Where does one start? Dr. John Cobb at age 96 is probably the world’s preeminent process philosopher, a pioneering eco-theologian, author of over 50 books, and the co-founder and still guiding light of The Center for Process Studies, Pando Populus, and the Institute for Ecological Civilization. Born in Japan, residing in California, he might be called a rock star in modern China where he helps to coordinate 23 centers of the Institute for Postmodern Development in China, (which he founded in 2005). How he was able to make himself available to talk with eight friends of People of Faith for Justice on January 12 I can’t imagine, but he did.
Dr. Cobb wrote a letter last November to Presidents Joseph Biden and Xi Jinping urging them to cooperate in leading the world in addressing climate change. PFJ members contacted Dr.Cobb asking if he could share with us any updates on that appeal. . . as well as to give our fledgling Central Coast Institute for Ecological Civilization any guidance on what we can do. In response, Dr. Cobb shared with us via zoom for almost two hours. The entire recorded session is available on the PFJ website. Here are brief notes from one attendee.
In regard to process thinking in general, Dr. Cobb suggested that Indo-European languages handicap our thinking by over-emphasizing nouns and pronouns, while under-utilizing verbs and gerunds. “When we use such phrases as “it’s raining,” we almost automatically think there is a substance present, namely “it.” Or at least something. Yet “raining” is happening.
Regarding responses to his letters to the two presidents, Dr. Cobb said that he’d had no official answers yet, but that he expects more positive response from the Chinese side. The long influence of Buddhism in China and East Asia seems to have made for more receptiveness there than in the USA both to process thinking and to ecological action.
Regarding his letter, Dr Cobb said that he has since written again to both presidents and the new joint working group, suggesting two areas for immediate cooperation: replenishment of healthy topsoil, which not only nurtures all earth life but also absorbs huge amounts of carbon, and reducing and phasing out the use in agriculture of poisons, which kill not only the targeted insects but also bees, birds, mammals, and soil, air, and water.
Regarding what can most help, Dr Cobb called for localization. Gardening is helpful for everyone who has opportunity. As fully as possible, go for energy produced locally, food produced locally, and exchange of products locally. One of the SLO County attendees shared that the SLO Climate Coalition is working on that now, organizing micro-committees of 8-10 people taking action for climate solutions. Localization is extremely important for survival, Dr Cobb said. “Corporate greediness can’t produce a lot of food locally.”
Regarding how Eco-Civ of the Central Coast can gain traction, Dr. Cobb said that no one else can think for us. . .but it is almost always wise to link with and learn from other groups. Two mentioned are the newly-formed Claremont Process Nexus (which PFJ has joined), and the Compassionate Cities projects, the city of Pomona being one good example of what is possible.
Where to stop? Much more was said, and is on the recording. Dr. Cobb did not reference it in our conversation, but a separate recent interview with Dr. Cobb on USA/Chinese relations is named “A Prophet Call for China and the US to Collaborate for Life on Earth” and can be viewed here:
– Thank you, Dr. Cobb[Note: Dr. Cobb’s letter to Presidents Biden and Xi Jinping may be viewed here.]