Differences Aside: Coming Together for a Common Good

It has been said, “The enemy of my enemy is my friend”; it is a quote that I understand to be an Arabian proverb (http://thinkexist.com/quotation/the_enemy_of_my_enemy_is_my_friend/297233.html).  I would argue our “enemy” is environmental degradation.

November 10, 2008, there was the talk given by Rabbi Michael Cohen explaining the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies program.  Here, students come together for the common goal of researching on the environment.  There are tensions in the Middle East, but these students are able to discuss the environment and cooperate together.  The program is a chance for the different nationalities to come together and dispel myths of each other.  Rabbi Cohen suggests the program can function because the students are able to meet fellow citizens, get past labels, build trust and cooperate as a community.  This is made easier by the fact that the students are not in deep city and that the environmental issues transcend any boundaries.

You could pose several questions on the subject of cooperation.  First of all, when working towards a common goal will you always get people who agree with you 100%?  I paraphrase that it was mentioned in the talk that to come about change, you won’t always meet up with people in complete accord.  In my opinion It wouldn’t be a discussion.  And dealing with people who have the same ideas makes the decision process easier, but I’d argue that this lessens the amount of solutions you come by, and increases the possibility you’ll run into an insurmountable brick wall.  What’s absolutely necessary is the ability to still listen to who you do not agree with.

This poses another question.  How do you talk about an issue when facing conflicting insights?  You don’t want to abruptly come across as “I’m right, you’re wrong, and that’s all there is to it.”  Without giving up what you believe, you try to see these questions from the worldview of the person posing it.  Then you attempt to explain how you view the question from your worldview.  Either way you cannot be blinded in your own bubble.  You listen by seeing.

Is it possible to solve the global issue of environmental degradation on your own?  No.  Environmental degradation may have one impact on a certain area of the world and a different impact elsewhere.  Deforestation would increase runoff on hill tops and increase salinization in the valleys down below.  You need the consideration of all who are involved to reach a complete solution.

I’d finally like to comment on whether there are instances when people should not be included in a cooperative effort.  During the question period of the seminar, the issue was raised on receiving funding from an organization, certain members of the talk perceived as racist.  If you disagree with the views of one of your supporters would they be capable of making a decision requiring you to discontinue acceptance of any future funding?  Would this instability still be considered progressive?  Are there any conflicts of interest in cooperation?  Could you still “listen”?

From this blog I hope I have not succeeded in preaching to the choir.  I also hope I have not put words in anyone’s mouth.  What I do hope to achieve is the discussion of the issues of cooperation, especially on an issue as global as the environment.  To add one more cliché to this commentary, two heads are better than one, and working together to help the earth would be better than working alone.

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