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.

Monday 29 July 2019

There Goes Our Budget…. Again!

Imagine that on January 1st you have a nest-egg of $365,000.  Imagine too, that you spend $1,000 every day following.  Imagine that you are a savvy investor and you are able to generate $1,000 every day.

Now do the arithmetic.  It’s easy.  You start the year with $365,000.  During the year you spend $365,000, and you also generate $365,000.  So, at the end of the year, on 31 December, you have $365,000 in your account. 

You can now begin the next year with your nest-egg of $365,000 intact.

Now, imagine that you increase your spending by $100 a day.  You now spend $1,100 a day, and you generate $1,000 a day.

This time the arithmetic is a little harder, but not too difficult.  By the end of the year your nest-egg will have decreased to $328,500.

Imagine that you do nothing to correct this overspend; instead, you increase your spending.  And if you do this every year then each year your nest-egg will decrease quicker and quicker.

If you wanted you could even work out the date each year on which your spending outstripped the amount you generate each year.

For example, using the figures from above.  Spending $1,100 each day it would take you 332 days to spend $365,000.  You would have spent your years generative amount by 29 November.  During December you would effectively be stealing from your nest-egg.

So, you could work out year by year the date on which your spending outstrips the rate at which you are able to generate income.  You could, if you wanted, call this the day you overshoot your budget for the year.

Earth’s Budget

Now imagine that the same arithmetic is applied to the rate at which we humans spend the resources of the Earth and the rate at which the Earth is able to replenish those resources.

It turns out that some mathematical boffins have been doing exactly that for the past 50 years or so.
According to their equations, prior to 1970 we were “spending” the Earth’s resources within budget.
But then we became more spendthrift and the day on which we overshot our budget worked out to be a few days before the end of the year.  By the end of the 1970s Earth Overshoot Day (as it came to be known) was late October.1  By the end of the 20th century we were overspending Earth’s budget even earlier – by late September.

This year Earth Overshoot Day is the same date as last year, but still as early in the year as 29 July (the day on which this blog is published).

We all know what happens when we overspend our budget at an increasing rate – bankruptcy.
That is what we are doing with Mother Earth – bankrupting her.

Some Spend More

You may be inclined to think the increasing population is the reason for this overspend.  That is only part of the reason.

For some nations their day of overshoot is much earlier in the year.  For North America, Australia, Kuwait and the U.A.E. the date falls in March – at least four months earlier than it does for the Earth as a whole.  The Scandinavian nations overshoot during the month of April, and most of Europe have overshot during April and May.

New Zealand and Japan overshoot on May 6 and 13 respectively.

China, the most populous nation on Earth overshoots this year on June 14th – between one and three months later than the western-styled nations. India overshoots in late June.   Indonesia, the world’s 4th largest nation in population size does not overshoot until December 18th.

I seems that the biggest driver of overspending our Earth budget is quite literally – over spending.  The consuming power, and consumption addiction, of western-styled nations is what drives Earth Overshoot Day. 

We in the western cultures need financial counselling.  We have to seriously curb our spending, our consumption and our continuing grab for Mother Earth’s resources.

We cannot continue to use up the Earth’s resources at a faster and faster rate.  We have to get serious about our addiction.  That means we must face up to who we are and what we have become.

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Thursday 25 July 2019

Trashing Our Gift

A few days ago I went for a run on a track through the nearby rainforest.  The track is one of my favourite places to run near my home.  When I run through this grand forest a strong sense of endowment arises in me.  I recognise that I am being offered a gift.  A gift of life, a gift of welcome to this majestic earth.

We are certainly blessed to be offered this gift of the world.  Without this gift we would not even exist.

About 10 minutes into my run I trod on a tree root the wrong way and rolled my ankle.  I stopped for a while, massaged my ankle and took a few steps and then back to a jogging gait again.  But it wasn’t quite right, so inevitably I rolled it a second time.  This time there was no chance of continuing running on it.  I decided to turn and walk back to where I had begun.

That point on the track had the road passing nearby, so I walked out to the road, where the surface was more even and began to walk back to the start.

I had about 500 – 600 metres to walk.  Limping along I was enjoying the walk as the road passed through the same rainforest I had just been running through.

I little way up the road I saw a throw-away cup from a major fast food company on the side of the road.  I stopped and picked it up, intending to take it back with me to dispose of more appropriately.
A few steps later I found a plastic wrapper.  I picked this up also.  By the time I’d walked the 500 metres or so I had an armload of trash.  And this on a road that wound through the forest, no human habitation anywhere around.

This experience got me thinking about how we wantonly trash our gift.

Like a petulant child that unwraps his/her Christmas present and finds it not to their liking, and so throws it away or smashes it with a toy hammer, we too trash our gift.

We trash our gift by:
  • smashing to pieces the forests,
  • spewing toxic and other gases into the atmosphere,
  • spilling waste into waterways,
  • using the oceans as dumping grounds for tonnes and tonnes of plastic,
  • digging and tunnelling into Mother Earth to rip out minerals,
  • destroying the habitats of thousands upon thousands of species, condemning them to extinction.
By the time I had returned to where I began my run, with an armload of trash, I had recognised I had been offered another gift.

I realised that my rolled ankle had been a gift – a gift that allowed me to see how much we trash our gift of the planet.

Isn’t it time we grew up, and stopped acting like a petulant child with our gift.

Thursday 11 July 2019

4 Essential Books For Those Concerned About The State Of The World

Once we begin to feel a concern for the state of the world today, we inevitably become faced with some questions.  How did this come to pass?  Why are things the way they are?  If we can answer those, we then ask: how do we proceed?  How can we heal?  How can we make things better?

If these are the types of questions you are asking, then these four books are essential reading.

They are presented in a sequence, but do not have to be read in that sequence.  Each stands on it’s own highly recommended merit.

A word of caution first: don’t expect these books to provide full and complete answers.  They may, indeed, prompt more questions, and certainly, further explorations.

My Name Is Chellis & I’m in Recovery from Western Civilization.

Besides having one of the most enticing and intriguing titles around, this book is the perfect way to explore the historical roots of today’s demise and uprootedness.

Chellis Glendinning, PhD, is a psychologist and one of the pioneers in the field of eco-psychology.
In this short book (just 200 A5 pages) Glendinning strongly suggests that western culture is suffering a collective trauma which for many in that culture is experienced individually.  She suggests that the root of this trauma is our original disconnection from nature begun when we began to domesticate animals and plants.  Disconnection continued on through the process of settlement, and the establishment of “private” ownership, and has been greatly exacerbated since the "Age of Enlightenment" and the Industrial Revolution. 

This original trauma is today played out in our addictions, primarily, she says, our addictions to technology and perpetual growth.

What’s our next step then?  I won’t add a spoiler.  Get hold of the book and read it.

Nature and the Human Soul

Bill Plotkin has written one of the block-buster eco-psychology books of this, and last, century.
Plotkin describes the human development journey as incorporating eight stages, from birth, through childhood, adulthood, elderhood and on to death.  Each stage is meticulously described as having its own purpose, gifts, and tasks.

No stage is more, or less, important, than any of the others.  Indeed, the last sentence of every chapter describing these stages, is the same: “this was the best stage of life to be in.”

One of the sad, but not surprising (when you consider the state of the world), conclusions that Plotkin comes to is that most of western culture is stuck in a poor facsimile of Stage 3; a patho-adolescent version of what should be.

But, stuck or not, Plotkin contends that it is always (even much later in life) possible to undertake the tasks of a stage from earlier in chronological life, and so move on.

Nature and the Human Soul is not a book that can easily be absorbed in one reading.  It requires close attention, careful and thoughtful reading. 

The book is really only a beginning.  Plotkin founded the Animus Valley Institute in 1980 to provide experiential journeys into the many mysteries and discoveries that become possible when nature and the human soul are connected.  The experiences run through the Institute immerse one in the ideas and concepts outlined in this book.

Come Of Age

Subtitled The Case for Elderhood in a Time of Trouble, Canadian Stephen Jenkinson has one simple question to ask.

How is it that in a world where there are more and more old people, we seem to be getting fewer elders – at the very time that they are needed most?

That is a damn good question.

Jenkinson attempts (and I think, succeeds) in answering that question not by describing what an elder is, nor how to become one, but by tracing it’s loss.

Rather like describing a bowl by the emptiness inside, Jenkinson traces the loss (in western culture) in language, history, culture, concepts of time, psychology, religion, spirituality, personal growth. 

Like Plotkin’s book, this is not an easy book to read.  Indeed, on first reading, I succumbed to allowing Jenkinson’s words and ideas wash over me as if in a soothing and relaxing bath.  The second reading allowed me to understand the depth of the bathwater and discover the nuances of those ideas, and sometimes the bitterness in the water.

Where are the elders – at the very moment in time they are most needed?  Very few and far between, but those who read this book may be able to prepare themselves for a time when “certainty is over (and one’s) plans are in ruins.”  Again, to appreciate the depth of this assertion, read the book.

Coming Back To Life

Joanna Macy has been working to help people feel through their pain and despair for the world and get to a place of empowerment since the early 1970s. 

In this book/manual, co-authored with Molly Brown, she notes that humans are at a point in time when we have a choice between three stories.  “Business as Usual” is the story that has been part of western culture for many centuries, and exacerbated since the Industrial Revolution.  “The Great Unravelling” is the story that continuing the “Business as Usual” story will morph into.  It’s not a story with a happy ending.  The third story, the one Macy advises us to choose is “The Great Turning” that enables us to move towards a life-sustaining society that respects all of life upon Earth.

Macy and Brown follow a 4-step healing process beginning with gratitude, honouring our pain, seeing with new eyes, and going forth.  Each step in this process is fully described, with many exercises that allow a comprehensive exploration of that stage.

Although the book can be read individually, the real value is in undergoing the work in groups.

Some of the exercises in this book/manual are powerful and can elicit deeply felt emotions.  Hence, it is important that the exercises be led by experienced facilitators.

Book Connections

There are numerous links between these books.

Chellis Glendinning and Joanna Macy helped begin the work of acknowledging our pain for the world and sought ways to move through that to empowerment.

Joanna Macy is one of two people (the other being Thomas Berry) who Bill Plotkin chose to interview for his chapters on elderhood.

Stephen Jenkinson clearly sets out the losses (notably that of elderhood) that occur when individuals and cultures get stuck in the patho-adolescent stage described by Bill Plotkin.  Jenkinson also maps out the reasons for there being not enough Joanna Macy-s in the world.

Coming Back to Life then opens up ways to experientially deal with many of the issues raised by the other three.

Individually, these four books stand on their own and are worth reading in their own right.  Together, they make a quartet of immense knowledge and wisdom, each enhancing that of the other three.

They are essential reading.

Saturday 6 July 2019

Feeling Apathy

Apathy: the great wet blanket of social justice and environmental movements.  At least, that is what sometimes gets thrown out as an explanation for these movements not gaining greater momentum and membership.

“People are apathetic.”  It’s a glib and easily thrown away line.  Is it true?

Are people apathetic?


... and yes!

What other words might be used instead of apathy?  Standard dictionaries give us words such as: indifference, ennui, boredom, uncaring, unconcern, sometimes even laziness.  These synonyms are the modern meaning of the word apathy.

If these are the meanings of apathy then the answer to the question “are people apathetic?” has to be – no!

Before I go on to explain my answer, let us look at the roots of the word apathy and what it might mean if we had not been so apathetic (pun intended) and sloppy about our understanding of the word.
As with many English words the word apathy has Greek origins.  The second part of the word is the same Greek word (pathos)that also gives us sympathy and empathy.  It means emotion, feeling,or suffering.  The one-letter a that begins the word also comes from Greek and means not or of.  Equally it could express a likeness, as in together.

This brings us closer to an understanding of apathy.  We get a sense that knowing that the suffering is so great it seems the best thing to do in response is to have no feeling.  Repressing the feelings is preferable to feeling them.

This is not uncaring, nor is it indifference.

It is, however, apathy in it’s original sense.

People do care.  But, when that care elicits feelings that are too painful, and bring on too much suffering, the response is a-pathy (no-suffering).

Judy Lief1 puts it this way:
“Our hope is that if we keep all the distractedness going, we will not have to look at who we are, we will not have to feel what we feel, we will not have to see what we see.”
I could add: we will not have to suffer.

How Has It Come To This?

We might ask; how has it come to this?  How have we come to a point where our collective suffering and pain for the world is so great that we prefer to suppress that suffering?

Joanna Macy2 has given a lot of thought to this very question.  Her life’s work has been to help people delve into their suffering and to find a way out the other side with “new eyes” and the twin tools of compassion and wisdom.

Macy identifies a number of fears that drive our plunge into apathy.  Fear of pain, fear of despair, fear of not fitting in, fear of guilt, fear of powerlessness and others are at the heart of our apathy she says.
These fears, alongside the daily bombardment of mass media, social media, job pressures, State interference etc, combine to keep us trapped in our no-feeling state.

Stop Throwing Sand

Now, let’s apply this understanding to our own social justice and environmental movements.  Many of these movements tend to exacerbate the problem, piling more and more facts and figures about gloom, doom and destruction upon us. 

It is as if someone were trapped in quicksand and we pour more and more sand over their head, and then wonder why it is that the person does not see or feel the sand. 

If we take a leaf from the pages of community development we can approach apathy in a different way.  We can start with where people are.  We can start with despair, we can start with pain, we can start with anguish. 

We can start with suffering.

Suffering is not healed by facts, numbers, or figures.  Suffering is not healed by images of the end of the world, or apocalyptic collapse.

Suffering is healed by a facilitated process of seeking it out, recognising it, grappling with it, and discovering the way towards a new way of seeing.  Joanna Macy calls it “seeing with new eyes.”

That all means we have to get past our glib ideas that apathy is the problem.

1. Judy Lief has been a Buddhist teacher and writer for over 35 years.
2. Joanna Macy has been writing and running workshops on despair and personal empowerment since the 1970s.  Her book, Coming Back To Life (co-authored with Molly Brown, New Society Publishers, Canada, 2014) outlines her thinking and is a guide for dealing with suffering in a way that enables “seeing with new eyes” and a way to get beyond that suffering.  See the review of this book here.