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Applying knowledge without wisdom

Opinion Piece

I sometimes refer to my past columns to reinforce points. Early this month mention of past pieces “The environment must come first” and “Making do and going without”, saw me cop this:“Apart from being immensely vague and all-encompassing” you offer absolutely no actual solutions; and “God must come first”.

I responded that I believe in the oneness of everything, that the whole of nature is God, and “Making do and going without fits Christian values”.

He replied, “Pantheism has no power to replace the human ‘heart' with one aligned with the God of the Bible.” I disagree.

I think oneness of all things, Alexander von Humboldt's “Forces of nature interlaced” and similar modern-day views are more heart-based than the permission to dominate nature that God in human form gave our ancestors of eons past.

Dictionary definition: Pantheism is a doctrine that equates God with the forces and laws of the universe.

India 520BC: Jainist, Mahavira (Vardahamana) abandoned all his worldly possessions to teach compassion, von-violence and the close physical association of all living organisms in connection to elements — earth, water, air, fire and space.

Ancient Greece philosopher Diogenes, born around 404BC, also rejected luxury and committed to working and living “in agreement with nature”. Thoughout later life he preached universal unity with nature, seeing no difference between insects, animals and plants.

Around 400AD famous Christian Saint Augustine of Hippo began preaching we should all live harmoniously with creation . . . “Call nothing your own, let everything be shared and all live together in oneness of mind and heart, mutually honouring God in everything.”

In 1208 St Frances of Assisi also renounced a life of luxury to go barefoot in nature, to realise all things human and non-human had one father. With great compassion, he embraced humans, animals, birds, insects, earth and heavenly bodies all as brothers and sisters. St Frances is now a patron saint for ecologists and a great role model for nature-nurture.

Pope Frances saw fit to adopt his name and himself preaches great respect for the environment, and that all creation is connected.

Yet my critic shows he believes in the ancient God of the bible, in human form (wholly independent of, and separate from, the material universe). Most modern Christians I know don't believe that. Even our science-minded Pope Frances says God is not a magician, with a magic wand.

This is unlike the Genesis story of aeons past, of man the master, able to subdue and have dominion over all living things and nature.

It is only by believing we are the most superior of beings that we have brought about the problems I go on about.

Some readers might remember a few years back an angry respondent likened me to a worm. I replied that my hero Charles Darwin studied earthworms for 38 years, describing them as the most important creatures on Earth. I suggested they might be more important to a functioning planet than us . . . no reply, so I say here they truly are by far.

Every worm, every insect, every animal is working for the ecological wellbeing of the planet. Only we humans, who claim to be the most intelligent species here, are not doing that.

In truth, the industrial age brought a surge of new knowledge with much of it used for ecological detriment — and God is not a magician to put it right.

Humanity may have a wealth of knowledge, but sadly with only poverty of wisdom to match.

Again, the environment must come first. As Martin Hanson wrote recently: “Our high-energy lifestyles must be radically changed.”

Yes indeed, and pronto.

Bob Hughes

  1. Ken Ovenden says:

    Hi Bob, since you do not appear to have many followers in your “Greta of Gisborne” personification, constantly preaching climate change from extracts that you glean from the internet – where you give a few scant details and then demand a person proves you wrong – I have a new role for you. On the Hawaiki Turanga site, set up a temple where you become Gisborne’s resident Jainist and enlighten everyone as to your great and infinite wisdom, instead of trying to bulls–t through a simple newspaper letter to the editor forum – where you refuse to give examples as to just what you expect readers to do in regard to your claims. As the Mahavira of Gisborne you can then communicate face-to-face and not avoid giving even simple answers, as you have chosen to do up to date, LOL.

    1. Martin Hanson, Nelson says:

      What is little short of sarcastic abuse does not constitute an argument, but is on the same level as a vacuous, school yard slanging match. Indeed, you’ve strengthened Bob Hughes’ case by your inability to muster an evidence-based rebuttal.

      1. Ken Ovenden says:

        Hi Martin, when there is no actual evidence to rebut, try a more humorous approach. So, just what has happened to yours?

        1. Martin Hanson says:

          If you think that there’s no evidence for anthropogenic global warming, then I cannot help you.

          1. Gordon Webb says:

            Happy to accept that our climate is changing and that we are getting warmer and parts of the planet getting wetter and others drier. No point in denying any of that. However, it’s also not unreasonable to be suggesting that those telling us all of the dire consequences we face ought to be proffering some solutions. For months I have asked Bob Hughes what he suggests. Nothing even approaching sloppy concrete. If there is to be change then the people have to accept it. You have to take us with you when we know what it is. Hint, NZers in our own quiet way seethe at being told how to live, what to say, what to drive, what to eat . . . again and again.

    2. Aimee Milne says:

      I’m a follower of Bob Hughes. His columns keep reminding me to keep doing the little things that make a difference to climate change. It’s very real. Thank you Bob. And nothing wrong with Greta!!

  2. Martin Hanson, Nelson says:

    Responding to Gordon Webb, if he wants a solution that is compatible with our present high-energy lifestyle, there isn’t one. The human population is in a state of overshoot, meaning that numbers, and particularly consumption and expectations, are well beyond the Earth’s long-term carrying capacity. Unless we grossly reduce our energy expenditure, the human population is heading for collapse.
    I realise that the majority of lawyers are not versed in ecological science, so I don’t expect Gordon to understand what I’m talking about.

  3. Maree Conaglen says:

    Thanks Bob for attempting to enlighten those who are more concerned with personal attacks than actually listening to your message. I for one know that at the grass roots level that Bob Hughes is one of the most respected persons in Gisborne. And the reason for that is because he has wisdom, intelligence, courage and compassion. Bob also practices what he preaches. It’s qualities like these his critics could learn to emulate, if they are truly concerned about future generations.