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per amica silentia lunae

or, across the ferny brae with the evil voodoo celt

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some thoughts on social /environmental activism

Some contentious and incomplete ponderings:

1. Humanity is essentially neither good nor evil. We are, however, generally shortsighted, self-centered and lazy.

2. Humans are capable of great generosity and self-sacrifice, especially for their neighbors, friends and family, while at the same time being capable of great callousness towards those who are far away and/or "other".

3. Guilt and hysteria as motivators may produce short-term positive results, but are in the medium and long-term extremely negative.

4. Fanaticism is easy and negative. True moderation and the "higher common sense" are difficult and positive.

5. Creating Enemies and dehumanizing them is a corrosive trap, and destroys compassion.

6. The planet doesn't need to be saved. The biosphere doesn't need to be saved. Humanity needs to be saved.

7. Any movement or philosophy that depends on humanity being other than they are, or requires a radical and rapid shift in human nature in order for it to work, is at best never going to involve more than a minority of people, and at worst doomed.

8. Like politics, all activism is local. Even with a global issue, you have to make it relevant to people, and give it context. Educate, don't browbeat- then tell them what they can do, and how to do it.

9. Dogma belongs to religions.

Any movement that doesn't realize the above can leave me out of it.

EDIT: well, I did say "contentious". And I'm not in the best of mood/spirits these days, so that certainly colors things...

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I dunno, I think a lot of the human frailties you listed in your first couple of thoughts are at least as much nurture as nature, and maybe even more. I think it's not so much that humans are essentially neutral-- I believe we come from a positive source and are therefore tipped towards the positive-- as it is that we carry the potential for both great goodness and tremendous badness, and that it's part of our free will that it is so, that we *have* that choice.

Our laziness can certainly go to negative and destructive extremes, but I actually think the source of it is an instinct towards efficiency. It's not that striving for things and doing inconvenient or taxing things isn't important. It's that I think we have a drive to find the simplest, most direct methods of doing things. Maybe it's just a question of the perspective you want to take on it; but for example, I realized I keep my work space *far* neater than I ever keep my home precisely because at work, I have a place for everything, and the things I need most are no more than arm's length away. It's not that I'm less lazy at work, I'm just behaving more efficiently. The upside of laziness is that we design ways to make things faster and easier on ourselves, and that frees up time from stupid stuff to give us a chance to do things that are more meaningful and fulfilling. Whether we *use* that chance, well, that's a whole other issue. ;-)

Interesting points, though possibly more optimistic than I'm feeling these days. After all, I'm studying to be a cranky old man as well as to be a minister. ;-)

I agree that we come from a positive source, but we are forgetful of it. It's that which leads to the lack of perspective that I was talking about here.

I'm not sure that efficiency per se drives our laziness... but it may be a problem of definition here. Anyway, the point is pretty much the same- to make a socially or environmentally responsible action widely popular and performed, you have to make it relatively easy... amongst other things.

Looking at this, I think that I should have left out the "by nature" in #1. My comments were really observational, and not really meant to address the "nature/nurture" thing or any other causation issue.

What I was really getting at is this: I'm profoundly sick and tired of the radical environmentalist view that humanity is evil (overstatement in many cases, I know), and for that matter the opposing view (the "James Watt" stance, I suppose you could call this ;-) I think (and hope, at least) that these extremist stances are fading. They need to fade. Humanity is neither better nor worse than the rest of life. We are part of the biosphere, and we serve a purpose (a topic for another post).

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I'm shocked, shocked to hear that. ;-)

If we don't save the planet/biospshere how do you expect to save humanity?
After all, this is wehere WE LIVE!!!
(Or do you mean this in a different way than I do?)

If we save humanity, the planet will follow.

I think I need more details as to what you mean.

The planet got along fine before humanity showed up. And if we hurt the biospshere where we can no longer survive in it, the planet will go on. Not as we know it but we won't be here. ok, this isn't coming out right....but both statements are correct...least the way i look at it. We should treat teh planet better, by doing so, we save it and ourselfs.

The saddest thing i read last year was a quote from 1911, which i will paraphase as i can't remember it exactly...." oil is a finite resourse, but it won't be gone in our lifetime so lets use it, becuse by the time it is gone, our children will have figured out a better energy source" heavy *sigh*

"We should treat the planet better, by doing so, we save it and ourselves"

This is exactly what I meant! :-)

See stori_lundi's and ginevra007 comments.

It's not a matter of whether we do a certain action, it's motivation. Motivating people to be environmentalist by telling them to "save the planet" means lying to them- we cannot destroy the planet, or even the biosphere. We may reset it to a level that we and many other species cannot survive, but it would take truly cosmic action to make this planet incapable of supporting life. We'd have to, let's say, dump a whole bunch of comets and asteroids on ourselves or something...

Environmentalism is self-preservation.

1. Humanity is essentially neither good nor evil. We are, however, generally shortsighted, self-centered and lazy.

I don't think that is quite correct. I think humanity is adaptive and survivalist, which means we put our species above all the rest, especially since we are essentially at the top of the food chain. If you look at other animal species, they aren't really conservationists. Other species have destroyed natural habitats, esp. when they are introduced into a new environment where they don't have any natural predators. (Granted, this is mainly through human intervention.) But once a species looses their natural habitat, they die off and things slowly balance out again. The thing with humans is that we could strip the planet bear but still survive through hydroponics, synthetic everything, and mining other planets and asteriods for the metals and minerals we need. No other species can do that.

What you say is true, but I don't see how it contradicts what I said.

Okay, maybe not contradicts but I think your original statement is a bit misleading. And I'd disagree with the lazy part. I'd say that man constantly looks for easier ways to do things, not because they are lazy but because they want to be more efficient.

And I think the short-sighted is again, a little harsh. I don't think we as a species, has ever had to do very much long-range planning on such a global scale before. It's only within the past several hundred years that industrial farming and food production has gotten to a level of surplus where we don't have to worry about food production from year to year. If there is a bad crop of something one year, there are plenty of other crops to feed the rest of the world. A couple hundred years ago, a bad wheat crop meant possible mass starvation. Even our parent's generation is coming directly from the great depression and WWII rationing so even getting used to there always been food in the grocery stores is relatively new.

So as a species, I think we've had to change our paradigms, for lack of a better word, from daily subsistence to long-range survival. Again, I don't consider that short-sighted but more that we need to evolve our thinking.

My statements were observational, and not meant to be a condemnation. Perhaps I should have said "subject to short-term thinking", which is more neutral. But the fact remains that short-term aspects are favored over long-term ones in far too many areas. And the difference (IMHO) between laziness and efficiency? One is short-term thinking, the other long-term.

I don't think we've succeeded in changing our paradigms yet, or at least it's too early to tell. We need to change them and we are changing them. It's essential to our survival.

Well, arguably all animals (unless guided otherwise by instinct) are subject to short-term thinking. Humans, on the other hand, are capable of long-term thinking; the tragedy often comes when it would help, but we fail to use it.

Agreed. That's where laziness (as opposed to efficiency) comes in...

I point up to my earlier semi quote. If 100 years ago folks felt, "its not my problem, someone else will fix the planet" its taking a very long time for man to shift his long term survival instict. Ok...i admit i'm in a bad mood today and probley to pessimistic to really post. But right now, today, I agree with evcelt's statement below, "I don't think we've succeeded in changing our paradigms yet,..." I hope we do it fast than we seem to have been so far.

The thing with humans is that we could strip the planet bear but still survive through hydroponics, synthetic everything, and mining other planets and asteriods for the metals and minerals we need. No other species can do that.

Experiments in this direction do not give me any confidence that we could actually pull this off. Certainly not for anything like the population we have now. And possibly not even at all.

Dude, don't you watch SF? Solyent Green is a perfectly good food alternative!! And Silent Running? What about all those agro-ships? It can work!! ;)

Only if I get to have robots named Huey, Dewey and Louie :-)

Darn you beat me to it.

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