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 31 January 2017

It's An Anthropogenic World

We’ve heard of anthropogenic contributions to climate change, even those who deny it.
Anthropogenic – meaning; caused or produced by humans.  Most of us will have come across the term in reference to climate change.  Climate scientists refer to the major contributor to climate change being anthropogenic.  Climate change is certainly a threat and a worrying concern.  Yet if we cast our view wider we discover that its not the only anthropogenic concern.  Here are just a few more:


Clearly the act of aggression between one state and another, or that of one sector of society on another, is human induced.  It can scarcely be thought of any other way.  Human beings have been at war with one another for centuries.  Humans have decided to resort to violence to settle disputes.  War and terrorism are anthropogenic occurrences.

Refugee Crises

Most refugees are fleeing the ravages of war.  Whether it was the mass exodus during World War II or the current flow of refugees from Syria and other war-torn countries in the Middle East or Africa, conflict is the major reason someone becomes a refugee.  Refugees become refugees because of the actions of human beings.  The refugee crisis is an anthropogenic one.

Species Extinction/Biodiversity Loss

Jorgen Randers (Norwegian Business School) has calculated that the current species extinction rate is 1,000 times that of the natural rate.  His calculations show that we are losing 100 species of flora and fauna every day, mainly because of our human desire for timber, soya, palm oil, and beef.1  Illegal wildlife trafficking is further contributing to this rapid decline.  Again, this is all from human causes – anthropogenic.

Economic Inequality

The latest Oxfam report of global inequality shows that just eight men own as much wealth as the poorest half of the planets population – 3.6 billion people.2  The French economist, Thomas Picketty, points out in his widely acclaimed book, that this inequality (both between nations and within nations) has been rising rapidly since  the early 1980s.3  This rise in inequality is not because of some externality – it is because of human activity.  Whether it be squeezing the wages of working people whilst increasing the salaries of CEOs exorbitantly, large transnational corporations paying little or no tax, or corporations using their wealth to influence regulations in their own interest and not that of ordinary citizens; it is all by human agency.  Economic inequality has anthropogenic causes.


Roughly one-third of all the food produced annually for human consumption is wasted.4  In OECD countries, more than 2 kg of waste is produced per capita each and every day – 800 kg per year.5  In some countries the average per capita waste per year is around 1.3 tonnes.  What’s more – OECD consumers are throwing away 35% more wast now than they did in 1980.  Human beings produce the stuff.  Human beings throw it away.  Anthropogenic waste production!

Anthropocene and Wetiko

Earlier this century the Nobel Prize-winning scientist Paul Crutzen coined the term Anthropocene to mean  the geological epoch in which humans have altered the planet.  He coined the term in order to help us humans understand that we did indeed shape the earth and that we had a guardianship here on earth.  It seems we may have forgotten this.   We have forgotten not only our guardianship role with the earth, we have forgotten our goodwill to our fellow human beings.

Another term that has entered the conversation relating to our role on earth is wetiko.  Wetiko is an Algonquin word describing the European conquerors who arrived in North America with a mean spiritedness of greed, excess and self-centred consumption.  Within the word is a sense of lack of empathy – both for other humans and for the earth.

When the concerns such as climate change, war/terrorism, refugee crises, species extinction/biodiversity loss, economic inequality, and waste are seen are understood as being anthropogenic it is easy to appreciate how the two terms, anthropocene and wetiko, have come to be associated with the way in which humans treat one another and the earth.

With this understanding, and the full comprehension of these two terms, then the questions we need to be asking ourselves are not ones of: what do we do? or how doe we solve this?  The questions we must ask ourselves are questions such as:  who are we?  what is our nature?  These are questions related to our psychology (individual and collective), our consciousness, and ultimately, our very humanity. 

Are we prepared to ask such questions?

1. Jorgen Randers, 2052: A Global Forecast for the Next Forty Years, Chelsea Green Publishing, Vermont, 2012.
2. An Economy for the 99%, Oxfam Briefing Paper, January 2017.
3. Thomas Picketty, Capital in the Twenty-First Century, Harvard University Press, 2013
4. Jenny Gustavsson, Christel Cederberg, Ulf Sonesson, Robert van Otterdijk, Alexandre Maybeck, Global Food Losses and Food Waste, Food and Agriculture Organisation of United Nations, Rome, 2011.

5. Daniel Hoornweg, Perinaz Bhada-Tata, What a Waste: A Global Review of Solid Waste Management, World Bank, 2005.

Tuesday 24 January 2017

A Poem for Davos

At the beginning of each year the World Economic Forum is held in the Swiss city of Davos.  And, Oxfam releases its briefing paper on economic inequality to coincide with that forum,.  This year (2017) is no exception.  Last years briefing paper stated that there was“shocking new evidence of an inequality crisis that is out of control.”

One of the figures quoted in last year's paper was that the richest sixty-two people in the world had as much wealth as 3.6 billion people – the poorest half of the world’s population.  Surely, such a statistic is worrying, unsustainable and should be a call for drastic action.  If we thought that was bad enough, the figure quoted in this years paper is almost unbelievable.  Oxfam now reports that just eight (that's right – eight) men own the same amount of wealth as do the poorest half of the world’s population.1

Oxfam has done its research.  These figures come from sources such as the Forbes Billionaires listing and the Credit Suisse Global Wealth Databook 2016.  Hardly sources that are easy to dismiss.

Instead of analysing or reviewing Oxfams briefing paper, I thought I’d post a Poem for Davos this week.  I know its not very good, so excuse the poetic travesty.  Go read the briefing paper itself.  Its available online at


Economists, politicians and advisors aplenty
To Swiss Davos they have come again
Vowing once more to share the wealth
Put an end to poverty, misery and pain.

“Poverty, schmoverty, we’ll have it solved,
Trickle-down,” the economists proclaim
“That’s our theory, that’s our plan”
GDP, that's their simple game.

What sort of world is this
Where the wealth and riches of one percent
Leaves those in need and poverty
Unable to even pay the rent?

Millions of men, women and children
Find only unclean water in their tanks
Whilst Field Marshals and Generals
Buy missiles, guns and tanks.

CEOs sit, dodging taxes and buying politics
From corporate towers on high
Getting paid in options, shares and millions
The poor left to scramble, beg and die.

When half the world lives in poverty
How is it that we tolerate
Growing riches and mounting wealth
Amongst the super-rich - this Gang of Eight?


1. An Economy for the 99%, Oxfam Briefing Paper, January 2017

Tuesday 17 January 2017

Dispensing with Masculine and Feminine Traits

Much has changed in the relations between men and women over the past 50 years.  The feminist
movement of the 1970s challenged the fabric of patriarchy.  Some men responded by attempting to discover their repressed feminine aspects.  Until then, in the western-styled cultures at least, “masculine” traits such as strength, dominance, aggression and rationality were considered superior to “feminine” traits of submission, vulnerability and emotionality.

For the past decade or two the desire to balance “feminine” characteristics with “masculine” characteristics has been discussed in many popular articles, blogs and in personal development circles.  The ideal of balancing the feminine and masculine recognises that individual men can display some or all of the “feminine” characteristics and individual women can display “masculine” characteristics.  As some have said; there is no one way or right way to be a man; there is no one way or right way to be a woman.  Men can, and do, contain “feminine” traits.  Women can, and do, contain “masculine” traits.

With this balancing and equalising of “masculine” and “feminine” characteristics men can be emotional, nurturing, passive, accepting.  Similarly, women can be rational, the breadwinner, active, decisive. 

More recently the notions of the sacred feminine and the sacred masculine has arisen.  These notions seem to suggest that men and women can enter into a partnership where the qualities of men and those of women are treated with equal respect and value.  In this dynamic the sacred masculine and the sacred feminine manage to dissolve the age-old “battle of the sexes.”

But, is not the very notion of “masculine” and “feminine” qualities, traits, and characteristics unhelpful?  If men can display “feminine” qualities and women can display “masculine” qualities then perhaps the masculine-feminine duality is no longer relevant.  Indeed, the labels may even be inhibiting to both men and women.  If I (as a man) have the ideal of the “masculine,” sacred or otherwise, as my standard then how likely am I to explore “feminine” qualities?  Some men will, but many will not?

Perhaps it is time to dispense with the notions of “masculine” and “feminine” qualities completely, and look to describe our “human” qualities.  There already exist at least two models that we could use to describe our human qualities.  The Yin/Yang system is one, Carl Gustav Jung’s anima/animus is another.


Many of us recognise the continuous looping symbol for yin and yang.  Yin represents the parts of us that desire connection, relationship, and describes our intuitive abilities.  Yin is the submissive side of us, the side that seeks subjective experience.  Yang, the other part of the whole, represents our desires for separation and individuality.  Yang describes our deductive reasoning.  It is the side of us that is dominant and seeks objective experience.

Within the Yin/Yang dualism there is no need to label one “feminine” and the other “masculine.”  Each of us has yin, each of us has yang.  We are yin and yang, sometimes more of one, sometimes less of the other, but constantly flowing from one to the other – from yin to yang and back again.


Carl Gustav Jung was a pupil of Freud but departed from many of Freud’s ideas.  He coined the terms anima and animus to describe aspects within us.  The anima, according to Jung, is the unformed feminine forming in men.  Similarly, the animus is the unformed masculine forming in women.  Jung recognised that when the anima and the animus were allowed to develop and form then it opened up the wild and innate aspects of our self, leading to a more authentic human being.

Are we any closer to Jung’s anima and animus  being fully formed?  Perhaps, yet we still have much to learn.  Dispensing with the terms “feminine” and “masculine” from the way in which we describe human qualities, traits and characteristics can help us move towards becoming fuller, more formed, human beings.

Wednesday 11 January 2017

Just Enough Is Plenty (Book Review)

In my early twenties I came across Henry David Thoreau and attempted to read Walden.  I admit I struggled.  If only Just Enough Is Plenty was available then I am sure Thoreau’s concepts would have been much easier to grasp.  Samuel Alexander has written an excellent introduction to Thoreau’s works.  Just Enough Is Plenty: Thoreau’s Alternative Economics not only summarises Thoreau’s ideas it is also a pithy statement of Alexander’s work itself: it is short, concise, and adequately explains the work of the nineteenth century forerunner of the simplicity movement.  Just Enough Is Plenty does not take long to read – it comprises less than 50 pages, and is only one-fifth the length of Walden itself.

I don’t know whether Samuel Alexander intended this or not, but this year (2017) is the 200th anniversary of the birth of Henry David Thoreau.  Undoubtedly there will be a number of articles, essays, and perhaps books celebrating that this coming year.  Alexander has beaten them all to it and his contribution will be hard to beat.

Henry David Thoreau was born in Massachusetts and graduated from Harvard in 1837.  He aspired to be a poet but found that poetry was unlikely to provide him with sufficient income to live on.  Like many poets, Thoreau questioned life and its meaning.  Importantly, for his later writings, he asked, “How much do I need to live well and to be free? “  The answer to this question was to be pivotal in Thoreau’s writings and is the one that Alexander takes as the basis for his book.

After a stint of teaching and some unfulfilling jobs as labourer, pencil-maker, gardener, tutor, and editor, Thoreau left his hometown of Concord and went to live in the woods.  There he built a cabin, planted crops, fished, pondered for hours on end, and wrote his classic Walden.

Walden is a poetic, metaphor-filled, examination of what it means to be free, and what it costs in order to obtain that freedom.  Thoreau’s answer was that it doesn’t cost as much as we think it does.  With all those metaphors and poetic writing it is little wonder that as a young man I struggled to grasp Thoreau’s meanings.  Alexander makes it all so clear and he is to be thanked for enabling the depth and enormity of Thoreau’s work to be so accessible.

Although Thoreau did not coin the term Simplicity Movement, Alexander suggests that Thoreau was one of its granddaddies.  But, in common with many grandfathers, Alexander suggests that Thoreau didn’t have all the answers, but he certainly had many of the questions.  Perhaps, as Alexander proposes,
“(Thoreau) was not interested in giving us detailed instructions on how to live a simpler life; nor did he want to save us the trouble of thinking for ourselves.  Rather, he wanted to stoke the fire in our souls and inspire us with ideals.”
If Thoreau’s intent was to inspire us with ideals, then it is Alexander’s intent to inspire us to read and understand Thoreau.  He has done this superbly – I now intend to read Walden sometime in this 200th anniversary of his birth. 

Alexander has not just left us with a string of ideals however.  He clarifies Thoreau’s thoughts on: work, money, how much is really necessary, what is a comfort, luxury or a necessity, the role of technology (hint: not all technology, according to Thoreau or Alexander, is appropriate), and what is the meaning of our lives.

It is to the final point that Thoreau, as an innate, and possibly stifled, poet often returns.  Alexander quotes Nietzsche’s dictum to “Be the poet of your life,” suggesting that it would have been a phrase with which Thoreau would have been entirely comfortable.  Alexander notes that Thoreau was not simply attempting to find a simpler way of living, he was keen to answer the question: enough for what?  This question was relevant to Thoreau in nineteenth century Massachusetts.  It is just as vital, perhaps moreso, in the twenty-first century.  Two centuries later we find ourselves not only wishing to find a personal answer to the question of what for?  We also find ourselves having to answer the question of how much is enough? for the sustainability of the whole planet.

Alexanders, and undoubtedly Thoreau’s, answer to that second question: Just Enough Is Plenty.
The book can be obtained here either as a paperback or a “pay as you want” PDF.

Tuesday 3 January 2017


As we move out of one year into the next we look around and find ourselves face-to-face with the same emergencies of last year.  They haven’t gone away.

Wars still bring suffering to thousands, leading to desperate people fleeing to “safer” lands, often to find themselves the victims of racism and prejudice.  Meanwhile, other refugees attempt to flee (especially from low-lying island states) the consequences of climate change – only to have climate-change deniers in public office ask that we bury our collective heads in the sand.  In other parts of the world people are faced with multi-emergencies of deforestation, soil erosion, removal from ancestral lands, famines and drought.

Closer to home we notice that the emergencies of homelessness, alcohol abuse, domestic violence, anxiety, depression or poverty, continue to plague our cities and rural communities.

Yes – the emergencies still exist.  If we cast our glance forward in time we may perceive them getting worse, deepening, or becoming more entrenched.  The multi-emergencies do not seem to be going away now or in the near future.

How do we face this then?  Like Janus (the Roman god who gave us the name for January) we could look in either of two directions.  We could look at these emergencies with despair and grief or we could face the other way and look at emergence.

There is only one letter difference between the words emergency and emergence, but there is a significant difference in how we perceive things and act on them.  One tells us to analyse, plan a response, predict outcomes, implement strategies, and control the future in such a way that the emergencies will go away.  This is the tired approach of technocratic innovation and intervention.  We have been travelling this road for many years.  We have not solved the emergencies with this approach; indeed, this approach has often only generated new emergencies.

Facing the other way, however, we work with the theory of emergence.  Emergence may be well known within mathematical and  scientific circles  but it is still little understood, or applied, within social change movements, yet the theory has relevance here also.

What is it?  Very briefly, emergence is a process whereby structures, patterns or properties arise through a self-organising process with the “outcome” not being able to be predicted from an understanding of the component parts.  Take a very simple example.  Here are two common chemical elements: sodium (Na) and chlorine (Cl).  Sodium by itself is a whitish colour and, as most school pupils know, reacts explosively with water.  Chlorine is a yellow-greenish, poisonous, foul-smelling gas.  Neither sound particularly pleasant do they?  But, what happens when you combine them to get NaCl?  We all know this as common salt – something we sprinkle on fish n chips or use to flavour our cooking.  A knowledge of each of these substances (Na and Cl) by themselves gives us no indication of their emergent property.  That is emergence.

Emergence then is:
  • Unpredictable,
  • Self-organising, meaning that it is a bottom-up process rather than a top-down one,
  • Non-linear (i.e. it is not a simple cause-effect relationship),
  • It can often be spontaneous,
  • Small differences in initial conditions can produce vastly different outcomes.
The lens of emergence enables us to view the world, and the way that humans impact the world, in a more realistic manner than has been our bias towards the mechanistic, Cartesian, model that has persisted until recent times.  It is no different for those working for social change.  To work with emergence we must give up many of our cherished, traditional, ways of working.  We need to discover new ways of thinking, creating and working together.  Specifically, we must abandon our desire to control the outcome, perhaps even the process itself.  We must also discover non-hierarchical ways of working and embrace diversity.  We must embrace differing ideas, skills, wisdoms, even to the point of welcoming conflict.  We must create spaces within which the outcomes that we do want are more likely to emerge.

How do we create those spaces?  Well, that’s the subject of a book to be published later this year.  Look out for it!  In the meantime, here are some hints:
  • Think with hearts as much as minds.
  • Tap intuition.
  • Develop empathy, trust, compassion, forgiveness.
  • Learn to let go and go with the flow (but not in some laid-back, who-cares, way).
  • Truly listen to one another – not just our friends and acquaintances, but also “strangers” and even “enemies.”
  • Network, network, network.  Join the dots, make the connections.
  • Re-connect with nature.
  • Journey into a discovery of self.
  • Get creative.

Emergence – a challenging idea.  Emergence – an exciting pathway.  Emergence – a possible antidote to multi-emergencies.