Indigenous Caribbean Network

I am enrolled in a course this term which requires I interview spiritual leaders. If you are interested, please contact me by email carrie@carriemedina.com I have included the questions below for you to review. If there are any questions you prefer not to answer, or prefer I NOT share with others, please let me know. My time frame is 4 weeks, so that I may have time to do my own write up. Thank you in advance for your assistance to my education. p&l~c

Interview Questions for Spirit & Nature: Environmental Concerns

How would you characterize the distinction between stewardship rather than dominion of the Earth?
Do you associate this terminology with Judeo-Christianity?
What groups & entities should be considered in preserving & protecting an ordinary (neighborhood) or extraordinary (natural wonder) part of the environment?
What resources do you use to help combat any feelings of despair for the threatened state of the environment?
Does your spiritual tradition offer precedents regarding personal responsibility toward preventing or intervening in environmental degradation?
Sociobiologist, E.O.Wilson claims that our descendants will view us as a "Ship of fools" if we destroy the stability of the natural balance of nature or destroy things of value to them. Do you think he is right?
How has the experience of your ancestors affected your personal attitudes & practices toward the environment?
Do you see ethics as distinct from religion? Please explain.
Is there any connection between wealth & environmental degradation?
Comment on the claim that "Rational beings alone have moral worth" (Immanuel Kant).
Is humanity an "End in Itself" (Immanuel Kant)?
Nobel Peace Prize recipient (1952), Albert Sweitzer found a sense of "Reverence for Life" at a moment of exhaustion & discouragement in Africa. He claimed that it was key to a holistic system of values. How would you interpret this proposition?
Vietnamese Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hanh proposes that "Peace is every step." In what way might this attitude influence action toward nature?
Mahatma Gandhi warned, "Nature had enough for everybody’s need but not for everybody’s greed." The traditional Hindu scriptural imperative was to conserve the environment; this was obligatory for rulers & seers as well as ordinary people. Therefore, exploitation of nature was considered sacrilegious. Does this precept correlate with that in your own tradition?
Primatologist, Jane Goodall proposes that there is "Reason for Hope." Do you agree & what helps you to feel or think this way?
Native American Elder of the Eel clan of New York State, Audrey Shenandoah speaks of "Thanksgiving" for the Earth’s bounty & need for "Responsibility to the Seventh Generation." How might this guiding principle influence behavior toward the environment?
Islamic scholar Seyyed Hossein Nasr describes the Earth as sacred, its beauty as reflection of that "Paradisiacal abode which is above." In what way do/do not these statements mesh with your own sense of spirituality?
Earth-based religions including Shamanism view all aspects of existence & entities as connected with invisible "Threads" or "Strands." They consider that the health of the community reflects the care it takes of the natural environment. Do you agree?
Are "Life boat ethics" justifiable in certain circumstances?
Is there any relationship between world hunger & American dietary habits?
Do you believe that sustainable development is possible without lethal impairment to the natural environment?
Confidentiality: Ethics & Release Statement:
***After conclusion of the interview, do explain to your interviewee that you may post some responses to the Discussion Forum. Request permission to do so & note on your paper any or all responses that your interview subject desires to keep private or exclusively for your instructor’s perusal***

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Comment by Ayesart on October 11, 2008 at 4:31pm
Hola, Carrie:
I've come back to continue answering the questions.
Question:
How has the experience of your ancestors affected your personal attitudes & practices toward the environment?
Answ:
When I was growing up as a child and a young man my elder women always guided me with their advice and their stories of the ancestors.
I grew up in New York in the South Bronx. There were gangs and there were the many drugs that they used.
My parent and grandmother always reminded me that I was the sire of warriors and caciques who had lived following a specific code of ethics that served their community. The warriors were honorable people and whose job it was to protect the young, old and women of the tribe. It was they who enforced the will of the cacique. The cacique was there to act as judge in disputes and to keep things running smoothly within the tribe. There were no written laws because everyone acted in the way they were supposed to. I was informed that a warrior didn't do anything that would tarnish the honor of the family.
The elder women of the family spoke of the gangs and the drugs as being the negative side of how a person musn't behave. Those who participated in gangs were lost children who had forgotten their heritage. Those who participated in drug use were also lost because they were using the drugs outside of the realm of spiritual use.
I was told that the Mother and Father of us all had created us and we all had to respect the environment because it was sacred because it had come from them. Our food was a gift from the mother. So was the water. What was most important was that we were responsible for nurturing and developing our powers that resided within us all. It was a lifetime task and in doing so we would become closer to the environment that gave us life and sustinence.
I was told that my grandfather, Feliciano Ayes Ortiz was what you would call a curandero. He was wise in the ways and power of the plants. The knowledge of the plants was passed down to him as it was being passed down to me during my youth. back in his day he helped a lot of people through thier illnesses in the little town of Salinas, PR. My mom used to take me to the river around hunts point so I could learn while we were gathering herbs there. We always left gifts before pulling up a plant. A cigarette, a fruit, a coin. I was taught that one should always give back if they took something from the Mother.

Question:
Do you see ethics as distinct from religion? Please explain.
Answ:
What our ancestors and my family practiced had nothing to do with religion. It was a way of being.
The "ethics" that was practiced centered around what you would call, basic codes. No stealing, no killing and treating one another as you wanted to be treated. Honor came from the respect of the elders and family. It can be called a basic code of conduct. One respected the Mother as one respected themselves. Again, she was a living entity that could feel pain and get sick just like we can get sick. If she got sick, then we were in grave danger of illness.
The water was something that no one ever thought of polluting. There was a common sense ethic that went with that. One doesn't urinate or deficate where one drinks their water. The water was Mother's life blood and the rivers and streams were her viens.
Question:
Is there any connection between wealth & environmental degradation?
Answer:
I was always taught that as long as we had a roof over our heads, food to fill our stomachs and land to grow the food we were well off. Despite living in the city in apartments, we were well off because we had the minimum that kept us satisfied.
When my mother was older and she knew that her time was close she would give me instructions on how to care for her remains. She made me promise to cremate her body and keep the ashes. I was to light a candle on the aniversary of her death and her birth and pray for her. She wanted this because she said that bodies didn't really need to take up space that people could use for something else like planting food and raising livestock. She didn't want her ashes to go back to Puerto Rico because the place has changed into something that was ugly and against nature. She really hated the city and made me promise to get out of there as soon as I could. I would only come back to attend to her dying. She was 96 when she had the stroke that would take her three years later. I was at her side chanting for her spirit to leave quickly.
Wealth for her was mainting a simple life. Too many things brought clutter of ones home and cluttered the mind with worry as well. Because the more one got the more one wanted.
We would consider her a pack rat because she owned things that she had acquired back in 1920.
We always were against owning too much because it was wasteful.
Too much wealth creates a throw away society. We always fixed our TV's when they broke down or blew a vacum tube. We did the same with the radios we owned. Manufacturers have created the throw away society that we live in today on behalf of the lust for extreme amounts of money.
Our cars are an evil that suck the lifeblood from the Mother. Gasoline, oil are poisons that foul our air. The space that is directly above the atmosphere is full of thrown away stuff. Our oceans have become the refuge dumps for the cities garbage.
Things are going to get very rough for us in the coming years if we don't change. Remember, we are living within the time of 13 ahau.

Question:
Comment on the claim that "Rational beings alone have moral worth" (Immanuel Kant).
Is humanity an "End in Itself" (Immanuel Kant)?
Kant was a product of the industrial age. There is no room for nature within his dialogues.
Our current logic and rationale is what has got us into the mess we are in now with the environment.
This type of thinking is very silogistic. Humanity is an end unto itself? Yes, they can bring about and end that won't be too pretty if they don't change and activate themselves on behalf of the Mother.
Kant and others like him are head heavy. No heart center. So they are very off balance.

Question regarding the wisdoms of Ghandi, et al:
They are all right on target.
We are all interconnected within the web of life, via our genetics prove that. My father's yDNA
has sequences of the Irish, the Scottish, the Levite, the Ashkenazi, the Berber, the Spaniard, and a host of other races contained therein. Science is proving that the strands that are the DNA are the basic threads that build all life on this planet. Those threads comprise the web of life.
The basic wisdoms say all the same things over and over. They are simple and comprehensible.
Religion has complicated them with dogma. In order to play a stringed instrument the strings must be tightened just so much. Tighten them too much and there will be no music. Our way of life and the way we percieve the envirionment has arisen from our way of thinking. Religion is at the base of it all. It has tightened the strings too tight and the music can't come through anymore.
I think I have answered what I think about the wisdoms concerning the environment because I have said the same thing throughout.

Question:
Is there any relationship between world hunger & American dietary habits?
World hunger came about from leadership that is greedy and non compassionate for the people that they are supposed to be serving.
Americans are funny, they send aid to those impoverished places and the foodstuff they send are too high in carbs. Our diet has impacted the descendants of indigenous people negatively. Diabetes, high blood pressure, high chloresterol is plague amonst us.

Question:
Do you believe that sustainable development is possible without lethal impairment to the natural environment?
Answ:
Sustainable development will impact the industries that have been impacting our environment negatively.
1: Alternative energy development has been made very expensive. Personally I would like to get off the energy grid by converting to solar power. That option is unatainable because the expense is way over our monetary resources. One can spend as much as 60,000 dollars switching over to solar power. The system I have now is a very small one set up in case Florida gets hit hard by hurricanes.
I can generate just enough power to run a fan and a C Pack unit my wife uses and it can charge up my computer's battery when needed. The set up cost 200.00.
2: We spend billions on a monthly basis to support a dead end war. Imagine what can be done with the same amount of money if it was directed to alternative energy research and development.
3: Alternative energy automobiles have been priced too high for mid level consumers as well.
It seems that our attitude toward alternative energy has become one comparitve to it being a luxury item for the rich.
4: Back in the old days we used to burn our garbage in the back yard. All that was left was ashes. Those ashes went into the compost pile. Today we bury the garbage while the air we breathe is fouled by automobiles, buses, jets, industrial plants and energy providers. It doesn't make sense does it.

I guess I finished....Thanks for the opportunity for sharing.

Ayes
Comment by adem medina cardona on October 11, 2008 at 12:14am
thank you so much for your contribution, John.
It is possible i may need to get back to you both for clarification later~c
Comment by Ayesart on October 10, 2008 at 11:49pm
I am not a spiritual leader but I have been called one during exhibitions of my art.
Know that I lead no one. Nor do I follow anyone.

Before the written word we have strived to work within nature learning her ways through trial and error. At first we exploited the land and its bounty then a new way of thinking came into being.
That nature was a living and breathing entity just like we were. We also learned that everything was imbued with life and power. Our art reflected that.

We made mistakes along the way and we overhunted the four legged brothers and sisters to extinction. We learned from that and we began taking only that which we needed from the land.
We also learned that water was a sacred gift that empowered us with life. The greatest lesson we learned was the power within the plants to heal and nurture us.
Our god was a woman representing the power and potential of the life within all things.

Then came the people who believed in another way. That nature was something to be conquered. Their religion was male oriented and in their culture manliness meant bravery in war. Their world was one of conquered or be conquered. The rule of the alpha male prevailed. Everyone and everything was their enemy.
They ridiculed our ways and tried to convince us that our beliefs were all wrong.
They used their belief as an aid in making us docile so we wouldn't rebel against them.
They destroyed our leaders and forced us into slavery. They set up puppet caciques who traded living flesh for a title.

Today we have joined them in their quest to dominate nature. In the process we are all killing ourselves. Cancers, mental illness, etc all stem from the poisoning of the living entity that is mother.
We foul our waters with the medicines we take to cure the ills we have caused to ourselves. Microwaves, electromagnetic fields and radio and TV frequencies bombard us on a daily basis.
Our cells revolt and mutate. We suffer for the sins against our mother.

We are all still responsible for caring for our environment. It would be a grave mistake for us to place that responsibility in the hands of others. We have the power to change what has been going on for the past thousand years. The few must become the many. It is in our hands to share what we know and believe should be done by our "leaders" in congress and the senate on behalf of earth mother.

My way of resolving the madness is to educate people with my images of nature via photography.
My paintings are a visual lesson on our ancestry.
My poetry sings of our heritage and culture.

Every chance I get I preach about the 13 ahau. 13 ahau is a cycle within the amcient Mayan calendar.
It is a time of change that comes for rectifying stagnant systems.
Back in the 70's I lectured about the power of the 13 ahau. When Columbus came to America it was the beginning of the hint of 13 ahau. In 1517 the Spaniards came to the land of the Aztecs. That date was a 13 ahau. Moctezuma knew what was coming with it.
Kulkulcan Quezalcoatl concepts arose from the sect of the same name. They taught meso Americans the arts of building, farming and the use of the calendar to track the cycles of time and history.
History repeats itself over and over again.
Quezalcoatl adjusted the sacred calendar by adding his birthdate.
He was against human sacrifice and preached love and compassion.
He taught how the sun was a star and not a god.
He warned and predicted his return. He described what would happen to those who broke the convenant.
Our ancestors brought with them the prophesy that spoke of his return. Over time it was modified.
Our ancestors left meso America because of the intertribal wars that were happening.
Perhaps they left because they feared the prophesy fulfilling itself.
In any case, back in the seventies I was foretelling the fall of political systems, religious systems,
medical systems. Russia, the stock market fell.
By the way, we are living within a 13 ahau. It came in 1987 and was called, "harmonic conversion."
It is also been said that during the 13 ahau lies will be seen for what they are.

Nature has been rising up against us like T cells against a cancer. We have a unique opportunity to flow with the power of 13 ahau. Resist change and the fall will be very hard.

Do you not find it odd that our ancestors the Taino were the first to encounter the first wave of the conquistador? You can't run from destiny.

It was also prophesied that the taino would rise again. back when the prophesy was first spoken it must have sounded odd. "Rise up from what?"

Well, here we all are seeking out our heritage. Those of us who are individualistic refuse to follow what has been established. We are more traditional than we think we are. Because on an instinctive level we will only acknowledge those descendants who were sires of the caciques.

Re ethics: Todays religion is merging itself with the state. The state has been founded to resist change. It has been founded on hypocrisy, freedom was written into the paper while slaves labored.
Religion runs counter to our ancestral belief system. It is male oriented. It is prejudiced against specific people. In essence the war in the middle east reflects a crusader attitude that this country has to shed.

True spirituality is an individual's way of communicating with the Great Mystery. It is done within its creation. It acknowledges that we are powerful beings. We have forgotten that inner power and have given ourselves up to unscupulous doctoring and the pharm establishment.
We have become so externalized that we have given up our personal power to the cold world of technology. We have lost our way and have come close to losing contact with our immortal souls.

Who are we?
Or what are we?
I know that I am the sum total of all my experiences or the lack of them.
But deep down inside there is still a void.
A space of doubt that cannot be filled.
What is this yearning to know?
Will I spend my life hungering to know it?
To see it. To be it?
Are we all sons and daughters of the mother?
Or are we all sons of men?
Or are we all bastards orphans
In a fatherless universe?
Educated men recite learned phrases in my unguarded ear
While the sighing winds of infinity makes my spirit tremble and sway in a strange
Celestial cadence.
Would they only go from me these explainers that I may better hear the
Sound of what IS....




Re: Ship of Fools: We sit around complaining about the deforestation of the Amazon while we allow
developers to cut down life giving trees to build condos and shopping malls. I see that happening everyday in la Florida.
Comment by adem medina cardona on October 9, 2008 at 4:41pm
gracias, wow, I am humbled and grateful. Your super fast response helps me so much and the amount of information is awesome. Looks like I have lots of work to do!
Anyone else care to follow?
You can post here or also email your responses to carrie@carriemedina.com
Comment by Miguel Sague Jr on October 9, 2008 at 2:42pm
question
How would you characterize the distinction between stewardship rather than dominion of the Earth?
Do you associate this terminology with Judeo-Christianity?

answer
It is impossible not to associate the concept of human "dominion" over all other living things on the Earth (and by extension over all of Nature itself) with Judeo-Christian tradition when this very word is used in the sacred scripture of Christianity in that very context; see Genesis, chapter I: verse 28 "Then God blessed them (humans) and said ' Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it. Have dominion over the cattle and all of the animals that crawl on the earth." It's not like Christians can run away from this word "dominion", anymore than Mormons can run away from the concept of "damnation through skin color" which is expounded in the Book Of Mormon. This is the problem with scripture. It rigidly sets into stone certain conventions that appear appropriate to one generation and then since they are "the word of God" can not be changed by succeeding generations, and can not evolve along with the changing evolving conventional thinking of the humans that follow that religion. Unlike Shamanism, which can evolve organically and re-adjust to the changing patterns of human development, scripture now forces Christians to be stuck with the word "dominion" and Mormons to be stuck with the term "scale of darkness" (a term used in the Book of Mormon to explain the curse from God that caused Native Americans to become darker-skinned than Europeans and not "white and delightsome" as those who are "favored by the Lord"). I am sure that many modern Chrsitians would rather do away with the "dominon" portion of Genesis as much as many modern Mormons would love to make the "scale of darkness" portion of their holy book go away somehow. The problem is that these words are there for all to read and since they are the "word of God" they must be honored and the concepts that they represent, detestable as they may seem now in retrospect, have to be accepted no matter what, because they are "God-given".

The only thing that makes humans "stewards" is overdeveloped consciousness. Consciousness (including self-consciousness) is present in every animal no matter how primitive. It represents one tool in the arsenal of tools used by animals to survive. The issue of consciousness (and its concomitant element "intelligence") in humans is really nothing more than an issue of dregree. Humans just happen to enjoy a higher percentage of this normal animal quality than other animals just like dogs just happen to enjoy a higher percentage of the quality of smell than we do and eagles enjoy a higher percentage of the quality of eye-sight.
I think I could argue that enjoying a higher percentage of any normal animal quality does not entitle any animal species(including humans) to claim superiority over any other animal species. However this higher level of intelligence did create a situation that has to be addressed. Overdeveloped consciousness (intelligence) has caused a situation on the earth that threatens the destruction of the human species (not to mention a great number of other species as well). The environmental catastropy that normal human activity has imposed on the living things of this planet is of acute importance to us humans (if for no other reason, simple self-preservation). "Stewardship" might not be the most appropriate term that I would choose here because it still implies some sort of superior status that allows for overarching control. The fact is that we "control" nothing. We are not and could not be "stewards" of any kind. We are just another species trying to make our way through this world just like all the others. We have caused a mess of things as a result of our intelligence and now we must use that very same intelligence to try to fix it so that Mother Earth won't simply stamp us out of existance and move foward with another scheme as she has done countless times before (see the Permian Extinction, the post-Jurassic wipe-out, and several other moments of catastrophic re-newal).
We have to come to terms with the fact that we are not the be-all and end-all of Creation. We are simply given the task to survive, not to become extinct, and we are failing miserably at this task. Let's put the word "stewardship" away in the same closet with the word "dominion" and just simply put our overdeveloped brains together to see if we can save ourselves (and by extension a great many of our animal brothers and sisters).

question
What groups & entities should be considered in preserving & protecting an ordinary (neighborhood) or extraordinary (natural wonder) part of the environment?

answer
I think that this question is relative. A person who is deeply involved in one undertaking could reasonably assume that his or her chosen work, and by extension, the social organization within which this work is carried out is the most appropriate one to be considered key to preserving & protecting environmental resources. I am a school teacher. I work in an elementary school on the week days. I am also a spiritual leader, a job that I carry out in my spare time. I guide a spiritual organization called the Caney Indigenous Spiritual Circle. It is natural for me to come to the conclusion that the community school or the spiritual organization is the most appropriate institution to be tapped for its skills in helping us to preserve and protect the environment. In my role as an art teacher I guide my fourth graders in the creation of environmental posters and then we hang these up on the walls all over the school. i make links with environmental activists in our local neighborhood and co-ordinate school art activities with the activities of these people.
As a spiritual leader I maintain an online discussion forum in which the issues of preservation and protection of the environment are linked with spiritual behavior and I encourage discussion along those lines.

On the other hand, an architect may see his or her role as the most important, since the designing of houses can be either very eco-friendly or very eco-damaging depending on how it is done.

An energy tycoon like T. Boon Pickens might assume that he is most appropriate to be considered key in the great turn-around of our present ecological mess since it is folks like him that created the mess in the first place and it is folks like him that have the resources to turn it around (see the Pickens plan for energy resources conversion and sustainability).

I guess what I mean is that instead of attempting to identify the community entity that is best suited to safe-guard our natural resources we should encourage ALL community entities to find the strengths inherent in their work and focus those strengths on the problem at hand.

question
What resources do you use to help combat any feelings of despair for the threatened state of the environment?

answer
I can honestly say that I never sense dispair in the face of the ecological problems that we face. It may be because I am an irrational optimist, or perhaps I might have some extraordinary insight that allows me to see the light at the end of this tunnel. It has been said by some that crazy people sometimes have a clearer perception of reality than sane people. Perhaps I'm crazy!

question
Does your spiritual tradition offer precedents regarding personal responsibility toward preventing or intervening in environmental degradation?

answer
Absolutely yes... a key component in the belief system of my spiritual tradition is that we as humans have a responsibility (not stewardship) to help preserve the elemens of our environment that maintain and support life. There is a ceremonial and ritual conventional complex related to this belief system.

question
Sociobiologist, E.O.Wilson claims that our descendants will view us as a "Ship of fools" if we destroy the stability of the natural balance of nature or destroy things of value to them. Do you think he is right?

answer
Yes

question
How has the experience of your ancestors affected your personal attitudes & practices toward the environment?

Although I have my suspicions about my own grasp of reality (please refer to my earlier comment on my being a hyper-optimist) I do try to be realistic about the way i perceive my ancestors. I know that there is no way that humans can exist on any piece of real-estate without altering it in some way. What I do know is that my ancestors, in keeping with the shamanic tradition that they share with all other "Earth-People" such as the present-day K'ung of the Kalahari Desert, made a conscious attempt at contributing to the preservation of the existing balance in nature and tried to make their impact on that balance as small as possible. Whether they were completely sucessful in that attempt or not is not as much important as the fact that this attitude toward the earth was an institutionalized part of their culture. Having institutions such as this in one's culture makes a big difference, overall, in the way a society affects the environment. I feel that this ancestral example influences my own personal attitudes toward the environment and inspires me to do the things that I do in regards to the environment.

question
Do you see ethics as distinct from religion? Please explain.

answer
I do not see ethics as being distinct from religion. Although I do believe that the urge in the human soul to be ethical is an instinctive drive for self-preservation born of our natural social nature, I also believe that ultimately the drive to be spiritual (a drive that is experienced by every human group on the planet without exeption) is also instinctive. I believe that there are irrefutable links between these two natural drives, that they are related and that it is reasonable to assume that being ethical can be associated with being spiritual.
That does not mean that I don't recognize the many instances in which religious activity has crossed the bounds into the realm of unethical behavior. Unfortunately this happens with alarming regularity. But I do not agree with the opinion of many atheists that religion itself is the cause of that kind of behavior. I belive that with or without religion people can behave in apalling ways (look at the behavior of the avowed atheist Joseph Stalin). I believe that this sort of behavior is rooted in certain natural self-destructive tendencies that exist in the human soul. I believe that religion is, in part, an attempt to control those negative tendencies.

question
Is there any connection between wealth & environmental degradation?

answer
I believe that there is a very definite connection between the unregulated and unthinking pursuit of wealth and environmental degradation

question
Comment on the claim that "Rational beings alone have moral worth" (Immanuel Kant).

answer
I believe that the behavior of living things is determined by the drive for self-preservation and survival. I believe that ethical behavior and its accompanying belief in the concept of "morality" is a human behavioral complex that is intimately associated with our highly social lifestyle. At it's most fundamental level, the concept of morality and ethics can be destilled to one word "fairness". Because we are social creatures and depend on each other for our individual survival, it is important for us to look out for the welfare of those around us. In a sense it is not much more than a matter personal self-interest. if we allow those potential helpers around us to die or become incapaitated we risk losing their assistance in our own survival. This means that Nature has endowed us with very powerful subconscious urges to insure the survival of other human beings. One of these urges manifests itself in an instict to be "fair". This instict, at first, seems almost selfless in its altruistic appearance. Take into consideration, for example my experiences as a pre-school teacher back in the 1980's. At that time we were required to set a large snack table for the little ones with each place setting containing cups full of delicious grape juice which each child loved. It is true that sometimes in a fit of selfish jealousy one child might complain that his cup was not as full as the cup of the child next to him, but it was just as common to hear a complaint from a child who felt that the cup of another child was not as full as his own. The point is that these children already had a healthy urge to insist that everyone deserved the same share, fairness. If we are born with a drive to insist that everyone have the same chance at grape juice, then that drive also extends to the desire that everyone have the same chance at life. In other words. One person should not be deprived of life (killed) because he or she has just as much right to it as anyone else, fairness. Everyone should have the same access to things that make his life a joyful one, therefore we have a natural adversion to the concept of one person stealing from another, depriving him or her of the things that make life joyful, fairness. The list goes on and on. I believe that all our tendencies toward morality are really based on our tendency to be fair, and that tendency to level the playing field and put all of our human brothers and sisters within reach of survival sucess is actually a natural instict derived from the fact that we are social beings and are obliged to interact and depend on each other. Morality and ethics create the necessary mileu within which human social existance can be successfully maintained.

We perceive morality (fairness) in universal terms because it is such an important part of our lives as humans. For example we are repulsed at the concept of a strong person beating up and stealing something from a weaker person. We see this as "immoral". Of course if you follow my reasoning, the fact that we see this as "immoral" is simply because nature demands that we protect all of our fellow humans, even the weak ones, because in human society every member of the community has resources that are invaluable for the community as a whole. If the community fails because certain essential members were allowd to be rendered inactive, then ALL the individuals that comprise that community suffer. So we attempt to keep the strong from taking advantage of the weak. We need the weak just as much as we need the strong. We call this "morality" and take it for granted that the strong should never take advantage of their greater strength. We speak about "fair fight" and require that if there is a contention between two individuals, both individuals have equal access to the resources that will help him or her attain success in the struggle. This is all perceived by us humans as "moral". We take it for granted. Without these urges and drives we would very quickly become extinct as a species.

We must understand that these concepts are uniquely human, designed for human interaction and these conventions should not be imposed on the behavior of other living things. Lions regularly kill cheetahs for no apparent reason but to just get rid of them. Cheetahs are smaller and weaker than lions so the inclination of many humans who witness this phenomenon is to feel that lions are immoral, that they are "unfair", that they lack this "higher" quality of "morality" that makes humans "superior". In that respect one can see how someone like Emmanuel Kant can come to the conclusion that "rational beings alone have moral worth". Humans are rational beings and humans exhibit "moral" behavior that a lion does not appear to exhibit. The fallacy in this statement arises with the use of the word "worth". When Kant uses that word he raises the argument from a level of objectivity and places it in a vey subjective place indeed! Is behaving morally in itself a matter of worth? Is behaving immorally (especially if morality does not play a role in the instinctive survival strategy of your species) a matter of lack of worth? Is a lion not as worthy because he kills things that are weaker and does not have the capacity to feel remorse for that act?
Ethics are an uniquely human concern and we have no right to impose that measuring yardstick upon any other living thing to determine "worth".

question
Is humanity an "End in Itself" (Immanuel Kant)?

answer

I think that the concept of humanity being an "end in itself" is absurd. I think that there is an underlying perception in the human mind that we are the pinnacle of evolution, the "highest" form of life. This separateness and sense of superiority is so pervasive that is is hard to avoid even by some of the most committed environmentalists. When an environmentalist utters the phrase "We are raping Mother Earth" he or she is committing the most arrogant act of self-agradizement. I think one has to think quite highly of onself to actually believe that one has the capacity "rape" Nature itself.

We as humans do affect the status of the elements that make up the environment. But so does every other living thing on the planet. Some of the effect that these beings have on the environment are beneficial to their own survival and some are not. The trick is to keep the effects that are not beneficial to our own survival from overwhelming the effects that are. Not every living species that has occupied a place on the world stage has been successful at achieving that balance. At one time our planet's atmosphere was almost all carbon dioxide. This anerobic environment supported a certain microscopic life-form who sustained its life by breathing carbon dioxide and breathed out oxigen, which was poisonous to them. Unfortunately for them they were so successful in their reproductory strategy that they overpopulated the earth. They breathed so much poisonous oxigen into the atmosphere that they caused their own extinction. This is not the first or last time in the long history of Life on Earth that a species is principally responsible for altering the environment to the extent that they breathe themselves DEAD! We humans owe our existance now and our reliance on oxigen in the air to the failure of that earlier life form. It would be just as possible for us to substantially transform the environment in which we live so that we breathe ourselves out of existance and allow for some other life form to take our place. We don't "rape" Mother Earth". We don't "Destroy the world". We don't fail in our "stewardship" we just pass out of existance and make a place for something else as so many have done before us. The pity is that in doing so we also take a lot of other living things with us who had no responsibility in our folly. Our instinctive inclination for fairness causes a pang of guilt at this possibility.
We are not the ultimate living thing or the culmination of all Life on Earth. We are just another player in this amazing millenial pageant that we know as Life, this story that has been playing itself out for many many millions of years, and which will continue even if we dont survive (and it is very likely that we might not).

question
Nobel Peace Prize recipient (1952), Albert Sweitzer found a sense of "Reverence for Life" at a moment of exhaustion & discouragement in Africa. He claimed that it was key to a holistic system of values. How would you interpret this proposition?

answer
I actually see the relationship between the psychological effetcs of arduous or futile struggle and the growing sense of reverence for Life. When humans taste the bitterness of defeat and are faced with their own vulnerability they tend to become more cognizant of the value of all Life because they appreciate their own much more. As a result of this I believe that humans who have to struggle have the capacity to develop a much healthier attitude toward survival of all life on earth. I don't think that this always happens, but i do think that struggle plays a very important role in dveloping that attitude in many humans. This phenomenon is actually the basis of a personal theory of mine concerning the evolution of the relationship between humans on the planet and their felow living things during the past 260 centuries.

question
Vietnamese Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hanh proposes that "Peace is every step." In what way might this attitude influence action toward nature?

answer
Not having been raised within Buddhist tradition and not being very conversant in its philosophy I often have a very difficult time understanding it. I think I am going to pass on this question.

question
Mahatma Gandhi warned, "Nature had enough for everybody’s need but not for everybody’s greed." The traditional Hindu scriptural imperative was to conserve the environment; this was obligatory for rulers & seers as well as ordinary people. Therefore, exploitation of nature was considered sacrilegious. Does this precept correlate with that in your own tradition?

answer
In many ways, yes, it does.

question
Primatologist, Jane Goodall proposes that there is "Reason for Hope." Do you agree & what helps you to feel or think this way?

answer
I want to begin my response by stating that Jane Goodall is one of my all-time heroines. She has been an inspiration to me since I was an adolecent and I feel that she is one of those rare shining examples of humanity that the world is graced with from time to time. As I stated earlier my outlook on the state of the world is an optimistic one. I do indeed believe that there is "reason for hope". I feel that the changes in attitude that have taken place in world discourse are nothing short of extraordinary. The very fact that each one of the presidential candidates in this election is doing his best to "out-green" his opponent, the fact that almost every commercial concern in the United States is trying to present itself as more environmentally concerned than the most devout tree-hugger of barely a decade ago is a phenomenon that should inspire considerable optimism. Even though many of those who now claim environmental resposibility might be acting in ways that are less than sincere, the very fact that they feel the need to appear green, the very fact that they are all climbing over each other in a struggle to appear "most green" is in itself a powerful sign of changed times, and that should inspire hope.

question
Native American Elder of the Eel clan of New York State, Audrey Shenandoah speaks of "Thanksgiving" for the Earth’s bounty & need for "Responsibility to the Seventh Generation." How might this guiding principle influence behavior toward the environment?

answer
Obviously, a conscious concern for unborn people seven generations beyond that in which one lives is going to create in a person a profound sense of resonsibility because it extends his or her obligation much farther into the community than what is ordinarily perceived. What I think is most important is that it extends the responsibility out into the fourth dimension, the dimension of time. This is a dimension that many in this society often ignore but which was very seriously taken into consideration by all of our ancient ancestors. It is ultimately the most important consideration in repairing the damage that has been done to the status of the environment. It was over a period of time that this dammage ha been perpetrated and it is only in the depth of time that solutions will actually manifest their meaning.

question
Islamic scholar Seyyed Hossein Nasr describes the Earth as sacred, its beauty as reflection of that "Paradisiacal abode which is above." In what way do/do not these statements mesh with your own sense of spirituality?

answer
I also believe that the earth is sacred, not because it is a reflection of some paradise above it, but because of its own intrinsic worth as a paradise itself. I believe that the spiritual value of the earth to me is its capacity to support life. There is a bit of self-interest in my attitude toward the earth, since I know that in its long history it has changed many times in its apearance and nature, from incandescent ball of fire, to noxious hell-pit enveloped in a pall of thick poisonous gases, to the beautiful green jewel that it is today. These all have been natural aspects of the same earth that we now call home. So I naturally prefer that it remain the way that it looks now and not revert to any of those other previous attitudes or any other other future one. The earth as it exists today, is my paradise. I need no other. I believe that I, like all other living things am an integral part of the texture of this planet. When I die I believe that my being will become even more intrinscally integrated into the environmental context of the earth's substance. In that respect I echo the words of my Taino forebears who said that the dead travel though the mouth of a cave into the realm of the ancestors. This entrance into the interior of the earth represents the re-integration of the human essence back into the fabric of earthly substance. As a more integrated part of the planet I only manifest more intensely what I already am, a terrestial being.

question
Earth-based religions including Shamanism view all aspects of existence & entities as connected with invisible "Threads" or "Strands." They consider that the health of the community reflects the care it takes of the natural environment. Do you agree?

answer
yes

question
Are "Life boat ethics" justifiable in certain circumstances?

answer
Aside from the concept of "women and children first" I am not entirely clear on the issue of "lifeboat ethics" so I am going to pass on this question



question
Is there any relationship between world hunger & American dietary habits?

answer
I think that there is a great deal of evidence to support the contention that the people of the world who are in most critical need for food might not be in that situation if more of the earth's resources were not dedicated to the commercial interets associated with the dietary habits of the people living in the United States.

Do you believe that sustainable development is possible without lethal impairment to the natural
environment?

I believe that sustainable development is the only way to prevent lethal impairment to the natural
environment?

Taino Ti
Miguel Sobaoko Koromo Sague
Comment by Maximilian Forte on October 8, 2008 at 2:56am
Thanks Carrie, I am glad I didn't antagonize you, those were risky comments. I once posted a very strong criticism of Pope Benedict on the precursor of Review of the ICC, and I think that overnight I lost 10 subscribers.
Comment by adem medina cardona on October 6, 2008 at 3:35am
I am laughing (at myself here!) as I read your comments, Max. I shudder and remember some of my Catholic upbringing.

Question a priest or ask him to recognize the hipocracy of the teachings??

YOU FIRST!!

As always I appreciate you input.


... and your patience on my absence at RICC
;-)

I will be there in the morning!

peace&luv~c
Comment by Maximilian Forte on October 5, 2008 at 11:21am
...but...in any event, my anthropologist side says "don't just judge for yourself...after all, who cares what you think? Instead, ask why despite everything you think is a shortcoming, people find meaning and solace in these religions, and still manage to re-read them and re-work them in some surprising ways." Having said that, it would be interesting if you found examples of people coming up with alternative Jewish, Christian, or Muslim theologies that respect, for example, other animals as kin.
Comment by Maximilian Forte on October 5, 2008 at 11:18am
No significant input from me -- I just take every chance I get to moan about how the monotheistic religions of the book, from the Middle East (Judaism, Christianity, Islam) have distinguished themselves for their hatred and disrespect of our animal brethren. They damn themselves in my eyes. The Christian notion of human superiority is super ironic: we were the ones expelled from Eden, we have original sin...but not the other animals, who remain there and have no sin. That suggests God favours them, not us. However, try to get a Catholic priest to even recognize this as a valid question -- let alone the even bigger question: if the all-knowing God created sin, and created Lucifer, does that not make Him guilty of original sin? If so, why has He passed the buck to us? After all, what greater sin can there be than the actual creation of sin itself? Add to this male domination, wife beating, and veiling, and I pretty well want to run the hell away from any of those religions. They have been a plague and have wrought so much violence in their names that that alone renders them damned in my view.

Quite the rant? Imagine that I am actually being reserved here, even if writing in great haste.
Comment by adem medina cardona on October 5, 2008 at 2:05am
Ah! I was hoping you would be one of the subjects!
gracias!!~c

Notes

La Bruja

Created by Miguel Sague Jr Apr 4, 2016 at 12:07am. Last updated by Miguel Sague Jr Apr 4, 2016.

Angel Rodriguez Caguana archeoastronomy

Created by Miguel Sague Jr Mar 29, 2016 at 3:10pm. Last updated by Miguel Sague Jr Mar 29, 2016.

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