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 April 2016

Who Cares Anyway?

I was intrigued by a question last week that asked why it is that people don’t seem to be concerned that the Great Barrier Reef is dying?1  The question is a good one, not because of the answers, but because of another question it provokes: in the face of climate change, how do we respond psychologically?

We know the science of climate change.  We know the facts and figures of climate change.  We know the future scenarios.  We know that we know.

Yet, do we know what happens inside our heads, our hearts, and our guts?  Do we know how we respond internally, psychologically, and emotionally.

When we hear and see all the reports on climate change and what is happening to the planet it is as though we are witnessing a death.  Not just any death.  But the death of an old, trusted, reliable friend and provider.  To some, it is the death of their mother – Mother Earth.  To others it is the death of civilisation, of humanity.

As we know from the work of Elizabeth Kubler-Ross,2 almost 50 years ago, when faced with death we exhibit five responses: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance.

Could it be that when we witness the death of something as large as humanity or the Earth, that these responses play out in our collective psyche?

The response of denial is easy to pick.  We see it every day from many politicians, bureaucrats, corporate heads, and conservative think-tanks.  We see anger as well, with anger being the motivating emotion for some climate change activists.

Depression, however, may be the hidden response to climate change.  In the face of overwhelming statistics, science and stories, it is easy to see how many of us can slip into a depressive response.  This may range from cynicism, through despair, all the way to avoidance and withdrawal.

The stories of the effects of climate change arrive in our inboxes every day; on TV, in newspapers, via social media.  We have been aware of these stories since 1990 (the year the first IPCC3 report was published) and they came slowly, almost like a trickle.  There are now more of them, and they are becoming more and more disturbing.  In the 25 years since that first IPCC report, the stories tell us that things have got worse.

Overwhelming, frightening, disturbing.  It’s all hopeless.  No wonder the response for many of us is depression.  Our minds tell us that it is all hopeless and that we are powerless.  Our psyches respond by telling us to go and hide in despair, where we give up and withdraw.  All our conditioning tells us that despair is a personal problem.  And our culture tells us (especially men, but women are not immune) to be positive, keep your chin up, don’t cry, man up (be a man), get over it, or cheer up.

Our emotions, especially ones like sadness and despair, are viewed as “bad’ and to be shut away inside us, where no-one else can see them.  When we do so we personalise what is in reality a collective response.  Personalising our despair we then repress it, and in doing so, isolate ourselves from others, and from the root cause of our despair – our collective psychology.  Then we feel bad about feeling bad, only deepening the despair and withdrawal.

Transforming the Question

So, the question now transforms itself.  Instead of asking why do people not give a stuff, we ask: how can we enable people to move from a place of despair, withdrawal or cynicism to a place of life-affirming hope and action?

The first answer would seem to be to resist the urge to continually bombard us all with the statistics, facts and figures of climate change destruction.  Instead, we could look at the work of educators such as Joanna Macy, Bill Plotkin, John Seed, Tom Atlee and others.  Their work helps answer the question by moving from despair to life-affirmation.

Joanna Macy, for example, began her work in the 1980s with the publication of her work Despair and Personal Power in the Nuclear Age.4  Over the years Macy (now in her 80s) has refined her thinking and practice to acknowledge the despair we feel and to offer us a way out.  She calls it the Great Turning and advises that the way out of our despair is to start by actively experiencing that feeling.  By doing so we come to recognise that our pain for what is happening is a message that we, and the Earth, are all inter-connected.  Through a variety of exercises Macy guides us to unblock our feelings of despair and depression and discover a life-affirming approach to life and what happens around us.
For the reader who wants to know more, check out these websites:
1. Recent reports suggest that 93% of the Great Barrier Reef is now severely bleached.
2. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross wrote On Death and Dying in 1969 based on her work at the University of Chicago medical school.
3. IPCC – Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.  The IPCC has now published its fifth report, released in November 2014.

4. Joanna Macy, Despair and Personal Power in the Nuclear Age, New Society Publishers, 1983

Tuesday 19 April 2016

How Should We Think, Mr Einstein?

Albert Einstein is one of the most quoted historical figures: possibly the most oft quoted scientist.  One of his most famous quotations is,
“We can’t solve problems using the same thinking we used when we created them.”
It seems that Einstein never actually said this, although he was the Chairman of the Emergency Committee of Atomic Scientists who sent  a telegram to hundreds of prominent Americans in May 1946, in which the following phrase was mentioned:
“…a new type of thinking is essential if mankind is to survive and move toward higher levels.”
This telegram came in the wake of the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and at a time of heightened nuclear tensions.  Somehow that extract from the telegram came to be attributed to Einstein himself and re-formatted to the quotation about not being able to solve problems with the same thinking that created them.  Certainly, when Einstein was interviewed a few months later he reiterated the quote from the telegram and said to the interviewer (Michael Amrine)
“We must abandon competition and secure cooperation.”
Whatever the exact wording, or the circumstances at the time, the quotation that opened this blog poses a question.  What sort of thinking should we be using?  Unfortunately, Albert Einstein is no longer with us (he died 61 years ago this week) and we are unable to ask him directly.  However, we can get some clues from some of his other quotes and writings.  Here are just six modes of thinking that Einstein used and mentioned.


“Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler.”  We  have a tendency to want to make things complicated, whereas often the best answer lies in simplicity.  Some professions thrive on making things complicated, with esoteric language and customs that help to exclude those not in the know.  Think of the legal profession, accountancy, politics, management – all maintain their power partly by creating a complicated system that others cannot understand.  Since Einstein’s death Complexity Theory has become an arena of scientific study.  But even here, we note that often the keys to unlocking complex situations are very simple.1 

Intuition and Imagination

Einstein loved to play his violin and was an accomplished pianist, and often said that it was when lost in his music that some of his scientific inspirations appeared.  Contrasting imagination with logic, Einstein concluded that “logic will get you from A to B.  Imagination will take you everywhere.” 

Einstein called the intuitive mind a sacred gift, whereas he called the rational mind a faithful servant.  Twenty years after Einstein’s death Robert Samples published a book2 that recalled how Einstein viewed the two minds and concluded, “It is paradoxical that in the context of modern life we have begun to worship the servant and defile the divine.”  Thus giving rise to another oft quoted saying but misattributed to Einstein.


“I have no special talent,” claimed Einstein, “I am only passionately curious.”  Indeed, it was his curiosity that led Einstein to his famous Special Relativity Theory in 1905.  Noticing that two apparent truths of science appeared to be contradictory, Einstein got curious and wondered why.  He realised that the reason was that both were based on an assumption that he proceeded to tear apart – resulting in his famous theory.

As children we continually ask questions, but eventually we lose that capacity when we get to school where we are taught that the answers are of greater importance.  Einstein disagreed saying that “The important thing is not to stop questioning.  Curiosity has its own reason for existing.”  Perhaps it was because of his desire to keep questioning that Einstein was expelled from school at the age of 16. His teacher claimed he had a “rebellious attitude.”

Make Mistakes

“A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new,” Einstein is reported to have said.  Many scientists and researchers will immediately see the wisdom in that phrase, and Einstein himself flippantly said that “if we knew what we were doing it would not be called research would it.” 

Don’t Rely on Technology

For a man whose scientific output was crucial in the development of one of the world’s most powerful technologies – nuclear energy – it may seem odd that he would be sceptical of technology.  However, in December 1917 he wrote to his friend, Heinrich Zangger, that “All of our exalted technological progress, civilization for that matter, is comparable to an axe in the hand of a pathological criminal. ”  This was almost three decades before the destructive force of Einstein’s equations was unleashed in Japan.  In that same letter to his friend, Einstein laments the lapse towards amorality and says that “I come to value charity and love of one’s fellow being above everything else.”

Connection and Cooperation

Although Einstein did a lot of his work alone he was acutely aware of the interconnectedness of life.  “When we survey our lives and endeavours,”  he noted, “we soon observe that almost the whole of our actions and desires are bound up with the existence of other human beings.”  

Einstein did not limit this thinking to humans.  “Our task,” he exhorts, “must be to free ourselves by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature and its beauty.” 

When we consider the problems that beset us today, arguably more complex and more interconnected than in Einstein’s lifetime, the wisdom of this last thinking aspect should become instantly apparent.  There are signs that it is becoming so. 

Are these six modes of thinking part of the thinking that we are using today when facing our problems?  Amongst the world’s leadership I have my doubts.  However, at community level and amongst grassroots networks the use of this type of thinking is becoming more and more apparent.  The task of these movements will be to infiltrate our cultures, our decision-making bodies, and our institutions with these ways of thinking.

The last word, should be another quote from Albert Einstein.  This one ties it all together, and was written just one year before his death.  In it we glimpse a realisation on Einstein’s part that our thinking must look within for answers, rather than suggesting that our problems are “out there” and hence the solutions are “out there” also.  That is the real new thinking that we need.
“A human being is part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. We experience ourselves, our thoughts and feelings as something separate from the rest. A kind of optical delusion of consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from the prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty. The true value of a human being is determined by the measure and the sense in which they have obtained liberation from the self. We shall require a substantially new manner of thinking if humanity is to survive.”
1. For example, the Mandelbrot Fractal (possibly the most widely known visual representation of complexity) is produced using a very simple equation: zn+1 = zn2 + c    

2. Robert Samples, Metaphoric Mind: A Celebration of Creative Consciousness, Addison-Wesley, Boston, 1976

Tuesday 12 April 2016

What If Hitler Hadn’t Invaded Poland?

The world is connected.  We know that, or at least, we are coming to know that and recognise it for its importance.  Those working for social change recognised this reality when it was realised that methods and ends needed to be in harmony.  The social change mantra that “the ends justifies the means” was thrown out, never to be reconsidered.

Since then our understanding has further increased so that now we are beginning to recognise the full meaning of inter-connection.  We now understand that the consumer choices we make in the western world have an impact of worker conditions in the factories of China, or the fields of Africa.  We understand the incredible diversity and interconnections of various species in ecosystems.  Then of course we have our own technology.  Today, any one of us can be connected to almost anyone else in the world within a matter of seconds via our Smartphones, laptops or iPads.

Connection is not just between places, things, or people.  Connections extend over time.  When we think of our own lives we will recognise the truth of this.  When we were young we made some choices about whether to go to work, get educated, get married, travel the world or something else.  Those decisions connected us with other people, with other places, with other choices.  We made those choices, and they led to yet more connections.  When we think back we can recognise that all through our lives there were points at which we could have gone down an entirely different route than the one that led to where and who we are today.  Connections!

Yes, we all recognise them.  But, have we really thought through the full implications of interconnection? 

Here’s a provocative thought.  Would each of us be here today if Hitler had not invaded Poland?  Think of it for a moment.  I would hazard a guess that the chances are high that many of us would not be here today if Hitler had not invaded Poland?1

Hitler’s invasion of Poland led directly to the outbreak of World War II, and with it the mass mobilisation of troops from many nations of the world.  It also saw one of the biggest refugee crises in history.  It is estimated that 60 million people died during the war – 3% of the world’s population as it was at the time.  Has there ever been such a massive impact upon the world population?

Even in those nations that were not the scene of battle the war had a tremendous impact on the way people lived, worked and moved.  Women became factory workers or were sent into the fields.  A fundamental shift in male-female roles took place.  Citizens moved to undertake work that supported the war effort. 

Now, think of what sort of impact that had upon generations to come – all those Baby Boomers and the following generations.  Most people born after the end of WW II will have been born as a consequence (amongst others) of what happened in the war.  Many possible couples never happened – one or other of the couple (mostly men) were killed before ever fathering, or mothering, a child.  Men and women moved in droves from their hometowns.  Some even moving and remaining in other parts of the world.  They then met, and formed relationships with, people they may not have if they had not moved. 

The question then is:  if it hadn’t been for the war, would your parents, or grandparents have ever met?  Would they have decided to have children?  Would one of those children have been you?
I’m sure that once you seriously think this through you will realise that the chances are high that you may not have been born if Hitler had not invaded Poland.

Does this mean that we should be thankful for Hitler, or that we should accept the atrocities that were carried out (on all sides I should add) during the war?  Of course not.  What this thought experiment is meant to do is show up that connections are not all rosy, charming, or ethical.  They just are.

The world and everything in it are intricately and immeasurably connected.  We never know what will emerge from some action.  What emerges is unpredictable, simply because it is impossible to map and understand all the causes and conditions that impact upon any action.  All we can do is accept things for the way they are.  Before I am accused of being fatalistic, let me reassure you that this is not my understanding nor what I advocate.  There remains a place for considered, thoughtful, ethical action.

Although this thought experiment picks out Hitler’s invasion of Poland to focus on, it could just as easily have picked out the first non-stop flight around the world (in 1949), or any number of events.  Then there are all those events that are particular to you: where your parents lived, what their occupation was, their education level, who their friends were, …

So, next time you hear anyone talk about how everything is connected, remind yourself that those connections include actions that we would rather forget about.  But everything in the past has had a bearing on the present.  The present is an emergent phenomenon of the past.

1. Instead there would be someone else reading this.  Furthermore, this blog may never have been written because “I” would not have been here.

Tuesday 5 April 2016

12 Ways to Encounter Nature

In our social change work we meet other people ever day.  We exchange greetings, ask about their health, and usually get into some discussion about goals, strategies or actions designed to further whatever is our cause. 

We are used to interacting with other humans.  To effect social change we must encounter other human beings – it’s part and parcel of the work. 

We also need to encounter nature.  But in our desire for social change we can neglect to do so.  We continue to neglect encountering nature at our peril.  We need to do so for our own well-being, and also because we just may learn something.  Nature has much to offer us – not all our learning comes from other humans.

Here are twelve ways we can encounter nature, some are simple and may only take a few minutes, others take much longer (but then the benefits may be much greater).
  1. Take a walk along a beach.  Smell the salty air.  Wade in the surf.  Feel the sand beneath your feet.  Watch the seabirds swirl and dive.  Try tiger walking – walk purposefully placing one foot down with the heel striking first, rolling onto the outside of the foot, with the little toe then grounding, followed by the other toes in turn, with your big toe being the last part of the foot to touch the sand.  Then repeat with the other foot.
  2. Garden.  Plant herbs and research not only their culinary benefits but also their medicinal ones.  Notice how the seasons and the growth of plants interact.
  3. Go hiking (tramping, trekking) in the woods, the mountains, the forests and the river beds.  Take your food and accommodation with you and spend at least 3 days without any contact with civilisation.
  4. Sit on a hilltop at sunrise or sunset and watch the sun rise or set.  Watch the colours in the sky change and merge into one another.  At sunset watch the flocks of birds return to their nesting places.  At sunrise feel the warmth of the sun slowly increase.
  5. Take a trip to a waterfall and stand underneath and feel the water splashing and caressing your body.  Take a dip in the pool at the bottom of the waterfall.  Revel in the invigorating coolness of the water.
  6. Find a quiet place at night away from urban lights and just stare at the stars.  If you look for long enough you’ll see a meteor (shooting star) – you should see one approximately every 10 – 15 minutes, more often during “meteor showers.”
  7. Climb a tree and sit on a limb watching the bird life and other creatures that use the tree for habitat, food or transport.  As you sit there, ponder how this tree connects with the rest of the local ecosystem.  How extensive are its roots?  Where do the nutrients come from?  What’s going on in the leaves?
  8. Get some flippers, mask and snorkel and find a lagoon, sheltered beach or a lake.  Without the use of compressed air, explore the underwater domain.  Are there fish, coral or kelp in the area?  How is this underwater environment different to  the above water environment?
  9. With a partner try this variation on the Trust Walk idea.  Find a non-urban environment and take turns being led with eyes closed, in silence.  Your partner guides you with their arm or hand.  Your partner finds and guides you to an experience – it could be the bark of a tree, a fragrant flower, a group of pebbles, the sound of a bird twittering.  When your guide stops they will gently move your head so that you are facing the experience they have decided on.  Your guide then says “Open your eyes and look in the mirror.”  The idea is to see things in a new light, as if you were looking in a mirror.[1]
  10. Spend time on an organic farm.  World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF)[2] helps put volunteers in touch with farmers.  The volunteer works on the farm in return for accommodation, food and the opportunity to learn about organic farming.
  11. Book into a guided wilderness experience.  There are numerous organisations offering such experiences.  Find one that offers an experience based on integrity.  Ideally you want an organisation that is guided as much by the heart as it is by the profit motive.
  12. Of course you don’t need to find and pay for a guide.  You could do it yourself and go off for a month or more into a remote area that is unconnected to civilisation.  Make you own shelter, become a “hunter and gatherer,” cook your own food, spend time contemplating your surroundings.  For inspiration read My Year Without Matches[3] by Claire Dunn, an Australian woman who “disillusioned and burnt out by her job, quits a comfortable life to spend a year off the grid in a wilderness survival program.”

[1] This exercise (called the Mirror Walk) is one of the many suggested by Joanna Macy in Coming Back To Life, New Society Publishers, Gabriola Island, BC, Canada, 2014.
[2] WWOOF originally meant Working Weekends On Organic Farms and began in England in 1971. See

[3] Claire Dunn, My Year Without Matches, Nero, Collingwood, Vic, Australia, 2014