Tag: Permaculture Research Institute

A world at peace.

Never say never!

Next Monday, the 21st September, is going to be the most important day this year.  No! The most important day ever!

Because next Monday is the date of the People’s Climate March in New York.  It is predicted to be the largest climate march in history. Well over 100,000 are expected to attend.  I shall write more about this event during the coming week.

But also the 21st September will be International Day of Peace. That coincidence strikes me as highly significant. For a world at peace would cause the most massive reduction in our use of carbon-based fuels.

Thus without any embarrassment, I intend to republish in full [Ed: but see my comment] a recent item on the Permaculture News website: Seven Reasons Why World Peace is Possible.

Do I mention dogs?  Read through to the end to find out! (Probably not difficult to guess the answer!)


Seven Reasons Why World Peace is Possible


The 21st of September will be International Day of Peace. It may seem a little premature to declare that world peace is due to break out by the end this month. I do not deny that the amount of killing and death and war and torture and death and coercion and abuse and death all over everywhere can be overwhelming. Nor do I deny that considering this, it is a natural assumption to believe people are sinners, destined for extinction. However, I do argue that compassion is as much a part of human nature as cruelty.

There is evidence that humankind did not always live violent lives. In fact, I assume most people reading this article are not habitually violent, and do not desire to watch someone suffer. All animals have the capacity to enrich the lives of others. We have the capacity to be both selfish and kind. What matters is which quality we chose to focus on; bringing that quality into focus within ourselves, the world, and our children.

Here I have collected an array of research demonstrating that there is a positive potential within each social group and person. I argue that humans can learn to build societies which are not founded on the expectation of organised violence. Here are seven reasons why world peace is possible. You won’t believe your own strength of belief: There is at least some hope.

National Peace Academy’s Peace Spheres

Experimental prototypes

The balance of this powerful and fascinating article may be read here.


How many links did you follow?  Most of them are wonderful links to organisations that many readers, including me, may not have come across before.

So to close.

I was about half-way through arranging today’s post when I realised that dogs have evolved without the need to have their own police forces or armies.  It’s not as silly as it first sounds. Of course, dogs fight and some fights can be brutal and, occasionally, fatal to one or more of the participants.  But they have a keen sense of their locality, of their tribal space; so to speak.  Even as domestic animals, they are fiercely protective of what is their own place.  Before dogs were domesticated, like the wolves from whence dogs evolved, the pack size was around fifty animals with just three animals having any form of status; something that has been mentioned many times before in this place.

The point is that dogs are creatures that have evolved to live in a local community and to live peacefully; by and large.  My sense is that ancient man also evolved to be most complete within a community environment.

This is the end of the era of huge federal and national social constructions.

We must return to locally run and managed communities, which is the pathway to peace across this planet.

Synchronicity of minds, part two

“There IS very intelligent life, but somehow it can’t seem to achieve dominance over the other kind.” Chris Snuggs.

In yesterday’s Part One, I offered three independent essays, about the USA, the UK and Europe, that contained a common message.  A message of “the abject failure of modern nation-state democracy — not only in Europe, but across the globe.“ (In the words of one of the essayists: Don Quijones.)

As with Part One, Part Two brings together disconnected commentators offering an interconnected theme.

One of the commentators was Chris Snuggs who writes the blog Nemo Insula Est.  It was his post about the slaughter of elephants for their tusks that I featured last Tuesday: Legitimate anger.  Chris and I recently exchanged emails on the curious issue of why those who are charged with governing our democratic societies so often fail to do so in a fair and balanced manner; to put it mildly.

Here’s some of that exchange from Chris:

My theory is that intelligent people are too nice. Take you, for example – someone so intelligent, informed and civilised should be in government, but you are not ruthless, nasty and/or ambitious enough!!!

Another way to put it is that people like you – and I on a more modest, brutish and disorganised level – are doing their bit to spread civility in general, but we have NO POWER because we are too nice.

A related theory is that most people are in fact basically nice but that the rest have a disproportionate influence, both because a greater proportion of them have power and because of the “rotten apple” theory – one apple rots the barrel eventually.

I should open a school to teach nice and intelligent people how to be more nasty to nasty people! ………. Indeed, it is our duty to be more ruthless to stand up to the bad guys.

Moving swiftly over the flattery of yours truly, there is a strong message from Chris.  The message that nice people are not being sufficiently active in registering their disgust over what is being done in the supposed name of the people.

The next item, as part of this theme, was a recent article on Permaculture News.  The article was called Majority Voting is Inadequate and was based around an interview with Peter Emerson.  I hadn’t heard of Mr. Emerson before but very quickly established that Peter Emerson is the director of the de Borda Institute in Belfast, Northern Ireland. He is a leading authority on voting systems for use in both decision-making and elections.

Here is a flavour of that interview.

Marcin Gerwin (Poland): There are many divisions and even hostility in the Polish parliament. The ruling coalition currently has 232 votes in a parliament with 460 seats. This slight majority allows them to run all the ministries, and they can pass almost any bill they want. Do you think that creating an all-inclusive government, where all parties have their representatives, could help to tone down the atmosphere and create a more cooperative environment?

Peter Emerson

Peter Emerson: In a word – yes. However, I think I should argue the other point first. There is no justification for majority rule. When I was in Russia, it was quite interesting, because when Gorbachev started perestroika, all sorts of experts rushed over to Moscow, to tell him what to do to be democratic. They advised the system that we have here in Northern Ireland and that you now have in Poland and pretty well everyone else has as well – and that is that you elect your parliament by one of many electoral systems, apparently they all are democratic, even though some are bad and some are worse. But when it comes to what happens in parliament, nearly every parliament in the world debates things and then takes a majority vote.

These experts talked in Russia about majority rule but Mikhail Sergeyevich doesn’t speak English, so they had to use the Russian word. And the Russian word for majoritarianism is bolshevism. It comes from the Russian word for majority which is bolshinstvo, so the member of the majority was a bolshevik and a member of the minority was a menshevik. The decision to split into bolsheviks and mensheviks was taken in 1903 in London by the mathematical accident of just one vote. The whole thing was nonsense. But God, such a dangerous one.

MG: If not a majority vote, what are the other ways that decisions can be made?

PE: There are lots of voting methodologies – Borda countCondorcet…. One of these could be used. And in fact Dublin City Council recently took a vote by means of a Borda count, which is brilliant. It was partly because they had more than two options on the agenda, so you almost have to move beyond majority voting.

And when you look at it, the majority vote is actually the most inaccurate measure of collective opinion ever invented. It’s over two thousand years old, it was used by the Greeks and the Chinese. But there is no justification to for its use today because it’s so inaccurate.

You did register what Peter said in that last paragraph? “the majority vote is actually the most inaccurate measure of collective opinion ever invented.

If you have only the slightest curiosity about better methods of voting then do read the interview in full.  For the interview contains links to other voting systems, most of which I hadn’t heard of before.  There is the Borda count, the Condorcet method, the Ranked voting system (otherwise known as Preferential voting), and the proportional voting process known as the Matrix vote.

Moving on.

The final coincidence was John Hurlburt sending me the following essay, that is published with his permission.


Apocalypse and Epiphany

Apocalypse, n. [Gr. apokalypsis, from apokalypto, to disclose and to discover.] Revelation; discovery; disclosure.  (The New Webster Encyclopedic Dictionary)

Apocalypse is a word which describes a human awakening to change.  Change is a constant. Our species has been living through apocalypse for fourteen million years.  Conservative groups deny change.  For example financial interests spent 14 million dollars to refute the scientific reality of climate change during 2013.  We are in the midst of worldwide financial wars, energy wars, cultural wars, and political wars.  Has there been progress in emerging human species intelligence?

Perhaps more importantly, has there been progress in human morality?   We’ve been around as a species for roughly 14 million years.  Have we truly learned anything in the process?   For the last two hundred years we’ve been industrially poisoning the environment which sustains our existence at a steadily increasing rate.

We’re needlessly killing ourselves and a significant portion of the life on our shared garden planet in the pursuit of artificial symbols of trust we call money.   No one knows for sure how deep and how devastating an impending economic, cultural, political and geophysical collapse may become.

We’ve reached a critical tipping point between species survival and a severely diminished quality of human life. We’re in the process of falling off the edge.  The good news is that we know what needs to be done and we know how to do it.  So why don’t we do what we know needs to be done?

There are a variety of reasons.  The seven deadly sins are a starting point for systemic corruption.  The seven deadly sins are pride, greed, lust, anger, gluttony, envy and sloth.  Add ignorance, denial and indifference.  Serve bread and circuses for dessert.  In terms of action, compete more than cooperate.  Rush ever faster without reflection, contemplation or meditation.  As a final touch, become consumed by “now” without regard for the future.

Epiphany, n. [Gr. epiphaneia, appearance; from epiphanio, to appear] an appearance or a becoming manifest. (The New Webster Encyclopedic Dictionary)  Epiphany provides us a way to deal with apocalypse.  As what’s going on is revealed, we realize that something needs to be done about it and that we are capable of creating and implementing solutions in concert with Nature.

To paraphrase Shakespeare’s “Hamlet”, “The fault, Dear Brutus, lies not in our stars but in ourselves.” What do we need to personally change both spiritually and practically?  Today is the tomorrow – we imagined yesterday.

Considering our steadily increasing demographic and our systemic global failure, it’s half past time to clean house.  We begin with our “self”.  We take inventory.  We honestly look at our thoughts and actions.  What do we personally have to offer that’s useful and productive in terms of a resilient tomorrow?  What’s standing in our way today?

We accept that we are a very young consciously aware species on a fragile garden planet that’s 14 Billion years old in a universe that’s roughly 33 billion years old.  We accept that we are a species component of the matter and energy of Creation. We accept responsibility for sustaining our being and by extension responsibility for the being of life on earth.

We realize our purpose as stewards of Creation.

an old lamplighter


So put those three perspectives together and the message is clear.  This is a period of significant change and, as with previous periods in history, change only comes along when there is dissatisfaction with the present.  Ergo, there is widespread acceptance that the present way of life is not working for millions and millions around the world.

Reinforced only this morning (Thursday) by a recent announcement from Gallup regarding the voting intentions of Americans.

January 8, 2014

Record-High 42% of Americans Identify as Independents

Republican identification lowest in at least 25 years

by Jeffrey M. Jones

PRINCETON, NJ — Forty-two percent of Americans, on average, identified as political independents in 2013, the highest Gallup has measured since it began conducting interviews by telephone 25 years ago. Meanwhile, Republican identification fell to 25%, the lowest over that time span. At 31%, Democratic identification is unchanged from the last four years but down from 36% in 2008.

Let me include this section:

Fourth Quarter Surge in Independence

The percentage of Americans identifying as independents grew over the course of 2013, surging to 46% in the fourth quarter. That coincided with the partial government shutdown in October and the problematic rollout of major provisions of the healthcare law, commonly known as “Obamacare.”


The 46% independent identification in the fourth quarter is a full three percentage points higher than Gallup has measured in any quarter during its telephone polling era.

Taking everything into consideration, from yesterday’s evidence and what is presented today, it’s hardly surprising to read in that Gallup report [my italics]:

The rise in political independence is likely an outgrowth of Americans’ record or near-record negative views of the two major U.S. parties, of Congress, and their low level of trust in government more generally.

The increased independence adds a greater level of unpredictability to this year’s congressional midterm elections. Because U.S. voters are less anchored to the parties than ever before, it’s not clear what kind of appeals may be most effective to winning votes. But with Americans increasingly eschewing party labels for themselves, candidates who are less closely aligned to their party or its prevailing doctrine may benefit.

Fascinating times!  Thank goodness there’s always a dog to remind us of how to cope!

Cleo dealing with stress!
Cleo coping with these fascinating times!

Be that change!

A most beautiful message from Paul Chefurka This republication of a recent item on The Permaculture Research Institute website comes with the written permission of their editor, for which I am very grateful.  Nothing from me will add to this very personal essay, so with no more ado here it is.



Society — by Paul Chefurka December 20, 2012


Whenever I contemplate the spectacular mischief that we humans have wreaked on our world, I am compelled to ask how this could have possibly happened. The despoilment of our planet seems to be the exact opposite of how I would expect a thinking, feeling, caring creature to treat their home. What could have driven us to this, and what perverse qualities could have allowed us to ignore the consequences of our actions for so very long?

At first blush, our problems seem decidedly physical. Dangerous gases drift in the air; acidity rises slowly in the ocean as the fish disappear from its depths; garbage and detritus of all kinds fouls the land where lush forests and grasslands once ruled. All these disturbances point back to human actions.

The proximate causes of this planet-wide distress include economics, politics, and personal and corporate greed – all facilitated by a technological cleverness that rests on a bed of dispassionate science.

I have spent over 50 years of my life trying in vain to understand our environmental problems as purely physical problems. When I viewed them in those terms, the fact that such problems even existed in a rational, scientific culture seemed nonsensical. However, when I recently began to understand them as consequences of a rupture in the human spirit they finally began to make sense to me. Yes, they are compounded by political and economic forces, but in my view even politics and economics are simply consequences of the same qualities of the human psyche.

Since the dawn of consciousness, human societies have been driven by a complex web of factors with their roots embedded deep in our evolved human nature. Power relationships and hierarchies, kinship and xenophobia, selfishness and altruism, competition and cooperation, curiosity and apathy, and countless other polarities mingle together to form the infinite variety of human dynamics.

Underneath it all, though, lurks our self-awareness. Human self-awareness is the root of our sense of separation from the natural world, and from each other for that matter. It’s the crowning paradox of the human condition – at once both our greatest glory and our fatal flaw. It is behind the dualism – the perceptual split into subject and object – that gave us science. It’s the source of our ability to see others as “different yet the same”, giving us the power to act altruistically. It’s also behind the sense of self and other that has allowed us to assume dominion over all we survey, whether animal, vegetable, mineral or human. Our sense of separation is the rupture of the human spirit that has allowed our current predicament to develop.

If this is the case, then no physical, political or economic remediation will heal the wound. The solution to our predicament is not – cannot be – material, political, economic, or simply philosophical. If a “solution” exists at all, it’s orthogonal to all those domains. Only by healing our belief in our separateness will we be able to finally and fully restore our balance with Nature.

When I began to view the situation like this, I was finally able to see that there are in fact solutions, where none had previously been visible. These new solutions don’t attack the predicament directly as a series of material, political, economic or technological problems. Instead, they seek to effect change from the center, by encouraging people to mature into an inter-connected adulthood and assume personal responsibility for their actions.

This approach follows Gandhi’s dictum, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.

The mischievous idea of science and technology as a post-modern “religion of salvation” with Ray Kurzweil’s transhuman singularity playing the role of the Rapture and an economist making a cameo appearance as the Devil (think infinite growth on a finite planet…) resonates very strongly with me.

But to be a little more precise, it’s not exactly science that has failed us. We have been undone by a toxic stew of classical economics, technological cleverness, love of progress, an attitude of Manifest Destiny and an unwillingness to accept any limits on our growth.

Technology lets us use scientific discoveries to satisfy human desires of all kinds. When we harness scientific knowledge to human ends, the outcomes we choose to implement are based on our wishes. If our wish is dominion over nature, we will use scientific principles to invent technology like mining machinery, continental energy grids, factory farming and the automobile.

Of course, each of those inventions is presented within our cultural narrative as an obvious, irrefutable boon. One of the points of having a cultural narrative is to put a positive spin on human activity. The spin is always in line with the narrative – or more precisely, in line with the wishes of those who create and sustain the narrative. The fact that these inventions, the technological expressions of science, have a subtext of dominion over nature is carefully camouflaged, and the idea that this might possibly be a bad idea is thoroughly discouraged.

None of this would have been so damaging if people didn’t have such a natural ability to delude themselves into believing that whatever they wish for hard enough is possible. It’s kind of like clapping for Tinkerbell. “The future is always going to be better than the past,” and “My kids will have better jobs, bigger houses and faster cars than I did,” are examples of such magical thinking at its finest.

Those two kinds of wishing – the wish to improve the human condition and the wish to see the human milieu keep growing forever – are not inherently different. I see them more as two points on a continuum. On one end is simple desire; on the other end is unreasonable desire. They are distinguished less by any intrinsic difference than by the attitude and realism of the one doing the wishing.

It can be very difficult to tell when the reasonable morphs into the unreasonable.”I wish to own a small piece of land” becomes “I wish to own an entire island” which inflates into “I wish to claim a continent for my King” and eventually becomes “I wish to rule the world.” The underlying desire is the same; it’s just the scale and reasonableness of the wish that changes.

Whether or not a wish is realistic or deluded depends very much on the one doing the wishing. There are people who wish for our (and by extension, their own) material wealth to continue growing forever. There is no shortage of economists who will tell them that such a strange thing is possible. Are the dreamers deluded? Are the economists deluded? What laws of nature would need to be violated for such a delusion to become reality? How is the worship of the Charging Bull of Wall Street materially different from worshiping the Golden Calf of the Bible, when both imply a violation of the laws of nature?

The world changes only when enough people have made a choice to change themselves. At what point will we each say, “Enough!” and choose a different path? Is anything keeping you from making that choice right now?

As you finish reading this article I invite you to say it quietly to yourself.


If you listen closely with your heart, you may be able to hear the life that shares our planet say, “Thank you.


You can read more of Paul Chefurka’s writings on the PRI website here. Do, also, visit Paul’s website here.  You will not be disappointed.

Finally, let me do two things before closing.

The first is to highlight a sentence towards the end of this beautiful essay. This one. “The world changes only when enough people have made a choice to change themselves.

The second is to highlight on Paul’s website his Public Domain Notice statement: Any article on this web site may be reproduced by anyone, in whole or in part , in any manner and for any purpose whatsoever, with no restrictions.

Spread the word about you, me and all of us being the change the world needs – and needs now.  Thank you.