“Think twice and don’t do it”

I was having a discussion with with one of my second cousins, Jason King (I guess his mom and my mom would be first cousins). Anyway, we share the same great grandfather, Rollie Franklin Wininger.

It is nice as an adult getting to know some of my extended family. It is nice for various reasons.

One reason is simply getting to knowing people who I don’t normally associate with.

I get the sense that Jason is some variety of a right-libertarian and, as my mom told me, was raised in a fundamentalist church. I’m somewhere on the left and was raised in a liberal church. He grew up closer to Southern Indiana culture (the Hoosier part of Kentuckiana) and, besides brief visits, I grew up entirely outside of that culture. Yet we are both of the same generation and both have a love of Star Trek. Despite our differing perspectives, we both wouldn’t mind living in a Star Trek future.

Another reason is it gives me a better sense of my family and so a better understanding of myself.

I didn’t grow up around extended family and it didn’t occur to me how strange this was. I’ve been doing genealogy work in recent years and it has been a process of discovery, but Jason has been doing genealogy work since he was younger and had the opportunity of living near extended family. It was because of genealogy work that I finally met him, never having known of his existence before that. Most of my extended family is completely unknown to me, strangers from the past. Genealogy work has been my attempt to make up for this.

In our discussion, the topic was the death penalty. I explained part of my motivation. I wrote:

“About this case, there is one particular way I’m very conservative-minded. I’m a firm believer in the precautionary principle. It is easier to do something than to undo it. It is related to the old saying, “Measure twice, cut once.” The precautionary principle isn’t very popular in our society. We Americans prefer to just do it and deal with the problems later.”

He responded with this bit of info:

“Our Great Grandpa Wininger was even more cautionary–to the point of inaction. His saying was “think twice and don’t do it.””

I’ve heard some stories about our great grandfather. I’m not sure he was expressing precaution or just regret. My view is definitely not regret, more directed toward the future than the past. But in both cases it is about how the past informs the present and the decisions therefrom shaping what will come or what we strive to make happen.

The precautionary principle is what is central to so much that is important to me, so much that makes sense to me. It is easier to do than undo. It is easier to emotionally invest in a belief or cognitively commit to an idea than to retreat from the same. It is easier to create a bureaucracy than to dismantle it. It is easier to pollute and destroy an ecosystem than to restore it. It is easier to knock a building down or bomb a city to oblivion than to build it all over again. It is easier to create a problem than find a solution.

I don’t know about “think twice and don’t do it”. But I’m all for thinking twice or even thrice. After that, one can make an informed decision to do or not do; and if do, then what and how to do. It sure would take a lot of doing if we are ever to get to the future portrayed in Star Trek or, for that matter, if we are ever to move toward any kind of positive vision of society.

What’s Nature’s Economic Value?

(Full video: http://fora.tv/2010/08/03/Pavan_Sukhdev_What_Is_the_World_Worth)

I wish more people understood this very basic view of nature and the biosphere that supports all life and all civilization.

Species are going extinct and ecosystems are being destroyed at fast rates. I’ve looked at the data before and it’s impossible to really comprehend. There is nothing more important than the biosphere and yet there is nothing that humans treat so badly. People tend to only look at nature in terms of the worth that can be gained by destroying it, but few consider the worth of not destroying nature.

If we don’t collectively start acting according to the precautionary principle, we will inevitably destroy ourselves and possibly most of the biosphere as well. This isn’t an exaggeration. It’s hard to comprehend and most people would rather ignore the problem in hopes it will go away, but sadly reality doesn’t conform to our wishes.

There are still large numbers of people denying man-made global warming despite all the scientific research and despite the consensus of scientists and scientific organizations around the world. When ever I see someone denying the most basic facts of science, I just want to punch them in the face. I don’t get it. Will the average person only wake up when we’re on the brink of extinction? We really need to improve science education in this country and around the world. The only problem bigger than mass destruction of nature is the mass ignorance of the average person.

The following is a good analysis of the failure of ‘free market’ advocates to truly understand the problems of how external costs get placed upon third parties (in terms of our present corporatist/fascist/inverted-totalitarian system, this means pviatized profits and socialized costs).