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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


Chocolate slavery and the tragic flaw of humanity in the 21st century

Didn’t they abolish slavery a couple of hundred years ago? Well no – it continues… and it continues such to provide the “haves” with what (in my opinion) is the most delicious tasting delightful experience of all my being: chocolate.


In my opinion there is NOTHING worse than physical slavery and nothing better than chocolate, and so I face the greatest polarity in my world: the best and worse wrapped into a block of bitter sweetness.

Can you believe that in today’s day and age some humans are deceiving other humans into leaving their homes, friends and family, imposing work on them by force (including whips), and without payment? I guess sexual slavery is worse than chocolate slavery, but in my opinion neither forms of slavery should be happening in the 21st century.

Why is slavery allowed to exist? It’s quite simple. It’s all because of the stock market.

The stock market? Yes. Because through the stock exchange responsibility for the consequences of a company’s actions are diffused.

This brings me to what I see to be the tragic flaw of human society in the 21st century: the rules of this game we call business. The first thing I learned at UTS when doing my Bachelor of Business was:

1. Investors invest in shares to make profit on their investment. Many investors live off these rewards, and don’t have to work. Many other people have jobs as intermediaries, buying and selling paper, to make profit from paper. People are making money without adding any physical value to the world.

2. CEOs have one most-important responsibility: to make profits for shareholders. For this he or she receives generous financial rewards, even if it involves decreasing the quality of the product for customers, decreasing the pay or conditions for employees, or destroying the planet.

While shareholders most likely value the needs of fellow and future humans and life on earth, the rules of the game dictate that money invested into shares is done to receive that profit.

There is clearly a disconnection between shareholders and the non-monetary outcomes of their investment. Is this a connection we really want to own up to?

I have some shares, (although I think they aren’t worth anything anymore after the stock market collapsed)…  I also have a little money in the bank and a little superannuation, so let’s take the scenario that all of this is actually a great investment of my time, and is something I am relying on for my future – would I really want these shares to earn less money?  No, of course not. With the rules as they stand, I would want my shares to earn as much as they can or else I would invest my money somewhere else.

I have friends (mainly from my business degree) who work in finance. Would I really want to put my friends out of a job? No. No I wouldn’t. What if the consequence of their jobs, earning lots of money from trading paper, are part of the cause of the poverty of people producing the physical goods we enjoy? I still choose my friends over these people I don’t know.

What if the result of my shares and their finance jobs is human slavery? That is where I draw a thick black line.

That’s where I say to my friend that the unhappiness they are causing is not worth the happiness they gain. That’s where I remind my friend that there’s more to life than the long hours they work in front of a computer playing with numbers. Money isn’t everything. That’s where I advise my friend to get rid of their mortgage, quit their job, and live off their savings for the rest of their life in South America. If only it was that easy… it could be, although my friend may not agree.

The present state of affairs is not a pretty one. Changing the system might be messy, it might be hard for some to deal with. The truth may hurt, but it hurts more if laid untold.

This connection between Shareholders, CEOs, Employees and Customers already exists of course, however, it is hidden behind the guise of “The Corporation”. Whoever was the man (I’m pretty sure it would have been a male) who created and legalised corporations to be treated as their own separate entities, with their own identities, privileges and liabilities separate from their members – should be held accountable for the destruction this single rule has caused for the world’s present and future. Whoever has power to change this law… well, I plead that you do – for the sake of your children.

People are working on solutions. I guess part of the solution is to report to shareholders on the “3 P’s” : Profit, People and Planet – of course, this is easier said than done given the problematic nature of measuring one’s impact on the lives of people or the conditions of the planet. At the very least, even without this reporting structure, surely the rules of the game should reflect the wider values of society?

I guess this would involve:

1. Holding shareholders responsible for the non-monetary consequences of their investment. Eg if you invest in a company that buys their chocolate beans on the stock exchange, a third which come from the Ivory Coast of which 90% involve slave labour, you should feel responsible for this. Also, if the company you have money invested in spills oil in the ocean, you should feel responsible for all the fish, dolphins and animals that die as a result of your investment. Maybe it should go further than “feeling responsible” – if warned and company procedures are not changed, investors should feel obligated to withdraw their investment, or else suffer the legal consequences of the inhuman violence their money is causing.

2. Holding CEOs responsible for the non-monetary aspects of the company they are in charge of. At the very least, the company’s impact on people and the planet needs to be recognised as just as important, if not more important, than profit for shareholders.

The thing is, would this work? Would it make a difference?

It could end up just like the greenwashing that so many companies are into today (making out they are good for the environment when they are still the same product in the same plastic packaging, or donating a dollar and saying they are helping fix the problem). Still, even if it’s only in words I guess you have to start somewhere.

Anyway today I got off my ass and did something tangible about these thoughts. I sent the following letter to a few more of the places where I have indulged in chocolate without knowing whether or not this chocolate comes from the slave farms:

1. Max Brenner (who make incredible waffles)

2. San Churro (who make the best hot chocolates I’ve ever tasted – with chilli!)

3. Nestle (just because I haven’t sent them a letter in a while)

Also I looked at Cadbury: At least they seem to be trying.

If you feel like sending whoever your favourite chocolate companies are a letter, feel free to use my wording:

Dear Max Brenner,

I am a very big fan of your hot chocolates, and your extremely delicious chocolate covered waffles.

Unfortunately I recently saw a chocolate documentary exposing the slavery practices behind the cocoa bean industry on the Ivory Coast. And so I now I simply cannot justify buying chocolate from companies who buy their cocoa beans from the stock exchange (as these are most likely connected to the horrific slavery, which I believe should NOT be allowed in today’s day and age).

I am reviewing my favourite chocolate companies for my blog, so can you please tell me where you get your beans?

Are you moving toward some kind of a fair trade supply chain?

Thank you in advance for your time in replying to this email.



Anyway, I’ll let you know if I hear back from any of them. If you have any thoughts on how the roles of The Corporation, The Shareholder and The CEO might be better defined, write a comment for me – or if you don’t agree with what I say at all… either way I’d love to hear your thoughts.


My gorgeous sisters and cousins indulging in chocolate fondue Bennett-style. I think it was fairtrade chocolate, I hope…

Chapter 2 – One Country, Many Worlds

There seems to be a great reverence for Gandhi throughout India. His face features on every rupee note, and his philosophy and practice of non violence gained a mention in almost every Indian speaker’s presentation at the conference. “Truth is God”, said Gandhi, dedicating his life to it. “You will not have peace, unless you love the truth,” said one of the speakers.

While I was relieved my presentation was over, I did take away a number of fantastic messages from the conference. My favourite was from an academic from Nigeria who made the point that “peace begins with mothers” – when a child is brought up in a peaceful environment, they will not divert from peaceful values. “When you have peace in the home, you will have peace in the country, and peace in the world.”

“The world is getting smaller, our horizons must get larger.” “A peace army requires peace weapons, not weapons of war. What are peace weapons? Love, service, fate, prayer from all the religions, and truth.” “We need to do more than respect diversity – we need to celebrate it.” “The corporatisation of religion is the problem, not the religion itself. The problem starts when one’s identity is consumed by it. The dogmatic authoritative beliefs are not innate – they are placed there.” “Violence is not an action – it is a response, a reaction.” “Our aim should not be to gain victory, but to come to mutual understanding.” (Just to name a few of my favourite quotes of the day. I will have to wait till the papers are released to attribute them to the scholars appropriately).

Having filled up on yet another large buffet lunch of Indian cuisine and sweet desserts, my new friend Sunny (nickname for Mrinal) introduced me to his girlfriend Varsha who was about to go shopping with his mum. Let’s face it shopping in a new city with local girls is an offer no girl in their right mind would miss. So I decided to play hooky from the last couple of hours of ceremonial peace conference, and jump in Varsha’s car.

“No seatbelt,” Varsha reminded me as I searched for something to tie me to the car before we hit my least favourite streets in our world.

Cities always transforms the second you are seeing it through the eyes of a local. What was scary and horrifying is normalized and shrugged off. The air-conditioned car seemed to block out the sound of the honks, leaving my senses free to peer out and observe, relaxed and (relatively) safe. My friend played dodgem cars with ease, chatting to me while she honked her horn yet still retaining her lady-like manner.

As I watch the streets I noticed that alongside cows, it’s the dogs that live the good life. They own and roam the streets, seemingly more intelligent and free than half the population. Cows have it even better. And I see why: it’s all in the eyes. No body in their right mind messes with the cow.

At a shop, a pretty and very petite Indian sales girl who looks younger than my 13 year old sister communicates and commands attention of someone much older. Curiosity gets the better of me – I have to know, so I ask. She is 22, and married. “That’s what happens when they don’t get enough nutrition as a child,” my friend explains. She was tiny – in every way. There she is, without enough food, and here I am, with every meal: breakfast, lunch and dinner, a smorgasbord at my finger tips. I look down at my own growing belly. In three days I’ve put on weight already – I can see it. As if I needed to do that after the last few months of ankle sprains and chocolate binges while writing and editing and sitting on my ass. Each day at the conference I eat a big lunch thinking I won’t eat dinner, and then friends insist I come with them for more food and drink. Each bite is enjoyable yet brings me one step closer to the well-known proudly rounded Indian body shape – well at least it’s the body shape of the wealthy anyway.

They may be a conservative crowd – I have been warned that showing one’s shoulders or legs being a big no no – but when it comes to big bulging stomachs that’s the one thing you let loose from your dress. Midriffs show like Britney in the nineties but while Britney’s abs (back then) were quite a pleasant site for the eyes, I’m not sure I can say the same about the women I see on the streets. There is something to be said for not caring, for being proud of what you have got, and not being obsessed with one’s weight. It may be healthier for the mind, but I highly doubt it is healthy for the body. And it is definitely not for me.

After an afternoon of shopping, my new friends invite me to a small Indian wedding that is a couple of hours from the city. I readily agree – everyone knows to never turn down an invitation to an Indian wedding. This one is small, only around one to two hundred people. My friends, on the other hand, estimate theirs will be huge. By huge I mean around 2000 people!!! His father is well known. There will be many international guests. And I will be invited… wahooo! But it won’t be till later this year, or next… that and invitations to Turkey and Nigeria are setting me up for another interesting trip.

As we drove to the wedding, I looked out at the huts and clothes and people sleeping at the side of a massive highway. “Why has the population gone from 200 million to 1 or 2 billion since the British arrived?” I asked my friend.

“Many reasons,” he said, “lack of education for one.”

“That’s the reason they always give. But what did the British do to change their education? Surely it should have been rising just as fast before the British?”

“India used to be a rich country. Actually it is still a rich country, only it is inhabited by far more poor people than rich,” he started to explain. “Poverty has never been so bad. The worse the poverty, the worse the education, and the more children. People have children because they think it will bring them more money. And then children don’t go to school because they have to work for their parents. Not to mention lack of entertainment – the more poor you are, the more you rely on sex and of course they don’t use contraception so… Also the religion and old caste system doesn’t help. Girls in lower castes get married as young as 8 years old, and start having babies at 12. And then there’s the face that medicines are brought to the villages, so people live longer. Oh and there’s the prostitution cycles – children are basically bred for the sex trade.”

The whole situation is heartbreaking. The population is incomprehensible. Officially sitting around one billion, with others making estimates it’s now around two. And here I am looking at it through the closed glass window of my friend’s air-conditioned car, driven by a chauffeur who has his own wife and children but who I am sure is more than grateful for his job and the generosity my friend gives him.

There are two worlds here: rich and poor. The poor work for the rich and the rich, I suppose, work for the richer. The gap is incomprehensible, and seemingly unfixable. You are born where you are born, and you deal with it. It’s your karma. Apparently. If you are in the lowest class, getting paid pittence to do any job you can, it’s your own fault. You did it to yourself – last lifetime or the one before. Maybe you killed a mosquito. Now you will pay for it. Bullocks yes. But it does make it easier to accept one’s blessed or cursed fate. When did the caste system start? Did it arrive when the Persians invaded? Or was it already in place before that? Questions for me to research when I get home and have more internet time.

As I sit in the car watching, my heart breaks again and again. It is so so sad and so so hard to accept. The most painful wound is the stabbing guilt in my stomach adjoined to the constant feeling of relief and gratefulness that I am sitting on this side of the window.

“What’s that smell?” I ask, as we stop for my friend to buy cigarettes.

“It comes from the sea,” she explains. “The evaporation of the sanitary deposits that are made far too close to the city. During monsoon, the smell gets worse.” Note to self: avoid monsoon at all costs.

The wedding was great – full of incredible costumes and strange and wonderful traditions.


We were tired and seeing as weddings ceremonies go on forever, we called it a night and drove home.

Bright and early the next morning, Sonny picked me up and with my camera in hand I saw the more touristy side to the city.


Now that’s a lot of mangoes!


Coconut water was good. Not as good as Brazil (to be brutally honest), but still very good.

DSC_0107Apparantly a speeding fine equates to a 100 rupee bribe, that is, $2. Damn it, wish we had corrupt cops in Australia.


Cadbury is one of those companies that everyone claims as their own. I thought it was Aussie chocolate, Sonny thought it was Indian, but Google tells me it’s British. Go figure.


This building is being built by the richest guy in the world, or one of the top three richest people in the world (I think my friends said.) Pretty impressive but imagine the great view of the slums – all those people your wealth could help…




Gateway of India – “Erected to commemorate the landing in India of their imperial majesties King George V and Queen Mary on the second of December MCMXI” – it’s beautiful but not such a nice memory for Indians, right? I wonder why it still draws so many tourists?


Feeding corn to the birds. Obviously.


You all know I’m a big Shanatarm fan… so Leopolds was a must!


Sorry about the blur of my new backpacker friends met while sipping beer and chowing down chicken but the lighting in this shot shows Leopolds more than my other shots.


This boy had only one leg. He doesn’t look it in this photo but he was very happy to have his photo taken. And he wasn’t begging. God bless.


Sonny allowed this man, who spoke very good English and had come from the country to the city to find a job but failed, to polish his shoes. The man asked for only 10 rupees, and while chatting to him Sonny learned that if he had a special shoe-box this man could stand in a busier location by the train station and get far more customers.

“How much would a shoe box cost?” he asked.

“150 rupees,” the man answered. When Sonny handed him a hundred rupees he was gob-smacked and tried to hand it back. Sonny insisted and eventually the man gratefully and graciously accepted.

“That’s a better way to give,” Sonny explained. “Help people on an individual level, and help them have jobs not beg.” True, true, true.


Alina and Joel, our new friends from Leopolds, stayed with us for the rest of the day. After markets and KFC, a glass of Rose in his apartment and a frantic shopping spree we dropped in to a last-minute invitation to a bollywood party. Free booze and more delicious buffet food – served around midnight by a stunning pool that due to my flash you can’t see is behind us. What a day!

I want to say a very special thank you to Mrinal whose unmatchable hospitality and generosity caused me to love a city I first hated. And thank you to Varsha and your family too. Thank you so much.

Where are we, where are we going, and how?

‘I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work the more I live. I rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no “brief candle” for me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got hold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.’ George Bernard Shaw.

The following snippets of youtube videos are inspired by an initiative called “Awakening The Dreamer” which involves a half-day seminar that uses these video and more to step through where we are, how we got here, where we want to go, and how we can move toward that goal. taking groups through these questions. I attended the seminar and was impressed with how succinctly these clips summed up the present human predicament that I had been researching last year. Their conclusions, the same conclusions as mine, combine sustainable living, social justice and spiritual fulfillment, and in the end come down to one thing: INDIVIDUAL’S MAKING CHANGES LOCALLY, WHICH ADD UP TO GLOBAL CHANGE. Their videos inspired me to put this post together, so that the message can get out there as fast as possible. You may have seen some of these already, but if you haven’t seen any of them then this sequence of clips will take about one hour… something to do over the (what in Australia is going to be quite a rainy) Easter long-weekend. Enjoy!

Where are we?

A world divided into the “haves” and “havenots” – where the “havenots”, almost half the world, don’t have a place to shit, and a growing number of the “haves” are depressed, dissatisfied with the fulfillment material consumption and acquisition brings, and more and more are becoming mentally ill and committing suicide.

A miniature earth:


It’s just not fair:


But this is not an accident. Inequality is designed into the system. That’s why we in the western world can buy lots of things for cheap, can earn more than we spend and save money to buy houses or travel.

While apologists of global capitalism still adamantly state that the capitalist model is the best path to eradicate poverty; economist and policy director Andrew Simms clearly proves this “trickle-down” theory nothing but a myth. Simms shows that on our current trajectory it would take 15 planets’ worth of earth’s biocapacity to reduce poverty to a state where the poorest receive $3 per day. In other words ‘we will have made Earth uninhabitable long before poverty is eradicated.’[1]

The “developing” countries are in fact a ‘transmission belt’ with value (for example raw materials) forwarded to the ‘developed” nations such that ‘the total arrangement is largely in the interests of the middle class.’[2] It seems that poverty is ‘no longer a side effect, but an intended product of globalization’ with its continuation ‘seen as beneficial for the middle class’ likely to cause a resistance to ‘change and redistribution.’[3]

It seems clear that while markets ‘won’t do the job by themselves’, and governments are ‘often cruelly short-sighted’, for the IPE structure shift to a sustainable model it will ‘be a choice, a choice of a global society that thinks ahead and acts in unaccustomed harmony.’[4] A shift in values from capital-accumulation to social justice and environmental responsibility is likely to result from a widespread realisation that continuing on our current trajectory will, without a doubt, end with devastating calamity. It seems that only a well-informed global population, with leaders and citizens of developed and developing nations acting out of “enlightened self-interest” and for ‘the wellbeing of their children and children’s children’, will allow the IPE structure to enter a sustainable paradigm. [5]


How did we get here?

Dawn of human conscious, collective learning, development of separate identities, and the industrial revolution. Our human journey:


The story of stuff, by Annie Leonard:


Where do we want to go?

Well, I know I don’t want humanity to go extinct. Nor do I want future generations of humans and animals to live on a toxic planet as a consequence of the chemicals we use to support our consumption and acquisition…

What alternatives do we have? We need A NEW DREAM… one that is environmentally sustainable, socially just and spiritually fulfilling. (See the Awakening The Dreamer initiative).

The new dream begins with the realisation that “success” is really about the amount of happiness in your life – not the amount of money in a bank account. People are starting to value creativity over capital, experience over “things”, and time over consumption and accumulation. Is there any better feeling than the one felt when you make another person happy?

The new dream is based on an identity that transcends our individual self, appreciating our connectedness to all people, to all life, to our land, and our universe. Our new dream does not fear change, it embraces the transitivity of everything that exists, seeing everything as a process. Life will never be static. Reality is dynamic, and as humans we each have a part to play in creating a sustainable and peaceful planet for ourselves and future generations.

How are we going to get there?

Invest in Cradle to Cradle design – turning waste into food:


Invest in “Social Business”:


A “Global Mindshift”


Hold our governments accountable to the Millennium Development Goals:


Other exciting ideas and initiatives:

Why should we care?

Our planet is alive. We have adapted to live as part of her ecosystem, if we destroy this for ourselves, we have no where else to go:


Her resources are limited, our needs are expanding and infinite:


Whatever we do to our web, we do to ourselves:


The world is not made up of me and “the other”:


Listen to the wombat – “all is one”:


Where should we to start?

Reflect on our world-view and question our assumptions.

Rethink our values and communicate them with others.

Ask ourselves: what is my role in making the world a better place?

Be the change: know that one person can make a big difference:


And then don’t hesitate, make plans and put them into action!

“FOUR YEARS. GO.” A campaign to shift humanity onto a sustainable, just, and fulfilling path … by 14 February 2014.


Want some ideas about what you individually can do, check out this page on the Awakening The Dreamer website

Start by sharing this message – let’s change the world in the next four years!


[1] Andrew Simms, ‘Trickle-Down Myth’, New Scientist (18 Oct 2008). p. 49. Andrew Simms is the policy director of the New Economics Foundation in London. In this article Simms steps through the mathematics to show the system is designed such that for the poor to get ‘slightly less poor, the rich have to get very much richer’. This means it would take ‘around $166 worth of global growth to generate $1 extra for people living on below $1 a day’.

[2] Ibid. p. 84.

[3] The Hague Institute of Social Studies, Collateral Dammage or Calculted Default? The Millennium Development Goals and the Politics of Globalisation, 2003. p. 35.

[4] Jeffrey Sachs, Common Wealth : Economics for a Crowded Planet (London: Allen Lane, 2008). p. 81.

[5] Ibid. p. 5.

Empowering women & the role of men

Empowering women has been said to be the “silver bullet” to ending poverty.

Studies have shown that an increase in the income of women directly correlates with increases in the education and nutrition of children. These children will lead longer and more fulfilling lives, and an upward spiral will begin as they can provide better education and nutrition to their children.

Increases in the income of men have no correlation with children’s education and nutrition, but instead correlate with increases in spending on drugs and alcohol. This is a very sad picture to paint… and I wonder why this is the case?

I suppose the unchangeable fact that men can’t physically give birth could have something to do with it however I do not think this means that fathers are innately less caring about their children than mothers. A child is half the father and half the mother so it makes sense that both have a innate biologically desire for their genes to live on. This is what all life forms, from plants to insects to animals to birds want to do: survive. This is the essence of evolution. This is the essence of life.

It makes me consider what kind of societal conditioning may induce the destructive gender issues around our world today.

I once asked a male friend of mine why men get into fights. He told me it comes down to sexual frustration. That silenced me. What can solve this? Only women. And the more empowered women are the more expectations they have of the man they want to be with… I just hope this does not lead to more sexual frustration and more problems than there were to begin with.

Urgh! It’s so hard. Everything has a ripple effect. The best of intentions can lead to the most disastrous consequences.

Does this mean we should not bother empowering women?

Of course not. Empowering women to earn an income, to make their own choices and have an opinion that counts is extremely important. So too is empowering women to be involved in the top-end leadership of our world. But that’s not everything.

Men must be empowered too, but maybe in a different way to the way our society does today. Pressures on men to compete, to “provide for their families”, pressures to prove their masculinity, and to win the woman that will pass on their genes – these factors are evident in the animal world too. But humanity has developed the unique cabability of FORESIGHT. We can analyse our societal pressures and values, and adjust them in whatever way will allow our society to evolve into a better one.

I don’t really know what point I’m trying to make. I have never felt my femininity hold be back from anything… so all of this is a bit foreign to me. I guess as I learn about gender issues for the first time these issues are playing on my mind. You are reading the babble as my mind tries to make sense of it all.
There is one thing I know beyond doubt and that is that both the male and the female genders have intrinsic, inseparable and invaluable roles to play in life. I suppose it’s just now time to contemplate these roles and how we can structure society in a way that fosters both genders to maximize their potential and provide the most benefit for life on earth as a whole.

Unfortunately I’m sure that is much easier said than done…

Is Lindt chocolate slave chocolate?

This blog on the ethics of Lindt chocolate is a live entry on a live issue, due to the many hits and comments it has attracted. As far as I’m aware there is no short answer to the question “is Lindt chocolate slave chocolate?” While of course Lindt don’t condone child slavery or human trafficking, and they do have some measures in place that decrease the chances of slavery, myself and others hoping for a guarantee have been left hanging.

My dilemma is that I am addicted to chocolate, and I especially love Lindt chocolates, but I am also committed to the principles of universal human rights, ending slavery and trafficking in all its forms, and working toward a more peaceful and just global society. Of course, chocolate is not the only industry involving slave labour, and stopping slave labour is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to addressing the vast injustice built into the world system. Still you have to start somewhere, right?

This blog started out with an email to Lindt in 2008, which never received a reply. It was prompted by a documentary I watched on slave labour in cocoa farms, and learning of estimates that over 100,000 children are working on cocoa farms with more than 10,000 trafficked in the Ivory Coast alone (which produces some 70% of the world’s cocoa). I boycotted my favourite chocolate for a full year.

When I emailed again in 2009, I received the following reply:

Dear Ms. Bennett

Thank you very much for your request concerning cocoa sourcing. It has been forwarded to us at the Lindt & Sprüngli Headquarters in Switzerland because the very important topic of sustainable cocoa sourcing is committing the whole Lindt & Sprüngli group and not only our 100% subsidiary in Australia.

In a general way, as far as our sourcing of raw materials for all our group companies is concerned, we kindly ask you to notice the following points:

Lindt & Sprüngli is one of the few chocolate makers that have complete control over every step of the production chain starting with the precise selection of the finest cocoa varieties from the best growing areas in the world right on through the careful and expert processing until ending with the elegant packaging. To safeguard the uniform and consistently high quality of all our chocolate products, all ingredients are thoroughly tested in our own laboratories before and after purchase, so that we can be sure that their quality constantly meets the highest standards.

While cocoa is currently traded at the commodity stock exchanges, superior grade cocoa beans (so called flavor beans or fine grade cocoa), as we utilize to a great extent for the manufacturing of our premium products, are purchased through traders at a substantial premium price over ordinary bulk cocoa. These finest grade cocoa beans (also called “Criollo” cocoa) can only be grown in specific geographical areas (Central and South America, Caribbean Area). While the fine grade cocoa production is a very small part of the world’s supply, it is exactly those (together with the Trinitario cocoa which is also considered as fine grade cocoa) for which Lindt & Sprüngli’s demand is very high. The remaining part of cocoa beans used by our company mainly for fillings, so called “Forastero” cocoa, are not sourced from Ivory Coast where most of the allegations about child labour originate, but from Ghana, where one of the top quality Forastero beans come from and where a premium price is paid for.

Lindt & Sprüngli is extremely concerned about possible practices of child labour and can assure you that we condemn any abusive practices. This is one of the reasons why we do not source cocoa beans from Ivory Coast. Prudent and conscientious relations with the environment and with the communities in which we live and work are important to us and enshrined in our Company Credo. In the procurement of our raw materials, great importance is therefore attached to compliance with the rules of sustainable conduct. This includes respect for social and societal aspects, such as working conditions and incomes of farmers in the growing countries, support and promotion of environmentally friendly production conditions, and payment of fair prices for raw materials which satisfy our stringent quality criteria.

In our opinion and to our regret, the existing fair trade organizations cannot continually supply us with the essential quality or quantities required. That is the reason why we refrain from the purchasing of cocoas from such organizations and look for other means of advocating responsible and sustainable dealings with our most important raw material, cocoa. As a matter of fact, there are many ways to strive for sustainable and responsible cocoa sourcing practices. This can also include individual projects and purchasing methods.

May we in particular bring the following to your attention:

The control of the overall production process from the selection of the best cocoa beans to the ready-packed product is one of the important aspects for the guarantee of the reliable premium quality of LINDT products. Another very valuable aspect is the traceability of the processed cocoa beans. For this purpose Lindt & Sprüngli subscribed to a new sourcing model in Ghana. This new procurement system contains binding guidelines between local cocoa suppliers and Lindt & Sprüngli. Within the framework of this project, Lindt & Sprüngli not only guarantees stable prices for the farmers involved, but also best quality and traceability of cocoa beans sourced in Ghana. Furthermore, Lindt & Sprüngli pays an extra-fee for those beans, which is partly allocated in favour of a foundation in charge of target-oriented social projects, the development of regional infrastructure and the continuous improvement of cocoa quality ( The projects supported by this foundation will be controlled by an independent, international audit committee. Lindt & Sprüngli is convinced that this purchasing strategy is a crucial prerequisite to better control the buying process of cocoa beans while at the same time countervailing local grievances in producing regions such as child labour. With this self-contained purchasing concept, which will be fully effective from 2009 onwards, Lindt & Sprüngli makes a solid contribution to the promotion of social compatible and to fair economic conditions for the cocoa farmers in Ghana. Based on the first positive results from the Ghana project, Lindt & Sprüngli is considering to extend this purchasing concept to fine-flavour cocoa beans in Latin America.

Moreover, through membership and active participation in local branch associations or international non-profit organizations such as the WORLD COCOA FOUNDATION we support the underlying idea of sustainable cocoa growing and provide financial contributions to that end. WCF is a partnership between the cocoa-processing industry and government agencies, international associations, trade organizations, and non-Governmental Organizations. The aim of this cooperation is to safeguard stable and secure cocoa supplies. This is done by taking measures to increase revenues and re-duce harvest losses, while also securing income conditions that enable cocoa farmers in Africa, Latin America, and Asia to lead a viable and worthwhile life.

But Lindt & Sprüngli’s commitment in the areas of cocoa production and sustainability is also strengthened by our direct support of other specific projects that bring direct benefits to the countries of origin. With that aim in mind, we support, for example, the Sustainable Tree Crop Program (STCP) in West Africa as well as research projects to secure and develop cocoa cultivation and processing with a view toward the supply of high-quality raw materials.

With a share of around 70% of world cocoa production, West Africa is the key region in this regard. Yields on the cultivation and sale of cocoa are the key to the survival of a high proportion of the local farming population. The STCP was started as a pilot project primarily to improve the cocoa economy, which is based on small farming structures in the West African countries of the Ivory Coast, Ghana, Nigeria and Cameroon. The aim of STCP is to improve the economic and social welfare of small farmers and their communities, accompanied by safeguards for ecological sustainability in agriculture. The main points of action are: promotion of production and distribution of high-quality cocoa, improvement of market access and of the incomes of the small producers, development of environmentally-friendly, socially responsible and economically sustainable systems of cocoa cultivation. The projects concentrate mainly on integrated cultivation and harvest management, control of insect damages, cocoa quality improvement, the development of organizational skills and tools and the awareness of social aspects, such as child labor and diseases like AIDS. This information is passed on to the cocoa farmers primarily at the “Farmer Field Schools”, a participative training and educational scheme.

Support for scientific projects in the area of external applied botanical research is another element in the promotion of a sustainable cocoa economy: Today, the collection of genotypes of the Trinitario plant population, which became known as the “Imperial College Selections”, is among the world’s most important reference collections of genetic cocoa resources. A systematic evaluation of quality features and sensory properties is now being conducted as part of a project of the “Cocoa Research Unit” at the University of the West Indies in Trinidad with a view to future cultivation projects. Lindt & Sprüngli supports this project. The group also participates in further projects concerning applied cocoa research in South America.

It is our hope that the foregoing answers your questions and emphasizes our commitment to help establish sustainable, long-term solutions for cocoa farmers.

Yours sincerely

This email satisfied my ethical concerns at the time, and I returned to buying my average of two Lindt chocolate blocks a week guilt free…

In the years that followed this blog received many-a comments, as you can see below. Fellow concerned consumers and citizens make the important point that the above may just be PR spin. It took me a while but now, as 2015 comes to a close, I am revisiting the issue again.

In a series of comments and discussion on the Lindt Facebook page, the question “how does Lindt ensure no slave labour is on their farms?” is left unanswered:

After receiving the same spiel as I did above, one of the commenters in this forum said to “Lindt Chocolate World”: ‘You say “our local partner can intervene if there is suspicion of abusive child labour in one of the farming communities” – but “can” is not “will” – there is a big difference; does the mightly Lindt put pressure on the local business people to ENSURE this intervention?’

This was asked in July 2011. The discussion continues to this day, but ‘Lindt Chocolate World” have not answered the question.

The Food Empowerment Project, have Lindt on their ethical chocolate list under “Cannot recommend but at least responded”: which isn’t good news for my Lindt habit…

So I have decided to email Lindt again, as a follow up to the above, to find out what measures they are taking to ensure that when chocolate-lovers buy their product they are not supporting any kind of human slavery. My email:

23 December 2015

Dear Lindt,

I have been a Lindt chocolate addict for many years, consuming a consistent average of two or three blocks a week. I am also committed to universal human rights, the cessation of slavery in all its forms, and working to build a more socially just world.

I emailed you back in 2008 and 2009 to learn about your ethical policy, and make sure by puchasing Lindt I was no supporting any form of slave labour. You will see from my blog entry: that I have been sharing the positive information that you provided on your ethical policy, and that a number of people have commented with their concerns that this is PR spin.

I am hoping that now, some six years on, you can provide additional information to concerned Lindt-lovers like myself, on how you monitor, prevent and address slave labour from being used on your Lindt-owned cocoa farms in Ghana? There is a comment on your Facebook pate that has attracted much attention, which leaves this question unanswered:

The question, as one of the other concerned chocolate-lover citizens asks is: “Ultimately: can you categorically guarantee that the money we spend on your chocolate doesn’t profit people who are using child slavery?Do you, as this questioner points out, delegate responsibility for preventing slavery to local NGOs, or do you have standards in place to monitor this yourself?

As you can see there are many people who will be happy to buy your products if you can provide a direct answer to this question, and put such mechanisms to guarantee child slavery (and human slavery in general) is not supported when we purchase your products.

I look forward to your reply.

Best regards,



I will post their reply as soon as I get it. Hopefully they do reply. Stay tuned…