Archive for the ‘Spirituality’ Category
I’m referring to the journey within.
Last Friday I offered a post under the title of The power of stillness. It was founded on a recent essay seen in the newsletter called Just One Thing published, freely, by Dr. Rick Hanson. Here’s the closing paragraph of that essay:
Wherever you find it, enjoy stillness and let it feed you. It’s a relief from the noise and bustle, a source of clarity and peace. Give yourself the space, the permission, to be still – at least in your mind – amidst those who are busy. To use a traditional saying:
May that which is still
be that in which your mind delights.
There’s a very strong correlation between finding that stillness within and having the self-awareness and peace that comes from knowing who one is. Seems such an easy ‘walk in the park’ to know ourselves but most times it is far from that. Many are the ways that we hide who we really are! ;-)
However the rewards are everything. Knowing and liking oneself offers the richest scenery of any journey.
All of which constitutes my way of introducing a truly wonderful poem from Sue Dreamwalker, a great friend of this blog.
Come with me on a journey it starts inside my head
Create a place to dwell from all the Fear and dread
Close your eyes and behind them create a perfect vision
Build a garden full of beauty get ready for your transition
Sit upon the grass as sky lark sings above
Hold out your hand to feed the many cooing Doves
See the babbling stream as the young fawn drinks her fill
And listen to the Woodpecker’s distant woodland drill
Watch the tiny fishes as the light glistens from their scales
You’re now adrift in the ocean, as you watch the Humpback Whales
You listen to their song a lament as old as time
Each breath takes you deeper as your Spirit begins to climb
Now you are on a mountain its top all crisp and white
You fly among the Eagles suspended in effortless flight
Thermals take you higher as you travel within its ring
Higher yet you travel, more peace to feel and bring
Through the clouds you break into outer-space you speed
Looking back at a Blue Planet which provided all your needs
Weightless and suspended no longer feeling Form
You fly around the heavens exploring each star born.
Filled up now with knowledge no mortal Words could speak
You return back to your garden upon your grassy seat
A new sense of Peace surrounds you as you open up your eyes
You can return in an instant, just open up your mind.
We can travel anywhere we wish when we just close our eyes and allow our mind to relax in a meditation.. Breathe deep and create your perfect space…. The above poem I wrote last week as I recollected part of a meditation.. The view I have included is one taken on a regular walk we often take..Have a fabulous week.
Thank you for Reading
What can one say? All that comes to mind is stay on your own journey and never stop enjoying the views.
Much as I respect Mr. Monbiot’s views, I hope he is wrong in this respect.
I have long admired the writings of George Monbiot and, as often as not, have republished his essays in this place.
But an essay by George that was published in the UK Guardian newspaper yesterday portrays a frightening picture of modern-day Britain. It was called Falling Apart and is republished, with George’s permission, today.
I want to offer a personal response to the essay, that immediately follows George’s piece.
October 14, 2014
Competition and individualism are forcing us into a devastating Age of Loneliness
By George Monbiot, published in the Guardian 15th October 2014
What do we call this time? It’s not the information age: the collapse of popular education movements left a void now filled by marketing and conspiracy theories(1). Like the stone age, iron age and space age, the digital age says plenty about our artefacts but little about society. The anthropocene, in which humans exert a major impact on the biosphere, fails to distinguish this century from the previous twenty. What clear social change marks out our time from those that precede it? To me it’s obvious. This is the Age of Loneliness.
When Thomas Hobbes claimed that in the state of nature, before authority arose to keep us in check, we were engaged in a war “of every man against every man”(2), he could not have been more wrong. We were social creatures from the start, mammalian bees, who depended entirely on each other. The hominims of East Africa could not have survived one night alone. We are shaped, to a greater extent than almost any other species, by contact with others. The age we are entering, in which we exist apart, is unlike any that has gone before.
Three months ago we read that loneliness has become an epidemic among young adults(3). Now we learn that it is just as great an affliction of older people. A study by Independent Age shows that severe loneliness in England blights the lives of 700,000 men and 1.1m women over 50(4), and is rising with astonishing speed.
Ebola is unlikely ever to kill as many people as this disease strikes down. Social isolation is as potent a cause of early death as smoking 15 cigarettes a day(5); loneliness, research suggests, is twice as deadly as obesity(6). Dementia, high blood pressure, alcoholism and accidents – all these, like depression, paranoia, anxiety and suicide, become more prevalent when connections are cut(7,8). We cannot cope alone.
Yes, factories have closed, people travel by car instead of buses, use YouTube rather than the cinema. But these shifts alone fail to explain the speed of our social collapse. These structural changes have been accompanied by a life-denying ideology, which enforces and celebrates our social isolation. The war of every man against every man – competition and individualism in other words – is the religion of our time, justified by a mythology of lone rangers, sole traders, self-starters, self-made men and women, going it alone. For the most social of creatures, who cannot prosper without love, there is now no such thing as society, only heroic individualism. What counts is to win. The rest is collateral damage.
British children no longer aspire to be train drivers or nurses, more than a fifth now say they “just want to be rich”: wealth and fame are the sole ambitions of 40% of those surveyed(9). A government study in June revealed that Britain is the loneliness capital of Europe(10). We are less likely than other Europeans to have close friends or to know our neighbours. Who can be surprised, when everywhere we are urged to fight like stray dogs over a dustbin?
We have changed our language to reflect this shift. Our most cutting insult is loser. We no longer talk about people. Now we call them individuals. So pervasive has this alienating, atomising term become that even the charities fighting loneliness use it to describe the bipedal entities formerly known as human beings(11). We can scarcely complete a sentence without getting personal. Personally speaking (to distinguish myself from a ventriloquist’s dummy), I prefer personal friends to the impersonal variety and personal belongings to the kind that don’t belong to me. Though that’s just my personal preference, otherwise known as my preference.
One of the tragic outcomes of loneliness is that people turn to their televisions for consolation: two-fifths of older people now report that the one-eyed god is their principal company(12). This self-medication enhances the disease. Research by economists at the University of Milan suggests that television helps to drive competitive aspiration(13). It strongly reinforces the income-happiness paradox: the fact that, as national incomes rise, happiness does not rise with them.
Aspiration, which increases with income, ensures that the point of arrival, of sustained satisfaction, retreats before us. The researchers found that those who watch a lot of television derive less satisfaction from a given level of income than those who watch only a little. Television speeds up the hedonic treadmill, forcing us to strive even harder to sustain the same level of satisfaction. You have only to think of the wall-to-wall auctions on daytime TV, Dragon’s Den, the Apprentice and the myriad forms of career-making competition the medium celebrates, the generalised obsession with fame and wealth, the pervasive sense, in watching it, that life is somewhere other than where you are, to see why this might be.
So what’s the point? What do we gain from this war of all against all? Competition drives growth, but growth no longer makes us wealthier. Figures published this week show that while the income of company directors has risen by more than a fifth, wages for the workforce as a whole have fallen in real terms over the past year (14). The bosses now earn – sorry, I mean take – 120 times more than the average full-time worker. (In 2000, it was 47 times). And even if competition did make us richer, it would make us no happier, as the satisfaction derived from a rise in income would be undermined by the aspirational impacts of competition.
The top 1% now own 48% of global wealth(15), but even they aren’t happy. A survey by Boston College of people with an average net worth of $78m found that they too are assailed by anxiety, dissatisfaction and loneliness(16). Many of them reported feeling financially insecure: to reach safe ground, they believed, they would need, on average, about 25% more money. (And if they got it? They’d doubtless need another 25%). One respondent said he wouldn’t get there until he had $1 billion in the bank.
For this we have ripped the natural world apart, degraded our conditions of life, surrendered our freedoms and prospects of contentment to a compulsive, atomising, joyless hedonism, in which, having consumed all else, we start to prey upon ourselves. For this we have destroyed the essence of humanity: our connectedness.
Yes, there are palliatives, clever and delightful schemes like Men in Sheds and Walking Football developed by charities for isolated older people(17). But if we are to break this cycle and come together once more, we must confront the world-eating, flesh-eating system into which we have been forced.
Hobbes’s pre-social condition was a myth. But we are now entering a post-social condition our ancestors would have believed impossible. Our lives are becoming nasty, brutish and long.
“Our lives are becoming nasty, brutish and long.“
As closing sentences go, that’s about as tough as it gets.
Nevertheless, I’m going to offer a perspective, something that George doesn’t mention. That is the importance of community.
Back in 2008 BBC Timewatch screened a programme about the revelations that came from the latest archaeological dig at Stonehenge, near Amesbury in Wiltshire in England. I wrote about the programme over four years ago: Stonehenge – a place of healing.
Stonehenge is one of Britain’s most famous historical sites, deservedly so because Stonehenge was one of the most important places in ancient Europe.
But evidence from a dig that was authorised in 2008 has shown that not only is Stonehenge a much older site of human habitation but that it’s purpose is altogether different to what has been assumed. It was, indeed, a healing place, possibly the most important in Europe.
If you would like to watch that Timewatch episode, and it is highly recommended, then someone has neatly uploaded it to YouTube.
The programme clearly offers evidence from the carbon-dating of seeds buried under the famous blue stones that dates this settlement to some 9,000 years BP. The detailed examination of ancient humans buried nearby indicates they came to Stonehenge with a range of diseases, many terminal in nature.
So back to George Monbiot’s essay and the element that screams out at me.
We have lost sight of the huge healing benefits that come from old-fashioned, shoulder-to-shoulder communities.
Not to mention the healing properties of a loving dog or two in one’s life!
A wonderful message from Sue of Sue Dreamwalker.
Reders will recall that last Saturday, under the post title of And we’re back!, I offered a beautiful story told by the coal-mouse bird about the power of change. It included this sentence: “You see, it takes just one snowflake to make a difference.“
In a very real sense, an example of that power of one snowflake was perfectly conveyed in Sue’s post a few days previously.
Just read it, republished here with Sue’s blessings, and you will understand.
What do you see in this Reality?
Do not your eyes view what is real to see?
Can you not touch the tangible fusion?
Or do we gaze into the ethers of illusion,
What trickery mocks us as we take in the lies
Binding our thoughts in roots of indoctrination
Following the herd, bleating like sheep
Held captive, half asleep.
What happened to the land of the Free?
Conform or suffer, or pay the penalty
What is your reality?
Come, let me walk you through the misty vale.
To where this illusion significantly pales
We are magnificent magicians whose thoughts cast their magic
Where all is possible, where to doubt is tragic
Seek and Find, let go of fear
Dance in joy as Light penetrates your sphere
For you have forgotten our Time’s lost spell
As into the abyss of darkness you dwell.
Open your eyes and open your hearts.
Let the Light dispel all dark
Fear nothing, hate less, and embrace ALL
Seek a new illusion before you fall.
Stop following blindly, grasp hold of Love today
Remember your tomorrows, forget your yesterdays
Reach for the memory held high up in the stars
And heal from within, let go of all your scars
Sit in the silence; begin to know who you are
As illusion drifts away revealing Ancient Stars
Your time is but a moment, live each moment well,
For soon the illusion shatters, broken like a spell.
© Sue Dreamwalker 2010-2014 All rights reserved.
I resurrected this poem which I published 4 years ago.. As it seems we are bombarded on all sides from the negative energies which are being put out..
Detach and spend some time in your Quiet zones of thought.. Bring in the Peace around you, and know that we are Magnificent BEings who have remarkable powers..
The Power of Thought!
What we Think we Create
We are the ones creating the chaos… So choose to create Peace.. Don’t allow yourselves to get caught up within the Fear being put out..
Know your time is but a moment, Live each moment well
For soon the Illusion shatters,
Broken like a Spell.
Enjoy your week
Whatever is going on in the world, whatever has the power to create fear in our minds, in the end it comes down to another power, the power of thought, and our choice of the behaviors that we offer the world.
That is why dogs are so important. Because they almost predominantly love sharing and living their lives in the company of humans.
Do you remember when puppy Oliver came to live with us?
Another picture of Oliver sitting on the lap of yours truly taken in the last couple of days.
I am delighted to present the following guest post from Ruth Nina Welsh.
We seem to be on a bit of a roll in terms of seeking a better self-understanding.
Last Thursday I offered up some thoughts and reflections on meditation Quietening one’s self down and then the following day presented the film Inner worlds, Outer worlds, the wonderful film by Canadian film maker, musician and meditation teacher Daniel Schmidt. Daniel described his film “as the external reflection of his own adventures in meditation.” (And did you read the fascinating comments by ‘R’?)
Anyway, to today.
I forget how Ruth and I made contact with each other but that’s immaterial to today’s guest post. What is material is that we did make contact and through Ruth’s website I became aware of her talents. In her own words:
BE YOUR OWN COUNSELLOR & COACH shares psychology, memoirs and creativity to help and inspire you to live a happier, more fulfilling and purposeful life.
WHO AM I? – I’m a freelance writer, specialising in lifestyle, wellbeing and self-help; a former counsellor & coach and an erstwhile musician. I have a diverse educational background – with degrees in arts and law – but psychology is my passion. You can find out more about me on my personal site.
- As a singer-songwriter, I released my debut acoustic album – As I Breathe – in 2000.
- As a counsellor and coach, I was in private practice from 2008-2011.
- As a freelancer in the publishing field, I’ve been involved as an editor, formatter, copy-editor, proofreader and I’ve also managed book projects and manuscript submissions.
- Now, as a freelance writer, I write articles and guest posts, and continue to build this free online self-help resource.
So back to the connection between Ruth and me.
A couple of weeks ago, Ruth asked me if I would like to publish an essay from her.
I read it and replied without hesitation that I would be honoured to publish said essay.
Thus with no further ado here it is. (And do read to the end to be informed about a very generous free offer from Ruth.)
The Struggle To Be Authentic
Of all the challenges we face in life, the struggle to be authentic is a vital one. It’s not always recognised that being authentic – being true to ourselves – is essential for our own wellbeing and happiness. We struggle with authenticity because it’s often hard to reveal the truth about how we feel. And, as strange as it may seem, sometimes we don’t even know how we truly feel. It can be painful and difficult to begin to speak from a place of truth and to unmask hidden feelings which may be covered over by years of denial, trauma and people pleasing.
How we learn to be authentic in childhood
Being authentic and true to ourselves is not innate; it’s something we learn how to do. We learn from those close to us as we grow up. As children we observe our parents, or others who care for us. We notice how truthful and genuine they are. We also learn that there is power in the gap between how we feel and what we actually reveal to others. During our childhood we sometimes find that it can be unwise to say what we honestly feel or think, it can get us into trouble. Bruising judgements from our parents can mean we stay quiet rather than speak up. If a parent constantly criticises and mocks us it’s likely that we’ll modify our behaviour around them. We’ll try to please them and avoid unnecessary pain by saying what they want to hear – even if this is not our own truth. Not being true to ourselves can also follow a traumatic event where we may feel the need to hide our feelings or bury painful grief. All of these things and more mean that, piece by piece, we can lose connection with ourselves and how we truly feel.
The struggle to be authentic in adulthood
As we leave childhood behind us we take the lessons we learn from it into our adult lives. If we felt unable to speak up truthfully when younger then this usually doesn’t change when we become an adult. We can find ourselves unable to speak up within an intimate relationship, downtrodden in our work life and unable to fully connect in our friendships. Over time, if we keep speaking the words only others want to hear – words that are not our own truth – we can lose touch with what we actually feel. We can lose touch with our true selves, our true desires and our true needs and wants. Having been a spokesperson for others for so long we can find ourselves lost and adrift, not knowing how we truly feel about anything, not knowing who we really are. And this can lead us to a treacherous place – living behind a mask, fearing disapproval, and not connecting at a genuine level with anyone. This damaging cycle will continue unless, or until, we see the need for change and realise that being authentic is vital for our own happiness and wellbeing.
Learning to be authentic
It’s difficult to be authentic when this has not been our normal way of being. We may have been used to white lies, outright untruths, or just unconsciously denying our own thoughts and feelings. We may have lived in a family where half-truths and masks were the norm. We may have had to hide our own feelings to survive. This is then our problem: without a template of truth-telling and speaking out in a genuine way, we often struggle to be authentic. We may even have to learn how to be honest and authentic from the bottom up.
Two steps to authenticity
As a starting point, our task is two-fold and can be seen in two distinct steps. Firstly, to find out how we actually feel about things and, secondly, to begin to reveal how we feel to others. This sounds straightforward but doing these two things can be intensely challenging. We are often beaten down by life, our words may have been ridiculed, our self-esteem may be low. We can feel worthless and feel that what we have to say doesn’t matter. If you are in this place, then the most important thing to understand, as a given, is that what you have to say does matter and you have a right to say it. Whatever you have learned in the past and whatever you have been told, know these vital, universal truths:
Each of us has value, has a voice, and we are entitled to speak out and have our own precious, individual opinions heard.
First Step: How do you feel?
With that as your starting point – that your true, individual voice matters – you can begin the first step: to find out how you actually feel. This can be easier said than done. You’ve spoken the words others wanted to hear for so long now that you may not actually know how you genuinely feel. To begin to make inroads into this takes time, an effort of will, and an increase in your own self-awareness. One of the easiest ways to begin this process is to record your thoughts, feelings and opinions down on paper. In a private way, in your own journal, you can start to look and search inside yourself for how you actually feel about things – what you believe, what your opinions are, what you want from life. You can uncover what your own personal likes and dislikes are – not to please others, but to please yourself. With time and patience your awareness will increase and you’ll begin to hear your own inner voice speak out. It may be a whisper at first, but, if nurtured, this will develop. Gradually you will begin to connect with your true self and start to know how you truly feel.
Second Step: Share how you feel
As you begin to know how you feel you can start to embark on the second step on the road to being authentic and true to yourself – revealing and sharing how you feel. You can begin to speak up for yourself and share your own beliefs and opinions. Your voice does not need to be loud or demanding, but with calm authority you can learn to speak out. This can be a difficult process at the beginning but try starting this process by speaking out in safe emotional surroundings. Find friends who are supportive and then begin to honestly and truthfully share your thoughts and feelings with them. As you begin to know how you feel, and start to voice your own opinions, you can create more meaningful relationships. You can connect at a deeper emotional level – from a place of truth and honesty.
It sounds simple, being true to ourselves, but it is a continual struggle and it is fraught with difficulty. Fraught with judgement, disapproval and fear. But the courageous speak out from a place of truth and in doing this they make deep, meaningful and honest connections. This impacts on all parts of a person’s life: from choices made to the quality of relationships enjoyed. Being authentic becomes a way of being, a way of life. With the voice of authenticity comes true connection and it is well worth the struggle it costs us. For if we are just a spokesperson for others, or a mouthpiece for others – fake, in other words – then what value and meaning can we attach to our own lives and to our relationships? And if we are not being true to ourselves and genuinely authentic in our words and deeds then who are we in this world and what is the point of our life?
© 2014 Ruth Nina Welsh
So to that special offer.
Ruth asked me to include this invitation for all readers of Learning from Dogs.
Simply if you go across to Ruth’s website Be Your Own Counsellor & Coach and sign up as an email subscriber, you will get the free ebook when it becomes available in the autumn!! The sign-up box is to the top right-hand corner of the home page, just above the following:
Free Ebook For Subscribers – Coming Autumn 2014
FREE to Subscribers. The first book in my series will be free to subscribers of this site and also available on Amazon as an ebook.
Subscribe above to receive this free book when it becomes available.
Do you share your life with a dog? Learn!
To awaken one’s true self, one must awaken the entire world.
As you may gather from the sub-heading above, this is not a typical post today! (If there is a typical post in this place!) In fact, I think this is the first time in over five years of publishing Learning from Dogs that I have devoted a post solely to a full-length film.
But the film so perfectly picks up the theme of yesterday’s post, Quietening one’s self down, that it was too good an opportunity to miss.
Inner Worlds was created by Canadian film maker, musician and meditation teacher Daniel Schmidt. The film could be described as the external reflection of his own adventures in meditation. As Daniel came to meditative insights, he realized that these same insights were discovered over and over in spiritual traditions around the world and that all traditions share a common mystical underpinning.
He realized that it is this core experience that connects us not only to the mysterious source of all creation, but to each other as well. Along with his wife Eva, Daniel currently lives in a log home tucked away in a forest of tall pine trees located in Ontario, Canada. It is in this beautiful setting where they run a meditation and yoga center called Breathe True Yoga www.breathetrue.com.
Daniel has studied meditation from the traditions of Buddhism, Taoism, the Yogic traditions of India, as well as the mystical traditions of various cultures, and has come to his own teaching method helping point people towards their own inner wisdom and knowledge. “Meditation is not so much a technique to master as it is a re-orientation of the heart; a selfless act of love and surrender into the mystery and stillness at the core of our being“.
Daniel has always had a strong life connection with sound and music. He has been a composer for over 20 years with an extensive library of music venturing into many genres and styles, and he is the President and CEO of REM Publishing Ltd. Music is not something to be comprehended merely with the hearing faculty. The vibratory nature of the universe is understood when we recognize that everything is music.
Eva has studied and teaches chakra yoga, hatha yoga, meditation and healing through expressive arts. She has integrated yogic traditions from around the world and attended the Pyramid Yoga Center in Thailand for extensive yoga training. Eva is a sound healer, artist and was a strong creative force in the editing room as “Inner Worlds” was being created. Together Dan and Eva were the Shiva and Shakti forces that birthed the film into the world.
It became clear during the making of the film that Inner Worlds Outer Worlds had to be released for free for the benefit of all beings. In the ancient traditions the dharma or “the truth” was always taught freely and never for personal gain or profit in order to preserve the purity of the teachings. It is Daniel and Eva’s belief that to awaken one’s true self, one must awaken the entire world. Daniel and Eva have started the Awaken the World initiative www.awakentheworld.com to bring the ancient knowledge back to the earth in order to restore balance and harmony on the planet.
If you want to dip into the film then here’s the trailer.
But many, including Jean and me, will want to watch the full film.
The website Top Documentary Films offers this summary (the links below will take you to other films on meditation):
Inner Worlds could be described as the external reflection of Daniel Schmidt’s own adventures in meditation.
Akasha is the unmanifested, the “nothing” or emptiness which fills the vacuum of space. As Einstein realized, empty space is not really empty. Saints, sages and yogis who have looked within themselves have also realized that within the emptiness is unfathomable power, a web of information or energy which connects all things.
The Spiral. The Pythagorean philosopher Plato hinted enigmatically that there was a golden key that unified all of the mysteries of the universe. The golden key is the intelligence of the logos, the source of the primordial om. One could say that it is the mind of God. The source of this divine symmetry is the greatest mystery of our existence.
The Serpent and the Lotus. The spiral has often been represented by the snake, the downward current, while the bird or blooming lotus flower has represented the upward current or transcendence.The ancient traditions taught that a human being can become a bridge extending from the outer to the inner, from gross to subtle, from the lower chakras to the higher chakras.
Beyond Thinking. Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. We live our lives pursuing happiness “out there” as if it is a commodity. We have become slaves to our own desires and craving. Happiness isn’t something that can be pursued or purchased like a cheap suit.
So here is the film:
Part 1 – Akasha
Part 2 – The Spiral
Part 3 – The Serpent and the Lotus
Part 4 – Beyond Thinking
To close, let me offer these links.
The Inner Worlds Movie website is here.
As each film link on YouTube notes:
All 4 parts of the film can be found at www.innerworldsmovie.com.
Music from the film can be found at www.spiritlegend.com.
Sacred geometry posters and products can be found at: http://www.zazzle.com/awakentheworld
My closing thought? I can’t do better than to repeat this from the film’s website:
It is Daniel and Eva’s belief that to awaken one’s true self, one must awaken the entire world.
This strikes me as very pertinent, for I see a world sorely in need of a new awakening.
A sense of unity.
A short film by Alan Watts and Terence McKenna. A film that makes a perfect postscript to yesterday’s post: The tracks we leave.
Published on Mar 3, 2013
Alan Watts and Terence McKenna talk about our need for a sense of unity as our global problems are getting worse and we have become enemies of our planet and each other.
Music: Carbon Based Lifeforms – Comsat (Hydroponic Garden – 2003 [Ultimae Records])
There is a website in memory of the late Alan Watts here.
“We will be forever known by the tracks we leave.“
When I saw that proverb I was deeply affected. Hence me taking the photograph.
It was seen etched onto a glass panel that was part of the otter enclosure at our nearby Wildlife Images Rehabilitation and Education Center, just a few miles from where we live in Merlin, OR.
Here’s why I was so affected.
My draft book of the same name as this blog is slowly coming together and I’m at the 30,000-word mark. A while ago, John Hurlburt, a good friend of this blog, was chatting to me and he spoke about the “interconnectedness of all conscious life”. It immediately appealed to me as a chapter in the book.
But while it was obvious to me that all conscious life is connected, for some time I struggled to achieve any clarity about what I wanted to write. Seeing that proverb kicked off the journey towards clarity.
Thus, today, I wanted to share the steps of that journey so far.
Over on the Skeptical Science blogsite there is a post, dated 15th April, 2010, with the title of Earth’s five mass extinction events. The author, John Cook, opens:
As climate changes, a major question is whether nature can adapt to the changing conditions? The answer lies in the past. Throughout Earth’s history, there have been periods where climate changed dramatically. The response was mass extinction events, when many species went extinct followed by a very slow recovery. The history of coral reefs gives us an insight into the nature of these events as reefs are so enduring and the fossil record of corals is relatively well known (Veron 2008). What we find is reefs were particularly impacted in mass extinctions, taking many millions of years to recover. These intervals are known as “reef gaps”.
So what, one might ask?
Well, forget about millions of years ago. Just 12 days ago, there was a news item released by Stanford University. It read in full:
July 24, 2014
Stanford biologist warns of early stages of Earth’s 6th mass extinction event
Stanford Biology Professor Rodolfo Dirzo and his colleagues warn that this “defaunation” could have harmful downstream effects on human health.
The planet’s current biodiversity, the product of 3.5 billion years of evolutionary trial and error, is the highest in the history of life. But it may be reaching a tipping point.
In a new review of scientific literature and analysis of data published in Science, an international team of scientists cautions that the loss and decline of animals is contributing to what
appears to be the early days of the planet’s sixth mass biological extinction event.
Since 1500, more than 320 terrestrial vertebrates have become extinct. Populations of the remaining species show a 25 percent average decline in abundance. The situation is similarly dire for invertebrate animal life.
And while previous extinctions have been driven by natural planetary transformations or catastrophic asteroid strikes, the current die-off can be associated to human activity, a situation that the lead author Rodolfo Dirzo, a professor of biology at Stanford, designates an era of “Anthropocene defaunation.”
Across vertebrates, 16 to 33 percent of all species are estimated to be globally threatened or endangered. Large animals – described as megafauna and including elephants, rhinoceroses, polar bears and countless other species worldwide – face the highest rate of decline, a trend that matches previous extinction events.
Larger animals tend to have lower population growth rates and produce fewer offspring. They need larger habitat areas to maintain viable populations. Their size and meat mass make them easier and more attractive hunting targets for humans.
Although these species represent a relatively low percentage of the animals at risk, their loss would have trickle-down effects that could shake the stability of other species and, in some cases, even human health.
For instance, previous experiments conducted in Kenya have isolated patches of land from megafauna such as zebras, giraffes and elephants, and observed how an ecosystem reacts to the removal of its largest species. Rather quickly, these areas become overwhelmed with rodents. Grass and shrubs increase and the rate of soil compaction decreases. Seeds and shelter become more easily available, and the risk of predation drops.
Consequently, the number of rodents doubles – and so does the abundance of the disease-carrying ectoparasites that they harbor.
“Where human density is high, you get high rates of defaunation, high incidence of rodents, and thus high levels of pathogens, which increases the risks of disease transmission,” said Dirzo, who is also a senior fellow at the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment. “Who would have thought that just defaunation would have all these dramatic consequences? But it can be a vicious circle.”
The scientists also detailed a troubling trend in invertebrate defaunation. Human population has doubled in the past 35 years; in the same period, the number of invertebrate animals – such as beetles, butterflies, spiders and worms – has decreased by 45 percent.
As with larger animals, the loss is driven primarily by loss of habitat and global climate disruption, and could have trickle-up effects in our everyday lives.
For instance, insects pollinate roughly 75 percent of the world’s food crops, an estimated 10 percent of the economic value of the world’s food supply. Insects also play a critical role in nutrient cycling and decomposing organic materials, which helps ensure ecosystem productivity. In the United States alone, the value of pest control by native predators is estimated at $4.5 billion annually.
Dirzo said that the solutions are complicated. Immediately reducing rates of habitat change and overexploitation would help, but these approaches need to be tailored to individual regions and situations. He said he hopes that raising awareness of the ongoing mass extinction – and not just of large, charismatic species – and its associated consequences will help spur change.
“We tend to think about extinction as loss of a species from the face of Earth, and that’s very important, but there’s a loss of critical ecosystem functioning in which animals play a central role that we need to pay attention to as well,” Dirzo said. “Ironically, we have long considered that defaunation is a cryptic phenomenon, but I think we will end up with a situation that is non-cryptic because of the increasingly obvious consequences to the planet and to human wellbeing.”
The coauthors on the report include Hillary S. Young, University of California, Santa Barbara; Mauro Galetti, Universidade Estadual Paulista in Brazil; Gerardo Ceballos, Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico; Nick J.B. Isaac, of the Natural Environment Research Council Centre for Ecology and Hydrology in England; and Ben Collen, of University College London.
For more Stanford experts on ecology and other topics, visit Stanford Experts.
It hardly requires any imagination to realise that what we humans need in order to live, air, food, and clean water, is utterly dependant on us humans caring for the planet that sustains us. It’s all too easy just to take for granted that we will always have air, food and clean water. Now go back and read that last sentence from Professor Dirzo. [my emphasis]
We tend to think about extinction as loss of a species from the face of Earth, and that’s very important, but there’s a loss of critical ecosystem functioning in which animals play a central role that we need to pay attention to as well. Ironically, we have long considered that defaunation is a cryptic phenomenon, but I think we will end up with a situation that is non-cryptic because of the increasingly obvious consequences to the planet and to human wellbeing.
The tracks we leave! H’mmm.
Let me move on in my journey.
Over on the EarthSky blogsite there was an item about the mysterious giant crater that appeared suddenly in Siberia.
Mystery crater in Yamal peninsula probably caused by methane release
Thawing permafrost likely allowed methane gas to be released, creating the large hole in permafrost found in northern Russia, says the Russian team that investigated it.
UPDATE July 31, 2014.
Stories are popping up fast in various media this afternoon about a likely source of a reported, mysterious hole in permafrost in the Yamal region of northern Russia. This hole was
spotted by a helicopter pilot in mid-July; reindeer herders reported a second hole some days later. Eric Holthaus of Slate said that there is now:
… new (and definitive) evidence … that the Siberian holes were created via methane released from warming permafrost.
The evidence has come via the journal Nature, which published a story on its website today (July 31) featuring the findings of Andrei Plekhanov, a senior researcher at the Scientific Centre of Arctic Studies in Salekhard, Russia, and his team. This is the team that was sent in to investigate the first hole shortly after it was found. Holthaus said:
That team measured methane concentrations up to 50,000 times standard levels inside the crater.
The story in Nature said:
Air near the bottom of the crater contained unusually high concentrations of methane — up to 9.6% — in tests conducted at the site on 16 July … Plekhanov, who led an expedition to the crater, says that air normally contains just 0.000179% methane …
Plekhanov and his team believe that it is linked to the abnormally hot Yamal summers of 2012 and 2013, which were warmer than usual by an average of about 5°C. As temperatures rose, the researchers suggest, permafrost thawed and collapsed, releasing methane that had been trapped in the icy ground.
Holthaus pointed out:
Last week, the New York Times’ Andrew Revkin interviewed a Russian scientist who had also visited the hole and came to similar conclusions.
This newly reported evidence, just coming to light today, seems particularly scary given the story earlier this week about what the University of Stockholm called “vast methane plumes” found by scientists aboard the icebreaker Oden, which is now exploring and measuring methane release from the floor of the Arctic Ocean.
Build-up and release of gas from thawing permafrost most probable explanation, says Russian team.
My last step in the journey about our interconnectedness involves water.
Seventy percent of world water use is for irrigation.
Each day we drink nearly 4 liters of water, but it takes some 2,000 liters of water — 500 times as much — to produce the food we consume.
1,000 tons of water is used to produce 1 ton of grain.
Between 1950 and 2000, the world’s irrigated area tripled to roughly 700 million acres. After several decades of rapid increase, however, the growth has slowed dramatically, expanding only 9 percent from 2000 to 2009. Given that governments are much more likely to report increases than decreases, the recent net growth may be even smaller.
The dramatic loss of momentum in irrigation expansion coupled with the depletion of underground water resources suggests that peak water may now be on our doorstep.
Today some 18 countries, containing half the world’s people, are overpumping their aquifers. Among these are the big three grain producers — China, India, and the United States.
Saudi Arabia is the first country to publicly predict how aquifer depletion will reduce its grain harvest. It will soon be totally dependent on imports from the world market or overseas farming projects for its grain.
While falling water tables are largely hidden, rivers that run dry or are reduced to a trickle before reaching the sea are highly visible. Among this group that has limited outflow during at least part of the year are the Colorado, the major river in the southwestern United States; the Yellow, the largest river in northern China; the Nile, the lifeline of Egypt; the Indus, which supplies most of Pakistan’s irrigation water; and the Ganges in India’s densely populated Gangetic basin.
(The rest of this important article including the many useful links may be read here.)
Now, despite the despondent theme of the contents of this post, I am not beating a ‘doom and gloom’ drum. What I am trying to point out is that we are all interconnected. Not just all of mankind but all conscious life. Ergo, the destruction of natural habitats, the loss of every species, even the unwarranted killing of a wild animal is, in a very real and tangible way, the destruction of our habitat, the loss of our species and the unwarranted killing of future generations of homo sapiens.
It seems that whichever way we look the interconnectedness of all conscious life is staring us full in the face. The utter madness of mankind’s group blindness is beyond comprehension.
It takes an ancient proverb from a people that lived in harmony with the planet to speak the truth. We ignore it at our peril.