The Schweitzer Fellows

Since I wrote my last post in which I expressed grave concern for the moral compass of our current administration, and indeed, our American culture, I returned to my own personal champion of an ethical basis for living: Dr. Albert Schweitzer.

Since age 12 when I discovered a short biography of Schweitzer (All Men Are My Brothers by Charlie May Simon, 1956), I’ve read and reread many  Schweitzer writings about Reverence for Life, which the famous doctor, religious scholar and philosopher identified as the ethical basis for living.

Only by serving every kind of life do I enter into the service of that Creative Will whence all life emanates. ~ Albert Schweitzer, in “The Ethics for Reverence for Life” (1936)

For Schweitzer, this manifests through the striving of individuals and society to achieve the perfection of the world and humankind through the ethic of reverence for all life.

He was pragmatic about it: he wrote that thinking or writing about it doesn’t count: you have to act on it. He did so by stopping mid-career to attend medical school, and then moved to a remote jungle in Africa to serve people suffering from leprosy.

In my research I came upon the Schweitzer Fellowship which is providing the means for young leaders to emulate Schweitzer and take up the torch of that grand purpose. It is gratifying to learn how this work is unfolding around the world but how there are now 14 chapters across the U.S.  where Fellows seek to empower people to create health and wellness in their family and community

Reading:

Out of My Life and Thought – Autobiography

The Ethical Mysticism of Albert Schweitzer by Henry Clark

Film:

CD with actual footage of Schweitzer in Labarene Hospital, Nobel Peace Prize, etc.

Albert Schweitzer on Prime Video Amazon an excellent new film (2009) about the man and his work; his human flaws and his genius; Barbara Hersey portrays Mrs. Schweitzer showing a much greater role in her husband’s success than in previous films.

America Untethered from Its History

As I’ve grown older, I have witnessed how the seeds of the future are planted in the present. Wise men, women, and visionaries make decisions by first looking back in history. What did we learn? Are there any similarities to the present challenges or opportunities. This is a time honored process of making careful decisions that will impact the future. Specifically, we looked for lessons learned.

Two examples are insightful. How we negotiated treaties at the end of WWI and at the end of WWII had very different outcomes. At the close of WWI, Germany was disabled by the imposition of brutal sanctions that disabled its ability to grow ties to the world nations through trade. That worked against securing a democratic course for Germany. President Woodrow Wilson tried to convince fellow world leaders to take the path of peace, to assist the perpetrators in creating democratic institutions and principles while building world peace in the process. He was ignored. The terrible hardships imposed on the German people became the forces that eventually led to the rise of Adolf Hitler.

Following WWII, the Marshall Plan reversed that tendency (to punish). Nations formed an alliance to provide a means of peaceful negotiation, and play a role as a watchdog for violations of human rights in member nations (the United Nations). Consequently, the world has not experienced a world conflagration since 1945, and Germany rose to take its place as a democratic nation in the world community. The leaders of the time had learned from history and corrected with purposeful actions.

The United States accepted a leadership role in the world as the seat of democracy. Granted we have not perfectly earned that great role, but we’ve done well over time in mediating among and working with fellow nations toward peaceful co-existence.

This has been accomplished by Republican and Democratic Presidents alike, building on each other’s accomplishment in foreign relations. It can sometimes be a reversal of a policy, but American policies always articulated with previous ideas and assumptions. Presidents have explained to the public why policies are changed or continued as should be done to gain public support through an understanding and  awareness of the nation’s place in the world. In this manner America has advanced among nations. Presidents shape our future at home and in the world.

We need to evaluate President Trump in this light. Has he knowledge about our history and that of the world? Does he explain his policies in light of that previous body of actions and principles? Can our allies depend on him, i.e. are his ideas in line with the long history of how our nation had acted in the world community?

It is a rarity to have a President ignore who we have been, and who we are, for his own personal idea of what we should be. That is not leadership. Checking off a list of the pet projects of voter groups who supported his election by destroying decades of bipartisan work and policies is not leadership but old-time cronyism.

It is a Lesser Version of a President that we have not seen in our history. Leading a nation like ours, made of a dynamic informed public, requires the Big Leader version of the Presidency–a presidency based in the knowledge of where we came from and who we are. While I often feel sorry for Trump because he is completely overwhelmed by the job, I am more terrified of what is happening to us: the dismantling of our institutions that keep and foster democratic life, and the aimless leadership he imposes in the world community. All across the world, our allies are pulling back from us. Our enemies are gaining new confidence. We are less safe.

Where is this going?

Something to think about:

 

Healers of the Land

One of the best activities of my mature life has been an association with the Aldo Leopold Foundation and the Land Ethic Leaders. In 2012 I traveled to Baraboo, Wisconsin to attend a training to become a Land Ethic Leader in my community.

Leopold’s now famous essay on The Land Ethic is excellent guidance for our time.

The Land Ethic_A Sand County Almanac

I’ve continued to learn from leaders and staff at the Foundation but mostly from my fellow Land Ethic Leaders. John Matel is one who is blogging about the restoration of the Long Leaf Pine Ecosystem on his land. He is doing the careful, long term work of bringing fire back to the land to awaken long dormant seeds for the sedges and grasses on the land, grooming the understory and the pines themselves.

Read his latest blog and explore others to appreciate that there is a man, and many others like him, who are working on the long term solutions to our environmental crises. For example, read about the Panhandle Watershed Alliance and the Bream Fisherman’s Association led by an intrepid water ecologist and friend, Barbara Albrecht in Pensacola, Florida.

So, take heart that there are these menders and planters, stewards of land and the human spirit OUT THERE working against the tide of destruction.

Living Dangerously

This post from 2016 is never more relevant. Terry Tempest Williams is one of America’s most important conservation writers.

Susan Feathers

Fish and Wildlife Photo: www.fws.gov Fish and Wildlife Photo: http://www.fws.gov

“We are living dangerously by not being able to change in a time of climate change.” ~ Terry Tempest Williams

To the Best of Our Knowledge broadcast an interview with Terry Tempest Williams. Here she talks about researching and writing her soon to be released book (The Hour of Land) on the history of our public parks, in this the centennial year of the founding of the National Parks.

Here is the interview.

For a look at how Terry relates to our public lands and actualizes her beliefs, here is a short interview with her on Democracy Now where she describes buying more than 1700 acres of public lands in a rather private sale of public land for oil leasing where an acre costs about a $1.50 for the right to drill and keep the profits. She is redefining “energy” in…

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Weathering the Storm

As-the-South-Grows-Weathering-the-Storm

In its As the South Grows series of reports, the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy (NCRP) and its partner Grantmakers for Southern Progress (GSP) have begun exploring the challenges and opportunities to increase equity in Southern communities.

Foundations, as the data and others’ lived experience demonstrates, have for too long neglected funding the most promising structural change strategies in the South. As the South Grows is an attempt to examine the reasons for that neglect and to propose solutions.

Future Home of the Living God: A Masterpiece

Louise Erdrich’s Future Home of the Living God is a masterpiece of contemporary  American literature. After 16 novels, books of poetry, and memoir, and nominations for the Pulitzer, and winner of the National Book Award, this novel is a culmination of her storytelling, use of language, and imagination.

I’ve read and studied Erdrich’s works for at least 15 years, eagerly awaiting each new novel. Some have exceeded my expectations, others have not but are still excellent reads. But this one, THIS is an achievement — not just for her as a writer and artist — but for our times.

The writing is beautiful and flows with such ease, concise yet vivid description, that reading is seamless. The plot moves with tremendous pace and at times I was so full of suspense that I had to put my hand over the next sentence to keep myself from jumping ahead. As a woman with a daughter and sisters, and nieces, I was drawn to the main character, Cedar, who writes a diary for her unborn child — a record of a time when all that people assumed would never change was upended overnight.

If you are a woman of child-bearing age or a woman concerned about protection of women’s rights, if you are a a man who values women, a person of faith, or a citizen who wishes to understand this age, this time on earth, then you need to read this book. The earth is changing, we are changing.

In the dystopian tale, so prescient for today, she manages to still uplift the reader. She is a weaver of legend, personal destinies, and her own cultural perspective. Louise Erdrich manages to show us there is still hope, still good to be cherished and brought forward in all of us. Yet, Erdrich bravely portrays a potential future that threatens all we hold as good and right in human behavior, and the fate of the earth.

Hildegard of Bingen, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Saint Kateri Tekakwitha, scripture from the Bible, and Ojibwe elders all find voice in this story.

Find it at Birchbark Books, Erdrich’s independent book store; Indie Bound, or other online book vendors. Read the New York Times book review.

A Bountiful Land

Painting by Heather Hufton

For our national Thanksgiving holiday, I want share what I am learning about Kentucky farms, farmers, and the New Agrarians.

There are many young farming families starting new ways of farming that build the soil communities for richer top soil, healthier produce, and (whether they may know it or not) solving global warming by their practices.

With no till or low till farming, crop rotation, and companion planting, more carbon ends up in the soil. That improves nutritional value of the food but also takes carbon out of the air. A new movement is slowly happening around the world — The New Agrarians. You can get a true idea of what it is by visiting The Land Institute website and listening to their videos. You can learn about Perennial Farming — planting seed varieties that do not need to be replanted from year to year. This is the true revolution that is under research in the U.S. and Africa. It is the front end of the next revolution in farming! Its promise also gives us one of our best win-win strategies for a sustainable way of life.

HAPPY THANKSGIVING ALL!

COP 23: No Nation Should Be Allowed to Exit

COP 23 November 7, 2017

Jim Hansen addresses Making the Carbon Majors Pay for Climate Action:

In this short but profound address, Dr. Hansen calls out the U.S. and China, the two largest emitters of CO2, to fund critical climate action (carbon draw-down). The scientific and ethical basis of this action is described.

Hansen states: No nation should be allowed to exit.  

  • The U.S. is historically the largest and longest polluter;
  • Countries are already dealing with the impacts of climate change;
  • Since actions by a few affect all, and since life on earth hangs in the balance, no nation should be allowed to exit from its responsibility.

Hansen warns: The loss of island nations and coastal cities across the planet may already be locked in: green house gas (GHS) forcings are accelerating, not slowing.

From the Pachamama Alliance, listen to another cultural perspective about protecting the health of the planet for future and present generations of human beings:

Paean for the Earth: COP 23

Watch video presentations on solutions to climate change.  Be sure to listen to the report on soil sequestration of carbon as an important mitigation of [CO2] in the atmosphere. The two speakers describe the key role of agricultural practices, and how new management of soil not only will capture new carbon and invigorate microbial communities in the deep soil structure, but also provide new income and greater food security:

https://unfccc.cloud.streamworld.de/embed/dr-johannes-lehmann-soil-organic-carbon-sequestrat

Teenage friends spending time togetherHere again the critical voices of young people speaking to us adults about protecting their futures in the decisions we make today.

Monday, November 6: Young People’s Burden :

https://unfccc.cloud.streamworld.de/embed/james-hansen-young-peoples-burden-averting-climate

This is also the general COP 23 LIVE Broadcast link.