The power of hope!

It really is about good people refusing to let evil dominate our world.

The response to yesterday’s post was incredible and very gratifying.

For I was conscious that many would simply reject the proposition that I saw in John Zande’s book, namely that, “there was an evil origin to the universe and, more directly, that the deep, and growing, suffering of the pinnacle of evolution, us humans, can be traced back to that evil origin.”

The emotional challenge, of which I am acutely aware, is recognising that core proposition, that as we humans evolve so too does the capacity for human suffering, yet not wanting to give up on my personal core belief that better times ahead are possible, given sufficient people sharing that power of hope. Echoing what Sue wrote as a response to yesterday’s post that motivated me to reply, in part, thus:

If there was one sentence of yours that struck me as spot on, it was your declaration that what we think is what we create. Or as I often reflect, we are what we think.

Jean and I last night watched the latest BBC Panorama report about the migrant/refugee crisis in Europe. It was profoundly upsetting for reasons that many will understand.

George Monbiot’s essay that follows shortly is also profoundly upsetting.

But if hope is to be translated into a determination to make a difference, then it demands that we don’t ignore the pain but use our anger to fuel our passion to behave appropriately: We are what we think! Or in the much more eloquent words of Albert Einstein:

Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning.

George Monbiot is to be saluted for his commitment to questioning and I am privileged to have his permission to republish the following.


Inhospitable Planet

29th September 2015

There may be water on Mars. But is there intelligent life on Earth?

By George Monbiot, published in the Guardian 30th September 2015

Evidence for flowing water on Mars – this opens up the possibility of life; of wonders we cannot begin to imagine. Its discovery is an astonishing achievement. Meanwhile, Martian scientists continue their search for intelligent life on Earth.

We might be captivated by the thought of organisms on another planet, but we seem to have lost interest in our own. The Oxford Junior Dictionary has been excising the waymarks of the living world. Adders, blackberries, bluebells, conkers, holly, magpies, minnows, otters, primroses, thrushes, weasels and wrens are now surplus to requirements.

In the past four decades, the world has lost 50% of its vertebrate wildlife. But across the latter half of this period, there has been a steep decline in coverage. In 2014, according to a study at Cardiff University, there were as many news stories broadcast by the BBC and ITV about Madeline McCann (who went missing in 2007) as there were about the entire range of environmental issues.

Think of what would change if we valued terrestrial water as much as we value the possibility of water on Mars. Only three percent of the water on this planet is fresh, and of that two-thirds is frozen. Yet we lay waste to the accessible portion. Sixty percent of the water used in farming is needlessly piddled away by careless irrigation. Rivers, lakes and aquifers are sucked dry, while what remains is often so contaminated that it threatens the lives of those who drink it. In the UK, domestic demand is such that the upper reaches of many rivers disappear during the summer. Yet still we install clunky old toilets and showers that gush like waterfalls.

As for salty water of the kind that enthralls us when apparently detected on Mars, on Earth we express our appreciation with a frenzy of destruction. A new report suggests that fish numbers have halved since 1970. Pacific bluefin tuna, that once roamed the seas in untold millions, have been reduced to an estimated 40,000, yet still they are pursued. Coral reefs are under such pressure that most could be gone by 2050. And in our own deep space, our desire for exotic fish rips through a world scarcely better known to us than the red planet’s surface. Trawlers are now working at depths of 2000 metres. We can only guess at what they might be destroying.

A few hours before the Martian discovery was announced, Shell terminated its Arctic oil prospecting in the Chukchi Sea. For the company’s shareholders, it’s a minor disaster: the loss of $4 billion. For those who love the planet and the life it sustains, it is a stroke of great fortune: it happened only because the company failed to find sufficient reserves. Had Shell succeeded, it would have exposed one of the most vulnerable places on Earth to spills that are almost inevitable, where containment is almost impossible. Are we to leave such matters to chance?

At the beginning of September, two weeks after he granted Shell permission to drill in the Chukchi Sea, Barack Obama travelled to Alaska to warn Americans about the devastating effects that climate change, caused by the burning of fossil fuels, might catalyse in the Arctic. “It’s not enough just to talk the talk”, he told them. “We’ve got to walk the walk.” We should “embrace the human ingenuity that can do something about it.” Human ingenuity is on abundant display at Nasa, which released those astounding images. But when it comes to policy, the search for intelligent life goes on.

Let the market decide: this is the way in which governments seek to resolve planetary destruction. Leave it to the conscience of consumers, while that conscience is muted and confused by advertising and corporate lies. In a near-vacuum of information, we are each left to decide what we should take from other species and other people; what we should allocate to ourselves or leave to succeeding generations. Surely there are some resources and some places – such as the Arctic and the deep sea – whose exploitation should simply stop?

All this drilling and digging and trawling and dumping and poisoning – what is it for anyway? Does it enrich human experience, or stifle it? A couple of weeks ago, I launched the hashtag #extremecivilisation, and invited suggestions. They have flooded in. Here are just a few of the products my correspondents have found. All of them, as far as I can tell, are real.

An egg tray for your fridge, that syncs with your phone to let you know how many eggs are left. A gadget for scrambling them – inside the shell. Wigs for babies, to allow “baby girls with little or no hair at all the opportunity to have a beautifully realistic hair style”. The iPotty, that permits toddlers to keep playing on their iPads while toilet training. A £2000 spider-proof shed. A snow sauna, on sale in the United Arab Emirates, in which you can create a winter wonderland with the flick of a switch. A refrigerated watermelon case on wheels: indispensable for picnics. Or perhaps not, as it weighs more than the melon. Anal bleaching cream, for … to be honest, I don’t want to know. An “automatic watch rotator” that saves you the bother of winding your luxury wrist candy. A smart phone for dogs, with which they can take pictures of themselves. Pre-peeled bananas, in polystyrene trays covered in clingfilm. Just peel back the packaging …

Every year, clever new ways of wasting stuff are devised, and every year we become more inured to the pointless consumption of the world’s precious resources. With each subtle intensification, the baseline of normality shifts. It should not be surprising to discover that the richer a country becomes, the less its people care about their impacts on the living planet.

Our alienation from the world of wonders with which we evolved has only intensified since David Bowie described a girl stumbling through a “sunken dream”, on her way to be “hooked to the silver screen”, where a long series of distractions diverts her from life’s great questions. The song, of course, was Life on Mars.


David Bowie’s track Life on Mars from the album Hunky Dory was released in 1971. Courtesy of YouTube, here it is again:

19 thoughts on “The power of hope!

  1. I think it is all, as Jacques Monod suggested, chance and necessity. Out of that, idiots and evil are borne; so it is that we end up with being offered pre-peeled bananas and the psychopathic adventurers we elect as our leaders. Out of that too, visionaries and amity are borne; so it is that we end up with being offered hope for the diseased and the presence of revolutionaries who would precipitate peace in the world. Throughout all this chance and necessity, there is no even distribution of good and ill effects, and it all seems a little hopeless currently – to my eyes at least.

    And yet in the midst of this hopelessness we see and hear the incredibly generous response of so many Europeans to the current exodus; we see in Britain a political leader being elected – by an overwhelming margin of victory – who refuses ever countenancing the use of weapons of mass destruction, and who avows abandoning the obsequious fawning to corporate interest that so besets the political classes. Perhaps the mood is slowly changing; was it chance, or necessity – who knows? What it was not, I feel sure, was either a benevolent or malevolent creator.


    1. Hariod, as Val replied, what thought provoking words from you. Beautifully expressed thought provoking words to my ears. One thing that strikes me more powerfully today than I ever previously recall, and that is the awareness amongst the majority of people that one meets that things must change for the better, and soon.

      I hug to my chest the hope that this will translate to political change before I am much older.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you for your kind words Paul, and I concur with your observations – despite all the terrible news – that in the great majority of human animals, the good outweighs the bad. Then we have the problem of one bad apple ruining the barrelful, so to speak, and there seem to be countless thousands of bad apples in our collective barrel, which is why things appear a little hopeless to me currently. And yet that too is balanced, and there is room for hope within me too. Perhaps ‘idealism’ is a better word than ‘hope’, as if we abandon our ideals, then nothing good remains, whereas if we abandon hope, still chance and necessity take effect.


      2. Perhaps, rather predictably for me, I would reinforce your reply by saying we must learn the ideals from our dogs. 🙂

        Jean is away for a few days and my first night would have been very strange if I had not had three dogs keeping me company on the bed. What incredible animals they are.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Absolutely Paul; only two days ago someone was asking me what muses there had been in my life, and I replied that the greatest was Nellie my now-departed Border Collie. She taught me so much about her own ideals of unstinting affection, selfless care and noble loyalty. She was indeed a great creative influence in my life. 🙂


  2. I really appreciate this article – and Hariod’s thought provoking addition on chance and necessity being the catalyst for human behavior.
    I am not a believer in god and the devil / good and evil Paul…. but I do believe in the goodness of humanity and hope for the future. xo


    1. Yes Val, I thought twice about using the term ‘evil’ in my initial comment, as I too dislike the term, and find it unhelpful for the most part. Then again, I here took the lead from Paul in his opening words above, and I quite understand others electing to use such terms. It is, after all, hard to argue that conscious, volitional cruelty is not by another name ‘evil’.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Hope is what we have, and it only exists because we do have victories to point to. To work against the evil we see is out greatest charge. To reduce actual suffering in this world is the greatest reward.


  4. A personal comment: Monbiot and, or the Guardian, have been censoring me systematically, for reason(s) unexplained. So it’s hard for me to take either seriously. There is something fishy going on. It’s all the more frightening as I have never sent one comment I viewed as controversial, and I agree with much of what Monbiot writes: one can read pretty much the same material on my site, for years. Just somebody decided I should not exist as a commentator in the Guardian, however innocuous what I say.


    1. Patrice, you have mentioned this before and I still find it strange, for The Guardian newspaper is one of the most open and liberal papers on the block. Monbiot I would vouch for unhesitatingly. Maybe both parties have an issue with you protecting your identity so carefully? (As you well know, I continue to be intrigued by that!)

      But I seriously doubt that it is “fishy”.


      1. Well, dear Paul, I don’t know what’s up. There is a lot of fake leftist (leftish?) media out there. Apparently subversive, not really so. New York Times and Daily Kos are examples. The latter had put cross bones and skull next to my name, banned me, and refused to explain itself (the site was founded by the… CIA!) The pattern is always the same.

        I do not, ever, disagree with the Monbiot articles, I find them interesting. I am happy that you publish them. I sent an early comment on the present one. It was censored. Not published, no explanation. (I don’t know where I put the comment, so I could not just cut and paste it here!)

        Clearly, this is an indication of a lack of integrity. They are not in one piece. They claim some things, like which comments are publishable, but that’s not the truth. They actually have secret guidelines. In the case of the New York Times, which, by its own admission to me, has censored thousands of my comments, the pattern is pretty clear. I know exactly what set them off. There is also the will to not have too many people interested by my name and my site. So it’s the site itself which is censored.

        Weirdly, although I am way more “liberal”, “left” or whatever than the pseudo-left which censors me, some right wing outfits like The Economist and the Wall Street Journal did not censor me once, let alone banned me (as The Guardian, de facto, did)..


  5. I am also puzzled. Two explanations offer themselves: 1) they (MSM) are afraid that sites such as mine (or yours!) will ultimately gut their readership. This is indeed what is going to happen. But it’s going to take much longer.
    2) More sinister: they pump some of the substantial marrow found somewhere else… And are afraid the readership is going to find more ethical to turn towards the original rather than the imitator.
    3) Even more sinister perspectives are imaginable. I warned some sites (say the Daily Kos) to stop putting a skull and crossbones next to my name, but they keep on doing it, and just ignored me.


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