I had the extraordinary fortune of having many visionary scientists in attendance at the Global Forums, including Dr. Lovelock, Dr. Sagan, Dr. Heyerdahl, and Dr. Capra, about whom Mr. Chris Cote has written previous articles in this blog. The Forums gained enormously from their perspective. Each of these scientists did more than research in a lab: they contributed in moving vertical thinking to the horizontal, and combined their scientific knowledge with philosophical viewpoints. There is certainly a common nature among them.
Their science carries through the steps to reach a new perspective, so their philosophies are on the forefront. They are always searching for a new perspective. In a way, they were each extremely optimistic, a cautious optimism accompanied by a great concern for the next generation. Their universal minds caused them to have great interest in human issues, and each did an outstanding amount to work to convey their messages to the public—a task not often though of or accomplished by most scientists. After all, it is the public, the tenants of the planet, who are damaging the ecosystem and must understand the repercussions of their actions.
I was especially impressed with Dr. Sagan’s ability to present scientific information in a clear manner. I asked him why he could present so well, unlike many other scientists I knew. Carl had returned to school to learn to act, knowing the importance of learning to perform well. An extraordinary man becomes extraordinary by making an extraordinary effort at tasks that others ignore. By expanding his perspective he was able to relate complex issues of astronomy and the cosmos to the general public and his television series and books.
At the Oxford Conference Dr. James Lovelock said, “It seemed as if being forced to think of the future of our planet instead of just ourselves induced a large form of ecumenicity.” The Forum encouraged not just religious leaders, but the commonwealth of species that forms part of the living Earth to find importance in the pressing human issues. As I have always advocated, we must examine our issues through a spiritual as well as practical lens. I therefore made my efforts to invite Valentina Tereshkova, the first woman to fly in space, to speak at Oxford, revealing a new perspective of looking at the planet—our only known means for survival—from without rather than within. With this expanded perspective we can acknowledge wider, long term gains over any temporary benefits. Therefore, I paid enormous attention to Dr. Lovelock’s point of view—Gaia theory—a view that, through science, led him to a philosophy that allowed the spiritual view to transcend religious, dogmatic views and could help us develop common understanding over our true issues.
His explanation of the Gaia theory reminded me of different forms of acupuncture treatment in China. When I was in China in 1980 I had severe back pain and was introduced to an eminent doctor of acupuncture. Surprisingly, the doctor did not apply the needle to the area of my pain at all. The needles did not enter my back. He applied the needles to a completely different location, an area where I couldn’t see the pain. He said the body is the organ of blood circulation; therefore the needles minimize surgical operations which damage the organs and reduce self healing.
Their wisdom knew that the cause of the pain does not come from the locality where we feel it, but from other parts of the body which we cannot see clearly from our limited perspective. Our planet works the same way, just as Dr. Lovelock had explained with Gaia theory. You cannot treat only the place where you live because every other region of the world is affected also. Acupuncture is ancient—it has already accumulated 1000 years of wisdom. We are the living organ, the body as one and the planet as one.
Dr. Carl Sagan knew of our limited viewpoint in space, and worked to convey this to the public. The Milky Way Galaxy is beyond our human measures, with between 200 billion and 400 billion stars, yet the Native American elders have said that the distance between the brain and the heart is the longest distance. My constant concern follows these lines: how do we transform concept into practical achievement?
In response to this question I always tried to build a “non-gravity world” for the discussion of the environment—a world without agenda or dogma, in order to seek a common solution so that each religious leader could use their spiritual dimension to tackle the human issues from their faith, rather than force their dogmas on others. I tried to convert political and religious leaders’ ego into common action. Moving beyond theory, when it comes to practice, the ego comes into play, so I tried to build an environment where they would not pull weight. Always my point as a conductor of any meeting was always to encourage religious leaders to put their ego or dogma aside and listen to what others would say. This produced a common spiritual dimension where human issues could be tackled. It was very encouraging to me to meet His Holiness the Dalai Lama at Oslo, six months after the conference at Oxford. He said to me that the Oxford Global Forum had helped all religious leaders understand environmental issues from a global perspective, and recognize that we are all part of the Earth. It was a very good opportunity for all religious leaders to understand the scope of the global environmental issues we are facing. Adding to His Holiness, Dr. Lovelock, among others, also showed that he was greatly influenced by the Oxford Conference, and wrote the Foreword to Anuradha Vittachi’s book Earth Conference-One.
There is high hope that in the end of the century for the first time in human history a new vision of wisdom will be added by those who look at a blue planet from the Moon and Mars. Therefore all of us have a moral obligation to pass the torch, the spirit of positive force, on to the next generation, so that they may partake in our wisdom, not just our problems.