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.

Friday 30 August 2019

Letter of Apology to Gen X and Y

This letter was first published in 2013.  It seems just as relevant now as it did then.

Hello Generation X and Y,

I’m a Baby Boomer.  I was born seven years after the Second World War.  I entered my teenage years during the 1960s.  By the late 1960s I was reading Kerouac, Hermann Hesse and Graham Greene.  I was listening to the Beatles, Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan.  I was attending poetry readings by Sam Hunt and Gary McCormack and hearing the rhetoric of student radicals like Tim Shadbolt1.

Like Tim, I was becoming incensed by the injustices of the ill-conceived war in Vietnam.  One Summer holiday I began reading the daily newspapers and watching television news more than I had before.  And there, in front of me, was the atrocity of that war summed up in one village massacre – My Lai.  The power of mass, world-wide communication, via TV, had arrived.  Today, some 50 years later, television may seem normal (or even “old hat”), but as a 16 year old in 1969, it was a window to the world.

Attending University in the early 1970s steepened my learning curve.  The world wasn’t a paradise, it was full of social injustice.  The Vietnam War was a stimulus for what seemed like monthly marches or demonstrations.  I learnt about the apartheid system in South Africa and later about the appalling statistics of indigenous people (Maori) in my own land.  I was confronted with the benefit of being a male in a male-dominated society.  Books discussing ecology and environmental issues began to be published on a regular basis.  The World’s first green political party – the Values Party2 – was formed under my nose.

Yes, I was having my consciousness raised.  Yes, I was confronting my sexism.  Yes, I was signing the Maruia Declaration.  Yes, I stood as a candidate for the Values Party.  Yes, I sat in the wharenui (meeting house) at Bastion Point3.  Yes, I campaigned for a Non-Nuclear Future.  Many of us did, there were thousands in the streets, hundreds of thousands signed the Maruia and Non-Nuclear Futures petitions.  Yes, we were all looking forward to a bright, optimistic, free and equal society.

But somewhere, Gen X and Y, we got it wrong.

That television that was our window on the world was a two-edged sword.  Not only did it allow us to see the world, but it also allowed the world to invade our space.  Although globalisation had been occurring throughout the preceding millennium, the world in the 1960s and 70s was about to enter a new form of globalisation.  The globalisation of greed, ill-will and cultural imperialism.

We didn’t see it coming!

If we did see it coming, we didn’t appreciate or understand it’s insidious underbelly.  We enjoyed the greater choice we had, we enjoyed the falling prices we paid, we enjoyed the faster travel, we enjoyed the new technology.  And, on the whole, we still do!

What we failed to see clearly was the development not just of globalisation as material improvement but that it also became (from the 1980s onward) an ideology.  Espoused notably by Margaret Thatcher in the UK and Ronald Reagan in the US, neo-liberal globalisation had two primary tenets: deregulation and privatisation.

These twin pillars of globalisation led to; some 2/3rds of the world’s trade being controlled by just 500 transnational corporations (TNCs), a hugely increased gap between rich and poor, lack of accountability leading to environmental degradation, laying off of hundreds (sometimes thousands) of workers when companies “rationalise”, growing debt (and the servicing of that shifted to those not benefiting from the loans).

Yes, Gen X and Y – we did it.  We Baby Boomers created this monster from within our own ranks.  Like Mary Shelley we created new life but failed to see that the life we were creating was a monster.  As in Shelley’s Frankenstein, the monster is out and sadly has not been seen for what it is.  National governments, the World Bank, the IMF and especially TNCs, refuse to acknowledge the monster.  Instead, they continue to trot out the neo-liberal theory as if it was working.

But it’s not.  George Monbiot (another Baby Boomer) has rightly pointed out the absolute failure of the theory.  We can see it now.  I’m sorry Gen X and Y, that we didn’t see it earlier.  We have burdened you Gen X and Y.

I must apologise further, for to this burden of corporate globalisation we Baby Boomers are adding a further burden by our very own existence.  We Baby Boomers are becoming senior citizens, superannuants and pensioners.

When we were your age there were approximately 7 people of working age for every person aged over 65.  Today there are 5 and within your lifetime that is expected to decrease to just 2.5 by 20504.  Yes, we are going to be a burden.

So, I write this letter of apology to Generation X and Y.  I and others of my cohort can apologise, but can we offer anything in return?  I believe we can.

If nothing else, we can listen to you, and perhaps if we each seek each other out in respect, then we may be able to enter into a dialogue, and maybe, just maybe, we can each learn something before it is too late.

Best wishes
A Baby Boomer

1.  Sam Hunt and Gary McCormack are well known New Zealand poets influenced by the beat movement and counter-culture of the 1960s and 70s.  Tim Shadbolt became the face of student protest in the late 1960s earning the ire of politicians throughout the country, writing a book (Bullshit and Jellybeans) and eventually becoming a long-time Mayor of two cities.
2. The Values Party was formed in 1972 by Tony Brunt and in its first electoral contest just six months later obtained 2% of the vote.
3. The Maruia Declaration was a petition aimed at protecting native forests from logging.  Bastion Point was the site of an occupation by Ngati Whatua (the traditional tribal owners) of disputed tribal lands in 1977-78.  After an occupation of 507 days the protesters were evicted by police and ten years later the land was returned to Ngati Whatua and an apology made to the traditional owners.
4. Figures are for Australia and New Zealand.

Tuesday 13 August 2019

When Is A Forest Not A Forest?

Question:  When is a forest not a forest?

Answer:  When it’s a plantation.

Have you noticed lately how there seems to be an urgent appeal to plant trees – millions of them. 

The reason?  To combat climate change.  The Earth’s atmosphere is becoming more and more saturated with CO2.  For the past 800,000 years or more the concentration was less than 300 parts per million (ppm).  That changed rapidly over the past 60 or so years, so that now the atmosphere contains well over 400 ppm.1

One of the ways to combat this build-up is to plant trees, lots of them.

Great idea, but let us not pretend that we are planting forests.  We’re not!

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) defines a forest as being an area of greater than 0.5 hectares, with trees that a more than 5m tall and where the canopy covers more than 10%.

That definition is woefully inadequate for a forest.  It may define a plantation, but a forest it does not.
A couple of other features of forests help to show just how insufficient, and inaccurate, that definition is.  A forest is:
  • Diverse.  The variety of trees, shrubs, ferns, fungi, mycelium, birds, animals and insects is immense within a forest.
  • Complex.  The connections, inter-connections, and symbiosis of a forest is a lot more complex than is a plantation.  The complexity is such that it is impossible to enumerate.
  • Contains elders.  Ancestral trees in a forest can be thousands of years old.  They have provided shelter, nutrients, and protection for saplings and other plants for many hundreds of years, allowing the forest to survive.
  • All stages of life are included.  There are day old saplings, 50 year old youngsters, and the elders.  There are also decaying trees, providing the much needed nutrients for the young.
  • Underground there is so much going on that we don’t really know much about it.  The Wood Wide Web of mycelium, roots, and fungi connect trees so that they can share nutrients, warn one another of dangers, and nurture the young.
We know so little about forests.  We may know a lot about individual trees, but when it comes to the complexity and interconnectivity of a forest, we are fairly ignorant.

But, ignorant or not, we can appreciate the beauty, the magnificence and the healing power of forests.

We know how much forests help in keeping the planet healthy (that’s the reason for the current desire to plant trees).  We are coming to learn how much forests can do for our own well-being.

Now, here’s the rub.

A plantation can be re-planted.  A forest cannot*.

When we lose a forest, we have lost it for thousands of years. 

1. The website gives a reading of 411.7 ppm for July 2019. (accessed 13 August 2019)
* I need to modify this statement a little.  A forest can be replanted, so long as those doing the replanting accept that they will not live to see the forest in its glory, and that the forest may not be a "forest" for several hundred years.

Monday 5 August 2019

A More Beneficial A.I.

The world is full of acronyms, and A.I. is one of the more recent.  I guess most people when confronted with the acronym A.I. will think Artificial Intelligence.

Artificial Intelligence though, has risks and harmful effects.  Elon Musk (who you think would know something about A.I. with his electric cars, spaceships and Mars project) has called A.I. our biggest existential threat and that
“With artificial intelligence we are summoning the demon.”1
I’ve been searching for a more beneficial A.I. and I’ve found it.

A.I. in my world stands for Arboreal Immersion.

Arboreal means relating to trees or resembling the form of a tree, especially its branching patterns.

Arboreal also means inhabiting or frequenting trees.  This is the sense with which I mean the term  A.I. – Arboreal Immersion.

A.I. means to immerse oneself within trees, in a forest.

You may recognise this idea in its more common term – Forest Bathing.

Forest Bathing is the English term given to the Japanese word Shinrin-yoku, where the practice began in the 1980s.

Of course, the benefits of nature and being in a forest setting have been understood by many cultures for many thousands of years.  However, the specific practice and study of Shinrin-yoku is recent.

Forest Bathing (Arboreal Immersion) involves entering a forest slowly and quietly, with no intention to get anywhere.  The idea is to simply immerse oneself in the forest and open ones outer senses to the surroundings.  What do you notice?  What do you see, hear, smell, touch, taste?  Arboreal Immersion is not an intellectual practice of identifying species, nor is it a setting in which to display or increase our knowledge.

It is simply a container in which we allow our senses to just – sense.

We also open ourselves to our inner senses.  We allow nature to access our inner nature.  What do we intuit from the forest?  What feelings and emotions are stirred inside us?

Over the course of the past few decades there has been a lot of research carried out with much of that research showing the tremendous benefits of Forest Bathing.  Benefits that include:
  • assisting in mental health disorders, including ADHD, anxiety, and depression.
  • helping to mitigate migraines,
  • overcoming obesity, musculoskeletal complaints, and respiratory diseases,
  • increased feelings of gratitude and wonder,
  • a deeper sense of relaxation (mental and physical).
In our hurly-burly, go-go-go, daily lives our sympathetic nervous system (the one that kicks in as a fight/flight/freeze response) is constantly on edge, just waiting nervously to be set in motion.  When continuous, this is an unhealthy state and keeps our heart rate on constant alert.

Forest Bathing helps to settle this sympathetic system so that our parasympathetic nervous system can restore our “natural” state.

Planetary Benefits

Of course, the benefits of Forest Bathing go well beyond the individual benefits.  Jacques Yves Cousteau commented that
“People protect what they love.”
People who spend time Forest Bathing come to love the forest and nature; and thus come to feel more protective towards nature and forests in particular.

The benefits of forests are well known in terms of the carbon/oxygen cycle.  If we love the forest, we will protect the forest, and in doing so will protect the whole planet, and ourselves.

Yes, Arboreal Immersion has many benefits for individuals, communities, natural systems, and the planet as a whole.

I prefer the natural benefits of this form of A.I. rather than the artificial dangers of the other form of A.I.

1. The Washington Post, 24 October 2014.