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 26 February 2014

4 Beliefs that we must dispense with

If we are to achieve a just and sustainable society and planet, then the rich, Western nations are going to have to dispense with, at least, four beliefs.

1.  Economic Growth

Turn on the TV news and most nights there will be a clip of some politician or economic commentator exhorting the mantra of economic growth.  What could be more natural?  We all grow.  But, what politicians and economists forget is that all systems reach an optimum level of growth and then de-grow.  Yet, the mantra continues, even though it is patently obvious that we are well past our optimum.

Despite economic growth of around 30% in developing countries between 1981 and 2001, the number of people living on less than $2 a day increased from 2.4 billion to 2.7 billion in the same period1.  Even within OECD nations, inequality has risen enormously since the 1980s, at the same time as high growth rates.

Research has indicated that for each $100 worth of growth since 1990, just $0.60 has contributed towards reducing poverty for those living on less than $1 per day.2

Nor does economic growth facilitate a healthy planet.  Economic growth has only given us a planet with; less rainforest cover, more land prone to erosion, less biodiversity, melting icecaps, greater levels of toxic waste and in many parts of the world, pollution levels well over the WHO recommended guidelines.

2. Technological Fix-All

The idea that technological advances will solve the problems facing us is a seductive one.  The history of technological fixes should make us wary.  Remember when the advent of the personal computer was going to allow us more leisure time, when we were going to have less mundane and administrative tasks.  What happened?  We work longer hours, we are stuck at the computer (in fact, the computer today often is our leisure), and bureaucracy is overwhelming.

Economists call this the “rebound effect” whereby the benefits of efficiency improvements are negated by extra growth and consumption made possible by the efficiency improvements.

Technology has given us some great benefits.  Technology has also come near to wiping us off the face of the earth.  It is technology that has driven climate change.  It is technology that has driven peasant farmers in India off their land.  We cannot afford to put our faith in technology.

We must heed the words of Albert Einstein who cautioned that “we cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”  Einstein also noted that “it has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity.”

3. Representative Democracy

To say that our democratically elected leaders have failed us in recent decades is possibly an understatement.  It is no wonder.  Those elected to our parliaments, congresses and city halls are becoming more and more homogenous.  Our elected leaders come from an ever smaller sector of society: the wealthy, business owners, industrialists, celebrities and, increasingly, career politicians.

There is no room for the ideas, dreams or wishes of common folk in that mix.  How much empathy can a politician of wealth and/or status have with families struggling on low incomes?

Furthermore, politicians have been woefully inept when it comes to planetary issues such as climate change.

Democracy must be reclaimed by the demos – the people. Democracy must take the next step on it’s journey if it is to be a vehicle for public decision-making in the 21st Century.

4. Consumerism

Every year we globally consume the equivalent of one and a half Earth-sized planets.  That figure doesn’t show the big picture though.  If we all lived at a consumption level of the average American then we would need five Earths.  Australians consume the equivalent of almost four Earths and Europeans more than two and a half.

Yes, our consumption is skewed.  The rich, Western nations consume at a much greater rate than does much of the World.  For example, Europeans spend more annually on ice-cream ($11 billion) than it would take to provide clean drinking water for everyone ($10 billion).

As Gandhi put it years ago: “There is enough for every persons need, but not enough for every persons greed.” 

Beliefs are fine, but if they blind us to the possibility of a just and sustainable world, then they become chains.

1. Figures from The World Bank.
2. David Woodward & Andrew Simms, Growth isn’t working, nef (the new economics foundation), January 2006.

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