Tag Archives: leadership

Digression: Global Warming

The Dangers of Climate Change
The Dangers of Climate Change

A few days ago, I received two relatively recent articles that highlight for me the risks of global warming: Warning from the past: Future global warming could be even warmer (2016 predictions on potential temperature rise) and Mass extinction forecast with 6°C temperature rise (2013 predictions of the impact on species).

I get a lot of information about global warming on a weekly basis; I’ve been doing so since sometime in 2009. I remember sitting in a lecture hall listening to a speaker talk about global warming when the speaker mentioned the impact on permafrost (permanently frozen ground in the Arctic regions). Recall that I have degrees in physics and biophysics (with a lot of maths and chemistry), and that I have worked in the Arctic — I know a little about permafrost! My PhD dissertation explores the relationships of acedia and global warming — I know how resistant we humans are to changing our patterns. At that moment, I got it! If we do not quickly manage global warming, we will go extinct. Not maybe — will! Simple physics; simple biology. I am not interested in “doom and gloom” — but I am very pragmatic when it comes to risk management.

Since that time I have been following the reports of the consequences of global warming, and the attempts to assess the risks. Every major report has said: “The previous report underestimated the risks. It is worse than we thought!” (The actual wording varied; the message was the same.)

First, the current CO2 level as of 2016 July 10 is 405.59 ppm, with the average June level of 406.81, both figures up ~4 ppm over the same dates of 2015, and overall ~125 ppm above pre-industrial levels of ~275 ppm. Even with maximal effort, the levels will still rise somewhat simply due to delays in the feedback systems. Notice where this puts us on the following chart (summarized from Six Degrees: Our Future On A Hotter Planet): between 2°C and 3°C.

SixDegrees

All of this is bad news. Anything about 2°C risks uncertain run-away feedback mechanisms that could well destroy our civilization for thousands of years, if not simply that of human extinction. A very good summary is available as “A degree by degree explanation of what will happen when the earth warms.” It is not good news.

As I am sure people are aware, our international governments have struggled with reaching agreement on how to respond to global warming, and last fall in Paris finally reached a non-binding agreement to limit planetary warming to under 2°C (a commitment, but not a guarantee). And global warming is only one of the issues.

In Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, Diamond notes:

People often ask, “What is the single most important environmental-population problem facing the world today?” A flip answer would be, “The single most important problem is our misguided focus on identifying the single most important problem!” . . .  We have to solve them all.

          [B]ecause we are rapidly advancing along this non-sustaining course, the world’s environmental problems will get resolved, in one way or another, within the lifetimes of the children and young adults alive today. The only question is whether they will become resolved in pleasant ways of our own choice, or in unpleasant ways not of our choice, such as warfare, genocide, starvation, disease epidemics, and collapses of societies. (p. 498)

I don’t like these scenarios.

Community in a mature culture? (Part 2)

How could we be satisfied in a mature culture?
How could we be satisfied in a mature culture?

We are now the most important species on this planet, dominant in our capability to sustain it, or to destroy it. Up to this point in time, our “civilization” has been that of domination, and essentially unlimited growth. If we want to survive and thrive as a species, we have no choice but to learn cooperation and sustainability — this is the fundamental basis of a mature culture.

For me, this means:

  • We must have a sustainable population, likely 1.5 – 2 billion, certainly less than 2 billion people (my personal sense is that of about 1 billion). Currently we have more than 7 billion; how we are to reduce in number is unclear, and if we do not have clarity, it will likely be bloody.
    • Our technological skill is of major advantage in high-speed communication and sustainable energy management; but we must temper the ways in which it leads to competition and consumerism.
    • We must be sustainable. That means that there will be no such thing as garbage — all goods and end-products must be recycled. Our environmental impact must be minimal.
      • We must give up our orientation to “growth.” It is likely that there will no such thing as “for profit;” everything we do will be “non-profit,” sustainable and resilient.
  • Our current civilization is orientated to newness, almost in an addictive fashion — we call it boredom. We must learn the joys associated with the growth of wisdom; this in itself provides a deep satisfaction and exhilaration of living.
    • Ross and Herman (both mentioned in the last post) note the intense gratification that comes to being open to the present moment in the quest for truth.
  • We are designed for living in small groups, somewhere in the of range 50 – 200 people. We name such groups villages.
    • It is in these small groups that, optimally, we practice the first three of Herman’s characteristics: the pursuit of self-knowledge, face-to-face discussion, and direct democracy in action.
      • It is in the interaction of villages that the larger narrative emerges.
    • We are both competitive and cooperative by nature.
      • We must learn the skills of non-interference. We must learn how to manage our anger when our cherished beliefs are challenged by the diversity of a global village, both within our small groups and in our interactions with other groups.
      • My personal skill is that I know how to do this, and how to coach others in the processes necessary for this to occur.

I suggest that the central aptitude in all this will be that of personal self-care. If I as an individual am unable to take care of myself, I am unable to gift to others in an effective long-term fashion. The predominant skills will be those of mindfulness and journal-writing, skills that are slowly developing in our current culture.

In my next post, I will expand these characteristics into aspects of daily living.

Your thoughts?

To be continued.

Community in a mature culture? (Part 1)

DailyLife1

So, how would people actually live in a mature culture? As an aside, one of the disadvantages of digressions (my last few posts) is that I forget where I was. My current blog contributions are also complicated by a lot of traveling during the summer. So some will be short, others longer. In addition, in the next few posts, I will always end with “Your thoughts?” as a way to encourage your own ideas as to how we could live.

In my work with anger management, I have always maintained that there are two important considerations:

  • we are emotional beings, and
  • we can have clarity — it’s optional.

We are pain avoiders — that is almost the definition of biology (all of life moves towards pleasure, and away from pain). In this, we are driven by our emotional needs and our other-than-conscious needs, and we have great difficulty overcoming these needs so as to have clarity of options. We are thus frequently in internal conflict with ourselves; we are frequently in external conflict with others, especially in regards to the needs of the individual versus the needs of the group; and we have great difficulty with conflict (for most people, it is filled with pain).

And for literally millions of years, we have been hunter-gatherers, and it is only in the past few thousands of years that we have shifted to civilization, gathering in large groups so as to take advantage collective action. It is only in the past few hundred years that we have become technological. Who we are as human beings is determined by the millions of years, not the superficial gloss of the recent past. And if we are to be at peace with our world, we must live into who we are, not who we think we should be.

I’m currently re-reading Last and First Men by Olaf Stapledon. Stapledon was described as the greatest mythologist in science fiction, deeply influential in that genre; Last and First Men is a three-billion-year history of mankind (in 300 pages!). Stapledon notes in the fiction that it took more than two billion years for man to give up the processes of misunderstanding, self-centeredness and ill-will — definitely a long journey — hopefully we can actually mature faster than this, we need to do so.

So, who are we? In addressing this question, I have been deeply influenced in particular by three books (each one is a fascinating exploration, and I recommend each highly):

  • Rupert Ross, Dancing With A Ghost: Exploring Aboriginal Reality
    • Ross explores the underlying basic whereby Aboriginal culture of Canada remained largely as hunter-gatherers, and did not become a culture of domination, but rather emphasized non-interference.
  • Louis Herman, Future Primal: How Our Wilderness Origins Show Us The Way Forward
    • Herman explores the nature of the society of the San Bushmen of the Kalahari Desert, our closest living relatives to the original hunter-gatherers. He suggests that they are also the longest surviving direct democracy in the world.
  • Andrew Schmookler, The Parable Of The Tribes: The Problem Of Power In Social Evolution
    • Schmookler explores how the impact of power dynamics has been the single most important determinant in the development of civilization, eventually leading to the dominator culture of modernity.

Herman, in particular, points out that the original Socratic intention of politics was the search for the good life, attempting to answer (and balance) two primordial questions:

  • How shall I live? and
  • How shall we all live together?

(This is certainly not how I think of politics today!)

Herman also names four components that bring satisfaction to human activity:

  • the pursuit of self-knowledge and personal growth;
  • honest, face-to-face discussion that enlarges and qualifies personal understandings;
  • communication within small democratic communities of trusted equals; and
  • a collective, cooperative weaving together of a big story — a narrative of meaning — that helped the individual find his or her particular place in the ever-expanding shared big picture.

The underlying purpose of my blog is to challenge the human issues that support accelerated climate disruption. I maintain that these issues are the same factors that have created the risks of nuclear holocaust, overpopulation, and other major environmental disasters. So my remarks on a future mature culture are applicable to all this.

Your thoughts?

To be continued.

Brexit related to emotional maturity

People want cultural maturity
People want cultural maturity.

I’ve been loosely following the events persisting in the Brexit issue of Great Britain. Many people are protesting (EU supporters march in London, denouncing Brexit vote), and the leadership is in turmoil (David Cameron’s dumb referendum). Both articles emphasize for me the huge need for emotional maturity in the leadership of a mature culture, underlining that the Brexit process is NOT a good example. Leaders need to be statespersons, not politicians, the subject of a previous post (What values would be important . . ., part 3) and one that I will likely expand upon in the future.

The denouncing article notes:

One organizer, comedian Mark Thomas, says British MPs should not legislate for an exit based on a result driven by anti-EU campaigners exaggerations and distortions on immigration and EU spending. “We would accept the result of the referendum if it was fought on a level playing field. But it was full of misinformation,” Thomas said.

The Cameron article notes that the leadership of Great Britain is now in turmoil, and underlines:

In a functioning representative democracy referenda are almost always a bad idea. They necessarily reduce complex policy choice to a light switch. They never unite, but divide. . . . Edmund Burke, the intellectual father of British Conservatism. Burke understood that a representative democracy was not a menu from which you chose the issues you were electing representatives to decide — and the ones you retained a personal veto on. Our politicians are elected to make the hardest and most painful choices, not merely to decide what to spend where. . . . Burke defined the obligation eloquently: . . . “Government and legislation are matters of reason and judgment and not of inclination … Your representative owes you not his industry only, but his judgment: and he betrays instead of serving you, if he sacrifices it to your opinion.”

Why I do anger management

So sad.
So sad.

In one sense, this post is a digression on my current theme of visioning a mature society. But it also gets to the heart of the matter of how we are to get to this vision. For me, anger is the canary in the coal mine, and it has movement.

First, what a blog offers me.

In doing a blog, I am forced by its structure: It needs to be short and fairly concise, neither of which really suits my need to present depth. However, I go in a number of interesting directions.

  • I give major attention to how blogs attract people, a significant learning curve for me.
    • I use more lists and more subheadings — they apparently attract more attention. (Because of information overload, people seek very brief bites of information, thus very stressful and dysfunctional. Efficient, but sad!)
    • I keep the posts relatively short, forcing me to be more precise. Likely a good thing.
  • I use my meditation practice (approximately 40 minutes a day) as a way to reflect; thereby, I access my other-than-conscious mind, a very powerful workhorse for me.
  • In having pause time between blogs, I develop very interesting (to me) side-branches to the themes I want to present.

So, why anger management?

I focused on anger management as a therapist largely because anger was so much a part of my own life. With this, I soon came to realize that anger is a part of every life issue. Thus I had the opportunity to study the whole of life.

In that sense, anger is a window to cultural issues, and is a canary in the coal mine. If you want to improve any situation, augment the positives and diminish the negatives. As applied to mine conditions, for example, you work on a) education for better conditions, and b) improving the ventilation system. But if you don’t change the ventilation, education does little good. From my perspective, if our culture does not deal long-term with the underlying anger in healthy ways, much (all?) of the positive movement is ineffective.

In addition, anger has movement; it is a push against the environment. Eventually in my therapy practice, I realized that the people who were stuck were either lazy (they wouldn’t do the work) or fearful (they were afraid of the consequences of the work) — I’m not being critical here, simply attempting to identify. So in retirement, I decided to research laziness and fearfulness as the focus of my PhD. (Eventually I subsumed laziness and fearfulness, plus self-righteousness, into the ancient word, acedia.)

There are two problems with acedia:

  • there is no movement; acedia is a stuck state, and requires an existential choice by the individual that they will not stay stuck; they will move through whatever the issues are.
  • acedia is the dominant factor that has lead to the issues of climate change. As a culture, we have been unwilling to do the work of choosing a world based on justice and health.

Thus, for me, anger management has been my path to health, both individually and culturally. I’ve learned much thereby, both about the negatives and the positives.

Now, back to cultural visioning (unless I develop another digression). :)))

This post is part of what I am calling the core posts for understanding what I am attempting by this blog. For other core posts, click here.

Towards a mature culture?

We need to learn cooperation.
We need to learn cooperation.

I indicated in my last post that, for the present, I will focus on what I believe we need to move towards so as to have an effective world culture of maturity. To repeat what I wrote last time: “I believe that the single greatest need we currently have as a species is to become a culture predominantly of cooperation. Competition will still be a part of who we are, but not the major part. How we are to get there is not clear.”

What is a vision?

In the next few posts, I will be writing what I envision might happen, but they are only my musings, not something I am locked into. The way I think of a vision is that it is the scenery on the road as I move forward with my life. There is the immediate scenery of what is actually happening around me, and there is the distant scenery of where I am hopefully heading. But, depending on many factors (especially both what I want and what others want), the distant scenery will change ¾ it is only the direction, the journey, not a fixed end-point.

As I develop this theme, I invite you the reader to consider your thoughts about how we function as a society, and what would be a more effective society. I do not mean utopia, and I do not mean a society that gives lip service to maturing — but what would it really mean? How would such a society function?

What would be a mature society?

I’m going to break it down into six sections, with subsections:

  • What would such a society value?
  • How would governance function?
  • What would be the interactions between communities?
  • How would any given community function?
  • What would daily living conditions be like?
  • What are the major obstacles to such a culture?

So, to begin.

What would such a society value? And not just value as lip service; the values would be lived on a day-to-day basis. I’ll comment on each of these in the next post.

  • The care of children would be the highest priority.
  • A cultural story that honors the pursuit of and living of wisdom.
  • An educational system that provides deep support for life-long growth.
  • Practical skills that allow living with diversity and resolving conflict.
  • Governance based on planning for the “seventh generation.”
  • A judiciary system based on justice circles, not just legality.

Thoughts?

To be continued.

A Major CO2 Storage Advance

We need major advances like this in carbon drawdown.
We need major advances like this in carbon drawdown.

A very important post today, but we need more than technology: Iceland Carbon Dioxide Storage Project Locks Away Gas, and Fast. We are approaching a time when the technological issues of climate change will be resolved. The process described is fairly quick and cheap, and uses routine technology, and it can be scaled up: there’s lots of porous basaltic rock in sea beds, and though it needs lots of water, sea water will do just fine. It will take time to develop, but feasible.

Unfortunately, from my perspective, the technological issues are the least important aspect of global warming. Important, yes, but climate change is essentially only a symptom of our hubris as a human species. Until we resolve the emotional issues that underlie climate change, we are simply likely to create another way of destroying ourselves. In the past hundred years, we have had the threat of nuclear holocaust, loss of biodiversity with extensive species extinction, overpopulation, threats of mass starvation, risk of major sea level rise, only some of which are related to global warming.

Resolving the technological issues of climate change will likely be easy compared to these other issues. What will it take for us to mature as a species? Probably catastrophe such as we cannot yet imagine!

This post was originally submitted to Facebook 2016 June 11.

Slowly maturing. A number of items have impressed me recently.

Authenticity

Two recent news items have crossed my desk that have impressed me that our culture is slowly maturing. (I’ve never doubted this; my questions invariably relate to whether or not we will mature enough to survive the next 100 years of cultural chaos.)

The first came to me via an email from Avaaz; it quoted a statement by Pavel Poc, Vice-Chair of the EU Parliament’s Environment Committee, and key leader of the glyphosate fight: “Looking to where we were in the beginning of this year and where we are now, Avaaz is indisputably the driving force of the fight for glyphosate discontinuance.” (My caution here is my usual one— I do not have external validation of this report. Overall I trust it, but I do not have external evidence to corroborate it. I do however have a video clip of Pavel Poc that I found most useful: Glyphosate: Yes or No?.)

It is essential, I believe, that the voices of large numbers of people must be heard, especially when the voices of multi-national corporations are so strong, and sometimes so dishonest. I believe this to be so even when some scientific reports claim innocence; we are also in an era when scientific research is frequently manipulative and deceptive. I wish this were not so, but my wishing does not make it so.

Thus, I am heartened to see that the polling performed by such as Avaaz has had an impact. I also wish it had more.

The second news item was that “The Stanford Rape Victim Controlled The Public Narrative Without Giving Up Her Privacy.” (ThinkProgress, June 8, 2016). This is, for me, a major step forward in our society. The status of this woman can be corroborated (it is in the public record of the legal system) — but it is not in the public record of the media blitz that is so invasive. Separated from the injustices that possibly surround this situation, this prevention of invasion is refreshing.

I also say “possibly surround” — I am aware of some of the controversies, but again the limitation for me is to find ways of validation. It is such an insane world — a vast amount of information available, without a vast amount of knowledge to be gleaned (in this context, I consider knowledge as being the meaning I give to information), and frequently without much wisdom to be gained (wisdom here being the ability to make effective judgments).

This was originally posted to my Facebook on 20160609.

Blogs I Follow: Richard Rohr

Spirituality2

As you will note under Blogs I Follow, I subscribe to the blog of Richard Rohr at Center for Action and Contemplation (CAC).

I do so because I find him to be the most spiritually mature individual of whom I am aware. (Overall my previous mentors, listed in my most recent post, also fall into this category.)

Richard Rohr is a Catholic priest, a Franciscan monk. In 1986 he envisioned CAC as a place where opposites (action and contemplation) are held together, bridging gaps between the spiritual and the justice communities. As a priest, his language is often religious, but the underlying content of what he is writing is deeply spiritual (see my next post for what I mean by spiritual, and how I think it differs from religious).

Especially I recommend his most recent post: Unconditional and Conditional Love.

Off-Shore Fracking

A technological dinosaur, inappropriate to global warming
A technological dinosaur, inappropriate to global warming

Hi folks. It is my intention to engage in the issues of climate change, especially those related to the emotional maturity of our culture. One of my struggles in retirement has been that of what do I do with my skills, my proficiencies gained over 25 years of being a therapist. We are so badly in need of maturing as a culture — frequently I feel powerless in the face of the cultural pressures that keep us trapped in the obvious duplicity.

Many people are focused on moving us to health; I want to be one of them. My skill set is that of encouraging emotional growth. So …

Once I get better organized, on most days I will make a comment or two. Sometimes I will link to articles I believe to be important. Here is one: “Off-shore fracking will have no significant impact …” What insanity to disturb the earth’s crust in an area where the risk of earthquakes is high! And even if the risk is not significant, why ignite such controversy in a world that must become carbon neutral?

This post was originally on my Facebook of 20160601