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.

Wednesday 6 March 2013

Community Development talks with Deep Ecology (Part 2)

Source: Kroo2U
Community Development is not simply a case of “pick-a-community-and-develop-it” (although too many bureaucrats seem to think so).  Community Development espouses a vision for society based on social justice and, consequently, a critique of present social structures and arrangements.

Community Development says that our present individualistic life-styles focused on consumerism and growth is harmful to us as individuals as well as to our collective selves.  Community Development claims that the ultimate expression of the cult of the individual is our hierarchic models of authority and power – a misguided form of Social Darwinism.

Deep Ecology, in response, warns us that we are also harming nature by our disregard for the richness and diversity of life on earth.  Deep Ecology claims that we have no inherent right to do so.  Indeed, suggestions that we do have such rights could be seen as a misguided form of Social Creationism.

Community Development, if it is listening carefully, would do well to hear the words of Deep Ecology, for one of the biggest threats to communities anywhere is the harm that we are doing to the planet.  Tragically, the communities that will be first hit and hardest hit will be the very communities that Community Development wishes to support: the poor, the marginalised, the excluded and the disempowered.

Indeed, many of these communities are already experiencing the effects of our harm.  Many of the indigenous inhabitants of low-lying Pacific Islands are having to look elsewhere to live because of rising sea levels.  Small, scattered communities in the jungles of northern Venezuela are in threat of mercury poisoning of their staple fish diet arising from gold mining hundreds of miles away in the upper reaches of the Orinoco River.

Community Development elaborated it’s critique of society at a time when linear causality was widely accepted.  Deep Ecology on the other hand recognised from it’s inception that linearity was inadequate in a dynamic, diverse system of inter-connection.

Community development workers could find it illuminating to listen to the Deep Ecology rejection of linear causality.  Much of Community Development is still wedded to linearity.  If we do A then B will happen.  Not necessarily says Deep Ecology.  Some Community Development work relies (for example) too heavily on; planning by objectives or results-based accounting.  Such thinking may be appropriate for small, local, short-term projects, but in a world of complexity and chaos1 the approach is far from appropriate.  Deep Ecology has much to teach Community Development here.

Thankfully, many Community Development workers today have a clearer understanding of systems theory and this makes Deep Ecology a natural ally and teacher.

In its turn, Community Development has over it’s 40 or 50 years of learning, formulated a number of techniques, skills and organising principles that could be picked up by those within the Deep Ecology movement.  No doubt, many already have been.

Two Loci

Lorenz Strange Attractor
Returning now to the two loci (human centred and nature centred) that began this discussion (see Part 1) we could visualise these not as two separate and discrete worldviews or focus of activity.  We could, instead view them through the lens of chaos theory as two loci of the famous Lorenz Strange Attractor (see figure at right).

As human beings we will naturally be attracted more to one loci than the other.  Some of us will be more concerned about other humans and have a desire to work on humanitarian or community development projects.  Others will be more concerned about nature and wish to work to halt the slaughter of whales in the Southern Ocean or help develop permaculture gardens.

Whatever our natural attraction, as Community Development and Deep Ecology talk with one another we will find that the two loci are intimately connected and involve continuous feedback loops.

If the two movements, Deep Ecology and Community Development, are able to continue their discussion and learning from each other it may be that a doorway opens up into a new understanding – one that allows us to redirect our thoughts and actions towards a better world for us, for nature, for inter-being2.

1. Here I refer to chaos theory rather than chaos as confusion, disarray, untidiness etc.  For a quick answer to "what is chaos theory", try this link.
2. The term inter-being was coined by Thich Nhat Hanh, the Vietnamese Buddhist monk credited with initiating Engaged Buddhism.


  1. Once again Bruce you write about such truly important issues and bring awareness to those of us that read this blog. I emailed this to a former professor of mine if that's ok?

    1. Thanks. Yes, please pass it on to whomever and wherever.


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