Reflections on society, politics and nature XVI

 

Continued from previous posts…. These posts are collections of brief notes on society, politics, and nature. I sometimes include a few short personal notes as well.

Climate crisis is irrelevant….sort of. Since I first heard about climate change in my teens, I have had the same view on it as I do now. We have to change into a sustainable culture and society anyway, we have to do it soon, and we have to do it for innumerable reasons.

Climate change is just one reason so we don’t need to get too caught up in discussions of whether it’s happening (which it obviously is) and whether it’s human-made (which it obviously is). Focusing too much on those questions is a distraction. And that’s obviously why some – especially the petroleum industry – want to have that discussion. They want to sow just enough confusion, doubt, and strife to derail – or at least delay – action.

There are innumerable reasons why we need to transform our culture and society. Some have to do with what any sane person and society would want to avoid: toxins in our water, air, soil, and bodies; illnesses because of those toxins; death of insects and all the animals and plants dependent on insects; loss of ecosystems; loss of species; and so on. Some have to do with what we want: a society and culture that’s life-centered; that thrives; that recognizes that a society that’s ecologically sustainable, that is more socially just and inclusive, that takes care of those with the least, and where there is less gap between the rich and poor, is a society that’s better for all of us.

And there is really just one reason: We live in a system that doesn’t take ecological and physical realities into account and didn’t need to when it was created. And now – with a dramatically increased population and more powerful technology – we do need to.

In that sense, climate change is irrelevant. We have to make the same changes anyway and for a lot of other reasons. In another sense, climate change – or climate crisis – is important because it’s getting a lot of attention and it does show us that it’s urgent.

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Mother Earth: not just a metaphor

 

When you hear the words Mother Earth, what does it mean to you? A poetic metaphor? A reminder to recycle? Something a tree-hugger would say?

Or does it mean something more? Perhaps it’s literally true?

We are born from Earth. We are sustained by Earth. All we know is Earth. We are, in a very real and literal sense, Earth. We are a local and temporary expression of this living system we call Earth – amazing and beautiful far beyond what we can even begin to understand.

Our human culture and everything part of it is Earth. That too is a local and temporary expression of Earth. We and all we know and all we are and all we have created grew out of and is part of this amazing, beautiful, living, evolving system we call Earth.

Earth is not other. It’s not something to take care of as we take care of a possession. It’s what we are. When we care for Earth we care of ourselves.

This is the most obvious thing in the world. And yet, it’s not. And the only reason it’s not is that we live within a culture, a mindset, and a worldview that says we are separate. Earth is a commodity. Earth provides resources for our civilization. Earth provides space for our waste. Earth can be owned and used for our pleasure.

And we forget that we are part of this amazing living system. We are part of the evolution of Earth. We are born from and sustained by Earth. We are the local expression of Earth. We are Earth. We are the ones who can speak for Earth. Protect Earth as ourselves. Cherish Earth as ourselves. Love Earth as ourselves.

We need a profound transformation into a more sustainable and life-centered culture, and this shift in perception is part of it. It’s a change in how we see ourselves and Earth. We never were separate individuals wandering around in an environment. We are local expressions of Earth.

Life 101: How we think about the world (philosophy of science)

 

There are some essential Life 101 topics. Things that are fundamental to being human and can serve us for a lifetime.

One of these is learning how to think about the world, also known – when more formalized – as philosophy of science.

It’s something we all can explore for ourselves. And, as I see it, it’s a bit shocking it’s not included in a more systematic way at all levels of formal education – adapted to each age level and made fun, relevant, and with the ordinariness of it emphasized.

It’s what we already know, this is just a way to bring more awareness into it and investigate it more consciously.

Here are some ideas of what could be included in formal education.

When it comes to exploring the world, there is the basic approach of observation, hypothesis, testing, revising, testing by others, etc. And how each step is influenced by our underlying assumptions and worldviews. What are some examples of how we use these steps, often without thinking about it, in our own life? What are some examples in our history? What do we find if we apply this approach to an area of our own life?

Equally or more important is how we more broadly think about the world and our understanding of it.

We don’t know anything for certain. This goes for us as humanity, as a culture, and in our own life. Our statements or assumptions are practical guidelines for orienting and functioning in the world. They are questions. They are not the final word. What is an example of an assumption we made – about the world, ourselves, others, a situation – that we were convinced was true, and then it turned out it was not? What are some examples from history and science?

Our understanding of specific things in life changes over time. Our collective understanding changes, and our personal understanding changes. Over time, all of it may change. What are some examples of you seeing something a certain way, and then change your view? What are some examples from history?

Our worldview and most basic assumptions about the world change over time. What are some examples of worldviews changing over time? What are some examples of different worldviews from different cultures? What are the most basic assumptions about the world in our culture? Could these change in the future?

There are other understandings and other worldviews that may fit our experience (data) equally well as the ones we are familiar with, and some may even fit them better.

Our worldview and most basic assumptions about ourselves and the world is the water we swim in. It’s hard for us to notice these. And if we do, it’s often hard for us to question them. What are some basic assumptions we – in our society and culture – have about the world? What are some examples of assumptions that we usually wouldn’t even think of questioning? Are there taboos around questioning some of them?

Our background colors our understandings, values, and worldview. Our background – – as a species, culture, and individual – color what we see as important, what we see as right and wrong, and our assumptions about the world and ourselves. What are some examples of how our background influences how we see something? What are some examples of cultural differences? Imagine an intelligent species very different from us (bird, reptilian, fish, etc.). How would their perceptions, inclinations, and perhaps values differ from ours?

What is cognitive bias? What are the most typical cognitive biases? Take one and see how it plays a role in your own life. Is there a time you realized you made a wrong assumption because of bias? Which cognitive biases do we most see in our society? How can I be more aware of these? How can I counteract them? What may happen if I don’t notice or question my biases? And what are the benefits of noticing and questioning them?

How do we discuss well? Do we go into a conversation with the intention to learn from the other? Or do we just want to keep our initial ideas unchanged? (If so, what’s behind it?) What is the outcome of one and the other? Roleplay both and see how each one feels.

What are some common logical fallacies? What are some examples of logical fallacies in public discourse? And in our own life? How can we notice and counteract them in ourselves? How can we – with kindness and effectively – point it out when someone else uses a logical fallacy? When is it appropriate to do so?

This ties into trauma education since traumas often influence our perception, ideas about the world, and how we hold onto them (often for dear life when traumas are involved).

It would be a fun challenge to adapt this to each age level, and also develop (potentially) engaging, fun, and illuminating exercises and activities for each of the areas listed above. (And other areas I inevitably have left out.) Of course, it’s even better when the kids/teens develop this on their own.

And it is important to show that this is a fundamental part of being human. It’s something we already know and apply, at least to some extent. This is just a more organized exploration and application of it.

I personally learned some of these in school. Some on my own in my teens through reading books about science (especially the Fritjof Capra books). And some at university. (Philosophy of science courses are mandatory at universities in Norway, although why not at earlier levels?)

I am a bit surprised that this is not a more integral part of education at all levels. It’s useful in all areas of life and throughout life. Essential for nurturing a more well-functioning society. And today, with the internet echo-chambers, it’s more important than ever.

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Documentary: Fusion

 
Can We Make a Star on Earth? is another great BBC Horizon documentary, this one hosted by the always excellent Brian Cox. This segment is especially interesting, highlighting our need to use our current petroleum-based energy to develop new energy sources, including fusion. If we don’t speed up our efforts dramatically, it will be too late before we know it. If we apply a great deal of human and energy resources now, we can create a smoother transition for ourselves. This is also a reminder of why the global warming debate is a sidetrack. First, because there is universal agreement among climate scientists that (a) significant climate change is happening and (b) it is caused by human activity. (The ones sowing the seeds of confusion are not climatologists, and the campaign to create confusion is fueled by the petroleum industry, taking a cue from the tobacco industry.) More importantly, fossil fuel is running out and we need to put a great deal into the transition right now. We can’t afford to wait, partly since we need the current petroleum resources to fuel the transition, and partly because we don’t know how much oil is left. We have to act on the worst case scenario. The consequences of making a timing mistake are too great. Read More