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My policy wishlist for Australia’s response to climate change


As of 2020, scientists estimate a remaining cumulative emissions budget of 400 gigatonnes of greenhouse gases measured in carbon dioxide equivalent (GtCO2e) to keep global average surface temperature within 1.5°C of preindustrial levels (Rogelj et al. 2019).[1]

Business-as-usual adds 40 GtCO2 to the atmosphere each year, using up our 1.5°C budget in 10 years. The budget estimated to correspond with a 2°C temperature rise is 1000 GtCO2, which is likely to have far more devastating consequences than already experienced at 1°C warming and at the 1.5°C warming we are hoping to keep within (IPCC (2018).

Annual emissions must reach net zero for the global climate to stop warming. If human activity can emulate natural carbon systems, removing more emissions from the atmosphere than we emit, we can begin to reverse this climate chaos. It takes time to reduce emissions. The UNEP Emissions Gap Report (2019) estimates that emissions reductions of at least 7.3% per year are required to keep warming within 1.5°C.

Comprehensive modelling of climate solutions indicates the diversity avenues for emissions reduction—from technological to behavioural—that are already available for implementation and are economically viable. Models show that climate solutions save more money than they cost (Hawken 2017).[2] Yet these solutions are not going to be implemented fast enough by market forces—they need to be facilitated and incentivised by the world’s leaders and governments.

These twelve proposals comprise my climate policy wishlist for Australia:

  1. Set targets to halve annual emissions by 2030 and reach net zero emissions by 2040
  2. Re-focus the economy on improving human and planetary wellbeing rather than GDP growth
  3. Transition to net zero emissions energy sources
  4. Transition to net zero emissions construction and buildings
  5. Transition to net zero emissions manufacturing and consumption
  6. Transition to net zero emissions transport
  7. Protect, restore and manage of bushlands, forests, wildlife, biodiversity and ecosystems
  8. Transition to sustainable agriculture and farming
  9. Family planning programmes, empowerment of women and reduce inequality
  10. Incentivise the market toward net zero- emission production and consumption e.g. carbon tax
  11. Use Government contracts to incentivise shifts by giving preference to businesses committed to net zero emissions targets
  12. Education, research and implementation of the above and other climate solutions.

The overarching vision is of a transition to zero emission energy sources and electricity, transportation, agriculture, manufacturing, consumption and land use.

To secure a sustainable future, decision-making at multiple levels must put the long-term wellbeing of people and the planet, before short-term monetary gains. It is pivotal that Government initiate, support and fund these changes.

Download Word file here for adaptation and submission to MPs.

1. Set targets to halve annual emissions by 2030 and reach net zero emissions by 2040

Australia is a wealthy nation that can help lead the way to net zero emissions over the next three decades. We want our Government to commit to at least 7.3% annual emissions reductions across Australia’s production of direct emissions and consumption of indirect emissions. This could see us halve Australia’s annual emissions from 2020 levels by 2030, and riding on this success reach net zero emissions by 2040. The Government can facilitate and incentivise these changes in our production and consumption via the below suggestions.

2. Re-focus the economy on improving human and planetary wellbeing rather than GDP growth

GDP is a measure of income and spending. The inadequacies of GDP have been acknowledged since its initial design. GDP counts the bad as good (such as money spent on wars, oil spills and treating illnesses); it ignores many goods (such as parents caring for their own children and growing one’s own food); and assumes that GDP increases are shared by the entire population (while not distinguishing to whom the income and spending is distributed).[3] Economic growth is not intrinsically good. GDP growth is good growth if improves the wellbeing of people and the planet, and it is bad growth if it does not. Following New Zealand and Bhutan’s example, we want our Government to focus on a Happiness Index or Genuine Progress Indicator (GPI) rather than GDP. We want national, state and local policies to be directed at the latter, aiming to maximise wellbeing at minimal economic and environmental costs.

3. Transition to net zero emissions energy sources

One key to a net zero emissions economy is the transition of energy sources from fossil fuels to renewable, net zero emissions energy sources. We want our Government to:

  • transfer fossil fuel subsidies to renewable energy subsidies
  • enable distributed “smart” power grids, such as networks of rooftop solar energy sharing where possible
  • fund publicly-owned solar and wind farms, onshore or offshore, methane digesters, and energy storage
  • cease putting public funding into outdated infrastructures such as building new coal plants
  • fund the re-training of fossil fuel workers to attain jobs in net zero emissions energy and other jobs in the net zero emissions economy
  • leave fossil fuel reserves left in the ground, prohibit the building of new coal mines.

If existing fossil fuel reserves are mined, sold and burned, it will put 2,500 GtCO2e into the atmosphere (Berners-Lee 2011: 175), increasing temperatures to such an extent that it would render all life on earth extinct. Therefore, countries and companies must be content to leave their reserves in the ground. There may be a demand overseas right now and continuing this export market may boost Australian tax income, but this demand is short-lived as renewable energy becomes cheaper than fossil fuels. We must put the long-term health of people and the planet before these short-term profits. Australia is a decade behind other countries yet with our sunshine and our ingenuity we can still be leaders in the new market for solar energy and battery storage.

4. Transition to net zero emissions construction and buildings

We want our Government to encourage the retrofitting of old buildings and to work with construction companies and researchers so that new buildings can be net zero emission both in the way they function and in the materials, technologies and processes used in their construction and maintenance. This includes through insulation, green roofs, smart glass, smart thermostats, alternative cement, recycling, etc.

5. Transition to net zero emissions manufacturing and consumption

While Australia does far less manufacturing than they used to (e.g. of white goods, fashion, cars, toys, etc.), we want our Government to encourage zero emission manufacturing (onshore and offshore) and reductions and changes in consumption, promoting what some call “sustainable materialism.” This means considering the full lifecycle of products, from the raw materials extracted from earth, to the electricity used to manufacture and transport products, to emissions involved in use and the after-life of the product (directing this toward re-use rather than landfill). Possible policies include:

  • outlaw built-in-obsolescence, incentivise the creation of long-lasting products that can be repaired rather than ending up in landfill (which wastes the emissions involved in the whole product lifecycle)
  • fund new jobs and businesses in product parts and repair, and innovations that reuse and repurpose goods
  • encourage thinking about and reporting on the whole product lifecycle from extraction of raw materials through the production process, use and after-life
  • support innovations in recycling of plastic and metals
  • support a shift to ecologically sustainable, long-lasting fashion, outlaw “fast fashion” and fabrics that put microplastic into the ocean when washed
  • provide infrastructure and training comprehensive recycling and composting
  • incentivise massive reductions in food waste at all stages of food production and consumption, including farms, households, restaurants and supermarkets
  • support the cultural shift to plant-rich diets
  • ban air-freighted food imports,[4] encourage locally-grown and self-grown produce
  • work with waste management and landfill companies, as well as building demolition and citizens to educate, fund and incentivise proper handling of refrigerants especially after use, the problems with leakage etc.
  • consider setting up an Ethical Manufacturing Agency of sorts that would fund guidelines, review and reporting of products imported to or made in Australia. This includes ensuring not only that organisations abide by the Modern Slavery Act but also that they meet basic sustainability requirements such as no built-in-obsolescence, design for repair (making parts readily available), and that they are working to align with net-zero emissions targets.

6. Transition to net zero emissions transport

We want our Government to support a transformation of transport such that:

  • encourage the availability of low-cost, net zero emission vehicles, e.g. by reducing import taxes, providing subsidies, etc.
  • build the infrastructure for electric vehicles, with solar- and wind-powered recharge stations
  • facilitate affordable, clean and easily-accessible mass transport, from improving the time and reducing prices of buses and trains to investing in electric high-speed rail (like in the Netherlands)
  • facilitate innovations in net zero emission fuel for airplanes
  • until this is achieved, encourage the reduction of carbon-intensive flights via a large flight tax, using this money to restore forests and fund other climate solutions.

7. Protect, restore and manage of bushlands, forests, wildlife, biodiversity and ecosystems

We want our Government to fund jobs that protect, restore and manage Australia’s bushlands, forests, wildlife, biodiversity and ecosystems. Australia’s Indigenous peoples have managed these lands for millennia, and the Government could seek their advice and employment in land management roles.

8. Transition to sustainable agriculture and farming

We want our Government to collaborate with livestock and agricultural farmers in developing net zero emissions agriculture. This includes:

  • increasing use of trees including encouraging use of silvopastures (forest pastures), growing tropical stables rather than normal staples (for example, more bananas, avocados, breadfruit, and legumes, over wheat, corn, rice and pulses) and tree intercropping
  • moving from extractive agrochemical industrial farming to regenerative agricultural practices, creating robust, complex communities of plants that have a higher carbon intake and healthier soil, reducing the need for pesticides and chemical fertilizers

This involves education, investment, changing business practice and changing cultures and food practices.

9. Family planning programmes, empowerment of women and reduce inequality

Stabilising humanity’s population growth is a pivotal element in reducing annual emissions. We can help by supporting programmes that empower women, educate girls, and alleviate poverty. This includes:

  • community-led family planning programmes
  • community-led education programmes
  • structural changes that enable greater equality within and between countries (e.g. relieve debt burdens, encourage self-sufficiency over cash cropping, etc.)
  • fund businesses working in local contexts with low-income people to improve cookstoves and support women smallholders.

10. Incentivise the market toward zero- emission production and consumption e.g. carbon tax

We want our Government to help mobilise a sustainable economy through market mechanisms such as a carbon tax, anti-trust laws and reducing inequality for a better functioning democracy. A carbon tax of US$70/tCO2 can reduce emissions by 10-40% in different countries (UNEP 2018: xxii). Leading scholars recommend a carbon tax of US$50/tCO2, with a plan to steadily increase it to US$400/tCO2 (Rockström et al. 2017). The business community welcomes the market predictability this would provide. Anti-trust law prevents monopolies, such as those we have allowed in our media. It is the role of Government to prevent monopolies as a basic condition for market economies to function. Inequality feeds a cycle of wealth-power-wealth and erodes democracy. Reducing inequality and seeking “complex equality” is one way to enable your own democratically-led decision-making.

11. Use Government contracts to incentivise shifts by giving preference to businesses committed to net zero emissions targets

We want our Government to use their contracts to shift the focus of businesses to long-term human and nonhuman wellbeing over short-term monetary gains.

12. Education, research and implementation of the above and other climate solutions.

We want our Government to increase funding for research and implementation of climate solutions. This includes:

  1. carbon sequestration that works with natural processes (e.g. biochar)
  2. careful and holistic approaches to geoengineering
  3. education programs for citizen and businesses on high impact avenues for emissions reductions (from LED lighting to water saving, household recycling, buying less, ridesharing, insulating houses, reducing use of heating/cooling, taking less flights, driving less or living car-free, using recycled paper at home and work, investing in rooftop solar, etc.)
  4. all other climate solutions.


References:

Berners-Lee, Mike, How Bad Are Bananas? The Carbon Footprint of Everything, Vancouver, Greystone Books, 2011.

Chancel, Lucas and Thomas Piketty. Carbon and Inequality: from Kyoto to Paris. Paris: Paris School of Economics, 2015.

Hawken, Paul, Drawdown: the most comprehensive plan ever proposed to reverse global warming, New York, Penguin, 2017.

IPCC. Global Warming of 1.5 °C: An IPCC Special Report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels and related global greenhouse gas emission pathways, in the context of strengthening the global response to the threat of climate change, sustainable development, and efforts to eradicate poverty. United Nations International Panel on Climate Change, 2018.

Kubiszewski, Ida, Robert Costanza, Carol Franco, Philip Lawn, John Talberth, Tim Jackson and Camille Aylmer, “Beyond GDP: Measuring and achieving global genuine progress”, Ecological Economics, 93, (2013), 57-68.

Raworth, Kate, Doughnut economics: seven ways to think like a 21st-century economist, London, Random House Business Books, 2017.

Rockström, Johan, Owen Gaffney, Joeri Rogelj, Malte Meinshausen, Nebojsa Nakicenovic and Hans Schellnhuber, “A Roadmap for Rapid Decarbonization”, Science, 355, 6331, (2017), 1269-71.

Rogelj, Joeri, Piers M. Forster, Elmar Kriegler, Christopher J. Smith and Roland Séférian, “Estimating and tracking the remaining carbon budget for stringent climate targets”, Nature, 571, (2019), 335-42.

UNEP. The Emissions Gap Report 2018. Nairobi: United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), 2018.

——. Emissions Gap Report 2019. Nairobi: United Nations Environment Programme, 2019.


[1] These estimates, are in the 50-66% probability range, are adjusted for 2018 and 2019, and they include a provision of 100 GtCO2 projected to be released by melting permafrost.

[2] The total spending involved in implementing the top 80 solutions is estimated at $29,609 billion, while the total savings are $74,362 billion—this is to say, these solutions incur a net saving of $44,753 billion over the period 2020-30. Also see Project Drawdown’s website: https://www.drawdown.org

[3] For more on this see Kubiszewski et al. 2013; Raworth 2017.

[4] Shipping is 100 times more carbon efficient than air-freight, yet locally-grown, seasonal foods are even better (Berners-Lee 2011: 83).

2015 in review

‘Repetition produces a gradual lowering of vivid appreciation. Convention dominates. A learned orthodoxy suppresses adventure.’ [1]Without adventure civilization is in full decay. … in their day the great achievements of the past were the adventures of the past. Only the adventurous can understand the greatness of the past.

At the start of 2015 I was writing an article on Alan Watts, and hence shared a “Wattsian Message” for the new year. As 2016 begins my focus has turned to Alfred North Whitehead, the original inspiration for the title of this blog. In his book Adventures of Ideas, Whitehead wrote a civilized society is one that exhibits the five qualities of Truth, Beauty, Adventure, Art and Peace.

Whitehead was a process philosopher who had significant influence on Watts among many other thinkers, and whose work is central to my PhD thesis. His influence has not been nearly wide enough, and his comprehensive alternative scheme to the dominant mechanistic worldview is far to little known and taught. I join a group of many others who are trying to address this imbalance… and I will try to share some of this in 2016.

Anyway to recap here’s a list of my far-too-few entries of 2015:

A Wattsian Message of Happiness for 2015

3 Jan ’15

In 1940, as the Second World War began its violence, a 25-year old Alan Watts published a book called The Meaning of Happiness. Its subtitle was the quest for freedom of the spirit in modern psychology and the wisdom of the East. This book shares the same essential message of  countless books, articles and lectures that followed: you are not only what is inside your “bag of skin”, you are what is outside of it too. To kick off the new year, let me explain what this means and how it relates to Read more […]

Retreat from the city: Watts’ mountain cabins and old ferry-boats

5 Jan ’15

My partner, a sculptural artist, and I, with my love of writing, have been thinking about ways we might create some sort of retreat from the city. As I read Alan Watts’ biographies I have been curiously uncovering his two most unusual abodes: a communal mountain retreat with Gary Snyder, Catharine A. MacKinnon, Elsa Gidlow and others at Druid Heights, and an old ferry-boat named SS Vallejo with artist Jean Varda and other party-goers in San Fransisco Bay. Druid Heights, Mount Tamalpais “What Read more […]

Commemorating 100 years of Alan Watts

6 Jan ’15

Today marks the 100-year birthday of Alan Watts. While Watts’ “came out of this world” on 6 January 1915, and “returned to the world” in 1973 (far too young, at 58 years old), his legacy continues and expands in influence and appreciation. Alan Watts was a polymath of spirituality, religions, mysticism, philosophy, psychology, phenomenological, among his many disciplines. Though he tried to prevent labels, he was an expert in Zen Buddhism, Taoism, had a stint as an Episcopal clergyman, and Read more […]

Slave to society

4 Feb ’15

Society draws us into its world of the trivial, making us slaves to the superficial, the menial, its time-wasting ego-based self-absorbed naval-gazing meaninglessness. It is evermore relentlessness with its inescapable myriad of communication paths that bath you in guilt. “I haven’t replied to this.” “I haven’t called that person back.” “I have to do this.” “I must remember that.” The voices in my head remind me that I could spend my whole life, day in day out, responding to this and that. It Read more […]

Taming the beast: technology, corporatism and our shared future

6 Feb ’15

Have we reached a point in the processes of industrialisation, globalisation, and corporatisation in which we have lost control over our culture, our lives and our shared future? Looking at my life, the lives of those around me, the media and global politics and economics, I think we have. It seems to me that technology controls us, rather than us controlling it. Corporations control us, rather than us controlling it. Laws control us, rather than us controlling them. We have become slaves Read more […]

Reframing your mind: changing negative to positive one micro story at a time

7 Feb ’15

“Whatever you want to succeed at, you need to replace any negative scripts you might have with positive ones” (Ash and Gerrand 2002: 7). We need to reframe our minds, changing negative stories to positive stories, one micro story at a time. Eve Ash and Rob Gerrand’s (2002) Rewrite your life! is a book full of tips on how to reframe the micro stories in your mind from negative to positive affirmations, that empower you to be work hard (rather than procrastinate), be confident (rather than full Read more […]

I’ve gone organic, and this is why…

9 Apr ’15

I’ve gone organic, well, where an easy enough choice is available for not a completely unaffordable price. I’m trying to go to the Marrickville farmers markets on Sundays, to buy a box of ethical vegies, fruits, meats, and other products and support more local farmers and small business. Why? It is a stretch to say that buying locally grown organic food can save the world, but from what I can tell it is an important part of moving toward a sustainable society. It saves CO2 emissions involved in Read more […]

Farming practices as a national security threat

9 May ’15

Earlier this year I had the great privilege and honour of having lunch with quantum physicist turned environmental activist and feminist Dr Vandana Shiva. Dr Shiva won the Sydney Peace Prize in 2010, and was returning to Sydney as part of an Australian-New Zealand tour warning about the long-term consequences of globalised farming methods. I attempted to get an article published about some of the things that I learned. After many drafts, three submissions and one rejection (the other two never Read more […]

Havana: Aesthetics of an old city in changing Communist Cuba

26 Aug ’15

My partner and I recently spent a week in Cuba in June, mostly in the apocalyptic-like old city of Havana. My research supervisor asked if we speak at a “soiree” at his house, and in preparation I gathered some of my thoughts here. While I reveled in the history and politics, my partner is an artist and conversationalist, leading him to engage with the multi-layered city in a different way than I did. Two of the most striking aspects of Havana are photographic wall murals in the making… First Read more […]

“Seizing an Alternative: Toward an Ecological Civilization”

18 Sep ’15

After two years of anticipation, in June this year I attended a conference called “Seizing an Alternative: Toward an Ecological Civilization”, which brought together many of my favourite scholars. I was like a teenager anticipating a music festival with all their favourite bands. Such a geek! Around 2000 people attended the conference from around the world, splitting into 12 sections and 82 groups to workshop different ideas, uncover deeper understandings of the causes of the ecological crisis, Read more […]

 

I hope 2016 brings many wonderful adventures, new understandings of life, beauty, great expressions of art, and a deep feeling of peace, for you all.

Whitehead-224x300Alfred North Whitehead, 1861-1947


[1] Whitehead, Alfred North (1964). Adventures of Ideas. London: Cambridge University Press. pp. 276 and 278.

 

Reframing your mind: changing negative to positive one micro story at a time

“Whatever you want to succeed at, you need to replace any negative scripts you might have with positive ones” (Ash and Gerrand 2002: 7). We need to reframe our minds, changing negative stories to positive stories, one micro story at a time.

Eve Ash and Rob Gerrand’s (2002) Rewrite your life! is a book full of tips on how to reframe the micro stories in your mind from negative to positive affirmations, that empower you to be work hard (rather than procrastinate), be confident (rather than full of fear), be happier (rather than depressed), and do whatever it is you want to do.

The book offers positive scripts for  study, scripts to be powerful, scripts for interviews, scripts for relationships, resolving conflict, for speeches, and more. Ash and Gerrand suggest a process in which you:

(1) set specific goals;

(2) identify positive and negative scripts;

(3) replace any negative scripts with positive ones;

(4) make the new scripts a habit.

Most importantly, we should get rid of scripts such as “I’m stuck.” “I’ll never get out of this situation” and “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” Instead, we can develop habitual scripts such as:

“I can learn”

“I can change”

“I can improve”

As they put it, mover from the “Negative Land of W – Wishing, Wallowing and Wasting time” and into the “Positive Land of W – Wanting to achieve, Willing to learn and Working hard.” (35)

For example, if a micro story in your mind tells you “Rules are rules. You can’t change them”; you can change this to the micro story: “Rules can be challenged.”

Or, if the micro story says: “You can’t trust anyone.” You can change this to the story “Most people are trustworthy.”

Similarly, change the story “This is too hard. I need a break.” to “I’ll finish this first, then take a break.” (7)

Some more examples:

From negative stories: To positive stories:
“I’m no good at ___”“I’ll never be ____”“I can’t cook”“I don’t think I can sell this”

“I have limited vocabulary”

“I don’t want to be here”

 

“This will be a challenge”“I want to learn ___”“I can learn to cook”“What I am selling has some real benefits and they will be interested”

“The words I use are good words”

“This is difficult, but I’m going to enjoy the challenge and I will succeed.”

Overcome fear scripts such as fear of embarrassment, fear of failure, fear of not being liked.

This is a big one for me.

Change negative speech stories:

“I am not an expert in this field. I can’t lead this discussion.”

“I will be nervous and embarrassed”

Into positive speech stories:“Although I am not an expert in this field I can facilitate this discussion”

“With thorough planning I will be confident in the delivery” (20)

“I will enjoy this talk. I’m going to enjoy this challenge. I know my subject matter… I will do well… It’s going to feel great when I have finished.” (84)

IMG_3442

 Change negative sleep stories from:

“I can’t sleep in a chair”

“I can’t sleep on a plane”

“I’m going to be a wreck if I don’t have eight hours’ sleep”

To positive sleep stories:“I can sleep anywhere – on the floor, on a bus, even standing up”

“I don’t need much sleep”

“I will enjoy the sleep I do manage to grab, regardless of the amount”

Transform negative health stories like:“I can’t give up smoking – I’ve tried before”

“I like junk food”

“I have a weakness for chocolate. I can’t help myself”

“Once I start eating cake I can’t stop”

“I’m too fat to exercise – people will make fun of me”

“I need another beer”

“I always have at least six cups of coffee a day”

“I need a few drinks to relax after work”

(267-8)

Into nurturing scripts, eating scripts, exercise scripts, commitment scripts such as:“I will never smoke again”

“I will cut down on fast food”

“I will eat more vegetables and fruit”

“I will drink a lot of water every day”

“If I’m hungry between meals I’ll eat some fruit”

“I will only have one coffee per day”

“I will go for a walk or swim”

“I will listen to music and relax”

“I will have a cup of tea after work to relax.”

(268-9)

PS. “Beware of False Promise scripts” that have a “built-in escape from the promise” eg “I’ll try to be punctual” “I’m going to do this when I have time” “We must catch up for lunch sometime” – these block us (17).

PPS. Perhaps most importantly “Think about what you want, not what others think.” (67)

Reference:

Eve Ash & Rob Gerrand (2002), Rewrite your life! How to turn your negative thoughts into positive scripts and change your life, Australia: Penguin Books

Get it here: http://www.abebooks.com/book-search/isbn/0143001353/

Taming the beast: technology, corporatism and our shared future

Have we reached a point in the processes of industrialisation, globalisation, and corporatisation in which we have lost control over our culture, our lives and our shared future?

Looking at my life, the lives of those around me, the media and global politics and economics, I think we have.

It seems to me that technology controls us, rather than us controlling it. Corporations control us, rather than us controlling it. Laws control us, rather than us controlling them.

We have become slaves to the gods of profit and economic growth, and we have allowed laws to dissipate responsibility for its consequences.

For example, we have put in place laws that give corporations the rights of persons without the responsibilities. We allow them to f**k up our Earth and its creatures—to extract its resources, to turn fertile land into mono-cropped desert, pollute our air, to cause species to go extinct and work people to their graves—with “limited liability” for its owners and decision-makers.

We have turned ourselves into cogs in a gigantic network of customs and laws that allow corporations and governments to devour lands and people, and our individual actions (purchases, investments, tweets, votes) are the fuel to its fire.

I think we can turn this around. Humans created technology, corporations and laws, and humans can master them if we want.

We don’t have to be slaves to our jobs, to our phones, to our email, to our society. We are free-thinking beings, who can educate our selves and each other to care about the planet and about the lives of those we share it with. We can solve the problems at the heart of the violence, we can change the rules of this game.

We need to step back, take a look at our creation. Rather than being the consequence of it, rather than letting it (technology, marketing, society) determine our desires, we need to cultivate the skills and practices to reclaim control over our future.

Technology is a blessing and a curse.

Globalisation is a blessing and a curse.

Corporations can be blessings or a curse.

Law can be a blessing or a curse.

We need to look at the ways that technology, globalisation, corporations and laws can work for us rather than against us. We need to cultivate its blessings and discipline its curses.

We need to examine the complex of technology, corporations, governments, and laws, in connection with our decisions and actions, and their consequences both in daily life and in the long term—for ourselves, our species and the Earth community—and evolve them to be more satisfying, sustainable and just.

It’s time to take the reins and tame that beast!

IMG_3936

 

 

 

 

 

 

Slave to society

Society draws us into its world of the trivial, making us slaves to the superficial, the menial, its time-wasting ego-based self-absorbed naval-gazing meaninglessness. It is evermore relentlessness with its inescapable myriad of communication paths that bath you in guilt.

“I haven’t replied to this.” “I haven’t called that person back.” “I have to do this.” “I must remember that.” The voices in my head remind me that I could spend my whole life, day in day out, responding to this and that.

It is far too easy to get caught up in the day-to-day riffraff of responding to emails, text messages, paying bills, planning events, attending events, sorting photos, scrolling Facebook, reading the news, updating software on phones and computers … and spending time just thinking about and worrying about emails, text messages, bills, people politics, world politics, events, photos, Facebook, updates, back ups etc. etc. etc.

We can so easily get caught up in doing “stuff” without being conscious or present, without really experiencing or creatively participating in the process of life. This is being a slave to society.

How can we be set free? I don’t think any one else can set you free. It’s all a construction. It’s all your own construction.

It’s only our self who can say “no” to this boring western-societal slavery.

It’s only our self who can say “yes” to freedom.

It’s only our self who can enforce limitations on time, space and energy given to others, in order to allow the time, space and energy to create.

In order to say “yes”, one must say “no”.

In a world in which you can remain connected with every person you have ever met, one has to get strict about what one does and does not do.

Regardless of whether you want to say “yes” to an invitation or request, sometimes in you still have to say “no”. If a person’s time and energy is stretched in every which direction, what time and energy will that person have for themselves? What will be left to do what that person feels they are actually on this planet to do???

Emancipating oneself from the chains of society is difficult. I struggle with it. I hate saying “no” when people ask me to do things, go places, etc. Especially because almost all of it is stuff I actually do want to do.

There are so many people who I love spending time with. There are so many people I would love to spend more time with. Friends who have had babies six months ago, whom I haven’t even paid a visit. Friends across the world who I haven’t been in touch with for months or even years. I want to make time for this too!

Every hour, every day, every night, every weekend, gets so full. With what, it’s hard to say.

All I can sum is that I’ve been a slave to society. I need to create a habit of saying “no” to more things more often, in order to set myself free.

I need to give myself the time, space and energy to read, think, write, meditate, stretch, to slow down time, and to more deeply experience and participate in the gift of the present within this momentous process of life of which I (and you) are a part.

IMG_4121

 

Commemorating 100 years of Alan Watts

Today marks the 100-year birthday of Alan Watts. While Watts’ “came out of this world” on 6 January 1915, and “returned to the world” in 1973 (far too young, at 58 years old), his legacy continues and expands in influence and appreciation.

Alan Watts

Alan Watts was a polymath of spirituality, religions, mysticism, philosophy, psychology, phenomenological, among his many disciplines. Though he tried to prevent labels, he was an expert in Zen Buddhism, Taoism, had a stint as an Episcopal clergyman, and a professor and dean of the Academy of Asian . He called himself a “philosophical entertainer”.

Watts was a man before his time, he had visions of the future that have come true, he was a man outside of time, using psychedelic drugs to understand that space beyond, he was a man of ancient wisdom, and a voice of the future who people in millennia ahead are likely to see to be one of the most transcendent and illuminating of all.

Watts is most famous for his influence in bringing Eastern thought to the West. He had a unique ability to make the complex simple, and to make the serious fun.

He describes himself as a ‘sedentary and contemplative character, an intellectual, a Brahmin, a mystic, and also somewhat of a disreputable epicurean who has had three wives, seven children, and five grandchildren’ to which he says he ‘cannot make up my mind whether I am confessing or boasting’ (Watts 1972: x).

He recalls that he has ‘come to see that my own “sins” are as normal and as boring as everyone else’s … beyond boasting on the one hand, or confessing or apologizing on the other, I find my life intensely interesting’ (6).

Watts is a living example of his philosophy, to the extent that even his autobiography does not follow a ‘linear dimension,’ since he explains that ‘I do not subscribe to the chronological or historical illusion that events follow one another on a one-way street, in series… the world itself isn’t strung out; it exists in many dimensions.’

His purpose is to entertain the reader, and perhaps even more so to entertain himself. Instead he tell his biography starting from the present, ‘from which the past rails and vanishes like the wake of a ship.’

He admits to accusation of critics of his repetition, explaining that ‘varied repetition is the essence of music.’ He says: ‘Each of the twenty books I have had published arrives at the same destination from a different point of departure, … Taking the premises of Christian dogmatics, Hindu mythology, Buddhist psychology, Zen practice, psycho analysis, behaviorism, or logical positivism, I have tried to show that all are aiming, however disputatiously, at one center. This has been my way of making sense of life in terms of philosophy, psychology, and religion’ (4).

Watts’ influence is widespread and still unfolding: in our culture, in academia, and in the world.

Peter J. Columbus and Donadrian L. Rice collected essays Here and Now explore Watts’ contribution to contemporary academic literature in psychology, philosophy and religion, pointing to many areas yet untapped.

Watts was involved in setting up (what is now called) the California Institute of Integral Studies, which continues to offer university courses in the interdisciplinary fields that Watts explored. Ralph Metzner, Brian Swimme and Charlene Spretnak are among its esteemed professors.

Watts had a significant influence in counterculture movement of the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s, that started in San Fransisco and spread across the world. The Occupy Movement and many environmental and social movements to advocate its values.

Watts’ lectures, many recorded on his home on an old ferry boat S. S. Vallejo in Sausalito, California, uplift the moods of millions of people every day: http://www.alanwatts.org/collections.php

Watts books have influenced writers such as Deepak Chopra (see his Introduction to The Wisdom of Insecurity: A Message for an Age of Anxiety), Spike Jonze (hence Watts’ cameo appearance in the movie Her) and the animators of South Park Trey Parker and Matt Stone- see their videos:

A new film by his son Mark Watts, who is now building The Alan Watts Mountain Center north of San Francisco, was released last year: http://www.alanwatts.org/news.php

You’ll never regret getting his books, downloading his lectures, or now the Apps… here are some links to his books on Amazon:
In My Own Way: An Autobiography
The Book: On the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are
The Wisdom of Insecurity: A Message for an Age of Anxiety
This Is It: and Other Essays on Zen and Spiritual Experience
Still the Mind: An Introduction to Meditation
Tao: The Watercourse Way
Psychotherapy East and West
The Supreme Identity
Myth and Ritual In Christianity
Behold the Spirit: A Study in the Necessity of Mystical Religion
The Joyous Cosmology: Adventures in the Chemistry of Consciousness
Nature, Man and Woman
Out of Your Mind: Essential Listening from the Alan Watts Audio Archives
Does It Matter?: Essays on Man’s Relation to Materiality
You’re It!: On Hiding, Seeking, and Being Found

 

What I like most about Alan Watts is the way that he tackled the myopia of modern day society, that is, the short-sightedness that leads to a lack of care for the long-term well-being of our planet, an onslaught of alienation and anxiety associated with the future of “me” and what happens when “I” die, that makes it difficult to really enjoy life.

He counters this myopia with a holistic view of the self as the world, both which are involved in an ongoing cosmic process of creation and appreciation. In this view “You are the big bang, the original force of the universe, coming on as whoever you are.”

I will continue to share his insights on this blog, as Watts’ writings continue to inspire and ground my own philosophy of life.

 

References:

Alan Watts, 1972. In My Own Way: An Autobiography. California: New World Library.

2014 in review

SIMG_3450eptember 2014 marked the five year anniversary of this blog and I didn’t even notice. My adventures with ideas haven’t stopped, but unfortunately I’ve been out of the habit of sharing them online.

I went to Istanbul in August to present a paper at the International Peace Research Association (IPRA)’s 50th anniversary conference. My talk was on the Global Ecological Crisis: A “New Story” to Address Structural Violence.

graduationThis was a slice of my MPhil research, which I graduated from in November. You can download this 58,000 word thesis here: sydney.academia.edu/JulietBennett/.

As a result, I finally received a PhD scholarship!!! It was the fifth time I’d applied, each time with a few more points (from publications and presentations), so I was over the moon… This means I can continue my research at an intersection between process philosophy, ecology and peace.

Alongside my research, I’m also continuing to facilitate the awarding of the annual international Sydney Peace Prize. This year was most enjoyable with Julian Burnside AO QC, an Australian barrister and human rights advocate, presented an inspiring speech about why we should care for vulnerable people seeking refuge in Australia. You can watch his City of Sydney Peace Prize Lecture online from anywhere in the world: http://www.abc.net.au/tv/bigideas/stories/2014/11/21/4133386.htm

This year I have done trips to Melbourne, Brisbane, Fraser Island and Tasmania. I’ve spent quality time with my partner’s folks, out from England, and have been mulling over and over buying a slice of land in Wisemans Ferry.

jonny bdayIt was a big year for birthdays with members of family and best friends turning the big 18, 30, 40 and 60.

A couple of months ago I was reintroduced to Ryoho Yoga, an incredible way of resetting brain and body and conquering your perceived limitations. I’m excited to continue with this and will tell you more about it when I do.

Next year will be even bigger. For over a year I’ve been anticipating a conference in Claremont California called Seizing an Alternative: Toward an Ecological Civilization. It will take place between June 4-7, 2015, and with almost all of the people whose books I’ve been reading in 2014 I’m super excited that the time is so near.

Adventures will abound, and I’ll do my best to share more of them then this year here.


My customary end of year posts summary for 2014:

Thoughts on a morning walk

On my walk this morning: –       I realised that truth, reality, and illusion, are completely relative and self created –       the truth of a religion is truth for that person, it is made real by the stories that are told, and because each moment is in a way timeless, these truths are eternally real –       yet when truths are examined from different layers, from groups, from societies, from species, from planets, different truths, realities and illusions are illuminated. –       Read more […]

Thoughts, actions, habits, destiny

In yoga last week my teacher drew attention to our thoughts. She said something along the lines of “our thoughts become our actions, our actions become our habits, our habits become our character, and our character determines our destiny.” This related to my current research project that is looking at connections between narratives and peace (which I have been madly trying to finish for the last year, hence the lack of blogging…) Our thoughts are made up of narratives. Because we live in Read more […]

The end of a world, and the start of a new one

After four years of reading, writing and scratching my head, and a last min cram, I have submitted a 60,000 word thesis on “Narrative and Peace: a ‘New Story’ to address structural violence”. During those years I have also presented papers in India, Krakow and Sydney, travelled around Europe and had a horrible scooter accident, taught two undergraduate courses at a university in North Carolina and visited Chicago, New York, and Seattle, spent three weeks with friend in Vancouver, taught yogalaties Read more […]

Other people’s shit is other people’s shit

Language warning: there is a lot of “shit” in this post. People are constantly dealing with shit. Sometimes people feel like shit, they treat others like shit, they spread shit all over the place. The arrogant kid on the street, the snickering old lady in a shop, the road rage, people with bad attitudes, negative energies, people who think that dreams are not possible. 99.999999% of the time, other people’s shit is all about that person, and nothing to do with the people that surround them. It Read more […]

The pain of remaining tight – uniting and relaxing through yoga and meditation

“The day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom” —Anais Nin Throughout my yoga class on Wednesday my teacher repeated the quote: “The day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom”… Yoga is not about stretching and fitness, although these are nice side effects. Yoga is about opening the body, the mind and the spirit—but most of all it is about connection. The Sanskrit word yoga Read more […]

Accidentally on Purpose

Stumbled across this poem by Robert Frost and thought I would share. It’s called “Accidentally on Purpose”: The Universe is but the Thing of things, The things but balls all going round in rings. Some mighty huge, some mighty tiny, All of them radiant and mighty shiny. They mean to tell us all was rolling blind Till accidentally it hit on mind In an albino monkey in the jungle, And even then it had to grope and bungle, Till Darwin came to earth upon a year To show the evolution how Read more […]

Listen to Your Younger Self

I recently watched a show where “Elders” were asked what advice they would give to their 20-year old self. I imagined myself in my mid-to-late seventies being ask that question: what advice might my older self give to my present self? “Listen to your younger self”. By this I do not mean to advise one to listen to that insecure or arrogant version of you, in your teenage years or early twenties, but to listen to the optimism and openness of your earliest years of life, and which sometimes can be Read more […]

Clutter to clarity – using mantras Soham and Humsa

Mantra literally translates to mind (man) vehicle (tra) – intended to transport your mind from the busy clutter to stillness and clarity. It is also translated to mind protector. A “mantra” is essentially a saying – a few words or sentences that you say over and over again in your head. Your mantra might be ‘I am stressed’ ‘I am stressed’. Or it might be ‘I am that’… Soham or its inversion Hamsa. Soham means I am everything that exists, and everything is one. This is the essence of spiritual Read more […]

Listen to Your Younger Self

I recently watched a show where “Elders” were asked what advice they would give to their 20-year old self. I imagined myself in my mid-to-late seventies being ask that question: what advice might my older self give to my present self? “Listen to your younger self”.

By this I do not mean to advise one to listen to that insecure or arrogant version of you, in your teenage years or early twenties, but to listen to the optimism and openness of your earliest years of life, and which sometimes can be found later on too.

As children it is easy, we do not yet know the world’s ills. As we get older, the state of the world can appear less changeable, less malleable, more violent and depressing…

But dig deep enough, somewhere inside many of us, is a voice of hope, of openness, and of unconditional love. That big-hearted you, who found joy in learning the colour of the sky and playing in the grass, is still you. I would advise my present self to seek that feeling, that openness, that optimism and to hang on to it for all of my life.

Surely there is a way to reconnect with that self? To open our selves up and let go of that which brings us down?

I have been browsing through my reflections, dreams, plans and notes to self, written in my mid-twenties. Almost seven years have past, but the words of advice from my younger self to my present self are ones that I will hold on to. Words inspired by books I was reading at the time and by my travels in my very early twenties.

Words such as:

  • The world is your mirror: if you are angry, you will see anger. if you are fearful, you will see fear, but if you are loving, you will see love.
  • You control nothing but your perceptions. Nothing can hurt you unless you give it power to.
  • Disconnect from the worry about what others’ will think or say. Have own rhythm. No need to stress or worry. Do own thing and let everything else flow from there.
  • Never assume anything.
  • Don’t take the little things in life seriously.
  • Have a strong mind and know that you can achieve any goal. Make goals. Don’t let anything or anyone get in the way of achieving them.
  • Relax, laugh, don’t stress or worry. Be organised – it will make it easier to do these things.
  • Be flexible in mind and heart. Follow the wind.
  • Life really is short. You can be in a car crash tomorrow. Therefore treasure and make the most of every moment of every day.

I am not sure what to do with the rest of these writings, dreams and ideas, but I think a few new blog posts are a good place to start…

IMG_3028

My cute li’l sister and I in our smugly ignorant optimistic past.

Note: You might also be interested in some of the advice that came from the panel of Elders: “If you want to be in touch with your humanity, you have to be outraged about injustice because the alternative is indifference” from Stuart Rees; to “don’t be put off by put-downs” from Betty Churcher; “follow your star. Don’t do what your mum and dad say, don’t do what the market says, don’t do what society says but follow your star” from Peter Coleman and from Jane Goodall, a piece of advice that her mother gave her at ten: “If you really want something, you are going to have to work hard and take advantage of opportunity and never give up.”

The challenge is to put these encouraging pieces of advice into practice in the present…

Other people’s shit is other people’s shit

Language warning: there is a lot of “shit” in this post.

People are constantly dealing with shit. Sometimes people feel like shit, they treat others like shit, they spread shit all over the place.

The arrogant kid on the street, the snickering old lady in a shop, the road rage, people with bad attitudes, negative energies, people who think that dreams are not possible.

99.999999% of the time, other people’s shit is all about that person, and nothing to do with the people that surround them.

It is easy to absorb other people’s shit, and to start to feel shit our selves because of it.

It is easy to let others bad moods bring out down, but it is not helpful in any way.

When I catch myself thinking “what’s their problem?” I try to remind myself that their problem is just that: it’s their problem. Not mine.

Other people’s shit their shit, and it’s up to them to clean it up.

The best thing one can do is take care of one’s own shit, to see the funny side of people’s shit, to hold onto positive energy and humour, and let your good mood trump their bad one.