points, the need to reconcile or integrate the ecological and cultural into a political philosophy and eventually transform our current legal framework. The legal framework is so important as it is an expression of our values, and obviously, the ecological is not valued or under-valued. I remember Jim MacNeill raised the same points you have in his critique of my doctoral work. Although beyond the scope of my research at that time, he stated I had not addressed the failure of the Brundtland Commission to influence the political agenda, when the sales of air conditioners because of climate change still was regarded positively as the GDP went up? I am going to ask Jim’s permission to post his letter on my blog for our further conversations.

    My question to my blog readers then is why have the Earth Charter, and indeed, there are many charters (in mine, I talked about the need to have rights and responsibilities) that have failed to develop into a new moral ethos? Why?

  8. Hi, I got here from Joan’s link at Monbiot’s forum.
    Here’s how I answered her there: I think there are two main reasons why:
    First, we have not advanced the sciences far enough to exterminate the concept of morality as something which comes from above us (supernaturally) and replaced it with respect for what enables us to
    live. The concept of Creator still lingers, and as long as paternalistic thinking is prevalent, then paternalistic systems will
    co-opt morality for their own ends by convincing people that it is moral to support those who exploit us and the environment.

    Second, even if our scientific and philosophical leaders (that’s a joke) could figure out the real root of why life exists, how it can be sustained, and where humans fit into the future of the universe, they still have to overcome the roadblocks of the first point: that those in charge will use all of the resources they can obtain to maintain their authority: including demonisation of environmentalism.

    Any ‘movement’ will follow the age-old pattern of first establishing concensus of “Who’s in charge?”, and to do so, will make compromises on the basic scientific/philosophical points in order to stay in charge (If you have 100 people and only one knows the actual correct solution, any compromise will be incorrect.). The devil is in the details and there is only one way for humans to respect the
    environment: they have to give up being their own gods and submit to the priorities of natural systems. Anything less than that is still typical human behavior, using our
    intelligence to separate ourselves from the reality in order to justify separating ourselves from limits to our consumption (avoiding response-ability in other words).

    The biggest economic problem with the world is actually money. The biggest environmental problem in the world is the human environment.

    Funny how that works out.

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