In Threshold, Dr. Carla Connors takes a 2-yr sabbatical from her job as a climate scientist to learn from ethnologists at the Mission Garden in Tucson who are growing heirloom seeds to test for viability in new climate conditions, while demonstrating many previous cultures’ farming practices in their Timeline Garden.
Carla investigates the potential of plants to sequester carbon from the atmosphere and deposit it into the soil. While this is a normal activity of some kinds of microbes in the plants we call legumes (barley, soy, clover), she wants to know if the ways farmers planted, grew, and harvested crops actually may be important clues to how farmers might help stem global warming.
Scientists now believe carbon framing could become an important and beneficial tool in fighting the rise of carbon dioxide in the air and could potentially reverse it while producing healthier food and enriching top soil.
Climate change is real, advancing, and draining the world’s resources country by country–and causing tragic migrations of families across the earth in search of places where people will take them in. This is just the beginning of woes should the world’s leaders not act decisively to stem carbon dioxide emissions.
The spectacle of our times is awesome and terrifying. Anticipating the ascension of a world leader who denigrates science and promises to focus America’s interests inward, world leaders at the latest global summit to implement the Paris Climate Change Accord have already moved on without us. China quickly stepped in to realize the benefits of leading other countries toward a fossil free world community.
P.S. America: the green economy is leading in economic sectors as our new leadership prepares to dig more coal and suck more oil out of the ground.
Have we entered into a new paradigm of Selective Science? We believe in science when it comes to curing disease, or making weapons, or making us money. But, selectively we denigrate the agencies charged with studying and protecting the earth–the planet from which our lifeblood flows. Does that make sense, I ask you?
How would Americans feel if the world’s leading countries imposed trade restrictions on us for our irresponsible behavior? Tables turned? How would it feel to be the cause of suffering across the planet due to our lack of participation in reducing emissions? I hear a refrain, from another misled politician: Burn Baby, Burn. That will come back to haunt the source and us if we do not realize our responsibility to greater humanity and to our children and generations to come.
Americans must be vigilant like in no other time before in our history. We must oppose any policies that destroy the democracy and tear asunder our fragile international relations. We must recognize our responsibility to continue to be an integral member of the international community–especially now.
As the people gather in solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux Nation, and the voices of Native American and justice activists are heard, I want to consider the issue at hand as fundamentally a land ethic issue.
Energy Transfer Partners and Dakota Access LLC are in the process of hooking up an extended pipeline that will connect existing crude oil pipeline to a tunnel pipeline to shunt crude oil to Illinois. The tunnel pipeline is planned to go underneath the Missouri River, and Lake Oahe–near the point where the Standing Rock Sioux Nation’s reservation uses the water for drinking water and irrigation. They are a poor nation whose water infrastructure is aging and constructed in such a manner that if a leak were to occur, it would essentially shut down the water supply for the people at Standing Rock Sioux reservation. Read More: dakota-pipeline-article from Inside Climate News.
The truth is that water, land, wildlife and people can not be owned. Each has the inalienable right to exist free by virtue of our common creation. What we can do is equitably share and protect resources to ensure that all people and wildlife have basic needs fulfilled within the limits of the land to provide them. In other words, human needs have to work within the ecological ability of the land and waters to provide them. This requires an ecological awareness.
Aldo Leopold advanced a land ethic in his writing, as he grew in his understanding of what a community really is:
Leopold understood that ethics direct individuals to cooperate with each other for the mutual benefit of all. One of his philosophical achievements was the idea that this ‘community’ should be enlarged to include non-human elements such as soils, waters, plants, and animals, “or collectively: the land.” Aldo Leopold Foundation
Should the Energy Transfer Partners and the Dakota Access Pipeline operation have the right to build a pipeline underneath Lake Oahe and near the Missouri River that flows past the land of the Standing Rock Sioux Nation? And will flow through four states and other communities?
The 1134-mile pipeline will carry 500,000 gallons of crude oil each day to Illinois. Seventeen banks stand to profit and are advancing money to make it happen.
Three U.S. agencies warned against it, but the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers used a corporate report from Dakota Access Pipeline to rule in favor of the construction. After a federal judged ruled in favor of the pipeline going forward, the U.S. Department of Justice and the Interior, and the Army together enacted a stay on that decision so that the EPA can reassess the original assessment of its safety.
As climate change impacts the world, should our society support continued drilling and transportation of crude oil to be burned and thereby increase warming of the planet and acidification of oceans? Of course not.
In the Southwest, where access to precious water will bring municipalities, tribal nations, corporate interests, and the U.S. government into negotiations over water rights, what values and ethics will we use to determine who gets what?
Pensacola is blessed with many strong writers and poets. The West Florida Literary Federation leads the region in advancing the creative spirit. That includes supporting a Poet Laureate. Jamey Jones is the current Poet Laureate in Residence. He and the Federation brought my attention to Anne Waldman.
That I had never heard of Anne is both a testament to my ignorance and to the important role of the Federation in enriching individual artists’ and the public’s experiences in the arts.
Check out Anne’s moving Manatee Humanity. Her reading introduced me to the potential of poetry to advance understanding and compassion for a fellow mammal.
Anne talks about an encounter with a manatee in an aquarium in Florida. In other interviews on her website, Waldman describes Ecopoetics, a term I had never read. While you are on Waldman’s website, click around to listen to other performances. You are in for a treat and a powerful force for good. There is nothing ambivalent about Anne.
This means that the participating countries will all have to increase their commitments to reduce green house gases over the intervening years until the next summit in 202o. And the differential goals require countries who are or have been the biggest polluters (China and U.S. respectively) to make the biggest commitments.
Right now major negotiations are taking place. These negotiations will spell out the future of humanity on earth, the fates of our children, and all life on earth in its present state. Just writing that sentence is profound.
While no one can guess the future, I at least hold some hope that such a convention as the Paris talks has moved the world closer to accepting climate change as a real threat. Yet, in my own country I despair that is not true. At least one political party is in denial while the other wrangles to get anything substantive accomplished to mitigate changes.
In my own state of Florida it is much more bleak: Governor Scott banned his environmental protection agencies from using the words climate change or global warming. Like a child, he foolishly believes if you can’t say it, it will not be true.
History will show the absolute insanity of many of our current political leaders. And, sadly, there are many more in the wings…
Is an education replete of nature literacy of lesser value than an education which incorporates values and skills that enable a person to live responsibly within nature?
Reflecting on meeting a woman who held a doctoral degree, but who admitted that she was unaware of the annual migration of cranes in her own state, Aldo Leopold questioned whether modern education has “traded for something of lesser value”. He said this in the context of being aware, of paying attention to the goings and comings of wildlife and seasons, and by that, knowing fundamentally where you live and how to live there without destroying it.
This is not an argument for ignorance but rather a statement that the worth of education must now be measured against the standards of decency and human survival-the issues now looming so large before us in the twenty-first century. It is not education, but education of a certain kind, that will save us.
Orr points out in this essay that its educated people who are most destructive to the Earth and ecosystems. What went wrong?
What do you think? Should education ensure that all American students will graduate knowing their place within the natural world, and understanding the responsibilities therein? Would you consider that kind of education basic literacy? Higher education? Why or why not?
This film about Aldo Leopold’s life and the development of his thinking about our relationship with land is a true gem. I could not find when it was created, however, the people interviewed are his biographers and scientists who knew and worked with Leopold. It was shown on Wisconsin Public TV. A special treat is narration by Lorne Greene best remembered as “Pa” on Bonanza.
The film gives viewers an in depth history about Aldo Leopold’s life and how his ideas about The Land Ethic evolved over his lifetime.
WATCH EARLY THIS YEAR TO SET YOUR COMPASS TOWARD TRUE NORTH.
E. F. Schmacher, British Economist best known to the U.S. public in the 1970’s with publication of Small is Beautiful and Small is Possible, developed economic models based on scale. His basic idea: past a particular size, true profit declines and true costs rise – thus the title “Small is Beautiful.”
He also clarified that shared ownership of the means of production is key to equitable distribution of wealth and development of healthy communities.
The New Economic Institute (previously the E.F. Schumacher Society) includes several excellent videos and articles by new economics thinkers and teachers. Go to the link and take time to listen or read. These visionaries describe likely scenarios about where our cultures and global community are moving with economic collapse around the world and with climate changes continuing to play havoc with community resiliency.
Profitability as the sole goal of corporate behavior is addressed by Neva Goodwin, Tufts University. She discusses Walmart’s discovery that being ecologically responsible is profitable. However, her discussion is realistic about the kind of deep change that is necessary and how the likelihood of many people being harmed again by corporate excesses is predictable. She offers a way to use corporate charters to shape corporate behavior. Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) is a group she cites that is using a new community led strategy that creates municipal ordinances. These ban corporate control of land, water, and other natural resources that are critical to life and health. How can we make money and profits flow to the most responsible companies that protect human and ecological well being? Many examples of new economic structures are described using real companies that ARE making a profit while doing good in society.
The Guardian the British news publication and winner of the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for public service is focusing on climate change. The Greatest Story in the World, a podcast on climate change is part of the current efforts to start deeper discussions about institutional and individual roles in solving climate change. This is Episode 9, Religion.Here is the link.
Faith groups have huge followings and have adopted climate change as a cause for decades. What can the Guardian learn from religion? Can the paper use the language of sacrifice when it doesn’t have the same offer of salvation?
E.O. Wilson reigns in my mind as our most important scientist-author of our time. He is University Research Professor Emeritus at Harvard. Wilson has two Putlizer’s under his belt, for On Human Nature (1979) and The Ants with Bert Holldobler (1991).
He has penned dozens more books that have stayed on the New York Times Bestseller lists over decades of his career. He writes for the public as well as scientific community. If you have never read anything by Wilson, I recommend The Diversity of Life as a starting point. While published first in 1992, it is still relevant to understand the diversity of life across the planet, and – most important – the conservation areas that Wilson recommends must be preserved for the healthy functioning of the biosphere.
But, my reason for this post is to review his recent book, The Meaning of Human Existence (2014). Why is it important to read? He is most likely the most erudite scientist writing for the public today. His understanding of who we are as a species and society is informed by his comprehensive grasp of our genetic inheritance, the dynamics of sociobiology – how we function as a group – and the challenges to our existence in the near and distant future. Yes, it IS that significant.
The book calls for the reunification of the humanities with science. Wilson argues that the current separation of these two great ways of knowing our human nature, is at the crux of our possible self-destruction by lack of understanding our roots in nature. He explains the most basic evolutionary path leading to our essential human nature: our dualistic nature, usually ascribed to the humanities to explain.
Wilson shows us how our “selfish” genes and “altruistic” genes evolved, and how they work in a multilevel natural selection. This is relevant in understanding why we do what we do, predicting the kinds of decisions we will probably make, and – once understanding this – how we could use this knowledge to make critical decisions about new technologies that may doom human existence or secure our continued success into the future.
The Threat of Gene Engineering of Human Beings
He is writing about the new potential to design our own genetic endowment – design humans like we want them. This can also be applied to new threats from artificial intelligence (AI), a topic he does not address in this book, but which occurred to me as I read the book during a time when the nation is discussing the challenges inherent in AI development.
If we do not understand, who we are, and know how to understand our behavior, how can we possibly make these new, complex ethical decisions? Wilson writes that religion, which introduces a supernatural being who is in control of humans and the universe, is an outdated way of knowing that currently blocks human society’s ability to understand how the world works and based on that, to make the collective decisions we need to determine to secure that human life on earth will go forward as we know it.
What do you think about that? Does religion prevent us from knowing who we are biologically? How can we bridge the gap between these two powerful ways of knowing our story on Earth? Please comment so that we can discuss this online.