Welcome to the End…and the Beginning

Welcome to the End…and the Beginning

By   |  Nov. 20, 2020

This is the edited introduction given live by John Cobb, our spiritual inspiration and chair of the Pando Populus board, at the Pando Days Finale, July 25, 2020.

Welcome to Pando Days.

I have deep excitement—and optimism—about Pando Days, both for Los Angeles and our wider world.

This excitement includes gratitude and admiration for the people who have envisioned the Pando approach, and those who continue to use it.

I am proud of Pando’s role—and that means the vision and leadership of Eugene Shirley, Pando’s founder.

Along with the organization of chief sustainability officers, which he also brought into being, he envisioned a way in which the enormous resources present in our great colleges and universities could be made helpful to Los Angeles County as it seeks to implement the admirable goals it has set for itself.  

We live in a world on the brink of disasters that will make our current challenges seem minor.

We have largely wasted fifty years since we first learned that our modern society is unsustainable.

But now, at the level of state, county, and municipal governments, we are recognizing the need for positive action, and we are committing to the right goals.

I believe that Los Angeles County is genuinely committed. But between transformative goals and their implementation lies a huge need for new thinking.  

Where in the county are the needed information, creative imagination, research ability, and capable individuals who can undergird the county’s efforts?

The obvious answer is in its institutions of higher education. Sadly, these institutions too often regard being academic as being detached from the current needs of the world.

Happily, this bias against relevance is breaking down. Ten institutions of higher education have found ways to contribute to the achievement of the goals of Los Angeles County through Pando Days.

This is a reason for hope in a time when a realistic assessment of what is likely to happen to humanity is deeply discouraging.

And the very presence of hope in itself provides a reason to be hopeful.

Let us celebrate this accomplishment.

Ten universities in our county have found ways to connect their special capabilities and resources to serious efforts to foster a livable planet and a flourishing society.

Those who represent those universities have achieved a breakthrough that has enormous positive potential. It is my hope that other universities will now realize that their reluctance to help save humanity from self-destruction must be transformed into enthusiasm for actualizing their vast potential contributions.

You should be very proud to have been the pioneers of a change that is urgently needed by universities to deal with their own crises. 

However, the need for a changed orientation is even greater for our governments—and for life on our planet.

You, and all those whom you represent, have my thanks, Pando’s thanks, and the county’s thanks.

If we all move forward to build on what you—and Pando—have begun, you will have the thanks of the state, the nation, and the world as well.

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