"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.

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Back in February 2011 I wrote about the rape of our hedgerows. It is bad enough to hack away at our hedges in February - but to do it in May when the bushes will be supporting the nests of many of our song birds, containing eggs or even baby birds preparing to fledge. As if our birds are not having a hard enough time struggling to survive.
There is a beautiful lane near us, lined on each side by high hedges of rhododendron bushes. At this time of year they are in full flower, a beautiful sight! Imagine my horror when we drove out this afternoon to visit a garden under the National Garden Scheme. and found a scene of utter massacre along that lane. The hedge had been massacred - raped - totally despoiled - obviously using mechanical cutters that had bitten deep into the hedges on both sides, taking away all the leafy branches and flower buds, and goodness alone knows how many of those nests. Why do this? And at this time of year? Am I the only one upset by such wanton destruction?

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Egg cases and nature tables

When I was a little girl I used to love playing on the beach - looking for shells, seaweeds, pretty stones, and any thing else deposited by the sea on its daily tides.
I'm on holiday this week. Strolling along the beach enjoying the fresh air and the wide open expanse of sand and sea I watched a huge posse of children with their teachers rushing along the promenade above me and pour into the expensive and very artificial sea life museum - you know the kind of thing - seals and otters, turtles and sharks - OK there is rescue and conservation work going on as well - but also the inevitable gift shop - huge - through which one has to exit - and of course the kids clamour to buy stuff they don't need that will be tomorrow's land fill.

There is a place for this kind of entertainment, especially on a wet day! But I hope those kids have also been on the beach, beach combing. There had been some wild weather over the previous few days and loads of interesting stuff had been washed up that would grace any nature table back at school - and it is FREE! Or don't they have nature tables any more? 

Here's an empty skate egg case - like a purse! There were loads of them. And at least two different seaweeds to identify here.

And here's another skate egg purse alongside a whelk egg case and half a mussel shell, on a bed of seaweed. 

But what's this? A plastic mobile phone case - the top bit! Not good. 

Further along the beach I came to this starfish - shame about the plastic pot alongside!

Perhaps if children could see for themselves the richness of our fauna and flora in its natural habitat there might - just might - be greater respect for nature and less thoughtless and ugly litter?

I had a lovely walk. Should I feel sorry for those kids?

Friday, 4 May 2012

Protecting our children from internet porn - and our personal responsibilities

Surely most parents are concerned at what their children may be able to access on the Internet? 

But it seems that we may be moving towards an Internet where parents have to opt in to "adult content" to receive it, when they sign up for a broadband contract, otherwise it will be blocked. The situation is complicated and varies from country to country, and in the US from State to State. But this is what the UK government want to do. At the moment they have the reverse situation - it is up to parents to block what their children can access on the Internet, otherwise everything is available. But it seems that 4 out of 10 parents are not protecting their children from this content - therefore, the argument goes, it is better to have an "opt in" system instead.
Then we have the inevitable debates about who should hold the responsibility here and people start grumbling about "nanny states."

In an ideal world, individuals should take personal responsibility - of course they should. But it seems they don't. And as I know from discussions around my own first book, which urges us all to take responsibility for this world before it is too late, people don't seem very good at taking that responsibility for what is "right." What is more they don't like receiving any advice, however well meant, on what perhaps they should be doing; how they should be behaving.

So it seems we need the State to protect us from ourselves. Is that right? Overzealous legislation can be dangerous in itself. It can take away from us our individual sense of ethical, spiritual and social responsibility.

We have personal responsibilities towards ourselves, towards each other, towards our communities, our nations and ultimately to our living planet earth Gaia. And of course legislation fails to address our underlying behavioral problems, our selfishness and aggression, our greed and our envy, the seemingly prevalent albeit petty dishonesty among so many of us. Such behavior can cause even the normally law-abiding citizens among us to sometimes ignore the rules and regulations. Simple examples are the widely disregarded restrictions on speeding and the use of a hand held cellular while driving. Such behavior is obviously selfish. It exposes our fellow road users, pedestrians, cyclists, horses, pets, wild life and other vehicles to mortal danger. Why do we do it? Would we change our driving behavior if we knew that every other user on the roads around us was a cherished friend or relation? Of course we would! At least I hope we would! If we always drove with consideration and care and indeed love for every other person sharing the road with us, traffic regulations would not be needed at all. How totally unrealistic given human nature!

 ‘What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility,’ said President Obama in his inauguration speech, ‘a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation, and the world, duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character, than giving our all to a difficult task. 

Viktor Frankl observed that ‘Being human means being conscious and being responsible.’ He was writing about the very core of our being, our human conscience, and our personal integrity.

The state of being responsible is to be ‘liable to be called to account,’ or to render satisfaction, or to be answerable to someone for something. Isn't it now time for each and every one of us to realize that we must bear our own share of responsibility in the shaping of our world, and then turn that realization into action?

In his acceptance speech for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989 His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama emphasized that responsibility does not only lie with the leaders of our countries or with those who have been appointed or elected to do a particular job. It lies with each of us individually. 

The next day in his Nobel Peace Prize lecture he elaborated on the theme: "The realisation that we are all basically the same human beings, who seek happiness and try to avoid suffering, is very helpful in developing a sense of brotherhood and sisterhood; a warm feeling of love and compassion for others. This, in turn, is essential if we are to survive in this ever shrinking world we live in. For if we each selfishly pursue only what we believe to be in our own interest, without caring about the needs of others, we not only may end up harming others but also ourselves. This fact has become very clear during the course of this century. We know that to wage a nuclear war today, for example, would be a form of suicide; or that by polluting the air or the oceans, in order to achieve some short-term benefit, we are destroying the very basis for our survival. As interdependents, therefore, we have no other choice than to develop what I call a sense of universal responsibility."

 And what about the people who create the porn? 

American eco-poet and Zen Buddhist Gary Snyder once wrote that no matter whom we are and what we do in our lives, we need to

‘Find [our] place on the planet. Dig in, and take responsibility from there.’ 

So let's do it!

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Do we need economic growth?

An old friend of mine, in both senses of the word, told me a story the other day. When she was a little girl, many decades ago, her family was hugely privileged to own an automobile. When she was only a few years old, seeing the potential for overcrowded roads and with great foresight, she asked her father "what will happen if everyone gets to own an auto." What indeed!
Another friend came in with her own similar story. Working in a factory on a production line of, let's say, widgets, she became increasingly concerned that all of these widgets would ultimately end up on rubbish dumps where they would stay for ever. No recycling, no decomposing, just permanent ugly rubbish!

Cancer is a horrible disease. Cells begin to run amok, uncontrolled, and eventually kill not only their host but also themselves in the process. Our Earth has cancer.

In answer to a question from the floor, the Governor of the Bank of England Sir Mervyn King in his Today Lecture last night hoped that we would soon be able to return to a position of economic growth. That is clearly seen as a "Good Thing."
And as I write this I have the radio on and once again someone has just mentioned the urgent need for growth.

But what happens ultimately to all this growth? Where does it end? Where do all the widgets go? Where do all the resources come from? Our footprint on this earth is too large already. We are already living beyond our means. 
Someone has just said - I missed her name but will happily put this right and give her credit if someone can identify her -

"Nature does not do bailouts. We are too big to fail."

We are told we must spend our way out of the current economic crisis - to carry on over-consuming! That is so counter intuitive! But sadly now is not a good time to be challenging the need that is firmly entrenched in our mindset, when we are back in recession and massive unemployment and when so many families are worried about where the next meal will come from, and how to keep roofs over their heads.

But whilst relief must get to such families, don't we also need to get over the psychological barrier that always tells us growth is good? Don't we actually need a “degrowth” movement worldwide, where small once more becomes beautiful, as E F Schumacher told us? Last week was International Downshifting Week. and there are lots of resources out there to help us all downshift. 

It is clear that we need to write a better story around the benefits of doing this, of more sustainable living, with visions of a more attractive and happier lifestyle available from simpler life styles.

Let's all start writing those stories.

 Anyone wishing to read more about the wounds and flaws in our economy and how we can leave smaller footprints on the earth will find that I explore this whole issue in my first book, but from a unique angle never before attempted - from the perspective of the Wounded Healer.

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

Many reasons to love La Gomera



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