Paul Hawken

No Regrets?

So I was at this very neat event the other day – Paul Hawken addressing a Toronto business crowd for a special ‘Inspired Future’ day**, & it really was a treat for me to hear him speak, being a long-time Hawken admirer (see Blessed Unrest quotes page here. I also read & much enjoyed The Ecology of Commerce in its first edition, quite a few years ago now). The man who organized the event quoted his father having said we should live our lives so that at the end, we have no (or maybe few??) regrets.

& I thought about regrets. & of course I do have a few. Don’t we all? Let’s be honest.

The regrets I’m thinking of now, though, are not personal, exactly. They’re sort of global.

Well, some of them (most of them??) are kind of both – what with “the personal being political” & the political being personal & all.

So here is a list of some sort of global regrets – that definitely definitely definitely do intersect with one’s personal life in a variety of ways:

  • That the human race has taken so long to “grow up” (still hasn’t, actually, far as I can see) & made so many horrendous, appalling, grievous mistakes during our (apparently eternal) adolescence
  • That it’s taken so long for us to recognize our true species & individual value & infinite potential & the value of all species, all peoples
  • That we so long ago (10,000 years or so?) lost our deep, instinctive understanding of the power of community, shared work, cooperation, collaboration
  • & got so caught up in patriarchy, competition, ego, turf wars
  • That we so long so devalued the true contribution of “the feminine principle” (birth, nurturing, sharing), the real incomparable value of motherhood, the importance of family – & continue to this day to undervalue these things...that are not things – & overvalue things that are things, & that, frankly, bring us much less joy than we suppose they will, or do. “The best things in life are not things,” hmmm? (Can’t tell you who said that, but do know it's true!)
  • That women so often made the mistake in our excitement about “liberation” of throwing out the baby with the bathwater, undervaluing our own contributions & inner knowings, thinking we needed to become “more like men”
  • That we have become so reliant on the bloody personal automobile that has caused (continues to cause) so much horrendous pollution on our lovely planet
  • That we have this terrible tendency to ignore facts/truth & have such a kneejerk resistance to change that we fail to see the forest for the trees most of the time, or to be willing to put on the brakes, hard, when we so desperately need to do so
  • That we developed these horrid, unfair, absurd disparities of income & privilege – so few with so much, & so many with so very little
  • That we have had such insufficient gratitude for the blessings in our own “small” personal lives, & the infinite gifts of the Earth, that we come to believe we “own” things, & our privileges & entitlements come to define us, & we defend them at the cost of the Earth, & each other
  • Waste. How I regret that so much is wasted – whether we are talking about the earth’s resources, or our “own” individual ones, & our potential

 

& now, as I compose this sad, regretful list, I regret that I am being such a downer, everyone, & so full of what my “spiritual” friends would call negativity.

I am being honest, you will grant me that, yes??

& now, back out onto the snowy streets of Toronto, post-snow-dump, for more shovelling & walking & “fresh” air.

Janet

p.s. & to lift my spirits, after I drafted this draggy, dirge-y blog posting, I once again watched the awesomely inspiring film ‘The 4th Revolution – Energy Autonomy’ – & yes, that definitely elevated my spirits!

** p.p.s. btw too, another speaker at this event the other day was Peter Busby, someone of whom I had not heard, who was also an enormous inspiration – do check out his firm – & the projects they are making happen. Woo-hoo!!!! (He's behind the Dockside Green project in Victoria, B.C., & UBC (University of British Columbia)’s Centre for Interactive Research on Sustainability – quick short but impressive YouTube if you scroll down!).

p.p.p.s both men had plenty to say that was both interesting & inspiring – one thing I would like to point out that Hawken pointed out: talking about “alternative energy” as though it is something new is an absurdity, & he cited examples of solar/wind-powered projects from a long time ago. There isn’t “alternative” energy (language that is off-putting to some folks, dinosaurs, admittedly) – there is just energy. & clearly, some energy sources are a good deal less destructive than some others!! I always like to remind myself that every single thing that happens on Planet Earth is a solar event. It’s true! 

Quote of the day with this post: “I do not want to talk about what you understand about this world. I want to know what you will do about it. I do not want to know what you hope. I want to know what you will work for. I do not want your sympathy for the needs of humanity. I want your muscle.” ~ Robert Fulghum, author of numerous books - All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten being perhaps his best-known.

Lead 101: Nukes & Lead - 10 Things…

The funny thing about my working on these two issues is, I never actually set out to do so! I just sort of got pulled in, in the past year or so – all the while having meant to devote myself fully to the climate change issue.

Ah well. Life is what happens while you’re making other plans…hmmm?

As explained in ‘Lead 101: 20 things you need to know’, I knew nothing whatsoever about lead until last June. Having now attended 2 events devoted to lead & been in the presence of people who are very knowledgeable about it indeed (nurses, Health Dept. people, a boatload of Ph.Ds & a bunch of MDs), here I am, now, caring a lot about lead.

I couldn’t help but begin noticing, at the Centers for Disease Control "National Healthy Homes & Lead Poisoning Prevention training center” I attended in Chicago in Dec. 2010, that there are several things common to these two issues. Here goes!

Lead & Nukes: 10 common elements

  1. Both are really quite nasty & stubborn issues indeed – yet many, if not most people appear entirely oblivious to the very considerable risks of both nuclear energy & lead.
  2. Once you learn about these risks, you almost wish you hadn’t! These are tough, tough issues to work & wrestle with. Truthfully, they could drive a person just about cuckoo… Luckily, as I like to joke, I didn’t have far to go…
  3. There is no safe level of exposure, either to radionuclides or to lead. The nuclear & lead industries will claim otherwise, & often refer to “safe” levels of exposure. This is (sorry to be impolite; don’t listen, Mom!!) bullshit. There is no safe level of exposure to these toxic substances.
  4. The degree of complexity in both these issues can be very off-putting, to put it mildly. It’s hard for the average person to grasp a lot of the technical detail involved. People in both lead & nuclear industries know this. They don’t just know it; they play on it! They try to intimidate those who question them by reciting complex-sounding “facts” & figures (which are very often neither factual nor accurate) & they use staff with fancy titles & degrees (& salaries!) to carry out & communicate their dirty deeds. I call it deliberate obfuscation, & have seen it in operation on many occasions at Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission hearings. CNSC staff members have Ph.D.’s in Obfuscation. They are experts at it! But you know what? Bullshit is still bullshit!
  5. Our planet – & our bodies – have become unwitting receptacles for the products of these two industries (not just these two, of course, but let’s leave the chemical & pharmaceutical industries for another day, shall we?). If we were to put an immediate halt to both lead & nuclear sources of exposure, we’d still be surrounded by their extremely persistent toxic by-products for many thousands of years (with nuclear wastes, we are talking hundreds of thousands of years; with depleted uranium (DU), we are talking about a half-life of 4.5 billion years!!!). That’s why we have to put a stop to these activities now, & focus on prevention of any further harm. We cannot eliminate or disappear what has already been done, &, I am very sorry to report, it’s extremely substantial. While working on & knowing about all this is not pleasant, exactly, these are compelling reasons to put a stop to the depredations of both of these industries NOW. I mean, last week.
  6. Not content to pollute our bodies, our air, our children & our communities with the toxic by-products of their appallingly dirty industries, both are now in the business – hard as it may seem to believe – of marketing their toxins…in consumer goods! I’m not at all clear what route it is that lead takes to wind up in candy & jewelry & toys & some herbal supplements – but as for nuke wastes being “recycled” into consumer products, the U.S.-based Nuclear Information & Resource Service (NIRS) has known about this for years! Look for excellent fact sheets on their Web site – in particular, one called ‘Reprocessing is Not the “Solution” to the Nuclear Waste Problem’
  7. Sadly, both of these awful industries can always find willing workers to do their dirty work. Salaries are often very good (at least in the nuke biz). We humans – well, we’re kind of … buyable, aren’t we? And don’t get me wrong. I know people in the nuke business; quite a few of them, as a matter of fact. Most of them are very nice people. It’s true! But as I already said somewhere else in this essay, bullshit is still bullshit. Elephants are still elephants. When the emperor has no clothes, he still has no clothes! (btw, I guess I should also add that we can all be grateful that the (awful) nuclear facilities DO have many reliable, responsible, conscientious workers. I have met some of these folks. Kudos to them for doing their best to help prevent any more Chernobyls from happening!! But I wish the darn nuke facilities didn't exist in the first place... & I could go on here, & say much more...but I won't... Well. Except for this - added many days later... The essay here on innocence & evil may be of some relevance.)
  8. Both these industries have “friends in high places.” Oh yes. Lobbyists who pressure our government representatives. Make them “offers they can’t refuse.” Oh yes. They do indeed.(1) It doesn’t pay to be too naïve about our so-called “democracy,” people. Power corrupts, hmmm?
  9. How about this startling fact? The human race could get by just fine without these industries!!!!!! There are ALWAYS alternatives to toxic products. We humans are wildly creative, you know; we can always find non-toxic alternatives. And they almost invariably cost less & save money, along with being better for our health!! (I’m reminded here of Mary O’Brien’s very inspiring presentation on “sunsetting” chlorine.(2))
  10. If we decide as a society to put an end to these two very dangerous, polluting industries (along with others I could name), & go about it thoughtfully & carefully, we will immediately see the obvious need to provide alternate employment for those who are to be displaced. The labour movement has long talked about the concept of “Just Transition.” I first heard this idea mentioned about half an eon ago (at an International Joint Committee meeting, actually); it is not a “new” idea. Just one whose time, surely, has come…ya think??

Janet

P.S. Lots of pithy quotations about the nuclear issue here.

P.P.S. All my lead-related blog posts are listed here.

‘Quote of the day’ w. this post: “Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could only do a little.” – Edmund Burke

Runner-up quotes: “The optimism of the action is better than the pessimism of the thought.” – Harold Zindler

“You can blame people who knock things over in the dark, or you can begin to light candles. You’re only at fault if you know about the problem and choose to do nothing.” – Paul Hawken, entrepreneur & author, The Sun (April 2002) – quoted in July/Aug. 2002 issue of Utne Reader

“How much harm does a company have to do before we question its right to exist?” – Paul Hawken

“The Earth is not dying – it is being killed. And the people who are killing it have names and addresses.” – U. Utah Phillips, quoted in Blessed Unrest – How the Largest Movement in the World Came into Being & Why No One Saw it Coming, by Paul Hawken <Pg. 115> Nice comments about this book, btw, here. Lotsa quotes from the book here


(1) Check this Resources document – near the bottom is a list of books. A couple of these detail the whole dirty story about industry/government collusion on lead. It ain’t pretty…

(2) Mary O’Brien is a U.S.-based scientist I once (maybe even twice) heard speak at an International Joint Commission (IJC) meeting on the Great Lakes. She gave a rousing presentation entitled “10 Great Things About Sunsetting Chlorine” (or words to that effect). Unfortunately, I am unable to lay my hands on that item – but you can check out her awesome “Campaign Tips” here!

Inside Job – The Film

** please please please check out the Don Henley CD by the same name! Awesome lyrics, wonderful music. It is a must-listen! (one of my favourites on that CD is the song "Goodbye to a River.")

Note on March 13th: This is now available on DVD.

Last week a friend whose opinions I greatly value sent out an email message promoting the film “Inside Job” (narrated by Matt Damon). Trailer here Reviews here

So I went to see it last night, here in Toronto.

I’m now recommending that anyone & everyone go & see this film (thanks, Sandra!!)

Just Google it to see if it’s on in your city or town.

I’ve always been extraordinarily dense about how financial matters work – perhaps mostly because they have never interested me much. I know I’m smart enough that if I really wanted to understand them, I could. But I’m kind of busy with a variety of other issues, so… this one just doesn’t usually get onto my radar screen.

But I reckon we all need to understand the fallout from the insane financial shenanigans of the folks in the U.S. whose insane greed is so over the top that it occurs to me this morning that they are actually downright demented! (The blog post ‘The Inmates & The Asylum’ may be of some relevance here.) These sick puppies are running the whole show. Heaven help us all!?!?!?

Greed is a common enough human phenomenon, of course. Many of us suffer from the more-more-more disease, & the fallacy that if we buy & have lots more “stuff,” it will make us feel better inside. It all traces back to those not-very-affirming or wonderful (& usually highly neurotic) childhoods so many of us experienced. Of course patriarchy plays into it too. & our vastly mixed up culture. It’s complicated, eh? (Well, hmmm, it’s not really all that complicated to understand. To deal with it, though, is time-consuming & challenging. And yet, is there really any other game in town???)

Well. This film is about the financial world colluding in its indescribable & insatiable greed – with, of course, full cooperation from the folks in the White House – to line their own pockets with so much money & leave the rest of us in the dust (“let them eat cake,” more or less, eh?) to the point that millions were left unemployed & losing homes – & on & on this sick, horrid saga goes, to this very day – with the Obama administration’s stamp of approval, unfortunately…& no end in sight.

On the up side? People of integrity made this film. People of integrity within the economic/financial world were interviewed for the film, & they tell us the truth. These people of integrity probably hope other people of integrity will become impassioned about this sorry state of affairs & become involved in trying to change things.

Author/entrepreneur/environmental activist Paul Hawken once said “You can blame people who knock things over in the dark, or you can begin to light candles. You’re only at fault if you know about the problem and choose to do nothing.”

I put it to everyone that, as an old saying goes, “If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.”

Janet

P.S. And I recommend that folks in the U.S. look into the very awesome group, the Network of Spiritual Progressives, & learn about their principles, conferences, Tikkun Magazine, etc. This group is run by & is chockfull of people of tremendous integrity, with oodles of great ideas for change. They could use your help & support (& you can use theirs!)

P.P.S. Happiness is another thing that’s an “inside job,” hmmm?

‘Quote of the day’ w. this post: “The miracle is this the more we share, the more we have.” ~ Leonard Nimoy

Closest runner-up for ‘Quote of the day’: “The secret of happiness is to admire without desiring.” ~ F.H. Bradley

Other runners-up: “These are the days when men of all social disciplines and all political faiths seek the comfortable and the accepted; when the man of controversy is looked upon as a disturbing influence; when originality is taken to be a mark of instability; and when, in minor modification of the original parable, the bland lead the bland.” – Economist John Kenneth Galbraith (1908-2006) in The Affluent Society.

“One of the things I argue in my book [A Journey Through Economic Time] is the extent to which people go to avoid rational decisions – the very large role of mental deficiency in economic history.Generally, people have been very resistant to attributing a causal role in history to stupidity.” ~ John Kenneth Galbraith, Economist

“The modern conservative…is engaged in one of man’s oldest exercises in moral philosophy. That is the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness.” – John Kenneth Galbraith quoted in Blessed Unrest – How the Largest Movement in the World Came into Being & Why No One Saw it Coming, by Paul Hawken <Pg. 115>

 

 

“The Earth is not dying – it is being killed. And the people who are killing it have names and addresses.” U. Utah Phillips quoted in Blessed Unrest – How the Largest Movement in the World Came into Being & Why No One Saw it Coming, by Paul Hawken <Pg. 115>

 

 

 

Plan B - Mobilizing to Save Civilization

The phrase “Plan B” already resonated for me, being a big fan of the writer Anne Lamott & her book Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith (& any & all of her other books, btw). Lamott is a delight! Smart, self-deprecating, compassionate…& funny!

However, in this context I’m speaking of Lester Brown (President of the Earth Policy Institute) & his book Plan B 4.0 – Mobilizing to Save Civilization.

I had the great privilege of hearing Lester Brown speak at the recent Network of Spiritual Progressives conference in Washington, D.C. (Actually I drafted this blog post while riding the bus back to Toronto from Washington, post-conference. Handy thing, I suppose, not being able to sleep well on buses…)

Some of us have already given up on the human race. Written our obituary, as it were.

Not Lester Brown.

His book Plan B summarizes first of all the serious & dauntingly challenging problems our civilization faces with respect to climate change & then lays out a book’s worth of solutions.

One of the testimonials for the book calls it “The best single volume on saving the earth, period.”

Brown paraphrases Paul Hawken in his preface. Hawken is a former businessman Lester Brown describes as an environmentalist (truth: Hawken’s book Blessed Unrest is an absolute treasure!!).

Hawken, paraphrased by Lester Brown: “First we need to decide what needs to be done. Then we do it. And then we ask if it is possible.”

Plan B points out how previous civilizations have collapsed (in a word, a food shortage crisis is always the precipitating factor), shows the parallels with the situation of today, & recommends several excellent books that spell out how previous civilizations have crashed (& how similar our situation now is to those times.)

He lays out the elements for moving to a carbon-free economy (tax-shifting, carbon taxes) & points out that “the Plan B energy economy is much more labor-intensive than the fossil-fuel-based economy it is replacing” (i.e., it involves the creation of plenty of jobs).

World War II showed us that the U.S. economy can be very quickly restructured in a time of crisis.

Perhaps most importantly, Plan B tells us what we ALL need to do.

Personal lifestyle changes; sure.

But more: we MUST become politically active.

“We now need to restructure the global economy, and quickly. It means becoming politically active, working for the needed changes.

Saving civilization is not a spectator sport.”

I can’t put it any better than that.

Janet

P.S. You can download the book, as well as additional data & graphs, at no charge at the Earth Policy Institute Web site.

P.P.S. Guy Dauncey is another person to check out when it comes to global warming solutions. His book The Climate Challenge: 101 Solutions to Global Warming comes with the highest recommendation. Check out the blog post about this, OK?

Anarchy, Fairy Tales & Freedom

<March 16/10>

I actually wanted to call this essay “Communism, Fairy Tales, Anarchy & Freedom,” but I know how afraid of communism most people are, so I left out that word.

I became interested in communism in my late teens, after a privileged & pretty mixed-up childhood. Money held no fascination for me whatsoever – but the idea of communities & sharing needs & abilities definitely did.

But then I got caught up in what I now look back on as the fairy tale phase of my life, & my interest in communism (politics of any kind, really) just kind of fell away.

At first during that “happily ever after” phase, I had a job in which I told myself I was “helping” people (& who knows, maybe I did even somehow sort of help one or two individuals), but the prince & princess living “happily ever after,” for me, consisted mostly of marriage & family life – which, admittedly, was pretty darn wonderful for quite a few years there. My prince & I “made one another happy” for quite a while – just not “ever after,” alas…

15 or so years into the fairy tale, a passion for environmental work overtook me (to my own great surprise) & this has led to a great many unintended consequences (a phrase I now just love; it covers such a lot of territory, doesn’t it?).

So here I sit, today, writing this on a sun-warmed rock in a lovely outcropping on a pretty hillside in southern Ontario, where I’m living for a while in this current nomadic phase of my life. No set “home” – a “foot in three camps” as I like to joke (‘though I still have only two legs!) – not knowing what may come next, nor where I am likely to land.

The marriage ultimately didn’t work out (though 20 years & two great kids are certainly nothing to sneeze at), & relationships since don’t seem to have, either. Given my own personal life/childhood history, the 5000-year run of patriarchy & its far-reaching & not necessarily well-understood impacts, women & men’s current confusions over relationships & who we are & what we want – & the state of the world in general – this is not so surprising, really.

The solitary streak in me has grown very wide. Years of living alone have made me…ever more solitary. A bit anxious when around other people’s company & routines for long stretches of time. (For some reason too, I have a positive horror of being “in the way” – some weird holdover from that … difficult childhood, I reckon. I’ll do almost anything to avoid feeling I am in the way…)

I live on a teeny-tiny income no one else I know could begin to survive on (or even want to get by on), and since money & things don’t interest me much, I don’t “have” to “work” right now. This seems to really rattle some people. (I wonder, do they resent/envy my freedom? My choices?)

I adore my current freedom – but it has & does come at some cost. Everything always does, doesn’t it? Biologist Barry Commoner(1) articulated “4 Laws of Ecology: Everything is connected to everything else. Everything must go somewhere. Nature knows best. There is no such thing as a free lunch.”

Note that last one, hmm? No free lunch. We do always pay for what we get. I pay for my freedom in several ways, trust me. (We all pay for our choices, hmmm?)

Well, for the past few years I’ve begun thinking of myself as a bit of an anarchist. Like communist, the word “anarchist” seems to frighten people. (Imagine grown-ups being afraid of mere words & concepts; a bit silly, isn’t it?)

The Collins dictionary available to me here defines an anarchist as 1. A person who advocates the abolition of government and a social system based on voluntary cooperation. 2. A person who causes disorder or upheaval. Kurt Vonnegut has a character in his novel Jailbird say “Anarchists are people who believe with all their hearts that governments are enemies of their own people.”(2)

Works for me!

Anarchism-Abbey

All I know is, things on Planet Earth don’t seem to be working too very well. Ya think? Our air is foul, our waters polluted, & much of our Earth now toxic. As the planet sickens, so do we. (Know anyone with cancer? I rest my case.)

A clever quotation I’ve run across goes “There isn’t a problem with the system. The system is the problem.”

Capitalism & “democracy” don’t quite seem to be doing the trick, do they? (Like Christianity, real democracy remains mostly un-tried. (3))

I keep meaning to write an essay called “What is Missing?” & maybe I will finally get to it.

What is missing, in my view, are 2 things:

  1. Deep, deep gratitude for this unbelievably awesome, generous wondrous Earth we’ve been given;
  2. Community. Tribe. Belonging

If we all begin working on these two big pieces of the puzzle that you might call Earth Falling Apart in 2010, I think a lot of pretty cool stuff would start happening. (Of course, lots of cool stuff is already happening!! There are tons of people working away on this stuff as we speak.(4))

Of course, I do not possess a crystal ball. Seems to me this whole shebang could “blow” at any time. Of course, that’s an excellent argument for practicing gratitude, living fully in the present moment, & building community. We might as well keep our focus on what really matters in life, since there are no guarantees about what will happen around the next bend. I have a suspicion that the less we focus now on what really matters, the nastier it’s liable to be.

So sayeth I, your friendly local anarchist. One who is trying hard to bring us all back to the really, really simple things: gratitude, community and circles.

Janet

p.s. There are many essays about gratitude on this blog. Only because it’s the primo, most important & perhaps most left-out thing going on Planet Earth. And because it’s free & wonderfully rewarding & liable to lead, when practiced faithfully, to much happier lives & communities & families – & even a healthier planet… No kidding!!

‘Quote of the day’  with this post: “…as the Buddha told his cousin Ananda, the whole of the holy life is good friends. Our relationships – and our love – are ultimately what give depth and meaning to our lives.” – Joan Halifax in Being with Dying – Cultivating Compassion and Fearlessness in the Presence of Death.

My first idea for ‘Quote of the Day: “The aesthetic indictment of industrialism is perhaps the least serious. A much more serious feature is the way in which it forces men, women and children to live a life against instinct, unnatural, unspontaneous, artificial. Where industry is thoroughly developed, men are deprived of the sight of green fields and the smell of earth after rain; they are cooped together in irksome proximity, surrounded by noise and dirt, compelled to spend many hours a day performing some utterly uninteresting and monotonous mechanical task. Women are, for the most part obliged to work in factories, and to leave to others the care of their children. The children themselves, if they are preserved from work in the factories, are kept at work in school, with an intensity that is especially damaging to the best brains. The result of this life against instinct is that industrial populations tend to be listless and trivial, in constant search of excitement, delighted by a murder, and still more delighted by a war.” [Ouch!] Bertrand Russell – June 1921 issue of The Atlantic Monthly.


(1) From the Center for Biological Systems & author of Making Peace with the Planet

(2) Jailbird, by Kurt Vonnegut, Dell, 1979. Page 216.

(3) If you think Canada is a democracy, then I think you are not really paying attention! And if you think dumping Harper – the best prime minister oil money can buy – for Ignatieff would make a whole lot of difference, you are REALLY not paying attention… ***** Lots of great quotes about politics & democracy here.

(4) Paul Hawken’s wonderful book Blessed Unrest is very eloquent & inspiring on this score.

Change … or Die?

This may not be my most popular blog post ever, given the title I’m insisting on putting on it.

I’m usually pretty darn polite, & I generally hope to inspire readers with positive sentiments & a cheerful tone.

Today I am feeling pretty discouraged; not gonna lie to you.

A quick tour of some Copenhagen-related news items shows me that “the old boys’ club” is still firmly in charge – of the planet, of the meetings & of our (never-more-precarious) future.

Okay, I’ll qualify that. There are oodles of awesome inspiring, intelligent activist men working their butts off to make the world change. I know personally a few who are doing their very utmost, & I feel proud to know such inspiring individuals for doing their own very considerable best to change the world.

I guess, then, what I will call the people who are firmly in charge is “the old poops club.”

These are the people with their heads in the sand & their hands on the reins – of the banks, of the industries that are helping to destroy the Earth; of the tar sands & the oil industry, in Canada, in particular.

Meanwhile, millions of people all over this brilliant beautiful planet of ours are writing letters, occupying offices, hanging banners, demonstrating in the streets (& getting their heads busted) because they love this planet & Life itself. Doing hunger strikes! Shedding clothes in the streets to draw attention to the climate crisis. Ringing church bells to shout out the need for change.

The sheer passion, energy & creativity of the human spirit that infuses all these activists is a wonder to behold. I’m so proud of us!! It’s exhilarating, it’s inspiring & it's wonderful.

& then there are those darn “old poops.”

Leading us right over the cliff like a flock of lemmings, bent & intent on our own destruction.

What is a person to do???

I sure have no quick or easy answers, dear Reader.

I like to think I’m not one of the old poops, although I’m now closer to 60 than 50.

I’ve recently occupied a federal (Canadian) politician’s office & been arrested, & you never know what I may get up to next. At this point, I have nothing to lose. I’ve had my kids, I’ve had my “career,” & I have no great faith that “life as we know it” will continue to look the way it looks now, with comfortable salaries, pensions & “security.” There is no security in a world gone mad. No jobs/pensions/or healthy people on a ravaged planet, hmmm?

So.

I’ll keep on writing, agitating & trying to share some key ideas here on this blog & in my other writings.

Frugality, “living more with less” & being an activist are ideas/ideals I’ll continue to live by.

I think if more of us choose to do the same, the world will change. It is changing…

I’ll continue to work mostly on behalf of the young people I meet. The ones who are putting their hearts where their ideals are, inspiring us all with their energy, passion, idealism & a deep, deep love of Planet Earth & the glorious privilege of life – Life! – here.

I encourage you to do the same!

Janet

P.S. You might want to consider reading the brilliant Derrick Jensen essay ‘Beyond Hope.’ You can find it here

P.P.S. There is a 6-minute CBC documentary about the sit-in that 7 of us did in Canadian Finance Minister Jim Flaherty's office on Nov. 30th. You can find it here You may have to scroll thru the list of climate-related items on the right-hand side in order to find the one entitled "Climate Sit-in." Lots of good viewing there!!

P.P.P.S. If you haven't already read Paul Hawken's brilliant, inspiring book Blessed Unrest – How the Largest Movement in the World Came into Being and Why No One Saw it Coming (Viking, 2007), get thee to a bookstore or library, and get reading!!

We Make the Road by Walking

I am addicted to walking – one of those really good addictions. I got this going during a really, really bad patch in my life – when I felt as though my life had for all intents & purposes ended. I was learning on the fly how to get by, not just one day at a time, but 15 minutes at a time.

Walking saved my butt, you might say. (There were several other things that helped: my children, friends, music, volunteer work, & then later on, an active gratitude practice.) My sister totally “gets” this walking addiction, because she has it too. She says, “If I’m sane at all, it’s because I walk” (& no, let’s not go there, alright?).

I’ve long been convinced that walking is basically rather magical. An example of what I call “everyday magic.” It’s good for one’s body, of course – but it also works magic on one’s soul & spirit as we go along – one foot in front of the other &, hopefully, anyway, also tuning in to Nature & quieting a little at least that “drunken monkey” that’s always chattering so very, very noisily inside our head…

But there’s more to this “making the road by walking” business than that.

Kind of by “accident,” I came across Antonio Machado’s poem “We make the road by walking.” It goes like this:

“Wanderer, your footsteps are

the road, and nothing more;

wanderer, there is no road,

the road is made by walking.

By walking one makes the road,

and upon glancing behind

one sees the path

that never will be trod again.

Wanderer, there is no road--

Only wakes upon the sea.” (1)

I find these words in my head a lot.

It’s a very, very challenging time here on Planet Earth, lately, hmm? I really don’t think it’s going to become un-challenging any time soon.

How are we to deal with these countless, enormous, seemingly endless, intractable problems?

For many, perhaps most even, denial & ostrich-like head-in-sand-burying appear to be the strategy of choice. Head-burying isn’t likely to take us very far, though, I don’t think, so it’s not the course I’d recommend.

I don’t have a road map to or for the future, that’s for sure.

I just do what I personally feel called to do – what I have to do. I ain’t got no crystal ball (as Dolly Parton has said, “The magic is inside you. There ain’t no crystal ball”), so can offer no guarantees that anything I do or recommend is going to have any sort of predictable positive result.

But I think that may be mostly because a lot more of us have to get ourselves out there & make that road by walking.

At least, that’s how I think it is…

Janet

p.s. What I’ve discovered in my own life is this: first of all, I learned the hard way that having a road map of plans wasn’t always going to be much use (so much I don’t plan seems to happen, hmm?). I learned that I pretty much have to do the step I’m doing & plan my next step. I no longer really plan any more than that. Not 3 steps out, for sure. Just the step I’m on, which will lead me to the next one. And that one will lead to the one after that. So I’m not really at all sure where I’m going to wind up (who is??) – but I do have a very strong sense that I am at least headed in the right direction. I suspect that may be about as good as it gets.

p.p.s. A few quotes on walking here


(1) I first encountered mention of Machado in Paul Hawken’s wonderful book Blessed Unrest – How the Largest Movement in the World Came into Being & Why No One Saw it Coming. I Googled ‘Antonio Machado’ to find out more, and this poem came up.

 

This Stunning, Stunning World!

<August 2007>

It’s a stunning summer day, and as usual, I went out for my daily morning walk.

As I walked, I looked at trees and sky (mostly trees; to me, they’re magic!) and I thought, “Yikes! This amazing, amazing stunning, stunning world!”

Have you noticed – do you notice regularly – how utterly beautiful and abundant this world – this Earth – of ours is?

Maybe not. Most of us are in such a darn rush all the time…

Why are we in such a darn hurry?

I think it’s because most of us live rather like rodents on a treadmill, running so madly in circles that we not only don’t notice the bars of the cage we’ve placed ourselves in, we don’t even see that a whole world exists outside the cage.

We don’t realize that life has other options.

There is another way to live!

I think the name of the game that most of us are playing is “Keep up with the Joneses.” It’s a pretty all-consuming regimen. Takes a ton of energy – and lots of money and time.

It doesn’t allow us a whole lot of time for thinking – walking – reflecting – re-considering.

Most of us don’t realize we’re “rogue primates,” in the language of John A. Livingston, author of the book by the same name (Rogue Primate – An exploration of human domestication). As he points out in the book, we humans think we “run the show.”

Everything is a triangle – a hierarchy – and we humans sit at the apex of the triangle and “run” things.

This is not the true situation at all. As Paul Hawken suggests in Blessed Unrest – How the Largest Movement in the World Came into Being and Why No One Saw It Coming, “take a winter off” and see if you can order up Spring.

We are part of the world/Creation/the Earth – one integral part – and we have overrun it with our numbers and our technologies and our creations.

What we have wrought isn’t very pretty, is it?

But life isn’t about triangles, it’s about circles.

And hey! It doesn’t take a lot to change it all – to transform it. It just takes a bunch of us stepping off that darn wheel and starting to look around the cage, and outside the bars of the cage.

It can be as simple as “getting back on your feet.”

Take up daily walking. No Walkman, no I-pod. Just you and Nature (even cities have parks and trees!)

Read some. Think some.

Then, take some action.

You won’t regret it, I promise you.

Janet

P.S. Don't take my word for it! The Dalai Lama has said “The most important meditation is critical thinking – followed by action.”

Earth Day - Happy (B)Earth Day!

Happy (B)Earth Day! Birthdays are an occasion for celebration, are they not? They are not a time for wringing our hands – so let’s not go there…

As an environmental activist for 21 years now, I know there’s plenty to wring our hands about. I’m well aware of the number & incredible complexity of the serious issues that constitute “the environmental crisis.” The situation can only accurately be described as very grave indeed – but I’m not into doom & gloom. Hand-wringing is just not fun!

This Earth Day, I suggest we all adopt an appropriately celebratory attitude. Let’s celebrate the beauty of the amazing Universe & wondrous Earth of which we are a part. Look around. Be grateful for sky & air & water & birds (all the creatures) and the sun…especially the sun! Every single thing that happens here on Earth is a solar event; it’s true!

Be thankful. Gratitude is actually quite magical! The more we indulge in it, the more it grows. We soon begin to feel grateful for things we’d long taken for granted. In time, with practice, we begin to want to protect this abundant, beautiful planet.

Think it’s too late? Well, I don’t have a crystal ball. I can’t offer any planetary warranties.

I can assure you that whereas apathy & despair are energy-drainers, action generates energy. I can also attest from plenty of personal experience that passionate activism is good for the soul & spirit.

Very long-time activist Lester Brown, of the Earth Policy Institute, says: “Saving our civilization is not a spectator sport.”

I know a lot of activists like me who know these things for sure: the future for our species and this planet is uncertain; the problems we face are numerous, scary, & seemingly intractable; the outcome of our activism is not at all certain; & finally, we’re in it for the long haul, no matter what (for many of us, there’s simply no other game in town!).

Activism is its own reward.

So take the plunge this Earth Day. Celebrate the beauty & abundance of this stunning planet.

Find out where you fit in.

Read Paul Hawken’s wonderfully inspiring book Blessed Unrest – How the Largest Movement in the World Came into Being and Why No One Saw It Coming, and be amazed to learn how many millions of groups & individuals around the globe are dedicated to changing the world.

Check out Guy Dauncey, activist extraordinaire from Victoria, B.C., whose books, newsletters, Web site, talks & activism are fantastically inspiring! Buy his awesome & very well regarded book The Climate Challenge – 101 Solutions to Global Warming, & let it get you going. Watch his DVD “The Great Energy Revolution – Practical Solutions to the Climate Crisis and Peak Oil” – it’s a real energy booster!

Check out Elisabet Sahtouris, world-renowned evolution biologist, author & activist, who believes we can work miracles by learning to understand and mimic Mother Nature. Sahtouris believes life evolves from a “hostile competitive phase” to a “mature, cooperative” one. Her work & her words are very compelling! Watch her DVD “Crisis as Opportunity: Living Better on a Hotter Planet,” and allow it to inspire & energize you.

Go to the site of the Ontario Environment Network & find out what the groups in your area are up to. Join one. Support one (or several), or start a new one!!

Calculate your household’s carbon footprintThis exercise might motivate you into taking some personal action to reduce your contribution to climate change (it motivated me to take a bus across Canada last year, when I realized the impact air travel has on my “footprint”).

If you do nothing else this Earth Day, at least begin looking around you more. This Earth we inhabit is one very stunning place!

Janet

10 Things You Can Do:

  1. Start with small, incremental changes and work up steadily (better that than tackling too much at once and becoming overwhelmed).
  2. Work at creating less garbage. Reduce – reuse – recycle – compost – refuse to buy over-packaged stuff (buy in bulk) and so on… Buy a reusable coffee mug & stop using those darn cups you use for two minutes, then trash. Visit here for more tips.
  3. Find alternatives for toxic cleaners, cosmetics, etc. (See here)
  4. Practice organic lawn & garden care. Learn to chill out about the diversity in Nature, which never intended us to have boring lawns. Great tips and information on this issue here
  5. Learn how the way we eat affects the planet
  6. Choose to not be a car owner! If you do own one, drive it less – & don’t buy a gas guzzler! Walk, bike & use public transit more (we’ll all breathe easier!). See here
  7. Cut down on energy use of all kinds – & save money while you’re at it! (Tips here)
  8. Read! Join a group! Donate money to groups doing work you particularly value. Check here for Ontario groups you can join and/or support. Start an environmental film night in your neighbourhood/town/office…
  9. Love Nature and teach your children to appreciate it from an early age. Go for walks & canoe & bike rides & cross-country ski (activities that don’t cause damage). We’re always more mindful of looking after what we cherish…
  10. Have fun; lighten up! None of us can “save the planet” overnight, & it can be discouraging work – so make friends, do some fun things & be sure to enjoy yourself while you’re at it!

P.S. Note: Lots of great books to read also!! Check the "Reading that Could Change the World!" item. Lots of great films & YouTubes listed here

In Charge…but not in Control

<July 2007>

I’ve believed for some years now that the Universe looks after me. I’m also known to say frequently that I figure I’m the wealthiest woman in the world. Yet I earn less money (by tens & tens & tens of thousands of dollars) than pretty much everyone I know (except my brother Cliff), & for sure there are circumstances in my life that are not exactly the way I would order them up if I had a handy magic wand at my disposal.

There are several reasons why I feel so well looked after & I’ve written about all of this elsewhere (key variables are friendship; meaningful work, although not necessarily the paying kind; service to a large cause; conversation; walking; gratitude; frequent attendance at places of great natural beauty; women friends; loved ones; music & singing).

I think a key element here is that I know down to my very blood & bones that I am firmly in charge of my own happiness. As a matter of fact, my own happiness is pretty much the only thing I’m in firm control of. The one & only thing…

I cannot control the weather, political events, what my daughters say or think or do, or what my many dearly-beloved friends do or say or think, but for sure, I am in charge of my own happiness.

I’m in charge…but not in control.

Agnes Repplier said “It is not easy to find happiness in ourselves, but it is not possible to find it elsewhere.” (Another great way of putting this is "Happiness is an inside job.")

Now, I only picked up this powerful lesson about being in charge (but not control) after a violent & nasty encounter with a brick wall at about 500 miles an hour. After I picked myself up & dusted myself off (this took a few years, by the way), I grasped the hard-won lesson that I cannot control the things that happen to me – or the people in my life – but I am very definitely the architect of my own happiness.

And I’m determined to be happy, darn it!

So I focus on the positives in my life, & I fill myself up with positive emotions (gratitude is right at the top of the list) & I do meaningful work that I love (mostly volunteer work – “changing the world” – through environmental activism & writing) – & I quite often feel full to bursting with joy & gratitude – & am probably one of the happiest people you’re liable to meet.

You too are in charge of your life, you know, in the same ways I am. And your own happiness.

Abraham Lincoln said “People are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.”

I do know people who suffer from depression – quite a few, as a matter of fact – & another quality I work on practicing faithfully is compassion – so please understand that I have considerable compassion for those who suffer from depression.

[A woman whose books I greatly enjoy is Dr. Christiane Northrup, author of Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom and The Wisdom of Menopause – Creating Physical and Emotional Health and Healing During the Change. In the latter book, in discussing depression, she says, “…depression is one way your body’s inner wisdom tells you that something in your life is out of balance.” She adds further that, “It may also be a hint that you are angry with someone…” and she advises “The best cure for depression that I know is to be completely honest with yourself about everything you are feeling – even, and especially, those feelings you’ve been told you shouldn’t have, such as jealousy, anger, guilt, sorrow and rage… All of these feelings are part of being human. They will never hurt you if you simply acknowledge them, express them safely, and, ultimately, accept yourself for having them. Then you must take action. I’ve never seen depression lift without the sufferer taking some kind of positive action to help herself. This could be as simple as volunteering at an animal shelter.”(1) I have recommended this book to sooooooo many people…]

Life is a complicated business. Some of us had really, really, really difficult childhoods – & some of us are heir to quite troublesome genes – & life is a mixture – a great, goloptious, weird, unpredictable mixture of history & genes & experiences & intention.

Our intentions are hugely important.

What is it we intend?

I suspect if we all begin shifting our intentions to personal contentment (which I would hasten to point out cannot be bought, whatever the balance in our chequebook) & the long-term survival of our tribe (i.e., the human race), we will soon see miracles of all kinds occurring around us. 

We are magicians, we humans; we are capable of working transformations of all kinds.

Thomas Berry says in The Great Work – Our Way into the Future, “We are not lacking in the dynamic forces needed to create the future. We live immersed in a sea of energy beyond all comprehension. But this energy, in an ultimate sense, is ours not by domination but by invocation.”(2)

Mathematical cosmologist Brian Swimme says “The universe oozes with power, waiting for anyone who wishes to embrace it.” (Swimme is author of The Universe is a Green Dragon, a no doubt delightful book, which I have not as yet read myself; I read his remark about power quoted in Matthew Fox’s The Coming of the Cosmic Christ – The Healing of Mother Earth and the Birth of a Global Renaissance(3).)

Henry Waldo Emerson said, “What lies behind us and what lies ahead are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.”

Paul Hawken says some very neat things about intention, & reading his book Blessed Unrest – How the Largest Movement in the World Came into Being and Why No One Saw it Coming(4) put the word intention into my consciousness in a new way… And Marianne Williamson says very inspiring things about women in her awesome book A Woman’s Worth.(5)

I say, we all have magical powers.

We are in charge, but not in control.

We can all feel, I think, as I so often do: full to bursting with joy, gratitude, great ideas, energy & projects & love if we so choose and oh my goodness, what we are capable of will surely surprise & delight us all!                                    

Janet


(1) The Wisdom of Menopause – Creating Physical and Emotional Health During the Change, Dr. Christiane Northrup, M.D., Bantam Books, 2003. Page 310.

(2) The Great Work – Our Way into the Future, Thomas Berry, Bell Tower/Random House, 1999, Page 175.

(3) The Coming of the Cosmic Christ – The Healing of Mother Earth and the Birth of a Global Renaissance, Matthew Fox, HarperSanFrancisco, 1988. Page 40.

(4) Blessed Unrest – How the Largest Movement in the World Came into Being and Why No One Saw it Coming, Paul Hawken, Viking, 2007.

(5) A Woman’s Worth, Marianne Williamson, Ballantine Books, 1993.

Control Freaks Anonymous

<June 2008>

Are you – or should you be – a member of Control Freaks Anonymous? I think the membership would be rather large, if such a group existed (as far as I know, it doesn’t as yet…).

I’m hoping more & more of us are heading into recovery from being control freaks, since I think the all-too-prevalent human impulse to try & control things/people/circumstances/the weather/everyone around us/everything around us is at the very centre of human destructiveness.

I’ve long been convinced the genesis of our control freak-ism goes back about 10,000 years. I’ve written about this elsewhere & I’ve also done some fantastic reading that helped me grasp it in the first place. (1)

But what I want to talk about right now isn’t the 10,000-year deal.

All I really want to say about control, here, now is this:

There is really very little we as individuals can “control.” Well, except for our own happiness – which is a pretty darn big enchilada, wouldn’t you say?

Heck, I can’t control what’s going to happen to me 3 minutes from now – let alone the rest of the day, the week or my life.

This is a terrifying idea, I suppose, to a major control freak, but I put it to you that the option is wide, wide open to be liberated by it – broken open by it, even.

We can each only do what we are doing – one action, one step at a time – & then figure out, as we roll along, where to put our feet down next.

As Spanish poet Antonio Machado said

“Wanderer, your footsteps are

the road, and nothing more;

wanderer, there is no road,

the road is made by walking.

By walking one makes the road,

and upon glancing behind

one sees the path

that never will be trod again.

Wanderer, there is no road--

Only wakes upon the sea.” (2)

This world – this crazy, mixed-up, messed-up world we human beings have been carelessly tinkering with for at least the past 10,000 years (i.e., the era of our control freak-ism) is reeling from our various & multitudinous assorted assaults. The messes we’ve created are now so numerous, so complex, so extreme & so bewildering, it can be pretty goshdarn overwhelming even to contemplate; is it not so??

Well. Let’s simplify our lives, then. Let’s begin creating a path out of the morass, one step at a time. If we do our best to do this with care, sincerity, humility, courage, generosity, openness, selflessness, compassion, love & consideration for all our fellow creatures (including ourselves), Hey! somehow, it will all work out – one way or another…

Janet

p.s. Hot tip: “Your wealth is where your friends are.” So said Plato a very, very long time ago, & it is still and always true. This does not mean, as a young person I met recently mistakenly interpreted me to mean, that I lean on my friends for loans & money & stuff like that. It means that it is the people in our lives who give it (& us) meaning, & who help us get through. We need community…not more money, material possessions, expensive gadgets & exotic vacations.

p.p.s. Some dude named Matthew Arnold said “If ever there comes a time when the women of the world come together purely and simply for the benefit of [hu]mankind, it will be a force such as the world has never seen.” I’d say, any women who haven’t yet become heavily involved in world-changing are needed – giddy up, girls!!

p.p.p.s. Later blog posting of relevance: 'Why we are control freaks....I think.'

p.s. # 4 - in late Nov. 2011 - about 4 1/2 years after I wrote this. You know what I failed to mention?? Control freaks are not very much fun! (I'm betting it's not very much fun in-side them, when they're doing their control freak thing... Just a guess!)


(1) In the Absence of the Sacred – The Failure of Technology & the Survival of the Indian Nations, Jerry Mander, Sierra Club Books, 1992; Ishmael – An Adventure of the Mind and Spirit, Daniel Quinn, Bantam/Turner, 1992; My Name is Chellis & I’m in Recovery from Western Civilization, Chellis Glendinning, Shambhala, 1994; all 3 are highly recommended.

(2) I first encountered mention of Machado in Paul Hawken’s wonderful book Blessed Unrest – How the Largest Movement in the World Came into Being & Why No One Saw it Coming. I Googled ‘Antonio Machado’ to find out more, & this poem came up.