Some Notes from the Splog (Spaghetti-Blog) on “Are We Saving The Planet?” held 01/19/08. Compiled (belatedly) from limited notes by George Drake (I admit in advance to probably distortion/misunderstanding of some of the points and urge anyone, and especially the participants, to correct, enlighten–expand upon–these notes. Conversely, I apologize in advance to the participants if my summary here occasionally extends to commentary/last word.)
A primary focus was the question of what, exactly, constitutes “saving it?”
One point was that what we leave future generations is central. The goal is to pass a good environment on to the next generation. The issue of “for how many generations” was raised, and the assumption seemed to be that one at a time is all we can comprehend/do anything about.
Another point was that the kinds of freedoms American’s have should be a consideration. The freedoms we have, including such basic rights as choice of physical locality independent of government dictate, seemed essential to the entire concept of what “saving it” should be. Another viewpoint along these lines stressed that each of us has a role in the ‘divine plan’ (a term I chose myself for lack of a better one) and we must have the ability to carry out that role for living to be worthwhile. This was, essentially, a spiritual viewpoint: we are here to do certain things, and we will, in fact, do them if we live good lives.
An aspect we often overlook is the need to establish a balance with nature. With such a balance comes hope. We are currently far too wasteful, but that doesn’t mean the balance can’t be struck.
Population control is critical, yet the subject is virtually taboo in the current discussions. Methods of birth control, such as condoms or the pill, largely as a consequence of U.S. policies, is way down world-wide. One driver of increased population growth is the fear of aging and the associated disabilities amongst people with a severe lack of resources. Large families are viewed as a hedge against old age. Another is the role of many religions in promoting fertility amongst their members, a technique for increased power shared with a number of other societal organizations.
The importance of increases in consumption even in the face of population control, as in all “advanced” countries, is as much a contributor to Gaia’s problems as is population itself.
The suggestion was made that the death of all living things is natural. Perhaps Gaian death is just a part of the mix. My response was that the survival instinct is universal amongst all living things and, if Gaia is a Lifeform, then I am part of it. I must fight for its survival, or I am, first and foremost, a part of Her: Her survival is my survival.
The consensus seemed to be that we are not currently saving the planet, and a reading from Alexander Cobern in The Nation was given to reinforce that observation. That prompted a discussion of how negativity for negativity’s sake only brings us all down. It is, essentially, self-fulfilling. We need more positive sound bites, even when being critical of the status quo.
Drawing attention to our spiritual center is one way of focusing on the more positive. Integrating human kind with Gaia must be a part of any mix that hopes to “save it.”
There’s a vast movement afoot to join together in groups to address the problems of our destruction of the environment. With the formation of groups comes power. With power, many hoped, comes the ability to assure Gaia Herself won’t be killed.
The metaphor of Human Beings as cancer cells threatening the life of Gaia doesn’t work for at least some of the participants, partly because it puts such a negative light on our species. Humans must love themselves, not the opposite. In addition, George’s suggestion that terraforming another planet just doesn’t strike a number of the contributors as credible.
In response to a question, I (George) clarified a point about my use of the term “terraform” in In The Service of Gaia: The Call. To me, the term is about independent sustainability of Earth originated life forms. This varies from the most common use of the word, for most authors regard the goal of terraforming to be the transforming of another planet into one on which humans themselves can survive without any technological assistance such as enclosures, breathing apparatus, or pressurized, insulated suits. Many space advocates would even stretch the concept to mean “like earth,” presumably replete with human-centric culture and dominant biological status. My intent is far less ambitious.
[An elaboration: frequent objection I hear to my desire to terraform Mars is that the effect would, then, be simply to transfer all the problems of Earth to a new locale. Such might be the case if the last meaning above were employed, but I think that almost vanishingly improbable. We will be lucky, indeed, to survive at all, let alone be a dominant species on a Mars terraformed by my concept of what might be achievable in the time remaining.]
So, how does one focus on positive perspectives, then? The quality of life issues confronted by people all around the world center on giving up something. How can we remove that fear, an apparent prerequisite for addressing population and consumption trends? If we were to imagine a positive life in such a context, what would it be?
One suggestion was that we must redefine our relationship to technology. Does a technology increase or decrease our humanness? If it increases it, we should embrace it, if not, we should discard it, even if it’s been around a long time.
Daniel Rosen offered a quote from Baba Ram Dass that seemed relevant here: “Hope will never keep you warm at night, but faith will.” Then Daniel added, in reference to the mystery and wonder that life is, “The whole thing is beautiful beyond expression.”
That seems a fitting place to end this report. I’d like to mention that, in the context of preserving and protecting Gaia, “visualizing what a ‘positive life’ is and how we may attain it here and now” will be the next Splog’s focus. Let me take this opportunity to invite anyone wishing to participate (or host their own Splog on the subject if that works better for you) to e-mail me for the details (or with a report to be posted here, if you do your own). At the least you’ll need to know it’s scheduled for the first Thursday of February, the 7th (next will be on the third Saturday 16th). Thanks.