Thursday, December 20, 2007

In Defense of Nature-A Good/Must Read by John Hay

Frequently compared to Edward Abbey, Wendell Berry, and Gary Snyder, John Hay is one of this country’s greatest nature writers. Originally published in 1969, In Defense of Nature is an eloquent and prescient plea on behalf of the natural world. Devoid of sentimentality yet lyrical and deeply moving in its portrayals of our despoliation of nature, Hay’s classic work is now available to a new generation of readers.
Wendell Berry has called John Hay a “carrier of light and wisdom.” In Defense of Nature reveals why this is true. In it Hay has written an extended meditation on the environment and our place in it. Its lessons never more important, In Defense of Nature eerily presages the tenuous state of our environment and our place in it. As our technical abilities have moved forward, our judgment has not kept pace. “What we call natural resources cannot be limited to gas, oil, pulpwood, or uranium,we are starving the natural resources in ourselves. The soul needs to stretch; being needs to exercise.”

More on Scweitzer's Reverence for Life

Reverence for Life

Man's ultimate redemption through beneficent activity--the theme of Part II of Goethe's "Faust," a metaphysical poem much admired by Albert Schweitzer--threads through this extraordinary man's long, complex and sometimes curious life. With Faust himself he could join in saying:

...This sphere of earthly soil
Astounding plans e'en now are brewing:
Still gives us room for lofty doing.
I feel new strength for bolder toil...
The Deed is everything, the Glory naught.

"You must give some time to your fellow man," Schweitzer counseled in paraphrase. "Even if it's a little thing, do something for those who have need of a man's help, something for which you get no pay but the privilege of doing it."

Also like Goethe, on whose life and works he was expert, Schweitzer came near to being a comprehensive man. He was theologian, musicologist, organ technician, physician and surgeon, missionary, philosopher of ethics, lecturer, writer and the builder and chief force of the famous hospital at Lambarene, in Gabon, the former French Equatorial Africa.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Breaking Old Moulds...Be an Iconoclast.

"It seems there has been a disconnect between the clever human brain and the compassionate human heart. We are moving even further from the belief of most indigenous people: that the natural world and everything in it is sacred."
Dr. Jane Goodall

" is likely that our parents found us in our cribs long before we found ourselves there, and that we were merely led by their gaze, and their pointing fingers, to coalesce around an implied center of cognition that does not, in fact, exist."
Sam Harris

Excerpt: "The Language of God"
Author Francis Collins Shares Personal Testimony to Explain Reasoning
July 14, 2006 —
ON A WARM SUMMER DAY just six months into the new millennium, humankind crossed a bridge into a momentous new era. An announcement beamed around the world, highlighted in virtually all major newspapers, trumpeted that the first draft of the human genome, our own instruction book, had been assembled.

The human genome consists of all the DNA of our species, the hereditary code of life. This newly revealed text was 3 billion letters long, and written in a strange and cryptographic four-letter code. Such is the amazing complexity of the information carried within each cell of the human body, that a live reading of that code at a rate of one letter per second would take thirty-one years, even if reading continued day and night.

"The argument that most caught my attention, and most rocked my ideas about science and spirit down to their foundation, was right there in the title of Book One: "Right and Wrong as a Clue to the Meaning of the Universe." While in many ways the "Moral Law" that Lewis described was a universal feature of human existence, in other ways it was as if I was recognizing it for the first time.

What we have here is very peculiar: the concept of right and wrong appears to be universal among all members of the human species (though its application may result in wildly different outcomes). It thus seems to be a phenomenon approaching that of a law, like the law of gravitation or of special relativity. Yet in this instance, it is a law that, if we are honest with ourselves, is broken with astounding regularity.

As best as I can tell, this law appears to apply peculiarly to human beings. Though other animals may at times appear to show glimmerings of a moral sense, they are certainly not widespread, and in many instances other species' behavior seems to be in dramatic contrast to any sense of universal rightness. It is the awareness of right and wrong, along with the development of language, awareness of self, and the ability to imagine the future, to which scientists generally refer when trying to enumerate the special qualities of Homo sapiens.

But is this sense of right and wrong an intrinsic quality of being human, or just a consequence of cultural traditions? Some have argued that cultures have such widely differing norms for behavior that any conclusion about a shared Moral Law is unfounded. Lewis, a student of many cultures, calls this "a lie, a good resounding lie. If a man will go into a library and spend a few days with the Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics, he will soon discover the massive unanimity of the practical reason in man. From the Babylonian Hymn to Samos, from the laws of Manu, the Book of the Dead, the Analects, the Stoics, the Platonists, from Australian aborigines and Redskins, he will collect the same triumphantly monotonous denunciations of oppression, murder, treachery and falsehood; the same injunctions of kindness to the aged, the young, and the weak, of almsgiving and impartiality and honesty."
Let me stop here to point out that the conclusion that the Moral Law exists is in serious conflict with the current postmodernist philosophy, which argues that there are no absolute rights or wrongs, and all ethical decisions are relative. This view, which seems widespread among modern philosophers but which mystifies most members of the general public, faces a series of logical Catch-22s. If there is no absolute truth, can postmodernism itself be true? Indeed, if there is no right or wrong, then there is no reason to argue for the discipline of ethics in the first place.

Consider a major example of the force we feel from the Moral Law -- the altruistic impulse, the voice of conscience calling us to help others even if nothing is received in return. Not all of the requirements of the Moral Law reduce to altruism, of course; for instance, the pang of conscience one feels after a minor distortion of the facts on a tax return can hardly be ascribed to a sense of having damaged another identifiable human being.

Once upon a time there was an old woman who used to meditate on the bank of the Ganges. One morning, finishing her meditation, she saw a scorpion floating helplessly in the strong current. As the scorpion was pulled closer, it got caught in roots that branched out far into the river. The scorpion struggled frantically to free itself but got more and more entangled. She immediately reached out to the drowning scorpion, which, as soon as she touched it, stung her. The old woman withdrew her hand but, having regained her balance, once again tried to save the creature. Every time she tried, however, the scorpion's tail stung her so badly that her hands became bloody and her face distorted with pain. A passerby who saw the old woman struggling with the scorpion shouted, "What's wrong with you, fool! Do you want to kill yourself to save that ugly thing?" Looking into the stranger's eyes, she answered, "Because it is the nature of the scorpion to sting, why should I deny my own nature to save it?"

This may seem a rather drastic example -- not very many of us can relate to putting ourselves in danger to save a scorpion. But surely most of us have at one time felt the inner calling to help a stranger in need, even with no likelihood of personal benefit. And if we have actually acted on that impulse, the consequence was often a warm sense of "having done the right thing."

Copyright © 2007 ABC News Internet Ventures

Friday, December 14, 2007

More on Turkey Consumption!


Carbon is the new guilt.
By Dale McFeatters, Syndicated columnist
Fri Dec 14, 2007, 12:19 AM EST

And if you don't feel guilty about the carbon you exude, thus threatening the penguins, the polar bears, lower-lying nations, not to mention prime beachfront real estate, do-good groups will soon be around to see that you do.

In conjunction with a U.N. conference on climate change, demonstrators around the world hit the streets with placards urging, "Say no to carbon dioxide." But try to say no without breathing because carbon dioxide is the stuff you exhale.

Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas and thus a culprit in global warming, a principle side effect of which is Al Gore.

As it happens, this conference is in Bali, not the most convenient place on the planet, and the pocket-protector types who have adopted carbon as their cause quickly calculated that hauling and housing 10,000 delegates on that island city would unleash over 100,000 tons of carbon, 48,000 of it in air travel alone.

That resulted in an escalation in the race for politicians to be more carbon sensitive than thou. Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass., chairman of a House committee on global warming, sprang out to an early lead.

He was invited to speak but elected not to come but address the delegates through a virtual animation of himself called an avatar. Said Markey, "Instead of offsetting the carbon footprint of my flight to Bali, I'm going to upload my avatar and I'm going to Bali with no footprint at all."

Carbon has our politicians talking like that.

Your carbon footprint is the total amount of carbon you emit and cause to be emitted as you go about your daily business. The Web is full of programs that enable you to calculate your personal carbon footprint - in other words, how much better the planet would be if you weren't on it.

The carbon footprint shows up in ways you might not expect. Began a recent story by the British Press Association, "The turkey and trimmings enjoyed at millions of Christmas dinner tables will have a carbon footprint equivalent to 6,000 car journeys around the world, a study has shown."

The irrepressible funsters at the University of Manchester calculated that a Christmas dinner for eight of turkey, stuffing, roast potatoes, vegetables, bread sauce, cranberry sauce and other accompaniments would produce 44 pounds of carbon dioxide.

The life cycle of the turkey accounts for 60 percent of the total carbon and getting the cranberry sauce from North America to the British dinner table accounts for half of the transportation-related footprint. Enjoy your Christmas dinner, planet killers.

Carbon has become such a worthy cause that other worthy causes are latching onto it.

Public health activists are urging you to save your life and the planet by walking or biking a half-hour a day instead of driving. Someone calculated the reduction in driving would cut carbon-dioxide emissions by 64 million tons.

And, of course, you'd be in better shape and wouldn't breathe so hard, cutting your personal carbon emissions as well. And while you're at it, don't eat meat because the whole business of producing meat accounts for 18 percent of all greenhouse-gas emissions.

One of the solutions proposed for emissions is a carbon tax. And that brings us to this bellwether news: California has become the first state to require refineries, power plants and other major sources of carbon dioxide to start reporting their annual emissions.

So you think this is only going to affect big industry? You naive little carbon emitter, you. If it's possible to calculate your personal carbon footprint, it's possible some do-good politician will try to tax it - in the name of saving the planet, of course.

Breathe shallowly.

Dale mcfeatters can be reached at

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Made it this morning! Tastes Great!

Mom’s Banana Bread Oats
1 serving of hot, cooked cereal
1 banana, peeled
1 tbsp maple syrup (more or less, according to your tastes)
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
a drizzling of non-dairy milk (optional)
Mash the banana in the bowl you intend to eat out of, and mix thoroughly with the hot cereal. Stir in the remaining ingredients and enjoy!