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 27 November 2013

Charting Climate Change

For years (possibly as early as the 17th Century) traders in shares, currencies, commodities and various derivatives have used graphs and charts to track these items.  Many traders use these techniques (often known as Technical Analysis) to make their investment decisions based on those charts.

Today, the science of climate change is awash in graphs.  We see them everywhere; printed in newspapers, flashed on TV screens and dotted throughout articles relating to climate change.  Have those using Technical Analysis learnt anything that can help with interpreting climate change charts and graphs?

Let’s look at three recent graphs.



20111004_Figure3 with highs

Graph A tracks the global temperature changes for each year from the 1880s until this year (2013). Graph B records the monthly global mean sea-level height from 1992 through to mid-2013.  Graph C shows the average monthly Arctic sea-ice extent in the years 1978 to 2011.

When arguing that climate change is occurring many activists point to the peaks in the graphs as evidence of increased temperature, increasing sea-level rise or decreasing Arctic sea-ice.  In response, climate change deniers will point to the dips in the graphs.

This is where Technical Analysis aids in interpretation.  In Technical Analysis an upward trend is defined by a series of higher lows and a downward trend by a series of lower highs.

Confused?  Take a close look at Graph C.  On the graph I have circled in red the lower highs.  In each of the years 2001, 2006 and 2009 there were “spikes” in the graph.  But, the height of each of those spikes was successively lower than the height of the previous spike.  This is a classic example of lower highs indicating a downward trend.

Using similar analysis in Graphs A and B it is possible to identify a number of higher lows in each case: indicating clear upward trends.

What does this tell us?
  1. There has been an upward trend in global temperature since the early part of the 20th Century; rising steeply since the mid-1970s.
  2. There has been an upward trend in global mean sea level since, at least, the early 1990s.
  3. There has been a downward trend in the extent of Arctic sea-ice since, at least, the mid 1990s.
It’s there, plain to see on the charts.  Technical Analysis, a well-founded aid to share trading and investment, has shown that global warming is happening and having an effect.

When are we going to see an upward trend in the determination by global leaders to take action?

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Tuesday 19 November 2013

Government of…

Seven score and ten years ago one of the world’s most famous speeches was delivered.  In the afternoon of Thursday, November 19 1863 Abraham Lincoln spoke for just a little over two minutes.  Lincoln’s now famous Gettysburg Address ended with these celebrated words:
“…government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
President Lincoln was not the main oration of the day1; rather, his words were to be “dedicatory remarks.”  These dedicatory remarks have become almost the standard by which modern democracy is judged.  However, were Lincoln alive today, he may well be adding a question to the end of his words:
But, which people?
Representative democracy is becoming less and less representative, and world-wide people are beginning to ask why.   In Lincoln’s own nation Congress is dominated by lawyers (40% of members) and business people (20% of members)2.  Other nations show similar percentages.  The Australian Cabinet is composed of 42% lawyers3.  World-wide the percentage of lawyers becoming politicians is 20% followed by business people (16%).

This is changing though.  But the change is resulting in even less representation.  More and more of our politicians are “career politicians".  In other words, politicians who have no experience of anything other than politics.  Career politicians have increased in numbers rapidly since the 1980s.

The proportion of politicians who had previously worked in politics in 1940s Australia was just 1%.  By 2007 that had jumped to 28%4.  The US shows a similar trend.

Where are the ordinary people, the people that Abraham Lincoln referred to?  Where are the plumbers, the hairdressers or the single parent trying to bring up two children?  Where are the ambulance drivers or the pre-school teachers?
“…government of the people, by the people, for the people,”  But, which people?
Representative democracy is struggling to maintain its mantle of democracy, it has certainly lost its claim to being representative.

1. The oration (at over two hours) was given by Edward Everett who had been a US Senator, Governor of Massachusetts, Minister to Great Britain, US Secretary of State and President of Harvard University.
2. Nicholas Carnes, Does the Numerical Underrepresentation of the Working Class in Congress Matter? Duke University, 2012.
3. Matt Wade, Sydney Morning Herald, 21-22 September 2013.
4. Narelle Miragliotta & Wayne Errington, Legislative Recruitment and Models of Party Organisation, Journal of Legislative Studies, March 2012.

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Wednesday 13 November 2013

Cure or Care?

Photo: Tom Garnett
(Creative Commons)
“The practice of community development would change remarkably if practitioners thought of it as ongoing care rather than the quest for a cure” claim David Westoby and Gerard Dowling in their excellent book1 reflecting upon their experiences working in a variety of community development settings.

Cure and care.  Two little words differentiated only by a single vowel.  Yet, that single vowel difference contains an oceans worth of difference between how a community development worker understands a community, works with a community and what their goals for a community might be.

If a worker comes with a cure mentality then they will view the community as a site of issues, needs and problems.

A caring mentality, on the other hand, views the community as place, people and relationships.

Curing a community will mean bringing a series of technocratic, bureaucratic and expert-led programmes and techniques into a community with the intention at the end of these interventions that the community will be cured, or fixed.  A cure mentality believes that “I know what’s best for you.”

Caring for a community, however, means accepting those that live, work and play there.  It means being prepared to enter into relationships with local people and local community organisations to the point of being inquisitive and open to learning and change.

Cure or care begs the question: what is a healthy community?

First and foremost, a community is its people; each with skills, knowledge and experience.  Second, a community endures, it continues, it expects and hopes for a future.  It is not static.

To arrive with the intention of curing a community assumes that its people lack skills, have little knowledge and are inexperienced.  Such an intention further assumes that the community has no aspirations and that it is stuck and needs shifting – often to a place determined by the curer.

Arriving in a community with a caring intention assumes that the community development worker is not the expert, that the worker does not know all the answers (indeed, most likely doesn’t even know all the questions).  Caring assumes that the community is alive and that the primary role of the community development worker is to help the community to realise its dreams – by being a part of that dream.

Let us bring caring to our practice as community development workers.

1. Peter Westoby & Gerard Dowling. Theory and Practice of Dialogical Community Development,  Routledge, London and New York, 2013.  See my review of this book here.

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Friday 8 November 2013

The Problem with Cotton (Part 2): Guest Blog

Recently my first “guest blog” appeared on this blogsite.  “Cottoning On” received a number of visits and so I’m now posting Part 2 of Charlotte French’s commentary on the problems with cotton.  What follows is from Charlotte:  
I have touched on the pesticide problem in growing and harvesting conventional cotton but of course there is also the manufacturing process. 

Manufacturing cotton fibre into fabric and garments consists of several major processes – cleaning, ginning, spinning, knitting or weaving, dyeing, cutting and assembly, finishing, and cleaning.  Most of the chemical residues from the farming of cotton will be washed out.  However washing, bleaching, dyeing and printing processes in garment production will use a new set of chemicals classified by the WHO as moderately to acutely hazardous.

First, cotton gets cleaned up and then ginned.  In the gin the 40% fibre is separated from the 60% cotton seeds.  Cotton seed and various ginning by-products are used for animal feed and for human food, mostly in the form of cottonseed oil.  With conventionally grown cotton, the pesticide residues from the   concentrate in the fatty tissues of these animals end up in meat and dairy products.  Cottonseed oil is also a common ingredient in cookies, potato chips, salad dressings, baked goods, and other processed foods.    The ginned cotton now goes through spinning which is a mechanical process without anything added.  After spinning, the yarn receives a polyvinyl alcohol, after weaving the fabric is then bleached, either with hydrogen peroxide or a highly toxic chlorine.  Then it is washed or “scoured” with sodium hydroxide and finally piece dyed, often with formaldehyde-fixing agents.  An additional washing is needed to attempt to remove the formaldehyde-fixing agents.  A urea-formaldehyde product which cross-links molecules is often applied to reduce shrinkage and wrinkling.  “Finishing” is the final processing step for many conventional cotton garments to create easy care clothing that is soft, wrinkle-resistant, stain and odour resistant, fireproof, moth proof, and anti-static.

Chemicals often used for finishing include formaldehyde, caustic soda, sulfuric acid, bromines, urea resins, sulfonamides and halogens.  Unless clothes are 100 percent organic, you should always wash new clothes or bedding first before wearing or putting on the bed.

Of course there are other issues such as when huge US farmers get subsidised by their government and can keep the prices down.  That puts pressure on the smaller, non-subsidised farmers.  The smaller producers in places like India, West and Central Africa and Uzbekistan have trouble competing and then we end up with underpaid workers and child labour.

GM (genetically modified) seeds that seem to be an answer must be bought every year from Monsanto, who can put any price on their seeds.  On top of that there are the usual droughts and floods.  Growing cotton is a road with obstacles it seems and the demand for cheap and fast fashion doesn’t make it easier. 

A little while ago the Greenroom1 was approached by a company to buy T-shirts from them (wholesale conventional cotton) for less than $5 each.  The Greenroom is, of course, only interested in organically grown cotton but the price astounded me, even for conventional cotton.  Once you have an idea of the journey from cotton seeds in the soil to a finished garment, a price like that doesn’t seem reasonable. Cheap for me, the consumer, must means it has cost someone else too much. (my emphasis, ed)
Part 1 of Charlotte's guest blog is here
1. The Greenroom is the name of the shop/gallery that Charlotte runs with her husband (and artist) Wayne.  She retails eco-friendly fabrics and fair trade items from all over the world.  Wayne displays and sells his vibrant, ocean-inspired paintings as well.

Tuesday 5 November 2013

Who Am I? (Warm-up game)

Photo: Essellee
(Creative Commons)
When groups get together for the first time, many group members ask themselves: who are these other people?  do I fit in here?  what will they think of me?  This game gets people mixing quickly and asking questions of each other yet allowing everyone to feel comfortable as the questions are not about them personally.  It’s an oldie but a goodie, and hence worth repeating here.

Props Needed

The props are simple.  The facilitator thinks of a list of known characters, fictional or non-fictional, dead or alive, male or female.  Some examples may be: Albert Einstein, Snow White, Barack Obama, Florence Nightingale etc.  There needs to be enough names generated for the number of people in the group.  These names are written on a piece of card.  Each card is then pinned to the back of a person in the group, without that person seeing the name written on the card.


Once every person has a name pinned to their back, the facilitator issues simple instructions:
  • The objective for each person is to identify the character written on their back.
  • Explain that the person on people’s backs are known characters and may be fictional or non-fictional, dead or alive, male or female.
  • To do so people need to ask other people questions in order to obtain information about their character.
  • Only three questions can be asked of any one person, before moving to another person.
  • Questions are to be of the yes/no variety.  Examples may be; “am I alive?”; “am I female?”; “am I fictional?”
  • At any stage the person may ask of another person “am I so-and-so?”  This counts as one of the three questions.  If the answer is “no” then the person continues on until such time as they have correctly identified their character.
Then leave people to it.  As the facilitator you may also answer questions for people, under the same circumstances as others (i.e. only three questions and ones that can be answered with a simple “yes” or “no.”

Have fun with the names and the game.  Following this game I’ve found that people are more receptive and responsive to those who, up until then, have been strangers.

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