Let’s have humility in the face of world population

Dear Friends,
First a little context. I subscribe to a discussion group hosted by Quaker Earthcare Witness, which I would recommend. To join you would go to this page:
And you would click on the boldfaced text ”

But this list is not for the faint of heart. There are often several posts a day. And the range of topics is wide and un-curated.

Today I responded to an ongoing discussion about population, saying things I’ve thought for years but have never put to text before.
I liked what I said, so I am reprinting it below.


I’m really glad to see this discussion.

My sense is that all of the differing points of view are correct.
And that we still haven’t seen this from enough sides.
Here’s another point of view, one I don’t like, but I can’t get it out of my head.
Maybe the size of the human population on this planet is above our pay grade to make choices about.
We Friends know about “acceptance,” “humility.”
I AM expecting an inevitable big die-off at some point in the years ahead –have been for a long time. So I have banged my head about “what can I/we do?”
As I said above, I think all of the points of view raised here are important and valid under some circumstances.
As I have lived into all of these points of view myself, and seen them fall short of a full answer…
As I have remembered that life-on-earth is self-correcting, even while species come and go…
And, therefore, have seen us humans as small actors in a much larger drama…
I have developed a change in attitude which I want to share.
I offer it as a part of the puzzle, not as THE answer.
But, maybe,
like the death of a parent I just experienced,
maybe we really are not in control.
Maybe essentially not in control.
Maybe world population is not ours to manage.
Not that we do not do EVERYTHING Friends have been advocating for,
but that we do them with an attitude of
“we are doing what we can to make the situation less painful, but the essential process is not ours to control. We sit in awe and humility in the face of something vast. Far larger than humans.”
In my mind, at least, this is not an attitude of “giving up.”
But it moves some of my energy out of the “we’ve got to solve this” part of my brain. And that energy has gone into deep breathing, to minding my Center.
My parent suffered in the dying process. I suffered, facing her suffering.
Likewise, the human status quo on earth is dying. We need to care for all of us, as best we can.
But it is better, I believe, if we can hold some of our energy back from “we’ve got to solve this,” remembering that life will go on.
Some of our children will survive to old age, and some of our grandchildren.
It is not ours to choose which ones.
Or how many of the world’s children live long lives.
Not that we shouldn’t make intelligent, centered efforts, but we should make them with humility.
And when our friends come to us all afire with the grief and the pain which are surely and profoundly there…
we can avoid being sucked into the wave of “we have not done enough.”
Because we know “enough” cannot be done.
I believe that many in Qewdiscussions share this point of view with me.
But we do not voice it because it seems callous, seems to give permission to “giving up.” To turning our backs.
I am trying here, for the first time, among Friends, to give voice…
not to a “position,” but to an attitude.
I am trying to look beyond the pain and suffering of the next decades, as the parent of young children probably cannot.
I am trying to envision the world our grandchildren will inhabit, with an eye to steering the current generation in the best possible direction…
steering us toward the best, centered, attitude
for pointing our current lives toward the good we can envision on the far side of our grief.
In humility,
Richard Fuller
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An epidemic of demoralization and a human Earthrise, for the survivors

Xinjiang Uygur dunes,china

Xinjiang Uygur dunes, China –www.overv.eu


I hope this is a turning point for me.

In any case it’s two steps in the right direction.

This is one of those background things I would really like to talk about but have no particular timeline for doing it.

It’s an article titled “The Demoralized Mind.” John F Schumaker says very well part of what I have been thinking for years: “Industrial Civilization is in a spiritual crisis.”

It is not a short read & I understand not everyone will find time to read it. So I include here a few brief quotes. (Emphasis is mine.)

…[D]emoralization is a type of existential disorder associated with the breakdown of a person’s ‘cognitive map’. It is an overarching psycho-spiritual crisis in which victims feel generally disoriented and unable to locate meaning, purpose or sources of need fulfilment. The world loses its credibility, and former beliefs and convictions dissolve into doubt, uncertainty and loss of direction. Frustration, anger and bitterness are usual accompaniments, as well as an underlying sense of being part of a lost cause or losing battle. The label ‘existential depression’ is not appropriate since, unlike most forms of depression, demoralization is a realistic response to the circumstances impinging on the person’s life.

… We are living under conditions of ‘cultural insanity’, a term referring to a pathological mismatch between the inculturation strategies of a culture and the intrapsychic needs of its followers. Being normal is no longer a healthy ambition. 

[People who recognize this]… are moving away from naïve behavioural models and returning to the obvious fact that the human being has a fundamental nature, as well as a distinct set of human needs, that must be addressed by a cultural blueprint.

My Friends, we all know this. Each of us has learned on our journey to our present spiritual state  that our understanding of ‘right  living in the world’ is significantly different from almost all of what we see around us in the larger society.

… Since nothing lives up to the hype, the world of the consumer is actually an ongoing exercise in disappointment. While most disappointments are minor and easy to dissociate, they accumulate into an emotional background of frustration as deeper human needs get neglected. Continued starvation of these needs fuels disillusion about one’s whole approach to life. Over time, people’s core assumptions can become unstable.

… We are long overdue a cultural revolution that would force a radical revamp of the political process, economics, work, family and environmental policy. It is true that a society of demoralized people is unlikely to revolt even though it sits on a massive powder keg of pent-up frustration. But credibility counteracts demoralization, and this frustration can be released with immense energy when a credible cause, or credible leadership, is added to the equation.

I, Richard, would say  “…this frustration can be released with immense energy… even when the cause is hardly credible,” and I fear many in our consumer culture will do this.

Still, I must do what I can. And I will do it with you, friends who are predisposed to hear my message.

A credible vision is out there, and it is getting closer and closer so that it is easier for more and more people to see. 

My word for it has been “Gaia.” The 20-minute film OVERVIEW (from the folks who made the film PLANETARY) talks about that biospheric unity in a way that is pitched to a science & technology audience.

I hope this is a turning point for me.

I hope that over the next half-year I can prepare to share my sense of urgency in new, more engaging ways.
And my passion for this vision that I believe can unite us all.

Please, my friends, I hope you will help me be more of the person I want to be.


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Seeing the Light…

For almost a year now I have been able to move into optimism as needed. Optimism similar to Joanna Macy’s Active Hope. But my stance, to this point, has been:

“I’m paying attention and I’m ready. Along with all of the bad things that are already clearly evident in our messed up biosphere, and the more bad things on their way, there are good things and there will be new opportunities for new good things. I’m ready, like the rear paddler in a canoe going through the rapids. I’m looking for the best path. At the ready for split second decisions, ready to exert maximum effort to steer our craft around approaching obstacles.”

This has not been an optimism that says “I’m sure we’ll make it through.” Or “I know what we need to do.”

But slowly, over the shortest days, I’ve seen glimmers of the way forward. I’ve been able to reorient from “Transition” to “Transformation.” Not that I know how to be clear about this yet. Not that I can say “There! Do you hear that?! I think that’s Gaia calling! Calling us, the biosphere, toward a new wholeness!”

Until now.

With today’s On Being program, one of the glimmers I have been sensing has opened up into a shine, a slender shaft, offering a sense of direction I have not had before.

The 50-minute program is The Intelligence in All Kinds of Life. The woman Krista Tippett interviews is Robin Wall Kimmerer, who is a professor at the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry in Syracuse, and also a loyal member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation and a student of its traditional ways. These two ways of recognizing the natural world come together in her special focus on moss, and her panoramic view of where we are, at this turning point of life on Earth. She is insightful on some of the ways we are stuck, and how we may be able to find our way forward. She touches on many wonderful things, including personal pronouns we might use to refer to nature, instead of our depersonalizing “it.”

In her videos, like “What does Earth ask of us?” she speaks out of Anishinabe wisdom, pointing in the direction of a right relationship with Gaia, Mother Earth.

This is not a shining path showing the way forward, to my eyes. But she easily speaks to my raised-in-the-world-of-Science sensibility, and she offers a way forward. One I have heard before, but not been able to understand at all. Until now.

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A Non-theist Tries to Accept Some Christian Gifts

A huge thing has been floating near and nearer to the surface of my awareness.

For years I’ve thought the thing I glimpsed was floating up, floating in, to my awareness. One month I’d see a contour here, the next, a series of parallels there, and I thought “something is moving toward me.” Now I suspect the surface on which I float has been going down, approaching a bottom of bedrock awareness.

It’s still not clear, but I have faith that if I attempt to describe it, that will help.

An early crystallization was discovering Thich Nhat Hanh’s Living Buddha, Living Christ. Parallels! Much more recently, in the last few years, I’ve been preoccupied with our Global Transition, and I’ve been looking for the proper orientation I think we should have toward it.

What has come clear to me, what I want to urge upon my friends, is that we need to move toward the changes unselfishly. I am responding to many conversations I have had, with many people, most of them unspoken. I see in their eyes: “Will this hurt? What will happen to my child?” I see it in their body language, bracing against coming impact. I see it in their choices. I can recognize these things in others because I carry them in myself.

Mostly I try to be forgiving, toward myself and others: “These are perfectly normal self-protective actions, quite appropriate to the situation.” And I feel bad. So I ask myself, “Well, if cringing in the face of expected pain leaves you feeling miserable, what attitude, what stance, would you feel better about.” Clarity on this point has come relatively easily.

A couple of years ago I realized that “resilience” would one part of whatever the future holds, and it was clear to me that I wanted me and my friends to be stretching for that, to be working to make it more likely in our immediate society at least.

But what about “me and mine?!!!” That was where I got my clarity. “You must be prepared to lose your life, to lose what you love, if you are to be at your best in the coming times. This thing is so big there is not much point in storing up particular private treasurers. MUCH will be lost. Look to what you can do to support those who happen to be lucky. Hopefully the children of our community. Somebody’s children, for sure.

Whew!          OK…

And it was in that frame of mind that I saw the contours of that huge thing once again floating in my awareness.

I encounter it again today, reading Douglas Gwyn’s Conversation with Christ.qp-ebook-conversationwithchrist

… to lose one’s life is to gain it; to love one’s life is to lose it. In John, Jesus states that “those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” To hate one’s life in this world is to disown one’s life as the world defines it, renounce the socially constructed self, and allow God to define and destine one’s life.
page 78

I did not hear these words at home, growing up, but I have been hearing them since I began my own spiritual investigations. I have moved from youthful puzzlement to an intuitive recognition, but I have never be able to own them publically, never been able to say “Jesus said.”

And those of you who look back at my journey chronicled here will know I have done my best to approach the “Christian message.” Still, I find it toxic. Not toxic in my intuitive recognition but toxic in my relationships with my non-Christian friends and toxic to my sense of self when I nod my head “yes” within the Christian Brotherhood and feel the smiles of recognition, feel the enclosing arm put around my shoulder. When I “act Christian,” even with a smile or a nod, I feel many “brethren” happily including me and drawing a line separating me from the “infidels.” I am simply unable to accept that position. I have tried and I cannot do it.

And yet, this floating awareness, this sense of relief when out of my own depths, my own best self, I hear, “You must be prepared to lose your life, to lose what you love, if you are to be at your best in the coming times.” I know this experientially, as we Quakers like to say. And I want to say it to others. As I gather Friends around me, urging us to prepare for the coming changes, it is simple logic and ultimate reality for me to observe “we must serve the good of the all; there is no use in trying to preserve our lives, the ones that we know.”

How to reconcile this?

I believe there is a natural and proper selfishness. Babies, parents, properly reach to acquire. And they defend. The individual is worth encouraging and preserving. I believe this is a metaphysical truth that reaches far beyond the human condition to include all life –animal, plant and other.

And I believe there are things more valuable than individual integrity. For the good of the whole we may accept privation. Most beings accept these limitations with no awareness at all. They live in the shade of a larger tree. They wait ’til the bigger piglet is full before they get a teat. But with primates, we see a basic sense of justice and compassion. They are doing stuff that Jesus talks about without ever having heard the Word. My metaphysical truth is: not putting yourself above the rest is built in. It’s not learned from our stories. And if your background leads you to say “built in” = “from God,” I’m perfectly happy with that.

In fact, what this post is about is trying to approach Christian stories and wisdom to see what I as a non-Christian can learn. I am glad to hear (certain) Christians talk about God, talk about the child of God and God’s children. I believe that I personally will always feel it necessary to speak as an “outsider” when I share their teachings, but I think Christian stories are one way to learn about fundamental human realities and I want share their wisdom.

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Two Old Heros and a New One

It’s been over a year…
since my last post here.
I’ve been busy with other things.

We are even closer to financial meltdown, but that’s a given; we’ll cope as best we can, when it comes…

Thanks to Ilze for pointing me to Stephen Harrod Buhner, the new hero in my title.

Here’s a video, Activism, Deep Ecology & the Gaian Era – Lynn Margulis, Stephen Buhner and John Seed.

This is one of the best things on Gaia I’ve seen in a long time.
I particularly like,

Lynn recommends a book by Reg Morrison, The Spirit in the Gene: Humanity’s Proud Illusion and the Laws of Nature, wherein he argues humans are challenged to somehow innovate sustainable shrinkage. I’ve ordered a copy.

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Time For An Adrenaline Rush

I don’t usually “rush to print” here, but these are new times.

I’ve been saying for a year now, “before Obama leaves office…”

Here’s new confirmation of this timeline. Paul Gilding, whom I wrote about a year ago, is now saying his view of the world is confirmed as investors turn away from fossil fuels.

Why am I telling you this? Do I have advice about what we are supposed to do?

My advice is “get your adrenaline up.” We are entering a time of major change.
Of course, Betsy says “we are already in that time.” Yes. So I’ll rephrase: “the major changes we are in the midst of will soon be influencing our personal decisions on a daily basis, as they did during the Great Recession.”

I don’t know how this will develop. No one does. I can offer only really generic advice.

  • Don’t extend yourselves financially.
  • Be cautious about what you expect from the future.
  • Don’t invest in a 10-year CD. (You can trust FDIC will be there for the next ten years, but not much else in the financial markets (says this fellow who knows almost nothing about investing.))
  • Suggest that a graduating high school student choose the college closer to home.
  • If you are part of a Quaker community in Minnesota and Wisconsin, check out my community-building tool at Four Rivers Friends.


Look to community!

Friends, as we lurch out of the status quo and into a torrent of events that will eventually carry the world, INCLUDING HUMANS, into an environmentally balanced Biosphere, community is our best social safety net. The more we are in relationships with people we trust, the more likely we are to flexibly move through the changes, rediscovering the core of our humanity, creating a new world our grandchildren can feel good about.

Blessed be!


Afterthought: I am writing this for my friends, people who know me. You know to take me with a grain of salt. Still, I feel obligated to speak my truth. Take it and put it next to your truth. Talk to friends you trust. Soon.

Posted in Industrial Civ., Quakers, Transition | 1 Comment

~A New Life-Chapter~

You know how things change… sometimes it’s slow,
and then you look around and

What I’ve been doing on this website up to this point feels like it’s in the past.

Not irrelevant. I wouldn’t think of taking it down.
But my life has turned a corner. A long slow one, that I only this month look up and notice has happened.

I did notice that big stuff was going on when I decided to no longer carry my Gaia

Gaia Troubadour Cap

Gaia Troubadour Cap

Troubadour cap. It had been in my left front trouser pocket for years, ready to pull out and wear at a moment’s notice. And I’ve had it close, in the bag I always used to carry, for at least 20 years. I kept it close to help me remember my calling. 

About three months ago I decided I didn’t need to carry it anymore, that I was living my calling on a daily basis and I no longer needed the reminder, and the prop, for when I was speaking to others.

I knew that decision marked something big, but it was easy and natural. I kept the cap near where I dressed for a couple of months, ready for a change of mind, and then put it back in my bag, which I still carry sometimes. It seemed right to honor it here, as it retires.

And then there’s the website.
It feels like the focus has moved to my Quaker meeting, and to Process Work / WorldWork.
I’ve had them together for over a year on the same page, a page in Google Docs, which I shared with a list of interested friends. The limitations of that format now bother me and I thought, “why not move it here?” The page has always had two parts, a topical, ‘here’s what happening now’ part, and a ‘basic intro’ part.

Here’s the basic intro part.

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