“I recommend that all who want to do something about the impacts that we are experiencing because of past mistakes made by humans in stewarding the Earth’s natural systems do something about it.”
As part of our Inspiring Minds series, inspired by the Mark Twain quote: great minds will give you a feeling that you can become great too, we caught up with John D Liu earlier this year. Here’s what he had to say:
How would you describe yourself to a young person keen to understand who you are and what’s important to you?
JDL – I have been a professional observer in politics, economics, culture and ecology for my entire adult life. First as a television cameraman and producer for several international news networks, then as a researcher and documentary filmmaker focused on ecology and ecological restoration of degraded landscapes.
Now at 70 years old I’ve learned to observe, analyze and use scientific method to determine logical and ethical choices for actions to ensure human survival. I’ve also realized that as an individual there is only so much that I can do and I have been working for many years now to engage more and more people in The Great Work of Our Time, to restore all degraded lands on the Earth.
The complexity of living systems and the degree of difficulty in restoring them can be daunting. Success requires that we all learn to collaborate with one another and to work together as a species on a planetary scale. This is also the way forward for peace, for ending poverty, for full employment, equality and freedom.
In pursuing your goals, what are the biggest lessons you have learned?
JDL – I have learned to be grateful for all the wonder, beauty and grace in the world. This all emerges from a central fact that every moment of life is precious. I have learned to have faith in others who share the same values and who are working for the good of all.
What psychological tools and mindsets do you call upon to stay committed?
JDL – Being light hearted, joyful and forgiving helps me to see the good in life and enjoy the moments, days, weeks, years and decades of amazing and miraculous life. Realizing what a blessing it is to know love, to love and be loved is the greatest aid to remaining positive and engaged.
What books have changed your life and why?
JDL – Candide by Voltaire, explained that time is not what we might first image it to be. Voltaire also helped me to see the absurdity and humor in the frailty and fallibility we each have. Candide also helps explain that while there are specific incidents in each individuals life it is the sum of human understanding that determines the fate of humanity.
Homer’s Odyssey, Alexander Dumas novel of revenge “The Count of Monte Cristo” and other books revealed ‘The Hero’s Journey’ when I was young. This is aptly defined in Joseph Campbell’s book of the same name. These and other books of this type led me to live a life filled with adventure and meaning.
Many religious texts from Western and Eastern cultures have convinced me that throughout all of human history people have sought to understand the meaning of life. I’ve come to see this from the prism of “comparative religion” which sees wisdom where it exists instead of imagining that one cultural perspective is better than others. This engenders tolerance and critical analysis and recognizes dogma, prejudice and intolerance when it appears.
Is there a quote; story; image or creative person or object that continues to inspire your belief that anything is possible?
JDL – I’m not sure that I believe that ‘anything’ is possible. I do believe that there is the possibility of infinite potential genetic diversity but this is different from anything. In my experience the greatest inspiration is in the awesome wonder of nature. One of my earliest memories is of noticing that leaves were turning to face the sun and following the sun across the sky during the day. To then consider that each tree was alive and part of a vast community of trees that were breathing in symbiotic relationship with me and all other oxygen breathing organisms.
This and the knowledge that all the living beings over all of evolutionary time have died and given up their bodies to nurture the next generations of life have put my own life in perspective that makes some sense. It explains why each moment is precious and I’ve seen how my life has purpose and is significant to me and to all life. It also shows that we are all equal and all capable of contributing to the sum of human knowledge.
My father who passed away at 99 years old and my mother who is still alive and 103 have inspired me enormously with their courage and positivity.
What’s coming up next for you?
JDL – I will continue to live my life as long as I can and I hope to consciously transition to a new dimension in death when my time comes.
Thoughts for the road…
JDL – I recommend that all who want to do something about the impacts that we are experiencing because of past mistakes made by humans in stewarding the Earth’s natural systems do something about it. One thing that offers itself is to join others in supporting the continued growth of the Ecosystem Restoration Camps and Communities movement.
This movement started six years ago when 1000 people pledged to share 10 Euros per month to create and maintain ecosystem restoration camps worldwide. In six years the movement has grown to include in January 2023, fifty-seven ecosystem restoration camps and communities in six continents.
The only way that humanity can succeed is if we work together and if we work locally and globally at the same time. There are already camps in many parts of the world that are doing wonderful work. This is an opportunity for the people to lead and to directly participate in restoration worldwide. It is necessary and it is doable but only if we step up and take responsibility. Let’s all do our part. The Ecosystem Restoration Camps and Communities movement provides us a much needed vehicle that is decentralized, with all camps and communities autonomous, self-organizing and self-governing. Imagine if 1 million people join this movement and share just 10 Euros or Dollars per month. If we continue to grow we can create a massive global model for freedom, equality and sustainability.