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 28 December 2016

Cooperation and Wise Intent: Some Quotations

For the final blog of 2016 I thought I’d give myself a little break.  So, instead of writing about my thoughts, ideas, experience or research, I thought I’d write down some of my favourite quotes on cooperation and wise intention.  As we head into 2017 we have many challenges ahead of us.  The best way to deal with these is by cooperation and with an intent that is informed with wisdom.
“If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time.  But if your liberation is tied up with mine, then let us work together.” – attributed to a native American woman.
“The wisdom of the community always exceeds the knowledge of the experts.” – Harold Fleming
“I can’t save the world on my own – it’ll take at least three of us.” – African proverb
“If you want to go fast, go alone.  If you want to go further, go together.” – African proverb
“Go to the people.  Live with them.  Love them.  Start with what they know.  Build with what they have.  But with the best leaders, when the work is done, the task accomplished, the people will say ‘we have done this ourselves.’” – Lao Tzu
“We did not put our ideas together.  We put our purposes together.  And we agreed.  Then we decided.”  - Popul Vuh (K'iche kingdom manuscript - Guatemala)
“Truth is not born, nor is it found inside the head of an individual person; it is born between people collectively searching for truth, in the process of their dialogic interaction.” – Mikhail Bakhtin
Wise Intent
“Don’t wait for the perfect moment, take the moment and make it perfect.” – unknown
“Knowledge is learning something every day.  Wisdom is letting go of something every day.” – Zen proverb

“The meaning of life is to find your gift.  The purpose of life is to give it away.” – Pablo Picasso

“The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind a faithful servant.  We have created a society that honours the servant and has forgotten the gift.” – Albert Einstein

“If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” – Wayne Dyer

“Uncertainty is an uncomfortable position.  But certainty is an absurd one.” – Voltaire

“Don’t ask yourself what the world needs; ask yourself what makes you come alive.  And then go do that.  Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” – Harold Whitman

“You never change things by fighting the existing reality.  To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.” – Buckminster Fuller

I hope that these few quotations help to inspire you or provide you with something to think about as we come to the close of this year and move towards 2017.

Tuesday 20 December 2016

Rain and Tears

In Frank Herbert’s sci-fi novel Dune, there is reference to the Bakka – the weeper who mourns for all of humanity.  To weep, to cry, to mourn; these are all very human reactions to grief, pain, suffering, or distress.  We should not be afraid to cry, we should not be embarrassed to shed tears.  We should certainly not be trying to hold them back.  Tears are as natural as is the rising of the sun every morning.

Humans shed three types of tears.  The first two; basal (for lubricating the eyes) and reflex (for dealing with irritants such as dust or smoke), have fairly obvious biological explanations.  The third type is the tears we cry for emotional reasons.  Tears of the first two types are composed primarily of water, but  emotional tears contain a number of chemicals that do not exist in the lubricating or irritant-removal tears.  Some of these chemicals help to relieve stress, others help our body return to a state of balance.  Tears are thought to be part of the parasympathetic nervous system that helps to bring the heart rate, hormones and neurotransmitters back into a state of homeostasis (balance) after a period of arousal or a difficult time.  In other words, tears help to calm us.

But, what of the tears shed by the Bakka or others who mourn for humanity?  Being a weeper that mourns for all of humanity may be a sign that compassion, empathy, and human kindness exist in our hearts.  There is much to be mournful for when looked at through tearful eyes.  Who can turn aside and not be tearful when faced with the image of a child sitting in the rubble of Syria with their parents dead?  Who can repress the tears when faced with the image of a dead child on a Greek shore after another refugee boating crisis?

Some researchers think that tears may be a form of communication.  We weep when we cannot express with words the depth of emotion that we are feeling.  So, when we witness someone in pain, or the earth suffering, our tears may be a heartfelt way of communicating a very deep sense of empathy, not only to others, but to ourselves as well.  Thus, by attempting to block such tears we may be cutting ourselves off from deep connection and understanding.

Tears may also be a way to signal vulnerability and a desire to be cooperative.  In evolutionary terms tears may have indicated an unwillingness to be aggressive.  After all, as someone noted, it is difficult to fight when you can’t see through the tears.

Tears then may be so much more than simply a visual sign of sadness, or overwhelming elation.  They are also poignant communication devices and a recognition of the human need for cooperation and a willingness to help one another.

Tears for Mother Earth

In Māori (the indigenous people of Aotearoa – New Zealand) cosmology when it rains it is a sign that Ranginui (Sky Father) is weeping for his beloved Papatuanuku (Earth Mother) from whom he has been separated.  The tears of Ranginui are a sign of love. 

Western-styled societies have also been separated from Mother Earth.  It is little wonder that those within these societies who recognise the separation feel a sense of suffering arising from this alienation.  When someone talks honestly and openly of this alienation their tears flow like rain and often elicit in their listeners a similar weeping.  It is good to allow this weeping to flow – to feel the suffering of the world.

One person who has thought much about feeling the suffering of the world is Joanna Macy who terms it “honouring our pain.”  She places it within a process she calls The Work that Reconnects1 and recognises the pain, and feeling the suffering, as important parts of the continuing process of healing.  We must not try to side-step it she claims.
“We are capable of suffering with our world, and that is the true meaning of compassion. It enables us to recognize our profound interconnectedness with all beings. Don't ever apologize for crying for the trees burning in the Amazon or over the waters polluted from mines in the Rockies. Don't apologize for the sorrow, grief, and rage you feel. It is a measure of your humanity and your maturity. It is a measure of your open heart, and as your heart breaks open there will be room for the world to heal.”2
But is all we did was feeling the suffering of the world, and the attendant compassion, we would go nowhere, we would be paralysed.  In Tibetan history there is a prophecy known as the Shambhala Prophecy that is helpful in this regard.  The prophecy tells of the Shambhala Warriors who arrive at a time when the Earth is in great danger.  They bring with them two weapons.  One is the weapon of compassion – the emotion that provides the motive behind acting.  The other weapon is the weapon of wisdom – the understanding of the immensely interwoven connections of life, and alluded to in the above quotation.

If we wish to act like Shambhala Warriors then we need both weapons.  So, let us not shun our tears.  An Indian proverb says that before we can see clearly we must shed tears to clear the way.  So, go ahead.  Clear the way.  Have a good cry.  (And that apples to all male readers as well – perhaps more so)

1. Joanna Macy & Molly Brown, Coming Back to Life, New Society Publishers, Gabriola Island, Canada, 2014.

2. Joanna Macy, The Greening of the Self, accessed 2 November 2016.

Wednesday 14 December 2016

Appropriate Transport

The author steering a 7-seater, 7-chain ring cycle
in Tallinn, Estonia.
In the 1960s Dr E.F. Schumacher (a British economist) coined the term appropriate technology.  The term was popularised in his 1973 book Small is Beautiful: A study of economics as if people mattered1 and generally refers to technology that is small-scale, decentralised, labour-intensive, energy-efficient and environmentally sound.

Forty years later we are still coming up with new, efficient, technological innovations in many areas, including transport.  But few of them are appropriate.  Take the self-contained personal mobility unit (aka the car) as an example.  Since Henry Ford rolled out the Model T in the early part of the 20th century cars have become more and more efficient.  All these efficiency gains have led to vast numbers of cars, more cars per household, greater number of trips in cars, huge expanses of land set aside for roads, highways and parking lots, urban sprawl, and a rapid rise in carbon emissions into the atmosphere.

The next step in the efficiency drive is the hybrid or EV vehicle.  Much more efficient that the present gas-guzzling car.  Isn’t that wonderful?  Well, not really.  Greater efficiency, as has been demonstrated over and over, leads to greater consumption.  It just is not appropriate.

Are we overlooking something?  We already have an appropriate transport device, and we’ve had it since the mid 1800s, although its forerunner – the Dandy Horse – first appeared in 1817.  Its called a bicycle.  Lets consider some of the many benefits this appropriate transport technology has:
  1. Low carbon emissions.  The bicycle is not carbon-free.  Estimates are that production and maintenance of a bicycle accounts for some 5 grams of CO2e per kilometre.  If the “fuel” costs of the cyclist are taken into account then a cyclist burns approximately an extra 16 grams CO2e per kilometre.  Hence, for every kilometre ridden the cycle emits roughly 21g/km.  Similar mathematics indicate that an average car (taking into account occupancy levels) emits 271g/km – thirteen times that of a cycle.  A bus, by comparison emits 101g/km.2
  2. Monetary savings.  A report by the Australasian Railway Association in 2015 indicated that by not owning a car in Australia or New Zealand the average commuter could save between $9,000 – $10,000 per year.3  When arriving at this conclusion the authors did not take account of other costs such as toll road fees, non-compulsory insurance, or environmental and congestion costs.
  3. Safety.  Research in Europe shows that when cycling increases, the safety of cyclists also increases.  Between 2000 and 2008 London saw a 91% increase in cycling and a 33% decrease in cycling casualties.  Cycling in the Netherlands increased 45% between 1980 and 2005.  In that same period the number of cycling fatalities decreased by 58%.  There are many reasons for this correlation.  Two major factors are that the more cyclists there are the more visible cyclists become and the more the pressure for authorities to make cycling safer (e.g. by building dedicated  cycle ways).
  4. Effective Speed.  Is the car really getting us from A to B quicker than the bicycle?  The answer is yes and no.  On the surface it would appear that we get from A to B quicker.  But, when we dig deeper we find that the gains are not there.  In 2004 Paul Tranter (from the School of Physical, Environmental and Mathematical Sciences, UNSW, Canberra) prepared a report for the Australian Department of Environment and Heritage entitled Effective Speeds.  The sub-title provocatively claimed that Car Costs are Slowing Us Down.4  Tranter took into account a more complete analysis of speed.  If we remember our school mathematics we recall that speed is calculated by dividing the distance travelled by the time it took to travel that distance (s = d/t).  What Tranter noted was that the time element was not simply the amount of time sitting behind the wheel of a car going from A to B.  The true time factor also includes the amount of time it takes to earn the money required in order to get into the car in the first place.  Tranter factored in the time required to pay for the production and maintenance of the car.  Using statistics from the city of Canberra, Tranter calculated that the final effective speed of a car was between 14 km/h and 23 km/h, depending upon the size of car.  Undertaking the same calculations with buses and cycles found that the effective speed of buses is 21 km/h and 18 km/h for cycling.  Indeed, the cycle outperformed 3 of the 4 cars considered – the 4th being an Hyundai Getz.  It should be noted too that Tranter did not take into account the costs (and therefore time) associated with having to pay speeding fines, parking tickets, tolls, carpark fees, and perhaps hospital emergency ward costs. 
  5. Health Benefits.  The health benefits of any exercise (cycling included) are well known and I shall not elucidate them here, except to note that they need to be considered when thinking about appropriate transport technology.
When we consider that half or more of the private trips taken by motorists in cars in the rich nations of the world are of 5km or less then the use of the bicycle as an appropriate transport source has a lot going for it.  Using a bicycle for trips of 5km or less will be less environmentally damaging, provide the cyclist with health benefits, contribute to less congestion, require little room for parking, and very likely, much quicker.

There is no need to devise transport technology with greater efficiency – we already have it.  Lets use it.

1. E.F. Schumacher, Small is Beautiful: A study of economics as if people mattered, Blond and Briggs, 1973.  Published by Harper Collins since 2010.
2. Benoit Blondel, Chloé Mispelon, Julian Ferguson, Cycle More Often 2 Cool Down The Planet, European Cyclists’ Federation, 2011.
3. Australasian Railway Association, The Costs of Commuting: An analysis of potential commuter savings, January 2015.

4. Paul J Tranter, Effective Speeds: Car Costs are Slowing Us Down, a report for (Australian) Department of the Environment and Heritage, 2004.

Tuesday 6 December 2016


Have you noticed that the words EARTH and HEART are anagrams of one another?  Perhaps it is just coincidence, but it is a coincidence that seems to be particularly pertinent in this age of species extinction, environmental degradation, climate change, and air, water and land pollution.

In the wake of all these issues there are calls to “save the whales,” “save the orang-utan,” or more broadly “save the planet.”  Campaigns are mounted against oil pipelines, fracking, coal seam gas drilling, or coal mining.  In the climate change arena we hear all the numbers:  2 degrees of warming, 350 parts per million, 1 – 2 metres sea-level rise.

Climate Change Summits are held, reports are written, debates take place in the United Nations.  Groups organise to obtain signatures on petitions, hold information/education meetings or lobby politicians.

All these people and organisations are wanting change.  They are wanting governments to legislate; coal miners to cease activities; car manufacturers to innovate for more environmentally-friendly vehicles; greater take-up of renewable energy sources.

All these objectives are worthy.  They may not be sufficient however.  They may even be diverting our attention from what is really needed – using our HEART. 

The trouble lies in how we go about solving the issues.  It can be argued that a lot of our problem-solving focuses on technological fixes of problems that are “out there,” problems that are external to us.  For some of us the problems are (for example) air pollution and so we try to fix the problem of air pollution.  For some of us the problems are caused by other people – industrialists, politicians, bureaucrats.  In this thinking style the problems are not about us, the problems are not about who we are.

So, we go about trying to solve the problems with our heads.  We try to think our way through the problem.  We try to solve them with technological innovation.  Peter Senge calls this “shifting the burden to science and technology,”1 a process whereby we apply a symptomatic solution to a problem without addressing the underlying, fundamental causes.  By shifting the burden in this way we find that the symptoms only get worse or bigger, and so we have to apply even more of our technological solutions.  The problems get bigger and bigger, worse and worse.  If that was all we did by shifting the burden it may not be so bad.  Unfortunately, by shifting the burden in this way we become more and more reliant on technology as our default problem-solving technique.  In doing so we distance ourselves farther and farther from what we really need – the development of our human wisdom and our heart-centred thinking.

Viewing the world through our hearts we take an entirely different journey than when we view it with our heads.  An heart-centred approach to thinking is,
“independent, creative, moral and compassionate…it reflectively questions assumptions, discerns hidden values, and considers the larger social and ecological context. Heart-centred thinking is distinguished by an animated curiosity that leads to a constantly adjusting, in-depth knowledge of the environment, the human culture, and its individual members.”2
So it is with our approach to the EARTH – we have to resist the urge to solve things with our heads and shift towards our HEART.  We have to open up our hearts.  That may take some courage which is unsurprising.  The word courage derives from the Old French word corage – meaning heart.  When we have the courage to open up our hearts to the Earth and to each other not only will we find more creative solutions we will also find that something shifts inside us – we will discover who we are.

1. Senge, Scharmer, Jaworski, Flowers. Presence: exploring profound change in people, organizations and society, Nicholas Brealey Publishing, London, 2005.

2. Bill Plotkin, Wild Mind: A Field Guide to the Human Psyche, New World Library, Novato, California, 2013