Ein Brief von Joe Firmage, in dem auf 'naive' Weise Elemente des neuen Paradigmas umrissen werden...

 

Date: Sat, 15 Apr 2000 02:21:02 -0000
To: jfirmage_bulletin@firmage.org
Subject: [Joe Firmage] Winter 2000

 

Winter 2000

Hello friend,

A remarkable first season of the new year is behind us. As I sit down this past weekend and share a few thoughts on 2000, I have little idea where to begin. There are so many important trends and issues at work in our midst.

A Tour Through the Headlines

Of course, the 2000 presidential campaign continues to preoccupy much of the establishment. Now that financial immune systems of the two major parties have filtered out candidates deemed incompatible with their interests, Democrats and Republicans are busy in their corners attending to their prize fighters. One is a conservative-leaning liberal with a good record of 8 years of managed change in the White House, proposing that the trajectory of America generally should continue on present course and speed. Al Gore's message is a good one within prevailing assumptions, and isn't likely to be successfully challenged inside the box of 20th century thinking, as Bradley found out. The other primary victor is an increasingly compassionate conservative who, as the only major Presidential candidate opposed to honest campaign finance reform, claims to be just the kind of reformer Washington D.C. needs to clean up all those illegal Buddhist temple fundraisers. Let us have none of that... we must keep our fund raising to cell phones, board rooms, golf courses, and ball rooms, where it's ethical.

It's almost enough to make millions of perfectly sane democrats and republicans want to find McCain and scream him to his senses to MAKE HISTORY, RUN OUTSIDE THE PARTIES. If only he wasn't such a hawk... If only he would listen for a moment to the other less audible screams he recognizes better than his peers -- the cries of the tens of millions killed in the conflicts of the 20th century -- and sense that we cannot allow investments needed for our future to be consumed, let alone produced, by the bigotries, nationalisms, profit motives and class warfare given sanctuary within 2nd millennium military charters. If only he recognized that several basic factors in the political calculus underlying our military charters must be rewritten fundamentally for a new age. From scratch. He'd have two issues that could totally galvanize the thought leaders of a new majority.

Of course, Vice President Gore could step up to the plate and lead these transformative agendas.

Elsewhere, the historic visit of Pope John Paul II to Jerusalem has struck a chord of admiration within many of us. Though the Catholic Church, like the Christian faith of Mormonism in which I was raised, has a sometimes-deserved reputation for dogmatism and intolerance, one of the most widely respected spiritual leaders on Earth is taking profound steps in the direction of consilience. There is something undeniably moving and meaningful at work among the great religions of our small planet. Through delicacy in diplomacy, sincerity of entreaty, community and mature conversation, carried by a rising tide of knowledge, we are coming to recognize the common root of Cosmic spiritual experience from which our religions grow. With increasing openness from Pope John Paul II, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, and other leaders of religion, the differences between faiths look increasingly like shining facets giving a common gem value, rather than blemishes that must be ground away in conflict. One watches with hope in view of the historic choices facing the present generation of leaders of religions, nations, militaries, and economies. Will they be the individuals recorded by our time as the peacemakers, or will their successors be the ones who earn the most sacred of honors?

Outside of strictly world affairs, we could take a comprehensive look at our nation's Space program, beset with criticism springing from the notion that we can accomplish only two of the better-faster-cheaper objectives at the same time. For lifting matter into Space using present technology, this is so true, and thus so inadequate a total appraisal of the challenges faced by our Space agency. I've had the pleasure of visiting NASA on a few occasions, and the people I meet share such a wonderful vision. They are sailors working on the first primitive ships capable of leaving our Cosmic harbor. Their assignments are specific and sometimes arcane, but their shared mission is as pure as discovery and as eternal as curiosity -- and as vital as survival.

Our Space agency is caught in a no-win position. NASA is the seed of a sweeping new vision which, despite its youth, extends beyond the present grasp of the politicians that must nourish it, while private sector capabilities are increasingly able to fulfill present-scale assignments. One hopes that our world's core visionaries share a growing recognition that a vastly larger Space Program, with a different guiding hope than military might, consumerism, or profit, is vital to the future of life on Earth. What we need is a Space Program for humanity at peace with Cosmos, totally engaging the social challenges we face as the sentient young stewards of our blue-green planet. We should think of our Space Program as the brightest little species of fish in a tide pool should think of an Ocean Program.

Continuing this line of reasoning further toward the horizon, we could discuss the interesting television specials recently aired by the History Channel and The Learning Channel. Broadcast in February and March were several documentaries which provided probing examinations of parts of the long-ignored evidence for genuinely unidentifiable aerospatial phenomenona in our midst. These several hours of television are immensely interesting, conveying both the amusing delusions and some of the stunningly tangible mysteries witnessed in fifty years of experience at the frontier of science.

The 4-part video series specifically titled "UFOs: Then and Now?" can be ordered from www.historychannel.com.

With last week's Time Magazine featuring column after column concerning the now-socially-acceptable notions of multiple Universes, worm holes, 11 dimensional string theories of everything, time travel, the beginning and end of the Cosmos, and other mathematical wonders, and with PBS' NOVA featuring late last year some of the world's greatest mathematical physicists debating the implications of their equations...

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/time/

... it seems reasonable that we talk openly about the less exotic physics theories and experiments underlying more realistic visions of future starships. Ones that might be field-propelled by a new kind of self-contained electromagnetic circuit, distorting the medium surrounding the craft. Or, in other words, vessels whose propulsion systems directly influence the medium of light we commonly call Space. Such a breakthrough would facilitate a revolution in energy generation and all forms of transportation, drastically reducing the human footprint on Earth, and enabling rapid interstellar travel for you and I.

Want to know what it would be like to take a ride in that kind of Space yacht? Visit the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. Combining the distant spectacles revealed by Hubble's eye, image quality rivaling IMAX, the wraparound sphere of the brand new Hayden Planetarium theater, the latest computer graphics technology, and a cinematic joystick... you'll sit back in humbled awe. It's an amazing production that reaches in and nourishes your soul. Now THAT is the way to contemplate a trip through the Milky Way, visiting the wonders seen only in the vastness of night, in a vessel of the future.

But these ideas can wait for a while, or so it seems. Other shifts in the human trajectory would appear to be pressing prerequisites for the infinite possibilities that may be earned by an interplanetary species, lest we repeat the mistakes of the last Renaissance in the quest of someone else's New World.

 

The Intent Of Our Forces

I was recently reacquainted with the battle against the nuclear arms race, in a discussion over lunch with former U.S. Senator Alan Cranston. I was honored to meet such a wise and peaceful man, with an intellect made rugged and sharp in his years of service to our nation and planet. His cause is one my family has long shared: the complete abolition of nuclear weapons. The materials Alan shared with me are part of a historic debate. His own writing for the San Francisco Examiner on November 16, 1999, presents the overall picture:

"Shortly after atomic bombs fell on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, I met Albert Einstein. He warned if the bomb were developed further, and ever used all-out, the human race could be exterminated. The bomb has been developed further. One super bomb could now let loose more destructive energy than *all* that has been released from *all* weapons fired in *all* wars in *all* history [emphasis in original]. The power of self-extinction is now in our uncertain hands.

"The leaders responsible for America's defense warn that the only significant threat today to the security and survival of the U.S. is nuclear proliferation. Their Alice in Wonderland position seems to be that the danger lies in nations that do not possess nuclear weapons, not in those that do.

"Actually, nuclear weapons beget nuclear weapons. The threat of a Hitler bomb begot the American bomb. The American bomb begot the Soviet arsenal. The U.S. and Soviet arsenals led to the British, French and Chinese arsenals. These led to bombs of Israel, India and Pakistan. What next?

"It is more likely now than it was during the stable days of the Cold War that weapons of mass destruction will be used. Former Secretary of Defense William Perry says, 'It isn't a question of whether, but of where and when.' General Charles Horner, who commanded Allied Air Forces in the Gulf War, says he expects that a nuclear weapon will be exploded in some city in the next 10 years. Former Ambassador Robert Galluci, who negotiated on nuclear weapons with Iraq and North Korea, agrees and predicts it will be an American city. Galluci described how it could happen: 'One of these (rogue) governments fabricates a couple of nuclear weapons and gives them to a terrorist group created for this purpose. The group brings one of these bombs into Baltimore by boat, and drives another one up to Pittsburg. Then the message comes to the White House. 'Adjust your policy in the Middle East, or on Tuesday you will lose Baltimore, and Wednesday you lose Pittsburg.' Tuesday comes, and we lose Baltimore. What does the U.S. do?'"

The former Senator has formed the Global Security Institute, dedicated to the cause of the abolition of nuclear weapons, and the support he has assembled stunned and encouraged me. "In 1996, the [Institute] organized the preparation and public release of an abolition statement by 63 generals and admirals from the United States, Russia, and 15 other nations. A second statement signed by 131 international civilian leaders from 49 countries -- including 52 past or present presidents and prime ministers -- was...made public at the National Press Club in 1998 by General Lee Butler, former Commander-in-Chief of the Strategic Command." The Strategic Command owns responsibility for our nation's nuclear weapons arsenal. General Butler's comments are historic:

"It is distressingly evident that for many people, nuclear weapons retain an aura of utility, of primacy and of legitimacy that justifies their existence well into the future, in some number, however small. The persistence of this view, which is perfectly reflected in the recently announced modification of U.S. nuclear weapons policy, lies at the core of the concern that moves me so deeply. This abiding faith in nuclear weapons was inspired and is sustained by a catechism instilled over many decades by a priesthood who speak with great assurance and authority. I was for many years among the most avid of these keepers of the faith in nuclear weapons, and for that I make no apology. Like my contemporaries, I was moved by fears and fired by beliefs that date back to the earliest days of the atomic era. We lived through a terror-ridden epoch punctuated by crises whose resolution held hostage the saga of humankind. For us, nuclear weapons were the savior that brought an implacable foe to his knees in 1945 and held another at bay for nearly a half-century. We believed that superior technology brought strategic advantage, that greater numbers meant stronger security, and that the ends of containment justified whatever means were necessary to achieve them.

"These are powerful, deeply rooted beliefs. They cannot and should not be lightly dismissed or discounted. Strong arguments can be made on their behalf. Throughout my professional military career, I shared them, I professed them and I put them into operational practice. And now it is my burden to declare with all of the conviction I can muster that in my judgment they served us extremely ill. They account for the most severe risks and most extravagent costs of the U.S.-Soviet confrontation. They intensified and prolonged an already acute ideological animosity. They spawned successive generations of new and more destructive nuclear devices and delivery systems. They gave rise to mammoth bureaucracies with gargantuan appetites and global agendas. They incited primal emotions, spurred zealotry and demagoguery, and set in motion forces of ungovernable scope and power. Most importantly, these enduring beliefs, and the fears that underlie them, perpetuate cold war policies and practices that make no strategic sense. They continue to entail enormous costs and expose all mankind to unconscionable dangers. I find that intolerable...

"By what authority do succeeding generations of leaders in nuclear weapons states usurp the power to dictate the odds of continued life on our planet? Most urgently, why does such breathtaking audacity persist at a moment when we should stand trembling in the face of our folly and united in our commitment to abolish its most deadly manifestation?

"For all my years as a nuclear strategist, operational commander and public spokesman, I explained, justified and sustained America's massive nuclear arsenal as a function, a necessity and a consequence of deterrence. Bound up in this singular term, this familiar touchstone of security dating back to antiquity, was the intellectually comforting and deceptively simple justification for taking the most extreme risks and the expenditure of trillions of dollars. It was our shield and by extension our sword. The nuclear priesthood extolled its virtues, and bowed to its demands. Allies yielded grudgingly to its dictates even while decrying its risks and costs. We brandished it at our enemies and presumed they embraced its suicidal corollary of mutually assured destruction. We ignored, discounted or dismissed its flaws and cling still to the belief that it obtains in a world whose security architecture has been wholly transformed.

"But now, I see it differently. Not in some blinding revelation, but at the end of a journey, in an age of deliverance from the consuming tensions of the cold war. Now, with the evidence more clear, the risks more sharply defined and the costs more fully understood, I see deterrence in a very different light. Appropriated from the lexicon of conventional warfare, this simple prescription for adequate military preparedness became in the nuclear age a formula for unmitigated catastrophe. It was premised on a litany of unwarrented assumptions, unprovable assertions and logical contradictions. It suspended rational thinking about the ultimate aim of national security: to ensure the survival of the nation... Deterrence was a dialogue of the blind with the deaf.

"We cannot at once keep sacred the miracle of existence and hold sacrosanct the capacity to destroy it."

Are we comfortable to live in a world that tolerates the creation of machines whose sole purpose is the vaporization of cities, believing that 'we can have them but no one else'?

The answer comes from scores of generals and admirals around the globe, thus equally historic and more audible: "We, military professionals, who have devoted our lives to the national security of our countries and our peoples, are convinced that the continuing existence of nuclear weapons in the armories of nuclear powers, and the ever present threat of acquisition of these weapons by others, constitutes a peril to global peace and security and to the safety and survival of the people we are dedicated to protect...

"Movement toward abolition must be a responsibility shared primarily by the declared nuclear weapons states of China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States; by the de facto nuclear states, India, Israel, and Pakistan; and by major non-nuclear powers such as Germany and Japan. All nations should move in concert toward the same goal.

"We have been presented with a challenge of the highest possible historic importance: the creation of a nuclear-weapons-free world. The end of the Cold War makes it possible."

Think about these declarations, and absorb their values and their vision!

Contrast the trajectory of these incredibly courageous, history-making proclamations with another vision. It is the 1998 Vision Statement from the U.S. Space Command's Long Range Plan for 2020: "*Dominating the space dimension of military operations to protect U.S. interests and investment. Integrating Space Forces into warfighting capabilities across the full spectrum of conflict* [emphasis in original]... Space is critical to both military and economic instruments of power -- the main sources of national strength." The plan argues that the largest-ever investment in Space should be framed by four priorities: (1) "Control of Space ... the ability to assure access to space, freedom of operations within the medium of space, and an ability to deny others the use of space, if required." (2) "Global Engagement ... focused surveillance and missile defense with a potential ability to apply force from space, should national policy call for such a capability." (3) "Full Force Integration ... the integration of space forces and space-derived information with air, land and sea forces and information." (4) "Global Partnerships [augmenting] military space capabilities through the leveraging of civil, commercial, and international space systems."

Now, some rightly say, "Well, there are rogue nations and terrorists out there. And we need to stop them." Agreed. We need to stop them. How? What is the least invasive, cheapest and most effective way to stop violence?

The leaders of the U.S. Space Command are outstanding, intelligent and patriotic citizens with the truest of ethics. I have met several of them. But what is the geopolitical vision for 2020 toward which individuals within our military drive the charter of the U.S. Space Command? Are we now seriously suggesting that the arms race be extended into Space? At the least, the charter does not reflect the global nature of the medium it attempts to control. At the most, it is as if Spain is declaring that access to the Universe shall be governed by its navy.

Concerning an equally broad question of comfort with today's military-industrial-intelligence charters, one could speculate on the so-called "Echelon" project -- the alleged half-century-old international communications surveillance system -- said to be listening to billions of phone calls and reading e-mails hunting for enemies of the state.

What is the origin and extent of that system? Would such a system fall within the coverage area of Full Force Integration? Will the ethics of modern human beings require that such systems be escalated further across Earth and into Space? Will the technomilitarization of nations simply make it so in fits of GPS-guided geopolitical testosterone? One would surely hope not. To whatever extent such a system is deemed necessary, should any one nation have moral authority to run it? Could de jure or de facto economic interests be prevented from gaining undue influence over such a system? Rather fundamental questions deserving open examination. These are questions for presidential candidates.

More broadly still, what is the rationale within aging geopolitical calculus that justifies the mission of our $1 trillion dollar-per-year military-industrial-intelligence medusa? Whatever its justification, it takes resources which otherwise could be devoted for environmental preservation, human education, health, and discovery. By virtue of its existence as chartered, it invents and gives moral blessing to ever cheaper and more lethal force multipliers and spying machines for those with interests to protect, hatred to avenage, or lust to satisfy. All one needs is money to make or buy weapons of mass destruction capable of slipping through military shields, and there's a lot of money out there. There's a lot of Space out there.

It would seem overdue that we compare our investment in global military shields and swords to our investment in global social health. If there is ever to be an era of global disarmament and reinvestment, the world's only superpower must be willing to lead the international commitment to the vision with uncommon unilateral courage. If Gorbachev can catalyze the crumbling of the Iron Curtain, which president will provide a new charter for the U.S. Department of Defense and our military industrial complex?

What if we created an international assistance organization capable of feeding and educating every poor human being on Earth for half of what nations spend each year on our militaries? Might we cut warfare in half? What if military infrastructure could be transformed over a couple of decades in this and other peaceful directions? Why can't we retask a trillion dollars per year of statesmanship, sober wisdom, youthful passion, and organizational ethic to other kinds of soaring missions?

I found a powerful recounting of the reasons for trying in the pages of a book given to me two weeks ago by its editor.

Life Stories

Heather Newbold has just published Life Stories, a moving collection of essays from tireless leaders of science whose careers have been devoted to the study and preservation of life on Earth. It is a book you should own...

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0520218965/qid=954847696/sr=1-1/102-0041643-1538468

I'll share with you just a few excerpts, wishing that I could copy down every word from every contributor... Heather begins, "This book is for people who want to know what is happening to life on Earth -- and to us."

The Union of Concerned Scientists declares, "Human beings and the natural world are on a collision course. Human activities inflict harsh and often irreversible damage on the environment and on critical resources. If not checked, many current practices put at serious risk the future that we wish for human society and the plant and animal kingdoms, and may so alter theliving world that it will be unable to sustain life in the manner that we know...

"We, the undersigned, senior members of the world's scientific community, hereby warn all humanity of what lies ahead. A great change in our stewardship of the earth and the life on it is required, if vast human misery is to be avoided and our global home on this planet is not to be irretrievably mutilated...

"Success in this global endeavor will require a great reduction in violence and war. Resources now devoted to the preparation and conduct of war -- amounting to over $1 trillion annually -- will be badly needed in the new tasks and should be diverted to the new challenges....

"A new ethic is required -- a new attitude towards discharging our responsibility for caring for ourselves and for the earth. We must recognize the earth's limited capacity to provide for us. We must recognize its fragility. We must no longer allow it to be ravaged. This ethic must motivate a great movement..."

George Goodwell adds, "As a young scientist, I realized that the changes we were creating in the structure of nature were systematic. Disturbances from whatever source all lead to systematic biotic impoverishment: a reduction in the structure of nature to the point where small-bodied, short-lived, rapidly reproducing organisms prevail and large-bodied, long-lived ones (like us) are lost. That is a general description of what happens as the environment becomes poisoned and diminished.

"That is about where we are at the moment. We are realizing that our overall environment is poisoned and becoming impoverished in the process. Once that accumulation occurs, it is substantially irreversible. The contamination of the oceans with pesticides can never be reversed in any period of interest to us. It is time for a revolution in our relationship to the environment. Our interest lies in clean air, water, and land that will support not only people but all other organisms. What is most important is to keep the normal living systems of Earth functioning, because they are what support us all."

Elliott Norse says, "The sea is so vast that it seems invulnerable, a boundless cornucopia of resources for our appetites and a convenient toilet for out wastes. But humankind is more powerful than we realize, and the living sea is in real trouble. By applying scientific understanding about marine biodiversity and how humans affect it, we can make better decisions. Knowledge does not guarantee that we will do the right thing, but we will make better decisions with it than without it.

"There is just one ocean, the world ocean system. The Black Sea flows into the Mediterranean, which flows into the Atlantic, which is connected to the Arctic Ocean, and through that to the Pacific and the Indian Oceans. They are all connected to one another through aquatic pathways. The herbicide sprayed onto a golf course in Chicago's suburbs is washed into streams, then the Illinois River, then the Mississippi River, which carries it into the Gulf of Mexico, then into the Atlantic Ocean, and from there into all the world's oceans. Not recognizing this unity, we draw political lines on maps that have nothing to do with marine ecosystems...

"Like our political constructs, our economic systems work against us. One pernicious effect of a free-market economy was originally pointed out by Colin Clark, a mathematician at the University of British Columbia. He explained how our economic system ensures the destruction of natural resources, including long-lived species such as whales, sea turtles, and fishes. If you manage them for maximum sustainable yield, and they yield, say, 3 percent per year, that is a lower return on investment than the 5 percent you might get in a bank account. Thus, it is more profitable to liquidate them and invest the capital in something that pays a higher yield. The game becomes 'take the money and run...'

"That reasoning helps explain why the world's fisheries are collapsing. Economic forces motivate fishermen to eliminate what could be a sustainable resource, and political forces prevent regulatory agencies from regulating them. We are liquidating our marine capital: most fish stocks are depleted, overfished by three and a half million fishing vessels around the world. National governments spend $125 billion dollars every year to catch $70 billion worth of rapidly declining fish... As Daniel Pauly and coauthors noted in a landmark paper in Science last year, we are fishing farther down food webs. That is, increasingly we are eating what we formerly used for bait. This is eliminating the bigger fishes at higher trophic levels, such as shark, swordfish, tuna, grouper, and cod...

"Clearcutting and trawling are remarkably similar kinds of disturbances. Of course, there are differences -- after all, the gear varies, and loggers clearcut to get to the trees, not the birds and mammals living among them. But they do disturb most of the structure-forming organisms that provide habitat for many other species. And both of them cause a substantial nutrient loss from the affected site. Yet the difference in area is astounding: whereas the forest loss due to clearcutting each year is about one hundred thousand square kilometers (the size of Indiana), the area trawled each year is vastly larger. We calculated nearly fifteen million square kilometers (twice the area of the contiguous United States). Even if we overestimated, trawling is still the greatest disturbance in the sea worldwide."

Paul Ehrlich says, "The world desperately needs an overview, and the media is not providing it. The journalistic system is breaking down. What passes for news and comment in the media is mostly nonsense and trivia, which is why the public dismisses it. If you turn on the news, you are likely to hear about some celebrity who has been caught with a prostitute or killed his wife or whatever. The network news is no longer news; it is entertainment. Important issues are rarely discussed on the news. They are almost never addressed even on programs that purport to examine significant matters, where you get commentators who think they know everything and actually know little about how the biophysical world works. The standard media gurus and pundits are basically ignorant of what is going on in the real world.

"Current trends in consumption and population cannot continue indefinitely. We need to look at the scale of the enterprise relative to the ability of life's support systems to continue in perpetuity. The scale of the human enterprise is a product of the number of people, how much each one consumes, and what kind of technologies are used to supply the consumption. Until everyone comprehends that, we will not have the kind of political action we need in order to survive."

Peter Raven says, "I am still trying to promote a spirit of internationalism in the Unites States, a feeling that people all over the world are connected to us, even if we do not realize they are there. Americans feel that we should run our own economy in our own way with our own resources and that nothing much that happens in the rest of the world is important to us. Nothing could be further from the truth. The United States has less than 5 percent of the world's population yet uses 25 percent of the available resources. Among all the industrial countries, the United States is by far the smallest donor of international development assistance per capita, among other things. We really fear internationalism, yet our economy and our environment are definitely international.

"Countries are so obsessed with increasing their economies that they exploit and consume their natural resources at the expense of their environment. Our former undersecretary of global affairs, Timothy Wirth, said that 'the economy is a wholly owned subsidiary of the environment.' It is, yet we talk about battles between the economy and environment as if they were equivalent. Our future is completely dependent on the way we manage our environment, yet the environment has been collapsing, becoming less and less sustainable with every passing year. We need to make a transition into something new, a new kind of economy that is not based on consumption but on sustaining, recycling, and renewing what we have."

David Suzuki adds, "We are nourished by nature, but we are so disconnected from life that most adults do not even realize that. Living in artificial, man-made environments makes us forget our biological nature. We think our greatest achievement is independence from nature, but we are still as dependent on air, water, and soil as any other living organism. It is not technology that cleanses the air for us or manages the water cycle or gives us food. It is the biodiversity of nature. We live in a finite world where matter is endlessly recycled through biological action. The variety of living things on this planet is what keeps it livable.

"The more urban our environment, the more ignorant we are of how our world actually works. In Toronto, if you ask someone, 'Where does your food grow?' or 'Where does your water come from?' or 'Where does your toilet water go?'they do not know. If you tell them that their toilet flushes into Lake Ontario, half a kilometer from the intake pipe for their drinking water, they are absolutely shocked...

"Trying to escape reality, we live in an increasingly illusory world. We are losing the ability to sense the real world. Being unaware of our biological nature leads to being out of touch with our own bodies, as well as those of others. We reject our animality, even though being with animals makes us more human...

"We are part of them, just as they are part of us. We do not end at the edges of our bodies; we are intermixed with everything else. When you realize that you are part of this living skin of life, it is very comforting, because it means you have this kinship with all other living things. When Lovelock came up with 'Gaia,' we knew it was right. It makes sense that there is something bigger than us and that we are part of it. Our spirituality comes from the realization that there are things beyond our comprehension greater than us."

Martin Holdgate adds, "The greatest need is for international vision and inspiration. As I wrote in my book From Care to Action, human societies down the ages have been led by visionaries rather than functionaries -- by poets and prophets. We need to recapture a sense of vision. We need to acknowledge not only that the world of nature is the foundation of our lives but also that it is beautiful, wonderful, an object of reverence, and a manifestation of what people of many faiths have seen as the divine."

James Lovelock says, "It saddens me that few people ever see the stars at night. Although parts of London were so dimmed by the street lights that I could not see the sky, when I did see the stars, I was awed. The occassional meteorite was tremendously exciting. I could not help wondering what it was like out there and what was to be found in outer space. Of course, as a child, I never dreamed that in the future I would actually be involved in that kind of enterprise...

"When I first saw Gaia in my mind, I felt what an astronaut in space must have experienced seeing our home, Earth. I perceived Gaia as a single living entity consisting of Earth's biosphere, atmosphere, oceans, and land. Its entirety constitutes a feedback system that creates optimal physical conditions for life on this planet. It is a totality endowed with qualities far beyond those of its constituent parts. It differs from other living organisms in the way we differ from the population of living cells in our bodies. Gaia is the largest of living systems -- it is our superorganism."

Bringing this message to a close, I'll quote from Thomas Lovejoy's essay...

"At first, the rain forest seems almost bewilderingly simple, that is, until you learn enough about it to be able to sense some of the difference. You do not notice individual things as much because each thing appears to be part of everything around it. Unlike temperate-forest plants, which grow separately, rain forest plants grow together. Every available niche is overflowing with living inhabitants: it is a giant green web of interlocking organisms.

"Above you, layers of life are piled on top of each other. Shrubs, ferns, palms, trees of differing kinds and heights hung with huge vines, laddered lianas, and coiling creepers are intertwined together, meshed into an endless mosiac. Plants grow on plants growing on other plants. Flowering gardens cluster on terraced tree branches, orchids cascade in profusion, bromeliads perch like birds on branches. Epiphytic plants clumped on bark collect water and absorb nutrients from the air, providing homes and food for other plants and peculiar creatures. An amazing array of organisms resides at every level of the canopy.

"Under this living umbrella, your senses are continually aroused. While winds whip the canopy above, tropical thunderstorms filter through the layered leaves, dissipating into mist in the still air below. The air is so humid that it is permeated with organic smells. Fertile scents drift down from above, earthy odors waft up from the moist soil. Whatever falls to the ground is decomposed in weeks, compared to the years it takes in cooler, drier climates.

"As well as being bathed in moisture and immersed in smells, you are always surrounded by sounds. At night sound is pervasive. In the darkness, it feels tangible. If it does not scare you, it can be entertaining and sometimes even amusing. The three senators I recently took there snored all night,accompanied by frogs improvising in response. It was quite a combo swinging in the hammocks.

"While you are living there, you are so embedded in it that you not know its full effect on you. Although I recognized the scientific importance of the forest while I was working in it, I did not realize what it meant to me personally. That moment of revelation came when I took my first bunch of senators to the Amazon in 1989. At that point, I had not been into the forest or to my research project for a year and a half. I was only a fewsteps down the path into my favorite camp in the forest when suddenly I had the feeling of coming home. That is when I realized the forest had come tomean something to be on a deeper level. I belonged here."

As we approach Earth Day 2000, I am hopeful, and optimistic, that we will choose to awaken, finding the way that opens our hearts, lightens ourfootprint and lengthens our stride.

Be well,

Joe Firmage