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.

Thursday 11 April 2024

Other - Self - Other

The predicament we face today can in large part be traced to three major disconnections in the human sphere: disconnection from nature, disconnection from each other, and disconnection from self. These three disconnections are interlinked and mutually reinforcing.

This blogpiece will briefly explore one of the mechanisms that results in our disconnection from each other. As alluded to above, this mechanism has its own roots within the disconnection from our own selves.

Many psychologists, following on from Carl Jung, have explored the Shadow aspect of our selves. The Shadow in Jung’s understanding is that part of our psyche that, although true of us, we do not know exists. The Shadow is not part of us that we have denied or consciously suppressed.

If we think of our psyche as a room, then our Shadow would be behind a secret panel in the wall: a secret panel that we do not even know is there.

It is tempting to think of our Shadow as being the dark and nasty side of our unconsciousness. However, that would be a mistake. Our Shadow may also include aspects of ourselves that could be claimed to be our higher or more beautiful facets.

More often than not, however, our Shadow is comprised of nasty or brutish facets, that if pointed out to us, we would vehemently deny.

Yet, these facets within our Shadow make themselves known by projecting onto others the nastiness and brutishness. Projection is the process by which we readily label others as stupid, greedy, nasty, or, in the extreme, evil. The ecopsychologist, Bill Plotkin (highly influenced by Jung,) defines projection as the “unconscious transfer of our own emotions, desires, or traits onto another person, or sometimes a whole class of persons.”1

Such projections, especially if it is a projection of nastiness or evil, results in the class of persons upon who those traits are projected being labelled as entirely different from us, to the point where not only do we become disconnected, but where we wish to remain, and enforce, that disconnection.

The circle becomes a vicious one. We are disconnected from a part of our own psyche. That disconnected part (our Shadow) projects onto others, so that we become disconnected from them. Then, because we label others as nasty, we can easily deny any nastiness in ourselves, thus keeping our Shadow unknown to us.

To heal the rift between people, to help us reconnect, we must also heal ourselves. We must find and reconnect with our Shadow.


Carl Jung spent years delving into his (and other people’s) Shadow. He discovered methods by which we might reconnect ourselves with our Shadow and hence, with each other. Jung is reputed to have said the following:

‘Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves. One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious. Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.’2

Healing does not appear to be easy, does it? To heal the rift between people we must heal the disconnection within our own selves. However, the encouraging side of this is that as we work to heal ourselves, so we heal the rift with others, and vice versa. We cannot do one without the other.

For any reader wishing to understand and/or work on their Shadow the book by Bill Plotkin (see note 1) is highly recommended. As too are any of the immersive experiences run by Animas Valley Institute (founded by Bill Plotkin) or any of its offshoots located in many parts of the world.


1. Bill Plotkin, Wild Mind: A Field Guide to the Human Psyche, New World Library, Novato, California, 2013

2. This quote appears to be a misattribution, although Jung did make the following comment: ‘The psychological rule says that when an inner situation is not made conscious, it happens outside, as fate. That is to say, when the individual remains undivided and does not become conscious of his (sic) inner opposite, the world must perforce act out the conflict and be torn into opposing halves.’  Carl Jung, Christ: A Symbol of the Self. For myself, I find the misattributed quote easier to understand.

Wednesday 3 April 2024

Negative Capability and Resilience

John Keats
In December 1817 the English Romantic Poet, John Keats, in a letter to his brothers (George and Thomas) used the phrase negative capability. He described this capability as belonging to a person capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason.’1

Since Keats time the term has come to be applied mostly by artists to mean the ability to seek after beauty and perfection, even if this leads them into uncertainties and confusion.

The phrase, however, is of use to humanity as a whole, rather than limited to artists and philosophers.

Undoubtedly, we are entering into times of uncertainty. Indeed, we have been in those times arguably since at least the beginning of this century.

Since the 1970s there have been numerous studies that put forward various scenarios (not to be confused with ‘predictions’) indicating collapse of life as we know it sometime from the middle of this century onward.

Others tell us not to worry, our ability to innovate will solve any problems. Technology has come to the rescue previously, and will do so again.

There are advocates, academics, influencers, radio talk-back hosts, politicians, commentators, and others on both sides. And, we all choose which of these we listen to. We all choose whom to believe. We also choose whom not to listen to, and who not to believe.

Between the two seeming polar opposites – collapse vs techno-optimism – most people on Earth live their lives in many different states: denial, despair, hopefulness, anger, apathy, lethargy, idealism, etc etc.

All these states of awareness and consciousness are possible and do exist. Yet, no-one can reliably predict what will or won’t happen.

There is no doubt we are living in uncertain times.

If the future is uncertain then how do we prepare for it? John Keats’ advice was to enhance our capability to live with the uncertainties ‘without any irritable reaching after fact and reason.’

That means becoming resilient.

Resilience (literally to leap back) is associated mostly with a mental capability. Most dictionaries will define it as the ability to regain a happy outlook following some sort of setback.

So, in uncertain times, how do we become resilient? Keats’ advice is negative capability, whereby the uncertainty is held without attempting to rationalise what is happening. This does not mean ignoring what is happening nor fantasising about some rosy future. It simply means letting go of the need to control outcomes. It also means letting go of fear and anxiety.

But note too; Keats wrote of mysteries also.

We live in a world full of mystery and wonder. Again, Keats advised not to want to diminish our sense of awe with facts, figures, data, and intellectualising.

I am certain that Keats would have said to just enjoy the mystery. That’s why he was a Romantic Poet.

Negative Capability is such good advice. Let us enjoy the romance of mystery and uncertainty.


1. John Keats, The Complete Poetical Works and Letters of John Keats, Cambridge Edition, Houghton, Miffen, and Company, 1899.

Friday 29 March 2024

Nuclear: Not Now

I was recently told about a film/documentary directed by Oliver Stone. Released in 2022 Nuclear Now is an unabashed pro-nuclear energy documentary. Stone’s film promotes nuclear as the method by which climate change is to be averted.

Since the disasters of Chernobyl and Fukushima many countries around the world have been cutting back on their nuclear energy programs. Nuclear Now attempts to make the case for halting that decline and rebuilding the nuclear business.

This blog, however, argues – Nuclear: Not Now.

Stone’s documentary, and Oliver Stone himself, begin with a false premise, prompting him to ask the wrong questions. In turn, this leads to erroneous answers.

The false premise is that climate change is a problem to be solved. Beginning with this premise, the film asks: ‘How can we produce more electricity and still cut down on carbon emissions to halt the climate crisis?’ (my emphasis) Stone’s answer to this question – nuclear energy.

However, climate change is not a problem to be solved. There are at least two falsities in this assumption. First, climate change is a symptom, not a cause of something damaging. The cause, if anything, is humanity’s overshoot of planetary boundaries, with climate change being one of those boundaries. Secondly, climate change is part of a much larger phenomenon – a predicament. A predicament is multi-faceted, complex, and inherently unsolvable. A predicament has an outcome (or outcomes) which cannot be predicted, and certainly unable to be controlled by human intervention.

Because of this basic misunderstanding of what climate change is, and how it is manifested, Nuclear Now asks the wrong questions, and hence, gets the wrong answers.

Just Suppose

However, let us make an assumption of our own. Let us suppose that nuclear energy is one of the options available to us to reduce carbon emissions. If it is an option, then how viable is it?

Even with this (futile) assumption, the answer to whether nuclear energy is viable must still be – No!

What follows are just four areas in which the film is in error, or at least, misleading.

1. No climate gases. This claim is ludicrous. From the mining of uranium, to its transportation, to the construction of reactors, to the storage of nuclear waste, the entire nuclear process emits GHGs (Greenhouse gases). The entire process must be considered, not simply the final production of electricity in a built nuclear reactor.

2. Nuclear energy kills far less people. Appealing to this argument is akin to asserting that the death rate from car accidents in my country is okay because it is less than that of a neighbouring country. This argument, is actually an argument for reducing entirely our dependency upon electricity and other energies. The film claims that because the deaths from nuclear accidents have been limited that the technology is safe. Ironically, the film gives the example of the Bhopal chemical disaster in India. A gas leak at the Union Carbide Corporation factory in 1984 resulted in the deaths of an estimated 8,000 people in the first two weeks, and a similar number since. Well over half-a-million people suffered various injuries as a result of the leak. Undoubtedly the US based company (Union Carbide Corporation) as the majority owner of the factory considered it to be safe also! Until the disaster!

A number of other examples of industries that kill people at a greater rate than nuclear are presented in the film. All the examples given (and many more) begs these question: Is industrialisation killing us? Is industrialisation safe? But, these questions never get asked in the film.

Of the nuclear accidents that have happened the film suggests that ‘poorly designed reactors,’ ‘controls were not in place,’ or that ‘human error’ were the cause of these accidents. Yes, all this may be true – human beings are fallible. We do make mistakes. However, if these mistakes and poor designs have led to accidents in the first few decades of nuclear energy, how much more likely is it that mistakes of a human-nature will occur during the coming thousands of years (for that is the length of time that nuclear waste remains toxic and lethal)? The consequences of such a human mistake could be significantly greater than the Bhopal disaster.

3. The increase in use of solar and wind-powered energy are contrasted with that of nuclear in the film. The film notes that these ‘renewables have been going on top of fossil fuels, not replacing them.’ Exactly, and so too has nuclear. During the heydays of reactor construction and operation, the electricity produced by nuclear did not replace that of fossil fuels – it added to the use of electricity. This is a classic example of the Jevons Paradox at work. A paradox that the film makes no mention of.

Jevons Paradox states that when a fuel is made cheaper, more accessible, or simply available, then the use of that fuel will increase, not decrease. Greater numbers of nuclear reactors will increase the consumption of electricity, not decrease it!

4. The most grievous point the film makes about nuclear is that it must be scaled up quickly. The film makes the point that approximately 400 nuclear reactors currently supply 10% of the world’s electricity needs. ‘Reactors,’ the film claims, ‘could be built on a factory scale.’

But, what would this mean? One person who has attempted to answer this, and has done the calculations required, is Dr Simon Michaux, a professor of physics, mining, and geology. Dr Michaux’ arithmetic shows that at current levels of reactor building, decommissioning, and replacement, the earth has about 300 years worth of Uranium reserves.

However, if the world were to ramp up the construction of nuclear reactors, as Stone would want, then those reserves would be depleted within 75 years. Even then, with such a vigorous and aggressive program, less than 70% of fossil fuels would be phased out. Imagine how quickly reserves were to be depleted to reduce the use of fossil fuels by even 50%!!

The real problem (if a ‘problem’ is conceded) is that the question is not nuclear vs fossil fuels. It is a question of supply vs demand. Our demand keeps increasing. Increasing supply is not going to solve that.

IN the final moments of the film, Stone comments ‘We may have reached a point where Earth is asking us – “do you know what you are doing?”’

Exactly! Sadly, the film/doco Nuclear Now does not answer the Earth’s pressing interrogation.


1. Dr Simon Michaux, interviewed by Nate Hagen in Minerals and Materials Blindness, The Great Simplification, 18 May 2022

Tuesday 19 March 2024

Elderhood: What Is It and Where Has It Gone?

Five years ago I attended a 5-day immersion with Stephen Jenkinson on elderhood. A few months earlier I had read his book Come Of Age.1 The experience and journey I took during those five days began me on an expedition of enquiry, reflection, and research over the following five years.

I attempted to discover what elderhood was, and where it had gone.

Where has it had gone? Surely it has not gone anywhere. Surely elderhood still exists in our culture?

Sadly not. Or, at least, there are so few elders in our culture2 that it is extremely difficult to find them and name them.

During my five years research one of the questions I kept asking was: can I identify elderhood in indigenous and nature-based cultures? Doing so, led me to ask whether I could identify the characteristics of elderhood in those culture that enabled elderhood to emerge and function? Asking those questions was enlightening. I found I could identify some characteristics, contrast them with concepts such as leadership or mentorship, and identify those characteristics that “our culture” is missing.

What follows is a brief article of a presentation I gave to an older group of men about one week ago.3

Characteristics of Elderhood

·       Community-focussed.

·       Builds wholeness within a community. Other similar concepts often display a healing emphasis. Elderhood may incorporate healing, but that is not its focus. It is focussed on the wholing of people and their relationship with the world and the cosmos.

·       Earth/cosmos centred. Other notions are usually person-centred and anthropocentric.

·       Facilitates ritual and ceremony for specific cultural reasons.

·       Spans 14 generations: Seven generations of ancestors plus seven generations of descendants. Most other similar notions (e.g. leadership, mentorship) are far more limited in time, often considering just one generation or, in the case of politicians, one term of office.

·       Elders are often found in Council, whereas similar concepts are usually displayed in individuals.

·       Elderhood is bestowed upon people. Whereas leadership, mentorship, management, or governance are positions that one can become. One does not seek elderhood, it is a gift (and a burden) that a society confers upon a person. This is done usually after many years training, often stretching back decades to teenage years. I have used the word bestow here deliberately. The etymology of the word is revealing. The stow part is from Old English meaning to put or place. The prefix be intensifies that. Be indicates completely, or thoroughly. Hence bestow can be defined as ‘to thoroughly place.’ Having elderhood bestowed upon someone indicates that others (usually the local community or tribe) are acting upon the recipient of the bestowal process. In contrast, becoming suggests that the person is assertively active in their own becoming.

·       Eldership is usually (but not always) place dependent. Elders have usually grown up within a locality, have explored that locality thoroughly, and have been trained in the lores and customs of the people of that locality.


Not all the above characteristics may be found in all indigenous conceptions of elderhood, yet these characteristics can be identified in many.

Where Has It Gone?

Reading the above characteristics, it becomes readily apparent that “our culture” is bereft of true elderhood. So, what has happened? Where have they gone? I gave this question some consideration also. This situation has not just arisen in recent times. The genesis of many of the causes can be traced back 10,000 years or more. Amongst a number of interlocking, interconnected, and mutually reinforcing reasons the following can be discerned:

·       Disconnection from nature,

·       Disconnection from each other,

·       Disconnection from ourselves,

·       Cultural belief (conscious or unconscious) that ‘the life of man (sic) is solitary, poor, nasty, brutal, and short.’ This well-known quote of Thomas Hobbes (17th century) is the epitome of the thinking that dominated European thinking during the Scientific Revolution and the Enlightenment. This view has entrenched itself into “our” cultural psyche so much that we hardly recognise it is there.

·       Loss of the sacred and spiritual.

·       Lack of pathways for transitioning from one life stage to the next.

·       Mechanistic, Cartesian, and linear “understanding” of the world/cosmos. Many of the thinkers during the Scientific Revolution often referred to the world and the cosmos as a clock – the ultimate mechanical metaphor.

·       Rejection of the Gaia Principle. The Gaia Principle proposes that the entire Earth is a single, synergistic, self-regulating, complex system that supports the conditions for life. It is named after the Greek goddess of the Earth.

·       Lack of Elders. Our culture is bereft of elders because of a lack of elders. Being bereft of elders means we will lack elders, and lacking elders… We are locked in a vicious cycle.


Where Does This Lead?

Elderhood is an emergent process. True elderhood arises out of a healthy and intact culture. Healthy elderhood is extremely difficult to surface when the sustaining culture is contaminated by many of the beliefs and mindsets described above.

If the cultural container is broken, then the worthiest function for would-be elders is to work towards repairing the culture.

Metaphorically, we could think of this work of reparation as like that of the Japanese art of kintsugi, wherein broken pottery is repaired by gluing the shattered pieces back together with a lacquer mixed with gold, silver, or platinum.

This process does not seek to hide the cracks, but rather, to make them visible in such a way that the brokenness of the pottery is now shown to be beautiful.

It is up to all of us to pick up the pieces of our broken culture and, collectively, repair it, so that we can get 

from here                              

to here.


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

2. By “our culture” I mean the culture that is largely western-style, European influenced, industrialised, and rich. Sadly, many indigenous and nature-based culture have been colonised (often brutally so) by this culture that this culture has now come to dominate the planet. The culture that had its origins in one part of the planet has now become tantamount to the global culture.

3. I will not elaborate on every point, otherwise this will end up being a read of well over one hour. However, I will attempt to elaborate briefly on the most salient ideas.

Tuesday 12 March 2024

Scaling Up A Local Café

Most mornings of the week I walk to my local, and favourite, café. Many of the other coffee drinkers (some may say addicts) I know by name and a little about them. As I sit and drink my latte I notice that there are a lot of these friendly interactions. People meet and greet others they know. A large number of them have walked to the café. It is the epitome of local.

Those who take our orders and serve the coffee, and the baristas, are also known by name. And they know our names. Once I asked one of the baristas how many individual coffee preferences she knew from memory. “About fifty,” she replied. It is a friendly atmosphere. I have never witnessed an angry exchange between anyone there. The owner of the café encourages friendliness. A couple of years ago I asked her about what was important to her at the café. Without hesitation she replied, “To make people happy.”

And people are. There are significantly more smiles and happy faces than there are grimaces or scowls. Sure, I’ve had conversations with some there who felt depressed or anxious. Did having conversations with them assist them? I don’t know. Yet, they have turned up at the café for their coffee and have met with others from the locality who have listened.

Furthermore, I have been part of, and overheard, the occasional conversation over coffee revolving around politics, religion, philosophy, and psychology. Sometimes even conversations about climate change, the state of the world, and environmental collapse. Yet, in none of these conversations have I witnessed expressions of anger, judgment, or condemnation.

Bigger Cafés?

Recently, as I sat sipping my coffee, I wondered if it were possible to scale up this café? I realised that I had to answer that with a No! or, at least, a probably not.

When I look at the world and larger groupings of human beings, it does not seem possible for the considered and respectful conversations at my local café to take place. Whether the group be the residents of a large city, the citizens of a nation, or the entire population of the Earth, something breaks down in the way in which we engage with one another at larger scales.

At bigger scales, conversations become debates (literally meaning to beat down) and involve accusations, finger-pointing, and ad hominem attacks. Taken to extreme, these debates become polarising, violent, and, at an international level, often descend into war.

This subjective observation of mine has been explored by a number of social scientists over the past few decades. Most well known of these researchers is Robin Dunbar who found a correlation between primate brain size and optimal social group size in the 1990s. Extrapolating to humans, Dunbar proposed that humans can comfortably maintain 150 stable relationships. This number (150) became known as Dunbar’s Number. Since then various researchers have critiqued Dunbar’s proposal, including Dunbar himself.

Rather than the precise number of 150, the range of human relationships in which individuals are able to have some meaningful connection with ranges from about 5 up to around 1,500. These relationships become nested within each, with the quality of the relationship varying with size.

Small Is Beautiful

More than 50 years ago the German born economist, E F Schumacher, wrote the classic book, Small Is Beautiful, in which he described the virtues of small-scale farming, technology, land use, village size and other elements of social and political human economics and ecology.1 Schumacher noted that,

‘Today, we suffer from an almost universal idolatry of gigantism. It is therefore necessary to insist on the virtues of smallness.’  And then, a few pages later, ‘People can be themselves only in small comprehensible groups.’

That was over fifty years ago. Schumacher’s observation and warning is even more trenchant today. Re-reading Schumacher’s book today in conjunction with my observations at my local café I am certain that we must seek ways to down-size and localise all aspects of human endeavour as quickly as possible.

My local café seats about 20 people indoors and up to about 30 outdoors. Most of the regulars live within a 2 km radius of the café. It is one of the friendliest cafés I know.

Scaling it up would lose all that friendliness and sense of community.


1. E F Schumacher, Small Is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered, Blond & Briggs, London, 1973.

Wednesday 6 March 2024

Bring On Inefficiency

In the wish to reduce our dependence upon fossil fuels what could be more desirable than increasing efficiency?

Greater electricity efficiency: better lightbulbs, 5-star washing machine ratings, longer lasting batteries for Electric Vehicles (EVs), cheaper solar panels, … the list goes on.

Instinctively such efficiency gains seem like a good thing.

Except… they’re not!

The problem is that when something becomes more efficient, instead of reaping the rewards of lower cost or greater fuel economy, we tend to increase our consumption of whatever it is that has become more efficient.

This seeming paradox has a name – the Jevons Paradox. Named after the English economist William Stanley Jevons who described the phenomenon in his 1865 book The Coal Question. Jevons observed that following James Watt’s improvement of the coal-fired steam engine, allowing for greater efficiency, the consumption of coal, far from decreasing, soared dramatically.

Jevons wrote in his book: ‘It is a confusion of ideas to suppose that the economical use of fuel is equivalent to diminished consumption. The very contrary is the truth.’

It is a statement that all those calling for greater efficiencies as a way to reduce energy usage, and hence curtail carbon emissions, should listen to. Jevons statement in 1865 is as true today, in 2024 – almost 160 years later.

We can see the Jevons Paradox playing out today in the private vehicle sector. Private vehicles have become more efficient since the end of World War 2. Yet, globally in 1950 there was one registered car for every 48 people, by 2019 there were only 7 people. That is an almost 700% increase in ownership.

Furthermore, since 1950 the distance travelled per vehicle has increased by approximately 70% (although the coronavirus saw a decrease.)

Consequently, since 1950 there are now far more vehicles all travelling greater distances.

In the alternative electricity sector we find the same paradox playing out. Solar panels and other forms of so-called “renewable” electricity sources have become much more efficient over the past couple of decades. Yet – consumption is growing.

Another word often closely linked with efficiency is effectiveness. Effectiveness is a measure of how well the process for achieving something is meeting the desired goal.

Remaining focussed on efficiency does not appear to be very effective in achieving the goal of reducing dependence upon fossil fuels.

We must do something different.

How about shifting our efforts from efficiency to inefficiency?

What? I can hear the screams already. Efficiency is the name of the game, isn’t it? Calling into question the goal of efficiency is outrageous.

Yet, think about it. If fuel, in whatever form, became more inefficient, would that not reduce consumption? It may be worth a try.

Bring on inefficiency.

Wednesday 28 February 2024

Where There's A Will There's A (Wild) Way

'Three Sisters,'
Blue Mountains, Australia
Will (verb) meaning wish, desire, preference.

Will (noun) meaning purpose, determination, mind.

The phrase ‘Where there’s a will there’s a way’ is almost 400 years old. In 1640 the English writer, George Herbert, published a selection of proverbs. One of these reads:

To him that will, ways are not wanting.

The phrase has only slightly changed, but the sense is the same. If one has a determination to get something done, then they will find a way in which it can be done. It tells us that nothing can hold us back from our objective. It is an incitement to never give up. It is a rallying cry, advocating that, ‘When the going gets tough, the tough get going.’

Within the phrase, and those like it, lurks a desire to control. A will is not simply a determination of the mind, it is a determination to impose order on our own lives, or the lives of others or the planet itself. It is unsurprising that Herbert coined this proverb in the middle of the Scientific Revolution, a time when the world and cosmos were being referred to increasingly in mechanistic terms.

Pursuing the idea a little further, we might conclude that it is a determination to impose order on an otherwise wild place or being.



What of the word wild? Where does it come from? What is it?

There seems to be two possibilities for the origin of the word itself. One is that it derives from the Old German word wald, meaning forest.

The other likelihood is that the word wild and the word will are more closely linked than we might think. Wild may be a shortened version of willed. The rationale for this is that a wild place follows its own will. Hence it is self-willed, self-wild.

A Wild Way

Consequently, if we were to dismantle the phrase ‘Where there’s a will there’s a way’ and replace it with ‘Where there’s a Will, there’s a Wild Way’ we might more closely unite and understand the connection between the two words – will and wild.

Coincidentally, with such an appreciation, we might even reconnect with a part of ourselves that, in westernised cultures at least, has largely been suppressed and hidden.

The eco-psychologist, Bill Plotkin, identifies four facets of the self. One of these he calls the Wild Indigenous One. This aspect of the self is, according to Plotkin, ‘is fully and passionately at home in the human body and in the natural world… The Wild Indigenous One is our most instinctual dimension, every bit as natural and at home on Earth as any elk, elm, or alp.’1

When this wild way within us is re-discovered and experienced then the control and dominance implied in the familiar phase of where there’s a will there’s a way is seen for what it is: a self-harming impediment to our full selves, and a disrespectful and exploitative way of treating the earth.

Once we recognise that wilderness is not a state of disorder, but rather a state in which order is not imposed, we are able to find our natural wild state within the fullness of nature.

The American poet and writer, Wendell Berry, expressed this insight beautifully in his short poem The Peace of Wild Things, written in 1968.

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

May we all use our will and come into the peace of wild things.


1. Bill Plotkin, Wild Mind: A Field Guide to the Human Psyche, New World Library, Novato, California, 2013.

Wednesday 21 February 2024

Environment: It or Us?

Since the 1970s there has been much concern for the environment. Just what is this thing called
environment that is of concern?

The English word environment comes to us from Old French. The prefix en suggests in or into. The stem of the word is from viron, meaning circle, circuit. Thus, the Old French word environer means “to surround, enclose, encircle.”

Which is how the term environment has come to be understood: as all that which surrounds us, outside of us, but, significantly, not us. We reside in our environment.

In western tradition, it is only fairly recently that the sense of our environment being outside of us has started to be questioned and challenged.

The word itself, although being used in the 1600s, did not really start to be used until the Scottish historian/philosopher, Thomas Carlyle, translated a German word used in a text by Goethe as environment in 1828.1

It was to be more than a century before the word began to find parlance in the English language. Beginning in the 1940s the word began to trend upwards in usage. With the rise of the environmental movement in the 1960s and 70s the word began to be used significantly more frequently, reaching a peak in about 1997, and trending back down again since then. Today the word environment is used approximately 95 times in every one million words – roughly the same frequency with which it was used in the mid-1980s.

The common use of, and meaning given to, the word environment remains as “all that surrounds us” and commonly also thought of as the “natural” surroundings, rather than artificial, or constructed surroundings, although this can vary from person to person considerably.

However, not many within the westernised world would consider environment to include human beings. In this way of thinking humans observe the environment, and interact, objectively, with it (in both positive and negative ways.)

Yet, there is no distinction. The environment is not an “it” out there.

Indeed, many indigenous languages have no pre-European contact word that translates as environment. The Haida people of the islands off the tip of the Alaska Panhandle refer to other-than-human creatures as their brothers and sisters. Trees are not simply trees, but tree people.2

This is a distinctly different way of seeing the world. It is one that does not divide me from my surroundings.

Perhaps the most explicit sense of an indigenous understanding of this that I have found is that provided by Jack Forbes. At the end of his book, Columbus and Other Cannibals, he offers a poem/prayer speaking of the Native American understanding that there is no such thing as my environment as distinguished from me. Here is part of the poem/prayer he calls The Universe is Our Holy Book.3

“The Old Ones say

outward is inward to the heart

and inward is outward to the center

Because for us

there are no absolute boundaries

no borders

no environments

no outside

no dualisms

no single body

no non-body.


We don’t stop at our eyes

We don’t begin at our skin

We don’t end at our smell

We don’t start at our sounds.


I can lose my legs and go on living

I can lose my eyes and go on living

I can lose my ears and go on living

I can lose my hair, my nose, my hands, my arms

and go on living.


But if I lose the water

I die

If I lose the air

I die

If I lose the sun

I die

If I lose the plants and animals

I die.

For all of these things

are more a part of me

more essential to my being than that

which I call “my body.”



1. The German word used by Goethe was Umbegung.

2. Peter Knutson & David Suzuki, Wisdom of the Elders, Allen & Unwin, Toronto, Canada, 1992.

3. Jack Forbes is of Powhatan-Renape, Delaware-Lenape, and non-American background. He is the former chair of Native American Studies at the University of California, and in 1961 founded the Native American Movement. He is the author of several books, including Columbus and Other Cannibals, Seven Stories Press, New York, revised 2008 (originally published in 1978)

Wednesday 14 February 2024

Grumpy Old Man Syndrome: 8 Strategies for dealing with him.

Statler and Waldorf
of "The Muppets" fame
I am now part way into the eighth decade of my life (no, that doesn’t mean I am in my 80s – do the calculations!) And being that old I discover that occasionally I can slip into one of the hazards of becoming older - Grumpy Old Man Syndrome.

Obtaining an older age as a male does not, of course, automatically qualify one as a Grumpy Old Man. However, the sobriquet of “grumpy” does, in my observation, fit many old men. I am not immune to it either.

Whether it be something as simple as a loud party going on in the street whilst trying to get to sleep, or (as is often the case for me) an annoyance that humanity continues to destroy this glorious planet, or simply a diminished supply of testosterone, being an older man can stimulate grumpiness.

So, how do we older men deal with Grumpy Old Man Syndrome? I outline 8 strategies that I have discovered that helps to deal with feeling grumpy. If they assist you also, then please try them out.

For anyone of a young age reading this, I might add a further strategy. You might call it a pre-strategy, or Strategy Zero. The strategy that gets put in place before these 8. The pre-strategy is this:

Strategy # 0. Don’t wait until you get to be an older man before learning and implementing these strategies. Some of them take years to learn and make part of your life.

Onto the 8 Strategies for dealing with Grumpy Old Man Syndrome.

Strategy # 1. Name it. When grumpiness arises, don’t try to repel it, just recognise it and name it. “Oh hullo, Mr Grumpy” I say to myself, “there you are again.” Intriguingly, when I do, I feel a smile arrive on my lips and in my eyes. Grumpiness then seems to dissolve.

The great psychologist, Carl Jung, is reputed to have stated that, ‘What we resist, persists, and becomes larger.’ Although no such verbatim quote can be found, some of his writings can easily be condensed to this short phrase. Effectively, trying to repel grumpiness in our mind we only end up in a struggle that does not dispel the grumps, but usually ends up with us becoming more grumpy – because our struggle has been futile.

Name it, greet it, and watch it slowly dissolve.

Strategy # 2. Accept it. Associated with the first strategy, this strategy simply accepts grumpiness as one of the myriads of feelings and emotions that we humans encounter every day.

It has been estimated that there are more than 34,000 unique emotions and that most humans experience around 400 emotions in any one day. Grumpiness is simply one of these.

That’s life.

Strategy # 3. It won’t last. Emotions, like all other phenomena, are impermanent. They do not last. The mantra, ‘This too shall pass’ is a useful one to bring to mind when dealing with grumpiness, or indeed, any other emotion that we find unhelpful or harmful.

When we realise that grumpiness is but an ephemeral emotion, then we allow it the time and space to arise and then to slip away.

Strategy # 4. Grumpiness is not alone. Often grumpiness socialises with other feelings and emotions, such as disappointment, despair, angst, anxiety, guilt, shame, or unhappiness. Grumpiness co-emerged with, and because of, other emotions.

Recognising this interplay of emotions allows us to delve further into what may lie behind, or below, the emotion of grumpiness. In doing so, we may discover that we have an unmet need that one of those other emotions is alerting us to.

If we find an unmet need, then we can devise a plan to either a. meet that need or b. find an alternative if the need cannot be met.

Strategy # 5. Grumpiness may be an indication of grief. Of the 5 “stages” of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, despair, acceptance) grumpiness would seem to be an amalgam of despair and anger.

If the feeling of grumpiness is part of the grief process, then that tells us we have lost something, or someone, that we were very attached to. We are grieving the loss. Grumpiness, at this stage, is an expression of that feeling of loss. Knowing this, we can identify what the loss is. With that knowledge, we are able to work through the grief process.

Strategy # 6. Deep Time. Our life upon this planet is a blip in the deep time of the cosmos. When I consider my lifetime against the time that galaxies, stars, and planets (including this one) have been forming and evolving, then I recognise both my insignificance and, paradoxically, my uniqueness.

Noticing my insignificance, the grumpiness is so fleeting that it become irrelevant.

Noticing my uniqueness, my grumpiness becomes a waste of time.

Strategy # 7. Bring to mind the Serenity Prayer. The theologian Reinhold Niebuhr composed the Serenity Prayer in the 1930s. The wording has had different versions over the years, with the following today being the most widely quoted:

‘God, give me grace to accept with serenity
the things that cannot be changed,
Courage to change the things
which should be changed,
and the Wisdom to distinguish
the one from the other.

If you are a non-theist, then you may wish to find a substitute for God. No matter who or what the prayer is addressed to, understanding the difference between what we can change and what we cannot has bearing upon our grumpy feelings.

More often than not, I discover that my grumpiness stems from something I have no control over. Discovering that allows me to step back and accept whatever that prompt is and allow my grumpiness to pass.

Strategy # 8. If all else fails, then repeat Strategy # 1.