Posts Tagged ‘Environment’

The Case for Optimism: Episode Three

April 26, 2017

THE UU PATH: Fireflies in the dark

by Hallas Midgette

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Hallas Midgette

In the first two episodes of this four-part series on a talk to the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Coumbus, Georgia on April 23, 2017, Hal told us why he believes the UU path is an optimistic way of navigating through life and explained how four books helped shaping his optimistic worldview. In this episode he tells us how the Seven Principles affirmed by UUs “virtually scream optimism.”

Hal is a retired U.S. Army Lt. Col. and retired science instructor at Brookstone High School.

 Unitarian Universalist Seven Principles and Optimism

Okay, now you know that I’m an optimist and most probably why.  I look at our seven UU principles, and to me, they virtually scream optimism….that we can and will make a positive difference in the world around us, and that our endeavors will be successful.  Let’s take a look at our seven principles and see why this is so.

 

  1. Number one:  The inherent worth and dignity of every person.   We have no apostates….no “unbelievers,” or sinners not worthy of our illumination.  Everybody is somebody and we believe this message can change the world in a positive way.  And, most importantly, it doesn’t matter if they are part of our tribe or not.  All people are of value, and we are equals in that we all are alive, feel pain, love, and want to be happy and safe.  By embracing this principle, we demonstrate our optimism that we can reach out to all, and do not have to segregate others into infidels, sinners, or apostates.  We welcome humanity to our smorgasbord of ideas and love.

 

  1. Number two:  Justice, equality and compassion in human relations.   Justice is the pillar of stability that ensures that society doesn’t slip back into barbarism and to accept it as the arbitrator of events is supremely optimistic.   Nothing is more positive, in action and belief, than to grasp the concept that others, regardless of creed, sexual orientation, or cultural practices are equal as individuals.  While I might not appreciate someone’s cultural views as much as mine, I do appreciate that that person, as an individual feels the same pain and awe of the world around them.   Compassion is the engine that drives the Unitarian optimistic train.  Compassion is feeling and doing for those in pain or need, making the world a better place.  It provides the underpinnings for optimism, it is the tool for reaching out to others, sharing, and loving.  Compassion, coupled with equality forges the empathy that is necessary to care for and about others, including for those different than ourselves, those outside our tribe.

 

  1. Number three:  Accepting of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations.  Tolerance is not fearing others, but embracing them with the belief in a positive outcome.  We embody the Nike cliche’ “No Fear.”  We accept that others have a vision of a different spiritual development or path than our own, but we find that okay.  We encourage and assist them on their path and journey.   One has to be optimistic about the end results of embracing our own belief and fostering the well being of others in the pursuit of their own, but different belief.

 

  1. Number four:  A free and responsible search for truth and meaning.  This is our vehicle for carrying us into the future.  It is the sword to fight the tyranny of ignorance, intolerance and religious bigotry.  This principle makes a break with previous notions that the search for knowledge is fundamentally wrong…..think about Eve and the apple incident at the Tree of Knowledge.  We generally do not believe that all the Truths and Meanings to life have been previously revealed and encoded in unchangeable form to be forced onto others.  We question rigid thinking and eschew dogma.  We understand that the world is constantly changing and we see the Unitarian role as a positive force in that change.  Will there be turmoil and times of gloominess?  Of course, but we see ourselves as transcending those bumps in the continuum…..as a good optimist should.

 

  1. Number five:  Right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large.  This is possibly the most optimistic of all our principles because it has a large trust component that independent, individual action will be thoughtful and produce  an acceptable outcome, and even if we are not in the winning faction of a democratic process, will accept it and  carry on, striving for a positive outcome.   Our conscience is meant to be thoughtful, not coerced, or bounded.  How does the carrot and the stick, namely concepts of heaven and hell, and the role of sin play into this?  It doesn’t, at least for the Unitarian Universalist organization, although it might on the individual level.  I find this extremely optimistic.

 

  1. Number six:  The goal of world community with peace, liberty and justice for all.  When looking around without our optimist glasses, the world looks a little like Billy Joel’s song “We Didn’t Start the Fire.”  “We didn’t start the fire, It was always burning since the world’s been turning.” Another light metaphor.  It has gotten better over time, but so many just don’t look at the time scale of things and how we, as a species, have improved.   Or, we get too distracted when there are episodes of regional setbacks, like the situation in Syria.  Let’s start at Homo sapiens’ beginning.  Small wandering tribes.  If you weren’t in a tribe or were out wandering away from home when another tribe found you, it wasn’t  “guess who’s coming to dinner,” because you knew the game….protein was protein, and it was you that was going to be dinner.  As tribes evolved into more complex social groupings, congeniality towards strangers became more the norm, especially with the advent of agriculture and the formation of settlements, which eventually became towns and cities.  Human’s greatest discovery after tool making, fire, and language was possibly religion, which helped order society even more and provided the seeds to formalize law.  Then came city states and commerce, then nations.   Now we have international law, a world court, rules for war, though not always followed, the world wide web, and are now on the cusp of full globalization.  I believe there is greater tolerance now than at any other time in the world’s history.  While large pockets of radicals or extreme conservatives exist, they are being more and more marginalized by increased education, and access to tools, like the world wide web, that work to remove the veil of ignorance and localism.  We Unitarians show tolerance for other religions, fight for equality among the sexes, and embrace diversity in its many forms.   I’m not saying that sometimes it’s not crazy out there, that there is still friction to our forward progress, but life and human interactions are unquestionably better than at human’s beginning.  Mankind has come a long way, and the journey isn’t done.  As Billy Joel said in his song:  “We didn’t light it, but tried to fight it.”  We are optimists, we just haven’t tried to fight the fire, we are daily fighting the fire, through words, thoughts and deeds.

 

  1. Number sever:  Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.  Some people believe the Earth was given to mankind to subjugate, to be masters over all the animals…that the Earth was Man’s to exploit…that there would be continuous bounty.  The foundation of most of this belief was formulated four thousand years ago when the human population, spread over the whole globe, was only 27 million people, much less than that of Tokyo’s 38 million today.   The population is currently estimated to be 7.4 billion, about 250 times greater than four thousand years ago.  Because of our value in reason, Unitarians in general accept the scientific method and the scientific wisdom that the Earth is a complex organism of which we are but a part.  As mankind has gradually learned, human cells are called eukaryotic cells and generally are a mixture of a nucleus and organelles or structures, in which, one, the powerhouse of the cell, the mitochondria, is the vestige of a bacteria that took up residence in a larger cell.  Without this combination, there would be no thought or movement.  The approximate 39 trillion eukaryotic cells in the average human, is matched by an equal number of bacterial cells….of over 10,000 different species.  We literally are a zoo.  We are a microcosm of the Earth’s web of existence.  We don’t do well if some of the bacteria living on or in us aren’t healthy.  Case in point is what sometimes happens after we take antibiotics….an intention to kill harmful bacteria, but sometimes includes necessary bacteria as collateral, and consequently causing a disruption in the digestive tract.  Earth doesn’t do well when some of its species aren’t doing well, or become extinct.  While we promote saving the environment, we acknowledge that the world is in flux and always has been.  I am optimistic that we can help those that are blind to see that this current flux, to include climate change, has human handprints and footprints all over it.   Everyday it is estimated dozens of species of animals are becoming extinct because of habitat loss or changes in their ecosystem.  Am I still optimistic?  Absolutely.  Knowing that the Earth has been through at least five extreme extinction events in the past, only to bound back, not just to the level it was before, but with greater abundance of life, I think Mother Earth will survive this 6th major extinction event that is wrought by man.  But, with reason and knowledge and reaching out to educate others, we Unitarians can help in the effort to lessen the effect of this time period scientifically called the anthropocene…..or in layman’s terms…the age of man.

 
Hal uses a quote by  Howard Zinn to sum up his talk.  Episode Four is next.

Why “Why” is Such a Powerful Word

January 26, 2015

Once humans evolved from bacteria in the ocean to walking and talking people, they started asking “why?”  Seeking answers to that question has brought us to the point that we are today, able to go to the moon, split atoms, eradicate deadly diseases, compose and perform magnificent music, plays, movies, books, and produce computer games, among other really neat things.

Of  course, there is a downside to technological advancement, because it has also brought to the point that we can easily destroy the world.  All it will take is for one insane head of a country with an arsenal of nuclear weapons to push a button.  Then, there is the process that takes a little longer, but can also do the job, and that’s the  destruction of our environment by the side effects of machines and processes that produce pollutants.

Those thoughts occurred to me as I watched David Christian’s TED talk “The History of the World in 18 Minutes.”  You can check it out at http://www.ted.com/talks/david_christian_big_history?language=en .

 

Environmentalist Ken Henson is Named Dan Reed Award WInner

November 16, 2011

Dan Reed Service Above Self winner Ken Henson

He goes into his law office every morning at 8:30 and leaves every afternoon at 6:30 just as he did when he was practicing law full-time, but he isn’t practicing full-time any more. He uses the time mainly to help others, to improve the quality of life in his community.  Some of his service includes free legal work for his favorite causes.

He is a strong environmentalist. He is a big supporter of Trees Columbus and the Coalition for Sound Growth, two organizations that work tirelessly to keep Columbus green and beautiful.

He has a generous heart.

He’s “Mr Habitat,” having helped form the organization in Columbus and continuing to work building houses for the needy over the years.

“Even though he is a lawyer, he is still a good guy.”

He is the perfect example of someone who gives back to his community.

That’s what we learned from friends and fellow Columbus attorneys about Columbus Attorney Kenneth Henson today when he was given this year’s Rotary Club of Columbus Dan Reed Award for Service Above Self.  “Service Above Self” is the Rotary motto.

Since his environmental attitude and mine are in perfect harmony, and since I just like him anyway, he certainly has my congratulations.

Mary Reed, Rotary Club of Columbus secretary, widow of former secretary Dan Reed, for whom the Dan Reed Award for Service Above Self is named, pinning this year's honoree Ken Henson. Photo by Jim Cawthorne of Camera1.

Gov. Perdue Climbs Aboard High-speed Rail for Georgia and America

June 4, 2009

The return of  rail transit is inevitable.  It’s just a matter of time because it is the most efficient form of mass transportation, not only in fuel economy, but in reducing out carbon imprint.  Instead of continuing to pour billions in pouring concrete and asphalt to expand highways, that money can go to building rail systems. 

The news that Govenor Perdue was in Washington to meet with Vice President Biden and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, a Republican appointed by President Obama,  about giving his support to the Obama plan for a national high-speed rail network is encouraging. The President’s plan calls for two high-speed trains to go through Georgia, with Atlanta being the hub. Read all about it by clicking on this link to the AJC’s Political Insider.  

How SB 164 Gives Billboard Companies More Power to Cut Publically Owned Trees

March 14, 2009

“Either you are unaware or you are deliberately trying to mislead your readers. Billboard companies have the right to cut these trees now,” Anna McLendon wrote in a comment on my post about the latest effort by billboard companies to obtain the right to cut trees on state and local governmental highway rights of way.  She is partially right, certainly, though, not about my deliberately misleading my readers.  I don’t do that.  The  unaware part is the part that’s partially right.  I didn’t know as much about the present law or the one that just passed the Senate as I should have.  She is wrong, however, in that the billboard companies now have the “right” to cut those trees.

In order to correct my shortcoming in understand the two laws,  I called former Columbus mayor and advertising executive Bob Hydrick, who is on the board of    Trees Columbus Inc.  Bob explained it this way:  “What the billboard people have now is the ‘privilege,’  not the ‘right’ to cut trees on public rights of way.  They have to get a permit from the state Department of Transportation commissioner.  If their request meets certain criteria,  he can grant permission to cut the trees,  but he can also deny their request.  The new law, the one passed by the Senate and is now in the House,  gives them the ‘right’ rather than the ‘privilege.’  They won’t have to get a permit from DOT any more.”

Now,  when a billboard company wants to put up a new billboard,  it has to wait five years before it can get a permit to cut vegitation on public property.  Being on private property,  it can put up the billboard,  but it can’t cut trees on public property for five years.  The new law ends that prohibition, also.

Also, Bob told me,  now, they simply cannot cut trees that were planted as part of beautification projects.  The DOT commissioner doesn’t have the authority to give a permit for that.  Under the new law,  that would also change.  They would have the right to cut trees planted as part of beautification projects.   There is a suit against the DOT pending on this one,  filed by  Trees Columbus, Inc., the Gateway Foundation, and the City of Columbus,  concerning the attempted cutting of trees planted as part of beautification projects on I-185 inside the Columbus City Limits.

I hope that clarifies what the Billboard industry is trying to accomplish with the new law, SB 164,  which passed in the Senate and is now in the Georgia House.  You can read the bill by going to this Georgia Senate link.  I haven’t changed my mind about how I feel about the law.  I don’t want beautification projects on public property destroyed to make it easier to see billboards.   I hope you will let your representative in the House know that you do not favor SB 164,  which expands the billboard industry’s power to cut down trees owned by taxpayers.

You can read MS McLendon’s complete comment, as well as those by others, by going to my previous post on the issue, “I Think I Shall Never See a Billboard as Lovely as a Tree.”

I Think That I Shall Never See a Billboard as Lovely as a Tree

March 8, 2009

As we knew it would, the billboard industry once again is lobbying the Georgia legislature to pass a bill that will allow clear-cutting of public trees that block views of billboards on private property.  To probably no ones surprise, the Georgia Senate has given those lobbyists what they want.  Now,  it’s up to the House to again protect our public trees from the billboard company’s saws.

I have nothing against billboards,  especially if they are entertaining – almost none are – but,  I don’t think they should take precedence over the trees that beautify our highways and supply us with oxygen.   Because business lobbyists usually get what they want from the legislature,  it takes a huge public effort to counter their influence.  That’s what happened last year and now it needs to happen again.  Contact your state representative and let him or her know that you don’t want our public trees cut so that billboard company’s can make more money.

Also contact Vance Smith of Pine Mountain whether he is your district’s representative or not, because he is the chair of the House Transportation Committee that is considering the bill.  Let him know that you prefer trees over billboards, especially trees that are owned by the taxpayers of Georgia.   His email address is anvance.smith@house.ga.gov and his telephone number is  404.656.7153.

Trees Columbus Inc. provides these talking points.

  I urge you to vote NO on SB 164, a bill that will give billboard companies the ability to cut trees along Georgia rights of way.

  • As a taxpayer, I help provide for the roadways and the trees along rights of way. A new survey by American Viewpoint finds more than 70% of Georgia voters oppose the State of Georgia allowing billboard companies to cut down trees on public property so that motorists can see billboards located on nearby private property.
  • These trees make travel in Georgia more pleasant for Georgians and visitors alike, thus enhancing tourism and its related economic benefits. The trees that will be cut now provide cooling, create oxygen, consume carbon dioxide, protect against erosion and reduce sediment in our streams.
  • I ask that, instead of giving preference to special interests, you vote in favor of the public interest by voting NO on SB 164
Contact  members of the subcommittee at these addresses and phone numbers:
 

Representative Tom McCall – Chair  – 404.656.5115 – tommccall@bellsouth.net

Representative Tommy Benton – Vice Chair – 404.656.0177 – tommy.benton@house.ga.gov

Representative David Ralston – 404.656.0213 -dralston@etcmail.com

Representative QuincyMurphy – 404.656.0265 – quincy.murphy@house.ga.gov

Representative Barry Loudermilk – 404.656.0152 – barry@barryloudermilk.com

Representative Mark Hamilton – 404.656.0188 – mark.hamilton@house.ga.gov
Please forward this web address, dicksworld.wordpress.com,  to your friends so we can get as many calls and emails to our Georgia state representatives as possible.  (Not to mention how much it will help increase hits to my site!)
 

Why We Need to Stop Using Plastic Bags

July 20, 2008

  After reading about the damage that plastic bags are doing around the world, I am glad to be able to say that I bought a couple of cloth bags and am slowly getting into the habit of remembering to take them into the store with me. Check out this link.

 

  The bags only cost me $0.99 each.  Get a couple. You’ll feel better doing the right thing.