Why I’ll Be on the ROADTRIP TO PANDO: Philosopher John Cobb

Why I’ll Be on the ROADTRIP TO PANDO: Philosopher John Cobb

By   |  Jun. 20, 2017

We’re going on a ROADTRIP TO PANDO in late September with tree huggers and hunters, environmentalists and ranchers, designers, writers and philosophers.  It’s the roadtrip of all roadtrips, LA to Utah, urban to rural, to save Pando’s life.

We asked a few people why they are making the journey.  John Cobb, Member of the American Academy of Arts and Scientists and chair of the Pando Populus board, will be on the trip and shared these comments with us.


How have you come to the place to where you’re making the roadtrip to Pando?  What’s gotten you here?  

The Pando grove has become a part of my life in the past few years, but I have not actually seen it or stood within it.  Friends have gone and taken pictures.  But I am one of those for whom pictures, whether on screens or in print, do not take the place of physical presence.  I am a theist, and with many, I feel God’s presence most strongly in the midst of natural, and especially living, things.  Pando is an extraordinarily interesting living thing, and I expect it to induce a deep sense of sacred presence.

You’re best known as a philosophical theologian.  What’s unique about the way you look at Pando and its significance?

We have taken Pando Populus as our organizational name chiefly because, like all aspen groves it reminds us that individuality and separateness are secondary to connectedness and unity.  Above ground, we appear to be among many individual trees, but a little investigation shows us that all the “trees” are one tree.  All spring up from the same root system to which they, in turn, make essential contributions.  All prosper together or suffer together.  This has enabled one and the same organism to survive for tens of thousands of years.

You’ll be with us on the ROADTRIP TO PANDO in late September.  Why are you going?  

I’m going on this trip because I’ve been invited and because it is my first chance to go.  To be with people who share my curiosity and my reverence will greatly enrich it for me.  We won’t feel as though we are simply sightseers.  We will hope to offer something as well as to take something away.  We hope to feel our own connectedness and oneness with each other and even with this remarkable grove.

Do you have a private ambition for the trip?

A central ambition these days is to help people free themselves and one another from the oppressive and misleading individualism that dominates our education, economic life, politics, and culture.  My hope is that being in this grove may give us all a sense of being bound together by our shared experience and our common destiny.

What would make the experience one of the most amazing trips you’ve ever been on?

A profoundly saddening feature of the situation is the knowledge that this grove is dying.  For decades now, the expanding deer population, free of natural predators, is eating the new shoots, preventing their growth into adult trees.  I expect we will make some gestures to enable the grove to renew itself.  If we could believe that our reflection, our deeds, and our commitment really contribute to adding centuries to Pando’s life, the trip would be deeply rewarding and truly amazing.

Want to be part of this journey?  Read more about the ROADTRIP TO PANDO and sign up here.

John B. Cobb, Jr. is founding chairperson of Pando Populus and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

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