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 28 December 2021

Farewell bell hooks and Desmond Tutu

In just eleven days the world farewelled two of its genuinely great people. On 15th December bell hooks (Gloria Jean Watkins) died and then on the 26th Desmond Tutu also died. Both bell and Desmond were known for their opposition to racism, and each stood up for the rights of their people to live with dignity and respect.

Each has left a legacy of wisdom and grace.

bell hooks often spoke and wrote about the connections between racism, patriarchy, economic injustice, and poverty. She saw the connections clearly and spent much of her life trying to show them to the world.

Desmond Tutu often spoke and wrote of the connections between all of us. He, perhaps more than any other South African, brought the concept of ubuntu to the rest of the world. The Zulu concept of ubuntu, Tutu described as:

“The philosophy and belief that a person is only a person through other people. In other words, we are human only in relation to other humans. Our humanity is bound up in one another… This interconnectedness is the very root of who we are.”

We see here a similar message. Desmond Tutu describing our interconnectedness, and bell hooks reminding us that ignoring our connections gives rise to social classifications and thence the intersection between oppression.

Perhaps the most radical offering that each of them gifted to the world was their understanding of the role forgiveness and compassion could play. Radical – because forgiveness and compassion are often seen (by all sides of the political spectrum) as “soft options.” Neither of these two pillars of humanity could be thought of as soft. Let’s hear from bell first.

“For me, forgiveness and compassion are always linked: how do we hold people accountable for wrongdoing and yet, at the same time, remain in touch with their humanity enough to believe in their capacity to be transformed?”

This is a truly radical question, for it shifts us away from a good/evil, right/wrong, me/you, us/them dualism, towards a recognition of our common humanity (faults and all.)

Desmond Tutu grappled with exactly this question throughout his long life (he died at age 90.) His penultimate book, published in 2015, was a collaboration with his daughter – Mpho – titled The Book of Forgiving.1

In that book he outlined a four-fold path of forgiveness, contrasting this with the Revenge Cycle – a never ending continuing cycle of violence, harm, revenge/retaliation, violence…

For Tutu, forgiveness was not just a practice with personal or familial benefit; it also has benefit at world and global level.

Yes, within days of one another the world has said farewell to two of its wise elders.

I will leave the final words to Desmond Tutu.

“We can’t create a world without pain or loss or conflict or hurt feelings, but we can create a world of forgiveness. We can create a world of forgiveness that allows us to heal from those losses and pain and repair our relationships.”

1. Desmond M. Tutu and Mpho A. Tutu, The Book of Forgiving: The Fourfold Path for Healing Ourselves and Our World, William Collins, London, 2014.

Tuesday 21 December 2021

Firestorm (Book Review)

When I was a young boy, I wanted to be a fireman when I grew up. So did Greg Mullins. I didn’t become a fireman, but Greg Mullins did.

Now, Greg Mullins has written a book about his experience as a bushfire fighter in Australia, including being part of the battle against some of the most devastating bushfires in the world.

His book, Firestorm,1 is far more chilling than anything that I went on to write, or to read for that matter. Furthermore, his book is factual. This is no work of imagination. This is not fiction.

This is a chilling account of how bushfires (all around the world, not just in Australia) are becoming more intense, more frequent, with longer “seasons,” and much, much harder to control. With fifty years experience, Greg Mullins asks: ‘Why?’

His answer is simple and to the point: climate change. During a research visit to California in the mid-1990s Mullins was introduced to early scientific papers on climate change by the Captain of the Oakland Fire Department. Mullins has read many papers since, and talked with dozens of experts.

But it is primarily his experience and witnessing of the changes in bushfires that leads him to make the clear connection between a warming planet and these changes.

If Greg Mullins could find a word that means “the unprecedented increase in unprecedented events” then I assume he would have used it in his book. The word – unprecedented – occurs often in his book. And not without reason.

Mullins lists, and expands upon, many of the unprecedented events and patterns associated with bushfires in Australia.

There can few more knowledgeable and experienced bushfire experts in the world than the author of this un-put-downable book. He was the Commissioner of New South Wales (NSW) Fire and Rescue from 2003 until retiring in 2017 (the second longest serving since the service began in 1884.) Since his retirement he has returned to bushfire fighting as a volunteer with the brigade with which he began his long career in 1973.

Greg Mullins has received many awards, including the Australian Fire Service Medal (AFSM) in 2001 and Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) in 2018. He knows what he is talking (writing) about.

In 2019 he was a founding member of Emergency Leadersfor Climate Action (ELCA.) He writes in the book about the founding of this group of former chiefs and deputy chiefs of fire services and other emergency services from throughout Australia. He also outlines their frustration at not being able to take their warning of coming bushfire disaster to the Australian government (and Prime Minister in particular) before the cataclysmic fires of 2019/20 (referred to as Black Summer.2)

The chapter on Black Summer is the central chapter in the book. It tells in grim reality of the devastation of those fires: 24 million hectares burnt; more than 3,000 homes destroyed. Plus, thousands of other schools, shops, and farm buildings; 35 people directly by the fire, and a further 417 killed by the smoke, as well as 4,500 hospitalisations; and up to 3 billion (yes, you read that correct – billion) animals killed. It was – unprecedented.

When Black Summer did occur, Mullins and others were still side-lined (sometimes ridiculed by shock-jock radio hosts and other media commentators). They were told: “This is not the time to talk about climate change.”

If then was not the time, then when is, Greg Mullins could be forgiven for asking. Certainly, his book is an outstanding contribution to the time to talk.


1. Greg Mullins, Firestorm: Battling Super-charged Natural Disasters, Viking, Australia, 2021

2. Black Summer began in late July/early August 2019 and continued until May 2020. The statutory NSW Bush Fire Danger Period (bushfire season) runs from 1 October until 31 March. Black Summer extended that season considerably.

Wednesday 15 December 2021

Excitement Of Life

Today, where I live, marks an easing of restrictions on the wearing of masks in public. At my local café I asked the person who served me how they were. “How are you?” I asked. The reply came back.

“I am very well this morning. We don’t have to wear a mask.”

The barista who served me made a similar comment, then added. “Isn’t it strange that we are excited about something like this, about returning to normal?”

That got me thinking. Yes, it is exciting. Pursuing that thinking, I arrived at the next question:

What gets us excited about life? What makes a normal life exciting? What stirs us, what rouses us to participate in (normal) life?

Literally, excite means to set something in motion in an outward direction. What feelings do we wish to express? What internal emotions are stirred within us that we wish to show to the world?

Excitement in our contemporary world tends to suggest something we are looking forward to eagerly, or that something we have witnessed or experienced brings up feelings of joy, delight, and wonder.

In its literal sense excitement could also be an expression of sadness or even something stronger – revulsion maybe.

Whatever it may be, to be excited is to be able to express our full gamut of emotions. When we do this, we enter our world fully present to what it has to offer, and how we decide to experience it.

So, what excites you? What feelings spread through your body when you first wake from sleep? What emotions do you feel when you interact with another person – perhaps the barista at your local café? What emotions does the aroma of the coffee, or its taste, allow you to experience?

Such excitement is available to us every day, not just those days when we head back to normalcy.

Perhaps I will shift my greeting from one of “How are you?” to one of “What excites you today?”

Friday 10 December 2021

Politicians Have Won - Again!

Last weekend in the State of Australia in which I live elections were held for local government. As expected, the predictable candidates won again. All of them, every last one of them are – politicians.

When the results come in, there will be some who cheer and others weep. Some voters will be glad, others sad. Many electors may even be mad.

From the complaints, moans, and groans I heard leading up to this election, it appears that this campaign has been little different to others. There have been complaints of cronyism and collusion, all the way up to allegations of corruption.

Could any less have been expected?

When would-be politicians are campaigning for election, money is key. Money buys exposure, and exposure translates into votes.

And it is the poor voter who is left bemoaning the outcome.

During the campaign, and following the casting of votes, I heard such statements as: “I’ll be glad when the election is over,” or “Thank god that’s over for another three years.”

All this is a sad state of affairs for at least three reasons:

1.     The to-and-fro name-calling and allegation and counter-allegation by politicians and their supporters should not be how we conduct our collective decision-making processes.

2.     In response to this, electors feel disappointed, unheard, and sometimes angry. It is as if elections elicit a feeling of angst amongst the electorate.

3.     The desire on the part of many electors that the elections be over-and-done-with as soon as possible sadly belies what should be an engaging part of civic life.

Can this be any different?

Yes, it can – if we think differently. And – if we think systematically.

Donella Meadows was one of the foremost systems thinkers in the world. Her book Thinking In Systems,1 published posthumously, set out twelve leverage points at which to intervene in a system. She ranked these leverage points according to the effectiveness with which change may happen.

According to Meadows, the least effective leverage point was to change the numbers in the system. In terms of our political system, this translates to changing the politicians, changing the individual men and women who sit in parliaments, senates, and Council chambers.

Far more effective leverage points are to intervene at the level of goals, and paradigms. Doing so, requires us to think more deeply about what the purpose of our political system is and what assumptions is it based upon.

At present, we are simply changing the constituent parts. We are doing nothing to change the system. Yet, the system is not serving us. If it were, would there be so much angst around election time?

Our present mechanism for selecting those who are charged with making our collective and social decisions rests upon elections. What if we no longer used elections for that purpose?

What if we used random selection instead? What if those making our public decisions were selected like a jury?

“But, but, but…” The objections are many. When distilled, most objections can be encapsulated as: “But, that’s not democracy!”

It isn’t? Well, actually, it is.

Ancient Athens (the “birthplace” of democracy) used a process of sortition to select their decision-makers. Sortition is a system of random selection, and the Athenians used it in preference to elections.

I have written about sortition many times on this blog site, so I will not traverse the topic much further here.2

However, consider this: Would the three negative aspects of elections outline above be reduced under a sortition system?

I suggest, if the question is seriously pondered, and sortition fully appraised, then the answer has to be – “Yes.”

Sortition may not rid us completely of the three sad features, but it could seriously reduce them.


1. Donnella H Meadows (ed. Diana Wright), Thinking in Systems, Chelsea Green Publishing, Vermont, 2008

2. In the “Search this site” box type in the word sortition to be taken to blogs where I explore sortition much more fully.

Thursday 2 December 2021

Now, Where Did We Put That Monkey Wrench?

A lot of ground-breaking environmentally themed books were published in the early – mid 1970s. Many of them pointed towards a future that was unsustainable if the current “business as usual” model was pursued.

One fictional book narrated the story of reaction against the environmental destruction going on in the Southwestern United States. Edward Abbey’s The Monkey Wrench Gang (published in 1975)1 told the story of an unlikely gang of four that included a river guide, a surgeon, a Jewish feminist, and a Vietnam vet. Their mission was to sabotage and destroy the machinery (bulldozers, trains etc) that were being used to lay waste to the environment.

Significantly, Edward Abbey dedicated the book to Ned Ludd, the semi-mythical weaver in England who smashed a couple of weaving frames in 1779. His name is now synonymous with the term Luddite.

To be called a Luddite today is often taken as a pejorative and derisive term.

Yet, we could ask today, for the sake of the environment; where are you Ned Ludd when we need you? Or, we could give a call out to the Monkey Wrench Gang and plea for their assistance.

More so than in 1779, and even more than in 1975, the world today is beset by techno-addiction: a term coined by eco-psychologist Chellis Glendinning in 1994.2

Much technological invention and innovation has brought us to the life-threatening predicaments we currently face. Sadly, the solutions being offered are more of the same - more technology. And woefully, “green technology” only keeps us trapped within the same techno-addiction.

Healing and Wholing

Technology is implicated in getting us into this mess. Technology is not going to get us out.

We could be like the Monkey Wrench Gang or Ned Ludd and smash technology. However, that would be analogous to an alcoholic who smashes a bottle of beer so that the beer is unavailable, yet walks into a bottle store the next day to buy another dozen bottles.

Like the alcoholic, we need to address our addiction. And that requires a lot of work.


1. Edward Abbey, The Monkey Wrench Gang, J.B. Lippincott & Co., New York, 1975

2. Chellis Glendinning, My Name is Chellis and I’m in Recovery from Western Civilization, Shambhala Publications, Boston, Massachusetts, 1994.

Wednesday 24 November 2021

Don't Resist - Desist

Carl Jung
Those seeking change have, for centuries, resisted the incumbent and prevailing order. All too often this has resulted in little, if any, real change. Sometimes, all that changes are the players, leaving the system itself largely intact.

The reasons for this are many. This blogpiece does not have the space to enter into a full analysis, nor even offer a complete alternative.  What it does do, however, is to pose a question that social change activists may like to consider.

One of the greatest psychologists of the 20th century, Carl Jung, offered this insight:

“What you resist not only persists, but will grow in size.”

Although Jung’s primary work was at an individual level, he was also a shrewd observer of cultural behaviour. He recognised that patterns within individuals are repeated within the wider society – each helping to create the other.

Jung wasn’t the only one to recognise the mutually enlarging relationship between resistance and persistence. We can see a similar concept in Isaac Newton’s famous third law of motion. Often cited simply as action-reaction, this law tells us that when two objects exert a force on each other, then the forces are equal in magnitude, and opposite in direction. Simply put, this suggests that when one object exerts a greater force, then the other object will react by increasing its own force. What one resists, the other persists.

The same is true in our social and cultural settings. An action stimulates a reaction, which then becomes the stimulus for a further reaction.

Certainly, there are things that we must have the courage to say ‘No’ to – racism and sexism are two of the most obvious and blatant.

However, attempting to build an entire alternative system around saying ‘No’ is bound to end in tears, mistrust, and failure.

We may be better to move from a resisting modality to one of desisting. Similarly sounding words, yet a peek into their etymology gives us insight into their quite different qualities. Both receive their verb from Latin – sistere, meaning to stand, or stand firm.

Often the prefix re suggests a going back, or again. It also, as it does here in the word resist, means against (as in opposition to). Hence, resist literally means ‘to stand in opposition to, stand against.’ The word has an obvious oppositional, almost antagonistic, flavour.

What about the word desist? The same verb, i.e., to stand. The prefix de however, gives the word a much different flavour. De is also of Latin derivation and means away from, down from, or off. The word desist then, has the sense of standing away from, or standing apart from.

Quite a different flavour. There is no sense of opposition, yet it retains the sense of firmness, steadiness, and taking a stand. The difference is that one stands in opposition to something, the other stands apart from, standing firm elsewhere. It stands on its own merit, and stands in its own authorship and integrity.

This leads to the question that was foreshadowed at the beginning of this blog.

What would happen if social change movements shifted from resisting to desisting? What if, instead of trying to resist and fight against the system, the system was ignored and by-passed with effort going instead into creating a new system?

What if, instead of buying into systems, we simply stopped purchasing from them? What if we desisted from our consumer role, and became engaged, interactive, and communal citizens?

This is exactly what Buckminster Fuller was advocating, when he advised that:

“You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”

Not only is Bucky’s advice likely to be more effectual, just think of the effort and time not wasted on resisting and trying to change a system that is reluctant to change.

Think too, of the amount of angst, anger, disappointment, and torment that could be averted.

If the efforts that go into resisting were instead channelled into desisting, then just imagine the creative opportunities that could emerge.

Is it too late to stop resisting? Is it too late to stand aside from the life-destroying systems that surround us?

Tuesday 16 November 2021

Bewilderment (Book Review)

Bewilderment1 picks up a theme explored exceptionally well in Richard Powers critically acclaimed 2018 novel, Overstory. Where Overstory told the story of human-nature disconnection mostly from the point of view of nature, Bewilderment explores that disconnection through the eyes of two living, and one dead, human.

Theo Byrne is an astrobiologist wondering about how life may have evolved on other planets. His nine-year old son, Robin, is simply wondering. Yet, his wonderings are profound, and because of this, is ostracised by his classmates.  Alyssa, Theo’s wife and Robin’s mother, who died in an accident, was a lawyer/advocate working with animal-rights NGOs.

The novel is full of irony. Theo is busy looking for life on exo-planets. Meanwhile, Robin is attempting to draw and paint every endangered species in America.

Theo is told by a psychologist that Robin is ‘on the spectrum,’ prompting Theo to respond that we are all on the spectrum – that’s what life is: a spectrum. Theo also wonders why it is that the zealous desire to diagnose psychiatric disorder is not itself a psychiatric disorder.

Powers narrative asks us to view the natural world through the eyes of a nine-year old, and to ask questions that only nine-year-olds seem capable of asking. Bewildering questions.

Together, Theo and Robin, grapple with, and meditate upon Fermi’s Paradox. Named after the nuclear physicist, Enrico Fermi, the paradox asks, ‘where is everybody?’ If the cosmos is full of trillions upon trillions of galaxies, stars, and planets, then life elsewhere must be in abundance, yet there is no evidence. Many explanations for the paradox have been put forward, and Powers skilfully weaves these into the conversations between astrobiologist father and quizzical son.

‘Where is everybody?’ is but one of the bewildering questions explored in Powers’ novel. Thankfully, Powers does not try to answer them, allowing (almost forcing) us, as reader, to ponder the questions for ourselves. Indeed, further, the questions compel those of us who are older to ask, as Theo does; ‘…ten thousand children with Robin’s new eyes might teach us how to live on Earth.’

Indeed, currently on Earth, it is the young people who are asking the pertinent questions, and who are seeing the world through new eyes. Instead of ignoring them or criticising them, we (the older generation) might rather co-explore (as Theo and Robin do) with younger people what these questions mean.

Look up bewilderment in a modern dictionary, and you will get a definition something like this: the feeling associated with being perplexed, confused, baffled. Yes, there are instances of this feeling in Powers’ novel.

However, I suspect that Powers would like us to question where the word bewilderment comes from, and whether it might have something for us to consider in todays world. The preposition be in Old English had the sense of intensifying the verb following. Be can be thought of as making thorough, or complete.  The verb, wilder, has strong connections to the noun wild, and means lead astray, to lure into the wilds. Thus, a thorough understanding of bewilderment takes us to a thorough immersion into the wilds of nature.

Perhaps this is the sense in which Powers has used Bewilderment for his novel’s title? If so, then pondering its full meaning, we might glimpse some answers.

Bewilderment is an easy-to-read book, deceptively simple in its storyline, yet full of bewilderment.


1. Richard Powers, Bewilderment, Hutchinson Heinemann, London, 2021.

Wednesday 10 November 2021

The Accusing Finger

I recently broke my collarbone, and so writing is a little painful. Thus, I have kept this week’s blog short. It is a simple quatrain.

I have noticed an increase in blaming, finger pointing, toxic individuality, and lack of responsibility over the past few years. This quatrain refers to that. With apologies to Omar Khayyám.1

The accusing finger points; and having pointed

Stays put: nor all thy vain glory, nor thy hubris

Shall straighten it for thee to see

Nor all thy scorn shall understand e’en a grain of this.


1. Omar Khayyám (1048 – 1131) was a mathematician, philosopher, astronomer, and poet. He is best known for his quatrains translated into English as The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyáam, by Edward Fitzgerald in the mid-1800s.

Wednesday 3 November 2021

What Is Adolescence For?

Adolescence. What is it? Why does it exist? And, why is it so long? Furthermore, how is it that most adults still seem to be stuck in some sort of adolescent time-warp?

This blog will not pretend to have the answers to these questions. However, the questions must be raised, because we do not seem to have adequate answers to them currently. Perhaps we are asking the wrong questions.

The term adolescence is quite recent within our vocabulary. It was coined by the American psychologist, G Stanley Hall, in his 1904 book Adolescence. Hall recognised that the period of adolescence in the human species was far longer than for any other primate. He theorised that there must be a reason for this, and that if we properly understood the purpose and nature of adolescence then the human race could develop its evolutionary potential.

Where Hall, however, was steeped in his (European) culture of the time, later psychologists have come to explore further the basis of adolescence. In particular, eco-psychologists have recognised that adolescence is largely wasted on the human race. We are not utilising the great gift that this period of life is pregnant with.

Instead, adolescent boys and girls are trussed up in a school environment most of each day, for five days a week. The learning offered there is primarily geared towards producing “good” adults – adults that will consume and obey. Adults who have suppressed their imaginative qualities, and are not longer able to co-create a world in which will live harmoniously as part of nature.

In such a rigidly controlled adolescence it is little wonder that the only two, major, possibilities are: conform or rebel.

Sadly, adults (raised in similar systems) will listen (if any listening is done at all) to those adolescents who conform. Those who rebel are labelled as non-conformists (at best) or “angry young people who need to grow up.”

Eco-psychologist Bill Plotkin, however, paints an entirely different picture of adolescence. Far from adolescence being a training ground for adulthood, Plotkin says that:

“With the onset of adolescence, the individual becomes the social explorer who must learn the art of making his or her way in the world without the shield of their immediate family… It is time to push the limits, try out new social powers, see where and how one fits.” 1

Plotkin calls this the time of the Thespian. Today, we think of a thespian as being a Shakespearian actor. Whilst partially true, the first Thespian, Thespis, was a Greek dramatist from the 6th century BC who performed all the parts within his dramas by himself. To do so, he had to become adept at changing roles, swapping masks, and donning different costumes.

Plotkin has chosen an excellent archetype for the adolescent in that of the Thespian. It is a time for acting out different roles, trying on different masks, and donning different costumes (perhaps the only one of these three aspects that is reluctantly accepted by adults.)

What sort of adults would emerge from this form of adolescence were such a Thespian drama be allowed to flow, and furthermore, actively encouraged by adults and elders alike?

In today’s world we still hear young people venting their anger at the world of those of so-called adulthood. (Witness the current expressions of anger and frustration by young people at COP26 in Glasgow.)

Telling young people to stop, to go back to school, to grow up, is not going to help. Adults and elders need to listen to the fire of youth.

Socially, we also need to ask deep questions about what is adolescence, what is it for?

Perhaps, before adults and elders are able to stop and listen, before we (I place myself in that older age group) can even ask the questions, we need to go back and experience a true adolescence for ourselves.

As I indicated at the beginning of this blogpiece, there are no answers here. Just questions. They are questions that we must ask. I suspect the answers will not come easily, and they will not be without pain and surprise.

Let’s all become Thespians for once in our lives – no matter what age we are.


1. Bill Plotkin, Nature and the Human Soul, New World Library, Novato, California, 2008, p174

Wednesday 27 October 2021

Is Our Commuter Hierarchy Upside-Down?

In 1865, the U.K. Locomotive Act required, in the case of multiple-wagoned road vehicles, that a man bearing a red flag walk at least 60 yards in front of the vehicle. Furthermore, vehicles were restricted to 4 m.p.h. in the countryside, and 2 m.p.h. in cities.

Since this and other restrictions were lifted towards the end of the century, our commuter hierarchy has been turned on its head.

No matter where we go (in cities or in countryside) it is hard to escape the realisation that the car is king. Roads are designed primarily for the private motorcar. Footpaths are shunted off to the side, if they exist at all. Cycleways are often an after-thought.

The hierarchy nowadays is clearly the car is at the top, followed by the cyclist, with pedestrians at the bottom of the pyramid of privilege and right-of-way.

Yet, if we think in terms of vulnerability then, surely, we have the hierarchy upside-down.

Consider a collision between a private car and a cyclist, or a private car and a pedestrian. We all know who is going to come off worst.

The physics alone should tell us. Damage done in a collision can be attributed in big part to the kinetic energy (KE) of the colliding bodies. KE is easily computed if we know the mass (m) of the body and the velocity (v) at which it is travelling.1 Kinetic energy is measured in Joules. The greater the number of Joules, the greater the energy. Consider these measurements:

The average mass (weight) of a private car is 1300 kg. Suppose a car is travelling at 50 km per hour (13.9 metres per second) then the kinetic energy of the vehicle is approximately 125,000 Joules (J). Travelling at 30 k.p.h. (8.3 metres per second (m.s.)) turns out to be approximately 45,200 J.

A male cyclist, on the other hand, weighing 87 kg (the average weight for an adult Australian male) and cycling at 20 k.p.h. has a kinetic energy of approximately 1,400 J. At 25 k.p.h. the kinetic energy is over 2,200 J. For an average Australian woman, the equivalent kinetic energy is 1,200 J and 1,900 J respectively.2

Now, consider a pedestrian, walking at 5.5 k.p.h. (1.6 metres per second). The kinetic energy of an average Australian male pedestrian is about 110 J. For an average female pedestrian, the kinetic energy is about 90 J.


Imagine a car with a kinetic energy anywhere from 45,000 J to 125,000 J colliding with a cyclist with between 1,200 J and 2,200 J. Who is going to be damaged the greatest?

What about a pedestrian with kinetic energy of only around 100 J?

Surely, if we are serious about lives, potential damage, and harm, then we should be upending our commuter hierarchy. The car is king does not make sense in terms of vulnerability.

It Doesn’t Make Sense in Other Ways

Nor does giving the private vehicle its high esteem and privilege make sense in other ways.

The private vehicle is possibly the most environmentally damaging piece of technology that an individual can own. We have known for decades the damage from exhaust fumes. We know too the damage that the road network has on local ecosystems, as well as the sheer amount of land given over to parking and roading that our addiction to the motor-vehicle requires.

Plus, our addiction to the private vehicle as a means of transport has seen our weights rise, so that now obesity rates in some parts of the world are at epidemic levels. We have sacrificed well-being for comfort.

Should we not be thinking it is time to turn our commuter hierarchy up the other way, so that we privilege the most vulnerable? 

Time to bring back the red flag.   


1. The formula for those interested is KE = ½ mv2

2. Using an average bicycle weight of 8 kg. The kinetic energy will vary from person to person. Significantly, for a child the kinetic energy is much less.

Wednesday 20 October 2021

Play The Game (An Allegory)

Hu stood with the rest of his team on the goal-line. He watched as Col, from the opposing team, lined up his kick.

Hu glanced up at the large score-board above the main stand. The digital clock ticked off the seconds. Two minutes remained. Hu would hear the referee’s final whistle go in the next couple of minutes. Hu looked back at Col.

Col was eyeing up the goal-posts, imagining the flight of the ball in his mind.

Above the main stand, the score-board blazed its message. Hu’s team was trailing by thirty points.

“We’ve lost mate,” Hu heard his team-mate standing beside him say. “No way back from this one.”

Hu turned back and watched Col begin his run-up. From Hu’s perspective the kick looked good. Sure enough, the ball sailed cleanly through the uprights.

“Thirty-three points down,” Hu muttered. He caught the ball thrown to him by the ball-boy and jogged back towards the half-way line.

Hu Manitee was the captain of his team. Just before he kicked off to resume play he called to his team-mates. “C’mon guys. Keep pressing.” He kicked the ball, and his team-mates sprinted past him following the flight of the ball. Hu followed up.

A maul formed. The ball came out on the opposing team’s side. Hu saw the ball pass quickly along the back-line until it got to the winger, Col Lapps, the captain of the opposing team.

Hu wasn’t fooled by Col’s feint and tackled him firmly around the legs. The tackle was so strong and vigorous that Col lost hold of the ball and it bounced into touch.

The final whistle blew.


The write-up in the sports section of the local newspaper the next day praised Hu’s team in defeat. “They played to the whistle,” the reporter wrote. “Although they suffered their heaviest loss of the season, Hu Manitee and his team-mates impressed with their enthusiasm, fair-play, and team support.”


Hu’s willingness to continue playing the game, even though knowing his team is going to lose, is an allegory for the manner in which humanity could approach Existential Collapse.

Existential collapse is no longer a question of If? but When? That (western) society as we know it will collapse is a given. We just do not know when the final whistle will blow.

Hu and his team exhibit some healthy examples of how to approach inevitable defeat (collapse):

1.     Remain buoyant. Do not let despair take hold.

2.     Focus on the game (life.) Life remains meaningful.

3.     Support your team-mates. Do not allow difference to descend into blaming or name-calling.

4.     Tackle well and hard. Resist those behaviours and practices that intensify or hasten collapse.

5.     Follow the ball. Set goals, even small ones; and even if those goals may not be achieved or fulfilled.

6.     Stay on the field. Don’t give up and walk off. Someone (human or other-than-human) wants and enjoys your presence.

7.     Be real. Don’t pretend the score is other than it is. Don’t stop your team-mates from checking the score-board.

8.     Smile. There is no point in putting on a sad or angry face.

9.     Remember the spectators. Many species rely upon humans playing the game in a healthy way with integrity. Don’t think that just because human extinction is highly probable that we can lapse into a laissez-faire, couldn’t-care-less, approach to the world. Some species may survive collapse.

Tuesday 12 October 2021

Celebrating Thay and Interbeing

One of the world’s most respected and revered teachers, Thich Nhat Hanh, this week celebrates his 95th Continuation Year.

Born in 1926, Thay (as he is affectionately known) trained as a Buddhist monk in Vietnam. He became actively engaged in seeking peace in that war-ravaged country early on in his life. That experience enabled him to coin the term Engaged Buddhism and develop the ideas of a Buddhist life that not removed from the world and its sufferings.

In 1966 Thich Nhat Hanh created the Order of Interbeing – an international community of Buddhist monks, nuns, and laypeople. The term interbeing has come to be associated closely with Thich Nhat Hanh’s teachings. The English word – interbeing – is an attempt to translate the Vietnamese term tiep hien. Tiep means in touch with, and hien can be translated as realising or making it here and now.

Interbeing then, can be thought of as the interconnectedness of all things.

For most of his later life, Thich Nhat Hanh lived in the southwest of France in Plum Village Monastery, which he and another Vietnamese monk, Chan Khong, founded in 1982.

In late 2018, Thich Nhat Hanh returned to Vietnam to spend his remaining days at his ‘root temple’ near the city of Hue in central Vietnam.

A Meditation/Poem for Thay

I offer here, a short meditation/poem in celebration of, and dedicated to, Thay. I have called it:

“Thay and Interbeing.”

Standing, I feel the earth’s support

Sitting, I rest in peace

Kneeling, I thank the trees and birds

Lying, I wonder at the clouds

Breathing, I inhale the breath of life

Taste the air, smell the flowers

Touch the earth, hear the wind

See the world as a whole

I inter-am

I live because you all give.

Tuesday 5 October 2021

Spirit of Nature, Nature of Spirit

Photo: Solveig Larsen.
Hint: Flip photo 90degs
What do we mean when we speak of spirituality? To some it has a very specific meaning, often related to a particular religion. To others it connotes something mystical, yet not theistic.

I use the term spirituality occasionally within this blog, so it is useful for me to clarify how I use the term.

First, spirituality is not synonymous with religion. Since the 14th century the word ‘religion’ has come to mean a system of faith in, and worship of, a divine being (or beings.) Most religions (especially those that posit a Supreme Being (call this God if you like), seek and find spirit predominantly in a transcendent manner.

The word ‘spirituality’ is related to our breath (cf. inspire, respire) and thus can be thought of as meaning ‘the breath of life.’ Therein is a clue to a more complete understanding of spirituality. When we breath, we breath in, and we breath out. We take in, we give out. Breathing is an inward and an outward process. This is as true for spirituality as it is for breathing.

Transcendence is the outward aspect of spirituality. Inscendence is the inward aspect.1 Transcendence seeks connection with a one-ness (whole-ness) that is more than the individual self. Inscendence, on the other hand, is a deep exploration of our soul.2 It is a discovery of other-than-self that is unique to each of us.

Transcendence gazes heavenward, outside of ourselves. Inscendence plants our feet firmly upon, and in, the earth.

Both are needed. Neither is complete without the other. They are like trees. The topmost branches are continually seeking the light, growing towards the over-arching sky. The leaves in the canopy gain energy from the abundant sunlight. Meanwhile, the roots of the tree delve deep into the fecund and dark soil, gaining nourishment from the nutrients therein.

Our true spirituality is that tree: seeking sunlight and planting firm, stable, roots in the soil.

The insights available to us from this simple metaphor are those that many mystics, ‘teachers,’ gurus, philosophers, and more latterly, eco-psychologists, have been exploring for centuries.

Sadly, many within western-styled cultures never gain these insights. Many continue to live within what Bill Plotkin3 terms the middleworld (not to be confused with middle-earth of ‘Lord of the Rings’ fame.)

Inhabitants of middleworld neither seek transcendence, nor discover inscendence. A completely middleworld existence is one remaining trapped within a materialistic world that has many facets – some quite contradictory. Most importantly, irrespective of the particular brand of materialism, middleworld is disconnected from nature. This may be overt through a deliberate exploitation of nature, or it may be neglectful of the harm done to nature by an anthropocentric understanding of the world and the place of humans within it.

Such disconnect fails to comprehend the spirit of nature.

Of the two aspects of spirituality (transcendence and inscendence) the easiest to aspire to (or seek, or hope for, or discover) is transcendence. Gazing upward and seeking the light seems an innate thing to do. Some religions even call it ‘enlightenment.’ It is also a comfortable, and comforting, thing to do.

Going the other way, towards inscendence, however, seems counter-intuitive. Why would someone deliberately seek the darkness? For centuries we have been told that the darkness is where demons, dragons, ghouls, and witches, live. Not a place for ‘good’ boys and girls to visit.

Yet, it is the deep, dark, abode of demons that may be precisely where we need to travel to. It is a journey that many of our most enduring, and perceptive, mythologies speak of. From Beowulf to George and the Dragon, from the descent of Inanna to the underworld to the modern story of the Phantom of the Opera, our fables and myths speak of the hero or heroine descending into dark places, there to confront, and mostly overcome, their personal demons.

It is also why many of our most revered spiritual masters and teachers have gone on solitary journeys, to seek their unique, soul-infused, purpose. Buddha sat beneath the Bodhi tree for forty-nine days. Jesus went into the desert for 40 days and nights. Muhammed meditated in a cave high in the mountains. Confucius shut himself away for three years.

Nature-based societies also recognise the importance of solitude and experiencing the darkness with many rituals and ‘rites of passage’ being steeped in such practice.

Our spirituality is bound up with nature. Our nature is spiritual. We are as much spiritual beings as we are natural beings. We are in and of the earth. Our feet keep us grounded. Our eyes enable us to look outward.


1. The cultural historian and student of the world’s religions, Thomas Berry, describes inscendence as a descent into our pre-rational, our instinctive, resources.’ in his 1988 book, Dream of the Earth. He goes on to state that the world needs our inscendence far more than it needs our transcendence at this time.

2. Soul – another word that requires further explanation and exploration. For another time.

3. Bill Plotkin, Nature and the Human Soul, New World Library, Novato, California, 2008.

Wednesday 29 September 2021

Wyrd: Against the Modern World - Book Review

Wyrd1 – a weird title isn’t it?  Wyrd and Weird are connected.  Sadly, the modern English word weird has had almost all its meaning and sacredness washed out of it.  Ramon Elani, however, in this delightful short book, is certainly not about to sanitise or camouflage the meaning of wyrd.

Wyrd is an old Anglo-Saxon word that comes to us via Old Norse. It is related to the Norse word urðr, a personification of one of the Norns – Old Norse deities responsible for shaping the course of human destinies.

Like many such rich and verdant words, wyrd can be thought of in a number of ways. It can be thought of as a process of becoming or unfolding. Perhaps as that which is ordained, or that which must happen. Concepts of rotation and debt are also imbued within its richness. Wyrd is in a state of constant flux.

The concepts and ideas found within wyrd are akin to those found within the Eastern yin/yang idea, and amongst the myths and cosmologies of indigenous cultures throughout the world.

It is a word that reminds those of us from western backgrounds that we too, once had a similar understanding of our place in nature and the cosmos. We too, once recognised patterns and relationships as much more important, and real, than material things and a straight-forward cause-effect linearity. In many ways, western science is only now beginning to re-establish such notions, especially via quantum physics and the mathematics of Chaos Theory.

Ramon Elani elegantly, poetically, and enchantingly, reminds us in his book of this once-was understanding, and pleads with us (modern) western humans to re-discover the sacred of the world.

The subtitle of the book – Against the Modern World – is pertinent. Elani claims that we have desacralized the world to such an extent through the modernity project, that we are now trapped within a number of illusions of our own making: the illusion of progress, the illusion of control, the illusion of technology, the illusion of human superiority…

Ramon Elani is a poet, an author, and a professor of literature and philosophy. He is particularly interested in the intersection between ecology and spirituality.

His interest in ecology and spirituality leads him to conclude in this book that “(modern) humanity has “killed the last god” and climate change represents the full consequences of this act.” In killing off the last god (and goddess) we have also killed off the last demon.

In this killing spree, what is left? Humanity has usurped the role of god and goddess, and become our own demons. Climate change is a result. Elani claims that climate change cannot be healed by “profane means.” Furthermore, he suggests, “the world cannot be fixed, it can only be destroyed and created anew.”

For Elani, creating anew must be achieved through a re-sacralisation of the world, a recognition of our (human) place in the world. Our salvation, Elani notes:

“…depends on our ability to abandon ourselves to the power, flux, and beauty of nature.”

Wyrd is available from


1. Ramon Elani, Wyrd: Against the Modern World, Night Forest Press, Canada, 2021.