The name of this blog, Rainbow Juice, is intentional.
The rainbow signifies unity from diversity. It is holistic. The arch suggests the idea of looking at the over-arching concepts: the big picture. To create a rainbow requires air, fire (the sun) and water (raindrops) and us to see it from the earth.
Juice suggests an extract; hence rainbow juice is extracting the elements from the rainbow, translating them and making them accessible to us. Juice also refreshes us and here it symbolises our nutritional quest for understanding, compassion and enlightenment.

Wednesday 29 April 2020

Planet Of The Humans (A Review)

"How long has the human race still got here?"  So begins the latest (free to view) documentary/movie
from the Michael Moore stable.  This time the movie is directed by Jeff Gibbs.

Posing that question to a few people in the street, Gibbs obtains answers ranging from a couple of years, through one million years, right on up to "infinity," although I suspect those that gave that answer may not have heard of the Big Bang either.

It's an interesting question, one which probably has no definitive answer.  It is just one of a number of crucial questions the film asks, all revolving around the theme of climate change and other planetary support systems.  Here are a couple more questions to ponder before seeing the film:
  • Do you think green energy will save the planet?
  • Can renewable energy sources make humanity's life on earth sustainable?
  • Will technological advances in the future allow us to keep living on this planet?
  • Are electric vehicles the transport of the future?
If you answered "Yes" to any or all of those questions, then this film says - Think Again!

The film begins by acknowledging and recognising that "we have known about the dangers of climate change for six decades."  We have yet to address these dangers.  This film contends that the seemingly consensus answer to the issue is untenable.  Switching from fossil fuels to green, renewable energy is not going to solve the problem Gibbs says.  Instead, he asks another pertinent question: "Is it possible for machines made by industrial civilisation to save us from industrial civilisation?"  That, is a vital question.  Not so much for the direct answer we may get, but because the question strikes at the very mode of thinking in which the (predominantly western-styled) world operates.  The mode of thinking that has brought us to the present impasse.

Three corollaries to that question are further posed in the film:  "What if a single species took over the entire planet?  What if that species goes too far...goes way, way, way, too far?  How would they know when it is time to go?"  These are questions of importance, as they go to the heart of who we (humans) are, what our purpose is here, and where do we fit in the grand scheme of things.

Unfortunately, the film does not delve much further into these questions, preferring instead to settle for claiming that our present answer (renewable energy) is not the answer.  That is true - renewable energy is not the answer.  Indeed, in many instances, as the film suggests, renewable energy poses new, and further, environmental and/or social problems.  And here the film gets sidetracked - into the field of biomass and biofuel.

Much of the second half of the film shows the damaging effects of biomass (e.g. burning wood chips for energy) and biofuel (e.g. coconut oil as airline fuel).  The film conflates these energy sources with renewable energy, and although often accounted for in official columns marked "renewable," it is rather disingenuous to suggest that most of the ordinary members of the environmental movement would see it that way.  Here too is a source of confusion made by the film.  The film conflates "environmentalism" with "climate activism."  It may be true that most "environmentalists" are also "climate activists," but it is possibly not accurate to suggest that most "climate activists" are also "environmentalists."  The climate activism movement consists of those acting from purely anthropocentric thinking, through to those with wider environmental concerns.

However, there is a semblance of a fair critique of renewable energy.  Solar and wind, and electric vehicles all use materials dug from the earth for their construction, some of which are environmentally and socially damaging - particularly the materials needed for battery construction. (1) Unfortunately, this film only skims over these issues.  It would have been better to focus on these rather than get sidetracked into biomass.

If the film does suggest a solution, then it does so by hinting at population control.  The film notes the enormous rise in the world's population since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, and suggests that this is the basic problem.  In part it is, but what needs to be asked is - which population?  The world's people are not created equal.  The poorest are often those at most risk of climate change, yet are also those who have contributed the least to carbon emissions.

Some have criticised the film on these grounds, claiming it to advocate ecofacism.  I'm not sure that I could detect an answer that extreme in the film.  Unfortunately however, the film stops short of the logical step of reigning in the consumption level of large proportions of the earth's population.

The film rightly notes that climate activism looks for a solution in the supply side of the equation.  It looks towards new, renewable, green energy as supplying us with the energy we need in order to be sustainable.  Therein is the mistake, as the film rightly points out, but fails to follow up on.

If we are going to find a way to heal this world, and ourselves, then we must begin looking at the consumption side.  Since 1980 the world's population has increased from 4.5 billion to 7.6 billion in 2017 - an increase of 70%.  In the same period the global demand for electricity has increased 205% and the number of private vehicles on the roads of the world has also more than doubled.  It is more than simply population growth - it is an insatiable consumption appetite. (1)

Although this film has its shortcomings it is worth watching, not so much for the answers it gives, nor even for the answers it disputes, but for the questions it raises.

Planet of the Humans is available free of charge from the film's website.

1. In a previous blog post I referred to the environmental and social problems associated with electric battery construction, as well as to the overall consumption disease afflicting western-styled cultures.

Thursday 23 April 2020

I Know Nothing

Photo: Solveig Larsen
In the midst of coronavirus what am I learning? 

First and most importantly, I am learning that I am not an epidemiologist, I am not a virologist, I am not a doctor.  I am learning that I have no medical training.

Yet, I have joined in social media debates a few times, arguing about the whys and wherefores, the rights and wrongs - of what coronavirus is, or isn’t, what it can do, and what we do to overcome or live with it.

I have offered my opinions.

But, as time has gone on I have learnt something else, something far more important.

I have learnt that I know nothing.

In times like these, when the world appears topsy-turvy, I (as I suspect many) am tempted to look for, and grasp at, certainty.  We can look for that certainty in the proclamations of our governments, in social media, or in conspiracy theories.

Yet nothing in this world is certain. 

So, I am learning that I know nothing.

In learning that, I accept that perfect certainty is impossible to obtain.  Then, with that acceptance, it becomes possible to discern with greater clarity what is more likely and what is less likely.

In that learning, I recognise that, in fact, I am remembering something that I thought I’d learned some time ago.  I thought I had learned the Zen Buddhist concept of “Beginner’s Mind.”  It seems I had forgotten.

So, now I re-member, re-learn, and re-apply this simple Zen concept.

The Japanese word shoshin in Zen Buddhism suggests an attitude of openness, eagerness, and a lack of preconceptions.

Just as a beginner.

Just as someone who knows nothing.

However, knowing nothing does not mean I am helpless, or lacking in motivation.  Knowing nothing does not cast me adrift in a sea of relativism.  Nor does it mean that every wind that blows is worth setting my sails to.  Nor does it mean I do not know what to do.

The other Buddhist word that is useful at this time is the Sanskrit term shunyata, often translated as “emptiness.”  Emptiness though does not do the term justice.  The Buddhist scholar David Loy1 comments that the word comes from the root word shunya meaning
“…’to swell’ in two senses: hollow or empty, and also like the womb of a pregnant woman.”
This coronavirus is providing me with an opportunity to learn the meaning of shoshin and shunyata.  It is providing me with the opportunity to learn what it is like to approach life, and my role in it, as a beginner with a mind that is empty, yet full of pregnant promise.

I am being offered the chance to look forward with eagerness to what may emerge.

I am being offered the chance to let go of my preconceptions, my prejudices, and perhaps even my “knowledge.”

I am being offered the chance to become open to differing points of view, yet also noticing when a point of view is simply that – an opinion.

I am, in the words of Shunryū Suzuki2 being taught that,
“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.”
With a beginner’s mind and with pregnant emptiness I come to learn that understanding how I arrive at what is good, healthy, and real is more important that knowing what is good, healthy, and real.

Because, if I focus on the what I fall back into grasping on to certainty.

Attachment to what says “I know” and negates my Beginner’s Mind.

1. David Loy, Nonduality: A Study in Comparative Philosophy, Humanity Books, New York, 1998.
2. Shunryū Suzuki is a Zen monk who helped popularise Zen in the western world and is credited with founding the first Buddhist monastery outside Asia.  He is well known for his book, Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind.

Thursday 16 April 2020

Personal, Political, Planetary

“The personal is political,” became one of the catch-phrases of the feminist movement of the 1960s and 70s.  The slogan caught on after an article written by Carol Hanisch was published in 1969. 

Prior to the feminist movement of that time, issues such as childcare, household labour, and problems like depression and anxiety, where considered purely personal or private in nature.  They had nothing to do with politics.  Hanisch’s article and the feminist movement as a whole challenged this, and reframed the very notion of politics.

Before continuing, lets stop to consider the meaning of political.  Too often, “political” gets constrained within terms of political parties, parliaments, Prime Ministers, politicians, elections etc.  The word politics however, comes from the Greek polis meaning the community of citizens of a city or city-state.

Politics then involves all of us.  It is a collective term.  We could describe politics as being the process by which a community or society makes decisions for its collective well-being or sustainability.

As such, we are all political beings.1

With this understanding it becomes clear that indeed, the personal IS political.  It is not a one-way effect though: the political is also personal.

In other words, everything is connected, as the later environmental movement went on to tell us.  As that environmental movement expanded and began to understand more and more (with the help of systems thinking) about the truth of inter-connection we began to understand that there is a planetary element as well.

Our personal behaviours and actions have an effect upon our environment.  Our collective decisions have effects also. 

The relatively new theories of chaos and complexity show that very small inputs to a system can have enormous results, and often these results are unpredictable and possibly even difficult to associate with the initial small input.

Such is the complexity, intricacy, and connectivity of all aspects of the world – the personal, the political, and the planetary.

We are now able to recognise that not only is the personal political, the personal is also planetary. 

Recognising and understanding these three ‘P’s is like knowing how a two edged sword works – it cuts both ways.

Our personal behaviours may have damaging planetary implications.  Our personal behaviours may also have healing implications. 

Our choices matter.  Our personal choices may be just as significant as our collective political choices.  What we choose to do in one arena has an influence upon what is done in another.

There are some who contend that individual (personal) actions are insignificant (almost of no value) and that only systematic (political) change will make a difference.  Others suggest that the only thing we can do is act as individuals.

Understanding the connection between the Personal, the Political, and the Planetary gives us another insight – one in which everything matters, everything influences everything else.

This last point may only just be coming to be realised in western thought.  Buddhism and other eastern philosophies have known this for centuries.  Buddhism calls it dependent arising.

1. Even to say that one is apolitical or non-political is still to make a political statement, and is an act that has collective impact.

Wednesday 8 April 2020

The Lost Sound

Photo: Solveig Larsen
We now live in a world of noise, continuous sounds, and chatter and clatter.

Sometimes the sounds may come to us as a symphony - a word deriving from the Greek syn (together, with) and phone (sound, voice).  These sounds may be pleasant and healthy.

Too often though the sounds are a cacophony.  Also deriving from Greek: kakos (bad, evil) and phone (sound, voice).

Think about daily life.  Most of the sounds many of us hear are of the urban rumble of vehicle engines, blaring adverts, inane musik in shopping malls, the clamour of crowds, or the dissonant scream of aircraft or trains.  And, most of the time, we ignore the intrusion, we block it out and it becomes simply background noise.

Amidst all this clatter and chatter what happens to us? 

Constant noise has been linked to anxiety, depression, high blood pressure, and stroke.  Simply put: it’s not good for us.

Noise is a stressor that can trigger our fight/flight response.  When noise pollution is constant our stress levels can become chronic and we are left in a constant state of unhealthy stress.

When this is the state for most within a community or society, then the “fight” response manifests itself in aggression, violence and anti-social behaviour.

It is no wonder that many of our political debates descend into name-calling, bickering, and veiled animosity.

Cacophony in its root meaning describes it well, doesn’t it?  Bad, or evil, sound.


There is a lost sound that may assist us in reducing the impact of constant cacophony.  In fact, it is perhaps so lost in the mists of (western cultural) time that I have had to come up with a new word for it -

Ochiphony.  Ochi (όχι) is Greek for no, and added to the phone (φωνο) we saw earlier gives us no sound.

I suppose I could have used the word silence, but that word derives from Latin, and I wanted a word that kept to the Greek derivations as for cacophony and symphony.

However, whether we use silence or ochiphony, the absence of noise is not a sound we usually hear.

That last sentence may appear oxymoronic – hearing no sound.  Almost like the famous Japanese koan – what is the sound of one hand clapping?

But, when you stop, even in a very very quiet space away from human artifice, you will still hear something.  It may be a bird chirping in the distance, the tinkling of a nearby stream, or perhaps the rustling of leaves in a gentle breeze.

Quieter still.  In the absence of sounds from outside yourself, if you stop and listen intently you will hear the sound of your breath on your nostrils, or the beating of your heart.

This is the no sound we have lost.  This is the no sound our culture has stolen from us. 

It is, however, within our capacity to re-discover it, to re-claim it, to re-invent it.

And now, during this time of lock-downs and self-isolation, may be an excellent time to re-awaken our ability to hear the sound of no sound.1

One of the best descriptions of this no sound and our ability to listen to it comes from Miriam-Rose Ungunmerr, a Ngangikurungkurr woman from northern Australia.  In her language it is known as dadirri and she describes it as,

“…inner, deep listening and quiet, still awareness.  Dadirri recognises the deep spring that is inside us.  We call on it and it calls to us.”2
Silence, ochiphony, no sound, then, is a deep listening to what is inside us.  It is also reciprocal – we call on it, it calls to us. 

No sound allows us to escape the cacophony of the world and reconnect with that part of us that is pure and beautiful.  It allows us to reconnect with Nature and our Natural Selves.

Learn to hear the ochiphony within and without.

1. I am writing this at the time of the world-wide epidemic of COVID-19 when most countries had some form of isolation or lock-down policies.
2. The word, concept, and spiritual practice that is dadirri is from the Ngan’gikurunggurr and Ngen’giwumirri languages of the Aboriginal peoples of the Daly River region (Northern Territory, Australia)

P.S. Did you notice the face in the pond in the photo associated with this post?  The face reminds us of the "deep spring inside us."

Wednesday 1 April 2020

Where Do We Fit?

Where do we fit?  It is a question that has not often been asked within western-styled cultures.

It is a question that would probably be considered strange, or even absurd, within indigenous and/or nature-based cultures.  In such cultures the question may not even need to be asked, as everyday life is the answer to the question.

However, for those of us from western-styled cultures it is a useful question to ask.  Where do we fit?

Fit?  In what?  Strange that we don’t ask it, given that it was a western mind that first formulated a theory that allows the question to be asked.

Who was that?  Charles Darwin.

But didn’t he say that it was all about survival of the fittest?  Well, yes and no.

Yes, he did use the phrase, but he did not coin it.  On The Origin Of Species was first published in 1859, but it was not until a decade later, in 1869, with the fifth edition that the phrase “survival of the fittest” was used.  Herbert Spencer had used the term in his own book two years earlier, and a friend of Darwin’s suggested that the phrase better suited Darwin’s theory, than the phrase “natural selection.”

What did he mean by “fittest”?  Instead of jumping to misleading ideas of “quickest, biggest, strongest etc” let’s see what Darwin himself wrote.
“Let it also be borne in mind how infinitely complex and close-fitting are the mutual relations of all organic beings to each other and to their physical conditions of life; and consequently what infinitely varied diversities of structure might be of use to each being under changing conditions of life.”1
We see here a clear reference to “fitness,” in Darwin’s mind, referring to the mutual relationships, and not about competition.

Writing half a century later, the Russian writer, activist, scientist, philosopher, Peter Kropotkin took this idea of mutuality further and in his book Mutual Aid, wrote that Darwin had
“… intimated that … the fittest are not the physically strongest, nor the cunningest, but those who learn to combine so as mutually to support each other, strong and weak alike, for the welfare of the community.”2
Clearly, Darwin and those who understood his works at the time, thought of fitness in much the same way as we might think of a jigsaw piece fitting into the jigsaw picture.

Do We Fit The Jigsaw?

For the past ten millennia we westerners have become accustomed to breaking the jigsaw apart rather than working out where we fit. 

Along the way we decided that the jigsaw of nature and the world had to be contended with, it had to be tamed and exploited.  So, we ripped up some of the jigsaw pieces around us, and threw them away.  We tried replacing them with other pieces, pieces that we manufactured, because we thought they would be better than nature, an improvement.

But, they are not an improvement.  The jigsaw pieces we create do not “fit” with their neighbours, and so the whole jigsaw gets disrupted.


Discovering where we fit has to begin with dispelling the myth that “fitness” means biggest, strongest, fastest, greatest.

It also means having to discard the notion that we are the smartest, the most complex of creatures.  It means banishing the thought that we can improve things and make things better than they already are.

When we ask ourselves “where do we fit?” with the understanding that Darwin or Kropotkin had, then we start asking questions of: connection, relationship, and belonging.

These questions then lead us to ask questions of:
  • what is our responsibility toward the jigsaw pieces around us?
  • at what point do we say “thus far and no more?”
  • how do we ensure that we are aware of the effect our actions have on the rest of the jigsaw?
  • what responsibility do we have to healing the wounds of the pieces we have disrupted?
  • how do we go about this healing?
We do have a place in the jigsaw where we fit.

It is not in every space.  Our task is to find that fit place.

1. Charles Darwin, The Origin Of Species, 6th edition, 1872, pp 82-83
2. Peter Kropotkin, Mutual Aid: A Factor of Evolution, McLure Phillips & Co., New York, 1902, p 12