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The Earth Charter

“We must find ways to harmonize diversity with unity, the exercise of freedom with the common good, short-term objectives with long-term goals.” During my time in Costa Rica, I saw the construction of an institute dedicated to research and implementation of The Earth Charter, which is being built next to the University for Peace. The Earth Charter was developed over the last decade by an independent Earth Charter Commission, following the 1992 Earth Summit. The objective was “to produce a global consensus statement of values and principles for a sustainable future.” The document is the result of contributions from over five thousand people, and has been “formally endorsed by thousands of organizations, including UNESCO and the IUCN (World Conservation Union).”

The Earth Charter

Here it is, with blue being the parts I highlighted for my own reference as I consider them in relation to my own research. If you want to download the full version, in one of a great number of languages, click here.


“We stand at a critical moment in Earth’s history, a time when humanity must choose its future. As the world becomes increasingly interdependent and fragile, the future at once holds great peril and great promise. To move forward we must recognize that in the midst of a magnificent diversity of cultures and life forms we are one human family and one Earth community with a common destiny. We must join together to bring forth a sustainable global society founded on respect for nature, universal human rights, economic justice, and a culture of peace. Towards this end, it is imperative that we, the peoples of Earth, declare our responsibility to one another, to the greater community of life, and to future generations.

Earth, Our Home

Humanity is part of a vast evolving universe. Earth, our home, is alive with a unique community of life. The forces of nature make existence a demanding and uncertain adventure, but Earth has provided the conditions essential to life’s evolution. The resilience of the community of life and the well-being of humanity depend upon preserving a healthy biosphere with all its ecological systems, a rich variety of plants and animals, fertile soils, pure waters, and clean air. The global environment with its finite resources is a common concern of all peoples. The protection of Earth’s vitality, diversity, and beauty is a sacred trust.

The Global Situation

The dominant patterns of production and consumption are causing environmental devastation, the depletion of resources, and a massive extinction of species. Communities are being undermined. The benefits of development are not shared equitably and the gap between rich and poor is widening. Injustice, poverty, ignorance, and violent conflict are widespread and the cause of great suffering. An unprecedented rise in human population has overburdened ecological and social systems. The foundations of global security are threatened. These trends are perilous—but not inevitable.

The Challenges Ahead

The choice is ours: form a global partnership to care for Earth and one another or risk the destruction of ourselves and the diversity of life. Fundamental changes are needed in our values, institutions, and ways of living. We must realize that when basic needs have been met, human development is primarily about being more, not having more. We have the knowledge and technology to provide for all and to reduce our impacts on the environment. The emergence of a global civil society is creating new opportunities to build a democratic and humane world. Our environmental, economic, political, social, and spiritual challenges are interconnected, and together we can forge inclusive solutions.

Universal Responsibility

To realize these aspirations, we must decide to live with a sense of universal responsibility, identifying ourselves with the whole Earth community as well as our local communities. We are at once citizens of different nations and of one world in which the local and global are linked. Everyone shares responsibility for the present and future well-being of the human family and the larger living world. The spirit of human solidarity and kinship with all life is strengthened when we live with reverence for the mystery of being, gratitude for the gift of life, and humility regarding the human place in nature.

We urgently need a shared vision of basic values to provide an ethical foundation for the emerging world community. Therefore, together in hope we affirm the following interdependent principles for a sustainable way of life as a common standard by which the conduct of all individuals, organizations, businesses, governments, and transnational institutions is to be guided and assessed.



1. Respect Earth and life in all its diversity.
a. Recognize that all beings are interdependent and every form of life has value regardless of its worth to human beings.
b. Affirm faith in the inherent dignity of all human beings and in the intellectual, artistic, ethical, and spiritual potential of humanity.

2. Care for the community of life with understanding, compassion, and love.
a. Accept that with the right to own, manage, and use natural resources comes the duty to prevent environmental harm and to protect the rights of people.
b. Affirm that with increased freedom, knowledge, and power comes increased responsibility to promote the common good.

3. Build democratic societies that are just, participatory, sustainable, and peaceful.
a. Ensure that communities at all levels guarantee human rights and fundamental freedoms and provide everyone an opportunity to realize his or her full potential.
b. Promote social and economic justice, enabling all to achieve a secure and meaningful livelihood that is ecologically responsible.

4. Secure Earth’s bounty and beauty for present and future generations.
a. Recognize that the freedom of action of each generation is qualified by the needs of future generations.
b. Transmit to future generations values, traditions, and institutions that support the long-term flourishing of Earth’s human and ecological communities.

In order to fulfill these four broad commitments, it is necessary to:


5. Protect and restore the integrity of Earth’s ecological systems, with special concern for biological diversity and the natural processes that sustain life.

a. Adopt at all levels sustainable development plans and regulations that make environmental conservation and rehabilitation integral to all development initiatives.
b. Establish and safeguard viable nature and biosphere reserves, including wild lands and marine areas, to protect Earth’s life support systems, maintain biodiversity, and preserve our natural heritage.
c. Promote the recovery of endangered species and ecosystems.
d. Control and eradicate non-native or genetically modified organisms harmful to native species and the environment, and prevent introduction of such harmful organisms.
e. Manage the use of renewable resources such as water, soil, forest products, and marine life in ways that do not exceed rates of regeneration and that protect the health of ecosystems.
f. Manage the extraction and use of non-renewable resources such as minerals and fossil fuels in ways that minimize depletion and cause no serious environmental damage.

6. Prevent harm as the best method of environmental protection and, when knowledge is limited, apply a precautionary approach.
a. Take action to avoid the possibility of serious or irreversible environmental harm even when scientific knowledge is incomplete or inconclusive.
b. Place the burden of proof on those who argue that a proposed activity will not cause significant harm, and make the responsible parties liable for environmental harm.
c. Ensure that decision making addresses the cumulative, long-term, indirect, long distance, and global consequences of human activities.
d. Prevent pollution of any part of the environment and allow no build-up of radioactive, toxic, or other hazardous substances.
e. Avoid military activities damaging to the environment.

7. Adopt patterns of production, consumption, and reproduction that safeguard Earth’s regenerative capacities, human rights, and community well-being.
a. Reduce, reuse, and recycle the materials used in production and consumption systems, and ensure that residual waste can be assimilated by ecological systems.
b. Act with restraint and efficiency when using energy, and rely increasingly on renewable energy sources such as solar and wind.
c. Promote the development, adoption, and equitable transfer of environmentally sound technologies.
d. Internalize the full environmental and social costs of goods and services in the selling price, and enable consumers to identify products that meet the highest social and environmental standards.
e. Ensure universal access to health care that fosters reproductive health and responsible reproduction.
f. Adopt lifestyles that emphasize the quality of life and material sufficiency in a finite world.

8. Advance the study of ecological sustainability and promote the open exchange and wide application of the knowledge acquired.
a. Support international scientific and technical cooperation on sustainability, with special attention to the needs of developing nations.
b. Recognize and preserve the traditional knowledge and spiritual wisdom in all cultures that contribute to environmental protection and human well-being.
c. Ensure that information of vital importance to human health and environmental protection, including genetic information, remains available in the public domain.



9. Eradicate poverty as an ethical, social, and environmental imperative.
a. Guarantee the right to potable water, clean air, food security, uncontaminated soil, shelter, and safe sanitation, allocating the national and international resources required.
b. Empower every human being with the education and resources to secure a sustainable livelihood, and provide social security and safety nets for those who are unable to support themselves.
c. Recognize the ignored, protect the vulnerable, serve those who suffer, and enable them to develop their capacities and to pursue their aspirations.

10. Ensure that economic activities and institutions at all levels promote human development in an equitable and sustainable manner.
a. Promote the equitable distribution of wealth within nations and among nations.
b. Enhance the intellectual, financial, technical, and social resources of developing nations, and relieve them of onerous international debt.
c. Ensure that all trade supports sustainable resource use, environmental protection, and progressive labor standards.
d. Require multinational corporations and international financial organizations to act transparently in the public good, and hold them accountable for the consequences of their activities.

11. Affirm gender equality and equity as prerequisites to sustainable development and ensure universal access to education, health care, and economic opportunity.
a. Secure the human rights of women and girls and end all violence against them.
b. Promote the active participation of women in all aspects of economic, political, civil, social, and cultural life as full and equal partners, decision makers, leaders, and beneficiaries.
c. Strengthen families and ensure the safety and loving nurture of all family members.

12. Uphold the right of all, without discrimination, to a natural and social environment supportive of human dignity, bodily health, and spiritual well-being, with special attention to the rights of indigenous peoples and minorities.
a. Eliminate discrimination in all its forms, such as that based on race, color, sex, sexual orientation, religion, language, and national, ethnic or social origin.
b. Affirm the right of indigenous peoples to their spirituality, knowledge, lands and resources and to their related practice of sustainable livelihoods.
c. Honor and support the young people of our communities, enabling them to fulfill their essential role in creating sustainable societies.
d. Protect and restore outstanding places of cultural and spiritual significance.



13. Strengthen democratic institutions at all levels, and provide transparency and accountability in governance, inclusive participation in decision making, and access to justice.
a. Uphold the right of everyone to receive clear and timely information on environmental matters and all development plans and activities which are likely to affect them or in which they have an interest.
b. Support local, regional and global civil society, and promote the meaningful participation of all interested individuals and organizations in decision making.
c. Protect the rights to freedom of opinion, expression, peaceful assembly, association, and dissent.
d. Institute effective and efficient access to administrative and independent judicial procedures, including remedies and redress for environmental harm and the threat of such harm.
e. Eliminate corruption in all public and private institutions.
f. Strengthen local communities, enabling them to care for their environments, and assign environmental responsibilities to the levels of government where they can be carried out most effectively.

14. Integrate into formal education and life-long learning the knowledge, values, and skills needed for a sustainable way of life.
a. Provide all, especially children and youth, with educational opportunities that empower them to contribute actively to sustainable development.
b. Promote the contribution of the arts and humanities as well as the sciences in sustainability education.
c. Enhance the role of the mass media in raising awareness of ecological and social challenges.
d. Recognize the importance of moral and spiritual education for sustainable living.

15. Treat all living beings with respect and consideration.
a. Prevent cruelty to animals kept in human societies and protect them from suffering.
b. Protect wild animals from methods of hunting, trapping, and fishing that cause extreme, prolonged, or avoidable suffering.
c. Avoid or eliminate to the full extent possible the taking or destruction of non-targeted species.

16. Promote a culture of tolerance, nonviolence, and peace.
a. Encourage and support mutual understanding, solidarity, and cooperation among all peoples and within and among nations.
b. Implement comprehensive strategies to prevent violent conflict and use collaborative problem solving to manage and resolve environmental conflicts and other disputes.
c. Demilitarize national security systems to the level of a non-provocative defense posture, and convert military resources to peaceful purposes, including ecological restoration.
d. Eliminate nuclear, biological, and toxic weapons and other weapons of mass destruction.
e. Ensure that the use of orbital and outer space supports environmental protection and peace.
f. Recognize that peace is the wholeness created by right relationships with oneself, other persons, other cultures, other life, Earth, and the larger whole of which all are a part.

The Way Forward

As never before in history, common destiny beckons us to seek a new beginning. Such renewal is the promise of these Earth Charter principles. To fulfill this promise, we must commit ourselves to adopt and promote the values and objectives of the Charter.

This requires a change of mind and heart. It requires a new sense of global interdependence and universal responsibility. We must imaginatively develop and apply the vision of a sustainable way of life locally, nationally, regionally, and globally. Our cultural diversity is a precious heritage and different cultures will find their own distinctive ways to realize the vision. We must deepen and expand the global dialogue that generated the Earth Charter, for we have much to learn from the ongoing collaborative search for truth and wisdom.

Life often involves tensions between important values. This can mean difficult choices. However, we must find ways to harmonize diversity with unity, the exercise of freedom with the common good, short-term objectives with long-term goals. Every individual, family, organization, and community has a vital role to play. The arts, sciences, religions, educational institutions, media, businesses, nongovernmental organizations, and governments are all called to offer creative leadership. The partnership of government, civil society, and business is essential for effective governance.

In order to build a sustainable global community, the nations of the world must renew their commitment to the United Nations, fulfill their obligations under existing international agreements, and support the implementation of Earth Charter principles with an international legally binding instrument on environment and development.

Let ours be a time remembered for the awakening of a new reverence for life, the firm resolve to achieve sustainability, the quickening of the struggle for justice and peace, and the joyful celebration of life.”

Searching for Unity in Diversity — at the University for Peace.


Costa Rica – a Parade for Peace

A month ago I passed through Costa Rica for two reasons (1) to check out the University for Peace and (2) being stingy (bargain flights to LA). I was pleasantly surprised to discover that, like bear statues in Berlin a few years ago, and elephants in Copenhagen last year, San José was spotted with colourful statues of doves…

It is probably no surprise Costa Rica was hosting a “Parade for Peace” considering it also:

(1) has no army (abolished permanently in 1949)

(2) is considered the “greenest” country in the world (and is planning to be the first carbon-neutral country by 2021)

(3) ranks first in the Happy Planet Index [1]

(4) houses the world’s first University for Peace

(5) is soon to be the HQ for The Earth Charter (more next entry…)

It’s also probably not much of a surprise that the University for Peace was up in the mountains in one of the most… wait for it… peaceful places to study. Hm… maybe I’ll go back one day…


[1] Ashley Seager (2008-07-04). “Costa Rica is the world’s happiest and greenest country in the world.”. London: Retrieved 2009-07-04.



“Meeting the world” at Encuentros

The word “encuentros” translates in English to “meeting” or “to encounter”. Or as my friend translates it “Encuentros is a Meeting Point.” The philosophy behind this restaurant/bar/cafe in Granada, Nicaragua, is that it is a place to “meet the world”.

Having travelled the world making documentaries (as well as doing a Master in Peace and Conflict Studies in Sydney) Erik Hof, with the help of his dad Rob Hof, set up this unique fusion of world food, cocktails, culture and conversation, with pool parties and a cinema to top it off. No wonder I almost didn’t leave…

“It seems the path to peace must involve creating a place where people can meet ‘the other’, talk with ‘the other’, and see that in fact there is no ‘other’,” the Hof’s explained Encuentros’ philosophy. “It is much harder to cause harm to someone, to stereotype or hate groups of people, after you have met them. This is our attempt to create such a place, Encuentros: a place to meet the world. After you meet people from around the world, from different world’s within our shared world, it becomes explicitly clear that while we have our individual communities, we are also all part of one large global community. While we each have and share infinite number of stories, these stories combine together to create one shared story of humanity. These stories need to be shared, through conversation, and we need to talk about where our collective story is headed.”

Ok, so this is my elaboration on a many conversations I had with the Hofs (you can probably hear my words in this spiel loud and clear..) Anyway the Encuentros philosophy and idealistic aspirations lined up with my own. How you do carry it out in a realist’s world, I’m not sure.

Is it possible that by “meeting the world” or “putting a face to the other” we can move toward greater states of peace? Is a place like Encuentros a productive way to do this? Or (to maintain a critical perspective), is a place like Encuentros just another place to have fun? Well it’s definitely the latter, and if it’s even a little bit the former, then I think it’s a good thing 🙂

Some events photography I did for them: Encuentros – Salsa Night & Pool Party 13-14th Jan 2012: (click one to open in a viewing window)

Check out their website:



The Woes of the Girl-Who-Cried-Surprise

There was a girl who hated being bored. She hated boredom so much that she liked to do the unexpected. She almost killed herself diving into the deep end, time and time again. It was an intense way of life. It had its benefits. It also took its tolls.

Surprise surprise, that girl is me: I’m home. As in, my home in Sydney, “Surprise!”

I feel like the boy-who-cried-wolf, but with surprises. It is the second time I’ve turned up in Sydney unannounced. I’ve booked tickets that transport me half way around the world with less than 24 hours notice. More than surprising others, I like to surprise myself. I like to keep myself guessing. Does that sound schitzo? Hm.

In the last seven months I’ve played the girl-who-cried-“I’m coming home” too many times:

I almost changed my return flight to last August, but then I pushed on. I was supposed to come home for Christmas, but then I extended for six weeks in Canada. When I added Nicaragua into the mix and I put the wheels in motion to change extend again, bailing on weddings, announcing my plan to study where it’s sunny and cheap. I was in no rush to return. Then at the last minute I decided not to change my flight, and not to tell anyone.

My sisters jumped out of their skins when they saw me. My parents were over-the-moon. I called friends and turned up at doors to say: “Guess who?!”

Why tell people you’re coming home when it’s much more fun to surprise them? Well, maybe with a little noticed I’d have a car and place lined up…

A week ago I was in sunny Granada staying at Pure Gym, teaching Yogalates twice a day, sitting by the pool sipping Pina Coladas most afternoons and partying a little at night. Now I’m in Sydney at my grandma’s house with a 9:30pm curfew, and waking up at 4am (the present time of writing) with jet lag contemplating my intentionally spontaneous behaviour. Will too many surprises one day also get boring?

I’m very happy to be home, but not so happy to be living the agony Carlin satirised in Stuff. Where did all these piles of stuff come from? I have some stuff at under mum’s house, some stuff in grandma’s garage, some in this room, that room, some in a box in Vancouver, some in Hickory, some in a car, and some still in my backpack, and all of that stuff is mixed with other people’s stuff.


Having somewhat lived out of a backpack for seven months it’s like Christmas, rediscovering all my stuff. But (like Christmas-time) it is also involving fake smiles and gracious acceptances. What was I thinking when I bought these things? What am I going to do?! I feel like I can’t do anything until I find a place for my stuff. I have NOWHERE to put my stuff!!!

So now I’m on the hunt for accommodation in the ghastly Sydney rental market – to find a place to house my stuff, simultaneously looking for jobs, figuring out cars, moving towards selling my scooter… all the boring stuff: cars, houses, money — then I’ll be ready to… buy more stuff — urgh!!!

Oh well, I guess you have to take the good with the bad. Travel comes with jetlag. Life in the 21st century western culture comes with stuff. And we need places to put it, and some way to save for our next trip. Work. Sleep. Spend. The cycle starts. The cycle continues…

“Just Relax” “Forget” “Breathe”

Do you ever tell yourself to “just relax” and then continue to do the very opposite? Or tell yourself to “forget it”. Or “frick’n focus!” And then find it impossible? Well that what happened to me today. Then it reversed itself in a way I didn’t expect.

It started with a 75-minute hot yoga class at Y Yoga, my health retreat since arriving in Vancouver. Today was different: a hundred and one thoughts frolicked through my mind — which means today I was not doing yoga. I was stretching, and sweating, but my mind wasn’t connected to my practice which, by definition, isn’t yoga.

Before class I’d been Skyping with my bestie in Sydney, talking through different share-house options for when I return. Taking the tone of a confused dream, thoughts on locations, bedroom/bathroom trade-offs, potential housemates, rental rates, hours I’d have to work for respective wages in different jobs, comparisons to cheap-living Central America; thoughts on research, jobs, boys, publishers…

Thoughts, thoughts and more thoughts.

“Think about your breath,” I told myself.

I did—for one breath.

Then the thoughts returned. I gave up. What was supposed to be a “T” shape created by balancing on one foot with both arms in front and the other leg up behind, looked like a wobbly “M”.

As I strolled home, weaving between glass skyscrapers, skipping through puddles, ducking under umbrellas, and gazing out at the boats, water and mountains, I realised something: It doesn’t matter.

None of the scenarios I entertain in my head are bad. Whether we find an apartment with 2 bedrooms and 1 bathroom, or a house of 5 bedrooms and 3 bathrooms, it’ll be fine. Whether I’m in Glebe or back in Paddington, or Bondi, or in Central America, or somewhere else for a while and then somewhere else again, everything will turn out right. The research, the jobs, boys, publishers… It’s easy to stress about things one has to or wants to do, find, buy, sell… there’s always more boxes to tick. But none of it matters right now.

I am not saying it’s not important. It is. Everything is important. But pondering the different scenarios is not. Life seems to unveil itself in its own time. Answers become clear in their own moments. I don’t need to be thinking about all these things in this moment. There are far more rich ways to be spending this moment. Like by actually doing yoga. Or by paying attention to the beautiful city I’m in.

That thought was followed by a small epiphany: What’s the rush?

I’ve spent the last five years living like I’m running a race. Every moment of every day has been put to use. There’s been a sense of urgency penetrating it. My motto has been “life is short, don’t waste it.”

Not “wasting life” for me meant seeking answers to some questions that were burning inside, and learning to communicate the answers I uncovered for myself. I started unable to put my questions into words. I followed a long line of intuitions, and in a way at the end of 2011 with a book finished and an article that came from my masters thesis published, that particular fire was under control. I have new questions, but they are less urgent. I have to finish putting out those little bits left of the old fires, but it’s much easier now. I feel a new energy. A new beginning. A new motto.

True, I don’t want to “waste my short life”, but there’s no point rushing through it either! Now I need, more than ever, to take a big breath in and slowly let it out. What’s the rush?

Alan Watts talks about how we tend to “run from the maternity ward to the crematorium”. Watts tells a bigger story that we’re a part of, that allows us to relax about our individual lives. There’s no rush.

And so, a new New Years Resolution: Do less, but do it better. Give each moment its deserved attention. Don’t stress over decisions — let the right answer reveal itself. Breathe in faith, breathe out fear.

I’m not in a hurry for ANYTHING. I keep changing my mind, so why worry about any of it. I don’t need to know what the future holds. I really don’t. All I need to know is the present. That’s when I realised something: I had relaxed 🙂

Happy new year!


As a New Year approaches it is tradition to evaluate the year past and plan the one ahead. The problem is I find it hard enough to distinguish between a week ago and a month ago, let alone ten months ago from two years ago. This blog keeps track of my life for me. It’s my therapy. It’s my timeline. It’s the closest access I have to how I have felt in my past. It tracks my stories, however I wanted to tell them at the time. So, when it comes to evaluating a year gone by, this blog is where I start.

(Click on the heading to go to the entry)


New Year, New Food Pyramid: eating for health, longevity and a better future

Before I begin my rant about food, I would like to say a big HAPPY NEW YEAR to you all! I hope it has kicked off to a better start than mine (7am New Years Day I was at the hospital having barnacles taken out of my feet) and that you had a great night […]

Feel the fear, and do it anyway

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Why does a JOKER trump four Kings? On Wit, Wisdom, and Whitehead.

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Pepsi: when they don’t have Coke.

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Murphy’s Law Day and a Couple of Lifesavers

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The gap between school and real-life

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Other Gaps in the Distribution of Knowledge

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Yhprum’s Law and a New Moon Wish

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Who is hot, who is not? Socrates decifers the Truth

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What makes a life worthy? Optimal trajectory and not fearing death.

I will never fear or avoid a possible good rather than a certain evil,’ says Socrates in Plato’s Apology as he stands by his virtues right till the end. For Socrates, a worthy life is one lived in accordance with (what he would call it had he seen The Men Who Stare At Goats) one’s […]

Parkinson’s Law: Using Time to Your Advantage

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The Cock Snowflake: Fractals

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Is “God” a Fractal?

When I inside and outside my “self”, I see one thing: fractals. Fractals explain to me the microcosm and the macrocosm that our cells, bodies, societies, galaxies, and possibly universes and beyond, are a part of. […]



The Very Short Life and Times of Me and Kombi Xee

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You, the Anthropologist, tuning your skills

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Critical Discourse Analysis

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Attempting Politics

Three years ago, before I went back to uni, I voted Liberal. Why? Three reasons: (1) Because my Dad voted Liberal. (2) I wasn’t interested in Politics. (3) I didn’t know the difference between Liberal and Labour (Australia’s Right and Left). Not a good place for any voting citizen to be. And certainly not the best […]

Youtube & The Global Pyramid

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The Pleasure of the Text: Sites of Bliss

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A small group of people can change the world

“A small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that has.” Margaret Mead. This quote came from the RSA clip below: The Enlightenment in the 21st Century. The two questions I took from this are: Where are we NOW, how’d we GET HERE, and where do we wanna GO […]


Chomsky vs Foucault: On Peace & Justice

Chomsky and Foucault are two foundational modern and postmodern figures in the critique of “structures” of our society – from language to government to institutions – and analyzing whose has the “agency” to maintain or change these structures. This is a debate between the two thinkers, who have very different ideas about structure and agency, […]

“Te” – spontaneous creative marvellous accidents

Have you ever noticed that when you over-think something, it all falls apart? Te explains why. Te is ‘the unthinkable ingenuity and creative power of man’s spontaneous and natural functioning.’ Intrigued I continued reading The Way of Zen by Alan Watts. The centipede was happy, quite, Until a toad in fun Said, “Pray, which leg […]

Putting PEOPLE back into Democracy, and Corporations back in their place

Following my rants on the problems with our current corporatist version of capitalism, Annie Lennox does a much better job at summing up what’s wrong with our current “democracy”, and how it came to be that way: The programming code in these entities we call “corporations” needs to change. Corporations are not people, and they […]

Carbon trading: the devil is in the details

Who benefits from carbon trading? Wall street??? De ja vu… Annie Leonard, my favourite “make it simple and tie a bow around it” chick, reveals the “devils in the details”: Three problems: 1. Free permits to big polluters 2. Fake offsets 3. A massive distraction It’s like going on a diet to lose weight. We […]

The Angst of Preparations, Decisions & Goodbyes

Soon I am off to Europe followed by the United States, with a very big question mark surrounding my return date. I’m booked to leave 9 weeks from yesterday and be home just in time for Christmas… but I really have no idea what my future holds. Exciting as this sounds, when it comes the […]

Follow the bliss

‘I don’t believe life has a purpose. Life is a lot of protoplasm with an urge to reproduce and continue in being… but each incarnation, you might say, has a potentiality, and the mission of life is to live that potentiality.’ Joseph Campbell is an incredible storyteller, spiritual guru, philosopher, academic (comparative religion & comparative […]

Open the Door (a poem about why I care about our future)

I am one, I am many, I am part of something more I dream, I wake, I laugh, I cry I see a door, and I imagine… – A shift, A new direction From hierarchies, pyramids To systems, patterns, webs – From unchanging objects To dynamic relationships From “ego” to “eco” Farewell fear, embracing […]



Have you ever picked up the phone to call a friend, only to find your friend calling you? Do you notice the moments of “synchronicity” when everything you do happens with ease, green lights all the way, the right song on the radio at just the right time? What does it mean to be “in […]

A curious boy and a curious old man: the voice behind The Pedagogy of the Oppressed

 “The oppressors, who oppress, exploit, and rape by virtue of their power, cannot find in this power the strength to liberate either the oppressed or themselves. Only power that springs from the weakness of the oppressed will be sufficiently strong to free both.” (Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed, 1970: 21) Paolo Freire wrote about […]

Juggling too many balls

Do you ever feel overwhelmed by life? Does your mind and body ever get to that stage where it feels so limp it hurts? Are you juggling so many balls that they all come tumbling down? Yesterday was one of those days. Actually until I left for a run about an hour ago, that was […]

Weaving my world back together: a weekend at Camp Coorong

Have you ever weaved a basket? I hadn’t… “Life’s too busy for arts and crafts…” or so I used to think. I was wrong. Weaving was more than relaxing and therapeutic, it embodied a metaphorical connection I was in dire need of. I learned so so much during my weekend at Camp Coorong. I travelled […]


Time to scratch one’s head

“Give yourself time to scratch your head,” advised Prof Stuart Rees on one of our CPACS sailing trips down in Jervis Bay. These last few months I did not listen to this advice. I have lived the last few months in a mad rush. I have packed up my life and put it in my […]

Losing my Identity (Scandanavia)

Imagine a world where being 180cm, 60kg, with long blonde hair, makes you AVERAGE. In Scandinavia, for the first time in my life, I felt short. It was a strange feeling. Used to towering over people and always kind-of standing out because of my height, blending into the crowd provoked a new stream of thought. […]

A Lesson in Anarchy (Christiania)

Even in Europe I seem to be drawn to South American cultures. Some hippies from Bolivia and Venezuela, as well as the Canary Islands, were selling jewelry on the street. Before long we were playing music, drinking beer, and joining the hippies and a crazy American family on an adventure to the anarchist town of […]

Positive Conflict (In Transit)

Daisy chains and love hearts are great and all, but most of us love a little conflict. Our books, movies, politics, religions, and even our conversations, are based on conflict. The stories we live and tell are based on the contradictions, the tensions, the heroes and villains, the differences of opinion, stories about the good […]

What is Life? (Krakow)

“What is Life?” Ho hum, where does one start to answer this question? The What is Life? conference in Krakow, 24-28th June, which aimed to bridge philosophical, theological and scientific insights to this question. I started with what I see to be at the roots of our understanding of life: our stories. We understand life […]

An Encounter with Evil (Auschwitz)

I hate the word “evil” for two reasons: (1) because of its religious connotations and (2) because its definition is relative and constantly changing. Same goes with “sin”. Two words with definitions that change depending who is in power. Every culture, every civilization, every person, defines evil in different ways. Evil is whatever the people […]

Micro-nations & mickey mouse money (Dresden)

I hadn’t heard of a “micro-nation” until I got to Dresden. As you probably guessed, a micronation is a miniature nation within a bigger nation. Apparently I’d visited one – Cristiania back in Copenhagen. And “New Town” in Dresden was my second – well had I been there 20 years ago it would have been. […]


October-fest in July (Frankfurt)

Student life in Germany is another world to student life in Sydney: free travel, small fees, and for the most part a rent and allowance paid by one’s parents. At least that was life for my friend and his student friends. No part-time job and no living at home – lots of time to and party. […]

Brownies, Bicycles, Birthdays and Babies (Amsterdam)

Amsterdam greeted us with wide-open arms. The sun was shining, the people smiling, “coffee shops” inviting. I immediately felt a sense of belonging. I guess because my mum is Dutch. Elderly women reminded my of my Oma, elderly men reminded me of Opa, and the language – while I don’t understand a word – reminded […]

The good, bad & ugly (Paris)

It was my fourth visit to Paris. The city of lights. Allegedly a city of love. Just not my love. On my first visit, as 2006 opened, my five-year relationship ended. In front of the Arc de Triompf. Champs de Elise will always carry memories of that moment. My second time in Paris, a few […]

I Barcelona

I love Barcelona. I love it, love it, love it! The arts, the energy, the colours, cerveza, cops on scooters, the boys, the beaches, the bumble-bee taxis, tapas, the sunshine, the shopping, the street music, the dancing, the people, paella, pick & mix candy shops, live statues, the language, the list could go on. Last […]

Epics, Tragedies and my Saturn Returns (Rome & Greece)

 “No single life story is pure tragedy or pure comedy. Rather, there are narrative mixes.” [1] I don’t know about yours, but that’s certainly true for mine. Aristotle, a Greek philosopher of the 4th century BC, wrote in Poetics that tragedies are enactments whereby human suffering brings about the audience’s pleasure, or a catharsis – […]


Returning to life

These last few weeks I disappeared in more ways than from this blog. I’ve tried to put my finger on how it happened. It happened so slowly that like a frog in hot water, I came to realise it only at boiling point. It was too late. Some essential part of my “self” had gone. Was […]

Building more bridges… backbends in Europe

As I travelled Europe, my “bridge” art project was on my mind. As a result, some fun shots, some (of what I think are pretty) great shots, and some memorable stories that lie behind most of them (which I will have to tell some other day). […]

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. […]

Do you know the secret? The “Law of Attraction”… what the bleep?!

“Do you know the secret?” I was surprised when, at Hickory Tavern, I met a CEO of a engineering-programming company who, while talking up his black porche and high-paid profession,  brought it up. I thought only hippy and hippy-wanna-be’s like me were into this stuff. “What’s the secret?” asked my friend, accepting their kind offer to pay for our food and drinks, and get another round. […]

20 Essential TED Talks on Peace

A chick working for Online Colleges contacted me to share the following collection of TED Talks for Peace Studies students. I’m working my way through them and thought you might like to watch some of them too. Just click on the heading and the TED talk will open in a new window. […]

Welcome to Hickory, North Carolina

“Hey y’all! Welcome to Hickory!” bellows a thick Southern accent. “What brought you to Hiiickory???” So I have landed myself in the “Bible Belt”, the heart of the “hospitable South”. An authentic American experience. A deep insight into the psyche behind the democratic public of what many consider to be the global superpower of our day. […]

Telling stories…

So this semester, in Hickory, I’m teaching “Storytelling”. How does one tell a story? What distinguishes a great story from a poor one? What is the role of stories in our lives? How do stories reflect our identity? How do we use stories to create our identity? […]


Joseph Campbell – The Hero’s Journey

In The Hero with a Thousand Faces Joseph Campbell looks at myths and psychology – showing the connection between the stages of the “monomyth” seen in religion, movies and the journey of each of our lives. I’m using this book along with some other Joseph Campbell books and videos for my class… “The mythological hero, setting […]

What are you looking for?

What are you looking for? What do you want? If you don’t know, how will you know when you have it? This was a problem faced after eating a mushroom in Amsterdam. We were walking around aimlessly. We didn’t know what we were looking for! My friend through up her arms, “How are we going to […]

Attention and Ignore-ance

Did you know that Eskimos have five words for snow while the Aztecs had one word for snow-rain-hail combined? That which we do not have the vocabulary for, we tend not to notice. Those things which we notice, we create a vocabulary for. Through the processes of noticing, vocalizing, pondering and comprehending, we build up an understanding of the world in which we live.

The woe of efficiency

Inefficiency is a good thing,” a wise friend informed me six months ago. I must have looked confused. “When I said this to a room full of corporates, you should have seen the horror on their faces!” My face would have read pretty much the same. Inefficiency is good??? “How?” I asked in almost disbelief. […]


Where do good ideas come from?

“Art is the imagination at play in the field of time. Let yourself play.” [1] Do you ever wonder where your good ideas come from? Have you ever tried tracing them back to their source/s? When you have writer’s block or the equivalent, how do you deal with it? How do you regain your creativity? […]

Ten ways to change the world

Recently learning about the occupation of Wall Street, I thought it worthwhile to re-post my two cents on ten ways to change the world: Legally: 1. Change corporation law – redefine “corporation” so that they are NOT treated as separate entities in their own right that can be declared bankrupt in and of themselves. Corporation law […]

“Occupy Wall St” – bringing down The Pyramid?

What is #OccupyWallSt? Who are the 1%? Why did it take the media so long to report on it? What do protestor’s want? Are they trying to bring down The Pyramid? Will they succeed? I am teaching a class on the Philosophy of War and Peace in North Carolina, with a specific focus on the […]

“Occupy Sydney”

If you’re not in Sydney (like me) or can’t make it to protest, you can still spread the word about this peaceful protest to change the rules of our global capitalist game. Stop banks and corporations: – reducing humans to commodities – controlling media – funding both sides of wars – destroying the environment SATURDAY […]

Occupying DC

In DC on Tuesday 18th October, I had a chance to observe and talk directly with protestors, learning more about what they are really about. Camps and protests have been spreading throughout the city, I came across two of them. Each were occupied by a mixed age group, mainly students, retirees, and unemployed. Some had […]

“Shareholder Capitalism” VS “Socialised Capitalism”

Why did our political leaders bail out banks (who caused the GFC) rather than the public (who lost wealth and jobs as a result)? Why did governments spend trillions of dollars repairing a system that, in the well-known cycle of booms and busts, is destined to crash once again? Why are they bandaiding problems caught […]


How do you “know” something? How do you know it is “true”? I have been going through old diaries, intrigued by the development of thoughts and ideas through time. The following is a little rant I had in 2009 about knowledge and truth… From the origins of humanity, life and our universe, to the possibility […]

Evolution not Revolution

I’ve been thinking about the idea of a “revolution”, and wondering why exactly one would want to “revolve” to the beginning, completely start again? What would be the point of bring down The Pyramid, only to have to build one up again? Revolution may not be a dirty word, but it does seem kinda stupid. […]


Life can be tough. It can be tiring and frustrating. In striving for any goal we face a road of trials. At times its too hard. We throw our hands in the air and shout “I give up!” How do you know when to push through? How do you know when to persevere? How does […]

Life is short, break the rules…

 “Life is short, break the rules, forgive quickly, kiss slowly, love truly, laugh uncontrollably, and never regret anything that made you smile. Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch […]


Chicago, Rednecks & Reading the Signs

Forty minutes into the 12-hour drive to Chicago I was yelling “STOP!!!” with my hands on the dashboard and a frozen car getting closer and closer BANG!!!!!! We hit. The car crumbled. Totalled. Thanks to some guardian angels that (thank God) seem to follow me around the world, no one was hurt. The next thing […]

Life is a Game: Alan Watts & Happiness

I have noticed that in times I’m feeling down, reading or listening to Alan Watts makes me happy again. Why? His deep bellowing laugh and sense of humour? Maybe that’s part of it. But really it’s his philosophy, it just “clicks” with me. It makes me feel good. Life is a game, says Watts.  When […]

Philosophy and Poetics: Aristotle

‘All human beings by nature desire knowledge.’ Opening sentence of his book Metaphysics. For Aristotle, it is the desire for knowledge at root of what it is to be human. Aristotle wrote on Ethics, Politics, Poetics, Physics and Metaphysics. This gives you a funny introduction, but by no means gives a good overview of his […]

Poetry, Creativity and Storytelling

For my Storytelling class today we experimented with using Spoken Word Poetry to inspire students’ creativity and as a fun way to tell some stories… Sarah Kay set the scene: Then I asked students: 1. Write down ten things you know to be true 2. Share and see what you learn from others’ lists (optional) […]

Poking Fun at Society’s Stories

Today I’m looking at the Social Construction of Reality How does society construct our reality? Comedians do a good job at pointing it out… George Carlin: The American Dream Chris Rock: Can White People Say Nigger? Eddie Izzard: Do you have a flag?

Social Construction of Wealth and Happiness

Wealth isn’t only socially constructed. Neither is poverty. Are wealth and poverty only about stuff? How about being wealthy or poor in time? Or in spirit? Pleasure? Love? Friendship? Does the pursuit of wealth in purely monetary terms cause us more problems than the benefits it brings? George Carlin on Stuff to start it off: […]

Social Construction of the “Self”

Alan Watts’ ‘Briefly, the thesis is that the prevalent sensation of oneself as a separate ego enclosed in a bag of sin is a hallucination which accords neither with Western science nor with the experimental philosophy-religions of the East – in particular the central and germinal Vedanta philosophy of Hinduism. This hallucination underlies the misuse […]

Social Constructions of Beauty

 “Anata wa chisai atama!” You have a small head! — a compliment in Japan. So much to the extent that some Japanese wear a five-pound Small-Face-Make-Belt around the head while sleeping. Apparently it helps your head shrink over time. A good example of the role of society in constructing one’s idea of beauty. Behind “beauty”: […]

Education, Work and the Social Distribution of Knowledge

How do you know anything? What is the role of society in that knowledge? ‘Men always love what is good or what they find good; it is in judging of the good that they go wrong.’ Rousseau. ‘If you think you can do a thing or think you can’t do a thing, you’re right.’ Henry […]

Tips for Communicating Inside Conflicts

While developing a handout for my conflict resolution/mediation class I came across a number of communication tips that I thought worth sharing. They are good for communication in general… although I will note I find them easier to say than do! Focus on behaviour not the person Base feedback on direct observations rather than inferences […]

Conflict Resolution Techniques

Today I’m teaching my class some conflict resolution techniques & tips… so I thought I’d share with you. The aim of Galtung’s method is to transcend, to go beyond, the original conflicting interests, to achieve more than each party’s stated goals. Not either/or, but BOTH/AND… Mediation is usually done with both parties present. For deep […]

A Critical Perspective of the Media: Reading between the lines

Johan Galtung says that it’s not so much what is being said, but what is not being said. Today my class will be reflecting on the use of language and stories in the media. Discussion questions: how do stories in the media impact our understanding of the world? how can we learn to “read between […]

Psychology of Violence and Peace

Posting for convenience for a class I’m teaching… I’ll add more later. Stanley Milgram Experiment and Zimbardo Stanford Prison Experiment: Zeitgeist Moving Forward (2011) part 1 – Human Nature From 9min-40min. Share this article Facebook Twitter Delicious Digg Google Buzz StumbleUpon Add to favorites Email RSS


An Encounter with Being and Time

At the close of last year I had a mini freak out. “Where did 2010 go?” This year is another story. “Is 2011 every going to end?” It feels like three years since last Christmas. How does that work? What is the connection between external time (or cosmological time) – earth’s rotations – and internal […]

Prayers and positive meditations, please…

On Tuesday I leave Hickory for two weeks traveling through New York, Seattle, Vancouver, and home to Sydney. After all the mishaps this year, I have a request… I would really like to make it home safe, in one piece. No more freak accidents, please! If you have a moment to say a short prayer […]

Chemistry, Timing & Ted’s Colour Criteria

What’s the difference between a “modernist love” and a “romantic love”? Is it only fools who fall for the latter? Is one more destined for failure? Let me illustrate with episodes 1 and 2 from season 7 of How I Met Your Mother – which is what inspired this line of thought… Ted compares two […]

New Moon Wishes on Xmas Eve

Have you ever not known what to wish for? Last night, the 24th of December 2011, was a new moon. Making wishes on a new moon is a tradition for me that started with two friends in Sydney right before we travelled to South America. We wrote a list of dreams, looked up at the […]

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

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 Read more […]

2011 in review

This year started with some great highs — a scooter, a kombi, a lot of work upgrading to PhD, a trip to Europe… It peaked then crashed, literally, when I was thrown off a scooter in Greece. I would have suffered a heart attack or broken arm better than I did having the skin ripped from my leg and arm. I am so relieved it has healed as well as it has. In the months that followed that accident, I’ve continued to be in a warzone: good luck vs bad luck… I received a large dose of both.

Certainly the three best things that happened this year are:

(1)  Thanks to my American, two weeks ago I finished editing my book My Brazilian and a kombi named Betty down to 98,500 words, and sent it to the literary agent that requested the reduction (from 250,000 words) late 2010. This brings to completion of three years of writing and editing. The feedback from my first real reader couldn’t have been more positive. Fingers crossed my potential publishers and future readers have the same experience…

(2)  I discovered a love and skill for teaching. The Storytelling course I created a curriculum for, and taught at Lenoir Rhyne university was a great success. I cried when I read my student’s feedback comments. An incredibly rewarding experience.

(3)  Throughout the year’s travels and traumas, I have grown in ways I couldn’t have if I’d stayed in Sydney. My perspective feels deeper and somehow more real. Paradoxically I feel weaker but stronger. I feel more fragile and more afraid of death than ever before, but with this fear comes an appreciation of every day I’m alive. I feel less optimistic, but still possiblistic. The world is in a terrible state, yes. The power of foresight means there’s a chance we can evolve structures to make the good more easy, enticing and exciting than the destructive, and hence innovate and create a more promising future. Will we do it? I don’t know. But the possibility is there.

2012 and beyond…

Now I’m now in Vancouver, relaxing and recovering, and figuring out my next chapter. I can’t yet imagine what 2012 has in store. I suspect it will be quite different to 2011, including this blog — that it will drum to a new beat. A little birdie told me 2012 is destined to be a fun and successful year… let’s make it so!



Prayers and positive meditations, please…

On Tuesday I leave Hickory for two weeks traveling through New York, Seattle, Vancouver, and home to Sydney. After all the mishaps this year, I have a request… I would really like to make it home safe, in one piece. No more freak accidents, please!

If you have a moment to say a short prayer or breath in and out a positive meditation for me… I very much appreciate it…

Thank you 🙂









Poetry, Creativity and Storytelling

For my Storytelling class today we experimented with using Spoken Word Poetry to inspire students’ creativity and as a fun way to tell some stories…

Sarah Kay set the scene:


Then I asked students:

1. Write down ten things you know to be true

2. Share and see what you learn from others’ lists (optional)

3. Go outside and write a poem

4. Practice with a friend

5. Share with the class


Raving success! Using poetry every student shared a story about themselves, their views of the world, experiences of life, childhood, dreams… a VERY inspiring 75 minutes!!!

It’s well worth checking out some others’ poetry from Sarah Kay’s playlist:

More info on spoken word poetry and Sarah Kay:


Chicago, Rednecks & Reading the Signs

Forty minutes into the 12-hour drive to Chicago I was yelling “STOP!!!” with my hands on the dashboard and a frozen car getting closer and closer BANG!!!!!! We hit. The car crumbled. Totalled. Thanks to some guardian angels that (thank God) seem to follow me around the world, no one was hurt.

The next thing I knew I was in the front seat of a cop car. Not in trouble for anything, I’m way too goody goody for that. The cop gave us a lift to the car wrecker yard in a town sporting a single taxi, who was out of town for the next couple of hours.

Desperate to get back on the road, and with the nearest car rental shop still 40 minutes away, we paid a stranger to take us – a dude with a neck wider than his head, and a belly so big it had its own gravitational pull.

About 10 minutes into the drive he looked in his rear view mirror. Seeing my ghost white face he said, “A-I-scar’in-ys?” pronouncing only the vowels. Is he scaring me?

“Nooooo,” I stammered as he almost ran up the back of another car. His truck broke down twice. It was hunting weapons in the backseat that scared me the most. “He’s seen our iPhones. God please don’t let this redneck’s friends come rob and kill us…”

We made it to the rental shop. By this time I was so completely anxious and emotionally tied up in knots that I wasn’t sure I wanted to keep going. Another 11 hours on these highways seemed like a death wish.

So many bad things have happened on this trip, from the scooter in Greece to this car accident, and many things in between. I’m struggling to “read the signs”. Is The Universe telling me go home? Or challenging me to push through?

I pushed through. So long as I was the one driving, I felt ok. When someone else took the wheel I kept my eyes on the road and on the maniac truck drivers, and prayed many-a prayers. I was a backseat driver from hell, but we made it to Chicago in one piece. I had a great time roaming about the city, university, eating and drinking with my new Latino friends, shopping in Macys, protesting Wall St (yes, I do see the irony)…



Two days later flew to meet my Dad in DC. I was relieved not to have to drive back to Hickory on the highways, at least not for a few days yet…