Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Who let the cat out of the bag?

My answer is Professor Craig Venter and the cat is 'Synthia' the artificial bacterial life form he has developed. I believe that this finally destroyed any covenant we ever had with creation and is potentially the most devastating application of humankind's technological skill. Venter and his team claim that 'fail safe's' have been inbuilt to prevent this bacterium ever becoming a danger by removing DNA associated with such traits. The problem with this is that bacteria are nothing more than DNA and a few simple cell organelles and it's principal purpose is to reproduce it's DNA which it does very rapidly and each time it does the possibility for mutation arises. Venter claims with pride that this has already occur over a million times in 'Synthia's' case.

The 'Synthia' developers claim that it can only grow/reproduce in a particular Petri dish but the ubiquitous nature of DNA tells us that it's very purpose is to overcome limits to growth and as such it will sooner rather than not find a way to mutate to overcome any confines we apply to it.

Nature over 4 Billion years has found a way of marrying particular DNA constructs to balancing ecosystems which prevent the dominance of any given species but where mankind has interfered with this disaster has ensued in many cases, for example the introduction of Rabbits to Australia or the Grey Squirrel to the UK. This even occurs with plants, one only has to take the case of the Rhoddendron or Japanese Knotweed to see the disastrous consequences of our lack of understanding. In these cases it is fortunate that the organism are large enough and have a slow enough reproductive cycle to allow us to manage the impacts of their introduction. It should be noted however that to date in all cases eradication has proved impossible and at best it is a never ending damage limitation exercise.

This will not be so easy should 'Synthia' and her cousins get out of control and the likelihood is that sooner or later there will be massive pandemic or the emergence of drug resistant strains of existing bacterial infections. The rapid rate of reproduction and mutation associated with bacteria will make a managed response impossible.

As ever the technological hubris embedded in this kind of development beggars belief, somehow the likes of Venter need to be put firmly back in Pandora's box, if we are to avoid self-inflicted suffering on an unimaginable scale.

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

The Hypocracy of British Democracy

I struggle to understand how we can claim to be a democratic society whilst still running elections under the first past the post ward based counting system. As our current election round unfolds we are told that whilst Labour have significantly less support in the polls than both the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats they could still under the current system win the largest number of seats. This is NOT democratic and suggests that every individual's vote has a different value based on both geography and history.

I can understand this system's approximation to democracy when people of similar backgrounds clustered around industries or business types but this is no longer the case. The advent of remote working and the near collapse of UK manufacturing, makes for a much more diverse and distributed society.

It is absolutely time to introduce full proportionate representation, any party that does not introduce this early in the next parliament cannot claim either to be democratic or servants of the people.

Politicians privilege is a thing of the past, it is time to listen and serve. Full PR is the only mechanism which supports this.

How democratic is the party you will be voting for? How much is your vote worth compared to your neighbours? How long will you tolerate and vote for such injustice?

There is no such thing as a wasted vote, if you'd like to vote for a party who has little chance of gaining a seat under the present system please don't just opt for a mainstream party to make your vote 'count', let your cross show how cross you are at being silenced. Let's get over 50% of the moral mandate out of the hands of the big three and then demand they change the legislation.

Let your voice be the change.......

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

UK 2010 Election – Policies worth voting for

With a view towards the forthcoming election and my increasing frustration with the lack of substance and vision in the pre-election debate thus far, I thought I’d nail my colours to the mast. I am not a politician but feel that we are all being somewhat let down by the current incumbents and that we need to begin to shape the debate ourselves. With that in mind these are my thoughts, I hope that you will be engaged enough to comment and share your views. A dialogue is needed and this is my attempt to participate.......

1.Proportional representation

The first thing I would want any party to absolutely commit to would be the introduction of proportional representation, we currently have a system based on two major protagonists, a third voice and a plethora of voiceless others. Prior to the Internet it was very difficult to generate a political movement with traction without geographical proximity, this is no longer the case and as long as the more progressive thinkers remain isolated from the main debate, we can expect little more than much of the same. To think that 280,000 citizens can vote for a party as with the Greens yet they cannot get a seat in our parliament is frankly ridiculous.

2.Social equality

Social inequality continues to increase, the gap between rich and poor is ever widening. I do not support enforced equalisation more an ethics driven programme to encourage our society to want to make things more inclusive and fairer. The introduction of a minimum wage was a start, imposing a maximum may not be socially acceptable at present but certainly this should be the case in public service and private sector companies with widely disproportionate salary structures, should be registered publically as lacking in corporate social responsibility.

As individuals however we must take a close look at ourselves, there was a time when the aristocracy represented the obscenely rich but then the gap between the remainder of the people was not so great as to lead to significant social fragmentation and isolation. How times of changed and I believe that we the populous have had a significant hand in creating it. We chose on the one hand to support the notion of celebrity and then to vicariously associate ourselves with them, by following their every trial and tribulation through the media and even by altering our very personal appearance to mimic them, on the other we through share ownership, pension planning and home buying decided to give the bankers the license to do whatever they wanted with our money, so long as we believed that we were prospering as a consequence. We now chose to turn on the bankers because they can still make a profit, no matter what happens to our money. Furthermore the introduction of the national lottery and talent shows promising instant celebrity leaves many of us under the delusion that it could reasonably be considered as a possibility for any of us. It is difficult for our psychology to hold an abhorrence of excess whilst we dream of enjoying it for ourselves.

Citizenship brings with it responsibility as well as privilege, if we want a just society we must be prepared to make our contribution proportionally to our means. For political parties, consideration and leadership in this area must be a priority, irrespective of the more influential contributors or beneficiaries of their past political ideals.


Our education system, which has changed little since its inception, was designed to produce a profile of skills and expectations which met society’s perceived requirements, since the industrial revolution this has focussed principally on those able to fill and manage factories, businesses, farms, government institutions and other corporations. These institutions in the main were based on hierarchies and as such, a competition, subject and ability based model was sufficient. This was in a time when the notion of ‘jobs for life’ existed and towns often grew up around industries or mining and the local family and social infrastructure was sustained by these expectations. No longer, the UK is unclear about it future competence and value add, unemployment in the young is disproportionately high and rising. People’s sense of security in society is diminishing; the use of recreational drugs, binge drinking and anti-social behaviour is rising. These are different times calling for a radically different approach.

I would support an education policy which until the age of ten focuses solely on the three R’s and the development of personal life and citizen skills. Then transitioning into a more diverse interest based approach from 12 onward. I would want every child to have the opportunity to find something they both enjoy and can excel at. In terms of ability, I would assess children simply to determine who needed more support than others, rather than fast tracking bright children, I would give them the skills to coach those who find things more difficult. Schools are the very cornerstone of the society we build for the future and must mirror inclusiveness, diversity and mutual support. In these dynamic times we do not know what skills and traits will be needed in the future and therefore we cannot afford to switch off or discount children who do not easily fit today’s paradigm.


Whilst our health service is one of the best in the world it is increasingly proving to be out dated in design and practice. It would appear that this has been recognised for some time, as evidenced by the increased funding, building of new facilities and constant organisational change. This aside, if you talk to health professionals their dissatisfaction with the service and conditions they work under has never been higher. It seems to me we are asking too much of the organisation, principally it is a service designed to treat and where possible cure people who are ill but they are also being asked to focus attention on prevention rather than cure. Doctors are trained to diagnose and fix not manage well-being, in fact in most cases the ability to do both are mutually exclusive, one being about control the other freedom, choice and self-responsibility. Added to this the government and it’s hoards of external consultants have tried to introduce F.W.Taylor based organisational redesign and metrics to a system which ethically wants to save an individual life irrespective of cost or targets. Hospital managers now compete with each other for equipment, positive press and the like, this is very resource inefficient, health care must be first rate, independent of geography with resources distributed and shared to meet the needs of the constituent population. The split of commissioning from service provision, as a service improvement initiative, is naive at best and irresponsible at worst. Practitioners are now required to spend a disproportionate amount of their time justifying their capabilities rather than treating patients. Is it any wonder that despite massive investment, the patient experience is not improving significantly?

I believe that the health service should be broken into two distinct and separate organisations: a Medical service and a Well-being service. The medical service should focus on remedial curative work and the Well-being service preventative work, seeking to reduce the number of people needing to access the Medical service. The Medical service should be funded and commissioned nationally based on the constituent population and that the Well-being service should be funded centrally but should be commissioned locally using non-statutory providers under the personalisation model.

5.Public finances

Whilst we must improve our public finance position and reduce unnecessary expenditure this cannot be done as a ‘knee jerk’ programme, services need time to re-adjust and to plan to protect provision and employees need time to re-train or find alternative employment. There are probably a number of initiatives in some departments which could be cut without much detrimental fall out but in the larger organisations time will be needed to manage the transition, if excessive wasted time and money let alone service degradation is to be avoided.

To this end, I would support an approach which involved a two year detailed review and re-alignment of public expenditure. This is not to say we should not cut expenditure immediately a suitable opportunity is identified but that we should take a longer term view. In addition, I would change the budgeting cycle for essential frontline services to provide minimum guaranteed funding levels over a five year period to allow managers to plan service development over a sensible timeframe. This should then be reviewed annually to identify supplementary needss or significant changes in service requirements. These five year plan minimum commitments should be legally binding irrespective of changes in government or policy. If we cannot take a five year view of the development of our social infrastructure what hope do we have? I would suggest that 80% of the available budget be allocated in this way and that 20% be retained centrally for situational flexibility.

To buy the necessary time, I would support a two year freeze on all service budgets at a maximum of today’s levels, a freeze on all public sector pay for the same period and a cap on staffing at today’s levels. With regards to staffing, as departments are downsized I would want to see, where possible staff re-trained and moved between departments to fill any vacancies arising through natural staff turnover. In addition, I would encourage the imposition of a maximum salary limit for any public sector employee.

It is time that the public service is seen as single ‘service’ organisation, we cannot afford for departmental chiefs to be vying for increased personal power due to departmental size or budget. The service must work in an integrated way to best serve our nation. I would advocate for a Head of Public Services who can be held accountable for the end to end performance of all departments.

6.The armed forces

I think it is time we recognised that our exploitative colonial days are over; we are a nation of 60 Million in a world of 7 Billion, what makes us still believe we are the arbiters of right and wrong and that we should use force to impose it on others? I posit that it is purely historical longing; it is time for us to draw back from our aggressively assertive ways. If I were a cynic, I’d say the last four wars we have been involved in were simply because a political party either wanted to be re-elected or curry favour with the Americans.

I believe we should totally revolutionise not only our armed forces but the purpose they serve. We should never enter a full scale military conflict again unless as a part of a UN deployment. I suggest that we should combine all our armed services and then split them into two distinct organisations with a different purpose. One should be a fully integrated traditional fighting force ready to be deployed in the world when the UN deems it necessary and the other a dedicated multi service corps specialised in anti-terrorist/insurgency operations which acts to surgically deal with immediate or potential threat in a way which minimises collateral damage.

Were we to do this, over time, I believe could cut our military expenditure by at least 50%, redeploying both personnel and financial resource towards the Police and the Secret services to better tackle both organised crime and any residual terrorist threat.

I believe that we would reduce the extent of the threat of terrorist action, if we stopped acting outside a mandated UN operation. I recognise this would require the UN to take a more active role in protecting the World’s citizens and their rights but this I feel is the only way to build a global consensus of what it is or is not acceptable to inflict upon one’s neighbours or citizens. It would also de-politicise and I hope eventually, remove the cause for war.

In the hope that our troops are seldom deployed on active duty, I would also use them to manage and deliver eco/social projects whilst offering training opportunities to the unemployed. In essence, we need a modern army for a modern society, peace and protection should be our watch words.

Finally, I would immediately and unilaterally decommission our entire nuclear capability.


There must be a radical overhaul of the banking system, in a sense we need to get back to the original banking ethos. Banks do not create wealth they simply redistribute it based on information and opinion. As such they will never solve a problem but have a valuable role in identifying and supporting those which can. Banks should be there to serve the public and the world at large, they should be experts in financial analysis, risk management and contingency planning, it must become a profession once again perhaps even a vocation. There is no place for an entrepreneurial bank striving to maximise profits for its shareholders, in so doing they are simply taking money off the top without contributing to the general social good. Banking is not an industry, it is a management discipline.

The UK has a lot to answer for, we claim that we were victims of the recent financial crisis based on American mismanagement, this is laughable, we created the model for the system and the Americans simply took it a little further along its trajectory. We protected and de-regulated it because it was our largest contributor to GDP, all political parties courted their key players, we the people believe that although our national production was falling and our trade deficit increasing that somehow we were special because we knew how to work the global finance system, wrong! There is latency in everything; we were simply living on borrowed time. Ask yourself this, after what we are told has been an unparalleled period of economic prosperity, what does this country do better than any other? I would answer nothing, my hope is that we acknowledge this and decide to pull together to redefine and deliver our value, in a way that contributes to the good of all.

Whilst all else is transitioning around us, we need to work across all the nations of the world to develop a global banking system which can be relied upon to fairly attribute value and protect us all as best can be, until we work out a better way of co-existing with Earth’s system.

8.Energy security

I believe that the UK could become the world leader in clean energy sustainability; the human imprint on this planet has principally been built on ‘borrowed sunlight’, namely fossil fuels. It is only in the last 250 years that we have used oil and coal in vast quantities to provide the power source for the industrial revolution. These fossil fuels have been formed by the decay of living organisms over 4 Billion years, over 99.999% of the energy which supported the growth of these organisms came from the sunlight falling on the planet over this period. The first industrial oil well was sunk in 1859, now 150 years later we are probably past peak oil which means we have consumed not only 50% there is to be consumed but also the 50% most easily accessed. In simple terms, in 150 years we have consumed 2 Billion years worth of sunlight; that scares me. Not to mention the impact that burning these fossil fuels has and more importantly will have, on climate change.

In the UK we are fortunate to live on an island surrounded by a sea with active tides; we enjoy lively weather systems with their consequent winds and moderate levels of sunlight, all of which can be harnessed to produce sustainable energy. This is something we must fully embrace and embrace now, we cannot afford to be protectionist about our own particular area of countryside, wherever we can harness maximum energy we must do it, yes we need to be sympathetic to aesthetics wherever possible but not at the expense of generating the energy we need. The way we produce energy today is doing far more damage than the any blot on a landscape a wind farm may appear to some. In parallel with finding alternative sources of energy we need to drastically cut our overall energy consumption. This should include a national programme for the development and support of domestic sustainable energy installation and energy loss measures. In addition, a far more radical review of where we expend energy and how to mitigate this must be undertaken, I would envisage this would include reducing the amount of travelling each of us does particularly in relation to our work, increased localisation of food and goods production, reduction in the working week, increased co-operation across diverse industries involving the sharing of energy resources and material transportation.

9.Food surety

As global food availability continues to be increasingly outstripped by demand, as a nation we must work towards a goal off being food self-sufficient. Considering that on average we throw away 35% of the food that we purchase there is a vast contribution to this goal to be made by responsible planning of our individual use of food. Over and above this many of the foods we choose to import can be grown here both in and out of season by using waste heat energy from our industrial processes. The supermarket revolution has also led us to believe that food is an ever present an abundant resource in the world, nothing could be further from the truth. We no longer relate to and respect our food as we once did, this trend must be reversed. Vegetables in season, meat and fish in moderation would go a long way to contributing to the required solution. Becoming both food and energy self sufficient would help us in terms of GNP and sustainability, I for one would welcome the UK being recognised as front runners in the transition towards sustainability and ecological balance.


As previously mentioned, I believe we need to bring in policies which promote cross industry co-operation in the use and management of both resource and waste; often one business’s waste can be another’s resource. I also believe that we need to reduce competitive pressure in our economy. If you take a step back to consider things, the net output of most industries remains much the same independent of the level of competition but the more competition there is the more effort or resource is expended for the same end result, consumption not being increased by competitive pressure. Whilst competition can occasionally result in an innovative leap which shifts the very ground of the industry, more often than not there are small increases in efficiencies due to price pressure. Whilst this may make sense for an individual company, it does not at the level of the industry when available resources are being depleted at a greater rate than that of efficiency gains. For this reason I would support policies which seek to increase the term of any contract, based on fixed pricing and service level agreements, allowing companies to work on future innovation which delivers increased sustainability rather than worrying about investment risk and constant competition. This would not reduce competitive innovation simply reduce waste and encourage business to take a longer view whilst providing more workforce and market stability. I also believe that should the frequency of competitive activity be reduced and the timescale for planning increased then the hours people would have to work would be significantly reduced without any economic loss.

11.Asset and infrastructure management

It is an absolute priority that we develop an integrated transportation strategy which optimises the use of infrastructure and minimise energy consumption. This cannot be looked at in isolation, if the information infrastructure is the nervous system of our country; transportation is both the blood and endocrine system. Without understanding the optimum organisation of the body and its behaviour in its environment, how can we hope to design the system required to support its operation?

One of the biggest issues we face is the concentration of employment and opportunity in a few key cities whilst our population is far more diversely spread. We are already the most densely populated country in Europe and it is imperative that we begin a process of redistributing wealth creating activities to the regions. London’s effective suburbs now stretch out to a circumference of over 100 miles from its centre, why is this? Perhaps because it was only 30 years or so ago that we began sending telexes and we psychologically cannot change as fast as the technology we develop can enable us. If you consider how easy it now is to relocate a non manufacturing business, without necessarily moving employees who can work in satellites or remotely, surely it makes sense to cut out so much unnecessary travelling from the perspectives of energy conservation, carbon emission reduction and work/life balance. We also need to reconsider road utilisation, rather than building new roads to increase capacity more thought should go into to how they are used. I see no reason why road haulage could not be restricted to between 8pm and 6am; this would significantly improve traffic flows and reduce emissions without the need to further impact the countryside.

Under no circumstances would I support the building of any new airport or expansions of the same, if we redistribute our commercial spread then there is more than enough capacity in regional airports which would also facilitate travel options for the non business traveller, whilst reducing demand on London’s airports.

Housing and planning policy must also change, I believe there should be an absolute moratorium on green field development, enough is enough. We have not only the technology but also duty to clean up disused brown field sites; we should regenerate urban conurbations making them once again attractive to a diverse range of people. The present government intended to build around 235,000 new homes a year from 2007 to 2013 why? So far they are achieving half that number which suggests there are currently over 800,000 homeless people, which is blatantly not the case. We cannot prop up our economy by simply building more, eventually housing will be near worthless, we will have no building trade and no countryside left to feed us. Let’s improve the existing housing stock, we must also address our society’s issues which results in so many single people needing accommodation. We should discourage out off town shopping complexes these homogenise our sense of place, reduce the opportunity for local enterprise and turn town centres into a series of franchise fast food and drinking outlets. Britain was once admired for its heritage and regional diversity; it is rapidly becoming a theme park recreation of American excess.


I would like to see VAT remain at its current level and introduce and Environmental Impact Tax (EIT) for goods which cannot demonstrate that they are entirely sustainable. This I suggest should initially have three bands at 2.5%, 5% and 10% depending on the environmental impact and availability of a sustainable alternative. I would hope that this tax would be used to pay additional subsidies on a means tested basis to the unemployed, those on income support, pensioners and people receiving tax credits to ensure that they are able to meet the increased cost of living this will create.

I would support an increase in the level of income tax increasing from the current threshold for 40% taxation at a rate of 1% for every additional £10,000 of income to a maximum of 60%.

I would hold National insurance at today’s levels using the income tax increases to cover any deficit whilst total government spending was reduced during the two year review mentioned earlier.

13.Social security

My belief is that we must take a greater degree of collective responsibility for our entire society, it is not acceptable to see those who cannot work or do not work as worthless spongers. Some people because of ill health cannot work but can still contribute, some people because they have in some way been failed do not fit into the work ethic and some people have family to care for, be they children, partners or parents making them unavailable to work. I believe we should call it the Social support system; the aim should be to help people live a happy and contributory life. There are many who with the right support can find employment and would feel much better for it but this takes time, encouragement, support and respect. Too often we brand the faceless unemployed as lazy, when it is probably closer to the truth that they have been under privileged all their lives and have not had the support and encouragement that many of us have taken for granted.

Research shows that people who work are happier, have a better quality of life and make and sustain better relationships. Being unemployed is seldom a choice, despite what the Daily Mail might say, more often than not, it’s due to lack of opportunity, confidence, competence, social expectation or a combination of some or all of these. We must find ways of bring these disenfranchised people back into the fold. All those who can work, through good support and a re-organisation of our national working practice can be found jobs, those who have caring responsibilities should be valued and rewarded fairly for that and those who are unable to work due to ill health should not only be well cared for but also made to feel an equal in society.

I hope you find the above thought provoking, if so please share them...

Monday, 15 March 2010

Little Britain: The Serpent and the Cleft stick

I choose this metaphor to illustrate my sense of the UK and the majority of democratic political systems over the last few hundred years. It seems to me that the serpent represents both individual politicians and their parties, desire to gain and wield power and a belief at all levels, that the arms of the cleft stick which will help them rise still further in power are, competition and growth.

Competition narrows the field as the spoils go to the victor who is then better resourced to compete again. This imbalance in the field leads to an impoverishment of diversity and true innovation, merely propagating improvement in efficiencies and rigour which may yield benefit in the management of a production line but not in the development of a society or the release of human potential.

The pursuit of endless growth, strives for increased consumption, GDP and market share bringing with it economic clout but this in turn leads to exploitation of those on whose toil, lands or resources that growth depends. This focus on growth and accumulation rather than development and sustainability leads to widening social inequalities within and between nations and citizens, resulting in distrust, resentment and general discord.

All the above is set in the context of a world of finite and reducing natural capital on which not only our entire global economic system but our very existence as a species depends.

Perhaps the most disturbing consequence of this kind of politics is the impact it has on the attitudes and behaviours of the individual citizen. We are driven to express our identities through growth in our consumption and competition in our status. This is no worse, than in the home of competitive individualism namely America, if every person on the planet lived as they do, we would need 4 planet Earth’s to sustain today’s population, the figure for Europeans is around 2.5 and growing. The global over consumption is only moderated, in part, by the more populous developing nations such as China and India who average consumption approximates to the Earth’s capacity, however the rate of increase in these nations is growing more rapidly than anywhere else. As a global aggregate we are currently running about 20% above anything that is sustainable.

Life has existed on Earth for some 4 Billion years and Homo sapiens arrived about 40,000 years ago. If we translate life on Earth into one year, we arrived 30 seconds before midnight on the 31st of December and our population took 29.5 of those seconds to reach 1 billion and has increased to almost 7 Billion in the last 0.5 of a second. It is estimated that by 2050 our population will grow by a further 50%. One doesn’t have to be very adept at mathematics to realise that if global consumption per capita continues to increase and we add another 3.5 Billion consumers, then the cupboard will rapidly become bare.

In my next blog I will be putting forward ideas that we in the UK could start implementing to bring about a change in our approach, as we seek longer term solutions to transition away from this wholly unsustainable model. Suffice to say here that I believe that Politicians, as our elected representatives and governors of our society, must take the lead. They must set aside their competitive, party based combative dogma and work together to address the needs of our time.

Returning to the original metaphor, I would hope that sooner rather than later the Serpent will represent our ability to develop political influence and that the cleft stick will illustrate how genuine collaboration and meaningful contribution might raise our politicians up to a vantage point which would increase the scope and quality of their vision, insight, leadership and consequent governance.

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Uncertainty: The gift of creation

“The quest for certainty blocks the search for meaning. Uncertainty is the very condition to impel man to unfold his powers.”
Erich Fromm

Uncertainty is a key characteristic of complex systems, the world in which we live being just such a system. The existence of such uncertainty must not only guide our future actions but might also be a source of true enrichment of our lives. As the above quotation suggests I believe our current prevalent desire for control as a source of certainty is actually preventing us from living truly meaningful lives. Life itself grew out of uncertainty and chaos and is to some extent sustained by it, if you stop to wonder at the world it is the unexpected which is truly captivating. It is the unexpected that gives us the most pleasure; it encourages us to develop as people. If we could only let go of our desire for certainty, be that in what will happen or what we believe, we might find a wonderful array of new possibilities.

The world is pregnant with possibility, as are we, when was the last time there was a paradigm shift in the way human beings choose to behave or see things. If we are to radically change, then the systems and structures which govern almost everything we do must change too, with that will come massive uncertainty and unless we are able to positively embrace it we will be driven back with fear, and like the proverbial ostrich bury our collective heads in the sand and say the threat really isn’t there. We’ve been doing that for the last 20 years and we are now firmly on the tonight’s menu.

Today's most powerful people benfit from things being as they are and use our innate fear of the unknown to support our 'devil we know' attitude, rest assured if they continue to prevail and we do not move a way from a consumer driven economic model the degree of uncertainty that will be visited upon us all will be beyond imagination. The extremely wealthy may be able to protect themselves but not their offspring. Death does not discriminate....

The Earth: An unconcerned observer

“I would feel more optimistic about a bright future for man if he spent less time proving that he can outwit Nature and more time tasting her sweetness and respecting her seniority.”

Elwyn Brooks White

I feel a deep resonance with James Lovelock’s notion of Gaia, whilst on one level it is metaphorical in that it suggests the Earth’s biota is a sentient being, I believe it is helpful conceptually for us to consider it as such since it offers us the opportunity to identify with it and develop a better way of relating to it. However, I believe we also need to recognise the hard truth of the matter, the Earth does not care about us, we have evolved out of the complex history of life on Earth but we are not essential to it, in fact nothing much is, certainly nothing that is alive. Species have come and gone throughout the ages based on their ability to adapt to or survive in the every changing environment on Earth. We seem to believe that we are somehow special, more important than other creatures, perhaps we are but only in so much as we have developed the ability to cause so much harm. The point we must remember is that life on Earth will continue well after our extinction, yes it may look very different and there may be time needed to recover from the impact of humankind but it will indeed happen.

The real concern therefore is not for the good of the Earth, it is for the good of ourselves because we are the only ones who really have a vested interest. I believe we need to start to see this as an issue for Mankind’s survival and not about saving the planet, an irritant we may be but a long term threat we are not. If people truly believed that their children and grand children were going to suffer terribly they may actually be willing to re-examine what really matters to them and forgo their desire for more and settle for being more. I truly believe that we are living at a pivotal point in human history, they say that the night is darkest just before the dawn and looking at our world today with all it’s crisis’s including global terrorism, social unrest, corporate exploitation, political nepotism, environmental devastation and climate change to name but a few, things certainly look extremely dark to me. So what might the dawn bring? Perhaps a time where we meet in our sameness and not in our difference, a realisation that we all need to collaborate to avert the impending disaster and in so doing, we might actually learn that there is a different, more meaningful, morally richer way of relating to each other and the world around us. If, like Martin Luther King, I had a dream, this would be it.

The role of religion and spirituality

“The more I study religions the more I am convinced that man never worshipped anything but himself.”
Richard Francis Burton

“Love the animals, love the plants, love everything. If you love everything, you will perceive the divine mystery in things. Once you perceive it, you will begin to comprehend it better every day. And you will come at last to love the whole world with an all-embracing love.”
Fyodor Dostoyevsky

I am not concerned here with the veracity of any of the assertions made by particular religions or spiritual philosophies but with the influence religion and spirituality has and can wield. The major religions of this world directly impact the beliefs and behaviours of billions of people, I wonder what their original founders might have to say about the way we are behaving relative to the world at large today. I am also fascinated by the apparent growth in alternative spiritual practices which seem to me to be symptomatic of a sense of dissatisfaction with the experience of everyday living. I wonder if we don’t have an innate need to connect with a higher sense of purpose and meaning, as a context in which to set the experience of our individual lives. If this is true then perhaps much of that context could be provided through our relationship with the planet we call home..

It seems to me that all the different religions and spiritual paths extol the virtues of respect for all living things and the divine creation. For various reasons surrounding power and influence these seem to be subservient to the proliferation of each particular doctrine and the mandate it offers their leaders.

I choose to think of 'creation' instead of God thereby removing the tendency to anthropromorphise, I am then better able to treat everything that occurs in the universe as part of an emergent process. As I am part of this 'creation' my role is to participate in a way that is respectful of and sympathetic with, everything else.

When I consider the way that different human societies and cultures have behaved to date, I am left in no doubt that we are far from being contributory to the 'whole'. I am changing my perspective and am beginning to experience a little of the immense beauty that is undoubtedly enfolded in the gift of creation.

The more one cares for, the more one is cared for...... Enjoy!