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, 22 September 2020

Mother Nature On The Run

Fifty years ago this week Neil Young released his classic album After The Goldrush.  The lyrics of the
title track include these prescient lines:

“Look at Mother Nature on the run
In the Nineteen-seventies.”

Once the millennium ticked over and we moved into the next century, Young updated that lyric and it became:

Look at Mother Nature on the run
In the Twenty-first century.”

Mother Nature has been on the run from humans for many years.  During the seventies she had to increase the pace.  Now, fifty years later, Mother Nature is sprinting, and she is losing the race.

Over the past fifty years the world’s wildlife population has declined by almost 70%.  Species are becoming extinct at a rate between 100 and 1000 times the natural background rate – because of human activity.

The first human made plastic was demonstrated at the International Exhibition in London in 1862 (just 160 years ago).  In 1970 less than 50 million tonnes of plastic was produced world-wide.  Fifty years later we produce over 400 million tonnes, much of it ending up in the world’s oceans.  It is estimated that ninety percent of all plastic produced ends up as waste.

Approximately one-fifth of the Amazon rainforest has been destroyed in the past fifty years.

More than one-third of the world’s arable land has been lost since 1970.  Human activity has increased erosion by 10 – 50 times the usual rate through our agricultural activities, deforestation, urbanisation, transport infrastructure, and climate change.

Mother Nature is losing the race.  She is exhausted.

Humans have chased her down, cut down her trees, slaughtered her fauna, decimated her flora, and poisoned her with waste.

We have also captured her, tamed her, and put her in a cage.  Nowadays it is possible to download an app of nature sounds to your phone,1 or watch and listen to a video of a gentling flowing stream, or rustling leaves on your laptop.

Isn’t it time we stopped chasing Mother Nature?  Isn’t it time we stopped the race?  Isn’t it time we let Mother Nature out of the cage, and let her return to the wild?  Isn’t it time we helped Mother Nature heal and recover?

Isn’t it time we realised that we are racing the race against ourselves?

Note

1. A google search for “nature sound app” returned 167 million hits. Roughly the number of trees cut down every week or two.(accessed 22 September 2020) 

Tuesday, 15 September 2020

The Courage To Change

Sometime in the early 1930s Reinhold Niebuhr wrote a prayer, the first verse of which has come to be

Reinhold Niebuhr
known as the Serenity Prayer.  Niebuhr wrote:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
the courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.

Although Niebuhr’s prayer is couched in theological terms, the sentiment could easily help us clarify our social justice actions.

When I - a white, older-aged, male, residing in one of the world richest nations – consider what things I can change, these come to mind.

Racism is predominantly a system and a structure of providing white people benefits within society and largely excluding those of dark skin.  It has been built on the back of (often) brutal colonisation and a Eurocentric sense of superiority.  My ethnic background and heritage place me squarely in the position of being able to do something about that – to change it.

My age (I was born in the 1950s) means that I have grown up in an age of plenty, an age of exploitation of the earth, an age of increasing individualisation and entitlement.  When I look around at my cohort today I see little has changed.  My peers are still approaching the earth as if it is a big playground.  Meanwhile, the future of younger generations is being stolen from them, and the memory of past generations is being forgotten or placed in museums.  My age enables me to work to change this.

Sexism and misogyny are the outcome of a system that is patriarchal in nature.  Patriarchy is dominated by male thought, by male values, by male attitudes.  Those values and attitudes have: seen domestic abuse and violence at high levels, maintained an economic imbalance between the sexes, plundered the earth, given rise to authoritarianism, and even exploited some men (particularly gay men, black men, boys.)  As a man I have a responsibility to change this.

Inequality of wealth and income is one of the drivers of so many social ills.  Poverty, malnutrition, lack of access to clean water, homelessness, displaced peoples and migrants, various addictions, and poor health, can all be attributed to inequality.  In 2019 there were 2,153 billionaires (less than the number needed to fill the average cruise ship), yet these billionaires had more wealth than 4.6 billion people (60% of the world's population.)  The 22 richest men in the world own more wealth than all the women in Africa.1  Even I (who have an income that is just a little above the Australian official poverty level) am wealthier than almost 90% of the world’s people.  As a resident of a rich nation I can do something to help change this.

There are many things in the world that I have little, or no, ability to change, even though I may find them disturbing, unjustified, or oppressive.  However, those I have just outlined I do have the ability to change, because I live within each of those enclaves and am supported by and benefit from them.  And that is where Niebuhr calls us to courage.

It is far more courageous to look at the systems I am part of and seek to change from within, than it is to point the finger elsewhere and say “you have to change.”

What if look but don’t see?

I suggest there is one more line to add to Niebuhr’s prayer.

The humility to listen to those in pain and suffering.

Note:

1. Statistics from:  Oxfam International, Time To Care: Unpaid and underpaid care work in the global inequality crisis, January 2020.


Wednesday, 9 September 2020

Will The Last Human Plant A Tree?

There is an Indian saying: “Blessed is the one who plants trees under whose shade they will never sit.”

If we stop long enough to listen to the earth we will hear the sounds of hundreds upon hundreds of trees being felled every minute.  We will hear the sounds of birds bemoaning their lack of habitat.  We will hear Mother Earth herself cry out in pain as she is cut into with rock-crushing machinery.

And if we take the time to read the research then we will realise that we are in what has been termed the “Sixth Extinction.”  The fifth extinction took place approximately 65 million years ago, famously wiping out the dinosaurs and killed around half of all life on the planet.  The extinction period is considered to have lasted between 1 and 2 ½ million years.  Famously, it is also thought to have been caused by an external event – the impact of a meteor up to 80km in diameter and delivering an energy equivalent to 21 – 960 billion Hiroshima sized bombs.

The Sixth Extinction could take much less than this amount of time, and without such a massive fireball of energy.  It just requires us humans continuing to do what we are doing.

Over the course of the past century or two our impact upon the earth has been to increase the background extinction rate by 100 – 1,000 times the usual rate.  Yet, if we look at the list of those species that have already gone extinct, and if we consider the extinction list of species that will become extinct, we often miss noticing one particular species on that list.  Homo sapiens.  Us, yes, we humans are on that list of species likely to become extinct.

It is a distinct possibility.  Many of earths climatic and biodiversity tipping points have been reached, and some possibly already triggered.  Once these tipping points are triggered then a cascade of tipping points will be triggered.  That means one thing.

No matter what we do there will be nothing we can do to control the runaway.

We have no solutions.

We have no hope.

Pessimistic?  Hopeless?  Despairing?  Apocalyptic?  Doomsday?  Maybe, maybe not.

What do we do?  First, continuing our destructive, affluent, mindless, exploitative lifestyles cannot continue.  We must stop.

Then, when we stop, we will perhaps discover that there is a grief in our knowledge.  This is to be expected, for “grief is a way of loving what has slipped from view.  Love is a way of grieving that which has not yet done so.”1   Stephen Jenkinson eloquently reminds us that grief and love are intimately entwined.   

Stephen Jenkinson is a Canadian and one of his compatriots, Leonard Cohen, made a prescient observation in his song Boogie Street, when he sang:

“It was in love that we are made,

In love we disappear.”2

We could turn our disappearing - our extinction – into a time to rediscover and re-connect with the noble aspects of our humanity: love, compassion, kindness, empathy. 

Am I suggesting giving up hope?  Yes, for hope is a hopeless cause (if you’ll excuse the quip.) 

I am however, suggesting we act as if our grief and our love (for ourselves, for others, for the planet) are real and palpable. 

So, when the last human is about to die, will they plant a tree?

Notes:

1.  1. Stephen Jenkinson, Die Wise: A Manifesto for Sanity and Soul, North Atlantic Books, Berkeley, California, 2015.

2.  2. Leonard Cohen, Boogie Street, on the album Ten New Songs, Columbia, 2001.


Wednesday, 2 September 2020

Lessons From Orienteering

We’ve lost our way.  All over the world we seem to be lost, or at least, confused about where to go and

how to get there.  We may even be uncertain how we got to where we are.

If we are looking for a world of greater biodiversity, peacefulness, and racial and sexual egalitarianism, then we have lost our way.  If we are searching for a world where all have their nutritional needs met, where access to clean water is available to all, and where we can ensure that future generations will be able to appreciate beauty, then we have lost our way.

We’ve lost sight of our social and environmental goals and are fumbling around trying to find our way back on track.  We’re going round and round in circles, following our own tracks, and repeating the same errors time and time again.

Orienteers know this scenario well.  Heading towards a defined point on a map an orienteer may suddenly find themselves unsure where they are.  What to do?  First – don’t panic.  Orienteers learn to re-locate.  Orienteers learn how to re-locate themselves on the map.

Two re-location techniques are: 1. Go back to where you last knew where you were, and 2. Find a high point and gain a wider point of view.  Both techniques may be of use to us in re-locating ourselves and finding our way back on track towards our social and environmental goals.

Go Back

Oftentimes one is confronted with the refrain that “we can’t go back.”  In terms of our technological inventions that may be true (or, may not.)  However, to “go back” in terms of our technology limits our thinking to one simply of utility.  We can go back to a former way of thinking; a form of thinking that those of us in western-styled culture have lost.  We can go back to a thinking that recognises that we are part of nature, not separate from nature.  We can go back to a thinking that understands community, cooperation, and mutuality.  We can go back to a thinking that realises that what we do has consequences.  We can go back to a thinking that admits to limits and concedes when enough is enough.

Gain A Higher Ground

When we get to higher ground we gain an overview, a wider picture.  We begin to see how things are inter-related.  We may even see, if we’re lucky, where we just were and where we need to get to, or at least, a prominent feature along the way.

When we take an overview in terms of our social and environmental goals we come to understand that all aspects of life are connected and inter-related.  We come to understand that the healing of the planet, the healing of our social relationships, and the healing of ourselves are all part of the same work.  Woking to save the planet is doomed if not connected to healing our damaged communities, and neither are obtainable if we do not heal our fractured selves.

Someone once said, “If you want to change anything, start everywhere.  If you want to change everything, start anywhere.”  When we gain higher ground and see the bigger picture, the veracity of that statement becomes unambiguous.

It’s Not Easy Going

Going back to a previous way of thinking, or taking a wider perspective does not, however, guarantee that the way ahead is any easier, or clearer.  The terrain is complex and simple solutions do not present themselves easily.

But, re-locating ourselves may be just what we need to do instead of blithely and furiously charging ahead with no idea of where we are headed, or where we have come from.

Wednesday, 26 August 2020

C.O.V.I.D.

The past few months have brought us not only pandemic but also a large degree of pandemonium.

In that time I have read, and listened to, politicians, experts, and friends telling me their thoughts, ideas, and mostly, their “knowledge.”  Some tell me Covid-19 is a deadly virus and we need to lock-down, keep our physical distance, wear a mask, and listen to experts and authorities.  Others tell me it is all a hoax, or at least not as harmful as we are told.  Still others tell me that the reaction from authorities is an over-reaction and that personal and individual liberties are under threat.

I do not wish to enter into a never-ending, continuous cycle of claim, counter-claim and ultimately futile conversation.  I acknowledge I have no knowledge, no background study or education, in any of this.  Hence, I can offer no opinion on the rights/wrongs of the measures taking place.  I do, however, know how I can act in the world at this time. 

Thinking of how to act I arrived at this C.O.V.I.D. attitude and understanding:

C is for Compassion.  There has been a lot of anger, blame-gaming, and name-calling by many on all sides during this time.  Compassion allows me to step back from these cul-de-sacs and allow me to have compassion for those who have had loved ones die.  I can find compassion for those embroiled in accusations and counter-accusations.  Furthermore, I have compassion for myself, for my own fears, uncertainties, and weariness.

O is for Observing, especially observing emotional responses.  I notice in others, and in myself, that many of our emotional responses arise from a place of fear.  For some it is a fear of illness or even death – of themselves or a loved one.  For some it is a fear of loss of work and hence, loss of income.  Yet others fear the loss of personal, or individual, liberty.  I can observe all of these fears arising in my own reactions and thoughts.

V is for Valuing each moment.  When I meditate, or remind myself of the practice of Mindfulness, my emotional state shifts towards ease and I can enter a zone of contentment, accepting what is without judgment.  Valuing each moment allows me to be present with my own feelings and also present to the particular engagements I may have with others from moment to moment.

I is for Inter-being.  Inter-being is a term coined by the Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh who (with a nod to Descartes) expresses it as: “I am, therefore you are.  You are, therefore I am.  We inter-are.”  When I try to fully understand this, it becomes extremely difficult, if not impossible, to point fingers, name-call, or describe others as fools or idiots, meanwhile suggesting a woke1 attribution to myself and those who think like me.  Furthermore, the notion of inter-being does not stop with humanity; it extends to the whole planetary system.  Thus, the ways in which we have treated (mis-treated is more apt) nature has profound repercussions for us.  We cannot isolate ourselves from nature, and in our attempt to do so (an enterprise we have been on for centuries) we disrupt the intricate networks so much that something, somewhere, is going to give.  Now that it has – we don’t like it.  (I’ll just leave that last sentence hanging.)

D is for Death.  Stephen Jenkinson2 describes our western-styled culture as “…death-phobic and grief-illiterate.”   Death-phobia leads to death-denial and death-fearing.  We do all in our power to put off death and keep living, even if by keeping living we are no longer living.  Yet, as we know, and Buddhism reminds us, everything is impermanent.  Everything passes.  Yet, our aversion to death ironically means we approach life with impunity.  Perversely, our refusal to face death means we fail to live life fully.  Covid-19 brings us, if we are willing to allow it, face-to-face with our mortality.  And, being grief-illiterate we fail to recognise the love that is part and parcel of grief, slipping more easily into anger or despair.

Each of these five actions/attitudes are inter-connected, and the reader should treat them that way.  In doing so, you will discover your own meanings and connections.

For me, these five interconnected attitudes allow me to act in the world during a time of chaos, misunderstandings, confusion, and doubts.  Ultimately, how I act is of far more importance than my opinion on the rights and wrongs of the debates on Covid-19.

Note:

1.     Woke is a term borrowed – or stolen – from the Black Lives Matter movement, and essentially means to have an awareness of racial and social justice issues

2.     Stephen Jenkinson, Die Wise: A Manifesto for Sanity and Soul, North Atlantic Books, Berkeley, 2015

Thursday, 20 August 2020

Have We Begun To Retrace Our Steps?

This time last year we had already overshot our yearly carrying capacity by three weeks.  This

year (2020) Earth Overshoot Day is on 22 August – last year it was 29 July.

That means that on 22 August this year we will have globally consumed and wasted more of the earth’s biological carrying capacity than is available for a whole year.

But, it comes three weeks later this year.  This is a welcome shift.

Overshoot Day is calculated using two factors.  Our Ecological Footprint, and the Earth’s Biocapacity.  Ecological Footprint is how much biological productive area it takes to provide for the demands of all people.  Biocapacity is the capacity of Earth to provide for these demands plus absorb the waste we create.  Since the late 1960s our Ecological Footprint has consistently been greater than the earth’s biocapacity.  That is unsustainable.  That is untenable.

An analogy may help.  Suppose you begin with $1,000.  Each year you spend $1,100 and you get back $1,000.  So, you begin the next year with $1,000, but owing $100 from the previous year.  So, you effectively begin with $900.  Suppose you continue spending at the rate of $1,100 each year, and get back $1,000.  Then, simple arithmetic tells you that you are steadily reducing your capital.  You could, if you wished, calculate the date on each year when you have spent more than you began the year with.  That is Earth Overshoot Day.

But, this year, we put back the date of Overshoot by three weeks.  This is the greatest “recovery” we have made since Earth Overshoot Day was first calculated, in the 1960s.  The last time Overshoot Day was at this time of the year was in 2005 – fifteen years ago!

How?  The simple answer is covid-19.  During this pandemic we consumed less, we travelled less, we used less energy, and we chopped down fewer trees.  The biocapacity of Earth did not increase, our global footprint decreased - by 9.3% according to one estimate.1

So, have we turned the corner and begun a journey of recovery and healing?

Before we get to complacent, it pays to delve further into the idea of overshoot.  August 22nd is the day on which Earth as a whole overshoots its biocapacity limit.  Many countries consume at such a level that overshoot day arrives much earlier in the year.  For the USA, Canada, Australia, and UAE overshoot is in March.  The Scandinavian nations overshoot between late March and the middle of April.  Europeans overshoot in April and May.  New Zealand and Japan do so in May also.  China overshoots in June.

At the other end of the scale, nations such as Indonesia, Ecuador, Iraq, Nicaragua, and Cuba all overshoot in early to mid-December.  A few almost manage to live within the biocapacity of the earth; for example, Kyrgyzstan (26th December), Myanmar (25th December), and Niger (25th December.)

The conclusion is obvious.  If we wish to reduce our ecological footprint so that we do not overstep our biocapacity then it is the rich nations of the world that are going to have to make the crucial, and larger, steps.

We’ve made a start - three weeks worth.

Are these the first steps on a road to living within our means?  Will we keep making such important steps next year? 

Note

1ht1. https://www.footprintnetwork.org/2020/06/05/press-release-june-2020-earth-overshoot-day/  accessed 20 August 2020

Tuesday, 11 August 2020

Sand Talk (A Review)

I acknowledge the ancestors of this mighty land, called Australia by the colonisers.  I pay my respects to the elders past and present and the emerging leaders of the future.  The ancestors of this land have cared for and formed deep relationships with this land for many many thousands of years.

Tyson Yunkaporta belongs to the Apalech Clan from Western Cape York, and is a senior lecturer in Indigenous Knowledges at Deakin University.  His recently published book, Sand Talk,1 draws on the knowledge and traditions of those ancestors, elders, and emerging leaders, to expose global (primarily western) ways of thinking to a lens of Indigenous Knowledge.  Without saying so directly, Yunkaporta finds western knowledge systems lacking.

It doesn’t take much looking around to agree with him.  The world is in a mess and that is largely because of western thinking.  But, don’t read this book to discover the jewels or nuggets that exist in Indigenous Knowledge that can be used to save the world (as the sub-title suggests.)  Yunkaporta warns that using Indigenous Knowledge in this way has for centuries been how western colonisers have treated such knowledge.  Colonisers have plundered and stolen knowledge and used it (often in ways it is not meant to be) to further the exploitative and destructive process of colonisation.

Yunkaporta would prefer that non-Indigenous peoples acknowledged and learnt from the processes of Indigenous Thinking.  And here is where this book is of profound importance – it sheds a light on the different thinking processes used by Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples to arrive at Knowledge.

Indeed, Yunkaporta goes further.  He insists that non-Indigenous people do not need to acquire Indigenous Knowledge, but rather, need assistance in remembering our own thinking processes.  He is right.  We do have thinking and knowledge systems based in patterns, holism, and complexity.  We have forgotten them, or have had them stolen from us.  Yunkaporta reminds us to go look for them again.

Yunkaporta uses the customary technique of drawing images in sand to illustrate and assist in passing on knowledge.  Each chapter uses a sand drawing for this purpose, as well as a yarn2 with many Aboriginal people to add to Yunkaporta’s own ideas and thoughts.  These techniques give this book a holistic and grounded feeling.  A sense of ancient wisdom comes through in the images, the yarns, and almost every sentence of the book.

For readers of this blog who, like me, come from a western-styled, non-Indigenous, culture, this book can be challenging.  Not in a linguistic sense – Yunkaporta has a very engaging writing style – but in the ideas presented, especially as the ideas challenge many of the fundamental thinking patterns we have been taught.  So, if you find you have to stop, go back, and re-read sections (as I did) then don’t get disparaged.  Stop, go back, re-read.

Perhaps the most challenging thinking process presented within the book comes just four pages before the end.  In one of his yarns he quotes an Aboriginal woman who describes a way of thinking that begins with Respect, followed on by Connect, then Reflect, and ends with Direct.  She insists on this being the appropriate order and then notes that “non-Aboriginal people seemed to work through the same steps but in reverse.”

Think about that.  It is appropriate that this comes almost as the final comment, as in many ways it sums up the whole book. 

For non-Aboriginal people this is an engaging and challenging book, one that should be read by all.

Notes:

1.     1. Tyson Yunkaporta, sand talk: How Indigenous Thinking Can Save the World, Text Publishing, Melbourne, Australia, 2019.

2.     2. English speakers will recognise the noun yarn as meaning a story or tale.  In Australia, and particularly so within Aboriginal settings, the word has become a verb also, as in to tell a story, to talk.


Thursday, 6 August 2020

Atomic Diamond

Today is a Diamond Anniversary.  75 years ago today (6 August 2020) the first atomic bomb was used as a weapon, with the Japanese city of Hiroshima the target.  Only once since then has the atomic bomb again been used as a weapon – just three days later on another Japanese city, Nagasaki.  Estimates of the numbers killed vary, but 200,000 plus seems likely.

Over the following fifty years more than 2,000 atomic bomb tests were conducted in various sites around the world.  In those fifty years the US alone spent at least $5 trillion on nuclear weapons and nuclear weapons related programs.1

Although the numbers of nuclear warheads have been reduced from the height of almost 65,000 in 1986, there are still 13,400 nuclear weapons stockpiled around the world – 90% of them in the hands of the US and Russia.

Spending on nuclear weapons has been exorbitant, yet it’s set to increase.  The US budget this year announced a strategy to replace nearly the entire US nuclear arsenal, at a cost of $44.5 billion for 2021, and increase of 19% from 2020.  From now until 2050 this program is expected to cost over $1.5 trillion, and may be as high as $2 trillion.

Globally, the amount spent on nuclear weapons in 2019 was $72.9 billion, up $7.1 billion from the previous year.  Nuclear weapons spending is enormous, getting bigger, and blatantly immoral.

The costs are significant.  The two bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki killed 200,000 people; the moneys spent on nuclear weapons today just as effectually kill millions today.  Consider these estimates:

·       In the world today 2.1 billion people do not have access to safe drinking water.

·       It is estimated that $150 billion per year would be needed to provide clean safe water for everyone on the planet.

·       2 billion people throughout the world (mostly in Africa) do not have sufficient, healthy food.

·       It is estimated to cost between $7 billion and $265 billion per year to end world hunger.

75 years – a Diamond Anniversary?  Hardly.  Unless the diamond is used to cut through the immorality of it all and shine a light on a peaceful world.

Notes:

1. In case that number is difficult to get your head around, try this.  Suppose that $1 is represented by 1 second of time.  Then $1 million (1 million seconds) is approximately 11 ½ days.  $1 billion is equivalent to 31.7 years, and $1 trillion to 31,700 years, so $5 trillion can be represented as 158,500 years!!  (And $1 million seems a lot)


Wednesday, 29 July 2020

Safety Or Security?

Photo: Solveig Larsen

Over the course of this year, amidst the coronavirus pandemic, there have been phrases such as “keeping us safe,” “it’s for safety reasons,” or similar spread around.

This blogpost is not about the rights or wrongs of the response to coronavirus; in fact, it won’t even use the word again. 

However, the concerns over safety raise important questions related to our, primarily western, approach to how we live in the world.

We have traded in our security for safety.

What do I mean by that?  Aren’t security and safety the same thing?  No, they’re not.  Let’s start back a bit.

Western-styled culture began to disconnect from nature some 10–12,000 years ago, increasing that disconnect significantly since the Industrial Revolution just 200-250 years ago.

As we moved steadily further and further from our natural home, two human responses came with that, both fuelling and being fuelled by the disconnect.

One is a fear of nature.  Nature became a dark, wild, terrifying place.  The other was our desire for control.  Nature was to be tamed, controlled, and exploited.

The two responses are the flip side of each other.  Fear of nature means we must tame and control nature.  A tamed nature suggests it is something to be feared in case it becomes un-tamed.

Because we removed ourselves from nature we had to protect ourselves from this wild, un-tamed, and terrifying locale.  We developed a “cotton-wool” approach (especially during the latter half of the twentieth century) to how we raise children, how we care for the elderly, and to life in general.

Ironically, the more we tried to keep ourselves safe from nature, the more we experienced harmful problems that stem from so-called “natural” sources.

The Paradox

Paradoxically, we become more secure when we let go of the desire to make ourselves safe.  We become safer when we let go of the need to distance ourselves from nature.  Etymologically, the word secure comes from two Latin words, se and cura, which together literally mean without care or setting concern aside.

When we recognise that we are not separate from nature, but are an intimate part of nature, then we no longer need to set up safety nets.  We no longer fear nature.

When we reconnect with nature we become more secure as we settle into our natural niche without wishing to control or exploit nature.

We must let go the insane desire to improve the world, to fix nature.  We must let go our egocentric, and anthropocentric, sense of superiority and separation.

If we continue to act as if we are separate from nature, if we continue to act out of fear of nature, and if we continue to exploit nature, then we will continually be trying, vainly, to find ways to keep ourselves safe.

If we are willing to let go and find our niche in nature, and willing to accept that we are no greater, nor lesser, than any other aspect of nature, then we will find we become naturally secure.

We must let go of wanting to be safe.

We can be secure.

Wednesday, 22 July 2020

Tempered Jubilation

Photo: Solveig Larsen

Last week I wrote of my jubilation in the face of impending environmental and social collapse.  Some readers, especially those of younger generations, may have interpreted that as the attitude of a typical uncaring, apathetic, or unconcerned boomer.


That accusation has some justification.  Acceptance of life as it is, is one of the states-of-mind that has come to me as I grow older.  Acceptance is one of the joys of older age.  Radical acceptance however, does not automatically equate to a detached, unrealistic view of what is happening in, and to, the world.1

My jubilation is not brought about by the pain and suffering that will be inflicted upon many people in the coming years.  I am jubilant because the system that has brought us to the brink can no longer exist, in fact, it must collapse.

Many boomers were aware of the dangers of the industrial-growth system, and actively sought to oppose that system.  Unfortunately, we were unsuccessful.  Nature is now bringing on the collapse herself.  And that is why I am jubilant.  However, that jubilation is tempered by recognising that the collapse of our climate, environment, and biodiversity is highly likely, and that will have a far greater impact on generations to come.

I consider myself lucky to have survived to an age where I can enjoy the peace that comes with radical acceptance.  Acceptance does seem to be one of the benefits that comes with advancing age, but not unique to it – other ages may also discover the freeing power of radical acceptance.

However, the fact that we were unsuccessful in halting the dangerous behemoth of the industrial-growth system (or, for many of my generation, actively colluding with it, and continuing to do so) means that many younger generations may not reach the age at which acceptance becomes a rewarding state-of-mind.

My generation may become one of the last generations that are able to experience the pleasure of acceptance and jubilation.  That necessitates a responsibility no less than it was when I was much younger.  Perhaps, moreso.

Note:
1. “Radical acceptance” was coined by psychologist and author, Tara Branch, who describes it this way:  “Clearly recognizing what is happening inside us, and regarding what we see with an open, kind and loving heart, is what I call Radical Acceptance. If we are holding back from any part of our experience, if our heart shuts out any part of who we are and what we feel, we are fueling the fears and feelings of separation that sustain the trance of unworthiness. Radical Acceptance directly dismantles the very foundations of this trance.”

Wednesday, 15 July 2020

It's The End Of Our World; Everything Is Possible

I have been involved with environmental and social justice movements for around fifty years.  I have been thinking of such issues and occasionally writing about them for almost as long.  Since starting this blogsite eight years ago, I have been thinking, researching, and writing about environmental and social issues consistently.

I am now perhaps more jubilant than I have been at any time in the past fifty years.  That sounds paradoxical when placed alongside the first part of the title for this blog – It’s the end of our world.  Note that the title says our world, not the world.

If the end of our world, our civilisation, seems imminent, or at least, plausible, then how is that I feel jubilant?

Fifty years ago as a youth and young man I was full of idealism, believing that we needed a different social system, one that respected other people and that also respected the environment.  To get to that utopian dream required dismantling the systems that stood in the way.

I, and many of my cohort, trod a path between a “smash the system” destructiveness and the hippie inspired universalism of “love is all you need.”  I believed it, I worked towards it.

Yet, what I was doing then (without realising it,) was simply participating in the same paradigm I was hoping to dismantle.  My destructive voice, based in part on my ego-driven anger and desire for revenge (or at least reprisal), only added to the fear, hate, distrust, and separateness of the system.  On the other hand, my adherence to a future of “flowers, beads, and love,” kept me disconnected from the earth and from other people.  Either way, I remained disconnected.  Either way, I was convinced that human agency was needed to bring about the change needed, and that what I (and others) did was the vehicle for that change.

I didn’t work. 

Now, fifty years later, the signs are clear.  Our industrial-fed, technologically-driven, patriarchally-stratified, and Eurocentric planetary system is under threat of imminent collapse.

And, I’m jubilant.

Nature is taking back control; a control we erroneously thought we had.  Nature is saying “enough is enough.”  Nature is smashing the system that we have imposed upon her.

Accepting that our (human) world is coming to an end, means that everything becomes possible.  When what we know no longer exists, then everything becomes thinkable.  We can rethink everything.

I can rethink everything from how I comb my hair (what’s left of it) to what choices I make to get myself from here to there. 

We, collectively, can rethink everything from how we transport ourselves (indeed, rethinking if we need to transport ourselves) through to how we go about making collective and social decisions (a.k.a. politics).

We can rethink that maybe instead of what we do being important, but that what we don’t do is more important.  We can rethink what it is that we must stop doing.

Hope and False Hope

To say that our world is ending sounds fatalistic, or at least as if I have given up hope.  However, as Paul Kingsnorth1 notes, it is not hope that is being given up, but false hope.  We have to stop deluding ourselves.  The environment within which our systems exist is collapsing, and we are running out of solutions to fix it. 

Solutions?  That may be the other hope we have to give up on.  As Rupert Read2 says, “Really facing up to climate reality means giving up all hope of solutions – without giving up on hope itself.”

I am hopeful.  I am jubilant.

Notes:
1. Paul Kingsnorth is the co-founder of DarkMountain Project.
2. Rupert Read is an active member of Extinction Rebellion UK.

Wednesday, 8 July 2020

Collapsing Into Catastrophic Apocalypse

Graphic: Stanley Zimny at flickr
In This Civilisation Is Finished1 Samuel Alexander (Simplicity Institute) suggests that “crisis might be our best hope for disrupting the status quo and initiating the transition to something else.”  This prognosis is timely, given that we are on the brink (if not having already surpassed) a number of climate and other environmental tipping points.

Predictions and scenario settings for the future envisage a breakdown of environmental systems that lead inevitably to social collapse.  The outcome?  Apocalypse.

Yet, Alexander and his collaborator (Rupert Read from Extinction Rebellion) remain hopeful, or at least, not pessimistic.

Perhaps in a trio of words we use to describe the coming crisis lie the grounds for their sense of non-despair.  This trio are the words: catastrophe, apocalypse, and collapse.  The ancestry of these three words contain signposts for us to follow as we enter an uncertain future.

The words catastrophe and apocalypse both come to us from Greek.  Catastrophe is made up of the word kata meaning to go down, downwards and along.  The second Greek part, strephein, means to turn.  Thus, catastrophe has a sense of “to turn downwards and along,” as if we are metaphorically entering a cave and following it down and into the earth.

The association with sudden disaster is only some 250 – 300 years old.

Apocalypse, also Greek, begins with the prefix apo, meaning away from, or off.  The main part of the word is the Greek word kalyptein, which means to cover, conceal, or hide.

Hence, apocalypse, before it came to mean “an ending of times,” had the idea of uncovering, or revealing.  Indeed, during the Middle Ages, the word apocalypse meant insight, or a vision.  The association with devastation is only less than 200 years old.

The final word in our trio of words, collapse, is of Latin origin.  The prefix col is a form of the prefix com which we recognise in words such as community, commonwealth, and compassion.  As in these words, it means with or together.  The lapse part of the word we recognise in its own right, and comes from the Latin lapsus meaning to slip, fall, slide, or sink.

So, we can re-think collapse as falling, or sliding, together.

Now, let’s put all three words together.  The phrase collapse into catastrophic apocalypse can be re-framed as something that enables a way for us to proceed, although not necessarily in a comfortable manner.  The phrase could mean:

“Turning our attention towards the dark, underground space where our soul resides, and sliding into that space together, deliberately, and in that dark space uncovering and revealing our true selves, and our natural relationship with the earth.”

This is not a comfortable journey.  It will require radical honesty.  It will require a willingness to confront our hidden demons; those aspects of our psyche (individual and collective) that we might prefer remain hidden.  It will require a reappraisal of the autonomous ego.  It will mean healing our fractured selves, and it will mean re-establishing our niche in nature (as opposed to our present separateness).

The journey will necessitate risking all we think we know.  It will necessitate casting aide old habits, old behaviours, and old belief systems. 

It will mean letting go, and stepping into the unknown, into the abyss.

Are we willing to collapse into a catastrophic apocalyptic state?

Notes:
Rupert Read & Samuel Alexander, This Civilisation Is Finished: Conversations on the end of Empire – and what lies beyond, Simplicity Institute, Melbourne, 2019.