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Entries in John Cobb (4)


Climate Scientist and Theologian Tell How Ecological Crisis Requires New Cooperation between Science and Religion 

V. “Ram” RamanathanJohn CobbOn Earth Day 2018, two distinguished scholars and environmental activists pushed the envelope of understanding for all of us attending a “Reunion of Science and Religion, Head and Heart” event. The event was beautifully hosted by the Church of Our Common Home and 1st Unitarian-Universalist Church, San Diego.

Climate scientist Veerabhadran Ramanathan is a Distinguished Professor of Atmospheric and Climate Sciences at Scripps Institute of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego and consulted with Pope Francis on “Laudato Si’,” the encyclical on ecology. Theologian John Cobb is the preemininent leader of process thought (following philosopher Alfred North Whitehead) and co-founded the Center for Process Studies, Claremont, California. He’s worked with Chinese scholars on an ecological civilization through the Institute of Postmodern Development of China, which he cofounded with Zihihe Wang in 2005.

Because both Ramanathan and Cobb have integrated science and religion in their own worldview, they contribute greatly to the new story in which the two need one another.

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Eight Stimuli for New Thinking Ecologically

It seemed that every hour I heard something new at the conference entitled, “Seizing an Alternative,” held June 4-7, in Claremont, CA. So many people there seeking ecological living. The main answer to “Why?” this conference went like this. We know we need different policies; but policy-makers aren’t currently acting for Earth’s inhabitable future. Science has been speaking out prophetically in recent years; but too few institutions are moving at the rate science urges. The causes of the crises are accelerating, not diminishing. So the conference said: We need to change our thinking.

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Pando Populus: Challenging Industrial Assumptions with Ecological Alternatives 

I’m conference-weary… and wary. But I’m not about to miss Pando Populus, June 4-7. Maybe I’ll see you there. First of all there’s the name—Pando Populus! I said, “What?” But when I read about it, I thought, “Very clever! What a wonderful ecological symbol for how our species needs to live!” It was chosen for this conference because it is the oldest (80,000 yrs) and largest (100 acres) living organism on the planet. It appears to be a vast grove of individual aspen trees above ground. But underground it’s a vast, integrated system of life. Get the symbolism? Whereas industrial civilization puts us all into 7 billion separate units, in an ecological way of arranging society we are interconnected with all of Nature like Pando Populus. We’ll rethink how to live from an ecological perspective. And that really excites me!

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Deepest Energies, Not Abstract Reasoning, Will Change Our Economy

One of my economic “textbooks” for a One Earth economy is, For the Common Good: Redirecting the Economy toward Community, the Environment, and a Sustainable Future. Written over twenty years ago (1989) its authors, Herman Daly, an economist formerly with the World Bank, and John Cobb, a theologian who taught many years at Claremont School of Theology, were early voices urging deep, systemic economic changes. But, they said, such structural redirection of the economy requires the inherent interplay between economics and spirituality. One of their statements in particular has stayed with me: 

The changes that are now needed in society are at a level that stirs religious passions. The debate will be a religious one whether that is made explicitly of not. The whole understanding of reality and the orientation to it are at stake. We think that, to treat the issues as if they could be settled by abstract reason, is misleading. The victory will go to those who can draw forth these deepest energies of the centered self and give them shape and direction. Getting there, if it happens at all, will be a religious event, just as getting to where we are now was a religious event. Idolatry in the guise of misplaced concreteness and disciplinolatry have brought us to the present crisis. Overcoming these is a religious task (p. 381).

Their word “disciplinolatry” refers to the effort among many economists to turn economics into a hard science in order to elevate its authority. Daly and Cobb see that as idolatry.