Billionaire man

What would you do if you had a billion pounds?

Would you follow the technological dream of science and the colonial dream of new physical horizons, and fund a space program to take humanity another step down this road that has supposedly served us so well for hundreds of years – exploitation of supposedly virgin lands, ignorant of the life that is there? Become so convinced of the magnificence of your own ego and exceptionality, that you insist on being one of the first to go into space? Even model your spacecraft to resemble a large penis as you exhibit your contempt for lesser humans?

Or would you do something to help repair the earth and nature that has been ravaged by that technological/colonial dream, to the degree that our ecosystem is now under extreme threat, both in its loss of biodiversity, in its drowning in its own pollution, in the breakdown of its long-stable climate – all effects which have been made worse by you and your like, the rich and powerful extracting money from ‘the system’ to a degree that is surely obscene and has deprived the public purse everywhere of the means to ensure a decent life and environment for all, even undermining the democratic systems that of course put limits on your individual power.

Psychologically, the first path is chosen in humanity’s adolescence, the creation of ego that we all go through. Some appear to remain arrested at this increasingly narcissistic stage – ageing egos going in a circle of their multiple houses, yachts, private jets, exclusive parties, security obsession, separation from the masses. 

But modern psychological knowledge means we now know that this ego process is just the first stage of our development, as we grow to maturity, transcend our individual ego concerns and becoming co-operating adults and gradually becoming wiser and more spiritual. Our concern is wider than the individual; it is the good of the whole and all its parts.

Of course, this is also the perspective that will enable us to address all those problems that we have created in the world around us. Restoration of our living ecosystem becomes of paramount importance, the space ego trip seems somehow irrelevant. Not that we should not have more space programs, but that they are hardly today’s top priority.

So what would you do with your billion? And if you had more than one billion, why? What a weight of responsibility to have so much money, the weight of so much of the earth on your own shoulders? What on earth would you do, and why?

The ideas came to me after reading Prof Tim Jackson’s excellent post on The Billionaire space race; the ultimate symbol of capitalism’s flawed obsession with growth. Do read it.

Featured image is of Mars by NASA, from Tim’s post.

If we don’t love the Earth

If we don’t love the earth and nature, what future do we human beings have? We are of the earth, an integral part of it. If we don’t love it we will not look after it, and it will not sustain us. This is evidently the track we are on. With every species extinction a little of each of us dies. With every increase in global temperature the future of our descendants becomes more precarious, even less likely to complete what we have come to consider a normal life span.

Historically every civilisation has failed due to loss of soil fertility and climate change. So our global civilisation has perhaps the most difficult task humanity has ever faced. Yet it is so easy, because it is about love, for the earth, for our grandchildren and their children on through the generations. And love is free.

The peculiarity of modernity is that we have placed nature at arms length – ‘the environment’ – and treat her as an economic resource through land ownership, mining, and so on. You cannot love an economic resource; love of money is said to be the root of all evil.

We need to love the earth again, not only as individuals but through our institutions. Even with our limited economic mindset through which politics works, we can do it. But we need to every year put back more than we take out. We need the measures in place and the actions to get there. It is evident that even at this 12th hour, the politicians, supposed leaders, of today, are still not doing enough and are paying lip service, with targets ‘for 2050’ rather than tomorrow.

For example, suppose every species extinction led to a global enquiry, followed up by actions to ensure that such things do not become the daily occurrence that they probably already are…

Frogs are increasingly endangered. When we first made our garden pond over 30 years ago it became regularly populated by many frogs, often found hopping around the garden and heard croaking. This year I think we have one. I was tidying up a part of the garden today, a nice damp area with vegetation overflowing. The frog jumped out and sat on the path looking at me. I’ll swear he was saying ‘hey, enough of that, I live here’. Of course I left his home undisturbed after that.

Yes I need to leave even more of the garden in an untidy state for the many creatures that live there. I love the lot of them. How about you?

Inspired by Why Rebel, by Jay Griffiths, a true lover of the earth.

Featured image of frogs spawning in our garden, 2001.

Chickens coming home

It has long been apparent that free market capitalism, as currently practised, is running into the buffers of climate breakdown, species extinction, pollution and gross inequality. A system that favours profit maximization at the expense of all else, including nature, cannot expect to go on and on without consequence.

Similarly, globalisation of finance, tourism and product supply with consequent massive movement of people, products and living beings around the world is foundering on the sands of the coronavirus panic and the apparent inability of the system to withstand shocks, and the human fears that follow.

Further, the overemphasis on sovereignty of nation states, with the related rise of populism, and with a weak United Nations, means that collective attempts to resolve these problems is easily nullified by powerful actors.

The chickens are indeed coming home to roost. Yet this process seems to be necessary before humanity can build up the collective will to make the necessary changes.

Change there will be, but only when the consequences have effectively forced it. Human nature seems to work that way.

A Berlin Wall Moment?

It seems that the more progressive UK media, including the BBC, have finally taken on board that global warming/climate change, pollution, species extinction, population are major issues of our time that need to be urgently addressed. Many of the issues aired at our New Renaissance Lectures in 1993 onward are becoming mainstream, covered in ‘the news’ almost every day. But they’re not yet ingrained. There are still many news media, corporates and governments in denial, actively blocking change because of their perceived self-interest.

Yet can they resist the surging tide of realism? It feels like a ‘Berlin Wall’ type of time in history. The ice floes are melting. Humanity is turning to face reality, startled at where it has come to, as it followed the materialist dream and for half a century largely ignored the problems being created. The spectre of floods, fires, wars, epidemics, on a scale hitherto unknown, haunts us all, especially the young.

But there is an aspect of those lectures that is less mentioned, less easy to popularise – that of inner spiritual renewal. The outer is a reflection of the inner. Until our compassion for others and for the natural world rises to meet the occasion, and our conscience is heard and acted upon, we may alleviate but not resolve the problems we have created.

Featured image: The Fall of the Berlin Wall, 1989 (at the Brandenberg Gate).
By Lear 21 via Wikimedia Commons.

How can climate change not be the main goal of all countries in 2020? Canada?!

Here’s another great post from Jane Fritz, expressing the frustration of all who have been struggling to get climate change, now climate breakdown, on the agenda of governments since Rio 1992 and before. As she says, there is no Planet B.

Robby Robin's Journey

Australia is burning. California’s been burning. British Columbia’s been burning. Portugal’s been burning. This summer, the Arctic broke records for wildfires in Canada, Alaska, Greenland, and Siberia. In the Arctic!  We’ve seen storms more volatile and ferocious than ever before, bringing destructive flooding.  Massive glaciers and ice sheets melting at unheard of rates. Threat of coastal flooding of epic proportions. Island nations fearful of being swallowed up by rising seas in the foreseeable future. What could possibly be more important to every country and every political leader than addressing climate change?

You got it, money. Not the money needed to make radical changes. Not the money needed to support innovation in developing new sustainable energy sources. Not the money needed to incentivize people to embrace new technologies free of fossil fuels. No, it’s all that money flowing from fossil fuel-based industries that decision makers are loath to give up…

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Maintain Your Rage

This is  powerful piece on the current state of Australian wildfires and the credibility of world ‘leaders’ in addressing climate breakdown. Yes, they seem to have run out of ideas, other than maintaining a ‘status quo’ that cannot be sustained. We need real leadership, and need to ‘rage’ until we get it…

(Featured image via mronline.)

Musings and Wonderings

Someday soon you may be like me, watching your homeland burn while its leader betrays it.

Ian GillToday | TheTyee.ca Ian Gill is a journalist, author and conservationist currently working as the inaugural Dan and Priscilla Bernard Wieden Foundation Salmon Nation Storytelling Fellow. He is a contributing editor at The Tyee, and co-creator of a new initiative called Salmon Nation. He lives in Vancouver and Clayoquot Sound.

FireAftermathNewSouthWales.jpg

A few minutes before midnight on the last day of the year, Pacific daylight time, I began to cry.

I’m a purportedly “grown man” and I’m not easily moved to tears, but as is the way with emotions, there wasn’t much I could do when the tears came but to wipe them away and trust that they would stop, which eventually they did.

I cried for my country, for my Lucky Country, the wide brown land, the Fatal Shore — for Australia…

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Climate Stripes

I’m obviously not keeping up. Fortuitously, son slipped me the ‘climate’ issue of The Economist from September 2019, which features these ‘climate stripes’. (Our children are of course there to educate us!)

Each stripe in the featured image represents the global temperature averaged over a year, from 1850 to 2018. You can see that the stripes “turn from mainly blue to mainly red in more recent years, illustrating the rise in average temperatures”.

As well as being informative, this presentation is aesthetically pleasing. What a wonderful way of communicating the reality of global temperature change. It was created by scientist: Ed Hawkins of Reading University, using data from Berkeley Earth, NOAA, UK Met Office, MeteoSwiss, DWD. The stripes have been widely used worldwide for some time, see the story.

The show your stripes website enables you to download the stripes for your own country. For example here’s England and then Texas (with slightly differing start dates).

_stripes_EUROPE-United_Kingdom-England-1884-2018-MO_stripes_NORTH_AMERICA-USA-Texas-1895-2018-NO

One can speculate on how the stripe pattern in different areas might reflect their different attitudes to climate change.

Interestingly, the debate has moved on from September, in that ‘climate breakdown’ is now the commonly used terminology instead of ‘climate change’ as in the above Economist article – but that is of course a mainstream business magazine.

Their Inheritance

Quotes from Great Thunberg at COP25, Madrid, reported by Evening Standard:

“Greenhouse gas emissions has to stop. To be stable at 1.5 degrees we need to keep the carbon in the ground.”

“Only setting up distant dates and saying things which give the impression that action is underway will only most likely do more harm than good because the changes required are still nowhere in sight.”

“The politics needed does not exist today despite what you might hear from world leaders… I still believe that the biggest danger is not inaction, the real danger is when politicians and CEOs are making it look like real action is happening when in fact almost nothing is being done apart from clever accounting and creative PR.”

“If there is a child standing in the middle of the road and cars are coming at full speed you don’t look away because it’s too uncomfortable, you immediately run out and rescue that child, and without that sense of urgency how can we, the people, understand that we are facing a real crisis.”

“In just three weeks we enter a new decade, a decade that will define the future, and right now we are desperate for any sign of hope.”

Such young people see clearly. The Emperor of capitalism, with constant unfettered economic growth and inadequate environment protection, has no clothes. Current political leaders have failed. We have to get organised globally to address the problem.

Featured image by Anders Hellberg via Wikimedia Commons.

Humanity’s Endgame, or New Beginning?

I was struck by the juxtaposition of two book reviews in the recent edition of Paradigm Explorer – magazine of the Scientific and Medical Network.

uninhabitable earthFirst, David Lorimer reviews The Uninhabitable Earth by David Wallace Wells, a book that suggests that our institutions and leaders are simply not up to the task of addressing the challenges of climate breakdown. Humanity is basically not an intelligent species en masse and will go down the pan.

planet remadeThis is followed by Paul Kieniewicz’s review of The Planet Remade – How Geoengineering Could Change the World, by Oliver Morton. This sort of accepts the premise of the previous book, except suggests that humanity will increasingly resort to geoengineering to try to alleviate the resulting problems. Of course, geoengineering is a largely unknown, untested and inherently unpredictable.

At the end of the day, neither of these mindsets seems likely to do more than scare us, which is perhaps what is needed, in addition to the positive work being done by Extinction Rebellion and many others.

The problem is enormous, almost beyond comprehension, and involves every living person. The only way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time. If the majority of people did their little bit every day, always making the carbon-reducing, climate stabilising, non-polluting choices – so that individuals, communities, businesses, corporations, towns and cities, regions, national governments, international institutions were all moving in the same direction, we would soon realise that we were solving the problem.

We just have to give up caring about money more than people and nature, and about power and fighting more than peace and cooperation. Nothing less than total transformation of our politics and economics!

When did this ever happen before? Well, after WW2 there was a recognition of the need for change and the establishment of institutions to improve cooperation (UN, EU) and reduce the chance of wars, and to establish improved living standards for peoples. The game of sovereignty and ‘interests’ of nation states and powerful individuals has since undermined all this. It has to stop, or the ‘interests’ of the big boys will destroy us all.

Sustainability: Is the Mount Everest gridlock a metaphor for our planet?

A great post by Jane Fritz. There are just too many people on the planet to go on as we have done recently, and some major realignments of politics, business and people’s aspirations is required. What on earth is the point any more of climbing up Mount Everest in a queue?

Robby Robin's Journey

The pictures that emerged this past week of the long line of climbers waiting their turn to get to the summit of the tallest mountain on our planet was staggering to behold. This is perhaps the most remote and inhospitable place in the world. Those people were waiting in frigid temperatures, requiring oxygen tanks to breath, and they were waiting in line – kind of like the lunch line in the high school cafeteria or the line waiting for the door to open at a popular store for shopping deals on Black Friday – and they waited for up to 12 hours, with several deaths along the way. Commentators are suggesting there is a sustainability issue around the number of people who are attempting to climb Mount Everest. You think?!

Photo credit: thestar.com

It was in 1953 that Sir Edmund Hilary and Tenzing Norgay became the first people to be…

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