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 25 November 2020

Renewing Our Thinking On Renewables

 We keep throwing our carbon waste into the atmosphere, don’t we?  And just like many of our other waste dumps, it heats up.  We used to call it global warming, and then we realised that the Earth’s climate was changing as a result.  We began to call it climate change.  Then we discovered that the change was happening terribly fast, and it was fluctuating wildly.  We changed the phrase again, and called it climate chaos.

The science confirmed it.  The climate is changing.  The change is because of extra carbon in the atmosphere.  The extra carbon is because we put it there.  And now we don’t like it.

We don’t like sea level rise.  We don’t like arctic ice sheets and glaciers melting.  We don’t like more and worse hurricanes, tornadoes, and super-storms.  We don’t like intense heat waves.  We don’t like longer and more intense bushfire seasons.

We don’t like our potential future!

What to do?  The answer seems to suggest a reduction in carbon emissions.  Next question: how does this waste product of carbon get produced?  Simple: from the burning of fossil-fuels.  Why do we burn them?  To provide us with energy.

That’s it then.  Swap to alternative energy sources.  But not a simple swap.  The new energy sources must be sustainable, they must not add further carbon waste.  And, they must be renewable (re-new-able.) 

Following on down that linear cause-effect thinking process we ask:  what is renewable?  Wind and sunshine.  We’ve solved it.  We invent technology that will harness the energy in solar and wind. 

And that has become the main message.  I may be stating it somewhat bluntly, but the essential message of hope is that if we turn away from fossil-fuels and invest in renewables we can solve the climate chaos crisis.  It is a three-pronged solution: solar, wind, battery storage.

Is it really a Solution?

Let’s ask a few more questions.  Let’s do some further thinking on renewables.

What will be the demand for metals needed for Solar Photovoltaics between now and 2050, if we want global warming to remain below 2 degrees Celsius?  On average, production will need to rise by at least 300%.  Silver, for example, has a current annual production level of about 25,000 tonnes.  It will need to rise to over 700,000 tonnes.1

We know that the wind doesn’t always blow and that the sun does not always shine.  Batteries are the answer to having electricity available for when solar and wind does not provide us with direct energy.  Lithium is a key mineral in battery production.  In 2019 lithium mines produced 77,000 tonnes.  To have sufficient storage capacity over the next thirty years production will need to expand to 30 million to 50 million tonnes per year.  That’s 400 times the present production rate!

What’s more, extracting one tonne of lithium from a mine requires 1,250 tonnes of earth to be dug up.  That translates to 50 billion tonnes of earth being dug up annually!2  And that’s just lithium.

Another suggested solution is to replace our petrol and diesel powered vehicles with Electric Vehicles (EVs.)  Sounds reasonable doesn’t it – until we start asking a few questions.  Questions like: how much raw material needs to be mined, moved, and processed in order to make one EV battery?  One EV battery weighs approximately 450 kg.  However, the answer to the question is 225,000 kg, i.e. 225 tonnes.  That is five hundred times the weight of the battery!

Sounds like a lot of earth needs to be dug up, and lots of minerals mined, in order to reach our “renewable” goals.  Perhaps it can be done.  Perhaps the mining industry has sufficient earth moving machinery, or will procure it.

Well, yes, but!!  But, what are we doing?  Tearing into Mother Earth.  Polluting water supplies.  Disrupting indigenous communities.  The damage to environments and people in South America (where minerals such as lithium and nickel are mined) and the Congo (which produces 70% of the world’s cobalt) is already well known.

A few months ago Rio Tinto received world-wide condemnation for blowing up a 46,000 year old site of cultural significance to the Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura people in Western Australia.  Rio Tinto’s CEO and two other senior executives resigned as a result.  This was not the first instance of such culturally significant desecration.

Can we really expect that future miners will not undertake similar destruction simply because the minerals they are exploiting are to be used in renewables?

I can hear the responses already.  The technology will become more efficient.  Perhaps.  If it does though, it will be only small gains in efficiency.  The big efficiency gains have already been made.

There is a limit (known as the Schockley-Queisser Limit) to converting photons to electrons in photovoltaic cells.  It is 34%.  Currently photovoltaic technology is 26% or slightly more.  Most of the potential efficiency is already in the technology.3

Similarly for wind (where it is known as the Betz Limit) the limit of kinetic energy able to be utilised by a turbine is about 60%.  Modern wind turbines exceed 45%.3

Besides, increasing efficiency does not reduce growth in the technology.  Far from it.  Mostly it increases growth.  William Jevons (an English economist) noticed this paradox almost one hundred and sixty years ago.  Jevons realised that technological improvements leading to increased efficiency in coal use, led – contrary to expectation – to greater coal consumption.  The effect has been known as the Jevons Paradox ever since.

What to do then?

Some have pointed to these problems with renewables as evidence that we cannot step aside from fossil-fuels. 

This author is not advocating that conclusion.

However, the above does imply (strongly I would suggest) that we need a renewed approach to how we think about renewables.  That means we need to re-think the solutions we are offering if we intend to remain below a 2 degree rise in global temperature.

The renewable energy solution is one of supply.  It looks to an alternative way to supply the electricity demanded by human beings.

What if we do a rethink, and start asking questions about demand?  That means a renewed approach to our consumption levels. 

Simply put – we are consuming too much.  We are consuming more than Mother Earth can regenerate.

We must stop thinking about renewables and start thinking about de-growth.  We must go into de-tox; recover from our addiction to consumption for consumptions sake.


1. These and the following data are from The Growing Role of Minerals and Metals for a Low Carbon Future, World Bank, 2017.

2.  Presently (as of 2020) 61.1 billion tonnes of metal ore, fossil fuels, and non-metallic minerals are extracted from the Earth annually. (accessed 25 Nov 2020)

3.  Mark P Mills (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), The ‘New Energy Economy’: An Exercise in Magical Thinking, March 2019.

Wednesday 18 November 2020

Going Back

Have you been involved in conversation with others about the state of the world and at some point been told: - But we can’t go back?

How do we handle such accusations and reality-checks?  Can we go back?

No, and yes.

Perhaps it is true that we cannot return to a time when there were: no cars, no refrigerators, no large shopping malls, no television, no mobile phones…

However, we can go back in another, more useful, and more valuable way.  We can go back to a former way of thinking.  Albert Einstein is credited with perhaps the most famous quotation regarding our thinking.

“We cannot solve problems using the same thinking we used when we created them.”

Einstein never actually said this, although he was the Chairman of the Emergency Committee of Atomic Scientists who sent a telegram to prominent Americans in May 1946, in the wake of the dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  That telegram included the phrase,

“…a new type of thinking is essential if mankind is to survive and move toward higher levels.”

In neither case did Einstein mean a thinking that simply produced different results.  He did not mean that we should apply our current way of thinking to come up with new ways of dealing with problems. 

Einstein was advocating an entirely different way of thinking.  He was advocating for a thinking placed within a much wider understanding of our human place in the world:

“A human being is a part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feeling as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”

A similar understanding is suggested by indigenous peoples who exhort us to use different thinking processes and not simply steal the results of indigenous thinking.1

It is almost seventy-five years since Einstein bemoaned our way of thinking, yet we continue to think – in the same way we have been thinking since at least the beginning of the Industrial Revolution (and possibly much earlier.)

We are still trying to resolve conflict using combative thinking and the strategies of warfare.

We are still trying to make political decisions based on adversarial debating procedures from centuries ago.

And, crucially, currently we are trying to solve the problems of climate chaos using the same technological thinking we used when we began building steam engines.

Such ways of thinking must change.  We must find ways of thinking that do not rely simply upon information and knowledge.  It has been said that “As information doubles, knowledge is halved, and wisdom is quartered.”2

Changing our thinking requires us to let go of our desire for control, mastery, and even of outcomes.  We need thinking that admits to our being “…a part of the whole called by us universe.”

Can we do it?  We do have thinking that is based in patterns, holism, and complexity.  We have forgotten them.  Let’s go back and look for them.


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

2.  Ervin Laszlo & Jude Currivan, Cosmos: A Co-creator’s Guide to the Whole-World, Hay House Inc., 2008.

Wednesday 11 November 2020

Down With Elections! - A Review

As you might guess, Down With Elections! by Campbell Wallace1 is damning not just of the electoral process, but of elections per se.  Tellingly, the subtitle of the book, A plan for democracy without elections,  tells us that this is not a manifesto to overthrow the institution of democracy.  It is not a call to arms, nor is it a voice for socialism, communism, or any other “ism.”  It is, simply, an outline of a mechanism to improve democracy.

Improve democracy?  How?  Didn’t Churchill claim that “… democracy is the worst form of Government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.…”?  Yes, he did.  But he prefaced that comment by saying: No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise.”  It is this preface that Wallace addresses in his book.

Indeed, Wallace begins the book by outlining 27 defects of democracy as we know it.  These defects all pertain to electoral democracy.  That is, each and every one of these defects is a defect of voting, of elections, not of democracy itself.

But, isn’t that democracy?  Doesn’t democracy mean elections and voting?  Are not they the same thing, mutually entwined?

No! says Wallace.  Democracy does not have to be wedded to elections, and nor should it. 

What then?  Wallace has a simple answer: sortition.  Sortition meaning the random selection of decision-makers from the entire population.  That’s right.  The way in which we could select our parliaments, senates, congresses, city councils, and other such bodies is by random selection, meaning that anyone could be selected, not just those with the money, prestige, power, charisma, or education. 

“Huh, nice idea,” we may cry, “but no-one has heard of it, so no-one will be in favour of it, and it won’t happen.”  Exactly.  Three pages before the end of his book, Wallace, notes this exact criticism.  His answer is perhaps obvious:

“The only real problem with sortition is the fact that it is not widely known and accepted, which is why I have written this book.”  Well done, Campbell Wallace.  This book is needed now, at a time when democracy all around the world is showing signs of aging.

Down With Elections! is part Manual, part Manifesto.  In it Wallace describes why it is that elections are not bringing us the results we would like (27 defects), explains what sortition is, and outlines a thorough implementation plan.

For those new to the idea, then the first four chapters and the last two are possibly sufficient reading.  Those who have come across the idea before and have assessed what it has to offer may be drawn more to Chapters 5-10.  In these chapters Wallace outlines in detail the make-up and practices of a nation state where sortition is the means of selecting decision-makers.  He addresses questions such as; how are bills proposed, what salary should selected members get, how long is their term of service, how many members should be selected?

Wallace also addresses some common criticisms, such as; will there be sufficient skill and knowledge in randomly selected bodies, won’t foolish decisions be made?  Wallace takes these criticisms seriously, and answers them with equal seriousness.

Has it been tried before?  Yes, it has.  In fact, it was Athens, the supposed birthplace of democracy, that first tried it out, and found that it works.  Wallace does not mention this until at least one hundred pages into his book.  This may be my only, minor, criticism of the book.  That sortition was used in the crucible of democracy is one of its most compelling features.  I would have liked to read that earlier in the book. 

This book is a welcome addition to the growing body of works exploring sortition. 


1. Available from

Tuesday 3 November 2020

Old Age Wisdom, or Age Old Wisdom

In 2019 an international study into The Future of Ageing was published.1 

Online interviews were conducted in 28 countries with 20,788 adults aged 16-64 about their expectations for aging. 

Asked to define the age at which someone became old, the global average was 66.2  Asked if they expected to be fit and healthy in old age, over 80% agreed in South American countries, China, and Malaysia.  Tellingly, less than 50% answered in the affirmative in many European nations, the US, Australia, Russia, and Japan.  Yet, with the exception perhaps of Russia, aren’t these supposed to be the countries with the highest standard of living in the world?

A little commented upon aspect of the study looked at wisdom.  14% of those interviewed thought that becoming wiser was the best thing about aging.

Yet, the notion that age brings wisdom is a myth.  Wisdom is identified with elderhood, yet, as Stephen Jenkinson laments:

“The proliferation of old people has not meant the proliferation of elders… The presence of elders in a culture turns out not to derive from an aging population.  We’d be awash in wisdom if it did.  We are awash in information, and an often inarticulate kind of mass blunt force trauma we call ‘experience,’ instead.”(3)

The study gives no hope for this sad observation to likely change.  Whilst 14% looked forward to becoming wiser, between a quarter and a third of respondents said that they looked forward to very individualistic futures (holidays, travel, hobbies, and leisure.)  Only 10% indicated they were looking forward to being able to help others, through volunteering.  This disparity in percentages does little to suggest wisdom.

Yet, we live in a world today where wisdom, and the functions of elderhood, would be greatly welcomed.

That wisdom comes with old age is a myth.  Old age wisdom is a fiction.

Age old wisdom however may be more what we need.  That means that those of us who are now of an older age need to let go our pretentions towards a good life, towards the comfort of old age.  It means opening our eyes to what is really going on in the world.  It means becoming aware of and awake to: the cries of young people, the pain of indigenous cultures, the injustices perpetrated on our behalf by transnational corporations, the degradation of landscapes, forests, and oceans.

If we had been aware of these issues in the previous decades of our lives, now is not the time to sit back and take it easy.  If we had not been aware in our previous decades, then now is the time to get out of our stupor and discover what is happening.

Stephen Jenkinson is worth quoting again.  This time from a talk he gave at a 5-day immersion on Stradbroke Island (Queensland, Australia) in May 2019:

“Now is not an okay time for okay people to be okay.”


1. Ipsos, The Perennials: The Future of Ageing, February 2019.

2. I celebrate a birthday in a couple of days’ time that puts me a couple of years into the “old” category.

3. Stephen Jenkinson, Come of Age: The Case for Elderhood in a Time of Trouble, North Atlantic Books, Bereley, California, 2018