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.

Tuesday 29 October 2013

As Easy as ABCD

Community Development is not rocket science.  In fact, Community Development, according to Peter Kenyon, is as easy as learning ABCD.  Peter is the developer of the Bank of I.D.E.A.S and a strong advocate of Asset Based Community Development (ABCD).

I recently had the chance to listen to a presentation by Peter at a conference on ageing and disability.  I had heard Peter speak before and was keen to hear him again.  He is an engaging speaker who speaks with a passion about his belief in communities.

Throughout the talk Peter often reminded us that “Community Development is not rocket science” and that the simple approach is much preferred to a complicated one.

Peter’s message is, in fact, just that – simple and straight-forward.  Development only really happens if it is from the inside to the outside and bottom-up.  It cannot happen from the outside-in nor top-down.

Peter’s theme and challenge for those of us listening was “How do we create caring, healthy, inclusive and resilient communities?”  Before directly answering that question Peter produced one of the many quotes that he shared with us during the hour and a half:
“In terms of change it is the learners who inherit the future.  Those who have finished learning find themselves equipped for a world that no longer exists.” – Eric Hoffer
The idea of continual learning was ever present during the presentation.  The world is constantly changing, meaning that we are constantly adapting (some may even say evolving).  All of which means constantly learning.

Seven Pillars of a Healthy Community

Peter claims that there are seven pillars to a healthy community:
  • A community that practices ongoing dialogue.
  • A community that generates leadership.
  • A community that shapes it’s own future.
  • A community that enhances diversity.
  • A community that knows itself (it’s people and it’s physical assets).
  • A community that connects people and resources.
  • A community that creates a sense of community.
The final four of these pillars are at the heart of Asset Based Community Development (ABCD).

Six Concepts of ABCD

Much of the rest of Peter’s presentation expanded upon six concepts of ABCD.
  1. Appreciative Mindset Focus.  We must change our focus from what is wrong to what is strong. Peter used the old metaphor of the glass being either half-full or half-empty.  His view is that "it is both, but you can't do much with the top half."
  2. Community Driven.  If we begin with a needs analysis of communities then we are likely to view people as clients or consumers.  However, if we begin with an assets analysis then people are seen as citizens – implying an entirely different way of relating.  Another quote epitomised this approach: “The wisdom of the community always exceeds the knowledge of the experts.” - Harold Flaming.
  3. Communities are Asset Rich.  Peter used a couple of examples of small communities (Beechworth in Australia and Bulls in New Zealand) where the townships had turned from being down-trodden, disintegrating communities to ones that were vibrant and engaged.  The difference?  Discovering what was already there and enhancing and celebrating those assets.
  4. Giftness of Every Peron.  Each person in a community is important.  A strong community is one in which people’s gifts and skills are given.  A weak one is where they aren’t.
  5. Importance of Relationships and Social Connection.  If there was one moment in Peter’s presentation where he became briefly morose it was when he lamented that our society is becoming less and less connected.  But overcoming that is simple Peter notes.  It took just a simple 4 step cycle:
  6. Importance of Collaboration and Partnership.  Two more of Peter’s seemingly endless supply of quotes appeared on the screen behind him, to nicely summarise this concept.  "I can’t save the world by myself – it’ll take at least three of us,”  and an African proverb:  “If you want to go faster, go alone.  If you want to go further, go together.”
There it is.  Simple really, isn’t it?  Peter Kenyon thinks so, I think so.  As simple as ABCD.

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Wednesday 23 October 2013

Crisis? What Crisis?

“In times of crisis we come together to help each other and make things better.”  We heard this statement recently in regard to the severe bushfires devastating homes and dreams in New South Wales, Australia.

Similar words have been heard following Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans.  Undoubtedly, a Hindi language version would have been heard following the North India floods of June 2013.

But what if we don’t think there is a crisis?

Like the story of the frog in the water that is slowly brought to the boil, are we also unaware of just how hot the water is becoming?

Yet the three real-life scenarios mentioned above should give us a hint that something more than isolated, one-off events are occurring.  What links Australian bushfires, hurricanes in the Caribbean and Indian floods?  Two words: Climate Change.

Australian Greens MP, Adam Bandt, succinctly and unambiguously observed (following a day of fiery devastation) that “this is what global warming in Australia looks like and it’s going to mean more fires happening more often and some of them more severe when they happen.”

Bandt could easily have been talking of any country in the world.  He could also just as easily replaced the word fires with the words hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, drought or heat-waves.

That’s the real crisis.  Yet, for some reason, we are not coming together to help each other (let alone the planet) and make things better.

We are still driving vehicles for thousands of km each year, often with just one occupant.  We are still heating our homes using energy from coal.  We are still purchasing vegetables, fruit and groceries that have been transported from thousands of km away, often from the other side of the globe.

Importantly too, we are still letting our politicians, business leaders and policy makers off the hook.  We are not demanding the accountability necessary of them.

A Poignant Image

In 1975, the progressive rock band Supertramp released an album titled Crisis? What Crisis?  The cover of that album showed a man wearing dark sunglasses sitting in a deck chair underneath a beach umbrella. 

Meanwhile in the background grey factories are belching fumes into the atmosphere and all around him is ruination.  A more poignant illustration of our avoidance of the crisis around us would be hard to find.

A few lines from that same album are also worth quoting:

“Well, I just don’t know the reason
I don’t know what to say
it just seems a normal day
and I’ve got to live my own life
I just can’t spare the time."

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Wednesday 16 October 2013

Cottoning-on (Guest blog)

Cotton-on: (intrasitive verb) To understand, to finally make sense of.

I had never really thought about cotton.  More especially, I had never really thought about cotton’s negative aspects, aside from an understanding of it’s association with a very inhumane past – slavery.

Recently though, a newly made friend and owner of a boutique shop that sells clothing made with hemp, bamboo and other natural products alerted me to some downsides to the cotton industry.

So, I’m delighted to post here a blog from her that discusses some of these issues. For my first ever guest blog I’d like to introduce Charlotte French who owns and operates (with her husband) the Greenroom Gallery.  What follows is her blogpiece.

The Problem with Cotton (Part 1)

A few years ago, my eyes were opened to the conventional cotton industry. I couldn’t believe how troublesome it is. Within a few hours of research on the net, I made a decision to not buy cotton again, unless it was grown certified organic. I have been meaning to write about cotton for a long time so here’s a little about the problem with the ‘White Gold’. Before I go any further though, please note, I am not a scientist but rather someone who’s trying really hard to sort through endless information, coloured by different parties invested interests.    It’s not only humans that like cotton. There are different kinds of worms, weevils, aphids, mites, thrips, caterpillars, loopers and bugs that love cotton. Not surprisingly cotton is known as a dirty crop. It uses more pesticides than any other crop. The world’s cotton crop is only 2,5 % of everything that gets harvested. However these 2,5 % demands 16% of all pesticides. Some of the most toxic chemicals in the world are used to kill all these creepy crawlies. Stuff like Cyanide, Dicofol, Naled, Propargite, and Trifluralin which are all KNOWN cancer-causing chemicals.The World Health Organisation has estimated that 20,000 people die annually from pesticide misuse with at least one million requiring hospitalisation. Aldicarb, the world’s second biggest selling pesticide is classified as extremely hazardous by the World Health Organisation. One drop absorbed through the skin is enough to kill an adult, yet this pesticide is still widely used in cotton production. Most pesticides are applied in developing countries, where farmers often lack the equipment, information and training to handle pesticides effectively.    After years of dangerous pesticide use in Uzbekistan, the population of the region of Karakalpakstan face a host of appalling health problems. Malnutrition is rife as vegetables will no longer grow in the polluted soil; 99% of pregnant women suffer from anaemia and rates of throat cancer are the highest in the world. Scientists have found a level of DNA mutation 3.5 times higher than normal — meaning health problems could be around for generations.   Synthetic fertilisers are also a huge problem.  Nitrogen synthetic fertilizers are a major contributor to increased N2O emissions, which are 300 times more potent than CO2 as greenhouse gas. Genetically modified (GM) is seen by many as an answer to this problem with pests and pesticides. GM cotton is used worldwide with the main seed supplier being Monsanto. In Australia GM cotton was introduced in 1996 and today 90% of all cotton grown in OZ is genetically modified. BT (biotechnology), the fastest and most controversial change in agricultural history has helped to a degree in decreasing the pesticides. In BT cotton, the insecticide is always present in the plant rather than applied in periodic spraying sessions. There is fear however that this may lead to rapid rates of pest immunities and possibly produce super pests. In some parts of the world GM cotton has got rid of certain pests but opened the door to others that become an even bigger problem. The whole GM industry is still very much developing and controversial. I must admit that I don’t know near enough on this subject so I shall leave GM cotton for now.    Cotton is also the world’s thirstiest crop. Three litres are needed for one cotton bud. One pair of jeans requires 8,000 litres of water; a 250 gram shirt needs 2495 litres. Local water supplies are threatened by excessive abstraction for cotton cultivation. The Aral Sea was the world’s fourth largest lake, but it has shrunk to 90 per cent of its former size in the last 50 years as the rivers that fed it have been diverted to boost cotton production. A desert of salty sand remains, and the fishing industry has been devastated. (See Below)    
 Surveys show that rural cotton farmers lack the necessary safety equipment, protective clothing, and training for handling hazardous pesticides. They may store pesticides in their bedrooms or in close proximity to their food and some even reuse pesticide containers for drinking water. These farmers and their families are at highest risk for acute pesticide poisoning as well as chronic effects. Sometimes change must come in small steps. Here’s a long and excellent article reporting from Pakistan, well worth the read.  The Problem with cotton is to be continued…………  Thanks Charlotte (ed).

Wednesday 9 October 2013

Political Party Gets It

“Much of our present intervention in the relationships between living species is not making the world a better place.  It is not in the interests of any species… (The) Party exists to tell anyone who’ll listen that we must start taking sensible action now in case our species does not find a last-minute escape route from the logical consequences of it’s greed and stupidity… We do not need to destroy the ecosphere utterly to bring catastrophe upon ourselves: all we have to do is to carry on as we are.”

Finally!  A political party that seems to be listening to the reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and others.  The latest IPCC report (released in September 2013) was unequivocal: “Human influence on the climate system is clear.”  Humans need to take action, the report stated:
Continued emissions of greenhouse gases will cause further warming and changes in all components of the climate system. Limiting climate change will require substantial and sustained reductions of greenhouse gas emissions.”
So, which political party was it that made that opening statement?

It was the New Zealand Values Party – in 1975!!!

The political manifesto that the Values Party published then (Beyond Tomorrow1) remains today as one of the most visionary and sensible documents ever published by any political party in the world.

What Was the Values Party

The New Zealand Values Party was scrambled together just six months before New Zealand’s 1972 general election becoming the world’s first green political party.  Promoting an entirely new approach to politics, the Values Party eschewed both left and right political doctrines and focused on a zero growth blueprint for the future.  Zero growth!  Neither the capitalists nor the socialists could tolerate such anathema.  But, almost 2 percent of the voting public did.

When it contested the next election, in 1975, Values gained over 5% of the vote.  If New Zealand had had it’s MMP system then, this would have translated to four of five seats in the New Zealand Parliament of 87.

Had those few party members gained access to the realm of public decision-making in New Zealand, would we have seen an alternative socio-economic path taken to that of the past four decades?  Such a small initial difference may have been just what was needed to make a significant difference in the future of the world.

In 1972 and 1975 the terms “global warming” and “climate change” had not entered our vocabulary.  But, the warnings were there.

Warnings from the 1970s…

Just a few months before the Values Party was founded an important book was published. The Limits to Growth2 had, in fact, informed the thinking of the founders of New Zealand’s fledgling political party.

Both the authors of the book and the members of the political party were dismissed at the time as crack-pots, doomsayers or just plain starry-eyed tree-huggers.  Yet, those authors and party members may have been the sanest, most visionary and realistic people around.

Today, we know that the authors of The Limits to Growth were correct.  Unfortunately, we did not heed their warnings.

… and Solutions

There were some solutions being offered as well. Beyond Tomorrow was 80 pages of visionary alternatives designed to promote sustainability and social justice for the poor and marginalised, yet retaining and enhancing well-being for all.

It’s Not Too Late

There were warnings in the 1970s.  There are warnings today.  We took no notice in the 1970s.  Will we do so today?

1. Beyond Tomorrow: 1975 Values Party Manifesto, New Zealand Values Party, 1975.
2. Meadows, Meadows, Randers, Behrens III, The Limits to Growth ( A report to the Club of Rome), Universe Books, New York 1972.

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Wednesday 2 October 2013

Ignorance is bliss

This week the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released the first part of it’s Fifth report.  Briefly, the report tells us: a) the planet is hot, b) it’s getting hotter, c) it’s going to get much hotter and d) we (i.e. us humans) are to blame.

The report states that “warming of the climate system is unequivocal.”  Pretty strong stuff.  But will we do anything about it?  Not if we look at our past history. 

The IPCC was established in 1988 with it’s first report coming out in 1990.   During the IPCC’s lifetime the earth’s surface has become successively warmer, with the past three decades being hotter than any preceding decade since 1850.  During those three decades (and despite four previous IPCC reports) the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere has increased from under 340 ppm (parts per million) to over 380 ppm.

That doesn’t augur well for us acting.  So, why don’t we?

Clive Hamilton (the author of Affluenza) has also pondered this question.  In his 2010 book, Requiem For A Species1, Hamilton outlines a number of reasons for the inaction encompassed within two broad themes – denial or avoidance.


Inaction by denial includes:
  • Uncomfortableness.  We will tend to dismiss evidence that conflicts with our beliefs or world view.  In doing so we will seek out information that accords with our view and/or we will associate only with people who think like us.
  • Threats to our identity.  Climate change,may threaten our sense that we are the “masters of our destiny” and so we deny it’s reality.
  • Political persuasion (Part 1).  Studies in the US have indicated that those with more conservative political allegiances are more likely to deny that climate change is a reality.
  • Political persuasion (Part 2).  Even some on the “far left” of the traditional political spectrum dismiss climate change because climate change is viewed as the cause of “elitist middle-class do-gooders.”
  • Religion.  Some forms of fundamentalist religious views have an anti-scientific stance, as a consequence of which it becomes easy to deny the veracity of climate change.

Amongst the ploys of avoidance, the following are common examples:
  • Values.  It has been shown that our we are able to invoke our “higher values” when it comes to planning for action into the far future, yet when making decisions for the near future, these higher values are subsumed by more immediate concerns such as “the economy.”
  • Distraction.  When faced with unpalatable reality we sometimes prefer to switch-off and find something more agreeable to watch, read or engage in.  Television, computer games and the like are classic examples.
  • Wishful thinking.  In Australia and New Zealand there is a common saying that “she’ll be right, mate”, meaning that if we ignore something things will turn out OK in the end.
  • Shifting the blame.  With the growth in the emissions of China and India in the past decade or so it becomes very easy to avoid our own responsibilities by suggesting that until those countries act then we shall carry on as before.
  • Unrealistic optimism.  Similar to “wishful thinking” this is a case of blind faith and a belief that “it can’t happen to me.”
  • Green consumerism.  Although we all must think about our purchasing options, green consumption can sometimes be an avoidance as we can become vain in thinking that “I am doing my bit.”  Yet, the very process of over-consumption is at the heart of the drivers of climate change.
Noting that “buying green” is not to be criticised, Hamilton warns that “when (eco-friendly) products are promoted as the solution to environmental decline they may actually block the real solutions.”  This is because “climate change is a collective problem that demands collective solutions.”  Hamilton pulls no punches:
“The danger of green consumerism is that it transfers responsibility from the corporations mostly accountable for the pollution, and the governments that should be restraining them, onto the shoulders of private consumers.”
If abating the heating of the planet requires collective effort then those that have some skill and knowledge of promoting that are Community Development workers and activists.  Perhaps more than any other time in it’s history, the whole planet now needs the skills of community development workers, not just individual communities.

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1. Hamilton, Clive. Requiem For A Species: Why we resist the truth about Climate Change, Allen & Unwin, Crows Nest, NSW, Australia, 2010.