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 24 November 2015

The Enemy is Us

It seems that humans have a great capacity to find enemies.  For millennia we have been fighting wars, ostracising those we are afraid of (e.g. lepers, homeless, beggars), discriminating based on gender, ethnicity, age, ability (or disability), and a whole host of other criteria.  In each case we have pointed our finger at the enemy - otherwise known as the other

For there to be an other, there must be a self.  Our western tradition has been that our sense of who we are as individuals, our self, is separate to and separate from all other selves. 

What happens when we construct our sense of who we are in this way?  We come to understand ourselves as essentially alone.  For some that aloneness comes quickly and can lead to depressive and even suicidal states.  For others, the dawning comes slowly.  But for most of us in western-styled societies the sense of aloneness is deeply entrenched, so much so that it is almost unconscious.  But, the effects are not so sublimated. 

Being alone brings on a sense of fear – a fear of the other.  That’s a frightening place to be and so we band together with those who are similar to us for protection.  We band together along religious lines.  We band together in ethnic enclaves.  Our ways of banding together have become many and varied.  But we have been able to shift our sense of being from one of isolation and fear to one of belonging and security – I becomes we.

With this collective identity we can attempt to overcome or at least control the other – the enemy. We have pursued that objective time after time through the millennia.  We know of the exploits of Alexander the Great.  We know of the Trojan War from the writings of Homer.  We’ve heard of Genghis Khan, the Crusades and the Hundred Years War.  Many of us now alive have lived through the Vietnam War, the Gulf War and now the war in Syria.

The battle with the enemy is not always a war though.  Discrimination, oppression and subjugation occur without full blown war erupting.  Women have been seeking relief from male dominance for at least two centuries1 – sometimes referred to as the battle of the sexes.  Racism has been a blight on human society and continues to be so.  Homosexual couples are only now beginning to obtain similar rights to heterosexual couples. 

Sometimes the enemy is not other human beings – it can be an idea or product.  The War on Drugs and the War on Terrorism are two such recent examples.

Indeed, the concept of self has become so entrenched and dominant that the sense of other is extended beyond that of other human selves – it extends to other life forms, indeed, to the Earth itself.  And so, we rape, pillage and exploit the Earth.  We wish to dominate nature.  In fact the notion of man (sic) against nature is so well established that it is almost a literary genre.

Finding the enemy is convenient for our sense of self, for our identity.  We find that enemy in the other, in someone or something outside of ourselves.  Over the millennia we have always managed to find that external enemy.

Now we live in a time of climate change and we look for an enemy to blame, an enemy that we can point to and say – “look , they did it, they are the cause of our pain and suffering.”  But, no matter how hard we try, we cannot find that external enemy.  The truly uncomfortable fact is that we must point the finger back at ourselves and say – the enemy is us.2 

That realisation, when we make it, awakens us to a new sense of who we are.  With such a new awareness we may find not only that we do not need enemies; we also find a greater, deeper sense of who we are as well.

As we head towards the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris can we expect answers from that forum?  The possibility is unlikely.  The answers lie with and within each and every one of us.

1. Mary Wollstonecraft’s A Vindication of the Rights of Women was published in 1792.
2. In 1970, for the first Earth Day, Walt Kelly (the creator of the cartoon strop Pogo) created a poster to promote Earth Day in which Pogo the Possum  is preparing to clean up the mess made by humans in his environment.  The poster carries the line: We Have Met the Enemy and He is Us.

Wednesday 18 November 2015

Turning Society Inside-Out

The world needs to change.  Society needs to change.  Individually, we need to change.  Many have said that we are at a cross-roads.  Either we will break-through, or we will break-down.  We have a choice.  But our choice cannot be informed by or rooted in our old ways.  We need to make new choices, create new patterns, create new ways of living and being. 

To do that means not accepting top-down solutions.  The top-down, government-knows-best approach is clearly unable to provide us with the answers, solutions and future we desire. 

That means that must turn society inside-out.  Our society has to be created by us, from the ground-up.  It has to be created locally, yet in combination with other local initiatives, rather like a massive web of inter-linking local initiatives that encompass the whole world.

Can it be done?  Yes it can. 

There are dozens of examples world-wide of communities attempting to create and design their own futures, without relying on central authority or governments.  Here are just four examples:


The Federation of Demanhur is an ecovillage located in Italy’s Piedmont region.  Founded in 1975 the village now houses over 800 people with Demanhurites participating in one of four levels, from permanent occupants through to those that live elsewhere but maintain a social and/or spiritual link with the village.  Houses in the village can house anywhere from 10 to 20 people, with all of them federated under the auspices of the Federation of Demanhur.


Perhaps the most well-known ecovillage in the world, Findhorn, in Moray, Scotland, was founded in 1962.  The community subscribes to no particular creed or doctrine, making it accessible to many who may be put off by other villages of particular faiths or doctrines.  Instead, Findhorn opens its doors to well over 5000 people every year from all over the world who come to workshops on the workings of an ecovillage.  Its prominence as a working example of what can be achieved has been recognised by the United Nations Centre for Human Settlements by awarding it the UN Habitat Best Practice designation.

Findhorn’s decision-making is vastly different to that of most of the world’s parliaments, senates and congresses. 
“Decisions are made by a process of listening to or reading information about a proposal, asking questions to learn the facts, and also meditating to open a space for intuitive information to be included in the decision-making process. Sometimes silence is used to create this meditative space, called 'attuning', where each person does their best to find an inner state of mind in which goodwill is foremost and any outcome will be one which serves as the best for all. Sometimes people share their thoughts, feelings, and any other information gained from attuning, and then a vote is taken.”1

The location of Gaviotas in Los Llanos (the Plains) of Columbia and amidst the cocaine growers, guerrilla groups, and ever present military and paramilitary forces make this an unlikely setting for an ecovillage.  However, this intentional community, founded in 1971 has made some amazing technological innovations.  For instance, they developed a children's’ seesaw that provides the energy for a water pump.

The scientists and engineers drawn to the community have become proficient at developing engineering solutions specific to the local issues and environment.  When solar hot water panel manufacturers explained the costs and difficulties associated with solar technology, the inhabitants of Gaviotas came up with their own solution.  Notwithstanding the often overcast weather of the region, Gaviotas engineers came up with solutions better equipped to deal with the local conditions, and did so using cheaper, local building materials.

A further benefit of developing local solutions has been an improvement in the health of the population in the surrounding area.  Gaviotas has developed cheaper, more efficient, more ecologically sustainable water supply systems, and this has had a direct benefit in terms of supplying people with cleaner, safer water.

The Llanos area was at one stage part of the Amazon rainforest, but had become denuded of this ecological system.  More than 1.5 million trees have since been planted by the inhabitants of Gaviotas.  These trees have provided the groundcover needed to enable tropical rainforest species to regenerate in the area.

Neve Shalom

Neve Shalom (meaning Oasis of Peace) is a cooperative village established primarily to show that two peoples (in this case Israelis and Palestinians) can live side-by-side in harmony.  The brainchild of an Egyptian, Bruno Hussar, the village is midway between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.  Hussar established the village as a way to promote interfaith dialogue in the war-torn area.  Administratively the village is run by a number of elected committees, with half the representatives of each committee being Israeli, the other half Palestinian.

Although the community itself is small, its reach is large.  It is estimated that since 1980 over 35,000 people have been educated there, including many of them as facilitators in non-violent conflict group encounter skills.

Where To?

Where to next?  More of these intentional, cooperative, sustainable, radically democratic ecovillages will be necessary.  We are seeing the beginnings of global shifts towards these styles of living with the emergence of movements such as Transition Towns, voluntary simplicity, permaculture and dozens of small groups of people coming together to create alternatives to the business-as-usual, growth-oriented and harmful ways of the past. 

These groups are no longer demanding leadership from above; but are intentionally building and creating, from the inside out.

1.  Frequently Asked Questions, accessed 17 November 2015

Tuesday 10 November 2015

Was Ned Ludd right?

Ned Ludd
Was Ned Ludd, the 18th century lad who supposedly smashed a couple of textile machines right?  His name gives us the term luddite – famously applied to English textile workers who protested at the introduction of labour-saving technology in the early part of the 19th century.

Looking back on the unease of Ned Ludd from the 21st century it is possible to contend that he was right to be worried about technology, although not for the same reasons.  Many of the most pressing concerns of today have come about because of our fixation on technology.  Two examples help to illustrate this point.

The invention of the internal combustion engine has, arguably, been the one piece of technology that has contributed more than any other factor towards climate change.  Fourteen percent of global greenhouse gas emissions come from the fuelling of the engines of transport.  There is little indication that this is reducing or likely to reduce.

Over the past fifty years the number of car registrations world wide has increased seven-fold.  Not only has the number of vehicles increased, but the distance travelled per vehicle has also increased – almost doubling in the last forty years.  Certainly, the fuel efficiency of vehicles has increased, however, the fact that we are now travelling further, means that each car is using more fuel per year now than it did forty years ago.

Massive technological innovation in the agricultural sector, although increasing yields, has had some disastrous consequences.  The technology has allowed for the deforestation of large swathes of South American, African and Asian rainforests – the “lungs of the earth.” 

The much vaunted Green Revolution was a technological fix that was going to solve the problems of starvation and hunger in many of the poor nations of the earth.  The failure of this technological approach is now well documented.  The introduction of crops that required large investments of expensive fertiliser, seeds and irrigation had the effect of displacing many subsistence and poor farmers from their lands and only means of livelihood.

Perhaps Ned Ludd was right.

That’s all in the past though isn’t it?  The technology of the future will surely solve our problems.  Well, maybe not!

Difficulties with technological solutions

There are inherent difficulties with putting faith in technological solutions.

First is what is known as the Rebound Effect (or Jevons Effect), which notes that when an efficiency gain is produced one of the effects is to increase consumption of that item or another item.  The increased fuel efficiency referred to above is a good example of this.  Although vehicle efficiencies have increased, all that happened was that vehicles were driven further and so the actual fuel usage increased. 

Examples such as this can be found everywhere, consider another.  The efficiency of transporting fresh food from one side of the planet to the other has increased, so that consumers in rich nations are now able to eat whatever food they want year round.  The effect upon climate, soil erosion and manipulation of crops has been disastrous – all because of technological efficiency gains.

Technologically we currently have the ability to transport people much more efficiently and sustainably than we do.  The technology of public transport is well developed, but do we use it as wisely or as effectively as we could?  The short answer is – no!  Why not?  It just isn’t socially acceptable to do so.  We would far prefer to use our own private vehicle.  Social acceptance is one of the big hurdles to overcome with any technological advancement when it comes to sustainability.
When businesses adopt technology advances then the gains from that are often reinvested into increased production and consumption rather than to reducing either.  Thus, the current economic model encourages further growth and development because of technology, not less.

Furthermore, the business model of increased economic growth is predicated on further consumption.  Hence it is in the interests of business to privilege technology ahead of other sustainability options.  No wonder we hear so much about technological solutions to climate change, biodiversity loss, water shortages and other problems.

Perhaps the biggest difficulty with the idea of putting our faith in technological solutions is exactly that – putting our faith in techno-fixes.  Relying on, or having faith in, technology allows us to not have to think about some of the more fundamental questions related to how we humans impact the earth and its other inhabitants.

We are currently consuming approximately one and half times the Earth’s sustainable replenishment rate.  Those of us in the rich nations are the worst culprits.  We are consuming anywhere between four and nine Earth-sized planets worth of resources per year.  This is the real issue we must face – our over-consumption.  That has little to do with technology.  If anything, it requires us to reduce our reliance on technology, not create more of it.

Relying on technology to solve our issues is rather like those who put their faith in cryogenics: freeze me now, and thaw me out when technology has found a  cure for aging.

Let’s face it.  We have some serious thinking and acting to do, and it has to do with our individual, and collective, lifestyles and expectations.  Our fixation on techno-fixes is misplaced.  It is our global consumerism that we must tackle if we are to solve the issues that face us.

Maybe Ned Ludd was right.

Wednesday 4 November 2015

Community Development Degrees

Do you want a job in community development?  These days it is possible to get a qualification in community development.  A Masters of Community Development, even a PhD if you so desire. That’s a good thing isn’t it?  People become trained and qualified to deliver community development programmes, plans and projects.  It must be good.

Well, no, not really.  Like any upper level educational qualification it sets the haves against the have-nots.  If I have a degree in community development then that suggests I know more about the process of community development than many of those in the communities I am working with.  And that is absurd.

The very notion of community development is premised on the understanding that local communities are capable of understanding the issues that face them, of working out solutions, of discovering what skills they already have, and determining the resources they need.  Community development degrees set up an “expert” mindset that may lead some to believe that they do not have the necessary intellectual, psychological or emotional resources to become “experts” in their own community.  Once that thought takes root then a downward spiral ensues.

Of course it is highly desirable that those who choose to work in community development undergo learning and development opportunities.  But this learning should be firmly rooted in active, experiential, participatory styles based in community settings. 

One of the earlier models developed within community development settings was that of the Action-Reflection model of learning and practise.

The model simply suggests that following analysis, we act.  But that is not the end.  Action-Reflection says that after we have acted, we analyse and reflect on what happened, what the effects or outcome was.  By doing this we learn what went well, what went badly, what more we need to take into consideration.  With this new understanding it is now possible to plan our next action.  The cycle then repeats, and continues to repeat. (see diagram)

A key element of the Action-Reflection model is that of learning from experience.  The maxim of “learning from experience” is often bandied about, without too much thought.  Action-Reflection, however, notes that we do not necessarily learn anything just by having an experience.  The experience must be actively, consciously, reflected on.  It is the active questioning of the experience that allows for the learning to take place.  We must actively ask ourselves: what did we learn from this experience?

Having a degree in community development may be required by many employers, but having the ability to consciously reflect on experience, in participation with the community itself, is of far greater benefit to the community.  Ultimately it is also of greater benefit to the community development worker themselves.