Monday, 30 January 2012

Happy Birthday Ed Abbey January 29 (1927)

Today is the birthday of that Reluctant Enthusiast; the Archdruid of Environmentalism; the Half-Hearted Fanatic, Ed Abbey.

Not everyone will agree but I say his work has inspired a move toward a more holistic understanding of fairness and care in the United States. Thanks to his radical views and fantastic writing abilities, millions of young americans have been inspired, supported, and even transformed into environmentalists.

I started reading his work while I was a student at Sterling College in Craftsbury Common, Vermont.  I read this poem for the first time on a Greyhound bus headed north to Maine. I was leaving a summer of sailing on SoundWaters, a little Schooner in the Long Island Sound where I had been working with an environmental education NGO. One of my shipmates had stuffed the letter into my seabag next to Abbey's 'Monkey Wrench Gang'. - It was a long letter and I found it there in my seabag in Massachusetts. I cried like a baby through Rhode Island and New Hampshire and when I finally got to Mid Coast Maine, inspired, I hiked up all the hills in Camden National Park and went right back to sea on the Morning in Maine with Bob Pratt and in pulling boats with HIOBS.

So, here is Ed Abbey's advice:

One final paragraph of advice: do not burn yourselves out. Be as I am – a reluctant enthusiast….a part-time crusader, a half-hearted fanatic. Save the other half of yourselves and your lives for pleasure and adventure. It is not enough to fight for the land; it is even more important to enjoy it. While you can. While it's still here. So get out there and hunt and fish and mess around with your friends, ramble out yonder and explore the forests, climb the mountains, bag the peaks, run the rivers, breathe deep of that yet sweet and lucid air, sit quietly for a while and contemplate the precious stillness, the lovely, mysterious, and awesome space. Enjoy yourselves, keep your brain in your head and your head firmly attached to the body, the body active and alive, and I promise you this much; I promise you this one sweet victory over our enemies, over those desk-bound men and women with their hearts in a safe deposit box, and their eyes hypnotized by desk calculators. I promise you this; You will outlive the bastards.

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Truancy in the United States

In his third State of the Union address the President Obama has proposed that all states require that all students must go to high school until they are 18. I loved the speech today.  but I take issue with this point. I am a high school drop out and am very grateful for the experiences I had in the school of hard knocks.

In 1967 Timothy Leary said "My advice to people today is as follows: if you take the game of life seriously, if you take your nervous system seriously, if you take your sense organs seriously, if you take the energy process seriously, you must turn on, tune in, and drop out." and 30 years later one of my friends in the park in Camden Maine told me the same thing. It changed my life and I started making decisions for myself. They lead me down some crazy hard roads with a lot of hard knocks. Dropping out of High School was a scary and wonderful experience which set me up for a good life. Sailing and doing heavy labor for a few years really taught me a lot about life and helped me to find out who I am and what matters to me. Things I could never have learned in a educational system.

In fact, about seven thousand students in the United States drop out every school day. Many of them are doing it to go to work, to take care of children, or are forced by other hard and unfortunate circumstances. However, there are some of us who do it because we need to go and learn for ourselves. I think what was missing for me in school was the character building of free expression and an openness to my own personal shortcomings and 'failures'. I needed a lot of real failure and self destructive and hard traveling to get to know something about who I am.

Without question, dropping out of high school was good for me. My life is better in every way because of it. If the states are going to start to require Truancy for people up to 18 years they should ensure character building aspects of education. Schools should allow students to do free projects in hard work and hard traveling. Some of us can't just take the teacher's word for things, we need experiential education in getting caught up deep in the consequences of our actions to understand ourselves and our role in the world.

As Mark Twain said: “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Inspiring Speeches on Martin Luther King Day

Listening to the Dharma talks today from both Jordan Thorn at the San Francisco Zen Center and Gil Fronsdal at the Insight Meditation Center I was inspired to watch Dr. Martin Luther King give his 1963 'I have a Dream' speech again in Washington. This in turn inspired me to watch Charlie Chaplin's very inspirational speech in the film 'The Great Dictator' released shortly after the start of WW2. In it he is a Jewish barber and is somehow mistaken for 'The Great Dictator' (In this movie called 'Henzel'). 

Friday, 20 January 2012

Organic Agriculture and Sustainable Development

The debate continues about the sustainability of Organic agriculture as compared to conventional.

It seems that the best way to move forward is to spread the word and the science. It is critical that we spread the word that unsustainable yields of GM crops will not solve food shortage issues. Organic is a much more sustainable solution for agricultural production in developing countries. Organic often out performs conventional and it creates opportunities within the development context. The International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM) has a brief on food security and Organic agriculture which lays out the basic facts. The research clearly shows that Organic is a viable and sustainable solution. A study done in 2008 by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP-UNCTAD) Capacity-building Task Force on Trade, Environment and Development found that Organic has great potential and actually contributes to food security in Africa. The Environment and Natural Resources Service Sustainable Development Department found that Organic is a viable solution for development as it contributes to to ecological health, international markets and local food security. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) International Conference on Organic Agriculture and Food Security in 2007 pointed out the many facets of the potential for Organic to contribute to food security around the world.

The following literature offers more support for Organic in a development context:

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Milarepa's Song on Having no Posessions

The Economic Times of India are running a post today pointing out the current struggle of the monks of Tibet. - China is now comparing them to Li Hongzhi's Falun Dafa and the monks are reacting with suicide by self immolation.

In the midst of all this I was reading some works from Milarepa. Here is something I came across this morning; a meeting with the King of Kathmandu; something to think about amid all the talk about Tibet and China, Dharamsala and the world.

Where is Tibet?

Milarepa's Song:

"I have no desire for wealth or possessions, and so I have nothing. I do not experience the initial suffering of having to accumulate possessions, the intermediate suffering of having to guard and keep up possessions, nor the final suffering of loosing the possessions. This is a wonderful thing. I have no desire for friends or relations. I do not experience the initial suffering of forming an attachment, the intermediate suffering of having disagreements with friends and family, nor the final suffering of parting with them. Therefore it is good to be without friends and relations. I have no desire for pleasant conversation. I do not experience the initial suffering of beginning conversation, the intermediate suffering of wondering whether to continue the conversation, nor the final suffering of the conversation deteriorating. Therefore I do not delight in pleasant conversation. I have no desire for a home land and have no fixed residence. I do not experience the initial suffering of partiality of thinking that 'this is my land and that place isn't.' I do not experience the intermediate suffering of yearning for my land. And I do not experience the final suffering of having to protect my land. Therefore I do not have a fixed abode."

Global communications and personal freedom

There is a new message moving through to warn internet users about the evils of Google, Facebook and Paypal. They encourage the use of non profit Firefox rather than Google Chrome.

The gist of the email is that the corporate interests are using our information for marketing. "Email companies such as Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail, etc. offer great free services, but in exchange, they sell all information sent through their service (through emails, passwords, attachments, etc) to top marketing firms around the world, who then use this information to bombard and pollute our lives and the world with GARBAGE."

However, I am skeptical of the evils of the internet data. - Isn't it possible that if we collect enough data on spending and activities we begin to learn a lot about who we are? - With the steering of the MDG and well intentioned governments, activist groups and NGOs, it could be that the data gathered through the internet can help us to make the world a better place.

See for more on the amazing power and potential good of statistics.

The internet is possibly the biggest thing humans have come up with since religion and it might soon become smart. Maybe we can use that smartness to make real positive change - groups like Avaaz, EnvironmentAmerica and (today's victory with the Keystone pipeline is a great example of the power of good use of the internet) and the collective organization and networking of and are all examples of how the internet is making big positive changes, transforming lives!

As Al Gore pointed out with his Internet 2.0 idea the internet can also be a tool for good. The internet is helping the environmental and social justice movements in a HUGE way!

In the late 1990s and early 2000s we were networking through the post. It was expensive and slow. I was getting a few bits of mail a year from many organizations with as many as one a week from the well funded groups like Habitat for Humanity, WWF and Greenpeace. I signed the petitions and sent what little money I could to support the campaigns.

Today I am informed about issues as I sit at my morning coffee... Sometimes I sign a few petitions a day and make donations (still small but) on a regular basis to all the movements I feel strongly about..
So I would ask of they are being properly precautionary or paranoid. Is the internet really a problem or could it be a boon‽

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

The Facebook group "Hurricane Island Outward Bound School"

The Hurricane Island Outward Bound School is changing the world one incredible experience at a time. 

When I was there as an instructor I had my world completely transformed and saw a lot of people turn their lives around, young and old. 

Check it out. 

Hurricane Island Outward Bound School has been upgraded to the new groups format, which makes it easier for members to connect and share.
What can you do in your group?
Members can post and comment on updates, chat with everyone at once, schedule group events, create shared docs, and more.

Kuan Yin's Prayer for the Abuser

We just listened to a Scottish Zen buddhist Minister Jana Drakka giving a talk at the San Francisco Zen Center.

She spent some time being homeless with PTSD after a bad relationship and spoke from her experience and from her practice about how to practice loving kindness even with difficult people. 

This seemed an appropriate poem, a kind of meditation to start the fire breathing dragon year. 

Kuan Yin's Prayer for the Abuser

To those who withhold refuge,
I cradle you in safety at the core of my Being.

To those that cause a child to cry out,
I grant you the freedom to express your own choked agony.

To those that inflict terror,
I remind you that you shine with the purity of a thousand suns.

To those who would confine, suppress, or deny,
I offer the limitless expanse of the sky.

To those who need to cut, slash, or burn,
I remind you of the invincibility of Spring.

To those who cling and grasp,
I promise more abundance than you could ever hold onto.

To those who vent their rage on small children,
I return to you your deepest innocence.

To those who must frighten into submission,
I hold you in the bosom of your original mother.

To those who cause agony to others,
I give the gift of free flowing tears.

To those that deny another's right to be,
I remind you that the angels sang in celebration of you on the day of your birth.

To those who see only division and separateness,
I remind you that a part is born only by bisecting a whole.

For those who have forgotten the tender mercy of a mother's embrace,
I send a gentle breeze to caress your brow.

To those who still feel somehow incomplete,
I offer the perfect sanctity of this very moment.

Thursday, 12 January 2012


Lately I have been listening to a lot of Thich Nhat Hahn ('Being Peace' and 'Touching the Earth') and have just read His Holiness the Dalai Lama's 'How to Expand Love: Widening the Circle of Loving Relationships'. These works have made me aware of a meditation on love and kindness called Metta. According to the research of Karen Armstrong's 'A History of God' and the work of the Dalai Lama, Metta, or loving kindness, is the basic teaching of all major religious traditions.

Karen Armstrong was recently awarded the TED Prize and is asking for people to affirm the 'Charter for Compassion'. The charter is a call for morality and compassion to return to the center of spiritual and political activity. According to the teachings of Armstrong and H. H. Dalai Lama compassion is actually the heart of religion and politics. The golden rule, for instance, was taught by Confucius 500 BC. He said: "Do not impose on others what you do not wish for yourself."

Watch Karen Armstrong's TED Talk:

Affirm the 'Charter for Compassion':

Read more about 'How to Expand Love: Widening the Circle of Loving Relationships'.

Read excerpts from 'Being Peace':

Check out the guided meditation from 'Touching the Earth':

Finally, here is a quote from 'The Confucian Analects':
"Recompense injury with justice, and recompense kindness with kindness."