Calling "the better angels of our nature" (2): Comments on an E-mail Exchange Between Richard Heinberg and Rob Hopkins
Included below is the beginning paragraph of a transitionculture.org blog post titled “To Plan for Emergency, or Not? Heinberg and Hopkins Debate” (27 May, 2009). The blog post features an e-mail exchange between Richard Heinberg and Rob Hopkins. Below are comments I have made as a response to that e-mail exchange. As a brief summary of my comments, I offer this: I believe—and I hope many other people share this belief—that if we are to overcome the challenges of our times we will need not only the resources which innovators can prove the existence of by scientific method; we will also need the resources which people of faith believe exist as a result of inner experience.
The first paragraph of the above mentioned blog post (for complete blog post see http://transitionculture.org/2009/05/27/to-plan-for-emergency-or-not-hei... ):
“At the Transition Network conference, Richard Heinberg gave an online presentation looking at the concept of Emergency Planning for Communities, something he initially unveiled at Findhorn last year. You can see his presentation here. For a while now, Richard and I have been discussing the tension between longer term planning for resilience and the more immediate and pressing responses demanded by sudden and rapid change. It is still an ongoing discussion, but we thought now, with Richard’s presentation, it would be a good time to open up the conversation for your thoughts. What follows is the series of email exchanges we have had since late last year.”
I think the above post “To Plan for Emergency, or Not?” is a most valuable exchange between Richard Heinberg and Rob Hopkins. It is most helpful to have insight from informal discussions as well as prepared articles and publications, and I hope they—and other people doing critical work (in other fields of activity as well)—might consider this form of information sharing more often. One element of these kind of informal discussions is that they are more likely to touch on some sides of a topic but not others. An upside of this format is that it may encourage other voices to “chime in” with what they believe are other aspects of the topic that weren’t touched on—in the context of a “conversation” between two people widely recognized as leaders inspiring others towards critically important goals.
For my part, I felt the most noticeable absence in this discussion was an apparent lack of recognition for the contributions which are being made (and which can be expanded as a sense of urgency touches more people) by other “world view” narratives not represented in the Post Carbon Institute approach or the Transition approach. One way of appreciating this in the context of “emergency planning” is to recall the remarkable international response to the loss of lives and damage caused by the Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami in 2004. Yes, there was a significant amount of experience and planning already in place before this terrible tragedy, but there was also much which happened out of sheer sympathy and compassion—and a willingness on the part of many individuals who were doing something entirely different at the time… but who “changed their mind” when this unprecedented event occurred, and turned their focus to helping people who really needed help.
On a similar note, one more example of “world view” narratives which seemed noticeably absent in a discussion about the very real possibility that there may be unprecedented challenges ahead—is the lack of reference to that which does inspire human beings to learn how to be compassionate and caring human beings. I realize that there is a reluctance to touch on this “non quantitative” field of activity—but, for my part, I would feel that much more resilience would be possible if there many people in same community (or world) as myself who were “pulling for each other” to find spiritual strength by way of deepening their faith and belief that there is a more advanced and more benevolent spiritual entity than ourselves—and that such an entity does actually count for something in overcoming the difficult challenges ahead. Here is another way of touching on this point: I believe—and I hope many other people share this belief—that if we are to overcome the challenges of our times we will need not only the resources which innovators can prove the existence of by scientific method; we will also need the resources which people of faith believe exist as a result of inner experience.
To stay just a little longer with this piece of responding to the challenges of our times, I would like to add that yes, I do understand that many people have—unfortunately—learned to mistakenly equate flaws in human nature with the practical wisdom associated with religious and spiritual traditions… but let us be very careful about what we are doing along these lines… for this kind of misguided thinking may be one of the great tragedies of our time. Consider the following [excerpted from “The Ten Most Difficult Challenges of Our Times” (link on the homepage of the IPCR Initiative or (http://ipcri.net/images/7-Ten-Point-Assessment-excerpt.pdf )]:
“…such treasured wisdom contains teachings which inspire and encourage people to
a) appreciate truth, virtue, love, and peace—and live disciplined lives for the purpose of adhering
to truth, cultivating virtue and love, and maintaining the pathways to enduring peace
b) sacrifice personal desires for the greater good of the whole
c) find contentment and quality of life while consuming less material goods and ecological
d) prefer peacebuilding which supports and actualizes mutually beneficial understandings,
forgiveness, and reconciliation—and which abstains from violent conflict resolution—as a way
of bringing cycles of violence to an end
e) use resources carefully, so that there is surplus available for emergency assistance
f) support community life and cultural traditions which ‘… bring to the fore what is often
hidden: how many good people there are, how many ways there are to do good, and how much
happiness comes to those who extend help, as well as to those who receive it.’”
I believe there are still many people in the world who appreciate that the above testimony can be true about the best teachings of religious and spiritual traditions. And surely, surely, the above outcomes are relevant to overcoming the challenges of our times. It is almost certain, in my mind at least, that an exponential increase in compassion for our fellow human beings will need to become an essential and critical element of a truly comprehensive response to the challenges of our times. In such circumstances, we cannot afford to exclude from our “tool box” the time-tested sources which have helped people learn compassion over many centuries. Instead, we need to learn how to cultivate the time-tested sources so that the sources yield the treasured wisdom. Those who have had a garden can “picture to themselves” what I mean.
These thoughts come as a result of work I have done in recent years to build The Interfaith Peacebuilding and Community Revitalization (IPCR) Initiative (at www.ipcri.net).
We live in very complex world. There are very difficult challenges ahead. These challenges include, but are not limited to: the economic crises, global warming, peak oil, resource depletion, an ever increasing world population, global inequities, cultures of greed, corruption, and overindulgence, a marginalization of the wisdom associated with religious, spiritual, and moral traditions, and insufficient understandings of which basic elements of community life and cultural traditions lead to enduring peace and which do not. More and more people are coming to the realization that resolving these challenges will require problem solving on a scale most of us have never known before.
Somehow or other, we need to sort through all this, and we need to do so in a way that helps us to realize how much we need to be learning so that we can be part of the solutions… and how much we really need to be on the same side, helping each other.
One suggestion which could assist in bringing many solutions to light at the local community level is a 161 page proposal by this writer titled “1000Communities2”. “1000Communities2” (“1000CommunitiesSquared”) advocates for Community Visioning Initiatives, “Community Teaching and Learning Centers” with ongoing workshops, and “sister community” relationships, as a way of generating an exponential increase in our collective capacity to overcome the challenges of our times.
I would like to encourage readers of this message to consider exploring the resources of The IPCR Initiative, in the larger context of “how do we get to the other side of the above challenges from here”. In particular, I would like to recommend that readers have a look at the 161 page IPCR document titled “1000Communities2”. I would also like to recommend some of the more than 5 different introductions to the “1000Communities2” proposal which I have written. Three of these “introductions” are included in the Fall, 2008 issue of The IPCR Journal/Newsletter (http://ipcri.net/images/The-IPCR-Journal-Newsletter-Fall-2008- B.pdf ). One of those introductions is titled “A Greater Force than the Challenges We Are Now Facing” (http://ipcri.net/images/A-Greater-Force-than-the-Challenges-We-Are-Now-F... ). Another one of those three “introductions” is titled “The ‘1000Communities2’ Proposal: Creating a Multiplier Effect of a Positive Nature”. This “introduction” is also part of an “Educational Materials Outreach Package”, which is accessible for free, and which is located at the bottom of the homepage of The IPCR Initiative (at www.ipcri.net ). The most comprehensive introduction to the “1000Communities2” proposal was written in December, 2008 and is titled “Transitioning from Less Solution-Oriented Employment to More Solution-Oriented Employment”(http://ipcri.net/images/Transitioning-from-Less-Solution-Oriented-Employ... ).
We are in need of innovative and imaginative solutions.
In 1984, the non-profit organization Chattanooga Venture [Chattanooga, Tennessee (USA)] organized a
Community Visioning Initiative (“Vision 2000”) that attracted more than 1,700 participants, and produced 40 community goals—which resulted in the implementation of 223 projects and programs, the creation of 1,300 permanent jobs, and a total financial investment of 793 million dollars. (for source references, see p. 9 of the “1000Communities2” proposal, at http://ipcri.net/images/1000Communities2.pdf )
If even a few of the kind of Community Visioning Initiatives described in the “1000Communities2” proposal generated results similar to those achieved by the Chattanooga, Tennessee (USA) Visioning Initiative, people in all parts of the world—keenly attuned when it comes to resolving challenges which require urgent solutions at all levels of society— could be inspired to carry out similar Community Visioning Initiatives. And if many communities carried out similar initiatives, and also achieved significant results, our collective capacity to resolve the challenges of our times would surely begin to accumulate at an accelerating rate.
[Note: In light of the urgent need to increase collaboration between diverse communities of people, anyone may access all IPCR documents (including the above mentioned 161 page “1000Communities2” proposal) for free, at the website of The Interfaith Peacebuilding and Community Revitalization (IPCR) Initiative (at www.ipcri.net )].
With Kind Regards,
Stefan Pasti, Founder and Outreach Coordinator
The Interfaith Peacebuilding and Community Revitalization (IPCR) Initiative