Header artwork by David Thomas
Do we really need to save the world?
A short story ---
All we see is a tiny point of light in the night sky.
But around that far star, a living planet orbits its own yellow sun.
There, in the High Councils of the Elders, a Debate stirs. Their whirrs, clicks, and whistles would be meaningless to us, but, this, in essence, is the debate.
"Doctor Ghylrtp has spoken well. Indeed, there is wisdom in his words. The earthlings probably will destroy themselves -- if they continue on their current path. And, I share Doctor Ghylrtp's concern for the lives of our H'H'phtyian soldiers. I have two worries. First, can we guarantee they will continue on the path to self-destruction? Second, how long will we have to wait before their planet becomes habitable again? Those are my questions for my learned colleagues."
"I appreciate Sir Nmnmoi's concerns. They are both valid questions. I have some data which might be relevant to the second issue. My calculations show that, at current rates of pollution, if we wait for self-destruction, selected portions of the planet would become landable for day-visits within 600 years. However, to inhabit the surface on a continuous basis with no more than a 10% increase in the cancer mortality rates would require 3700 years."
"And, if we invade, General Jrjr'Hn?"
"Well, assuming their nuclear and conventional weapons are still aimed entirely at each other..."
Here the room broke into a whirl of hums that is their equivalent to uncontrolled laughter.
The Debate's over.
They are on their way.
The story is fiction. But the problems are real.
To check out how things look now, visit
Read the works of Daniel Quinn -- especially "Ishmael", "My Ishmael" and "The Story of B."
Quinn points out the giant myth -- the big lie -- that all "Taker" cultures of the world subscribe to: that this earth was made for US and -- so we can simply "take it over" -- that's what it's here for. This cultural myth will "work" in some sense of the word "work" -- as long as there is more world to take over. But now that we have pretty much destroyed all the other cultures, and turned most of the land over to our own food supply, the self-limiting nature of this vision of the meaning of life -- to control it -- is becoming apparent.
Check out "New World New Mind" by Ehrlich and Ornstein. This book describes how our cognitive apparatus, evolved for a "natural world" and geared toward immediate danger like charging lions does not serve us very well to notice more subtle dangers -- such as the fact that we are gradually poisoning our air and water supplies!
How can we augment collective human intelligence? This is the question that has always intrigued Doug Englebart, inventor of the mouse, among other things! He has recently received recognition for his ground-breaking ideas from both ACM and the Special Interest Group in Computer Human Interaction. Check out his most recent enterprise at www.bootstrap.org
See also the interesting website of the Johnson-Lenz's at www.awaken.com
The work of Karl-Henrik Robert is Sweden is another remarkable source of inspiration. Through systems thinking, he began to move his nation toward sustainability. People are beginning to replicate his ideas elsewhere. He shows corporations how it is in their economic interest to move toward sustainability.
For a description of Karl-Henrik Robert's work in Sweden, check out
And to see what is happening in the United States, you might begin at
If you'd like to help save natural lands or donate some, you might check out The Nature Conservancy at www.tnc.org
Do you want to save money as well as reduce the world's pollution and global warming? Well, one thing you could do is join Bob Lilienfeld and find out how to
Use Less Stuff
Then again, maybe you have a different point of view. Write. And vote.
And serve your community. Unlike the people in the true story below which I wrote in late summer, 1997.
PROMISE OF FREEDOM
A shiny new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Among our rights: trial by a jury of our peers. Soldiers served and died to preserve our rights, our freedom, our way of life. The promise of America became a beacon shining across the seas to all the people of the world. A promise of rights, but also of responsibilities.
For the past five weeks, I've been on jury duty. Friends advised how to avoid being selected. They patiently explained how anyone with half a brain could get out of this duty. My fellow countrymen illustrated their understanding of undue hardship during selection. To them, an undue hardship is a change of child care, missing a deadline, a lower commission, inconveniencing a relative, having to look at gruesome photos.
In 1942, my three uncles and my father left their families to fight overseas in heavy combat. For three years, they did not see their families. My father's leg was shattered with shrapnel. Why? A promise of freedom.
How much of a hardship would it be to live in a country where murder went unanswered? Where killers walked free? How much of a hardship would it be to live in a country where the police and a judge could put whomever they chose in jail, without having to prove a case to a jury of peers?
Juror after juror talks the "right" answers and walks. Whew. Free to go.
This is the way the promise ends. This is the way the nation ends. Not with a bang, but a whimp-out.
To contact the author: firstname.lastname@example.org Last modified: Sun Dec. 21, 1997