Democratic Forest Trusts (PDF)in Watson, Alan; Dean, Liese; Sproull, Janet, comps. 2006. Science and stewardship to protect and sustain wilderness values: Eighth World Wilderness Congress Symposium; 2005 September 30-October 6; Anchorage, AK.Democratic trusts with leadership elected by citizen-members promise to solve many of the problems afflicting both traditional government and corporate ownership of forestlands.Â This article explores these issues in some depth.Complexity and the Dream of Human Control of Eco-Systems (PDF)in Watson, Alan; Dean, Liese; Sproull, Janet, comps. 2006. Science and stewardship to protect and sustain wilderness values: Eighth World Wilderness Congress Symposium; 2005 September 30-October 6; Anchorage, AK.The title captures it.Â I then explore the kinds of institutions compatible with both nature and the modern world that are implied from this analysis.Rethinking the Obvious: Modernity and Living Respectfully With Nature (PDF)The Trumpeter: Journal of Ecosophy, Winter, 1997.Modernity is usually considered a wrong turn in terms of respect for and sustaining the environment.Â I argue the reality is more complex, for modernity has freed us from personal dependence on agriculture, ended the economic value of children, radically reduced the likelihood of large scale wat, and shifted much production to intellectual rather than material capital.Â This partially decouples society from nature, which gives us important opportunities as well as problems.Towards an Ecocentric Political Economy (PDF)The Trumpeter, Fall, 1996.This paper begins my effort at showing how liberal modernity can be harmonized with an ecocentric perspective on our relationship with the natural world.Â It is a corrective to much “free market environmental” literature that sacrifices Nature to money as well as to anti-liberal attacks by well-meaning but economically naÃ¯ve environmentalists.Unexpected Harmonies: Self-Organization in Liberal Modernity and Ecology (PDF)The Trumpeter, Journal of Ecosophy, 10:1, Winter 1993This is my initial paper exploring how what I term ‘evolutionary liberal’ thought can be an important means by which society and nature can be brought into greater harmony.Â The other Trumpeter papers build on it.Deep Ecology and Liberalism: The Greener Implications of Evolutionary Liberalism (PDF)Review of Politics, Fall, 1996.Liberal thought and deep ecology are usually regarded as mutually exclusive. But the “evolutionary” tradition offers a way to integrate the two through commonalties in the work of David Hume, Michael Polanyi, Arne Naess, and Aldo Leopold, providing a stronger foundation for liberalism while strengthening the case for an ecocentric ethic.(Related subjects: Ecology)Saving Western Towns: A Jeffersonian Green Proposal (PDF)in Writers on the Range, Karl Hess and John Baden, eds., University Press of Colorado, 1998.Developmental pressures in the rural and small town West involve three groups: long term residents, new arrivals, and environmentalists. Today their interests often conflict. This conflict is in part the outcome of institutions which prevent harmonizing competing interests. The concept of developmental trusts, both for rural regions and for small communities offers a means whereby these interests can be harmonized for the benefit of all concerned.(Related subjects: Politics)Social Ecology, Deep Ecology, and Liberalism (PDF)Critical Review, 6: 2-3, 1992.Murray Bookchin is considered a leading radical environmental theorist. However, his analysis is incapable of leading humankind towards a more respectful and sustainable relationship with the natural world. Criticisms of Bookchin from both the deep ecology and evolutionary liberal perspective complement one another, pointing the way towards a better understanding of how modernity relates to the environment.The paper as a whole offers an early discussion of issues that are more clearly addressed in later papers, particularly Deep Ecology and Liberalism (1996) and the three Trumpeter articles in 1997, 1996, and 1993. However, there are other ideas in the article which have not been developed more thoroughly elsewhere.
Photo by Guy Edwards
Sam Harris, a meditating Village Atheist, has a letter in the latest Nature. He takes the magazine to task for praising a Christian scientist, Francis Collins, for “engaging ‘with people of faith to explore how science — both in its mode of thought and its results — is consistent with their religious beliefs’.”
“But here is Collins on how he, as a scientist, finally became convinced of the divinity of Jesus Christ:
‘On a beautiful fall day, as I was hiking in the Cascade Mountains… the majesty and beauty of God’s creation overwhelmed my resistance. As I rounded a corner and saw a beautiful and unexpected frozen waterfall, hundreds of feet high, I knew the search was over. The next morning, I knelt in the dewy grass as the sun rose and surrendered to Jesus Christ.’”
Harris has conniptions because Collins’ account is so far removed from scientific thinking. Which it is. But there is no rational reason to argue that scientific knowledge is the only valid knowledge, especially since a very high percentage of theoretical breakthroughs in science initially come via dreams and intuition. Scientific methods are only good – and here they are very good – at weeding out unsuccessful arguments about how then physical universe works. This is important, but hardly the whole show.
While Harris’s arrogant brand of atheism is notable for its ignorance of other than monotheistic faith based religious traditions and its author’s apparent disinterest in learning about them, I want to focus on something much more interesting.
What is striking about Collins’ account is how little it has to do with either Jesus or even monotheism. The power of Collins’ experience is unmistakable, and I have frequently had such experiences myself (as well as far stronger ones – but that is another story). But these experiences are devoid of specific doctrinal content.
Fifteen hundred years of state backed monotheism has largely eradicated any way of describing the sacred for most Westerners – except through Judeo-Christian frameworks. If we have a experience of the sacred, we have to put it into Christian terms because we do not know any others. What an impoverishment, of human experience of the sacred.
What Collins is describing is an encounter with the Sacred as immanent. His was a powerfully Pagan experience of the world as sacred and filled with intrinsic meaning. Of course this need not be an anti-Christian experience, but it had no Christian content. And hundreds of years of religious suppression of any but institutionally approved descriptions of the sacred put Collins in the bind of trying to integrate faith in revealed text, his own religious experience that had nothing to do with texts, and science.
I find myself wondering how many Americans’ belief in God is based on this kind of experience of sacred immanence, an experience they then interpret in terms of transcendental monotheism, which has nothing to do with the experience and a lot to do with the cultural impoverishment rooted in 1500 years of state suppression of anything not approved by the church.
I suspect a great many.