Skip to main content

Business leadership in climate change

I am consistently surprised by the initiative and leadership taken by businesses to address the climate crisis. Not all businesses obviously (e.g. ExxonMobil, the Koch brothers and the other vested interest that have funded climate denial movement and created vast climate confusion), but MANY businesses and business analysts, scholars and consultants are doing a extraordinarily better job than many governments have when it comes to taking the science seriously and responding accordingly.

As the urgent action to slow and reverse global warming became increasingly clear to me, and to so many others, my focus has turned to the ACTIONS in multiples spheres – individual, community, national, global; cultural, structural, lifestyle, psychological – to make vision an integrative path to sustainable futures (or, as process philosophers among others call it, a path from industrial civilisation into “ecological civilisation”). More on this later.

Today I just wish to share an accessible summary of climate change and its implications, a summary I wish I had many years ago. It has a business focus, a report published by Harvard Business School, and an appendix of graphs and references.

Climate Change in 2018: Implications for Business

Harvard Business School report by Rebecca M. Henderson, Sophus A. Reinert, Polina Dekhtyar and Amram Migdal

Abstract: “This note provides general information about climate change and its implications for business. Included is an overview of climate change science and a number of its impacts, including rising sea levels, changing weather patterns and extreme weather, pressure on water and food, political and security risks, human health risks, and impact on wildlife and ecosystems. Next, responses to climate change are outlined, including improvements in energy efficiency, moving away from fossil fuels, changes in land use and agriculture practices, and geoengineering. The note concludes with the debate over how much should be spent to mitigate and adapt to climate change, who should pay, and the implications for the private sector.”

Link to PDF:

Orwellian Australia: the “[Un]Fairer Parental Leave Bill 2015”

On 15 April 2016 the so-called “Fairer Parental Leave Bill 2015″ was “Lapsed at prorogation” and the current status on the bill is (thankfully, at this stage) “Not proceeding”. I’m not sure whether this is a permanent status, or whether they just ran out of time and will return to the bill later… 2f0cb4c7d47e3a96e31c5a2dc19352c0

When I see the word “fairer” associated with this bill I can’t help worry about the extent that we are living in an Orwellian Australia in which “discrimination is fair“, “slavery is freedom“, and “lies are truth“.

We seem to be stepping closer and closer to the world of 1984, a world in which “war is peace” and “ignorance is strength”…

I mean, in what sense is this bill “fair”??

The bill proposed to withdraw the current paid parental leave for women whose employers also pay parental leave – meaning that mothers can afford to spend less time with their newborn.

This has been proposed by the same Government that, at the time of their election, pledged to extend government-paid parental leave to 6-months.

When releasing the bill back in 2015 the Government had the hide to call mothers “double dippers” for claiming parental leave from both the Government and employers (hence spending longer with their newborn) – as per the current parental leave policy that Labor set up to incentivise employers to offer extended parental leave for mothers.

Granted I have a personal interest in this particular bill not going ahead… I’m due to give birth (!) soon before the proposed bill would begin. If my baby is a week late and the bill has been passed I will lose spending an additional 3-4 months with my newborn…

Perhaps the Government’s new leader Malcolm Turnbull cares more about true fairness to let this bill go through. I cannot find any coverage of the “not proceeding” status in the media. I’m not sure is a sign that it will pop up in the next couple of weeks and be passed or whether they hope that they see the bill as a big mistake and are hoping to forget about it in the lead up to their election…

Language like this – calling something that blatantly furthers gender injustice “fair” – reflects an Orwellian trend that is pervasively working its way through Western culture.

“Liberty” used to mean freedom of people from slavery, but now seems to mean freedom for corporations to exploit people without interference from governments.

The freedom of speech our democracy prides itself on is slipping away as journalists are fired for expressing their personal opinions outside of work (e.g. Scott Macintyre over Anzac tweets), academics are ostracised for speaking truth against power (be it a PhD student questioning the safety and efficacy of vaccinations, an academic standing up against the demolition of Palestinian homes and schools in the West Bank, or fighting to host His Holiness the Dalai Lama when money from China is against it), and citizens face Draconian laws (up to $10,000 or two years in prison for “obstructing” business operations) for peacefully protesting to protect the environment?

Rather than protecting citizen privacy, the Governments and corporations are allowed privacy while citizens are stripped of it. At what point does a society say: no more?

Politicians seem to get away with saying one thing, and doing another. At what point does a society stand up against their short-minded knee-jerk policies that have led to 40km school zones on major highways, curfews and prohibitions on selling shots at small bars and pubs (and yet allows major casinos 24 hour licences, thanks to the big money behind it), and that increases police power on peaceful protestors?

As Hugh de Kretser, executive director of the Human Rights Law Centre, puts it: “We need to call out regression like the NSW anti-protest legislation for what it is. We need to recognise the cumulative democratic harm being inflicted by particular environment, counter-terrorism or refugee policies. Ultimately, if we truly care about protecting our democratic rights and freedoms, we need to guarantee them in an enforceable national Human Rights Charter.” 

What does a society have to do to secure a Government that puts the common good of its citizens before the profit of corporations?

Is it about time that Australia had a Bill of Rights?

A new lens to view the world: the world as process

My PhD is essentially an exercise in communicating and examining the potential for an  alternative worldview to the mechanistic materialism offered by process philosophy to contribute to addressing structural forms of violence and working toward peace.

Process philosophy is too rarely taught in university philosophy as the current fashion there is divided between analytical or postmodern navel gazing. Yet process philosophy contains deeply enlightening ideas for anyone’s search for wisdom – which is what philosophy is supposed to be about.

Process philosophy offers a new lens through which you can see the world not as comprised of many separate “things” that impose cause and effect on each other (this is the materialist worldview). Instead process philosophy provides a way of seeing the world as comprised of “events” or “processes”.

In my research I’m trying to map out where this worldview sits in the real world, and what kind of impact it can have in bringing about a more peaceful and ecologically harmonious world system.

What is this process worldview? Further to replacing things with events, which sounds terribly abstract, what does it mean to see the world as process?

This short introduction by Jonathan Cobb (grandson of famous process philosopher John Cobb Jr), who I met at the Seizing an Alternative: Towards Ecological Civilization conference mid-2015, may be a good place to start:

How would seeing your “self” not as separate from other people and your environment, but as a web of relationships in ever-changing process, impact on your experience of being a self?

How can seeing other people as changing processes to whom you are in relationship with, impact your attitude toward that person?

How can seeing social, religious, political and economic institutions, as processes that are forever changing, impact your experience of these institutions?

So long as these questions are in words they will feel abstract. The big challenge that I (and other process thinkers face) is how to communicate these ideas in a world in which they seem so foreign?

How do you challenge the deep assumptions of the dominant mechanistic materialist worldview, when no one even realises that they see the world in this way?

When it seems so blatantly obvious that a table is a “thing” that is separate from me, how does one come to see that this view is tied up in language and in a view of the world that has arisen historically and is not the only way one can see the table? Is it really possible to see the table as an event? Yes!

The table has a life – it was formed out of materials that were once produced by nature, it exists for some time in its current form, and it will one day transform into something else, decompose, or be buried as waste. As the table exists in front of you it exists in relationship with you, and in relationship with everything else in the room in which it is placed. At a quantum level the table is a pattern of vibrations existing as a series of events in relationship with to the vibrations of the book or glass, the light waves, the air, the floor and so on. All of this exists in a geographical space, and within a period of time. All of this is being experienced by you in a united moment of experience—as a whole. So, one can see a table as a relational event, rather than a thing.

Is this just a matter of abstract academic wordplay, or is there a deeper significance in the difference between substance and process perspectives? Personally I see something important in this distinction, and like process thinkers I believe this is fundamental to some of the problems in the world today.

Whitehead sees all temporal objects as comprised of series of moments, “occasions of experience”. These occasions of experience combine to make YOU – as a process, in relationship with everything and everyone around you, for a certain period of time and in a series of geological places. The point that Whitehead makes is that the things that look like things, can only temporarily be called things, they are primarily events.

Such a view makes sense of the latest in physical sciences that show that matter is energy, essentially comprised of vibrations, and those vibrations are essentially relationships to other vibrations.

I do not know that I exist because I can think, as Descartes posed, but I exist because I am in relationship with other events that exist. I comprehend these relationships in a series of experiences.

What difference does this make, to see the world as comprised of events rather than things? It may sound abstract and meaningless but in fact this shift in lens CHANGES EVERYTHING!

You see, our Western culture is based on things. Our economy is based on money and the exchange of commodities. Our legal system is based on entities that are separate, the policies of governments assume a separation of people from their environments, our social practices assume that we are unchanging static entities, our universities and education teach in subjects and disciplines as if they are all separate from each other.

We prioritise what we can put numbers on, what we can quantify, measure, weigh. A process lens still counts and measures, but it does so in the context of a broader framework of real life processes: emotions, environments, relationships, happiness… A process lens evaluates and constructs laws, policies, institutions and practices in their context, evaluates them in connection to each other, with a big picture and long-term perspective in mind.

For example, the transport authority in Sydney might consider restricting the 40km school zones to suburban streets, rather than including them on busy highways (this really exists!) that adds to the time people spend in cars rather than with their families, with the traffic adding to anxieties.

Legal and political systems would seek to address the root causes of problems not just the superficial solutions, e.g. by putting in place rules that force:

  • fossil fuel corporations to invest their profits in the development of green energy solutions (it might piss a few shareholders off, but it is in their own long-term interests as a human being who wishes to live with clean air, water, food, and with environmental systems that sustain life)
  • all corporations to develop their products and services to be 100% renewable and recyclable, leaving the planet better off for human consumption (like ants leave their environment better off for their being there)
  • governments to implement a universal minimum income (even if this increased costs of production the long-term, it would help to stabilise population and keep the economy within environmental limits in the long-term)
  • encourage a return to small rather than industrial farming, animals would be given space to roam and cruelty to animals ceased (as they are approached with empathy, as fellow living beings in this world), and people would adjust their diets to consume the servings of animal meat they need rather than the cultural norm in the West of daily meat
  • agriculture would no longer be allowed to mono-crop with the sole aim of short-term profit, but would be required to plant variety of seeds to maintain the richness and long-term health of the soil, and the nutrition and diversity of our foods (e.g. a variety of decent apples would return to the shelves)
  • governments would no longer be able to accept donations (from corporations, lobby groups or private interests) but would be provided a set budget out of the tax income for sharing their policy plans
  • provisions would be put in place to ensure a free media, not owned and manipulated by the interests of the most wealthy people on the planet

A process lens is to see the world as alive (rather than dead), comprised of organisms with purpose (as opposed to purposeless matter), and a world in which we are participants in the creating of the future (as opposed to tiny pre-determined cogs in a giant machine).

As I study Whitehead and other process philosophers I will try to expand on Cobb’s enlightening cartoon and this introduction to further explain what the world looks like through this lens, how this can benefit your personal experience of the world, and how the shift in decision-making that may result can contribute to bringing about a better world.

Want know more without waiting for my next ad hoc blog entry? Here are some fantastic sites from professional process philosophers and the process philosophical community:

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.

–       the Truth is in the Whole, which no part within can ever know.

–       because each person is defining their views in relation to the views of people around them, and each generation is defining their views in relation to the generations around them, it is possible to miss big chunks of data that haven’t yet been noticed. We repeat cycles of the past without knowing we are doing so. We evolve in a historical setting, often without recognising the evolution. We do not realise that our knowledge of the world and way of being in the world is dependent upon this historical context.

–       we have no way to truly relate to different ways of being, eg for a Western person to understand Eastern or Indigenous ways of being in the world is very difficult. We interpret others’ ideas outside their contexts. We act as if everything is static. In the now, in this very moment, it is static. Yet in time everything is always changing, is always in process.

–       we are missing something. I can’t put my finger on what it is.

–       Nāgārjuna wrote about “The Middle Way”. This is something I want to read more about. A middle way looks at the two extremes – for example the ideas that everything is real and everything is illusion, and negotiates the two in dialogue to see everything is both real and illusion. Yet even in this there can be something missing. I don’t know what I’m getting at.

–       in time things get more complex – like a tree branching out and branching out again; the ends become more numerous and plural; yet all come from the same single source

–       the scariest thing is how the nicer the ideology – the more conducive to interconnection, to long-term sustainability and peace – the more likely the people with that ideology have been to be exploited. Western invasion of Indigenous and Eastern lands.

–       Western left-brain dominated ideologies of separate and conquer, has successfully separated and conquered.  Right-brain connectivity and holistic being has been trampled. The freedom of short-term pleasure-driven egos to take what they can from the world, has left us in the ugliest of all situations for the long-term future of the Earth community. It needs to be reversed.

–       we need to use the left-side of our brain for planning and actioning a future in defined by the right-side brain’s vision of unity.


Boundaries between Self and World

“Your skin doesn’t separate you from the world; it’s a bridge through which the external world flows into you, and you flow into it.”

More Alan Watts? Yes, it’s always a good time for more Alan Watts. Over and over and over, repeat.

The whole world is moving through you, all the cosmic rays, all the food you’re eating, the stream of steaks and milk and eggs and everything is just flowing right through you.

Have you ever thought about your self in this way? In goes oxygen, water, sunshine and food. Out goes carbon dioxide, piss and shit. We all know that our bodies are is constantly in-taking and expelling the world, but I’m not sure many of us feel ourselves as fully connected and inseparable from our environment.

What ways, then, can we define ourselves as separate from and connected to our environment?

Watts likens us to a whirlpool in water:

“you could say because you have a skin you have a definite shape you have a definite form. All right? Here is a flow of water, and suddenly it does a whirlpool, and it goes on. The whirlpool is a definite form, but no water stays put in it. The whirlpool is something the stream is doing, and exactly the same way, the whole universe is doing each one of us, and I see each one of you today and I recognize you tomorrow, just as I would recognize a whirlpool in a stream. I’d say ‘Oh yes, I’ve seen that whirlpool before, it’s just near so-and-so’s house on the edge of the river, and it’s always there.’ So in the same way when I meet you tomorrow, I recognize you, you’re the same whirlpool you were yesterday. But you’re moving….  When you’re wiggling the same way, the world is wiggling, the stream is wiggling you.”

Why do we tend to think of ourselves as separate from our environment? Why do we wage wars on nature, when we are in fact a part of nature?

“the problem is,” explains Watts, “we haven’t been taught to feel that way. The myths underlying our culture and underlying our common sense have not taught us to feel identical with the universe, but only parts of it, only in it, only confronting it–aliens. And we are, I think, quite urgently in need of coming to feel that we ARE the eternal universe, each one of us… Otherwise we’re going to go out of our heads. We’re going to commit suicide, collectively, courtesy of H-bombs. And, all right, supposing we do, well that will be that, then there will be life making experiments on other galaxies. Maybe they’ll find a better game.”

Do we need a new religion? Watts says: No.

‘This, as history has shown repeatedly, is not enough. Religions are divisive and quarrelsome. They are a form of one-upmanship because they depend upon separating the “saved” from the “damned,” the true believers from the heretics, the in-group from the out-group… As systems of doctrine, symbolism, and behavior, religions harden into institutions that must command loyalty, be defended and kept “pure,” and – because all belief is fervent hope, and thus a cover-up for doubt and uncertainty – religions must make converts.’

What, then do we need?

We do not need a new religion or a new bible. We need a new experience – a new feeling of what it is to be “I”.’

We need to deepen our understanding of our selves and our world, and expand our philosophy for life in ways that align with this understanding.

What does it feel like when one defines themselves as the universe?

1. it changes the feeling I have toward you

“I see every one of you as the primordial energy of the universe coming on at me in this particular way. I know I’m that, too.”

In this way I an inclined to enjoy your successes (as they are my successes too) and to feel your pain (as it is my pain too). This radical empathy brings me to point (2).

2.  it increases care for the future of our species and our planet

‘When you know for sure that your separate ego is a fiction, you actually feel yourself as the whole process and pattern of life. Experience and experiencer become one experiencing, known and knowing one knowing.’

If I am the whole universe, I care about the creative possibilities and the destructive suffering of all the beings within that universe. What is best for all is what is best for myself, and I work to align my own actions to bring about the best for others.

3. it takes away loneliness—as I know that my roots connect me to all.

“We do not ‘come into’ this world; we come out of it, as leaves from a tree. As the ocean ‘waves,’ the universe ‘peoples.'”

4. it gives my life meaning and purpose.

Watts asks, “Why go on? And you only go on if the game is worth the gamble… a satisfactory theory of the universe has to be one that’s worth betting on.”

universe looking at itself

And (again) my favourite quote from Watts:

“You have seen that the universe is at root a magical illusion and a fabulous game, and that there is no separate ‘you’ to get something out of it, as if life were a bank to be robbed. The only real ‘you’ is the one that comes and goes, manifests and withdraws itself eternally in and as every conscious being. For “you” is the universe looking at itself from billions of points of view, points that come and go so that the vision is forever new.”

I find my meaning not in what I can take from others, for my individual body, but in what I can give to others and what I can give to the world as a whole. And I do this with the most selfish intention: giving, in my experience, is far more rewarding than taking.

We are each the narrator of our own life stories.

We can narrate ourselves as separate individuals, out to take from the world what we feel it owes us—we can set out to compete, beat and survive.

Or we can narrate ourselves as interconnecting processes, here to give to the world, to inspire the best in others and live on through the surrounding processes that we continue within when our own body dies.

The latter focalisation leads to greater happiness and satisfaction in the life that I’m living. For me, Alan Watt’s theory of the universe is one worth betting on.

Quotes are from various Alan Watts books and talks, largely The Book : On the Taboo against Knowing Who You Are (London: Jonathan Cape, 1969). pp. 15-8; and The Nature of Consciousness Watts (1960).

Picture is John Wheeler’s “Participatory Universe”, included in Paul Davies’ The Mind of God (1992: 225). Here we are represented as a self-reflexive eye that emerged within life’s story.

A Call to Philosophical Literacy

Philosophy, ideas, culture, intellectual development in the Arts, have been ridiculed by the right-wing “Liberal” political party in Australia. A Coalition Press Release yesterday read:

‘The Coalition would look to targeting those ridiculous research grants that leave taxpayers scratching their heads wondering just what the Government was thinking.

Taxpayer dollars have been wasted on projects that do little, if anything, to advance Australians research needs. For example:

  • The quest for the ‘I’ – a$595,000 grant aimed at “reaching a better understanding of the self”;
  • $160,000 on an examination of “sexuality in Islamic interpretations of reproductive health technologies in Egypt”;
  • a $443,000 study into “The God of Hegel’s Post-Kantian idealism”; and
  • $164,000 for a study into “how urban media art can best respond to global climate change”’

I don’t particularly want to bad mouth my country to the world, but are Australians really this selfish and dumb???????

It’s election time Down Under, and my friends around the world who have caught a glimpse are wondering who put the Kool-Aid in our water?

I understand that spending a million dollars on these research questions may sound like a lot. But spread over  a few years this is a rather average salary p.a. for several academics who are teaching philosophy and publishing in esteemed journals, establishing the credibility and value of Australian universities. These publications rank some Australian universities in the top one-hundred world-wide, attracting hundreds of students from around the globe, who pay $26,000 p.a. fees to attend our universities, contributing to the Australian economy.

In other words, besides contributing to knowledge and understandings of what it means to be human, the benefit of this investment for the Australian tax-payer even in monetary terms far outweighs the cost.

These projects are selected by the Australian Research Council (ARC) who, one might think, know a little more about Australia’s research needs than your average Aussie. People have to learn to think multi-dimensionally.

Just because you may not know what “The God of Hegel’s Post-Kantian Idealism” is referring to does not mean it is a waste of money. But dirty politicians can manipulate the masses by appealing to Australian’s tall poppy syndrome: does ridiculing people who are smarter then you really make you feel better about yourself? Apparently so.

The Australian not-so “Liberal” party’s disregard for philosophy is appalling—almost as appalling as their decision to cut international aid, and their other “make the rich richer and stuff everyone else” policies. But let’s not open that can of worms.

Why Philosophy Matters:

In an article in The Conversation, Patrick Stokes writes:

“[It is] as if the last two and a half thousand years of moral philosophy never happened. We expect people to have views on right and wrong without equipping them with even the most basic tools to ask the relevant questions or assess the answers they’re offered.”

After the research projects that I have conducted into religious indoctrination and structural forms of violence causing environmental destruction and global poverty, I would go as far as proposing that philosophy is the “missing peace”. The whole idea of democracy comes from philosophy are relies on a philosophically literate society to keep it functioning. Democracy is not a thing that can be achieved or given, it is always a work in progress.

“Democracy is something you do not something you get” as Susan George put it at a lecture last week.

The necessary tool to do democracy is thinking. A population of sheep, who can be herded by the Murdoch press, is not a democracy. It is en-route to becoming an Idiocracy.

Australians need philosophy more than ever. We need to learn and teach the youth how to think and act for ourselves, giving consideration to the long-term future of the whole. We need philosophy in our schools, in our universities, in our churches, in pubs and at the dinner table.

If Australians were doing democracy there is no way that the Liberal party would be voted in. If Australians valued philosophy we would do a much better job at doing democracy. I suppose it is no wonder the “Liberals” want to defer funding from the Liberal Arts. Keep the masses non-thinking sheep, and you can use Murdoch to manipulate them as you please.

Philosophy may sound abstract and arrogant academic pompous to people don’t know what it is. But if they were to take a moment to read about it, to come to understand the ways that society today has been affected by the rich history of philosophy, and I suspect that they would come to a different conclusion.

missing peace

Legitimate & Illegitimate Authority

On Thursday evening the widely acclaimed author Susan George presented the Ted Wheelwright Memorial Lecture at the University of Sydney, on the difference between legitimate and illegitimate authority. These are some of my scribbles.


Susan George started by reminding us that democracy is and will always be a work in progress—something you do not something you get.

The Problems with Neo-liberalism

She put into perspective the new neo-liberal model of politics, which continue to get stronger even after the last financial crash. Financial markets continue to be deregulated, more derivatives are being traded now than ever, the fortunes of those at the top are greater than 2008 and the poor are poorer.

Neo-liberalism has spread around world. It is propagated by those in power for whom it is in their own interests to spread those ideas.

Gramsci said that one cannot rule through force and oppression alone, one has to to penetrate minds. One must take a “long march through institutions”. In the last forty years, the propagators of the neo-liberal model have done just that. They started in the place where ideas are developed and disseminated—in university research—and they have spread out from there.

Large Corporations are in Power

Neo-liberals want to privatise medical and education. They take no care for small and medium business. Why? Because they are run by Trans-National Corporations (TNC).

TNC are in power. It is the TNC that are making government decisions. They are exercising their power without responsibility. It is difficult for citizens to intervene.

Is this power legitimate? In the legal sense: yes. In a valid/justifiable sense: no, I don’t think so. It seems to me that in democratic countries people and those they elect should have power to make decisions in the interests of citizens without TNCs guiding those decisions in the interests of the global corporate class.

Sectoral lobbyists, funded by major organizations, come in guise. Susan George gave an example:

The “Global Food Information Council” pose themselves as the protectors of industry. They pay scientists to create doubt, to publish in respectable journals and papers, and to create debate where there isn’t any. They create fake consumer groups, posing that citizens want freedom of choice in food, even when it’s almost poison. They use scare mongering. They work to prevent legislation that they don’t want.

Private ratings agency are paid by the security companies they are rating. The TNC take advantage of every country without contributing the tax. They try to create regulations that weaken the control of governments.

The big one for Australia is the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPPA) – which will allow TNC to sue the State if they think that their “expected profits have been jeopardised”. This could cost millions or billions to tax payers. TNCs do not want limits on Co2. This is an illegitimate use of authority. It is manipulative, deceitful, and serves only a small group of people at the top of The Pyramid of power.

What do the TNC want?

It’s not a conspiracy – its just interests. The TNC can do without democracy. Facts are not enough. Their narrative is very powerful.

Susan George called it “expansionary austerity”. The government cuts budgets and increases taxes in order to essentially take from the poor and give to the rich.

Why do government’s agree to the TNC proposals? Is it because they like to be chums with those at the top? Most of all it is because the neo-liberal narrative is all consuming.

What can we do?

We need to create another story that is more powerful than theirs. We need to insist on legitimate authority, with responsibility.

Media has been manipulated but neo-liberalism has been discredited. Even the IMF says that neo-liberalism doesn’t work, admitting they “made a mistake in the math”.

The media need to understand it. Citizens need to understand it.

And the new story needs to take a “long march through the institutions” just as neo-liberalism did. It needs to evolve into a new cultural hegemony—one that is more peaceful, socially just and environmentally sustainable.

The international political-economic-social system has to see where it is heading. It is running toward a cliff. Unless we can abort!


Stuart Rees (my boss) and my lovely friend Sarah Shores at the after-party at Hermanns Bar.


Emeritus Professor Frank Stilwell, a mastermind behind more socially just and ecologically sustainable economics, legend lecturer at University of Sydney (with a Facebook fan club to show it), organiser of the Ted Wheelwright Memorial Lecture, and dear friend who I was so fortunate to have many-a lunches with while assisting his and Jake Lynch’s Political Economy of Conflict and Peace class in 2011.

More on the Global Pyramid:

Preserving “The Pyramid”: Why Things Are The Way They Are

YouTube and the Global Pyramid

Blessed by His Holiness the Dalai Lama

On Tuesday 18 June, I shook hands and looked into the eyes of the man who seems to be the happiest man in the world—His Holiness Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet. More than meeting him, at the end of our event I received a blessing from him. It was very real but also surreal.


As one might imagine, it takes a lot of work and preparation, and a bit of stress. Ok, a lot of stress. Every detail must be taken care of. Every person must have a seat, but no seat should be empty. This person is responsible for this, that person is responsible for that. So much detail that until the night before I’d almost forgotten: tomorrow I would be in the presence of the Dalai Lama! But would everything run smoothly? Had I forgotten anything? The anxiety-filled mind chatter would return.

When you are an event organiser (which I have inadvertently become), you are the key person for everything on the day. Here or there. Make sure this area is clear. This person doesn’t have a ticket. That person is unaccounted for. Remember to breath.

With a wonderful team of people from the Dalai Lamas office, NSW Parliament House, ABC Big Ideas, and a small number of generous Council members and volunteers, the Sydney Peace Foundation staged an intimate gathering with His Holiness in conversation with Australian compere Andrew West. The doors opened just before 8am, and by 8:25 the Theatrette was filled with high school and university students, the Tibetan Community, and key supporters of the Foundation.

When His Holiness was walking down the long set of stairs into the Theatrette foyer a hush filled the air. The mind chatter disappeared. Quiet.

I peered up at the maroon cloak. A calm energy filled the space. He shook our hands, and we introduced ourselves. Took a photo. Put on the microphone. And he entered the Theatrette.

A new hush. Silence.

The audience stood in awe of his presence. He let out friendly chuckle as he walked down the aisle. To the front, he stood in the centre stage. Hands in prayer. Blessed the space. On stage, he took his seat. Andrew joined him. And the discussion began… His words rang true, as if directed at me.

“Religious institutions, not religion, cause violence.”

“Religious violence comes from a singleness of mind.”

“Be true to your tradition, but don’t be attached to it.”

“I am a Buddhist,” He chuckled, “so I can not be attached to Buddhism.”

I wondered if I should be be more open to Christianity. Not in the sense of believing in supernatural spooks in the sky, or in the sense of conforming to the doctrinal interpretations of Christianity as an institution, but in the sense of appreciating the history of my ancestors. Have I lost this appreciation? I’m not sure.

While writing my thesis on panentheism and peace, when I come across scholars who have an intention to convert people to a fundamentalist Christianity (in the sense of believing in a literal interpretation of the Bible and a belief in its inerrancy) I turn off. I simply cannot entertain the notion that Christianity is the only way to heaven or peace.

As His Holiness observed, “if you think there is a creator, then the creator must have created Buddhism too.” If it weren’t for the arrogance embedded in some Christian domination’s exclusive approach to God I’d be much more into it.

Many forms of Christianity are not like this – for example, the Uniting Church and the “Emerging Church” interpret the Bible in its historical context, understanding the elements written as myth and Midrash, and find far meaning in it this way. In particular, I’d like to visit the Unitarian Church, which is explicitly panentheistic. But all in good time… for now I’ll sit with my blessing, do my yoga, write my thesis, and contemplate the marvels and surprises that life brings when one is open, works hard, seeks and persists.

At the close of the conversation, His Holiness blessed a number of people who had made significant contributions to the event:








Following the conversation His Holiness said a few more words about the values of human rights, dignity, well-being, nonviolence and compassion, and how promoting these values can help bring about a more peaceful world:

View the broadcast of “Ethics for a Whole World” : His Holiness in conversation with Andrew West – on ABC Big Ideas



You are the Big Bang, if it weren’t for your “Discontinuous Mind”

It is a common misinterpretation of the Theory of Evolution to think that there is a clear line between species—this is what Richard Dawkins calls “The Tyranny of the Discontinuous Mind.” If we are connected in time to all species, then are we not also connected to the big bang? In fact, within such a continuity, can we not define our selves as the Big Bang, expressing itself in different forms? Let’s explore Dawkins’ tyranny along with my all time favourite, Alan Watts.

In The Ancestor’s Tale, and further elaborated on in an online article called “The Tyranny of the Discontinuous Mind,” Dawkins points out that there was no “first Homo sapien.”[1] Every generation of our ancestors ‘belonged to the same species as its parents and its children.’ If we travelled back in time to meet our ‘200 million great grandfathers’, we would eat him ‘with sauce tartare and a slice of lemon. He was a fish.’[2]

Dawkins emphasises, ‘Evolutionary change is gradual: there never was such a line, never a line between any species and its evolutionary precursor.’[3] There is an unbroken lineage going back through history that connects us with every one of our ancestors. At every step along the way, one generation of our ancestor could breed with another of its being from numbers of generations before and after.

Dawkins illustrates this with the tale of the herring gull and the lesser black-backed gull in the Arctic Circle.


The herring gull and the lesser black-backed gull are two different species, named the Larus argentatus and Larus fuscus, that do not breed with each other. Dawkins refers to these gulls as ‘ring species’ as ‘at every stage around the ring, the birds are sufficiently similar to their immediate neighbours in the ring to interbreed with them.’[4]  Yet when the ‘ends of the continuum are reached’ in Europe, these birds live side by side but do not interbreed with each other. Dawkins calls explains that ring species like the gulls ‘are only showing us in the spatial dimension something that must always happen in the time dimension.’[5]

The point of this tale is to demonstrate that what we perceive to be discontinuities between species is due to the limitations of our mind, existing inside this particular period of time. Mapping evolution through time is much like mapping the transition from the herring gull to the lesser black-backed gull across Europe. What does this mean? It means that ultimately humans are connected to all other species and micro-organisms tracing back to the Big Bang.

Let me illustrate the significance of this with a Wattsian metaphor.

Imagine that a bottle of black ink thrown on a large white wall. Taking ‘for the sake of argument’ that the Big Bang was the way it happened, the black ink represents a primordial explosion, that ‘flung all the galaxies out into space’. The ink splatters outward. It is very dense in the middle and has squiggly bits on the outer edges. It is common for us to think ourselves only a speck of ink on the outer edge of this 14 billion-year process, but we are not: we are the whole thing. Watts explains:

‘If you think that you are only inside your skin, you define yourself as one very complicated little curlicue, way out on the edge of that explosion. Way out in space, and way out in time. Billions of years ago, you were a big bang, but now you’re a complicated human being. And then we cut ourselves off, and don’t feel that we’re still the big bang. But you are. Depends how you define yourself.’ [6]

In this view, ‘You are the big bang, the original force of the universe, coming on as whoever you are.’ [7]

We have forgone the ‘proper self-respect’ that comes with recognizing that ‘I, the individual organism, am a structure of such fabulous ingenuity that it calls the whole universe into being.’[8]

Watts provides a vision of what it means to experience life as a “panentheist”. Panentheism (all-in-God) defines “God” as a cosmic process that we are inside and part of, rather than as something separate like the old notion of a supernatural man judging us from the sky. This insight is found within most religions, but it can get lost in some nit-picking “authorities” interpretation of doctrines, generally connected with power-seeking institutions.

This can shift the way you see and care for yourself, for the other people, and for forms of life including your surrounding ecosystems and planet.

One can think of themselves as the curlicue, a bag of skin, cut off from everything else; or one can think of themselves as the big bang, a creative cosmic energy that is still in process—it depends on the standpoint from which one tells their story.


Life is asking itself: What is Life? [9]

This is a snippet from my MPhil thesis on the topic of the contribution of panentheism to positive peace.

[1] Richard Dawkins and Yan Wong, The Ancestor’s Tale : A Pilgrimage to the Dawn of Life. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2004. and Richard Dawkins (2013, 28/1/13). “The Tyranny of the Discontinuous Mind”,  Accessed: 10/03/13, Originally published in New Statesman, the Christmas issue for 2011, of which Dawkins was a guest Editor.

[2] Richard Dawkins, The Tyranny of the Discontinuous Mind, Accessed: 10/03/13 p. 4.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Richard Dawkins and Yan Wong, The Ancestor’s Tale : A Pilgrimage to the Dawn of Life, 2004. p. 303.

[5] Ibid. p. 303.

[6] Alan Watts (1960), “The Nature of Consciousness”,

[7] Alan Watts, The Book : On the Taboo against Knowing Who You Are, 1969. p. 118. CHECK PAGE. My emphasis.

[8] Ibid. p. 97.

[9] John Wheeler’s “Participatory Universe”, we are the self-reflexive eye that emerged within life’s story. From Paul Davies, The Mind of God. New York: Penguin books, 1992. p. 225.