excerpt from a letter…

This was extracted from a long personal E-mail thread between myself and some friends on the subject of Climate Change and what we can do about it.

> What more do you want from people who will hear the message,
> many of them for the first time?

I guess what I want and hope for is that those with the intelligence to see and understand the problem and to realize it is by far the most serious problem facing us, will ‘speak their truth’ at any good opportunity rather than quietly adopting a fatalistic, “Oh well, I can’t really do anything about it attitude.”

I don’t mean that we should change careers, sell our cars, wear hair shirts and pound our chests behind a card table in front of Safeway.

You, for example, have embraced the fight against AIDS. At some point, you decided this issue was of enough importance that it merited a significant amount of your time and energy and you’ve managed to weave it into your life and career.

C. makes a living and works in the political arena to make things better for folks in his area. I have to assume that he gets satisfaction from effectively improving or trying to improve people’s lives and opportunities.

I worked previously to promote citizen diplomacy between the U.S. and the former Soviet Union. Then I worked for peace and justice in Central America during the conflict between the Sandinistas and the Contras. It seems like I’ve always belonged to groups like the Southern Poverty Law Center. I oppose cutting old growth forests and I support Zero Population Growth. All true causes, I believe. But causes are like those Chinese boxes nested one within the other and when you intentionally go looking, you may find that one cause or another cuts a deeper swath of causality than the one you are currently invested in.

For example, saving old growth forests. One can work and work to save them but so long as population and demand continue to ascend, so will the pressure to cut them. So one could reason that supporting ZPG may have more effect and benefit in the end than participating in direct actions in the forest. And as one goes looking for why people have too many children, they will come to the problems that swirl around inequality for women. And, of course, those problem leads us quickly to education and cultural values.

But not everyone thinks like this. Some folks understand the pressure that population growth brings onto forests and yet they still continue to work on protecting the forests rather than focusing on the cause of the pressure to cut them. They are not wrong in my opinion, just less effective because they’ve chosen to work on an effect rather than the cause of the effect.

I guess when I see a problem that has the strong potential to make all the other problems largely irrelevant, I feel impelled to put my efforts into the root problem.

As I see it, we each have a finite amount of time, intelligence and energy at our disposal with which to try to improve the world. Given that we have these limits, logic tells us that we will make the best use of what we have by seeking the deepest causal problems out and looking for the most effective ways to leverage them.

As I said in the opening to my last E-mail to C., I tend to abuse my friends because of my self-absorbed passion for this subject and because I am wrestling myself with what I can do and what I am willing to do about it. I appreciate that the group of you put up with me and my rants – at least, thus far [hopeful smile].

Sharon, my wife, tells me that one of my major failings (I’m sure she has a good list) is that I just can’t seem to ‘get it’ that just because I think something is reasonable and right, I think everyone else should automatically come to the same conclusion.

She’s right, I’m sure. I do tend to be mono-maniacal about my passions. But, as many times as I’ve turned this criticism over in my mind with respect to the global situation, I cannot convince myself that it is ‘just’ another issue.

I think we’ve all had the fortune or misfortune to have been born at the right time to witness an epochal event; the time when the world’s first highly intelligent species comes to the juncture where it either has to transcend its biological imperatives and become conscious and intentional about how it integrates and ameliorates the power of its intelligence with the global biosphere in a balanced and mutually sustaining way -or-, like an infection run wild, damages its host biosphere severely and sets itself and all of biological evolution on this planet back a very long ways.


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