"The penalty good men pay for indifference to public affairs is to be ruled by evil men." attributed to Plato

"Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing." attributed to Edmund Burke

Let's between us make the world a better place.

Saturday, 30 October 2010

Eucalyptus trees, Kenya and Madeira - ecosustainability

Did you know that the Eucalyptus tree needs vast quantities of water to survive and grow? Perhaps I should have known, linking it to the phenomenal growth these trees are capable of. They grow fast, and very tall. They can be as bad in that respect as “quick growing conifers,” the curse of the British suburban garden, in fact possibly worse. Last year in Madeira I saw these trees and they were simply huge – it is after all a very lush and fertile island. The locals were complaining that they are taking over the landscape - they are not trees native to that island. They are in fact an exotic tree, native to Australia.

Because the eucalyptus needs so much water, it was used in wet marshland areas to drain them for agriculture. The tree does the job very well. The trouble is, the trees carry on growing when they have done the job, and what is more they multiply.
And all this has worrying implications for our global eco-sustainability.

Reading more of Wangari Maathai’s Replenishing the Earth, reviewed elsewhere, I learnt that we British apparently introduced the tree to Kenya, originally for timber production, because they grow so fast. To maintain that growth rate they would be mainly planted along riverbeds, and wetlands. But there was an unwelcome impact. There are now vast tracts of land in Kenya that are too dry, dusty, and barren, and there are nearby streams and rivers that have dried to a trickle, and the eucalyptus is at least partly to blame. So much so that during a recent drought the environmental minister called for these trees in all river areas to be removed. Wangari herself has preached about this in church and called for her congregation to dig these trees up on their lands and replace them with indigenous trees wherever possible.

It may well be that Madeira needs to review its eco-sustainability policies, if it does not already have this on board?

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Waste not Want not - Furoshiki


Do you know what a furoshiki is?

No I didn’t know either. Until I read Wangari Maathai’s new book, Replenishing the Earth. (I have reviewed this recently on Amazon). And what a super idea furoshiki is.

It is said that the United Kingdom generates three million tons of rubbish in the Christmas period alone. And much of that will be expensive colourful wrapping papers that are ripped off and instantly thrown away. When I was a child, wrapping paper was relatively expensive and it was valued all the more for that. We used to open our presents carefully, trying to avoid tearing the paper, and then after Christmas all the wrappings thus saved were carefully ironed for use another year.

Then such behaviour came to be seen as miserly and somehow “not done.” In those days eco sustainability was not even thought of.

Now thankfully the world is becoming more aware of its need to preserve its resources. And this is where the Japanese furoshiki comes into its own. It is a pretty piece of cloth used again and again for wrapping presents, dating back many centuries. The Japanese have a tradition of giving gifts on visiting anyone. Once all such gifts would be wrapped in a furoshiki, and the recipient on carefully unwrapping the gift would then give the cloth back to the donor, to use again and again. I say “would” in the past tense because with the advent of plastic shopping bags the tradition apparently fell away. But in 2006 the then Japanese Minister of the Environment Yuriko Koike made his own version of a Mottainai Furoshiki * cloth, to try and encourage the use of these environmentally friendly objects again. A google search now will readily show that this idea is indeed catching on. Surely we should all copy this wonderfully green idea this Christmas. Perhaps a little card could be attached to the greetings card with the present, explaining the origin of this tradition and urging all to take part next time a gift is offered.

* (The Japanese word mottainai basically means “it's a shame for something to go to waste without having made use of its potential in full – or simply; don’t waste.” Yuriko Koike’s furoshiki was made of a fiber manufactured from recycled PET bottles, and has a birds-and-flowers motif drawn by the Japanese painter Itoh Jakuchu.)

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Some holiday reading

One of the joys of going away on holiday is being able to catch up on reading some of the really good books that are around. Relaxing by a pool in temperatures in the 30's for the last two weeks gave me plenty of opportunity, and I was able to spend time on some serious non fiction as well as some lighter holiday material.
In the non fiction category I was fascinated by a new book just out by James Davison Hunter, the LaBrosse- Levinson Distinguished Professor of Religion, Culture and Social Theory at the University of Virginia, as well as Director of the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture. To Change the World, it is called,The Irony, Tragedy, and Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World. Hunter's concept, of "faithful presence,"to be practiced by Christians throughout and within all aspects of their lives, and to touch all those of any faith or none, to work towards a flourishing of the world, struck a chord with me as it is very much my own theme.

When I wanted an easier read, I found a paperback that someone had left behind in the apartments, The Olive Route: a Personal Journey to the Heart of the Mediterranean,by actress turned organic olive farmer Carol Drinkwater. This I really enjoyed - I found the well researched history of the olive fascinating. I also loved her descriptions of places visited and friends made along the way. She was also disturbed by what she saw in the Middle East and the book ends on a more serious reflective note which adds something more to what otherwise would have been just another travelogue.

For much more about these books I have reviewed them both on Amazon, US and UK.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

The Paperless Office

When I was at school no one had heard or dreamt of computers! Whilst I was at University the large Mainframe computer was born! They were massive, were housed in enormous rooms with carefully controlled atmosphere, operators wore lab coats to use them and the sensitive were known to faint in the awesome presence of these mammoths!!

My thesis all those years ago was laboriously written longhand on the huge folded sheets of paper that were the by product of these machines and then it was equally laboriously typed on a typewriter by a young lass in Sheffield who earnt useful pin money that way! And heaven help me if I wanted to change anything later.

And at the end of my sojourn in that splendid city, all my wordly possessions fitted in one trunk taken home for me by British Road Services. Sound familiar to anyone?

Then the desk top computer came along. 'Ah yes' said those who knew about these things. These will signal the beginnings of the paperless office, the saving of millions of trees, the beginning of a truly new era of ultra tidyness in the work place!! Ha ha! I now look around me in my study and am drowning in paper! Loose bits of paper, cuttings, scribbled ideas to pick up on later, newspaper cuttings, post pending a reply, books, magazines I'll read one day, etc etc etc. Is it just me? Are all you others so well disciplined, backed up, tidy people that you do not have this problem? How do I keep it in check?

Tips please before I go quietly mad under the sheer volume and untidyness of it all!

Monday, 18 October 2010

Saturday, 16 October 2010

the healing power of nature

We seem to be intent on destroying the creation around us. My heart bleeds everytime I see a massive tractor and cutter ravaging the hedges and ditches down our lanes to keep them under control, without any regard for the wild life, both plant and animal, that are being thoughtlessly destroyed. And what a mess those hedges then look, until nature heals them again. But nature cannot go on healing for ever! Neither can we! What are we all going to do to save ourselves and this world - To save our planet of which we are a part?

We can wait for more and more government interventions before we do anything ourselves. But this only creates resentment and cries of alarm about a nanny state! And as we know many rules and regulations are nowadays widely flaunted.

Or we can heal our own behaviour to define our future. We can listen again deeply to the natural world around us and let it speak to us through the silence or the tempest. We can allow ourselves to rediscover that sense of wonderment and awe and respect for the living, breathing network of all beings animate and inanimate that we call Gaia, and of which we form a part. We need to be open to the healing power of nature. And then we will no longer want to destroy it. We need to rediscover a reverence and awe, a love and respect for the world of creation around us. Only then will we no longer defile it with our litter and filth, our plastics, our bottles and our cans. We can even walk barefoot upon the earth. Because, as Alastair McIntosh has said, we will then experience a harmony of body, soil and soul.
We will regain our spirituality.

May it be!

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

simone weil a wounded healer?

Simone Weil, the French philosopher, Christian mystic and activist, was known for her support of the cause of the working classes in early twentieth century France. She recognised that for any real and positive change to come about, a spiritual awakening must occur in the individual conscience. To achieve this she thought it was necessary to experience for herself the lives and hardships of those she sought to help. She recognised that she had to enter completely into their pain and suffering. She described this as allowing the experience to permeate her entire spirit and being. One must become a slave, she wrote, to understand what a slave endures.
Lasting and real solutions to the many and seemingly intractable problems of the 21st century world in which we live will not be found in Government interventions and interference. The world’s many fractures will not be healed in that way. Positive change must come from within our own hearts, through a healing of our own wounds and our own behaviour. To achieve that we have to rediscover our own spirituality, recognise with new eyes the spiritual in all our material experiences, and feel that spiritual awakening in our own individual consciences.
This is a healing imperative for our world. ‘There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root,’ wrote Henry David Thoreau. We all have to start striking at those roots.

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Friday, 8 October 2010

more about community

A participant in one of M Scott Peck’s community building workshops observed that ‘the greatest gift we can give each other is our own woundedness.’ Only the wounded, says Peck, can heal community.
Real honesty and openness, two of his community-making principles, require us to be vulnerable, to have a willingness to be wounded. In his book on community, The Different Drum, he writes at length on vulnerability in community building. The danger of invulnerability, he warns, of acting as a ‘cool cat,’ is that psychological defences are put up between the two parties, and the relationship between them becomes nothing more than ‘ two empty tanks bumping against each other in the night.’ He talks of a ‘peace through weakness’ strategy to build community, at all levels. ‘For the reality is that …. there can be no community without vulnerability; and there can be no peace – ultimately no life – without community.’ And this involves taking the risk of showing our vulnerability.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010


M Scott Peck warned: ‘We cannot make real communities happen, we cannot heal the mess we have made of the world…(without ourselves)… undergoing some kind of spiritual healing.’
In our semi-rural village, population c. 4000 and not far beyond the creeping urban sprawl that is Greater London, we have a thriving general store and post office. This store, together with the flourishing parish church at the bottom of the hill, forms the dynamic core of our community life. It is not Utopian, we have our problems of petty vandalism and graffiti, of speeding through the High Street, and the occasional more serious crime, but on the whole it is a good place to live.
But post offices are under threat as they become uneconomical to run. Emails, Internet banking and on-line shopping have no need for the post office. Even postage can now be bought on the Royal Mail web page and stamps printed directly onto envelope, labels or paper. These threats of closure always bring in their wake much anguished debate and protest. The fact is that local post offices and stores are not simply economic units and profit centres. They offer a place where people can meet and greet, gossip, find help and companionship, as well as buy the occasional stamp and greetings card. They are part of the soul of a healthy village and a community life. The good news is that there is a solution, a solution that many communities have already discovered when faced with closure of their own stores. A growing number of small and local shops and post offices that otherwise faced closure are now run very successfully by and for the people of those communities. What is more, such stores become a vibrant and vital part of the social network of those communities. I know; our store is one of them!

Saturday, 2 October 2010

The healing power of creativity

Through Art we can see deep truths that are otherwise invisible. In great works of art we feel the deepest yearnings of our Heart and glimpse the shimmering revelations of our Spirit.
- Dana Lynne Andersen

Creativity in its many forms is an integral part of our lives. We cannot escape its impact. But our creativity can be used for good or evil. There is nothing neutral about creative force. We can use it as a source of inspiration and healing for ourselves and for those around us. Or our creativity has the power to hurt or corrupt, to disturb or destroy.

We therefore have government and industry guidelines that protect us from ourselves! We have rules and regulations that prohibit or restrict certain creative practices. But of course it is difficult if not impossible to restrict what goes on within the confines of our own homes, and the bar of acceptability seems to be continually and subtly lowered. Yesterday’s restrictions often seem to have been diluted to the extent that they become today’s standard! Does it matter?

Yes it does! Because it is our own behaviour, not government intervention, which in the end will influence our future, the future of this planet, and the future for our children. I have no doubt that creativity in all its forms can be used either to help our spiritual regeneration, or to destroy our sensitivities. With its power to hurt or heal, creativity is at the very heart of all our lives, in boardroom or kitchen, hospital or garden, at work or at leisure. And so we all have a personal choice: We can be responsible and spread healing and beauty and a sense of the soul and the spiritual throughout our lives, or we can perpetuate evil and hurt. Those who spread images of violence and ugliness to their fellow human beings are reflecting their own wounded-ness and infecting others in the process.

We therefore all need to reflect on how our own creativity may be a mirror of our own wounds and the effect this may be having on those around us. We have a profound responsibility to change our own behaviour – to heal ourselves and be creative for the forces for good rather than for evil.

Friday, 1 October 2010

It's Time you knew - by Transition Rachel at YouTube

Many reasons to love La Gomera



with vapor trails


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