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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 time, we fundamentally understand our selves and the world through story.

These narratives might also be thought of as constructing our “worldview”—that is, these stories are fundamental to the way that we see the world.

Our stories impact on our values, which impacts our thoughts and our actions, which collectively bring about experiences of peace, conflict and violence throughout the world.

It is a rather long chain of connections, which makes it difficult to research and explain… but exploring these connections is important. It is by drawing these connections that we can consider how our actions can bring about the most desirable destiny.

I’ll share more about my research some other time. Here I want to focus on the words of my teacher. I figured she got them from somewhere, and Google pointed to two people: Lao Tzu and Margaret Thatcher (whaaaaat??!)

The original quote was (obviously) the former. Lao Tzu wrote:

“Watch your thoughts; they become words. Watch your words; they become actions. Watch your actions; they become habit. Watch your habits; they become character. Watch your character; it becomes your destiny.”

The Thatcher quote reads:

“Watch your thoughts for they become words.
Watch your words for they become actions.
Watch your actions for they become habits.
Watch your habits for they become your character.
And watch your character for it becomes your destiny.
What we think, we become.
My father always said that… and I think I am fine.”

Whether Thatcher actually said that, and whether her father informed her that these words are from ancient China, who knows…

Regardless, as we go about our day let us observe our thoughts, our words, our actions, our habits and our character, and see if we might bring about a more peaceful, just and sustainable destiny then the one Thatcher’s thoughts have worked to bring about.


Building bridges on Sydney Harbour. Taken by Jonny Gloss at Aqua Club on 8 Feb 2014.

Does religion affect population growth?

What is the connection between religion and population growth? The answer might surprise you: absolutely nothing. Well, according to Hans Rosling.

In his April 2012 TED-Talk, Rosling graphs the relationship between religion, income and children between zero and fifteen years olds. He shows that there is no connection between religion and babies, and that there is a much closer connection between:

1 – mortality rates and babies born ie the more likely a baby is to die, the more babies a mother will have.

2 – women’s education, employment opportunities and getting married older and the number of babies a mother will have.

It’s well worth watching:


Using a new medium of boxes – 1 per billion people – Rosling demonstrates why it is inevitable that humanity will reach 10 billion and hence all planning for food, water, housing etc, must be taking into account an additional 3 billion people.

This is an interesting point, though he made the same point pretty clear in his last talk. I’m curious about a few cultural and religions trends that don’t seem to be captured in this animated graph.

For example, in my 2010 visit to India it seems to me that the Indian women had so many babies not due to economic or mortality rates, but as due to their culture. More babies = higher status, at least for the women of lower incomes that I met. Culture isn’t religion but the large red dot that represented India showed a huge reduction in babies. That is, my local observation conflicts with this data. That being said UNICEF confirms that the fertility rate in 2010 in India was 2.6 [1], so I suppose it must be. I guess it depends how the US (who is the provider of the data) has collected it… I’ve asked a friend in India for their opinion and will post that when I hear from him.

Another point that has me a little wary is the connection between different religious laws/controls and birthrates. For example, if Catholicism continues a ban on birth control, surely that will have an affect on birth rates? This distinction is obviously absorbed by the joining together of all the denominations of Christianity under one banner.

Forgetting the detail for now let’s consider the big population question that seems to remain: will we stop at 10 billion?

Rosling makes it clear this will happen only if we:

1 – rid the world of absolute poverty in a way that empowers people/nations to stay out of it

2 – address the various forms of violence that are preventing child survival rates

3 – provide access to child planning

4 – continue to die off when we are 65+ at the same rates as the past, i.e. not using medicine to continue to make us live longer, or preserve our brains in robotic bodies…

Will this happen? Well if you look at the world today you’d probably say no and predict the population increasing far beyond 10 billion. However if something happens to change this eg (following the order of above) we:

1 – reverse neo-liberalist policy that make the “3rd world” provide us cheap raw materials and labour

2 – we find non-violent ways to resolve political, tribal and personal conflicts

3 – the pope embraces condoms (kidding, well sort-of kidding… global family planning does require the spread of condoms)

4 – we realize death ain’t that scary and using medicine to make us live forever ain’t a good aim

So to conclude, while Rosling’s talk is all good in theory and proves the minimum population we can stabilize at is 10 billion, I do wonder about how valid the statistics and analysis are in practice… love to hear your thoughts.




What Difference Does It Actually Make? Attempting to Compare Individual, Corporate & Military Emissions

Books on climate change tend to finish with a list of things we can do to help: buy a green bag, ride instead of drive, hang up your washing rather than using the dryer, turn off the lights, decrease consumption … The thing is, when it comes to the big scheme of things, comparing our individual actions to the actions of corporations, government and military: what difference does it actually make?

I want to know where I should be putting my effort: is more effective for me to cut my personal emissions, or write letters to encourage governments or corporations to cut theirs? Does the carbon emissions from the military trump that of residential, or the other way around? What is more important? What difference can I actually make? And how?

I’ve spent days searching websites, carbon footprint calculators, emailing data providers, for some kind of comparison. I found some great tools, but failed to find any real answer to my question. It’s made all the more complicated my mixture of measurements. This is my first attempt to pull together what I’ve found, and start some kind of comparison for myself…

Apologies in advance for the mixture of Aussie/British/American spelling & measurement systems. Who is to blame for complicating that process –  someone’s idea of a funny joke around 2-300 years ago? Measurements index: 2000 pounds = one tonne; 1kg =0.001 tonnes; 1kg = 2.2 pounds; I’ll mainly use tonnes, kg & grams where I can.

Let me start on a positive note. According to The Guardian, our efforts to reduce carbon dioxide are actually reducing our world emissions (down arrows & percentages per country show the already-industrialised countries are decreasing their emissions, while the industrialising countries are increasing, which makes sense…):

Download PDF here:

What China and the Middle East do is pretty hard to change (— and anyway you hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. (Matthew 7:5)).

I will try to starting locally… what part of these emissions relates to me? Where are these emissions coming from? In the UK the sources are broken down into:


Again I ask: what of this relates to me?

Whether or not I am happy with the situation, I must recognise the fact that Australia rides on the back of America’s defense and security expenses, and shares the same queen as Britain. Countries in the industrialised world are pretty similar and completely interconnected, and have a similar(ish) breakdown of emissions sources. In a round-about way the government, corporate, agriculture emissions of most of the “western world” relate to me – providing products, services and safety to me and others like me.

But, which of these emissions can I actually control?

How much CO2 is created by…? This really awesome visual image interactive page tells you the CO2 created by lots of little things from flying London to Tokyo (1056kg) to your average car (5.1 tonnes) to an apple (80g)

Using this simplified calculator: we can estimate our footprint for: home, driving, food, and flying. We can see that the worldwide average person uses 4.4 tonnes of carbon, while the typical American (or Australian, including myself) uses approx 17 tonnes.

But, what does 17 tonnes actually mean???? This might be useful for more info on CO2- Frequently Asked Global Change Questions (from the Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center): I’m still left woefully confused.

What is the relative impact of my actions, compared to with the actions that I have no power over? This pie chart is based on Manchester, but let’s imagine my breakdown is probably similar.


So let’s assume that when the defense & governmental services are spread out, we are each responsible for around 7%. How much is that when totaled for the population of the US & countries with tight military relations to them?

Ben from Ben & Jerry icecream uses Oreos to show the possibilities not directly related to carbon/climate change, but related to the budget and all round movement toward a better world (given the need to reduce poverty in order to stabilize population):


I do think some of this military budget can help. Surely the USA doesn’t need weapons to blow up the world 7-times over. Surely the power to do it once is enough…

I have searched and searched for the “military ecological footprint” without much success, other than noting that the US Military accounts for 80% of the US government’s energy consumption, most which is fossil fuel (reported the Pew Research think tank’s Project on National Security, Energy and Climate). And that (apparently) the Department of Defense is “going green” … trying to reduce their “eco bootprint”: hm.

I found someone else frustrated by the lack of information:

Karbuz notes that “The Kyoto Protocol (December 1997) exempts the emissions associated with U.S. military activities outside USA.” He also notes that “These emissions are not counted in the national inventory either. In fact, they are not counted in anyone’s inventory.” It is argued that “of the petroleum purchased by the military in 2008, the Pentagon’s Defense Energy Support Center says more than a third—47.4 million barrels—was burned overseas. According to EPA, that translates into 20.5 million metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) equivalent, more than the total emissions of 129 individual countries. And that figure does not take into account the greenhouse gas emissions associated with other aspects of international military activity—like the dropping of bombs and destruction of buildings—on which there is little scientific literature and even less desire on the part of political leaders to address.” Humph. I don’t really know where to start on checking Karbuz’ sources, though what he says makes a lot of sense. His estimate is for a total “bootprint” of 75 million tonnes.

There’s quite a difference from an estimated 20 tonne footprint per person, and 75 million tonne bootprint for the military.

Stepping back to see even this 75 million in perspective, I may have found the answer to my question:

20 tonnes x 20 million people = 400,000,000 (400-million) tonnes for the collective footprint of Australians. Or in the case of total number of Americans, 20×300 million people = 6,000,000,000 (ie 6 billion tonnes).

So the collective impact of our individual consumption far outweighs the military. (ie 6 billion tonnes for Americans is far greater than 75 million tonnes for the US Military).

Unless the military expenditure is already included in this 20 tonnes each.. but then that would be probably only around 7% (per the Manchester pie chart) and hence only a small part of our individual costs.

I’m not sure exactly where this analysis is going. My mind needs time to process the above analysis, and figure out where it’s at in solving my original question. If anyone has any links that might help such a comparison, please share it with me!



Getting real: promising population stats & pending challenges

Hans Rosling gives an illuminating TedTalks presentation on one of my greatest ecological concerns: over-population.


Let each box = 1 billion people.

In 1960 it was relatively accurate to divide the world into the “First World” and “Third World”, the “rich” and the “poor”, the “developed world” and “developing world” or the Centre and Periphery.

In 1960 we were 3 billion people. The blue was the 1 billion at the top of the pyramid, dreaming of buying a car and a dishwasher. The green were the 2 billion at the bottom of the pyramid, saving for a pair of shoes and trying to feed their families.

In 50 years much has changed. 3 billion has turned into 7 billion. 4 more boxes have been added to the table.

Brazil, Russia, India, China, (the BRIC nations), are rising up. While the 1 billion blue affluent people now take planes to remote destinations for holidays, another green box of 1 billion people are buying cars, and 3 green boxes equating to 3 billion people are buying bicycles. We still have the 2 billion at the bottom looking for food, and saving for a pair of Havaianas. So an extra 4 billion in the middle mean a wider “gap” but that is filled in with a massive middle-class majority. Maybe we’d think of them as “Second World” or “semi-periphery” nations, or nations within nations seeing as the spread of income within nations also varies greatly.

So comes our familiar (and what I consider to be quite a horrifying) graph:

Now unless we want the whole world to look like the suburbs of Mumbai (no offense to my Indian friends who live there, but it really is a horribly over-populated loud dirty chaotic city), we can’t grow at this exponential rate forever…

Rosling gives a realistic picture:

Only 2 more boxes, 2 billion more people, bringing us up to a grand total of 9 billion. And I guess ideally, eventually, all those boxes are stacked on top of one another at the far right, enjoying their holidays all around the world.

Ho hum, and how is this, pray tell, going to come about?

Many, including Rosling, predict that the formula for a stabilizing population is to decrease poverty. A little family education for women and contraception availability (along with motivating men to wear it and Catholics to allow it) also helps. Apparently this is what the statistics say, loud and clear, so let’s go with it.

With poverty as it stands in 2010, with 2 billion at the bottom, by 2050 this 2 billion will be 4 – hence the 4 boxes on top of one another.

In order to stabilize population at 9 billion, these 4 billion people NEED to be out of absolute poverty – they need to be able to afford food and shoes, and be dreaming of bicycles and cars. If not by 2070 they’ll turn into 8 billion, bringing us up to 17 billion.

Following this line of thinking I see two questions that are imperative for anyone who doesn’t want to share the planet with another 16,999,999,999 people. These are:

  1. How are we going to ensure those 4 billion are in shoes and getting on bicycles by 2050?
  2. What can be done so that the 5 billion humans driving cars and flying planes don’t pollute the planet & exploit the non-renewables so much that all 9 billion don’t end up back at square one, scavenging off the left-overs from today’s greed?

Hm, tough questions, did I hear someone mention mining the moon and moving to Mars?

Brisbane’s Narrative Wreckage: Cataclysmic Interruptions and Redemptive Solutions

Content in living out your life: work, money, weekends, holidays, home, kids… and then something happens: a cataclysmic event changes everything.

Be it a sudden illness or a natural disaster like the flooding Brisbane is now facing, everything you know – everything you care about, everything you have dedicated your life to, everything you imagined for your future – can disappear in an instant.

As I write, Brisbane faces 12 people dead, 43 missing, 20,000 homes, and 3000 businesses under water. No words can convey my sorrow and empathy for all those whose lives have been upturned.

The events reminded me of an analogy I came across in my narratology studies. The analogy of a “Narrative Wreckage”.

Events like are described as an “ontological assault” that throws even the most ‘basic, underlying existential assumptions that people hold about themselves’ into disarray. [1]

I imagine many people living in Brisbane are presently feeling such pain, among the many physical ones.

Occurrences like this cause worlds to be “unmade” – one’s identity and thoughts about the future are thrown into sudden disarray.

One’s basic sense of time is destroyed. Storytelling takes a massive turn. One’s life-narrative must be reconstructed.

At points like this that the Buddhist philosophies of non-attachment show their value: the less attached you are to the things lost, the easier the loss is to deal with.

Even if attached to the things lost (which most of us are), the incoherence in your life narrative can still be repaired.

The repair, depending on the damage, will likely see the creation of a new narrative: one of renewal and redemption, one of hard work and incredible reward. I don’t know if in these situations it helps to consider “the hard road to the good life.”

In an article in the Journal of Happiness Studies, a collaborative group of narratologists write about ‘narrative variations on the good (American) life’ that describe:

‘a gifted (chosen) hero whose manifest destiny is to journey forth into a dangerous world in order to make it better (to redeem it), and who, sustained by deep (intrinsic) convictions, confronts many setbacks along the way, but learns from each of them, and continues to grow.’

The stories ‘celebrate personal growth and redemption stories’ while also affirming ‘the sense that one is special and destined for greatness, that the world is dangerous and in need of the protagonist’s reforming efforts, that the righteous protagonist should never conform but always trust his or her inner convictions, and that good things will come out of suffering, no matter what.’ [2]

This narrative is so familiar – in our literature, movies, religions and even in our daily stories – yet that doesn’t take away from it’s deep psychological value, nor the difficulty of the experience as it is being experienced. Hindsight is great.

Each of us may be an Average Joe yet through narrative we turn into heroic protagonists, setting out on our own quests and adventures, most likely with something narratlogists call a “generative” aim – leaving some kind of personal legacy, creating positive value for future generations, demonstrating the meaning of one’s life (be it lives created eg via making babies, or through lives touched eg through relationships). [3]

No doubt cataclysmic events like this change lives. It changes the future. You may even look back one day and be thankful for the path the cataclysm led you to.

As an observer of the cataclysmic trajectory humanity’s narrative seems to be heading, I hope it isn’t insensitive to think about what the Brisbane floods can teach us all?

Human induced global warming or not, our radical global population growth and unsustainable lifestyles indicate our collective narrative is near wreckage.

People may argue that our population will slow as people come out of poverty and women are educated, but where is the sign that either of these things will happen in the near future? The economic pyramid depends on the large base and a huge gap simply in order for the middle and top to move up and live better. The lifestyles of the rich rob the poor of their choices, and rob future generations of their resources. I am, in every aspect of my lifestyle, a cog in this system. While this system poses threat to the narratives of many individually, and collectively, the institutions and society we are born into is not easy to escape, and even harder to challenge.

At difficult times like the Brisbane floods we see the media, the government, the nation, and much of the world, unite in effort to help those in need. Our common humanity triumphs over the economic, cultural, religious, and ideological differences that so often tear as apart.

As we join together to restore the order, to help those in need get back on their feet, I am reminded that humans care. When we see others suffering, we know that it could be us in their place, so we treat those people how we hope they would treat us. Our more superficial aspirations may distract us at times but at the end of the day I think we each feel connected to everyone and everything that surrounds us and that we are a part of.

This gives me hope.

I hope we can find ways to repair the cataclysms that face us in this moment, and to avoid the cataclysms that (on our current trajectory) appear to lie ahead.


[1] Crossley, Michelle, (2002) Introducing Narrative Psychology, Narrative, Memory and Life Transitions. pp. 11-12.

Michelle refers to Narrative Wreckage analogy from Frank, A (1995), The wounded storyteller: Body, illness and ethics, University of Chicago Press, Chicago.

[2] Bauer, J. J., D. P. McAdams, et al. (2008). Narrative Identity and Eudaimonic Well-being. Journal of Happiness Studies, 9, p. 98.

[3] Baddeley, J. and J. A. Singer (2007). Charting the Life Story’s Path: Narrative Identity Across the Life Span. in Handbook of narrative inquiry : mapping a methodology. ed. D. J. Clandinin. Thousand Oaks, Calif., Sage Publications: xix, 693 p. 191.


I snapped this in Budapest 2006

Preserving “The Pyramid” – the reason things are the way they are…

“Things are the way they are because they have been designed to be this way,” a friend of mine said. “It’s all about preserving The Pyramid.”

What’s The Pyramid? Let me tell you…

“The Pyramid” (according to my friend) is a method of social, economic and political organisation that is at the core of every human civilisation from the Egyptians to Hindus to Monarchies to Capitalism.

All the big political conflicts come down to one thing: The Pyramid.

Conflicts are either initiated by people on top pulling strings to preserve or expand the present Pyramid; or conflicts are initiated by revolutionaries who disagree with the structure and seek to turn The Pyramid up-side-down.

As I thought through history, I realised my friend was right. The English and Spanish Conquest of the Americas, India, China… We seize land to expand our pyramid. We seize resources to secure our pyramid. We take down any leaders who don’t agree to it’s rules. We call anyone who challenges the Pyramid a “terrorist” and “national threat”. Why? Because they really are a threat to this hierarchy – and the people at the top do not like that.

From the Egyptians:

To the Hindu caste system:

To Capitalism today…

Globalisation has seen the pyramids of once isolated civilisations join together to create an even bigger pyramid. And as the upper and middle class grows, so does the lower class, hence as our global population rapidly expands, so does The Pyramid. The rich get richer as  the poor get poorer.

In the global pyramid, the top 0.5 billion earning over $20,000 a year (of which many earn far more, and a small number earning far far more than that) while 60% of the world’s population live on less than $2 a day.

The pyramid of wealth distribution looked at in another way shows the top 1% taking 2/3rds of the US national income…

How is such inequality allowed to persist?

Through a carefully constructed system that involves a “social distribution of knowledge” [1]. We educate some (the children of the monetarily rich) to make the system work for them, and educate others (the children of the not-so-money-rich) to work for the system.

Those in power know the formula: give people a reason to live (eg through career path or religion or an ideology) and educate them enough for their societal roles. No more, no less.

The system teaches people to obey authority, not to question it. It encourages conformity, a docile acceptance of the status quo.

According to my friend’s theory, all the “evils” of the world are there for a reason: to maintain The Pyramid. This includes:

  • Poverty is there because a massive base is needed to support the weight of the top.
  • War is there because it secures the resources required to make weapons and keep the system running as those at the top require.
  • Lack-of-education is there because in the social distribution of knowledge, not everyone needs to know stuff. All you need to know is what your role requires you to know, no more, no less.
  • Religion is there because it gives people a purpose. It explains the unknowns, it controls the masses, and it gives people hope for a better life next time round – be it up in heaven or in one’s reincarnation.
  • Debt is there because it contracts a permanent slave of those people and countries who work to repay it.

The destructive cycle is this: (1) as we seek to join the upper class  or move up the middle classes (a good thing), we inadvertently (2) increase the lower class – not such a good thing if this means 12 hour work days behind a sewing machine. Then, (3) as the base of the pyramid increases, so does poverty (families have less food and less land to provide), and (4) as poverty increases, education decreases and people have more babies, causing (5) the global population continues to explode and (6) as the earth’s resources recede it seems inevitable that, at some point in the future, billions of people’s lives  are going to be lost.

Should we challenge The Pyramid? Maybe. But to be honest I’m not sure that we can.

What happens when someone challenges the authority of The Pyramid? They get taken down. Just look what they are doing to Julian Assange!

History has shown Animal Farm scenarios time and time again: revolution upon revolution. When oppressive humans are kicked off the planet and animals declare themselves equal, it’s only a matter of time before pigs (or some other animal) will rise up and become the new oppressor.

The Pyramid has been torn down and built back up by a numerous groups who then take the place of the new rich and powerful. Whoever wins the battle replicates the model’s inequalities, and rewrites history to produce a new “social distribution of knowledge.” It’s an endless cycle.

Geez this is depressing. Where’s my Christmas spirit? Don’t get me started on Christmas… the capitalistic “Christian” tradition that is based on a pagan holiday inadvertently idolizing the “God” that declared “He” never wanted to be idolised. Ah sorry, I shouldn’t write it off like this. It is a lovely family time. I’ll try to uplift my words from here on…

If we can’t fight The Pyramid, should we embrace it? Maybe. Maybe there are ways of making it work without the above evils, I’m not sure.

Is inequality ok? Maybe. It’s impossible for everyone to be equal. And unappealing – diversity makes the world a more interesting place. And whose to say that the rich people are “rich”? Are those at the top of the pyramid “better off” than the people at the bottom? Life can be pretty boring if you have everything without the challenge. The poor might be much richer in different ways…

But it can’t be denied that it’s pretty shit that two-thirds of the world have no place to shit.

Maybe it’s best to live one’s life somewhere in the middle. Probably myself and most of you think of ourselves as somewhere in the middle (although earning more than $20k pa places us in the upper).

Even in the top segment of the pyramid if you have a mortgage and particularly if you have children, then choices become even more limited – we are culturally molded to work for the system. I wonder how many people at the very very top of The Pyramid are even consciously aware that they are creating or perpetuating it?

Is there anything wrong with being a cog in this wheel? No. I guess not – as long as you are happy. What if this happiness is just an illusion? Maybe living in an illusion is the best place to be. Should we be putting our efforts into finding ways to make the pyramid work for us? Maybe. But maybe not. Alternatives may exist, I’m not yet sure.

In sum, things are the way they are because they have been designed this way. Poverty, religion, education systems, health-related issues – all of our problems are (at least in part) designed to serve the powerful and preserve The Pyramid. If you want to address these problems in a way that is real and sustainable, then it will be useful for you to consider the power hierarchies within The Pyramid, and engage with those in decision-making positions to make changes toward more just institutions and hence a more just world.

When my friend first shared this theory I protested, now I’m coming around.

More on The Pyramid? Check out the sequel blog post Rethinking “The Pyramid” – do alternatives exist? and blog entries tagged “The Pyramid“.


I have a habit of grabbing pictures off Google Images and not recording the copyrights… if anyone would like me to acknowledge their work where I haven’t please do let me know.


[1] The Social Construction of Reality, Berger and Luckmann 1966


What makes more sense?

What makes more sense?

1. That God selected ONE species to be his “chosen” species, abandoning all His other creations to nothingness.
2. That God values ALL of his creations. The idea that humans are the only creations with souls, is a narrative created by humans not God.

What makes more sense?

1. That God selected ONE group of people to be His “chosen people, to help them conquer other groups of people (as long as they obeyed Him) and to punish all other people in the world who strive to discover Him and His will.
2. That this group of people crowned themselves God’s chosen people, and that in times where these people won battles they believed it was because of their obedience to God, while in times of trouble their scapegoat was to disobedience to God.

What makes more sense?

1. That the world was created in 6 days, 6,000 years ago, by a God who is an entity separate from the world, that watches the world from afar. And yet is omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent?
2. That some component of the universe has always existed, and this has be personified as God. That the universe is, like the breath of God, currently expanding, and one day it will compress back to a single quantum atom at which time the process of expansion will start again. That the process of creation, destruction and recreation never ends, hence presenting the beautiful process and nature of “God”. A never-ending process of yin and yang, good and evil, diametrical opposites that allow us, (and God) to know the other.

What makes more sense?

1. That carbon and other dating methods are inaccurate by millions/billions of years, that evolution is incorrect, and that the 30,000-year history of the aborigines is a complete fabrication.
2. That the biblical account of Genesis is, like many other (very similar) creation stories about human beings that lived between 5-2000 years ago, a mythological symbolic account that explained the origins of life in a non-literal sense.

What makes more sense?

1. That God selected one point in time, that is, 2000 years ago, to impregnate a human woman to bare His one son, who is also an incarnation of Himself, in order to save humanity and provide an opportunity for people born lucky enough to hear this story, to have a relationship with Him. That this path to heaven does not come through how people live their lives, but they come from His “grace” that allows “anyone who believes in Him” – and the biblically narratated account of His divine Son dying on a cross and physically rising again for my, or your, sin, can have a relationship with God and go to heaven when they die.
2. That God would love ALL the human (and non-human) beings He created and continues and will always continue to create over billions and zillions of years – before our universe’s beginning, and after it will end. That each group of people, through myriad circumstances, have developed a unique relationship with “Him” (referring to a personification of what is not human nor of any gender), discovering different aspects of the macrocosmic, omnipotent, omnipresent entity to which we are all a part of.

What makes more sense?

1. That all the Mayans and Incas in South America, the Aborigines in Australia, the Chinese, Japanese, Indians – all the people that were born into other cultures and see the world through a different lens that they have been brought up in, people who believe they have a relashionship with God – are actually wrong and are worshiping false gods, and hence will go to hell unless they repent and abandon the beliefs of their ancestors, and believe in the Christian God and Jesus Christ His son.


2. That none of these religions have discovered the whole of who (or what) “God” is? 

Is it possible that by exploring each tradition in it’s historical context, alongside the ongoing scientific and astronomical discoveries, that we can together continue to uncover more about the nature of the powers driving the universe?

What makes more sense?

1. That one simple story behind every incredible complexity that this world has to offer, was magically captured in One Holy Book, which was gathered, translated and interpreted without any human political motivations entering the decision process.


2. That all Holy Books contain historical complexities surrounding the “truth”, “myth”, “Midrash”, myriad political intentions, and mis-translations, and that they as much as one strives to discover the “Truth” in it, there will always be different interpretations, and mis-interpretations of passages when taken outside their original language and context.

What makes more sense?

1. That God created such a narrative of the battle of good vs evil, of creation 6000 years ago, of one saviour in one part of the world 2000 years ago – all so that He can still continue to choose who He wants to hear this narrative, who He will reveal Himself to and have a relationship with…
2. That man made up this narrative over thousands of years of a developing human consciousness, evolving moralities, political motivations, desires to know where we came from, to feel special, to deal with the inequalities and injustices in life, to provide hope of justice and eternal life, and to provide a grand-narrative of purpose and rid sense of emptiness and meaningless.

What makes more sense?

1. That Jesus is a “liar, lunatic, or Lord.”


2. That the Bible contains some flaws.

There are many alternative scenarios than Jesus being a liar, a lunatic, or Lord. This manipulative argument is based on the presumption that everything in the Bible is literally true – a presumption to which any thinking person can see is an biased argument. Even if you allow for evidence from within this paradigm, does the bible claim not to contain mythos? Does it claim to contain no error? Even if God inspired the words, through translations and interpretations you can be guaranteed there are errors (and in other writings I have listed but a few of the many).

Think about it – couldn’t the virgin birth and rising from dead have a deep symbolic meaning without literally being true. Could these parts have been added when, after Jesus’ death his teachings were being transformed into a Jewish social revolution and then a religion taken to the Roman pagans? The fact that many pagan gods were born of a virgin died and rose from the dead, for example Ishtar from who Easter is based upon, infers that this scenario is a highly reasonable one to consider. Could Jesus be a prophet, a fantastic example of how we can know God? Could he be a mythical legend inspired by a number of heroic social and spiritual revolutionaries at the time? Maybe.

What makes more sense?

1. That God used various men to write, edit, collate, translate and interpret the Bible – exactly the way that He wanted it to be done – bridging the language and cultural barriers as if everyone understands everything the way he intended.
2. That men wrote the books of the Bible, feeling inspired by God but remaining human and hence fallible. In the version of events and “facts” that they had access to, open to political interference, additions and manipulation, open to errors in translation and open to much debate over various ways to interpret the words in different circumstances that the rader finds themselves?

Debates over the divinity of Jesus, the Trinity… and existence of so many contradicting divisions of Christianity demonstrates the openness for such a human filtering process.
Jesus was an incarnation of God himself, and simultameously God’s one and only Son, and that a belief in this God-Man’s special birth, life’s teachings, humiliating and horrifying death, miraculous resurrection and incomprehensible ascension in to the earth’s atmosphere (to where-ver Heaven supposedly is located in the sky)

What makes more sense?

1. That one groups are the rare lucky people that God has chosen to be provided with the particular circumstances that lead us to the “right’ religion – the “right’ relationship with God through the belief in the “right” interpretation of history and historical writings.
2. That  humans of a particular culture and particular period made up the exclusiveness side of this story, that writings were manipulated so that the powerful could control the masses.

Might all religions record the experiences of various people with the great divine power, not with “other fake gods”? Is it possible that we do not know everything there is to know about God? Doesn’t God have a right to interact with different people however he wants to? Is it possible that by saying that God chose us and not people in Australia 500-years ago, that we are the ones playing God? Who are we to say what God is thinking, planning and choosing? Who are we to interpret a book out of their written context, and applying it to different cultures within this globalised society where such an attitude can have a rippling violent effect? Might it be better to let God be God, and us humans be humans? Might we be better to keep open toward all the humans of the world and seek to discover everything we can about the historical relationships between non-Western humans and God?

Does it really make sense that people in other cultures, whose circumstances have led them to belief Jesus was a human and not a God-incarnate – are sent to hell by no fault of their own? Why – if there is one God, and people in other cultures, and people who have lived for thousands of years seeking God within these cultures -would God reject them and accord that only one culture of people in one period of time, will have the correct story.

What makes more sense?

1. That life is a battle between good and evil, that people who choose to do evil will be punished in hell – an afterlife of eternal suffering.
2. That those who do good in the world largely to so due to their life experiences, and that whots who do “evil” do so as a consequence of theirs?

Those who steal do so because they can’t afford to eat, or maybe because of an addiction to a drug they have developed due to a parent dying when they are young, or maybe just because they have been brought up with the overtly materialistic dreams that they hence believe will make them happy, even if it means harming other sto get there. Those who murder often do so because their psychy is completely fucked up by whatever circumstances they have withstood in their lifetime. Our definition of good, bad, and justice, and our knowledge about how to move toward peace, is an ever-evolving process. As our knowledge grows it may not mean wemove toward it however could it be structural circumstances that lead this to be?

In summary, think about these questions:

  • Why would God create populations of people for thousands of years before Jesus, on  unreachable areas of the world, eg the Australian Aborigines, only to send them to hell?
  • Is it more likely that God chose one group of people, or that they crowned this title to themselves?
  • Don’t you think that God would be powerful enough to love us without having to come to earth in human form so that he could forgive us? If you are all powerful, can’t you just forgive without people pleading for that forgiveness? Can’t you be happy with your achievements without needing someone else’s applaud?
  • What is more likely: God incarnated Himself as a human ONCE in the whole history of the universe, or that God incarnates Himself in each and every one of us, and in every life orm, every cell and every quantum atom that makes up our universe?
  • What is more likely: Jesus was a God-incarnation who three days after laying dead, rose back to life, and ascended into the earth’s atmosphere to wherever heaven exists up there; or that the supernatural parts of this story are reflections of the Roman pagan influence, additions to the story of Jesus that occurred in between Jesus’ death and the writings of the gospels?

Think about the complexities that surround us: the nature of life, humanity, consciousness, the connections between us and the micro and macro world that surrounds us… how can we uncover more about how we got to where we are, why, and where we are going from here?

Via a collective exploration it would seem that we might be able to get closer to knowing “God”, discovering more about “His” nature (taking “him” as a personification for the laws of nature), learning about how He created us, what He wants for us to do with this understanding and with our live (which I think is the same as Him discovering these things about Himself).

If not an absolute and elitist Christian God, then what???

To answer this question I think it is useful to return to the question: Who, or what is “God”??? Click here for some blog entries on this topic.

This process of questioning isn’t easy. It not only takes a lot of time. It can involve a roller coaster of emotions. It can cause conflict within yourself, as you question the roots of how you understand the world. It can cause conflict within social groups, even between you and family members. For me it was all these things. And so here, in hope of easing the pain of anyone else that might be facing the same dilemma, I documented my question and answers, and I offer it to you in this book I wrote in 2007-8: Journey of an Intuitive Christian


Coming to grips with the elephant in the room

I knew I would leave India with a new perspective of life – but the upturning of my worldview has happened in a far different way than I expected. I thought I would arrive home more passionate about social justice, more inspired to make a difference to the lives of “poor” people. Instead I am leaving India with a hardened heart, more humility, and an increased concern for the future of humanity as a whole. Why? Because the population problem, the elephant in the room, is far too big a problem to ignore. And I simply cannot see a solution to this problem.

Before I went to India, as those of you who have read older blog entries would know, I quite idealistically analysed the global inequalities and blamed war and poverty on western greed.

I looked at these graphs of population growth by economy and region, and blamed the population growth on western development.

population by incomeWhy does the population of poor and developing countries suddenly increase in 1940s, and high income countries only increase a little?

population by region

What is going on in Asia???

In my mind, the population had increased so much since WW2 simply because of the design of the global capitalist system. Post-development scholars criticise the global system for being miperialistically geared to benefit the rich at the expense of the poor, with the raw materials bought for nothing and sold for billions and so making the rich richer and the poor poorer. I went a step further. It made sense to me that a larger population in developing countries equates to cheap labour, which means cheaper computers, phones, TVs, clothes, cars, chocolate etc. For a government subject at uni I analysed the power-distribution of the system, observing that it is the rich and powerful capitalists who pull the strings behind governments, the World Trade Organisation, the IMF, and other peak bodies. The rich and powerful capitalists I equated to anyone whose lives are not run by debt – those who have shares in companies, money in the bank, superannuation funds, own property without mortgages, own their own business etc. In particular it was the wealthiest of the wealthy – the people who own the banks themselves.

I thought education was the solution. Not education of the poor people, but education of the rich. I thought that if each of us understood the connection between our shopping habits and the mass workers, the connection between our consumption and our future environment, and that the roots of these to problems lay in the capitalist dream: to accumulate more money, then we would begin to move toward a more socially just and environmentally sustainable system.

I thought that the motivation to change our systems would come from a “new dream” that started with rediscovering the connection with our planet, so that we each come to prioritise the whole ecosystem that we are a part of, over and above our individual selfish desires. I thought that this would come from an understanding of Big History, coming to identify ourselves as part of the process of our Universe expanding and increasing in complexity (or what many, including myself, personify as “God”) .

Now, well, now I realize that the answers to the world’s problems are not that simple. There are far deeper roots to this systematic problem than western greed. It seems to me, in this moment in time, that the global system is NOT a simple cause and effect situation with western greed causing global poverty.

For one, inequality is not just a problem in today’s global system, it has always been a problem. Secondly, inequality’s root problem – greed – is not a western problem but is a human problem, a life problem. Thirdly, poverty has cultural, religious and historical roots that have nothing to do with the global system. The caste system existed in India before the British arrived. The caste system is thousands of years old and while Gandhi may have officially abolished it, culture is stronger than law. In India this caste system keeps poor poor and the rich rich, and this has nothing whatsoever to do with global capitalism.

Capitalists may benefit from the fact that China and India are over-populated, and hence human labour is cheap, but capitalists are not standing over these people telling them to have more babies.

Sure there’s the tiny motivational factor of more children equals more money, but talking to Indians at different income levels it seemed to be the cultural aspects (tradition, the values placed on family, lack of entertainment etc) that are behind the population explosion over and above their desire to make money from them. If women get married at 10 and have babies the rest of their life, for cultural reasons over and above any monetary motivation, how can poverty ever be addressed? It is their own actions which perpetuate their poverty and cause the inequalities of the global system to continue.

Should capitalists stop benefiting from cheap labour? That would only mean these people have less job opportunities… that’s not going to help. What if they pay them a little extra, that is, change to a “fair trade” system? This may help a few lives but when people are willing to work for less, because working for less is better than working for nothing, how can such a “fair” system be sustained? How is it “fair” if some people have jobs paying fair wages, while the rest of the billions have no job at all?

Fair trade or free trade, escaping poverty is a choice that people in the situation will collectively have to make for themselves. And unfortunately eradicating poverty requires doing something about that frickin big elephant staring everyone in the face. What? I have NO IDEA. Could this be why so many yogis and religious leaders advise to withdraw from the world and look for peace inside?

And so my worldview crisis…

As a result of the fear that comes from this lack of solutions, the altruistic side that used to dominate my mind is becoming more self-centered: what future do I want for the future generations that spring from the people I love? My previous almost disdain for wealth, thinking all money was intrinsically connected to a corrupt system, is turning into an appreciation of it. Work hard, work smart, then share and enjoy your earnings with your family and friends… what’s so bad about that?

Let’s face it, animal, plant, or human; black, white or in between; this is ultimately life’s instinctive purpose: to live as long as we can, and create offspring to continue our work when we die. That’s why we choose the partners we choose to mate with. That’s why we fight the wars we fight. That’s why we work so hard to buy a house and establish systems of governance, education and business. SELF-PRESERVATION and PROCREATION.

India has given me a new appreciation for the work my ancestors – for their efforts to create a world so good for us, their children. Maybe their methods weren’t so peaceful, with inquisitions, colonialism and imperialism, but let’s face it: it’s not only our ancestors who have done this and if it wasn’t them, it would have been someone else. Before the British invaded India, it was the Moghuls, and before that it was other nations from Central Asia. The British were far from the first, and it is highly unlikely they will be the last.

My experiences in India have left me thinking that if the wealthy of the world did suddenly decide to spread their wealth, to educate the billions in poverty and create a socially-just system; the peace it would create would probably be short-lived and soon all the densely populated places like India would spread to populate the rest of the world. My favourite city would become just like my least favourite, and so would every other city in the world.

I realise my perspective is becoming incredibly selfish, but I do not want people sleeping and dying on our streets; I do not want people trying to rip me off on street corners; I do not want to be living in a dirty, polluted, noisy, over-populated place. In short, I do not want to see Sydney turn into Mumbai. 

According to if we continue at our present rates, our population will be over 11 billion by 2035!!! And what then, will Australia still be sitting there with it’s 21 million people? I don’t think so. With Australia’s rivers drying up there just ain’t enough water for everyone. Nor infrastructure, or systems for food, housing, anything…

And so I worry, might my passionate pursuits  to make a more socially just world bring the extinction of my own culture, my country’s wealth and the life style, and all the opportunities our ancestors dedicated their lives to deliver?

While our own culture is no where near perfect, with its insatiable desires and materialistic emptiness, western culture has A LOT to offer: freedom; the scientific quest for knowledge; the creativity that comes from competition; the opportunities for individualistic pursuits. It would be a big shame to lose it in place of an overpopulated communistic uncreative mess.

Think about it, if income was distributed evenly, will the 2 billion women of child-bearing age suddenly decide not to have babies? And, if the wealthy were to even out the income, my new lack-of-faith-in-humanity makes it seem realistic to assume that another group of people would rise up and the same cycles of violence would begin just with a new group of rich and powerful. And, even if this didn’t happen, how long would it take before we would run out of resources (seeing as ecological economists say 10 planets would be required for all people of the world to live an American lifestyle)? Does this mean, simply in attempt to better the lives of people with less money today, all of humanity will die out? I’m sorry, but I don’t think this would be good for anyone involved.

Okay, okay, calm down Juliet, calm down. As you can see there is a lot going through my head. Out of fear I’m becoming defensive. I’m guess I’m still culture-shocked, and struggling to comprehend the reality of our global situation. It’s one thing to see population in a graph but it’s a different kettle of fish to see it with your own eyes. When one’s mind connects such a mess to projections of possible futures for earth and humanity it’s really quite a confusing and scary topic.

Damned if you do, damned if you don’t:

  • If you consider population control then what about human rights?
  • If you don’t control the population then what do you do about the billions living in poverty?
  • If you bring people out of poverty then you destroy the planet for everyone.

Now I understand why overpopulation has been the elephant in the room that no one wants to talk about.

My conclusion: “Elephant? What elephant??? I don’t see it either!”

Follow up thoughts six years later… February 2016

I received a comment that drew my attention back to this post and I thought I should revisit the “elephant in the room” in light of some things that I have learned since 2010, and some things that have changed in the world during this time.

I deleted a paragraph that a commenter interpreted as bordering on racism. It’s difficult: one’s views can be taken out of context and considered unchanging, so what if someone looks at that and starts thinking I’m racist? That being said I think everyone is “a little bit racist”, in some ways, and we go overboard trying to be politically correct – sometimes at the cost of honesty, and being able to speak one’s mind.

I value difference – I value different cultures and peoples, and I think it is important to avoid imperialism, and other forces, taking away from our beautiful diversity – unless in the opportunity for self-determination people choose to change and evolve in ways they want to change, integrating parts of other cultures. It is just as dangerous to romanticise a culture and group of people, and want them to stay the same, as it is to attempt to interfere and change them. A people should be able to choose for themselves how their culture evolves.

Australia has and is committing devastating human rights abuses against people seeking help from and refuge in our country, and I do not in any way condone this. Hence my deleting a paragraph that may have been interpreted as supporting Australia’s immigration policies. I don’t. I think the White Australia Policy was shocking, as has been every  In the context of someone in their twenties having a rant it was not racist, but as something that might be attributed to me later in life, not so good.

In my mind at that time, battling with the confronting nature of my own experiences in the chaotic suburbs of Mumbai in contrast to the affluent bubble of Sydney, I saw some of the need for a strict immigration policy. My current opinion is that it is important to have a smart and humane immigration policy – one that sees the value in each person’s life, and works creatively to find space for them in the many parts of our country that are crying out for higher populations. And one that is linked ot foreign aid and international relations policies, helping to remedy past and current wrongs of Western civilisation that are at root of many wars and problems in the countries people have fled.

There are three messages that I want to add on to this blog entry:

  1. With regard to insights into India’s population – I learned a great deal on this from Vandana Shiva on her visit to Sydney in 2014. It had continued to puzzle me why India’s population increased so dramatically when it did. Dr Shiva attributes this to colonialism and the removing of peasants from land, which created uncertainty and instability, which led to people having more children.
  2. Furthermore Dr Shiva taught me that the caste system was not in the same negative form that one might interpret it today – Dr Shiva believes this has been reinterpreted by the West in a negative light, where it used to be more about division of roles and labour than hierarchy. It was a structure for society that worked, made sense.
  3. Possibilities for stabilising global population, lifting everyone out of poverty and living in harmony with our planet do exist, and all three must go together. We, especially those with the money and positions to do so, need to invest and support investment by our governments into çradle-to-cradle design and renewable energy technologies that offer ways in which humanity can live without destroying the planet. We also need to build support for various structural changes and restrictions e.g. on how much corporations can pollute, who pays for pollution and wastes, etc. If we can learn to live in ways that do not destroy the earth, then perhaps a large human population isn’t such a problem.

I’d like to add a final note about the changing nature of opinions. My views are constantly changing, and I hope that anything read on this blog can be understood in context that it was written by a person growing up, learning, and wanting to discuss different views and perspectives – all which I see as constantly changing through such a dialogical process.

I see the world in a very different way to what I did six years ago, particularly at this point in time where I’d found India so confronting. I leave this blog entry up here as I believe the process of changing our views, of thinking through the hard questions, of having a rant about contending ideas, is a valuable part of conversations necessary for addressing such problems and moving toward more ecological and peaceful futures.

So please do not judge me by the post above, but please use it as food for thought, for better understanding your own positions, which are too also likely to be developing and changing through time as the context for your ideas and expanding sphere of learning and influence also changes. Thank you!

Picture credits:

The Elephant in the Room – my own attempt at photoshopping a photo of an elephant from Taronga Zoo into my Opa’s sunroom.

Population graphs – wiki-commons

Good links found here –

Sex or chess? Peace, the world’s trump card

So yesterday I enjoyed a little rant about the game our governments, supported by the people’s consumer-driven values, are playing with military pawns, strategically placed towers, and other oil-powered weaponry. We established the difficulty in knowing what sources we can trust, but decided that either way whatever moral and immoral tactics the governments are using with their present day “war of wants”, it is the westerners that gain the lifestyle benefits of cheap clothes and food and transport and travel. I am absolutely a beneficiary of this, and I must say I’m glad to be on my side of the fence. But we also established that our state of being is temporary. One day, if we keep playing this zero-sum game, someone else will be the winner and we will be the losers. I left you with a hint of hope: is there another way?

I believe there is a trump card. And that trump card is PEACE.

Ok, ok, don’t close down your browser just yet. I know it’s cliché. And I’m getting to the sex bit.

I think that there’s a difference lifestyle and world system out there that is more satisfying for each of us both mentally, physically and spiritually. What I am talking about is a world system not based on consumption and capital acquisition and an excessive usage of our world’s resources. It’s NOT based on competition, win-lose, on war and violence. What I’m talking about is a PARADIGM SHIFT. A change of game.

A shift from win-lose to win-win; a shift from competition to cooperation; a shift from a world based on limited supply to a world based on infinite creativity. It is crazy that people in the developing world die from hunger while people in the developed world die from obesity. One party has too much, the other has too little. Over the last couple of hundred years or so we have quite ironically and erratically set ourselves up in a lose-lose situation.

It is ridiculous that people in the developed world suffer from self-imposed stress-related illness and depression, and the developing world suffer from lack of self-determination that comes as a consequence of our material and superficial values. They work 17-hour days behind a sewing machine to provide us with more clothes we do not need. They work 17-hour days producing wheat and sugar, to create more unhealthy “foods” to make us fat. WHAT THE HECK IS GOING ON HERE?

There are hundreds of ways that this absurd system can be fixed. And everyone has a part to play.

Governments: shift the billions of dollars from defence budgets, stop filling up your troops with McDonalds style BBQ foods, and invest in addressing the roots of the conflicts – invest in sustainable cradle-to-cradle designs of products, houses and transport facilities. Be transparent. Create a true democracy.

Voters: vote for governments who put their money where there mouth is, that support the long-term future of humanity. Write letters to your representatives, tell them what you want.

Consumers: spend the extra on the products and services that are sustainable and buy less of the products that are not. Buy fair trade where you can. Write letters to companies and tell them what you want.

Shareholders: you are accountable for your investments. Your money has a consequence not only on the profit you receive in your profit, but also on the social and environment and political situation of your country, of the countries involved in the trade process – which will have an affect on you and your children. Tell the CEOs and MDs of the companies you are invested in what you want them to do with that money.

Bank account holders: your money you put in the bank is then invested in shares – so find out where your money is and make sure your bank knows your values.

Business decision makers: look at the outcome of your company’s actions and your decisions – not only in terms of profit for shareholders, but in terms of people and our planet. Where are your Inputs coming from? Where, after purchase and consumptions, are the remnants of your Outputs (including packaging) being disposed of? How could your product be designed better, so that it’s materials can be not only recycled but are “up-cycled” and used infinitely in the biological and industrial metabolisms? The aim is ZERO waste.[1]

Rich people: did you know that the 225 richest people in the world could provide the $40 billion needed to create a world where everyone has access to food, shelter, education, safe water, sanitation and healthcare [2]? So get off your ass and encourage mates to do so too. Invest in “social businesses” aimed purely at achieving a social or ecological objective. Your money alone can change the world!!!

Workers: look at the company you work for – what product are they creating? Is it good for the environment? Good for people? Where do they get their inputs? What toll does this have on people and the planet? Communicate your thoughts with your bosses. Think creatively – how can things be improved?

Media: try to report more than just the violence – tell people about the peace movements, give people the biggest picture you can get. I know it’s tough given your limited sources.

Basically we must THINK GLOBAL ACT LOCAL. We each can make a difference and together we can change the world.

Imagine if we can shift from looking at the world as game of chess, to seeing it more like, hmmm, more like SEX

Imagine if the world was a place of making love – a game where there are only winners, and there are no losers. A game where each party feels more pleasure, the more pleasure they provide to the other. A game where energy is created, and not taken away. A game where the happiness and joy and creativity is infinite. A game of utter satisfaction and never-ending joy and happiness. And with no ecological footprint. Now that’s my kind of world.

Did my peace card trump your defense card? DOES SEX TRUMP CHESS? Is it time to change the game?


[1] William McDonough & Michael Braungart (2002) Cradle To Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things, North Point Press.

[2] L. Schirch (2002) “Human Rights and Peacebuilding: Towards Justpeace”. Paper presented to the 43rd Annual International Studies Association Convention, New Orleans, Louisiana, 24-27 March 2002.

Picture Credits:

Dormice® (click to see more of his incredible art) Sawan Yawnghwe A very successful Canadian artist based in Panzano – Florence, Italy. My distant friend.