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, 23 May 2023

Sacred to Ecclesial to Secular... and Back Again. (Part 2 of 2)

Part 1 of this blogpiece very briefly traced the journey from the sacred to the ecclesial and on to the secular within the European cultural tradition. Part 2 will briefly describe where this journey has brought us to and whether there are any signs of a return to Earth once again being viewed as sacred.

Viewed entirely through secular eyes the world becomes a collection of individual pieces that move and operate according to “scientific” laws. The Scientific Revolution (heralded in by the publication of Nicolas Copernicus’ heliocentric view of the heavens, in 1543) placed human beings largely as observers of a mechanistic, linear, objective world.

The Age of Discovery (alluded to in Part 1) and the subsequent tidal wave of colonisation of almost all parts of the globe by Europeans brought to the entire globe this highly secularised way of perceiving the world.

The Industrial Revolution (beginning - also in Europe - in the 18th century) did nothing to impede this world-as-object view. Indeed, this revolution took this view and ran with it. If the world is nothing more than a collection of disparate objects, then using those objects for the benefit of humans is the proper thing to do.

Cracks in this mechanistic view began to appear within science itself with the emergence of quantum mechanics and relativity theory only a little over 100 years ago. With respect to the purposes of this blogpiece the major importance of these scientific fields was the dismantling of the notion of the independent observer. A corollary of this was the recognition that the world, including us humans, was not a disconnected place.

One of the foremost of these scientists, Albert Einstein, recognised this when he stated that:

“A human being is a part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He (sic) 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.”

Later in the 20th century, other scientific branches (e.g., biology, meteorology, ecology) would begin to come to similar perceptions. Although such recognitions were being made within the scientific community, the world as a whole continued to consider the world as secular.

The inventions of the Industrial Revolution and the technologies it spawned saw a rapid rise in material wealth and well-being (although many were excluded.) However, this has come at the enormous expense of the ecosystems of the world.

Environmental Movement

Although there had been many precedents, it was not until the mid-20th century that a widespread global environmental awareness began to infiltrate this secular world-view. Many consider the publication of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, in 1962 to be the book that heralded this movement. Early environmentalism was still trapped within the secular model and tended to think of the environment as something out there. The environment was seen as needing protection, needing to be saved, or conserved. There was little sign that a return to a sacred view of the world was on offer.

Arne Næss, the Norwegian philosopher, published a paper in 1973 in which he coined the term deep ecology to mean a view that was more spiritual and intuitive than that of the mainstream environmental movement of the time. He claimed “that you feel, when you are working in favour of free nature, you are working for something within your self, that ... demands changes. So you are motivated from what I call ‘deeper premises’”

Deep Ecology took awhile to make an impact, and today it still struggles to sway mainstream environmentalism, especially as the climate change movement (with its tinge of anthropocentrism) has become almost synonymous with environmentalism.

Are there any other signs of a re-sacralising of the Earth?

Yes. The emergence of eco-psychology, especially since the 1990s, has had an important role in recognising that the human psyche is fundamentally shaped by our participation in, and partnership with, the more-than-human world.

Eco-spirituality (in many forms) has also been growing in recent years. Within the Christian faith the recent rise of Green Christianity has emphasised the concept of stewardship rather than ownership (or dominion) in Genesis 1.

Indigenous societies around the world have been offering a potent critique of secular Eurocentric world-views for decades. Notwithstanding the near total genocide that many of these cultures endured through colonisation, many have retained a strong connection with their strong nature-based values and insights. Some of us from within the European tradition are starting to wake up and to listen and learn.

In Europe there has recently been keen interest in re-discovering and re-kindling some of its pagan heritage. Much of this paganism had a strong sense of the sacredness of life and the Earth.

Nature Deficit Disorder is a term coined by Richard Louv in his 2005 book Last Child in the Woods. In this book, and other writings, Louv lucidly outlines the intimate connection between our well-being and the amount of time we spend in nature. This, and the Japanese practice of Shinrin yoku (Forest Bathing) clearly bring to mind and body our deep need for a sacred connection with nature.

So, yes, there are indications that there may be the beginning of returning to our sacred roots, and our place in the wholeness (holy-ness) of nature.

Addendum: Nothing in either Part 1 or Part 2 of this blogpiece should be read as directing culpability at any particular institution or person. It is futile pointing the finger of blame at Christianity or the scientists of the 16th and 17th century. Nor does it make sense to mete out judgement upon the inventors of new technologies in the 18th and 19th centuries.

This blogpiece simply suggests an arc by which there has been a shift from a sacred view of the Earth towards a mechanistic perspective. Sadly, that arc has brought us to a position where the fate of humanity and the more-than-human world is at the mercy of humans.

Blaming and shaming serves only to further entrench the schisms between us. Polarisation can never allow us to heal ourselves. And, if we cannot heal the divisions between us, what chance do we have of finding wholeness (holy-ness) in the world?

Wednesday, 17 May 2023

Sacred to Ecclesial to Secular and ... Back Again (Part 1 of 2)

Alfhol (tiny houses) built for
elves in Iceland.
When trying to make sense of the state of the world and the mess it is in, we surely must consider the ways in which our psycho-spiritual understandings have helped shape this mess. What follows is this author’s attempt to sense-make.

First, I must acknowledge the particular circumstances within which I was born, raised, and now function within the world. I recognise myself as being a member of the most privileged sector of humanity that has possibly ever lived. I have a western European heritage, am male, and was born in one of the most affluent nations in the world – New Zealand. Furthermore, I was born into that generation (baby boomers, 1946 – 1964) that saw massive advances in well-being and wealth.

Although I often may have rebelled against much of my cultural upbringing, I nevertheless have been privileged by it. The following thoughts arise from this socio-cultural perspective.


Even a cursory examination of humanity’s roots and ancient histories suggests that our ancient forebears understood (perhaps intuitively, or instinctively) that we humans are part of nature, not distinct from, nor even a privileged form of it. We participated in an intimately connected, symbiotic, inter-dependent community of all life on this planet. 

Life, and our part in it, was considered as a whole – undifferentiated. In this sense, all life was viewed as sacred, considered holy, or hallowed. Indeed, all these words – whole, holy, hallowed, plus health – derive from the same etymological root. This would indicate just how closely our ancestors understood the sanctity of all life.

But, what animated this life? It is easy to visualise early Homo sapiens, and generations following, pondering this question. Perhaps, around the communal fires, stories were told (some of them becoming famous myths and legends) that attempted to “answer” this question. The human quality of imagination no doubt was invoked and something beyond the immediately observable was posited.

A variety of spirits, sprites, demons, and other deities would have been spoken of around the fire. Many of these would have been imbued with human-like form, manifesting as elves, giants, dwarves, satyrs, nymphs, fairies, leprechauns, and other inhabitants of the forests, lakes, streams, mountains, and deserts. Many of these would later be transformed into gods and goddesses. No matter whether these were imaginal or not, in our early history these were primarily connected with a nature-based understanding of the world.

Furthermore, all people could recognise them and communicate with them. The job of shamans was to make these intra-natural (only later did they become super-natural) deities recognisable to the rest of the clan, group, or tribe.

There were places where it was known that these deities tended to inhabit and, so, early humans came to honour such places; e.g., forest groves, springs, mountain/hill tops, stone circles, caves. Such sites became sacred.

To our ancestors the world was known as a holy (whole) realm with many sacred sites and beings.

Sacred Become Ecclesial

However, things did not remain this way. Gradually the plurality of gods and goddesses were supplanted by the monotheistic god of Judeo-Christianity, and the shamans replaced by priests who interceded between people and god.

Spirituality was traded for religion. The sacred had become ecclesial.

Significantly, this monotheistic god did not reside on or in the Earth. This god was “booted upstairs” as the Buddhist and comparative religion scholar, David Loy, put it.1 Humanity’s view of what was holy and sacred was shifted radically from seeing ourselves as part of nature to a skyward gaze. Alongside this, the duality of Heaven (in the sky) and Hell (of or in the Earth) began to take hold. Thus, belief in, and hope for, the after-life became more consequential than the life here (in nature) and now.

These shifts ripped apart the recognition of the Earth and nature as being holy and endowed with sacred sites. The movement towards the Earth becoming a secular entity – totally devoid of any sense of sacredness – was underway.

Without a sense of holiness (and with life’s meaning being directed towards the after-life) the Earth began to be regarded as simply a resource that humans could exploit. Forests that once housed the fairy-folk could be felled. Lakes and streams where once water-sprites lived could be used as rubbish dumps. Hill tops, the home of giants, could be mined and dug into with abandon.

Within my cultural heritage this exploitation was not confined to Europe. The poorly named Age of Discovery2 began in the 15th century and exploitation and colonisation was exported throughout the world, with disastrous effects upon indigenous peoples and ecosystems in all the continents and oceans of the world.

The door leading towards a mechanistic, deterministic, Cartesian view of the world had been not just opened, but violently kicked in.  

God is Dead

‘Gott ist tot’ (God is dead) wrote Friedrich Nietzsche in 1882, although similar utterings had been made by others in the decades before Nietzsche made his now infamous claim. Not only did this statement inter God, but it also massacred any sense of spirituality and summed up, in just three words, the previous three centuries.

Following on from the age of discovery and the Enlightenment, the Scientific Revolution further imbued the world as simply a mechanical mixture of nothing more than ‘things.’ The conception of nature as a community of living energies was discarded. If it could not be observed and measured, then it was unworthy of consideration.

Even humans were not exempt from this idea. René Descartes famous dictum, ‘I think, therefore I am,’ implied a subject (I) entire unto itself, not needing connection with other humans to exist or to know oneself.

The secularisation of the world was well and deeply embedded.

God was dead. The sacred was lifeless. Nature was inert. The spirit world was exiled.

Next week’s blog will explore some of the symptoms of this secularisation and ask if the sacred can be restored?


1. David Loy, In Search of the Sacred, Tricycle magazine, 2017

2. Poorly named because Europeans discovered nothing that was not already known to one culture or another.

Tuesday, 9 May 2023

An Inconvenient Apocalypse (Book Review)

The title of this book, An Inconvenient Apocalypse,1 evokes the 2006 book and movie, An Inconvenient Truth – US Presidential candidate Al Gore’s attempt to educate people about global warming. This book’s sub-title is Environmental Collapse, Climate Crisis, and the Fate of Humanity.

Little excuse then for not knowing that this book deals with climate change (global warming) and other matters.

However, you will not find any reference in this book to 1.5 degrees (or 2 degrees, nor any other temperature measure) of warming. There are no numbers like 420 ppm or how many Gigatons of carbon dioxide are emitted per year. No apocalyptic numbers at all.

That is because the authors of this book ask different questions than do the writers of most other books dealing with these apocalyptic times. Most other writers are asking questions such as: what does the science tell us, what are we doing, and what can we do about it?

Wes Jackson and Robert Jensen however, ask: who are we?

That simple question is far more significant that those that ask questions of what we have, have not, or will do.

In posing and attempting to answer this fundamental question, the authors have deliberately chosen the word apocalypse to form part of the book’s title. The word, the authors note, can have two meanings, each of which is germane to their thesis.

In contemporary English, apocalypse has the meaning of something cataclysmic, especially the coming of the end of the world.

The other meaning is suggested by the word’s etymology. Jackson and Jensen express it thus: ‘…from the Greek meaning a lifting of the veil, a disclosure of something hidden from most people, a coming to clarity.’

This is the message the authors wish to communicate. We are in cataclysmic times and that, to navigate these times, we must lift the veil on who we are. We must also gain greater clarity on the character of the systems we have devised over many hundreds of years.

Jackson and Jensen do not wish to point the finger at human designed systems and institutions such as capitalism, religion, or other ideologies, although these may be implicated as ‘accessories to the deed.’ Rather, they wish to walk and talk us through some inconvenient understandings related to physics, chemistry, and biology. Equipped with these understandings, the authors would like us all (individually and collectively) to come to realise that ‘no human system can ignore the forces of the larger living world, which are far more powerful than we are.’

If you are seeking answers to how to cope in apocalyptic times, or how to proceed, then you will find very few in this book. You will, however, be presented with an articulate formulation of many of the questions that are essential to ask.

Right now, the questions posed by Jackson and Jensen carry more potency than the answers we are being led to believe will resolve the predicaments we are in.

That is because we have been asking the wrong questions.

Jackson and Jensen ask new, and inconvenient, questions. Get the book and start asking the same questions.


1. Wes Jackson & Robert Jensen, An Inconvenient Apocalypse: Environmental Collapse, Climate Crisis, and the Fate of Humanity, University of Notre Dame Press, Indiana, 2022.

Tuesday, 2 May 2023

How Did It Come To This?

It is said that “a picture tells a thousand words.” This blog is a series of pictures asking How did we come to this? Each is then answered with When this will do. I will let the pictures do the talking.

How did we come to this?                When this will do.

Tuesday, 25 April 2023

Two Young Girls

Artist: John Thiering

The Scene: It is 1919, just a few months after the end of World War 1. Wendy Muller is 6 years old and has just begun the school year in Christchurch, New Zealand. It is playtime, and the teacher has told the class that after play is over, they can each choose a book to read from the school library. 

Natalie was Wendy’s only friend at school. They had become good friends on the first day of school. Each noticed that the other had yellow ribbons in their hair and butterfly hairclips. From that day on the two had been almost inseparable, especially at playtimes and lunchtime. Natalie was waiting for Wendy now.

‘What book are you going to read, Nat?’ Wendy asked as soon as they stepped outside into the sunshine. ‘I’m going to get a Beatrix Potter book. I love reading about animals.’

‘I’m going to find a book about fairies, and goblins, and witches.’

‘Ugh. Witches! No thanks. I don’t like witches. They eat little girls.’

‘Not the good ones. I like the good ones.’

Wendy and Natalie sat on a school bench and watched the boys playing a game of rugby.

‘Why do they do that Nat? Why do boys want to run around, get themselves all dirty, and fall over and graze their knees? I’m glad I’m not a boy.’

‘Me too. My brother’s a boy. And mother tells me Dad was a boy once.’

Wendy gazed at the boys in the yard, then looked at the ground.

‘My Dad’s dead.’

‘How did he die?’ Natalie asked innocently.

‘He was killed in the war. My Mum says a German shot him. But that doesn’t make sense. My Grandfather’s German, and he wouldn’t shoot my father.’

‘Perhaps it was a bad German. My Dad says the Germans were baddies. He says that’s why there was a war. To stop the baddies.’

‘But my Granddad’s not a baddie.’

‘Maybe he’s a good baddie,’ Natalie said.

‘If there are good baddies…’ Wendy hesitated, ‘…then, are there bad goodies too?’

This short scene is an excerpt from my historical novel Ironic Cross.1 In it we hear two young girls deliberating on whether people can be entirely “good” or totally “bad.”

The dialogue is a child’s version of the Alexander Solzhenitsyn reflection on good and evil in his novel The Gulag Archipelago:2

‘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. This line shifts. Inside us it oscillates with the years. And even within hearts overwhelmed by evil, one small bridgehead of good is retained.’

Today (25 April) is ANZAC Day in Australia, and New Zealand. ANZAC is an acronym for ‘Australia and New Zealand Army Corps.’ It is perhaps the most significant public holiday on which a war (and those who fought in that war) is/are remembered in the two countries. On 25 April 1915 Australian and New Zealand forces landed on beaches at Gallipoli (Turkey.) The Allied objective had been to capture Istanbul (the capital of the Ottoman Empire.) However, the campaign was a tragic failure and resulted in almost 57,000 Allied forces being killed, and a similar number on the Ottoman side.

If there was ever a campaign that should have taught us the futility of, the horrors of, the stupidity of, and the suffering of war, then the Gallipoli campaign would be one of them.

Sadly, we did not, and have not, learned anything from that campaign. Indeed, today, ANZAC day is not just a remembrance of Gallipoli, it has become a remembrance for all those soldiers killed in wars that followed World War 1, suggesting strongly that little, if anything, has been learnt.

One of the underlying causes of war is our (human) predisposition towards dividing ourselves into camps of ‘us’ and ‘them.’ This division gets intensified, so that ‘us’ are ‘good’ and ‘them’ are ‘bad’ or ‘evil.’

Such division is a nonsense.

If we are to overcome our easy eagerness for war, then we must listen to the innocence of children, such as Wendy and Natalie above, and heed the wisdom of writers, such as Alexander Solzhenitsyn.


1. Ironic Cross can be ordered at

2. Alexander Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelego, Harper and Row, New York, 1974.

Monday, 17 April 2023

Mother Earth's Freedom

Ama-gi in the Sumer Cuneiform script
There is a lot said about “freedom” these days. Much of it couched in phrases such as; “individual freedom,” “my rights as a free person,” and similar appeals to an individual notion of personal liberty. Much of this notion of “freedom” can be attributed to the Age of Enlightenment in Europe during the 17th and 18th centuries.

But, we can trace the word (if not the concept) of freedom back much earlier, to the Sumer civilisation, emerging during the 6th and 5th millenia BC in Mesopotamia. The earliest known written use of the word is from the reign of Urukagina, a Sumer king, who ruled during the 24th century BC.

The derivation of the word (ama-gi in the Sumer language) is interesting. Ama is the Sumer word for mother, and gi means return, restore, put back. Hence, ama-gi literally means return to mother.

How did the notion of freedom derive from returning to mother?

One theory (there is no definitive answer) is that when Sumerian slaves were given their freedom, they were allowed to return to their mother (either literally or figuratively, as in “mother land.”)

The Sumerian culture was a matriarchal one in many ways. Hence, to return to mother would seem to be a natural, and preferred, option when a slave was given their freedom.

There is another possibility.

Sumerian cosmology was a polytheistic one. At the head of the theism was Nammu (a goddess) who created An (God of the Heavens) and Ki (Goddess of the Earth.) An and Ki produced a number of deities, one of whom was Enlil (God of the Air.) It was Enlil who managed to cleave apart his parents – An and Ki. Thus was created the heavens and the earth.

Being separated, Ki married her own son, Enlil. From that union, all life upon Earth was produced. In this cosmology then, Ki is the mother of all life upon the earth.

Thus, it is possible to envisage ama-gi (freedom) as meaning the “freedom to return to Mother Earth.”

Jumping ahead several thousand years, perhaps today we should be seeking our “freedom” somewhere else, rather than pursuing a very individualised notion of it.

For, there is a freedom to be found in Nature, in the embrace of Mother Earth. This freedom is a highly inter-connected, intricate, and complexly interwoven one.

It is a freedom we have become disconnected from. This disconnect has had unhealthy consequences for us, individually, socially, and planetary. In 2005, the author Richard Louv coined the term Nature Deficit Disorder to describe this growing alienation.1 In his book he also outlined the benefits of spending time in nature and re-establishing our “natural” connection with Nature.

Is this what the Sumerians had in mind when the word ama-gi was formed? We will probably never know.

However, conceptualising freedom as a return to Mother Earth is a valuable way to approach many of the problems we have in the world today; toxic individuality, environmental damage, and loss of connection.


1 Louv, Richard:  Last Child In The Woods: Saving our children from nature deficit disorder, Workman Publishing Company, New York, 2005.

Wednesday, 12 April 2023

Age of Non-Discovery

Flip image 90deg anti-clockwise.
Now what do you see?
Last week’s blog – Papal Bulls and Sacred Cows – acknowledged the repudiation by the Vatican
of the 15
th century Doctrine of Discovery. This doctrine underpinned the mis-named Age of Discovery that took place from the 15th to the 17th century. (Mis-named because it really only refers to Europeans “discovering” lands they previously did not know existed. Those who lived in those lands certainly knew the land existed.)

For Europeans (starting with the Portuguese and the Spanish, and then taken up by the British, French, and Dutch) the initial “discovery” was the lands of the Americas, before later “discovering” the lands dotted around the Pacific.

Sadly for the colonisers – tragically for those colonised – the most profound discovery they could have made, never got made.

Whereas those living in Europe at the time had lost contact with Nature and were no longer living in harmony with the land and what it had to offer, the peoples in the Americas and the Pacific lived in cultural settings that retained such a sense of place in the cosmos. This sense of place and harmony was infused within spiritual and cosmological understandings of the rhythms of Nature and the complex interplay of all aspects of the whole. Within this understanding, humans were a part of Nature, no greater, and no lesser, than any other part.

However, the colonising powers and settlers had no time for “discovering” this understanding of life. They were too busy “invading, searching out, capturing, vanquishing, and subduing all Saracens and pagans” as the Doctrine of Discovery gave them power to do.

The colonisers of the Age of Discovery saw only land. They saw First Nations peoples (pagans in the terms of the Doctrine of Discovery) as impeding their so-called “right of discovery” to that land.

In Australia the colonisers took this one step further and declared that the continent was Terra Nullius (land without people,) a “logical” step from the Doctrine of Discovery. Indeed, it was not until 1967 that the First Nations peoples of Australia were recognised as human and not simply as part of the “flora and fauna” of the land.

With eyes only for the land they could “discover,” the wisdom of First Nations peoples stretching over thousands of generations (the real value in the “new lands”) remained “undiscovered.” More’s the pity. Had such wisdom been recognised and understood then we may not have arrived at the environmental and social mess we are in today.

Today, more than three centuries after the end of the Age of Discovery, the wisdom of First Nations peoples is still largely unheeded, unwelcomed, and dismissed.

Those of us with European ancestry living on lands that were colonised since the 15th century would do well to put aside our biases of superiority and Eurocentrism. We might find that there is much of real worth to be discovered by listening to those with thousands of generations worth of built knowledge and wisdom.

Thursday, 6 April 2023

Papal Bulls and Sacred Cows

Warning: This blogpiece contains mixed metaphors, puns, and other linguistic quips. Although the language may sometimes be playful, the theme of this piece is deadly1 serious.

First, a couple of definitions.

A Papal Bull is a public decree, issued by the Pope. The term bull derives from the seal (bulla - blob of clay, or soft metal) appended to the document to authenticate it.

A Sacred Cow is of Hindu origin and refers to the sacredness of cows in that religion. The term has been adopted within English and refers to something that is immune to questioning or criticism.

Papal Bull Repudiated

A few days ago (30 March 2023) the Vatican formally repudiated the Doctrine of Discovery – a series of Papal Bulls issued in the 15th century.

The Doctrine of Discovery provided Spanish and Portuguese invaders with the religious authority to colonise the Americas. Specifically, the Papal Bull Romanus Pontifex, issued by Pope Nicholas V gave King Alfonso of Portugal “and his successors” the right to “invade, search out, capture, vanquish, and subdue all Saracens and pagans.” This, and other Bulls, lie at the heart of the colonisation process, not only in the Americas, but throughout the world.

The doctrine was not only applied by Portugal and Spain – many other European nations took up the bullish imperative, notably the British, the Dutch, and the French.

The notion that indigenous peoples could be subjugated and their lands stolen was claimed by Thomas Jefferson (one of the Founding Fathers of the USA) to be international law and gave Europeans the right a) to own by “discovery” land that had previously been “unknown,” b) of sole acquisition. First nations people, on the other hand, had their sovereignty diminished, and were provided only with a right of occupancy. In many cases, even this right of occupancy was to be denied to them.

The U.S. Supreme Court, in 1823, further enshrined the Doctrine of Discovery into US law when Justice Marshall declared that “the principle of discovery gave to European nations an absolute right to New World lands.”2

This declaration benefitted those of European descent, and further denied First Nations peoples their sovereignty, and, by then, even reduced their right of occupancy.

Similar Eurocentric and European senses of supremacy travelled to other parts of the world, including: South America, Australia, New Zealand, parts of Africa, India, and parts of SE Asia.

Vatican Repudiation

On 30 March 2023 a statement from the development and education offices of the Vatican repudiated the Doctrine of Discovery, and said of the 15th century Papal Bulls that they “did not adequately reflect the equal dignity and rights of Indigenous peoples.”

It is worth noting that the Vatican did not go so far as to rescind (literally, to cut up, tear asunder), but only to repudiate (literally, to walk away from) the decrees. In effect, this leaves the Doctrine of Discovery, and its implications, intact and “on-the-table.” The Pope and the Vatican have walked away from the table, leaving the Doctrine of Discovery sitting there.

Sacred Cows

Leaving the doctrine and decrees on-the-table allows some of the European sacred cows that stem from the notion of European discovery to remain as well.

  • The notion of European superiority still remains a sacred cow within much of the thinking of colonising cultures around the world. European thought processes and institutions (e.g. education, law, government, religion, business) remain immune to question and criticism. When representatives of the colonised cultures do question these, more often than not they are branded with being troublemakers, and ungrateful heathens.
  • The myth contained within the Doctrine of Discovery, although starting to fade, still exists within the minds of many colonisers. According to this myth, countries such as Canada, USA, New Zealand, and Australia2 were “discovered” by Europeans. For example, in Australia the fiction of terra nullius (literally. “nobody’s land,” therefore, able to be “discovered”) was not overturned until 1992 in the “Mabo case,” which finally recognised the land rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.
  • Private, and individual, ownership of land, remains the most sacred of all the sacred cows that Europeans hold onto. Yet, this too, derives from the falsehood of discovery. The result of this sacred cow is that First Nations peoples all over the world are still claiming lands back that were stolen from them over the past 300 years or more.

Repudiation being a step away from the table (upon which the Doctrine of Discovery lies) may be a step in the right direction. There are many more steps to be taken.


1. The word deadly in Australia is used by First Nations people as jargon to mean great, awesome. If you wish to read it that way, so be it, although the sense of meaning causing death is primarily meant in this sentence.

2. US Supreme Court case Johnson v McIntosh, 1823.

3. Responding to a question about what he thought of Captain James Cook discovering Australia, Ernie Dingo, a First Nations man, and actor, TV presenter, and comedian, from Western Australia, reputedly responded with, “Mate, I didn’t know it was lost.”

Monday, 27 March 2023

What Shall We Don't?

When we realise the reality of climate crisis, social/environmental collapse, or mass extinction, a common question to ask ourselves, or others, is, ‘What shall we do?’

The question seems to be a reasonable one to ask. Perhaps even an obvious question to ask.

If we did not ask questions, then we would not devise answers. And answers to questions around climate change, collapse, and extinction, mean solutions – do they not?

More Beautiful Questions

The answers (solutions) we come up with are shaped by, if not determined by, the questions we ask. To take this understanding further, we must admit that the answers we come up with are limited by the questions we ask. It is possible to contend that it is our questions that are the limiting factors, not the answers.

Warren Berger has spent a lot of time asking questions about questions. In his 2014 book A More Beautiful Question1 Berger defines a beautiful question as one that is:

‘…an ambitious yet actionable question that can begin to shift the way we perceive or think about something – and that might serve as a catalyst to bring about change.’

Note that Berger asserts that a beautiful question is one that helps to ‘shift the way we perceive or think about something.’ This is a critical observation when it comes to asking questions about climate, collapse and extinction.

What Shall We Do?

When we ask this question, we are asking; what shall we perform, execute, achieve, or carry out? We are asking ourselves, what action shall we take?

Therein lie the limitations around asking this question (what shall we do?) The answers inevitably lead to actions and things to make or do.

It can be argued that asking what shall we do? has steered us towards answers that have led us into the predicaments we face. It is a one way, uni-directional, linear question, with progress (and its twin – perpetual growth) as its favoured answers.

The question itself tempts us into believing that solutions are possible. We get enticed into seeking answers in new technology. It is such a seductive question that we answer it without really considering the by-products or long-term consequences of what we do.

Woefully, many of the answers (solutions) put forward to “solve” the “problems”2 of climate, collapse, and extinction serve only to exacerbate the predicaments, and/or to shift the problem from one ecosystem to another.

What if we were to ask a totally different question? What if we asked a more beautiful question, one that shifts the way we perceive or think about climate, collapse, and extinction?

What could we ask?

What Shall We Don’t?

Asking What shall we don’t? is one such question.

Admittedly, this is an uncomfortable question. What do you mean – what shall I don’t?

Don’t, do not, refrain from, stop, desist, cease, abstain. You can’t be serious!

Indeed, it is this reaction to the question – that it asks for something unnatural of us – that is its potency. It is a question that very few of those facing the predicaments of climate, collapse, and extinction are asking. Perhaps the only movement asking this question is the degrowth movement, although possibly not so explicitly and not as succinctly.

Ask it we must.

If what we have done has led us into the predicaments, then surely asking what we do not do is a viable and useful question to ask.

This blogpiece does not intend answering the question, suffice to say that the question can be applied to every sphere of human life and activity. How we travel, where we shop, what we eat, how we build, what we build – all these domains, and more, can be exposed to such a question.

This blogpiece is simply posing the question as a stimulus to shifting the ways in which we perceive climate, collapse, and extinction.

Furthermore, if the question helps to bring about change then all the better.

What is on your To Don't list?


1. Berger, Warren, A More Beautiful Question: The Power of Inquiry to Spark Breakthrough Ideas, Bloomsbury, USA, 2014.

2. Problems may or may not have solutions. However, predicaments (as we are currently experiencing) do not have solutions, only outcomes.

Tuesday, 21 March 2023

I Can't Vote and I'm Okay

Next weekend in Australia (where I live) citizens go to the polls in their State elections.

As a New Zealander I am ineligible to obtain Australian citizenship, even though I have lived here for the past eleven years. Not having Australian citizenship means that I cannot vote in these coming elections.

And, I am quite okay with that. In fact, I could almost claim to be glad of that.

That seems a strange thing to say, perhaps even paradoxical, unreasonable, or senseless. It may look that way, especially from the perspective of those who claim that ‘voting is our democratic right.’

From my perspective, however, things look quite different.

Voting is not democratic.

That is perhaps an even stranger thing to say, even subversive, or disloyal.

Let us pick voting apart. Usually, when one goes into a polling booth to vote, the following have already taken place:

  • The candidates for election are pre-determined. The number of us who suggest someone stand for parliament, council, senate, congress etc is extremely limited. Most often, it was not the common woman or man who determined who the candidates should be.1
  • The policies of candidates are pre-determined. Often the policies are to a) continue the present policies by an incumbent candidate, or b) offer up counter policies to those of the incumbent. Either way, the voter has no direct input into the policies, only a tick in the box against candidates with pre-determined polices.
  • Candidates have often aligned themselves with one political party or another. Then, once elected, it is party policy that takes precedence over any suggestion of “representing” the local constituency.2
  • The education, social standing, articulateness, economic resources, and/or celebrity status of candidates are strong indicators of the likelihood of someone being elected. These are usually those from elite groups of society. How often do you see your hairdresser, the manual labourer, or local barista on the ballot paper? Even were one of these to be on the ballot, how often do they get elected? Consequently, the decision-making bodies we get are not representative.

For these, and other, reasons, I claim that voting is not democratic.

But that is not all. Because of the above reasons, the electoral process results in a parliament, senate, or council that is little able to offer up the changes we need to see in these troubled times.

At the heart of much of the current predicaments we face is how we go about our collective decision-making. Electoral processes result in decision-making bodies that are adversarial in nature – hardly a system that allows for the collective creativity we need.

What then? How do we go about selecting public decision-makers if not by voting?

Toss a die, draw lots, generate random numbers (with numbers allocated to individual citizens,) flip a coin. These may sound flippant. Only in their simplicity. At the core of each of these is a very simple, and fair, means of selection.

Random selection.

Random selection has generated a lot of interest, research, and experimentation over the past few decades. It has a technical name – sortition.

The idea and practical use of sortition, and other forms of democracy (aside from electoral) go back millennia. The most famous is to the very birthplace of democracy – Athens.

The Athenians used sortition for most of their selection processes for their public decision-makers.3 Voting was generally restricted to electing those who would be their military leaders. Indeed, Athenians did not trust voting as a fair and democratic method.

There is even evidence showing sortition to have been used some 1,500 years before the Athenians. See this blogpost for more on these earlier forms of decision-making.

I have written extensively in this blog about sortition: what it is, how it works, and cited historical and contemporary examples of its practice. [Go to the “Categories” column to the right of this page and click on “sortition” and/or “democracy” – for these blogpieces.]

For now, I am quite comfortable in the knowledge that I cannot vote this coming weekend. I am also comfortable in the knowledge that until we shift from electoral democracy to more representative and/or direct means of selection and public decision-making then nothing will fundamentally change.

Hence, I can’t vote and I’m okay.


1. I use the term ‘common’ (or ‘commoner’), not in its somewhat disparaging sense, but in its literal sense of ko = together and moi = to move, to change, hence to move and change together.

2. Even “independents’ are not immune to this. Recently in Australian politics we have seen the emergence of Teal candidates – a loose coalition of independent candidates. Furthermore, many of those who are presently ‘independents’ in Australian politics have either resigned or been expelled from political parties they were once members of. Others have gone on to form their own party.

3. Sometimes when I mention the use of sortition in Athens I am reminded that a “citizen” in Athens did not include women or slaves. That is true. However, that is not a critique of sortition; that is a critique of social structure.

Tuesday, 14 March 2023


Artist: Dave Derret
(used with permission)
Obesity for a human is not good for human health.

Autobesity is not good for the Earth’s health.

A comment relating to a recent “New Yorker” article1 on SUVs suggesting that that this was a case of “car obesity” prompted me to coin the word autobesity to label one of the world’s most pressing environmental health problems.

A standard measurement of how underweight or overweight a person is uses the Body Mass Index (BMI.)2 The most extreme score used to be known as morbid obesity (although now it is referred to by the less emotive term obese (class III).)

If such a measurement were to be applied to our use of vehicles (Perhaps an AMI – Automobile Mass Index) then we would have to make the diagnosis that we are suffering morbid autobesity.

Autobesity has become steadily worse since WW2, and morbidly so in the past 7 years. In 2015 there were 618 million vehicles in the world. In the seven years since then that figure has more than doubled to an estimated 1,446 million (yes! – that is 1.446 billion.)3 We went from autobese to extremely autobese to morbidly autobese in just a few years.4

Autobesity (as with human obesity) carries with it harmful health outcomes. As we know, obesity in humans is a risk factor for clogged arteries.

So too, it is with autobesity. Automotive arteries (roads, parking, and right-of-ways (ROWs)) get clogged. Unlike a human body though, instead of removing the blockages, more arteries get built. In rich nations of the world the amount of land relinquished to roads, parking, and ROWs is around 2% of the total land area. In cities, the figure is substantial. New York has 22% of its land area devoted to roads and parking. In London the proportion is 23%, Tokyo 24%, and 25% in Paris. Between one-fifth and one quarter of the land in the world’s major cities is set aside for automobiles.

That is autobesity.

Other harmful effects of autobesity are well known, such as the poisons and pollution emitted from vehicle exhausts – i.e. CO2, nitrous oxides, benzene, fine and ultra-fine particulates etc.

What may be less well known, however, is that these emissions (due mainly to increased exhaust regulations around the world) are not the most harmful feature of vehicle use.

Tyre wear is responsible for around 2,000 times more particulate pollution than are exhausts. These particulates include Greenhouse Gases (GHGs)5 and toxic compounds (including carcinogens.) These seep into all parts of the body of the earth – air, water, and soil.6

As with human obesity, the weight of the vehicle contributes to this problem. To add to the issue of soaring numbers of automobiles, the weight of automobiles has also increased. In 1908, when Henry Ford began producing the Model T Ford, the heaviest of his vehicles weighed 750 kg. The average vehicle weight today is 1,800 kg. What is more, vehicles are getting heavier (contributing further to tyre wear), and likely to put on even more weight if EVs (Electric Vehicles) become more prevalent (as EV proponents predict and promote.)

Because of the battery in an EV, an average EV weighs around 30% more than an equivalent fossil-fuelled vehicle. In terms of our autobesity, EVs are not helping.7

Although EVs reached 10% of global vehicle sales in 2022, they are not replacing vehicle stock – but adding to it. Between 2015 and 2020 the total number of EVs in the world increased from less than one million to 10.2 million. Impressive – maybe? However, in the same period the total number of vehicles in the world rose from 618 million to over 1,100 million. That is just one EV for every 50 or so conventional vehicles.

What Are We Doing About Our Autobesity?

Not much, is the short answer.

A doctor, cardiologist, or other medical professional will usually prescribe a combination of diet and exercise for a person suffering obesity.

Shouldn’t we adopt a similar regime with autobesity?

But we aren’t. A significant proportion of vehicle trips are short, very short. In the U.S. 60% of all car trips are less than 10km in length. In Australian cities the distance varies from city to city, with between 30% - 60% being less then 5km in length. Melbourne takes the lack of exercise to the extreme, with 47% of vehicle trips being less than 2.5km long.8 

All these distances are easily achieved by walking or using a bicycle.

Our autobesity is now morbid and epidemic (at least in the rich nations,) so much so that (as with obesity) it is propelled by addictive mechanisms. Replacing one type of vehicle with another (EV, hybrid, hydrogen fuelled, or whatever) will not reduce our addiction, and hence autobesity will continue to harm the planet.

Many working in the addiction field tell us that abstinence is a crucial factor in helping addicts to overcome their addiction and then maintaining a more healthy lifestyle.

It is now clear that autobesity is no different.

Only total auto-abstinence will help to heal the harm caused by autobesity.


1. Elizabeth Kolbert, Why S.U.V.s are Still a Huge Environmental Problem¸ The New Yorker, 3 March 2023, accessed 13 March 2023

2. A person’s BMI is calculated by dividing their weight (in kg) by the square of their height (in metres.

3. Source: PD Insurance, 22 April 2022, accessed 13 March 2023

4. If you line up all the world’s vehicles bumper-to-bumper around the Earth’s equator they would encircle the Earth more than 160 times!

5. Laura Kokko, Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Tyre Production, M.Sc. thesis, Tampere University of Technology, February 2017

6, accessed 13 March 2023

7. Research at a Netherlands University shows that EVs are contributing significantly to the deterioration of road surfaces. accessed 13 March 2023

8. accessed 14 March 2023. Although this paper is from 1999, there is little reason to believe that the proportions have changed. If anything, personal observation suggests the figure may now be more dire.