The name of this blog, Rainbow Juice, is intentional.
The rainbow signifies unity from diversity. It is holistic. The arch suggests the idea of looking at the over-arching concepts: the big picture. To create a rainbow requires air, fire (the sun) and water (raindrops) and us to see it from the earth.
Juice suggests an extract; hence rainbow juice is extracting the elements from the rainbow, translating them and making them accessible to us. Juice also refreshes us and here it symbolises our nutritional quest for understanding, compassion and enlightenment.

Thursday, 25 May 2017

This Time We've Gone Too Far

Source: http://www.ecoticias.com
“You’ve gone too far this time!”  How many of us remember hearing this phrase when we were growing up? Perhaps we still hear it.  The speaker wants us to know that, up until now, they have generally tolerated our behaviour, but now, we have pushed just too far, and there will be consequences.  “There will be hell to pay,” or maybe it will be something like, “just wait until your father/mother gets home.”

The words indicate that a tipping point has been reached, or surpassed.  The proverbial last straw has been placed upon the camels back.

If we are sensitive enough we might hear the Earth telling us the same – this time you’ve gone too far.  Have we?  We have been slowly (or speedily) developing our capacity to consume.  We have been developing our technologies, often for our betterment.  Our technological development has enabled us to do a lot more than we could even just one century ago.  We can travel quicker and further.  We have eradicated a number of diseases.  We can live more comfortably.  We can be entertained at the touch of a button on a hand-held phone. 

But, have we now gone too far on this path?  Consider a few examples:

Earth Overshoot Day

Living upon this planet we use resources and create waste which are regenerated.  However, what happens when the amount we consume and waste exceeds the amount that is being regenerated?  Its a bit like having an income and having savings.  If you spend within your income you will continue to grow your savings.  But, if you spend more than your income you will deplete your savings – a recipe for financial collapse.  So it is with Earth Overshoot Day.  As global citizens we have been consuming and wasting more than is regenerated since 1970.  What’s more, we have been doing so at a faster and faster rate.  Using the metaphor of savings it is as if each year we dip into our savings more than the previous year.  It is unsustainable.

350 parts per million

In 2007 Jim Hansen, a NASA scientist, co-authored a paper that suggested that if the atmosphere contained more than 350 parts per million of carbon dioxide then the earth would possibly pass through a threshold from which it may not recover.  In the abstract to that paper he wrote that at such a level we can’t have a planet “that is similar to the one on which civilisation developed and to which life on earth is adapted.”

Yet we have already surpassed 350 ppm and have even gone beyond 400 ppm.  Furthermore, notwithstanding Paris Summits and the like, we are adding more parts per million every year than were added the previous year.  Currently we are adding over 2 ppm every year.

Biodiversity Loss

Attempts to measure the amount of biodiversity loss attributed to human behaviour is not easy.  Estimates vary between 4 and 10 times the natural background extinction loss.  Some estimates even suggest that the loss of species is as high as 100 times the natural background loss.  Anyone who has studied ecology knows how devastating the loss of even one species (particularly predator species) can be for a whole ecology.  When we extrapolate that understanding to the whole planet we have to ask ourselves – have we lost too much biodiversity already?

Land Use

Currently over 40% of the earths land area is taken up by agriculture or urban use, with much of the remainder criss-crossed and cut into by roads.  Estimates are that by 2025 the amount of land devoted to agriculture and/or urban use will be over 50%.

Inequality

On one level it seems that the worlds wealth and income has increased, and that may be so.  However, inequality levels are increasing.  In some parts of the world inequality (measured by the gini coefficient1) are at levels approaching, or surpassing, the levels just prior to the Great Depression.  Even in those parts of the world that are experiencing levels less than pre-Depression days the gini coefficient is on the increase.  It may just be a matter of time.  In much of the western world plus China, Russia and India, the gini coefficient has been steadily rising since 1980.

Have We Gone Too Far?

Each of these examples suggests that we are getting close to some tipping point, and possibly have already surpassed some.  We’ve already seen the consequences that followed high inequality levels in the early part of the 20th century – the Great Depression.  We are starting to see some of consequences of an atmosphere with more than 350 ppm of carbon dioxide – more and worse weather related catastrophes.

This time we’ve gone too far.  Can we recover?  That is up to all of us, individually and collectively.

Notes:

1. The gini coefficient was developed by Italian statistician Corrado Gini in 1912 and is a measure of the inequality within a nation or between nations.  The coefficient is expressed as a number between 0 and 1 where 0 represents perfect equality and 1 a situation where one person has all the income/wealth and everyone else has none.  

Friday, 19 May 2017

6 Possible Causes

Having recently published a book that speaks about social justice, sustainability and community development I now wish to find a cause to which a  percentage of the profits can be channelled.  I would like to ask your help in deciding upon the cause.  Here are six possibilities:

Fair Trade

This organisation works with farmers and other producers in developing countries to get better trading conditions and to promote sustainable farming practices.  The organisation believes that fair trade is a better way to bring about social justice than traditional charity or aid models.  The organisation provides a certification that enables the buyer to know that what they are buying is of benefit to farmers in developing countries.

Rainforest Alliance

This organisation also provides a certification that means that businesses that receive the certification practice sustainable forest management practices.  The Alliance seeks to preserve biodiversity and encourages long-term sustainability.

World Wildlife Fund (WWF)

Now known as the World Wide Fund for Nature, WWF is over 50 years old and seeks to reduce the human environmental footprint.  Most people are aware of the work WWF does to protect endangered species and ensure biodiversity.

Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF, also known as Doctors Without Borders)

MSF is an NGO providing medical assistance in war-torn areas and countries affected by endemic diseases.  In 2015 over 30,000 doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals worked in over 70 countries.

Greenpeace

Founded in Canada in 1971 Greenpeace is possibly the most recognised environmental organisation in the world.  Globally the organisation campaigns on issues including: climate change, whaling, genetic engineering, deforestation, and anti-nuclear issues.  It uses a variety of tactics including direct action campaigns.

350.org

Very firmly based on the recognition that we need to reduce the carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere.  The 350 of the name refers to a 2007 paper by scientist James Hansen who proposed that 350 parts per million of CO2 in the atmosphere is a safe upper limit to avoid a climate tipping point.  The current level of CO2 ppm is over 400!

Help Choose


Those are six possible causes for a percentage of profits to go to.  If you would like to help me decide then please take a survey at Survey Monkey.  The link is https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/739YWKV  The survey also has a section where you can nominate another cause if you wish.

Friday, 12 May 2017

OPPORTUNITIES EMERGING: Social Change in a Complex World (Book)

My book, OPPORTUNITIES EMERGING: Social Change in a  Complex World is now available to purchase online.  For a limited period there is a 20% discount as an opening special.  In the Preface I make mention of who might find this book useful.  This is an excerpt from that Preface.

The people I most expect to read this book are those who in some ways want to change the world or at least a tiny corner of it. Perhaps you are fearful of the effects of climate change and have become disturbed by the endless outpourings of carbon emissions into our atmosphere. Perhaps you are concerned about the number of people attempting to escape the horrible destruction of war in their homelands. Maybe you are angry about the exploitation of peasant farmers in India or Africa and the uninformed way in which western consumers are complicit in that exploitation.

Maybe your concerns are closer to home. Perhaps you have witnessed or experienced the horrors of domestic violence and want to ease the burden of victims or find ways to stop the endless cycle of abuse. Perhaps you are concerned that your children have nowhere to play and that businesses and huge corporations are encroaching upon playgrounds and open spaces in your neighbourhood. Maybe you want to bring back the neighbourliness and friendliness that has been exorcised from your local community.

Perhaps your concerns are for the non-human species living on our planet. Perhaps you want to save the orangutans, whales or tigers from extinction, or help preserve a patch of native bush that is the habitat of many species of insects, birds and fish.

Whatever your concerns, you will find that there are others who share them. There will also be those with contrary concerns, perhaps even antagonistic. How do you go about resolving these concerns? How do you work with those who agree with you? Importantly too, how do you work with those who disagree with you? How do you obtain answers when you don’t even know the right questions to ask?

This book may help you.

At present the book is only available via this link.  Later it will be available through the more commonly known web-based booksellers.  The opening special will be available for only a few weeks, so get in now at the discounted price.

I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

http://www.lulu.com/shop/bruce-meder/opportunities-emerging-social-change-in-a-complex-world/paperback/product-23127543.html

Sunday, 7 May 2017

Soulutions

All over the world people are complaining and protesting.  In the US there are demonstrations against Trump and rallies for him.  The streets of London and Paris are blocked by those demanding that a different group of politicians take over the reins of power.  Similar scenes are played out in Africa, in South East Asia and in South America.  Often the calls for such power shifts are centred on one person: Trump, Macron, La Pen, Wilders, May.  Half a world away the names being called are those such as Turnbull, Duterte, Jinping.

Everywhere, it seems, crowds of people are seeking different solutions to a wide range of issues and concerns

Solutions are sought to cope with refugees and migrants.  Solutions are sought in Syria, Sudan and Somalia.  Many want a solution to climate change.  Others seek solutions to the growing inequality of wealth and income.

Solution-seekers raise petitions, write submissions to Commissions of Enquiry, or take to the streets to voice anger, mistrust or disagreement with political processes and agenda.

The solutions are out there, we may cry.  If only the politicians and other leaders would listen.  All these problems and issues would be solved if we applied the right formula or the right policy.  All these problems and issues could be solved if we elected the best politicians.

All of our searching for solutions may be in vain however.  Perhaps we are seeking solutions in completely the wrong place. 

The solutions may not be out there – they may be in here.  They may be soul-utions.

It may be that who we are rather than what we do will provide us with the solutions.  It may be that our soul is the place to go seeking.

What we have done, time after time, is to keep solving problems by applying technological or institutional fixes.  Then what happens?  The fix becomes the source of the next problem.  How do we then solve that?  By applying a further technological or institutional fix.  In short, to paraphrase Einstein, we keep using the same thinking we always have.

But if we stop to think about it we discover that the problems and issues that face us today mostly all stem from what we have done.  Surely this tells us something about who we are.  It tells us that that seeking solutions externally often ends up in a worse situation, or at least no better than what we began with.

Perhaps it is time to stop and look inward – to our individual and collective souls.  This is not an easy task for it means asking much tougher questions than the one that asks “how do we solve this?”  Soulutions means asking questions like “what is my/our purpose here?” or “who am I/we?”

When questions like these are asked the answers will not come from our heads.  The answers will not come from reading books, or undertaking academic research.  The answers will come from combining our head with our heart.  The Pali language uses the word citta which is best translated into English as heart-mind.  The answers will come from activities and experiences that allow us to discover and explore our soul.  Some possible ways of doing this include:
  • Fasting
  • Yoga, breathwork, or other bodily practices that help us alter our consciousness
  • Spending time alone, in solitude
  • Rhythmic dance or drumming
  • Relating and listening to myths and stories, particularly those that explore our consciousness and psyches
  • Dreamwork
  • Music, chanting, poetry
  • Creative and/or symbolic writing and painting
  • Spending time in nature
In all these ways the key is to let go of our familiar, everyday, thoughts, beliefs and behaviours.  We must deliberately seek an alternative consciousness  and way of relating to ourselves, those around us and with the Earth.


Perhaps, just perhaps, we might then find the soulutions.

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Social Justice or Personal Salvation?

How often do we hear a conversation where one person claims that personal salvation is the road to happiness and social change, and the other suggests that we must obtain social justice before anyone can be free?  Less often than we might think I would suggest.  Mainly because those on a personal salvation course more often than not do not interact with those seeking social justice.  Thankfully, however, this is changing, and the two ideologies are talking together more often.

Of course, the distinction between the two approaches is an illusory one.  Both are necessary, and neither can work without the other. 

Since the 1960s and 70s there has been a greater awareness growing of the connection between our inner and outer worlds.  We are understanding more and more that everything is intimately connected with everything else.  We are not separate beings.  our lives are connected with the lives of those around us, not only those in our families or living in our street, but also those living in other parts of the world.  Furthermore, we are connected with the flora and fauna of this planet – we are connected with the planet itself.  What happens to another happens to us.  The way we treat the planet affects how the planet treats us.

So it is with social justice and personal salvation work.  They are connected.  We cannot attain personal salvation without seeking social justice.  We cannot work towards social justice without transforming ourselves.

Compassion and Empathy

When we work for social justice we often do so from a sense of compassion or empathy with those (humans, animals, plants) who are distressed or oppressed.  When we seek personal salvation we inevitably arrive at a place of compassion for all sentient beings.  Compassion and empathy, then, may be the point at which the two paths converge, and we see the wisdom of both approaches.

Without compassion in our social justice work we can easily perpetuate the very structures and injustices that we are wanting to overcome.  Think of what happened following the French Revolution – we got Napoleon.  Think of what happened after the overthrow of the Tsar – we got Stalinism.  More latterly we can see similar examples in the Khmer Rouge, Pol Pot, and ISIS.

Ends and Means

There once was a saying that the “ends justifies the means,” fortunately now largely discredited (at least within grass-roots social justice organisations).  The means by which we work for social justice or seek personal must be in harmony with our ends.  Joanna Macy notes that “means are ends in the making,” and Thich Nhat Hanh advises us that “peace is every step.”

In a complex, inter-connected, world seeking personal salvation can only go so far before we need to study and understand the roots of cultural, psychological and historical oppression and privilege.  In that same world, working for social justice can only go so far before we are faced with the limitations of our personal transformation.  Social justice is as much a means towards the end of personal salvation as personal salvation is the means towards the end of social justice. 

No Separation

Just as there is no completely independent and self-sufficient self, there is no separation between working for social change and seeking personal salvation.

If we focus our attention on systemic change at the expense of our personal transformation then we will perpetuate the harmful relationships between each other and the planet.


If we focus our attention on personal salvation at the expense of systemic change then we will perpetuate our individual sense of a disconnected self.

Thursday, 20 April 2017

The Myth of Expert Decision-Making

World-wide we are less trusting of our leaders.  We are voting less, we are leaving political parties in droves.   If we do not trust our leaders and politicians to make the right decisions then where do we look for guidance, leadership or action?  More and more we are coming to realise that the ideas, the solutions, and the actions begin with and flow from all of us, from communities and the collective knowledge, experience, skills and wisdom that they contain.

This approach turns on its head the classic western notion of development.  The classic western approach is one in which experts enter a community or nation, assess the needs and then design a program or infrastructure to address those needs.  Classically there was little consultation with the local community and even less of an attempt to involve the community in the design of any program or intervention.  Often this approach led to the program eventually collapsing or the infrastructure being under-utilised.  Many times this collapse could be attributed to the “experts” incorrectly identifying the needs or the problem, let alone the solution.

But, when the process begins with and flows from within communities, then the chances of correctly identifying the issues and then designing the appropriate response are greatly enhanced.

This approach emphasises that power and decision-making shift from the top to the bottom, from the centre to the margins, and from hierarchies to interconnected networks.  It puts connected communities firmly in the role of decision-makers and implementers of policy.

“But what if local communities do not have the knowledge, or skills necessary?” is a common argument raised against allowing ordinary citizens, the man and woman in the street - “commoners” - to become decision-makers.  This quarrel is based on a prejudice that implies that only those with expertise are in the best position to make decisions.  But this is nonsense.

The Expert Myth

The “expert” may come in various guises: community health expert, education expert, city planning expert, even the community development or social justice expert.  In each case, the expert may have some useful expertise to offer, but that does not make them the best decision-maker in any community setting.  Indeed, an expert in a decision-making role can be disastrous.

A 2006 study found that the more power an individual has or claims to have, the more likely they are to over-value their own viewpoint and are less capable of considering another person’s perspective1.The same researcher, in 2012, noted that those with a sense of power were often over-confident in their decision-making2.

Remember too, that becoming an expert in a subject usually involves knowing more and more about a topic that is more and more specialised.  In short: knowing more and more about less and less.  Our world is a complex, interconnected and diverse one.  We, and it, contain contradictions, anomalies, and inconsistencies.  In such a world our decision-making processes must ensure that a wide variety of perspectives and ideas are taken into account.  The expert has a place in that, but only one place of many.

It is of little benefit if a decision made by an expert is the right one in their view if it does not make sense to those on whom the decision is imposed.

Look around the world.  Often, where we see conflict, bitterness or social isolation, we will also find that a decision has been imposed by someone (or a group) who have done so in the belief that theirs was the correct one to make.  That applies just as much to a local neighbourhood as it does to international conflict.

The tower block building projects that began in the 1950s in England are a case in point.  Architects and city planners in England embraced with zeal the ideas of architects such as Le Corbusier and Walter Gropius who became known for their minimalist approach.  Le Corbusier’s idea was magnified from the simple stripped down villa into stack upon stack of bare, uniform multi-storied dwellings.  Town planning experts and architectural experts embraced the idea with glee, but no-one bothered to ask the potential inhabitants.

Within just a few years the cracks were appearing, not only in the buildings themselves but also in the social fabric.  In May 1968 Ronan Point, a 22 storey tower block in East London, partially collapsed killing 4 people and injuring 17.  It wasn’t the only one.

But it was the tearing apart of social cohesion that was perhaps the biggest failing of this expert-driven approach to housing.  The adults living in these towers experienced high rates of stress, mental health problems, and marriage breakdown.  Their children fared no better.  Tower-rise children had high rates of hyperactivity and were prone to greater levels of hostility and juvenile delinquency (even when socio-economic status was adjusted for) than that of the general population.

Even though much is known about the damage to social infrastructure that these towers create, they are still being built.  There are many commentators and community workers in England who are now advocating for a return to the terraced housing style that England is so well known for.

So, beware the expert, but do not ignore the expert.  They can have useful information or knowledge, but it does not make them the best decision-maker.

Notes:
1. Galinsky, Adam et al:  Power and perspectives not taken, Psychological Science, 2006.
2. Galinsky, Adam et al:  Power and Overconfident decision making, Organizational Behaviour and Human Decision Making Processes, March 2012.

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

I Knew A Race

Do you remember the children's song about the old lady who swallowed a fly?  Well, here is an update on that dire warning.  I call it "I Knew A Race."

I KNEW A RACE

I knew a race who saddled a horse,
With little remorse, they saddled a horse
I don’t know why,
They saddled a horse
Perhaps they’ll die.

I knew a race who built a cart
What a start, to build a cart,
They built the cart to harness the horse
I don’t know why
They saddled a horse
Perhaps they’ll die.

I knew a race who played with steam,
They had a dream, to play with steam,
They used the steam to power the cart,
They built the cart to harness the horse
I don’t know why
They saddled a horse
Perhaps they’ll die.

I knew a race who invented the engine,
What a din, that infernal engine,
They employed the engine to replace the steam,
They used the steam to power the cart,
They built the cart to harness the horse
I don’t know why
They saddled a horse
Perhaps they’ll die.

I knew a race that assembled a car,
That belched and spewed and polluted the air, near and far
They assembled the car to use the engine,
They invented the engine to replace the steam,
They used the steam to power the cart,
They built the cart to harness the horse
I don’t know why
They saddled a horse
Perhaps they’ll die.

I knew a race that dug for oil
Beneath the soil, they dug for oil,
They burnt the oil to fuel the car
That belched and spewed and polluted the air, near and far
They assembled the car to use the engine,
They employed the engine to replace the steam,
They used the steam to power the cart,
They built the cart to harness the horse
I don’t know why
They saddled a horse
Perhaps they’ll die.

I knew a race that paved the earth,
Full of mirth, they paved the earth
They paved the earth to carry the car,
That belched and spewed and polluted the air, near and far
They assembled the car to use the engine,
They employed the engine to replace the steam,
They used the steam to power the cart,
They built the cart to harness the horse
I don’t know why
They saddled a horse
Perhaps they’ll die.

I knew a race that went hybrid
That’s what they did, built a hybrid,
They built the hybrid to replace the car,
That belched and spewed and polluted the air, near and far
They assembled the car to use the engine,
They employed the engine to replace the steam,
They used the steam to power the cart,
They built the cart to harness the horse
I don’t know why
They saddled a horse
Perhaps they’ll die.

I knew race who dug for nickel
What a pickle, when they mined for nickel
They used the nickel to power the hybrid
They built the hybrid to replace the car,
That belched and spewed and polluted the air, near and far
They assembled the car to use the engine,
They employed the engine to replace the steam,
They used the steam to power the cart,
They built the cart to harness the horse
I don’t know why
They saddled a horse
Perhaps they’ll die

I knew a race and their technology,
Gadgets, tools and machinery
Where are they now, you ask of me,
They’re gone, extinct, you see.