Battles over environmental issues too often come down to either/or propositions. Do we save old-growth forests or do we save jobs in the lumber industry? Improve the atmosphere and the waterways or save industries the high cost of cleaning up their pollution? Save wildlife habitats or preserve development rights?
There are some encouraging signs of cooperation between what have usually been regarded as conflicting interests. One example occurred earlier this year, when a significant portion of the Headwaters Forest, a rare stand of old-growth redwoods in northern California, was purchased with state and federal funds to be preserved.
Around this pristine tract is a much larger expanse of forest still owned by the lumber company. This can continue to be logged, saving jobs and profits. The lumbering practices are required to be environmentally sound, designed to protect endangered species and salmon streams. The arrangement is not perfect, but is a step in the right direction. A good example of how conflicting interests can be brought together for the benefit of all. It involves an attitude of cooperation rather than confrontation.
There is more we can do, even if we've never attended a meeting or a conference. Our contribution can be through spiritual activism. Through our prayers, we can support steps of progress and help correct situations in which there are impasses.
Making the effort to pray about environmental issues will give us many insights that help us make a real contribution. This article has space for exploring just one of these insights - that God is Mind, the supreme intelligence governing the universe.
Starting from the biblical premise that there is but one God, it follows that there can be but one Mind. And this totally good Mind is reflected in the infinite ideas it creates. The true spiritual identity of each one of us is as an idea of Mind. By reflection, we must have intelligence, wisdom, foresight, understanding, insight, discernment. Such qualities, which we express in our thoughts and actions, are invaluable in resolving conflict and bringing harmony to human affairs.
The textbook of Christian Science explains, "When we realize that there is one Mind, the divine law of loving our neighbor as ourselves is unfolded; whereas a belief in many ruling minds hinders man's normal drift towards the one Mind, one God, and leads human thought into opposite channels where selfishness reigns" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," by Mary Baker Eddy, pg. 205).
This "belief in many ruling minds" pervades human thought. Selfishness will reign, and the prospect of reaching agreement seem dim, when we act as different human minds that are holding widely differing viewpoints, sticking to their own agendas. But suppose instead we could start "thinking out" from the spiritual viewpoint of just one Mind?
The results can be very different, as a friend of mine found. He was in a meeting to agree on a course of action for an environment-related issue. People were pushing forward their various conflicting points of view. The meeting was not getting anywhere.
My friend left the meeting for a few minutes. He wanted to attain some peace of mind. And he prayed. He tried to rethink the situation from the standpoint that there was just one God - one divine Mind that was all-intelligent and totally good - being expressed individually. Being expressed in the unique identity of each person in that meeting.
From this premise, my friend could reason that in place of the contention, Mind was expressing harmony. That instead of rigid, personal views, Mind was manifested in openness and receptivity to fresh ideas. That instead of an attitude of confrontation, Mind was providing an atmosphere of cooperation. He continued this line of thinking until he felt at peace. Then he returned to the meeting.
The whole atmosphere had changed. And then someone put forward a new proposal that soon received the approval of all.
That experience is just one indication of the potential we each have to help resolve environmental, and other, conflicts - by taking the standpoint that there's one Mind, one God. Then we really can save both forests and jobs.
(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society