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, 28 July 2021

Existential Grief And Mourning

This is the first of a series of blogpieces seeking to understand our collective and individual response to social and environmental collapse.

The first warning bells sounded fifty years ago with the release of Limits To Growth.1 That ground-breaking study looked at several possible future scenarios based on projections of population. resource use, pollution, food per capita, and industrial output. One of these scenarios the authors termed the Standard model. Since 1972 this has come to be re-phrased as Business As Usual. Recent research and studies have shown that those warning bells rang true.2

We are at the limits to growth. We are nearing collapse.

Many reading this may think that I am speaking of collapse as resulting from climate change. I am…but so much more as well. To borrow a term from the climate change lexicon – we are facing a perfect storm.

This perfect, super, storm is comprised of: climate change, biodiversity loss, deforestation, soil depletion, pollution, water degradation, food scarcity, diminishing fuel reserves. Added to these are the more socially constructed harms of: political polarisation, mass refugee and migration movements, an ever-increasing chasm between rich and poor, techno-addiction, and loss of trust in so-called world leaders. All these, and more, are coming together simultaneously, to create unavoidable collapse.

Whether we know it or not, like it or not, this existential crisis gives rise to grief and mourning.

Five Stages of Grief

In 1969 the Swiss-American psychologist Elisabeth Kubler-Ross postulated five stages of the grief process. Her theories and ideas have little changed in the intervening five decades. Her five stages of grief is a useful model with which to dissect our collective response to existential loss. This first part will explore the stage of Denial. Further Parts will explore the other four stages: Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance. A final Part will ask: what does it mean to mourn when faced with the potential extinction of the human species?

Denial

For decades, denial was the default position on climate change for most of the world’s leaders, captains of industry, politicians, and other decision-makers. Within the general population, denial of climate change was also widespread, although this has changed somewhat during the course of this century, with denial less evident within the general population.

More recently, even some of the most recalcitrant of the world’s leaders have shifted and now, at least, acknowledge the reality of climate change.

However, the planetary system has shifted immensely in far less time than it took these leaders to change their minds. It has gone from Climate Change, to Climate Chaos, to Climate and Environmental-Social Collapse within just a few short years.

Collapse goes much deeper than simply Climate Change – it means death. A death of our way of life, perhaps even the death of our very existence on this planet. Such a thought is extremely uncomfortable – so much so that the most common response is denial. Indeed, denial is reasonable and totally understandable. Denial protects us from those uncomfortable thoughts and feelings. At least, it does so until such time as we are capable of moving on.

There is a danger in lingering too long in denial however.

When someone is faced with the death of a loved one, a person in denial wonders how they can go on, perhaps even questioning why they should go on.

Faced with existential death however, our collective denial shifts our response from one of ‘how do I go on’ to a stubborn ‘we will go on.’ Denying the possibility of the extinction of humanity we, collectively, say: it’s business as usual, we won’t change, we’ll keep on keeping on. And so, we will continue to extract minerals from the earth, we will continue to exploit nature for our own ends, we will continue to pollute the land, sea, and air with our waste. Denial says we must keep fuelling the industrial-consumerist machine in whatever way possible.

But!  Denial, ultimately, stops us from seeing the error and foolishness of our ways.

We cannot afford to linger in denial, for the longer we remain in denial, the closer collapse comes, and the harder the fall is likely to be.

Next week will explore anger and bargaining.

Notes:

1. Meadows, Meadows, Randers & Behrens III, The Limits to Growth (Report for the Club of Rome), Universe Books, New York, 1972.

2. For example, https://www.livescience.com/collapse-human-society-limits-to-growth.html (accessed 28 July 2021)

Tuesday, 20 July 2021

Bright Green Lies (Book Review)

Can we solve the climate crisis? Not the way we are going claim the authors of Bright Green Lives.1 Using more and more fossil fuels certainly won’t work. (Fossil fuels will only worsen the situation.) However, nor will a switch to alternative, “renewable,” energy sources,

In the search for solutions to carbon emissions many in the climate change movement advocate solar, wind, and other “renewable” sources of energy.

There is an inherent problem within that phrase – ‘renewable sources of energy’ – though. In fact, two problems. First, “renewables” are not renewable. Renewable suggests there is no impact upon the earth and that the electricity produced is carbon-neutral. Both are a myth. Second, is the word “energy.” One of the biggest confusions in the discussion about renewables is the conflation of energy and electricity. Renewables can supply electricity, but not total energy. In fact, electricity production in most countries of the world is no more than 20% of total energy, in some cases much less. This conflation can lead to false claims. The authors cite the case of Germany which is often touted as being a leader in renewables. Bright Green Lies quotes a leading climate change campaigner as lauding Munich obtaining “half its energy from solar panels” on some days. As the authors note, that is physically impossible. In attempting to present credible solutions, such claims for solar and other “renewables,” are irresponsible. Furthermore, such claims send out a message of “false hope,” which surely does nothing for future generations.

These are but two of several myths identified by the authors. Others include the myths of: decoupling, efficiency gains, scaling, and no harm.

The basic problem with “renewables” is that they continue the same industrial progress mentality with which we got ourselves into this mess in the first place. From the mining of materials, to the processing, to fabrication, and to installation; all “renewables” do damage to the environment, often displace local people, and – significantly – require fossil fuels for their construction.

The authors comment on this mentality of damaging the planet in order to save it. “The most important, and simplest, solution to the destruction of the planet is to stop the destruction of the planet.” What could be simpler?

Two western concepts are at the heart of our continued destruction, and the authors take issue with each.

Our western cultural heritage has left us with an anthropocentric, hierarchical, model of the world with humans at the top. The book also hits us in our consumptive belly, and hits hard. Reading this will double you up with a painful recognition that there are no alternatives; there is no “renewable” road to sustainability.

There will be many within the climate change movement who will scorn this book, attempt to counter its arguments, and dismiss it. That will be a pity, because it is only when the “environmental” approach to the earth is reclaimed, that any halting of the destruction of the earth can occur. Admittedly, there are some within the movement who seem to understand this. In fact, I wonder if Greta Thunberg has read this book. When I listen to some of her recent speeches, I suspect she may have, or at least arrived at similar conclusions on her own.2

The authors of Bright Green Lies often deride “environmentalists” for advocating technological solutions that will continue to damage the environment. It is disappointing that the authors choose to use the term “environmentalist” in this way. To my way of thinking, those who continue to advocate for damaging technologies, are not acting from an environmental awareness, but rather from an anthropocentric one. Environmentalism must reclaim its mandate and remove itself from underneath the heavy footfalls of technological industrialism.

“OK, OK,” I hear the cries. “Its all very well telling us that “renewables” are not the solution – what is?” The authors address this in the last two chapters of the book, although a hint of the solutions is made in the very first sentence of the book. The book begins with a note on language, and begins thus:

“It’s customary when writing about nonhumans to use the relative pronoun that rather than who: ‘We cut down the tree that used to grow by the pond,’ not ‘We cut down the tree who used to grow by the pond.”

Simply changing from the first perspective to the second would radically transform our understanding of who we are, where we fit, and how we act.

Bright Green Lies is as important a cautionary book in 2021 as Silent Spring3 was in 1962. If you didn’t read Silent Spring then, read Bright Green Lies now.

P.S. I do have one suggestion to the authors and publishers of this book, if they decide to do a second edition. Please add an Index.

Notes:

1. Derrick Jensen, Lierre Keith, & Max Wilbert, Bright Green Lies: How the Environmental Movement Lost its Way and What we can do about it. Monkfish Book Publishing Co., Rhinebeck, New York, 2021.

2. For example, listen to her speech to the Austrian World Summit, July 2021 here (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m6eQwAi2U18)

3. Rachel Carson, Silent Spring, Houghton, Mifflin, Harcourt, Boston, 1962.

Wednesday, 14 July 2021

What Did You Do In The Peace (A short story)

‘Daddy, can I ask you a question?’

‘Of course, Daughter.’

‘Daddy, what did you do I the peace?’

‘What do you mean Daughter? What peace?’

‘The peace before all these wars. Before the food wars, before the land wars, before the water wars, before the fuel wars. There’s wars everywhere now. The peace before – what did you do?’

‘Well Daughter, I just lived, like everyone else. I didn’t do anything special.’

‘Why not?’

‘What do you mean “why not?”’ Father looked at Daughter with a puzzled expression.

‘Well, its all so bad now. Some people must have tried to do something. Some people must have tried doing something special. Did you?’

‘Special Daughter? There was nothing special to do. We all just lived. You know – slept, ate, went to work. We just lived.’

‘But, but …’

‘But what, Daughter?’ Father was concerned now. What was bothering his daughter? Something was wrong.

Daughter continued, ‘But, if it was a peace, why didn’t it stay that way?’

‘I don’t know Daughter. They say everything just collapsed. The north pole collapsed, so did the south. The Amazon rainforest collapsed. Then there were the ocean currents. They changed. Oceanographers say the whole ocean currents collapsed.’

‘Why Dad? Why did they collapse?’

‘I don’t know Daughter. They just did,’

‘But why?’

Father looked at Daughter. Daughter looked at Father. Neither spoke for what seemed like an Ice Age. Daughter spoke first.

‘Something must have happened Dad. Something must have caused it. There must have been signs.’

‘Signs! Oh yes, there were signs I suppose. But no-one really took them seriously.’

‘Why Dad? Why did no-one take them seriously?’

‘Well, like I said. Everyone was just living.’

Daughter considered this for a moment and then asked, ‘What was living like in the peace?’

‘It was great Daughter. We could go anywhere, do anything, buy whatever we wanted. Living was easy as an old song put it.’

‘But, but Dad.’ Daughter had a grimace on her face now. ‘Dad, what did you do? What did you do to keep the peace?’

‘We didn’t do anything Daughter. There was no need to.’

‘But Dad, didn’t you know? Didn’t anyone warn you of the collapse, and the wars to come?’

‘Well, yes Daughter. But it was all so far away, there was no need to get concerned. Besides, what could we do?’

Daughter gazed at her father intently, tears beginning to form behind her eyelids. ‘So Dad, are you telling me that during the peace you did nothing?’

Father glanced sadly at his daughter, then quickly looked away. He gave a glum nod. 

Monday, 5 July 2021

Conversations With An Eagle (Book Review)

Do you have a space on your bookshelf for those small gems of books full wisdom such as, The Prophet, Jonathon Livingstone Seagull, The Alchemist, The Little Prince? You know, the priceless little gems that you will read several times in your life. If you do, then place Conversations with an Eagle alongside them. If you don’t, then you might like to start such a space with this gem.

Writing under a penname (Anson) the author wishes to remain anonymous. When you read, and begin to understand the content of this gem, the reason for anonymity may become clear. The role of the ego is often discussed by the narrator and the Eagle. The ego can be a block or a shield towards greater understanding. The ego can also be a fierce defender, and protector, of our sense of self-importance.  

The book begins with a brief conversation with the Eagle. The Eagle is asked the purpose of flying and how difficult it is to fly. To this last question the Eagle replies, “Flying is easy, it is growing the feathers that is difficult.” The Eagle then cautions that growing feathers is only possible “with great determination.”

The subsequent conversations with the Eagle elaborate and expand upon what this “great determination” entails.

This is not the place to offer spoilers, except to say that conversations with the Eagle cover such deep and soulful explorations as:

·       the ego,

·       letting go,

·       simplifying,

·       creating space (for feathers to grow into),

·       judging,

·       the relationship between the individual and society/culture,

·       religion,

·       self-awareness and self-reflection,

·       limited beliefs,

·       and so much more.

This is a short book of exquisite dialogic beauty and wisdom. It will not provide you with answers, but it will suggest the questions that need to be asked. It will also advise on the determination needed to find the answers; if, indeed, it is answers you seek.

This book is published by Happy Tadpole Publishing in Coffs Harbour, NSW, Australia. Anyone living in Coffs Harbour will know of the Happy Frog café that also sells local, and organic products.  Happy Tadpole Publishing is an offshoot of Happy Frog.

Copies are available for sale at Happy Frog. For those living out of Coffs Harbour, contact Happy Frog directly (go to the Contact Us link on their webpage https://thehappyfrog.com.au/)

Profits from the sale of this book go to Medecins Sans Frontieres (https://www.msf.org/)

Tuesday, 29 June 2021

Let Me Kneel

A couple of weeks ago was World Environment Day.  This is a poem to honour Mother Earth.  We give and take - let us find the correct balance.

Let Me Kneel

Let me kneel upon the Earth

Raise my eyes to stormy skies

Let raindrops fall and silent slide

Down these old cheeks of mine.

 

Let me dig feeble fingers into fecund

Mud and grime, the fertile soil

Of Mother Earth.

Allow worms to squirm and slip

Through wrinkled fingers splayed

Let me sense the snail’s slime

Or butterflies breath and beating wings.

 

Let me wade in oceans blue and white

Feel waves lap at shoeless, happy feet

Let sand slip away with each lapping wave

Let waters so chill send tingling thrill

Through this ephemeral body still.

 

Let me press my forehead to kauri or miro tree

Bark to skin, sap and sweat mingled free

Hongi now, we share, we exchange our breath

Carbon, oxygen, shared elements of time and space

Let me partake of this endless, timeless cycle

Return and give, I am because you live.

 

Let me stand with storms and winds

Buffeted by elemental eddies and vortices.

 

Let my hair be blown now

Tussled, tangled by timeless truth.

 

Let me lay in open fields where shining sun

Warms and caresses naked limbs

Let photons dance and play

Synthesize with every leaf of green

 

Let life emerge and death dissolve.

Let me gaze with mournful eye

Upon moon’s reflected light, a monthly sight

Let stars collapse, be born in galaxies

Far away, yet close enough to share

Mystery, magic, and myths of time.

 

Let me one final, fruitful time

Kneel upon the earth, my time to give

My closing gift, my last offering

Let me lay, as all will some day

Breath my last and say farewell.

Tuesday, 22 June 2021

What Did They See In Those Eyes?

In a short period spanning just one thousand years the world was blessed with several remarkable teachers.  Amongst them, Confucius, Buddha, Jesus, and Muhammed stand out.

Each of these teachers had disciples, with one or two becoming highly devoted acolytes.  I wonder what each of these acolytes saw when they looked into the eyes of their teacher?

Yan Hui was a favourite of Confucius, and is revered within Confucianism as one of the Four Sages.  He was much younger than Confucius and died young, at just 40 years of age.

What did Yan Hui see when he looked into the eyes of the Master?

Mahāpajāpatī Gotamī was the foster-mother, step-mother, and maternal aunt of the Buddha.  She was the first bhikkhuni (ordained nun) within Buddhism.  Buddha initially refused to ordain her; however, after being informed that she had accepted the Eight Conditions, the Buddha is reputed to have said, “then she has been ordained already as a nun.”

What did Mahāpajāpatī Gotamī see in the eyes of the Enlightened One?

Mary Magdalene was perhaps the woman most closely associated with Jesus.  It seems that she supported him and his teachings financially.  She is sometimes referred to as the apostle to the apostles.  She is mentioned more often in the gospels than most of the twelve apostles.

What did Mary Magdalene see when she looked into the eyes of the Messiah?

Khadija was the first wife of Muhammed, and became his first follower.  As a successful merchant Khadija noticed in Muhammed a truthful and trustworthy employee of hers.  They were married for 25 years until her death in AD 619 at the age of 65.

What did Khadija see in the eyes of the Prophet?

Did any of these disciples, followers, acolytes see an hierarchic order based on power and oppression?  Did any see a rigid belief system?  Did any see hatred?  Did any see separation and division?

I suspect not.  When they looked into the eyes of their teacher, I suspect they all saw: kindness, compassion, love, empathy.  In the eyes of each of these teachers they will have seen reflected the teacher’s words:

Confucius: “What you do not want done to yourself, do not do to others.”

Buddha: “When watching after yourself, you watch after others.  When watching after others, you watch after yourself.”

Jesus: “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them.”

Muhammed: “Do good and good will come to you.”

Within these words of these four teachers, we see two consistent themes.  First, the exhortation towards kindness and goodness.  Second, the recognition that we are all interrelated; that we are all connected by thought, word, and deed.

I suspect it was the embodiment of these words that the disciples, followers, and acolytes saw when they looked into the eyes of these four teachers.

Wednesday, 16 June 2021

Carbon-Tinted Glasses

Image from: Pho.to
Most of us have heard the phrase rose-tinted glasses, meaning a tendency to view the world from an optimistic, rosy, point of view.  As we also know, when we look at things through only one perspective, we can gain an unrealistic view of reality.  There is nothing wrong with being optimistic, but if that blinkers us to other aspects of life and the world, then there is no need to work for social change or environmental justice.

Rose-tinted however, are not the only style of glasses we can wear.  Over the past decade or two we have become accustomed to wearing carbon-tinted glasses.  There are many within the climate change movement wearing these glasses, and many too (sadly) within the environmental movement.

What do I mean?  First, I’ll briefly outline how we have come to be wearing carbon-tinted glasses, and then secondly, point out how those glasses blinker us.

What are carbon-tinted glasses?

Since we began to learn about climate change (from the time that it was known as the “greenhouse effect” and on) we have slipped into our western pattern of attributing linear thinking and a simplistic cause and effect mentality.  It goes like this: 1. The atmosphere is warming up, 2. It is warming up because of the build-up of carbon, 3. Carbon is being added to the atmosphere because of human causes, 4. Primarily, the burning of fossil fuels, 5. What is the solution? 6. Replace fossil fuels as the source of energy with “renewable” energy sources (particularly solar and wind.)

Central to this linear thinking is the role of carbon.  Within this tightly framed mindset the issue becomes simply one of reducing carbon.

Thus, we get blinkered by our seeing the world through carbon-tinted glasses.

What are we blinkered to?

When the issue of climate change is viewed through these carbon-tinted glasses our view becomes blinkered.  A few of the ways we become blinkered are that we are unable to see:

·       The inter-related problem of biodiversity loss,

·       That electricity demand is increasing, often at a faster pace than the availability of “renewable” sources,

·       That solar panels and wind turbines both require fossil fuels to produce.  Other sources of energy (including renewables) are simply unable to generate the heat required to make solar panels and wind turbines,

·       That minerals still need to be mined from the earth to make “renewable” energy components,

·       That mining leads to environmental destruction, and social dislocation (often of indigenous communities,)

·       In some cases the minerals required are extremely limited in supply, and will not be available in sufficient quantities to enable “renewables” to replace fossil fuels,

·       That the promotion of “renewables” as replacement for fossil fuels continues to feed the techno-industrial mindset – a mindset that says progress is “good” and that continued growth is a measure of well-being,

·       That this message conveys a “false-hope” that everything will be okay, so long as we switch to “renewables,”

·       That we have already reached (possibly surpassed) at least three of the global tipping points, beyond which we have no opportunity to halt climate change.

We must remove our carbon-tinted glasses and look around us.  We must look at a much bigger picture than simply the warming-carbon-renewables small thinking.  The sooner we do so the better.

Two Riders

This blog should be read with two riders:

Rider 1. This blog should not (repeat – not) be read as being in favour of fossil fuels.  If the climate change movement is blinkered by carbon-tinted glasses, then the fossil fuel industry is stuck in an oil slick marsh, weighed down by heavy boots made with coal.  In other words, it is immobile, and is obdurately sticking where it is.

Rider 2.  This blog should not be read as suggesting that we may all just as well fall into despair, lethargy, and inaction.  A sporting analogy may help.  Imagine that you are on a team (let’s say a Rugby League, or basketball, or Aussie Rules team.)  Your team is trailing by thirty points and there is one minute to go.  Do you stop playing?  Do you give up?  Do you go and sit on the sidelines and wait for the final whistle?  I have never seen a team do that.  Why should we?

Wednesday, 9 June 2021

We've Dug And Dug

 A few days ago (5 June) was World Environment Day.  One of humanity's most damaging effects upon the environment is our mining.  Every hour of every day we extract more than 10 million tons of biomass, fossil fuels, metal, and minerals from the earth.

In the rich nations this extraction equates to some 20 - 30 tons of material for every man, woman, and child over the course of a year.  For poor nations the rate is around 2 - 3 tons.

This video and poem decries this environmental malpractice.  

When you're getting deeper and deeper into a hole, then surely the best thing to do is - stop digging!

https://biteable.com/watch/3050761/52a01d967022a19704b01e15a7a9cb82

Wednesday, 2 June 2021

Life After Fossil Fuels (Book Review)

 Humans – we have a problem! 

Yeah, we know.  It’s climate change.

Not according to Alice J Friedemann.  The problem is energy.  We won’t have any, and we won’t have any very soon. 

Alice Friedemann has been writing about energy and related fields on her website (energyskeptic.com) for over a decade.  Life After Fossil Fuels: A Reality Check on Alternative Energy,1 condenses ten year’s worth of her writings into a highly readable, rigorously researched, and at times humorous, two-hundred-page expose of energy.

Our two-hundred-year dependence upon fossil fuels is rapidly coming to an end, says Friedemann.  What can we replace that with?

First though, she reminds us that fossil fuels are not just the source of energy and/or electricity.  Fossil fuels are a prime component of just about every commodity in our modern life.  From asphalt to rubber, from toothpaste to shampoo, from curtains to umbrellas.  Oh, and for any readers in Australia – fossil fuels are used in the manufacture of surfboards.

Considering energy alone Friedemann is skeptical.  What can replace fossil fuels?  She considers all options: CNG, LNG, liquified coal, nuclear, hydrogen, ammonia, oil shale, biodiesel, and “renewables.”  Her conclusion for all of them – they won’t work.  Each of them will not work for one or more of the following reasons:

·       Too heavy.  Storing enough energy in batteries to provide power for trucks will take almost all, if not more, of the allowable weight of the truck.  Where do you put the goods?  Batteries are highly unlikely to become light enough.  We are already using lithium batteries, and lithium is the third lightest element.

·       Too costly.

·       Take up too much land area.  For example, if wish to provide the world’s electricity requirement with “renewables” then the mining for the materials needed would engulf 37% of the world’s land area.  Imagine what that would do for biodiversity.

·       EROEI (Energy Return On Energy Investment) is either far too low, or in some cases negative.

·       Unable to be scaled up.

·       Too short a lifespan.  What happens to the waste?

·       Require ever scarcer rare minerals.

·       Unable to provide enough heat for manufacturing purposes.  Half our fossil fuels are presently used in manufacturing.  The irony here is that manufacturing wind turbines and solar panels requires a heat much greater than wind and solar can obtain.  Fossil fuels must be used to generate the heat required to manufacture these “renewables.”  Renewables are not renewable, Friedemann says, they are “rebuildable” (at least in the short term).

Friedemann does suggest one possible source – biomass.  However, she manages to show just how limited that is as an option also. 

So, what to do?

Friedemann, with characteristic droll wit, tells us that:

“The only other alternative would be to get rid of economic systems that depend upon endless growth on a finite planet.”

Simplify, localise, decentralise.  These are the components of an alternative economic system that Friedemann suggest.  Now there’s a thought.  I wonder if anyone has thought of writing a book about that?

P.S. I am hopeful that a further review of this book will be placed upon this blogsite – a review from a person who has a background in energy systems.  Watch this space.

Note:

Alice J Friedemann, Life After Fossil Fuels: A Reality Check on Alternative Energy, Springer Nature Switzerland AG, Cham, Switzerland, 2021.

Wednesday, 26 May 2021

I Ain't Marching Anymore

In 1965 the protest singer Phil Ochs wrote and recorded a song called I Ain’t Marching Anymore – a song about the futility of marching off to war.1  It became one of the songs that Ochs most often played in his concerts.  In it, Ochs sings,

I knew what I was learning,

That I ain’t marching anymore. 

What was Ochs learning?  Was he learning something, not only about the futility of war and his reasons for not wanting to take part?  Was he also learning something about himself, and the act of marching?  Perhaps?  Perhaps not?

I have.  I have learnt something about protest marches.  I have learnt something about marching – and chanting as I march along.  I have learned that marching (and chanting) as a form of protest is personally unhealthy, and possibly even contributing to a world that I do not want.  What follows is my personal reasons for no longer participating in protest marches.  If you, dear reader, wish to withdraw from such marches for similar reasons, then that is your choice.  Here, I am not suggesting that those seeking a more just world discontinue marching.  I do not have the answers.  All I know is what I have learned.  All I know is the impact marching has upon my psyche and my interactions with those around me.  So, with that caveat, here are some of the things I have learned:

·       Marching and chanting tends to be highly confrontational.  It sets up an us versus them mentality.  Yes, perhaps confrontation is needed.  I want to participate in confrontations with the act not with the actor.  Yet, marching (and its associated chanting) too often results in confronting people, other human beings, instead of engaging with the issues.

·       Marching has a militaristic connotation.  For me, militarism is one of the major obstacles in our way towards a more just, and peaceful world.  I do not wish to evoke one of its features in any protest.

·       There has long been debates as to whether the ends justify the means.  I won’t go into a discussion of those debates here, suffice to say that many of us in social justice movements over the past half century or more have come to understand that there is no distinction.  Means and ends are the same thing.  Means are simply ends in the making.  Marching and chanting disregards this understanding.

·       Marching enables the marcher to point the finger elsewhere, to shift the blame.  Yet, we are all participants in, and proponents of, the systems that we wish to change.  As Alexandr Solzhenitsyn (in The Gulag Archipelago) noted, “The line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either – but right through every human heart, and through all human hearts.”  We are all culpable to some degree.  Marching tends to suggest that I, as a marcher, bear no responsibility.

·       Marching seems to elicit “boos” and jeers, and shouts of “shame.”  Hurling abuse seems to me to be unbecoming of someone seeking a more humane society.  Verbal abuse is not an element of a society I aspire towards.  I would rather have no part of such abuse.

·       The five statements above could all be summarised by suggesting that marching maintains the myth of separation.  It separates me, as marcher, from the non-marcher and from the “object” I am marching against.  The myth of separation is possibly the single most potent factor spawning the problems we face in the world.

Learning from neuropsychology

Over the past half-century or more our understanding of neuroscience and neuropsychology has grown significantly.  We now understand a lot more about how our mental images and the stories we tell ourselves come to influence our behaviours and beliefs.  And vice versa.

When I add the understandings of neuropsychology to the statements above, I have to conclude that marching has an unhealthy impact upon my psyche and my mental state.  That unhealthy state cannot help but impact upon the world around me.  Hence, I choose to not march.

I ain't marching (off to war) anymore.

I Still Protest

I still wish to place my witness in front of (the literal meaning of protest) issues and problems that I consider to be unjust or wrong.  How do we do that if old forms of protest are unhealthy, and possibly counter-productive?

David Suzuki (the highly respected environmentalist and science commentator) has pondered this also.  In his autobiography he states,

“It is clear that the old ways of confrontation, protests, and demonstrations so vital from the 1960s through the 80s, have become less compelling to a public jaded by sensational stories of violence, terror, and sex.  We need new alliances and partnerships and ways of informing people.”2

I concur with him.  We need to be more creative and find life-affirming ways of testifying our disagreement with policies, procedures, and practices that are dehumanising and destroying the Earth. 

Meanwhile, I will attend rallies, I will listen to the speeches, I will condemn acts of oppression and degradation of the environment.  However…

I Ain’t Marching Anymore.

Notes:

1. Phil Ochs, I Ain’t Marching Anymore, Elektra Records, 1965.  Phil Ochs performed at many protest rallies during the 1960s and 70s.  Sadly, he succumbed to depression and committed suicide in 1976.  I must admit that he may not have agreed with not marching anymore, in the sense I have written here.  If so, then my apologies to you Phil Ochs.

2. David Suzuki, David Suzuki: The Autobiography, Greystone Books, Vancouver B.C., Canada, 2006.

Wednesday, 19 May 2021

When Will Young People Be Listened To?

l to r. Severn Cullis-Suzuki, Greta Thunberg, Xiuhtezcatl Martinez

At the end of this week (on Friday 21 May) students from all over Australia will be attending School Strike For Climate rallies.  Inspired by Greta Thunberg these have been gaining millions of participants all over the world since late 2018.

Will they be listened to?

Young people have been raising their voices for decades.  How many more decades before their pleas, ideas, and suggestions are heard?  Greta Thunberg was not the first – she is unlikely to be the last.  Here are just three of these young people from the past three decades.

Severn Cullis-Suzuki

Severn was born in 1979, a third-generation Japanese-Canadian.  At the age of 9 she founded ECO (Environmental Childrens Organisation).

In 1992, at the age of just 12, she and three other members of ECO raised funds to travel to Rio de Janeiro to attend the U.N. Earth Summit.  Whilst there, she was invited to speak to a plenary session of the delegates.  A YouTube recording of her six minute speech has now been viewed well over one million times.  A link to her speech is here.

In the year following her speech she was honoured as a member of the U.N. Environment Program Global 500 Roll of Honour – which includes such notable environmentalists and conservationists as Sir David Attenborough and Jane Goodall.

Xiuhtezcatl Martinez

Xiuhtezcatl’s mother, Tamara Roske, founded the Earth Guardians Community Resource Centre in 1992 (the same year Severn Cullis-Suzuki spoke in Rio) in Hawaii.  Beginning as a high school focussing on environmental issues, this morphed into the international environmental organisation, Earth Guardians.  Xiuhtezcatl is the Youth Director of this organisation.

In 2015 (at the age of 15), he and 20 other young people filed a lawsuit against the U.S. government alleging that the government was denying them their constitutional right to life, liberty, and property by ignoring climate change.

In that same year Xiuhtezcatl addressed the U.N. General Assembly, speaking in English, Spanish, and Nahuatl (his native tongue.)  He spoke for all young people when he told the delegates that,

“What is at stake now is the existence of my generation.”

In 2017 Rolling Stone magazine named him as one of the ”25 under 25” young people who will change the world.

Greta Thunberg

In August 2018, at the age of 15, Greta Thunberg began spending her school days outside the Swedish Parliament with her now famous sign – Skolstrejk för klimatet (School strike for climate.)  She may not have known it then, that this one-person action would go on to instigate one of the world’s most prominent campaigns – the strikes by millions of students across the globe in favour of action on climate change.

Within four months of her beginning those lone strikes she was addressing the 2018 U.N. Climate Change Conference in Poland.  Her attendance at the 2019 U.N. Climate Change Conference in New York caught world-wide attention by her sailing to the conference rather than flying. 

At that conference she delivered her now famous “how dare you?” speech.  The context of those three words is worth quoting here:

“This is all wrong.  I shouldn’t be here.  I should be back in school on the other side of the ocean.  Yet you all come to us young people for hope.  How dare you!  You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words.  And yet I’m one of the lucky ones.  People are suffering.  People are dying.  Entire ecosystems are collapsing.  We are in the beginning of a mass extinction, and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth.  How dare you!”

To this writer (who is almost exactly 50 years older) those three words – how dare you! – of admonishment are entirely appropriate.

Greta Thunberg was named Time Person of the Year for 2019.  She has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize three years running, in 2019, 2020, and 2021.

When?

Greta Thunberg’s words – how dare you!punctuate three decades of young people speaking, beginning with Severn Cullis-Suzuki in 1992, passing on through Xiuhtezcatl Martinez’s activism, to the school strikes of today.

When will the world’s leaders finally listen?  When will they dare to listen?