March 2004

Marion Craig Memorial Essay Contest Winning Entry

A Rational Look At Gun Ownership

The results are in and the winner of our first annual Marion Craig Memorial Essay Writing Contest is Marc Watterson who is a Senior at West Jordan High School. The challenge was open to all high school students in the Jordan School District. We did not get as many entries as we hoped for, but are pleased with the work of Mr. Watterson. He will receive a check for $500.00 for his efforts.

Since the early 1990’s when the Brady Bill was first passed, the Second Amendment has come under increased scrutiny. Yet the people who argue that the individual right to bear arms does not include the individual citizen are those who, instead of looking at the issue rationally, have chosen to set their mind in one view, and refuse to look at all the facts. The Second Amendment states: A well-regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed. The aforesaid right addresses two separate, yet equally important issues.

First, that of the responsibility of the State to keep “a well-regulated militia” or, as we now call it, a National Guard. Every state has their own individual National Guard. And, as being a part of the Union, or the United States, when we go to war, each state has a responsibility of supplying troops to the effort. The Founding Fathers recognized the threat of outside nations upon the United States and thus enabled the States to organize their own branch of the army, located within their borders. This was also important because in the early beginnings of our country, there was a heated debate over representation of the states. The smaller states worried that they would be powerless to overcome the over representation of the larger or more heavily populated states. Thus, it was equally important that representation of each state was able to be in every part of the government, including the army. Therefore, it was necessary to incorporate into the Second Amendment a measure that would include equal representation of a state’s National Guard, or “well-regulated militia” in the American army.

The last part of the Second Amendment is what comes mostly under scrutiny, that of the right “of the people to keep and bear arms.” Now, I agree that not every person should have a gun. Those people who are felons or who have psychiatric problems should not have the right to carry a gun because they have already proven, through their actions and psychological problems, that they may pose a threat to society and as such should not have the same rights that the average citizen should. It is not the gun that poses a threat to society, it is the person who carries the gun. A man with a knife or bat could pose just as much of a threat as a man with a gun or a toothbrush. It is our thoughts that determine our actions, not our instruments. I have had the opportunity to grow up in a family where guns are taught to be something that should be respected, not feared. With the proper education, a gun can become a tool for the owner, whether they use it to hunt, protect, or compete.

Most people who own guns use them for recreational purposes only. This is done through hunting, and/or target shooting. These guns are issued to responsible citizens who do not take their rights for granted and use their guns in a manner conducive to the laws of the land. A gun is essential to the humanitarian method of the thinning out of herds. The meat obtained from such hunts, which are regulated by the state, is used for the consumption of the average citizen and/or hunter. Thus, through such conservation, the amount of animals dying from starvation decreases, because more food resources are opened up to other animals. These hunts are regulated by both the state government and the Fish and Game. The two working together are able to track animal reproduction ratios and effectively issue out hunting permits based on these findings.

I myself have felt both the positive and possible negative affects of gun ownership. Owning a gun has allowed my family to draw closer together because we enjoy hunting together and enjoying one another’s company. We have been able to reap the benefits of hunting and use the meat that we obtain from such. Conversely, four years ago I was involved in a hunting accident that left me blind in one eye. A single BB from a shotgun ricocheted off of a tree and struck me in the eye. But I do not blame the gun, neither do I blame the person who pulled the trigger. The event was a freak accident of which I hold no one or no thing responsible. It happened I lived to deal with it.

Unfortunately there are those who disagree with my views of gun ownership, but that is their opinion, and we are all entitled to our own opinions. But, I feel that I have been able to share my rational thoughts on gun ownership, and feel confident in my views. The debate over the Second Amendment will continue until the Supreme Court rules on their interpretation of such. Whether they make the correct decision will be in the eye of the beholder.

–Marc Watterson

Marc Accepts First Prize Check from Chapter President Heather Dorrell and Contest Chairperson Earl Wunderli

Annual Business Meeting Report

Then annual business meeting and banquet of the Humanists of Utah was conducted on Thursday, February 12, 2004, at Distinctive Catering. Approximately 40 members and their guests attended. Chapter President Heather Dorrell welcomed everyone and recounted the past year as one where we were alternately challenged and then amused and entertained by many noteworthy speakers. She also regaled the audience with several humorous stories from the internet.

Wayne Wilson, chapter Secretary, presented the Treasurer’s report which showed that the chapter again did not take in as much money as we spent. This is the third year in a row where receipts have fallen short. He then, switching hats to his more natural role as Secretary, noted that many of our fiscal woes can be traced to a declining membership. He recalled an article written by Bob Green in 1994 where Bob argued that blind pursuit of membership may not be in the best interest of humanism. We do, Bob said, have an obligation to make ourselves known to the community; however, he continued, we do not necessarily need to count our membership numbers as an absolute measure of success or failure.

Heather thanked outgoing Board members Joyce Barnes, Helen Mulder, and Earl Wunderli for their tireless efforts in promoting humanism over the past years. She then announced the results of our first ever election by mail. The turnout was impressive with many people who were not able to attend voting. All four candidates, John Chesley, Mike Huston, Cindy King, and Bob Mayhew were elected with overwhelming support of the voting membership.

Outgoing Board member Earl reported that our first Essay Contest was a mixed success in that we received only one entry. However, he is confident that we learned a lot and can expect a better response next year.

Both Earl and Joyce thanked the membership for supporting their efforts and encouraged other people to volunteer and serve on the Board in the future.

Incoming Board Members Mike Huston, Cindy King, and Bob Mayhew thanked the membership for the confidence shown in them by the voting. They pledged to work hard with the rest of the Board to keep our chapter strong in the coming years.

Finally, we were entertained by a unique musical program performed by The Bells of Joyful Sound under the direction of Bob Nohavek. This ensemble consisted of about 15 people who rang a series of bells that spanned eight octaves. The music was remarkable and the instructive commentary from Mr. Nohavek made it even more enjoyable.

The arrangements for dinner and the entertainment were again made by Rolf Kay. Flo Wineriter provided the wine and everyone had a pleasant evening. If you didn’t attend, you missed out. However, you’ll have another chance come August when we hold our summer social!

–Wayne Wilson

Rescuing a Planet Under Stress

Richard Layton’s Discussion Group Report

“As world population has doubled and as the economy has expanded sevenfold over the last half-century, our claims on the Earth have become excessive,” says Lester R. Brown in an article in the Humanist, November-December, 2003, with the same name as the present article. “We are asking more of the Earth than it can give on an ongoing basis.

“We are harvesting trees faster than they can regenerate, overgrazing rangelands and converting them into deserts, over pumping aquifers, and draining rivers dry. On our cropland, soil erosion exceeds new soil formation, slowly depriving the soil of its inherent fertility. We are taking fish from the ocean faster than they can reproduce.

“We are releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere faster than nature can absorb it, creating a greenhouse effect. As atmospheric carbon dioxide levels rise, so does the earth’s temperature. Habitat destruction and climate change are destroying plant and animal species far faster than new species can evolve, launching the first mass extinction since the one that eradicated the dinosaurs sixty-five million years ago.

“Throughout history, humans have lived on the earth’s sustainable yield–the interest from its natural endowment. But now we are consuming the endowment itself. In ecology, as in economics, we can consume principal along with interest in the short run but in the long run it leads to bankruptcy.”

A study by Mathis Wackernagel and a group of scientists, published by the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, estimated that our demands in 1999 exceeded the Earth’s regenerative capacity by 20%. By satisfying our excessive demands by consuming the Earth’s natural assets, we are in effect creating a global bubble economy. When the food bubble economy, inflated by the over pumping of aquifers, bursts, it will raise food prices worldwide. The challenge for our generation is to deflate the economic bubble before it bursts.

Since September 11, 2001, political leaders, diplomats, and the media worldwide have been preoccupied with terrorism and the occupation of Iraq. A legitimate concern, terrorism, if it diverts us from the environmental trends that are undermining our future until it is too late to reverse them, Osama bin laden and his followers will have achieved their goal in a way they couldn’t have imagined.

In February, 2003, U.N. demographers made an announcement that the world-wide rise in life expectancy has been dramatically reversed by AIDS for a large segment of humanity–the seven hundred million people in sub-Saharan Africa–from 62 to 47 years. Another mega threat, climate change, isn’t getting the attention it deserves from most governments, especially that of the U.S., the nation responsible for one-fourth of all carbon emissions. Other neglected mega threats include eroding soils and expanding deserts, which jeopardize the livelihood and food supply of hundreds of millions of the world’s people.

Plan A, business as usual, isn’t working. Brown recommends a new approach, Plan B, an urgent reordering of priorities and a restructuring of the global economy–to deflate the global economic bubble before it bursts. It involves rapid systemic change, based on market signals that tell the ecological truth.

The tax system would be restructured by lowering income taxes and raising taxes on environmentally destructive activities, such as fossil fuel burning, to incorporate the ecological costs. The economic and social conditions would be changed and the priorities adopted that will lead to population stability. Thirty-six nations, all in Europe except Japan, have already essentially achieved this goal. Crucial to it are extending primary education to all children, providing vaccinations and health care, and offering reproductive health care and family planning services in all nations. There would be a shift from a carbon-based to a hydrogen-based energy economy to stabilize climate. This change is now technologically possible, as shown in advances in wind turbine design, and solar cell manufacturing, the availability of hydrogen generators and the evolution of fuel cells. This transition depends on getting the price right, on incorporating the indirect costs of burning fossil fuels into the market price. Iceland, Germany, Japan, Denmark, the Netherlands and Canada have already led out in this endeavor. Israel, with its use of drip irrigation technology, is showing how to deal with the fall of the water table. In stabilizing soils South Korea and the U.S. stand out (the latter by farmers’ systematically retiring roughly 10% of their most erodible cropland, planting the bulk of it in grass, and leading the world in adopting minimum-till, no-till and other soil-conserving practices). All the things we need to do to keep the bubble from bursting are now being done in at least a few nations.

Brown presents his plan in his latest book, Plan B. There he estimates the total cost to the world at $62 billion, of which he proposes the U.S. offer one-third, and he feels that, if it did, the rest of the industrial world would be willing to provide the remainder

Adopting Plan B is unlikely unless the U.S. assumes a leadership position, as it did belatedly in World War II after the Pearl Harbor attack. That mobilization of resources within a few months demonstrates that a nation and, indeed, the world, can restructure its economy quickly if it is convinced of the need to do so.

“History judges political leaders,” says Brown, “by whether they respond to the great issues of their time. For today’s leaders, that issue is how to deflate the world’s bubble economy before it bursts. This bubble threatens the future of everyone, rich and poor alike.” To paraphrase former President Franklin D. Roosevelt, let no one say it cannot be done. Brown says, “Historians will record the choice–but it is ours to make.”

Liesel Hugged Me When We Met

For the last 10 years or so Jane Ball and I have been photographing the young dancers at Ballet West’s annual production of The Nutcracker These are the kids who volunteer for the part, don’t get paid, and start rehearsing sometime in September for the performances that start in early December. Bene Arnold, with a little help from her friends, does it all and has been doing it a lot longer than I have.

Between Christmas and New Years of last year we were photographing the buffoons. They are the six and seven-year-olds that come out from under grandma’s skirt, do their dance and go back under the skirt. We don’t photograph them on stage but rather they come up to our studio and we photograph them individually

So much for the background. I photographed all eight of the buffoons individually and when I was thru I sat down and with the camera on my lap started reloading it with film. As I was doing so, I noticed out of the corner of my eye two little feet. When I got thru I looked up and there stood a little buffoon with a beautiful smile. Without a word she threw her arms around my neck and gave me a big hug. And before I could say or do anything she had scampered off. The feeling I had was hard to describe but it was wonderful. And actually left me speechless for a few minutes. By that time she was gone.

It reminded me of one of my favorite poems written by Leigh Hunt. It goes like this:

Jenny kissed me when we met
Jumping from the chair she sat in,
Time, you thief, who likes to put sweets in your list
Put that in.
Say I’m weary, say I’m sad,
Say that health and wealth have missed me,
Say I’m growing old but add…Jenny kissed me.

I did a little research and found out that the little buffoon was named Liesel. If anyone recalls the names of the young lovers in the sound of music they were Rolf and Liesel.

Of course I’m now in love with Liesel and I think she’s fond of me. She’s seven years old and I’m almost eighty two. However in these modern times the differences in our ages should not matter. I’ll keep you posted.

–Rolf Kay

Humanism Is:

Humanism, I want to emphasize, is an attitude, not an ideology, a philosophical life-stance, not a creed. Humanists do not worship human beings–far from it!–but seek to accept and appreciate all of humanity while at the same time criticizing human error and folly and endeavoring to improve human lives and human society. Humanism affirms that we have both the freedom and the responsibility to make a more human world, to be actively engaged in the endeavors that improve human existence.

Humanism is not a doctrine, but a concern with certain questions such as: what is the nature of a good life; what makes for a good community, a good society; how can we best understand our existence and our universe. Humanists are concerned with this life we are living and this earth we share. We regard the world’s religions as expressions of a human struggle with problems of meaning and purpose in human existence and as possible sources of insight or wisdom but not often of “truth.”

–Bob Berson
American Ethical Union