Shared Vision, Environment, Spirituality, Conversation, etc. LO5487
Thu, 08 Feb 1996 22:54:52 -0500

Greetings. The attached document touches on a number of issues that have
surfaced in various threads. It's a bit long, but many of you may find it
quite interesting. It starts with my personal input to the 7th American
Forest Congress that I shared with some co-workers. In no time at all, it
seemed to spread like a fire through my agency's internal wide-area
computer network. Most of the feedback I received was very positive, but
there was one reply that was very negative which I've enclosed along with
my reply. Some interesting electronic conversation. For those of you who
might be interested in more information about next week's 7th American
Forest Congress, the home page is located at

----- Attached Document -----

Seventh American Forest Congress

Individual Response Form

Date: 1/24/96

1. Name of Respondent: Jim Saveland

2. Address, phone/fax numbers(s):
USDA Forest Service, FFASR
PO Box 96090
Washington, DC 20090
fax: 202-205-2497

3. My Vision for America's forests in a generation or two is:

I have read the vision statements from the local roundtables held around
the country that were posted on the internet. While these visions have
a lot of commonality, use noble adjectives (diverse, sustainable,
healthy, productive, vigorous, expanding) to describe future forests,
address the need to balance economic and environmental issues, and
balance public and private interests; I am left with the question, but
what do the forests look like? A vision needs to be visual, capable of
being seen. I think it would help if people would draw a picture in
their mind of what the forests of the future would look like. What does
sustainability look like? What does diversity look like? Etc. Toward
that end, I offer my vision:

This pertains specifically to certain short-interval fire adapted
ecosystems. I see open forests of large, majestic pine trees (for
example, longleaf pine in the Southern Coastal Plain, shortleaf pine in
the Ouachita's, ponderosa pine in the West), lush native bunchgrasses
and a carpet of wildflowers. There are clumps of pine regeneration and
an occasional large hardwood tree. I smell the pine and wildflowers. I
hear the birds-songbirds, hummingbirds, woodpeckers, and raptors. There
is a great diversity of plant and animal life, especially in the
understory. The midstory is sparse. If I look closely, I can see
evidence of "no trace" logging in some of the forests. Fire is an
integral part of these forests. So at times, I can feel the heat of the
gentle fire and smell the smoke as it quietly disperses. Aldo Leopold
defined land health as a vigorous state of self renewal. Here are
healthy forests, dynamic and changing. They provide sustainable economic
value (wood products, forage, recreation), biological diversity, and
yes, aesthetic and spiritual value. These forests have utilitarian and
aesthetic value, too often in conflict and seen as an either/or
proposition in today's world. I see people in the forests: some come to
work, some come to play, some are alone - developing personal mastery,
some are in groups - building communities, and all come to learn about
systems in nature. People feel a deep sense of connection with their

4. The Principles I believe should guide us in achieving this vision

There are four cardinal points on a compass that can guide us in
achieving this vision: Love, Truth, Responsibility, & Respect.

* Love. Developing a vision of a desired future condition is an act of
love. People focus on what truly matters to them, what they really
want. Love is also a guiding principle in effective human interaction.

* Truth. Assessing how things are today is an act of telling the truth.
Taken together, developing a vision of a desired future and honestly
appraising current reality makes up what Robert Fritz calls "creative
tension" (R. Fritz, "Creating," Fawcett Columbine; R. Fritz, "The Path
of Least Resistance," Ballantine). Creative tension provides the energy
needed to accomplish great acts. Mahatma Gandhi used the word
"Satyagraha" when talking about the practical power of love and truth.
Satyagraha was the bedrock of his thoughts, words, and deeds that
changed the world.

* Responsibility. Best-selling author Stephen Covey has expressed the
many facets of responsibility when he talks about "private victory."
(S.R. Covey, "The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People," Simon &
Schuster). Responsibility encapsulates habits one (be proactive), two
(begin with the end in mind), three (put first things first) and seven
(sharpen the saw). Responsibility is the foundation for building
personal mastery.

Discussions of private property rights should be preceded by a
discussion of private property responsibilities. The following also
expresses some important facets of responsibility (K.Nair, "A Clue from
Gandhi," Sky Magazine, May 1995):

Gandhi spent more than 50 years in active public service and
understood the need for legal safeguards to protect fundamental rights.
However, he believed that a commitment to personal responsibility, not
insistence on rights, should govern conduct and social policy.
H.G. Wells once asked for Gandhi's views on a document Wells had
co-authored entitled "Rights of Man." Gandhi did not agree with the
document's emphasis on rights. He responded with a cable that said, "I
suggest the right way. Begin with a charter of Duties of Man and I
promise the rights will follow as spring follows winter."
There are pragmatic reasons for all of us to focus on our
responsibilities rather than our rights. A society driven by the former
promotes service, tolerance, compromise, and progress, whereas a society
driven by the latter is preoccupied with acquisition, confrontation, and
advocacy. When we fail to meet our responsibilities to others, they are
forced to insist on their rights.
Focusing on responsibilities removes the mind-set of giving something
without return and of taking something without making a contribution.
Both these attitudes are detrimental to the human spirit and create a
society that is neither productive nor caring.

* Respect. Best-selling author Stephen Covey has expressed the many
facets of respect when he talks about "public victory." It includes
respect for other people's point of view and valuing diversity. Respect
encapsulates habits four (think win-win), five (seek first to
understand, then to be understood), and six (synergize). Respect is the
foundation for building communities.


In addition to the four principles listed above, fire can play a central
role in guiding us toward achieving shared visions. The following is
from "Who Speaks for Wolf: A Native American Learning Story" by Paula
Underwood (A Tribe of Two Press):

"We regard the Central Fire as our source of warmth, our
common Center. Pulling us toward it, it encourages us toward
each other." p. 47.
Central Fire

For those who understand the meaning of the Central Fire,
there can be no explanation. For those who not yet see the
mounting flames calling the hunter from his forest, the farmer
from her field, gathering the People to share their wisdom toward
a shared decision ... know that each Council Fire was lit as a
beacon, forming the center toward which all faced. No one of the
People was the Fire. Yet the Fire was their Center, their
gathered energy mounting skyward, like their prayers, toward the
Reality which lies beyond.
This shared focus was constructed by many hands, like the Long
Houses in which they lived. To this beacon each one brought some
wood, like food to the Central Feast. Out of unity some greater
purpose. What is impossible for one, many may yet accomplish.
Even in a summer's warmth, even in a small dwelling where any
fire at all would have been intolerable, the Central Fire was
still there ... built by each hand, lit by the mind, by the
heart, if not by any hand.
Like the Central Fire around which my Father and I always sat,
fed by both hands, lit only by the heart, our Spirit dwelling,
our round house, a white clapboard garage in a County that did
not allow fire. Our expanding world a Circle of Two.
So did the Circle of the People face toward their Council
Fire, lit whenever there was need, lit also at regular intervals
to remind them of the continuing need for consensus, for unity of
purpose. Individuality stood around the Council Circle, yet
unity grew and changed in the Circle's Center, like the flames of
the Council Fire.
"Let all leave behind their individual concerns, safe beyond
the Circle. Let our thoughts draw toward our Center. Let us be
warmed by our Common Purpose," some Elder would intone.
And so it was. I and you may differ, may fall to blows
between us. Yet, if our thoughts turn toward the Center, I and
you - and as many others as there may be - may yet build our
Central Fire, create and sustain its energy, recognize our Common
Let it be so. p. 49.

5. The concrete First Steps that I believe individuals and
organizations can take to move us toward this Vision, based on our
identified Principles are:

Individuals can take steps to further develop personal mastery and
together can work on building communities.

Personal Mastery
One place to start is developing a personal understanding of the
Five Disciplines (shared vision, personal mastery, mental models, team
learning, systems thinking) that are cornerstones to what has come to be
called "learning organizations." (P.M. Senge, "The Fifth Discipline - The
Art & Science of the Learning Organization," Doubleday). As mentioned
above, developing a personal understanding of Covey's Seven Habits is
another place to start.

Community Building
Perhaps the most important work is community building. [F.Kofman
and P.M. Senge, "Communities of Commitment: The Heart of Learning
Organizations," Organizational Dynamics 22(2):5-23.]

Future search conferences, such at this 7th American Forest
Congress, are important first steps to building community. Developing a
desired future condition in the forest planning process can be an exercise
in discovering common ground. (M.R. Weisbord, "Discovering Common Ground,"
Berrett-Koehler; M.R. Weisbord & S. Janoff, "Future Search,"

The compliment of future search, an accurate picture of how
things are today, will help build communities. Information systems that
widely communicate an honest assessment of the current condition of our
forests can be developed.

Conversation and stories are at the heart of building
communities. The Dialogue Project at MIT's Center for Organizational
Learning offers a theory and practice for improving conversations [W.
Isaacs, "Taking flight: Dialogue, collective thinking and organizational
learning," Organizational Dynamics 22(2):24-39]. Similar projects could be
developed around forest issues.

The language of systems can foster community building. Learning
Laboratory Projects at MIT's Center for Organizational Learning offer a
theory and practice for developing systems thinking. [J.D. Sterman,
"Teaching takes off - flight simulators for management education," OR/MS
Today 19(5):40-44]. Similar projects could be developed for the forestry

Office of the Congress
205 Prospect Street
New Haven, CT 06511
Voice: (203)-432-5117
Fax: (203)-432-5942

*** End of Form for Seventh American Forest Congress


A comment sent to an economist concerning my individual input to the 7th
American Forest Congress (the economist had circulated the above to an
internal mailing list of several hundred people called eco-watch):

Saveland's vision is a bunch of gobbledegook laced with a variety of
strange religious (and mostly non-Christian) views. Is he selling his
religious viewpoints or trying to make a contribution to the 7th American
Forest Congress? He certainly fails in the latter attempt. If the
Congress incorporates this type of tripe, the entire effort will be
wasted. Aside from the religiosity that permeates his message, there is
little substance to his own expressions or to the disjointed
conglomeration of quotes from other peoples' writings. I really don't
understand why a professional economist such as yourself would route such
a document and waste everyone's time. Let's wait and see what the
national Congress adopts from all the grass roots efforts and route that
instead of giving one dissident our time.

My reply:

Where do I begin? Perhaps its best to begin with the principles of
respect and responsibility. When I read your comments, I hear a lack of
respect for my way of thinking. That may not be your intent, but that is
what I hear. Apparently what I have expressed does not conform to what you
consider to be a Christian viewpoint and therefore you denigrate it. My
first impulse is to respond in like manner and attack your viewpoint. But
in the space between stimulus and response I have the ability to choose.
And I choose to show respect for your viewpoint. Choosing our response is
what response-ability is all about. Stephen Covey expresses this concept
much better than I could ever hope too, which is one of the reasons I
referred to his book.

There are three points I'd like to respond to in your comments:

1) What was the purpose of my expressing and sharing my thoughts?
I guess there were a couple of motivations: a concern about what I
perceive as a lack of vision and a concern about participation.
Concern about vision. After reading the vision statements of the
local roundtables that were posted on the internet, I was concerned about
the lack of visualization. For me, a couple of the great vision speeches
of our time were JFK's speech about putting a man on the moon and Martin
Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech. Both rely on visual imagery,
you can close your eyes and see what they are envisioning. I couldn't do
that with the vision statements I was reading from the roundtables. So I
tried to provide an example. I did it by taking a mental walk through the
forest that I would like to see.
Concern about participation in the Congress. I have not seen much
encouragement within the FS to get involved with the Forest Congress.
There are 54 people from the FS, primarily from upper levels of the
organization, who are attending. I believe very strongly in building
shared vision. How we do it is very important. It should not be a
top-down exercise where upper management goes off for a three day retreat
and sells their vision to the rest of the organization. I want to
emphasize that I was in no way trying to sell my vision or any religious
viewpoint to other people. [I try to live up to one of my favorite quotes
from Thomas Jefferson, "I never told my own religion, nor scrutinized that
of another. I never attempted to make a convert, nor wished to change
another's creed. I have ever judged of the religion of others by their
lives...For it is in our lives, and not from our words, that our religion
must be read." (1816 Letter to Mrs. Samuel H. Smith) I regard Jefferson's
Virginia bill for establishing religious freedom as a great piece of work]
If anything, I was trying to say, this is my vision, what's yours? I
believe that is how you go about building a shared vision - developing
your own and listening to others. I am hopeful that what I wrote
stimulates conversation and participation in the Congress. If I showed
that I took the time and trouble to put my thoughts on paper and provided
an address and fax number so that others could do the same, maybe I could
generate some more participation. While you may want to wait and see what
the Forest Congress adopts, I do not believe that we should sit back and
wait for the Congress to deliver us a vision that we can sign on to;
rather each and every one of us needs to take on the responsibility to
fully participate in the process to the best of our abilities.

2) "Disjointed conglomeration of quotes."
Touche'. When I was writing the piece, this was my biggest concern.
In one revision, I had taken them out. Here's why I left them in. The
document needed to be short and I felt it was too long as it was. Yet I
am not very good at distilling what someone else has said so eloquently in
a couple hundred pages into a sound bite. So I tried to make the
connection and provide a reference in case someone's interest was piqued
and they wanted to find out more. Whereas you see a disjointed collection
of quotes, I see common threads that form the core of an emerging theory.
Stephen Covey's book has been on the best-seller list for 200+ weeks and
thus I thought many people could relate to it. From the roundtables, it
looks like "private property rights" will be a major issue at the
Congress. The quote from the article on Gandhi beautifully expresses a
point of view that I agree with - we need to talk about responsibility
before rights. The quote from "Who Speaks for Wolf," is admitedly a
little out of place but again I thought beautifully captured the purpose
of the Forest Congress in a visual expression - to gather around a council
fire and discover common ground by talking about vision. I am also a fire
ecologist, so I think that fire is at the center of our forest health
issues and enjoyed the double entendre. The rest of the references come
out of MIT which is doing ground breaking research in what's behind
high-performance organizations. I think if we ignore such information,
our organization risks disintegration. In short, the conglomeration of
quotes was my shorthand for expressing some complex ideas in a small
amount of space and I realized that it would be a major disconnect and
turn-off for some, but others would be able to make the connections.

3) Religiosity

The individual input form that I was filling out required a discussion
of principles. My guess is that any discussion of principles lends itself
to charges of religiosity. In the vision portion I talk about my wish to
bridge the gap between what is usually expressed nowadays as "jobs vs. the
environment." I use the words utilitarian and aesthetic which is the
categorization scheme that philosophy uses. These age-old, fundamentally
different ways of viewing the world certainly have played a major role in
the history of Christianity - e.g. the conflict between the Franciscans
(aesthetics) and Benedictines (utilitarians). I think the time has come
to bridge the schism but that hardly amounts to religiosity.

I am curious, exactly what was it that you consider "non-Christian?"
Surely it's not the four principles: love ("You shall love your neighbor
as yourself" Matthew 22:39, Luke 6:27-36, John 13:34), truth ("You will
know the truth, and the truth will make you free" John 8:32),
responsibility ("Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye,
but do not notice the log that is in you own eye" Matthew 7:3, Luke 6:41),
or respect ("Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of
these my brethren, you did it to me" Matthew 25:40).

If my crime is finding inspiration in the writings of Teilhard
deChardin (Catholic), Martin Buber (Jew), Mahatma Gandhi (Hindu), Rumi
(Moslem), Chief Seattle (Native American), William Blake (English poet),
Joseph Campbell (American mythologist), Stephen Covey (Morman), Robert
Greenleaf (Quaker), Lao Tzu (Chinese philosopher), and a host of others in
addition to the teachings of Jesus found in the New Testament, then I
plead guilty.

Finally, for people to get along, we must put aside the arrogance that
my way is the right way and your way is the wrong way and vice versa. That
is what respect is all about. In summary, while the lack of respect in
your comments invites an in-kind response, I choose to show respect, which
is what responsibility is all about. Its also related to unconditional
love. That is what I find when I look in the New Testament (1 Corinthians
13:1-13, Colassians 3:14, 1 John 4:20, Peter 4:8). But I can also find
similar ideas in the Koran, the Talmud, the Bhagavad-Gita, the Analects of
Confucius, the Tao Te Ching, the Zend Avesta....

Postscipt: My intent here is not to silence my critics. I truly value
this for it has given me the opportunity to reflect, refine, and express
my thoughts on what I consider an important subject. My purpose here is to
bring these often hidden conversations into the light of day.

His Reply:

Well said; and well taken. I admit I tend to come across a bit harsh in
writing. My intent was not to disrespect you but to critique your writing
and the appropriateness of the routing of it in the FS. (God grants you
free will and loves each of us as demonstrated by providing a way to be in
fellowship with Him through acceptance of Jesus Christ; but he is still
holy and holds us responsible for appropriate conduct and the effects we
have on others.) I simply didn't think your references in your vision to
non-Christian religious ideas, views, etc was appropriate (or edifying to
God). Your use of them seemed to be chasing after every non-Christian vain
philosophy you could find and promoting others getting into them by
providing the references. Supervising one of the FS facilitators of the
local forestry congress meetings and discussing it in staff sessions has
given me the distinct impression that the forestry congress is seeking
public views/consensus, not FS employee views. Thus, I believe your
submission and the routing of it on DG was inappropriate (regardless of
content). By the way, Thomas Jefferson lived in a time when Christian
thought predominated in government and the public; so he was referring to
discussions of Christian doctrine, not in regard to non-Christian thought
or preventing the spread of them.

My Reply:

I guess we are at the point where we can agree to disagree:

1) I think the forestry congress is seeking everyone's views, including FS
employees. I also think it is not only highly appropriate, but vital to
have conversations in the hallways, on the DG's (our internal wide-area
computer network), and in our communities about people's vision of future
forests coupled with an honest assessment of current conditions.

2) Thomas Jefferson was reviled by many in his time and later for being

3) Whereas I can see where you are coming from with the other two points,
when I look at what I wrote, I still do not see any non-Christian
religious ideas.

Jim Saveland                             "Tell me now my brothers
Fire Ecologist                              Tell me now my sisters
USDA Forest Service, FFASR                    Who speaks for Wolf?"
PO Box 96090
Washington, D.C. 20090
email:  /s=j.saveland/

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