Biosphere crisis provides single channel for humane organisations

Some thoughts evoked by 6 Billion Ways 2011:

Deep ecologist, monk, and all round wonderful man Thomas Berry (1914–2009) reminded an audience in 1991 of something with which we’re all intimately familiar, nothing less than the unifying Golden Rule, which has probably been around as long as we have, certainly predating many of the recent mainstream religions–Berry’s own Catholicism, etc–with which one might be quick to associate it. Berry put it thus:

“Confucius was a teacher and, naturally, did a lot of talking. His students got a bit overwhelmed with what he was saying, and so they got together with him one day and said, ‘Could you please put it to us more simply?’
And Confucius said, ‘Sure, why not. I’ll give it to you in a single word – reciprocity.’
What’s it all about? Reciprocity – if you take, you must give. That is the primary law of existence.”

Susan George (who graced Rich Mix in 2009) has articulated the need for greater, concentrated unity and the (re)establishment of “the Superpower that the New York Times said on the 16th February [2003] we were”, referring to the unprecedented, extraordinary global peace marches that greeted Bush-Blair’s plan to invade Iraq for oil and U.S. regional domination. Unfortunately the awesome sight proved a mere reminder of the Superpower, which promptly went back into hibernation.

In her latest book, George defines the issue facing us. We have allowed the casino economy of finance to become central. The real economy takes second rung, society next, and finally, least important, is poor old planet Earth. George–crazy as it may sound–suggests the only way forward (as in, to survive) might be to reverse that order.

The follow-up session for 6 Billion Ways attendees took place Sunday 6th and was stimulating and informative. It was striking how plain straightforward most ideas were, highlighting a distinct absence of any crazy or overtly unworkable plans to improve the world. Most seemed derived from a rather common sense of decency and values. I had the pleasure of chatting briefly with Nick Dearden afterwards and we agreed on that same point, that there’s nothing outlandish about being reasonable, nor asking it of others. There’s nothing radical, left or right, about compassion.

As for the outstanding sessions of March 5th, of which there were many, this writer must nonetheless confess to having peaked in the AM at first session What is Climate Justice?, chaired by Kirsty Wright, with Patrick BondRicardo Navarro and Larry Lohmann, all of whom shared so generously from their abundant knowledge of global climate affairs, and no doubt left the audience thoroughly unsettled by the end of the session. Lohmann’s work has specialized in the appalling phenomenon of carbon trading, whereby the financial sector capitalizes on the same particles known to be leading to global upheaval and mass-extinction. Needless to say, such practices represent some of the darker reaches of our species. And yet how unsurprising such profiteering has become. Capitalism causes it, then cashes in on it. Nature of a manmade beast.

Thanks to the organizers and participants who made 6 Billion Ways so memorable this year. Special thanks to that fellow concerned citizen encountered between sessions, who put it so trenchantly when she identified the single common value of everyone assembled for 6BW 2011 as being “anti-greed”. Catchy, and soon it clicked that anti-greed is a simple definition of reciprocity, the primary law of existence. How radical.

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