Editor’s note: This column appeared previously in The Amherst Bulletin
“We humbly acknowledge that we stand on historic Nonotuck and current Nipmuck land, acknowledging also our neighboring indigenous nations, the Nipmuck and Wampanoag to the east, the Mohegan and Pequot to the south, the Mohegan to the west and the Abenaki to the north.”
This is a Statement of the Indigenous Heritage of the Land provided at the opening of each of the Amherst climate task groups over the last three months. Such land acknowledgements are becoming common now, throughout Canada and the U.S., on college campuses and generally as a movement in support of Indigenous heritage and rights.
In my Agricultural Systems Thinking class we were talking about the concept of holarchy. This idea suggests that a farm, a business or a person is a “holon”, that is a unique system in itself.
At the same time, a holon (farm, business or human being) is also part of a larger system (holon) and is composed of smaller systems (holons).
A holarchy is a nested hierarchy of holons, where a holon is both a part and a whole. The key relationship in a holarchy is that “we look out for purpose and in for function.” That is the holon represented by a “word” in the diagram below looks “within” (letter) for its function. And the holon “word” finds its purpose in serving the next holon (the sentence).
This also works for biological and social systems. So, the individual human might find purpose at the next larger level (family, community etc.) and function within (heart, liver, lungs etc.).
To help us understand this in another way, Michael Dowd claims that we are all “stories within stories.”
Hundreds of years ago, the flowering bulb markets of Holland were overcome by tulip mania. Buyers bid up highly desired varieties to astronomical prices, paying enormous sums for rarity and flamboyance. Fortunes were made and lost. One of the most sought-after varieties was the Semper Augustus,with striking streaks of white in its red petals — strange, magnificent, and deadly to other tulips.
Not until 1928 was it shown that the dramatic white streaks in the Semper Augustus tulips were caused by a viral infection, spread by aphids, and ultimately lethal to all infected tulips and lilies. But so highly desired and valuable were these infected plants that it took years before government stepped in to protect the bulb industry.Continue reading Will we head viral lessons from “broken” tulips?→
“The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares.” ~Henri Nouwen
It’s hard to stand at the edge of someone else’s grief.
There’s the awkwardness. You always feel a little like an uninvited guest who arrived late and missed the first half of the conversation—a conversation that turns out to be a wrestle between another person and the deepest parts of their own soul.
What can you say when you realize you’ve barged in on an interaction so intimate, so personal that you just want to avert your eyes and slink quietly away?
Assuming there are 400 billion galaxies and about 250 billion stars in each galaxy in the universe, it is not too far-fetched to imagine there is not only life on many planets circling stars throughout the universe but also “thoughtful life”. If so, it might also be possible that a Community of Universal Thoughtful Species might send the following letter to the people of the Earth….
Good day, I am your representative from the Community of Universal Thoughtful Species, and I bring you greetings from Us All. As you are interested in sharing our Cumulative Knowledge, we have a couple of questions to ask you first, questions that would be obvious to any responsible membership manager.
How are you going to get along with 10 trillion other species in our community if you do not respect even your own? If you permit yourselves to treat your own kind so despicably, why would we grant you the power and reach to treat others as badly?
Moreover, if you do not have the highest respect for the natural bounty that has befallen you, if you do not protect and nurture it for all you are worth, why would we afford to you the means to abuse as badly similar treasures elsewhere?
I introduced the quotes below from Dr. Edward DeBono’s book, The Use of Lateral Thinking, at a 1988 conference exploring the role of university faculty in dealing with the new concept (at that time) of sustainability. Universities that ridiculed the idea of sustainability have now accepted sustainability as a primary objective, at best, or perhaps an advertising tactic, at worse. In 1988, sustainability was a “new idea” and like many new ideas it was rejected by most university faculty.
While it has been asserted that the function of the public university is the creation of new knowledge (through research) and dissemination of knowledge (through teaching Continue reading Digging for new ideas→
The time will soon come when we will not be able to remember the horrors of September 11 without remembering also the unquestioning technological and economic optimism that ended on that day.
This optimism rested on the proposition that we were living in a “new world order” and a “new economy” that would “grow” on and on, bringing a prosperity of which every new increment would be “unprecedented”.
The most effective change-makers in our society aren’t waiting around for a new president to make their lives better, they’re planting seeds, quite literally, and through the revolutionary act of gardening, they’re rebuilding their communities while growing their own independence.