Posts tagged ‘ecology’

January 24, 2008

Jim Wallis on the new christianity

Jim Wallis (wikipedia), a non-right-wing intelligent evangelical christian (no joke), was on the Daily Show (video) talking about how (his) religion needs to refocus on the environment, peace (Darfur) and ethics.  Refreshing. From the Friendly Atheist.

December 3, 2007

Stanley Fish on law and religion

Defending the rule of law, god or no god:

In a case now pending in a federal court in Brooklyn, Mamie Manneh of Staten Island stands accused of having brought smoked bushmeat – known colloquially as monkey meat – into the United States without proper permits, in violation of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species.

Ms. Manneh’s defense is that in her religion the eating of bushmeat has both a cultural and a spiritual significance. In an affidavit, 17 of her co-religionists declared, “We eat bushmeat for our souls.” Manneh’s lawyer, Jan Rostal, has analogized the African-based practice to the consumption at a Passover seder of foods like bitter herbs “that might have some reference to the Exodus.” In a motion to dismiss, Rostal said that the case, while apparently novel, “represents the sort of clash of cultural and religious values inherent in the melting pot that is America.”

No, it doesn’t. It represents a more fundamental clash: between the imperatives of religion and the rule of law. The question raised by the case is whether the fact of a religious belief is sufficient to exempt the believer from the application of generally applicable laws — laws (like driving on the right-hand side of the road) that apply to every citizen no matter what his or her religious, ethical or moral convictions. Is religious belief a special case, so special that the devout practitioner gets a pass?

The next paragraph is, of course, about Locke.

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November 27, 2007

an atheist eschatology

The end of the world is near and we must prevent it.

November 21, 2007

ecology and the closing of the political-ethical divide

(this post is in honor of the newly released U.N. report on global warming)

Ecology structurally resembles old-time religions. Specifically, it in some sense goes further than any religion has up until now:

If in christianity you had to do/believe X in order to save your soul and could tell others about it, should you feel so inclined;

and if in Islam you had to do/believe X in order to save your soul and were supposed to force others to do likewise (but would still save your own soul should you not succeed in converting others);

with ecology you have to do X in order to save yourself (though you have no longer a soul) but you also have to convince/force everyone else to do the same if you are going to succeed in saving yourself! This is going further than any of the monotheisms ever went.

Of course: ecology’s “holy book” is a whole bunch of carefully verified scientific findings, whereas christianity and islam’s holy books are, well, revealed. But that doesn’t change the basic similarity in the structure of the “religions”, though it does make ecology much more believable.

This analysis implies one important thing:

(1) with ecology, the distinction between ethics and politics disappears. You can certainly be a good ecologist on your own, reducing, reusing and recycling in your own home and biking to work, but this will only avoid a disaster (i.e. the End of The World) if governments force everyone else to do likewise. This is what christian and islamic fundamentalists in the U.S. and Middle East are also trying to do.

Ecology has a view of well-being that is all-inclusive; it allows for no individualism as far as salvation is concerned (in this sense it is closer to the mono/heno-theism of judaism). Either we all make it, or none of us do. We therefore must force one another to be good. Ethics therefore trumps politics (as it should when we can all agree on the ethics). There can no longer be a separation between ecology and state, however much we might still want to separate churches from the latter.

Now i am not dissing ecology. As i stated above, it is by far the more believable of the options out there, and i do realize that it does not see itself as a religion (no new religion ever does). And i’m all for it, anyway. But nonetheless and my personal feelings notwithstanding, it looks awfully much like a religion, and a rather stringent one at that! And to top it off, we cannot either imagine it being wrong or come up with an alternative. Now does that not ever sound like good old-time, medieval religion (only its green now)!

November 19, 2007

paying for your private pollution

i just purchased a plane ticket on and was surprised to find (below the rental car, train to the airport, insurance and other useless third-party offers) a section where they had calculated the cost of offsetting the CO2 you will be generating during your flight and offered to send the money to some CO2-sucking up project in Eritrea. At 2 EUR, i figured i could handle that and will feel much better over christmas now.

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November 18, 2007

fighting fire with fire or how to save the world with a little widget

I have an idea (and would like to know what y’all have to say to it). It has to do with fighting evil corporations, saving the world, being green and surfing the web. How much better could it get? Here it is:

Create a widget (the little things you can put on your webpage that do cool stuff) that would either:

(a) advertise with a thick green border products that have been deemed “very environmentally friendly” (like, say, a Toyota hybrid car) ; or

(b) un-vertise with a thick red border and perhaps a slash through them products that have been deemed “very environmentally unfriendly” (like, say, the newest biggest Ford SUV).

The hope would be for this to catch on with more and more people adding the widget to their site. This wouldn’t cost them much, and might actually prove fun/trendy, but could in turn potentially cost/benefit corporations immensely. We would be encouraging people to purchase and therefore produce good stuff and avoid bad stuff. For once, it would be a valuable use of advertising!

The reasoning behind this is simple and two-fold: In the battle for a better world we need to:

(1) fight the bad guys (selfish corporations, recalcitrant governments) with their own weapons (advertisements, etc.);

(2) find ways to convert what people enjoy doing (surf the web, blog, etc.) into constructive action; instead of wasting time and effort trying to convince people to do things they really don’t like doing (giving money).

What do you say? Could it work? Are there better ways?

November 14, 2007

locavore: the newest, bestest word for the year

In our linguistics meets ethics meets the web series: Word is out on teh virtual street that “locavore” has been nominated the “word of the year” by the most respectable Oxford American Dictionary (wt r they doing in Oxford, UK writing US dictionaries?!). The LanguageLog, never at a loss for words, has a little write-up of their own on the “missing “l”” in the word (loca(l)vore).

What is a localvore? anyone who sticks to eating produce produced within 100k of their kitchen. The first four locavores the human race has known were SanFransiscan women. Of course, up until about 200 years ago, we were all locavores, we just didn’t know it! Teh Wikipedia has naturally already produced its own little article on the now famous word.

To put in a word or two myself on the matter: Locavore is one of those new ideas (heck, lets go all out and call it a meme while we’re at it) that seems to fit just right (no surprise it was initially produced in SanFran) into our new age. Not only is it an easily disseminable single word, ie a web-enabled concept, but it combines diets, health, ecology, global warming, and community all in one easy, cute and weird-sounding newfangled coinage.

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April 12, 2007

lessons not learned from history

will we ever learn?

Eventually the giant palms that the Rapanui depended on dwindled. Many trees had been cut down to make room for agriculture; others had been burned for fire and used to transport statues across the island. The treeless terrain eroded nutrient-rich soil, and, with little wood to use for daily activities, the people turned to grass. “You have to be pretty desperate to take to burning grass,” says John Flenley, who with Paul Bahn co-authored The Enigmas of Easter Island. By the time Dutch explorers—the first Europeans to reach the remote island—arrived on Easter day in 1722, the land was nearly barren.

from here.

April 12, 2007

salvation belongs to … the philosophers

The maverik philosopher has a post on salvation, which itself referred me to this other post at philosoblog.

First off, i want to say that i heartily welcome philosophers delving into the murky waters of ‘religious’ concepts of salvation. Actually, i hope that the concept will soon be lifted from religion and, via philosophy, be given a much more thorough and rigorous treatment. Religions are fond of saying: “This is what salvation is, listen and learn – or be dammed.” without backing up their claims with more than a mystic experience or two.

It is high time that the idea of salvation be saved from irrelevance at the hands of preachers and be redeemed by critical thinkers. We need an open and reasoned study of salvation that doesn’t take any answers or framings of the question for granted, but, in good philosophical manner, keeps on asking Why? until we hit some solid ground (which is when the scientists usually show up).

So now to contribute my own salvific musings to the conversation. Here is the philosoblog again, to get me started:

There are various sorts of sublime transformations of one’s psychology, I suppose. The sort I have in mind involves three things:

1. The redirection of one’s attention from the flow of thoughts (reasoning, desires and emotions) that usually fill the mind as it occupies itself with its countless concerns.

2. The resulting recognition that until now one has been inadvertently subject to that flow of thoughts such that the perspective of complete immersion in it has kept one from noticing that this world and one’s existence in it are vastly better than nothingness.

3. The resulting beginning of deep and genuine patience: the recognition that upon re-immersion of the mind into the flow of mundane thoughts, one need not be subject to the frustration, resentment and anger that they so often inflict but may instead rest assured by one’s allegiance to the values one cherishes.

I’d like to develop the idea that these together describe salvation. […] This is not a merely cognitive change. It is a psychological reorganization in which the disposition to react to adversity with resentment is all but eradicated.

This is obviously a buddhist/hindu concept of salvation. The monotheist resurrection into a new body is left out, but the author is aware of this fact and will probably deal with this in his next installment.

What i like about the philosoblog’s approach is that this is a worldly salvation that is not materialistic. We don’t have any heaven, valhalla, etc. nor any escape from reincarnations, rebirths, etc. What we do have, however, is a transformation. After salvation, people are not the same as before. This is obviously a very important aspect of any salvation.

However, i am not so sure that this “psychological reorganization” is the only type of salvation we want. One of the primary faults of (almost) all previous religion’s concepts of salvation is that salvation is always a personal, individual matter: i can save myself – and let my parents, my friends and the world perish! This is not healthy.

The jewish religion is the only one i know of that didn’t (at first, at least) have this individualistic component to it. It was the whole of Israel that was to be saved. Upgrading this to the 21st century, i think that an important aspect of any salvation will have to lie in its communal being: for starters, saving the planet needs obviously to figure prominently in any ‘philosophical’ account of salvation.

April 10, 2007

scientific doomsday scenarios!

There is a lot of talk and writing going around about a very, say, difficult future just around the corner. Of course, there is the in the process of being finalized Report on Climate Change (actually: Global Warming!!). And now i have just read over at 3QD that a bunch of people are publishing books about diverse impending dooms, be they ecological, economic or cultural (good bye, Western Civilization).

The Climate Change Report is of utmost importance. I am a bit more wary of the other forecasted futures, which i have not read. However, what interests me is that our scientists have suddenly replaced our theologians as our preferred purveyors of terrible future scenarios – that is, the scientists are writing our eschatologies and Books of Revelation. Of course, the new apocalypses were not written by an old man stranded upon a lonely greek island but by very sizable and credible committees of very knowledgeable people.

This obviously means two things:

(1) old-time soothsayers have hard times ahead;

(2) one more important feature of traditional religion (The Future) is passing into the hands of science;

(2.5) science is that much closer to telling us what we ought to do (this is a conditional, and thus not quite a moral, ought since the number crunchers do humbly add: “if you want to stay alive” to their suggestions);

(2.9) science is sounding more and more like our only hope (now, who got us into this over-heated mess in the first place…?)

(2.99) perhaps religion will wake up, one-up the scientists, and start preaching:

“Happy are those who lower their energy consumption;
the future belongs to them!
Happy are those who mourn the forests;
clean air will comfort them!
Happy are those whose greatest desire is to recycle;
with little they will be fully satisfied!
Happy are those who are persecuted because they do what reason requires;
they will not overheat!”

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