Disclaimer:

This particular writing of mine was written to be an e-book with the intent of providing insight, perspective, and most importantly a reference for those I counsel as a life coach.  Please feel free to print, read, underline, highlight, make notes in the margin, or whatever else you’d like to do to it.  It is my sincere hope that it will provide you with answers and direction in your own life.  

Grab yourself a cup of coffee or a good glass of wine, take your time with it, and enjoy.

 

Preface

In the spring of 1994, my time as a college student was coming to a close as I rather reluctantly had to leave the hallways of academia behind me.  I was very reluctant because I really enjoyed my time in college, as it afforded me the opportunity to explore so many different avenues of thought. It was a bittersweet period in my life.

Though I never intended to enroll as a “career student” the fact that I went to college full-time for 7 straight years could easily be called a “career.” I was leaving Thomas More College with three degrees in hand and was on my way to pursuing a teaching career, venturing out into the world, and moving into the next chapter of my life.

Before graduating, my Education Professor guided each of us through the cumbersome process of putting together a booklet for job interviews that included a resume, letters of recommendation from teachers that had mentored us through our internships, our college transcripts, and our personal “Philosophy of Education.”

Meeting a few nights ago with a former student of mine, who I taught over seventeen years ago, I pulled a box out from an all but forgotten place under my steps, that contained all the teaching materials I used when I taught her, complete with Polaroid’s I took of all the illustrations I drew on my board so I could remember from one year to the next how I taught certain units. In doing so, I came across my Philosophy of Education that was typed up all those years ago as a 23-year-old, on a sheet of paper that had been placed in a manila folder and was now lying in this box. In revisiting it for the first time in forever, and reading it, its message still resonated with me all these years later and oddly sounded like something I would have written today.  I’ve included it here, in its original format, because I’d like to illustrate a point.

 

Philosophy of Education

The role of education goes infinitely beyond the parameters of a field that many are misled to believe is designed to merely facilitate information. In today’s society full of globally pervasive problems, it is difficult to watch children in their struggle to find out who they are and what the world holds for them, especially when it appears that many of them are not even searching. This could be because they simply do not know what to search for. For most of us, it is to some degree, the “Meaning of Life.”

The Meaning of Life is felt through relationship. Relationship to one’s self, to others, to nature, to the universe, and to some a supreme entity.   We as teachers are the ones who must cultivate students interests and guide individuals from a nebulous state of being into a state of becoming. This is the challenge of education. It should not find contentment in the mere retrieval of facts, but rather in the sparking of an imagination that synthesizes past learning to find solutions to the never-ending horizon of questions that could be asked throughout one’s life. A teacher should only feel successful if they have planted within a student the seeds of curiosity about life that continue to blossom long after the student has moved beyond the confines of the classroom. Discovery is the motivation behind an individual’s urgency to see that which has not yet been perceived.

Based on this, one might have guessed that I do not find the curriculum to be quite as important, as an individual’s curiosity and needs. I seek not to simply teach Biology or Science, but rather to teach students. Biology is the vehicle I use to reach them, so as to teach them, guide them, and help them discover as well as experience the environment and the dynamic circle of life that surrounds them.

 

Thirty years have gone by, and it was only in taking my trip down amnesia lane that I realized, that at my very core, I’m the same person, with the same intentions, and same perspective on teaching others but with a little more mileage on this body of mine.  I was, and have remained to this day, a consummate student. That is of course just a fanciful way to say that I’ve always been driven by my intellect.

That aside, I have always enjoyed learning, and because I’ve developed a voracious reading habit over the years, that love of learning has remained uninterrupted even today.  Always having possessed a very inquisitive and investigative nature, one thing that has remained consistent is my desire to truly seek an understanding of myself in relation to this universe I’m enmeshed with, as opposed to benign knowledge.

I sought to understand because “understanding” is more of an intuitive comprehension that employs the power of abstract thinking. In other words, understanding is “applied” knowledge. It supersedes merely acquired facts that may or may not have any utility in our lives in terms of providing direction, perspective, and insight. Little did I know that my intellect had limitations that I would eventually brush up against in term of truly developing the “understanding” I had long sought to give perspective to my life.

What created such a drive in me is that as far back as I can remember, I recall, that I always felt a very deep connection to life, nature, and even the universe. I wanted desperately to understand that connection. Though hard to explain, I didn’t feel any sense of separation from my surroundings. Instead, I remember feeling like everything was an extension of me. I somehow knew intuitively that my body and its corresponding senses was only a thin veil between everything surrounding me and myself.

I remember as a very young child, around the age of four or five years old, retreating on an almost daily basis, to my parent’s backyard, where I would climb into the large silver maple tree whose branches provided me with a sense of warmth, acceptance, and I can even say “relationship.”

I say that because, in my fledgling little mind with a very active and whimsical imagination, I had given the tree anthropomorphic qualities and developed an attachment to the tree as if it had an intelligence, a consciousness that I could interact with.  I truly felt the tree’s energy as I interacted with it.

Apparently, I wasn’t just being imaginative. Thanks to the work of Peter Wohlleben and other researchers, science has recently revealed that trees do in fact possess a measurable consciousness. We’ve discovered that trees are not unlike humans. They parent together, communicate with their young and support their development, share nutrients with those that are infected with disease, and even warn one another of impending dangers, through an elaborate network of mycelium fungi in the soil that connects them to one another. To what degree we can interact with it is somewhat of a question, but with the intuition and perhaps imagination of a child, I could feel a palpable interaction between that beautiful tree and me.

I would sit in the tree’s branches for hours at times contemplating my limited understanding of the world around me. I would talk to the tree and ask it questions, really believing that the tree understood what I was communicating to it, and felt that on some level it was communicating back to me.  As you can imagine the book, THE GIVING TREE was a book that really resonated with me.  I saw myself in every page.

I was truly devastated, and angry with my father, when he cut the tree down to make room for a two-story detached garage he built. I was inconsolable the day he cut it down and grieved the loss of that tree for months.

That feeling of connection always prodded me along with an insatiable curiosity.  I always wondered what role I played in this tangible symphony of life that surrounded me. I sought answers to every question that could be asked. Science seemed like a reliable and methodical approach to understanding the world around me, and after learning about weather in the 5th grade I was hooked. I was convinced science could provide me with a way to unveil life’s deepest secrets.

My obsession, in trying to make sense of this carousel we’re all riding on, was evident at a very young age, when my mother and father came home from the Parent-Teacher Conference/School Open House and were told by my 7th grade science teacher that I ask more questions than the entire classroom combined. As the years went by my curiosity only deepened and my desire to understand how I fit into the entire scheme of things really gathered steam when I chose to go to college, where I became, as mentioned, a bit of a career student.

Obsessed with the sciences, and by “sciences,” I mean all of them, I wanted to know the origin of everything, I wanted to understand everything there was to know about nature, astronomy, the origins of the universe, biology, chemistry, and physics. I wanted to understand how we wound up here, how everything fit together, and how everything was interconnected, interdependent, and interrelated. I wanted to understand how the universe interacted with itself. I think I believed that understanding the universe and the world around me, at both the macroscopic and microscopic level, would somehow provide insight into who I am and what I’m doing here.

I left college after seven years as a full-time student with a Bachelor’s Degree in Biology, a Bachelor’s Degree in Education, and an Associate Degree in Psychology.  I left with a bunch of “knowledge,” but with no more of an understanding of myself than I had entering college; only more questions.  So my search continued . . .

What’s interesting is that I had no idea that my rather academic approach to life would ultimately unfold into a spiritual journey of self-discovery.  But that’s just it! I believe we tend to see science and spirituality as two completely dichotomous aspects of life on opposite ends of the spectrum. In reality, there’s no difference between the two. They’re indivisible because our spiritual pursuit to understand what allows this heart of ours to beat, our lungs to breathe, and our brain to house consciousness is every bit as much a scientific inquiry as any other. Just as there is a science for the external world and our physical, “outer” well-being, spirituality is a science for our inner well-being. Failing to explore and investigate what lies beyond the dogma of religion is to our own peril, because so much of what life is, will remain unexplored and continue to remain beyond our perception.

With so much that lies beyond our current understanding and beyond our 5 senses, there are so many more questions than there are answers. What I realized after decades of study was that science only looks at the circumference of everything; we observe it from the outside or at a distance. It’s a mechanistic approach that leads to knowledge but not to a deeper understanding of ourselves at the level of our essence and what lies behind our consciousness.

Though satisfying our sense of ignorance, which is replaced with a new “knowledge,” it does nothing to fulfill a much deeper aspect of ourselves that longs for “understanding,” meaning, and connection, not just to one another, but to existence itself. What I discovered through the years is that there is a knowledge available to us that science cannot access by merely investigating the physical world. I now know that what was merely conjecture for a 23-year-old, has been validated as a 50-year-old.  The “Meaning of Life” is found through relationship, and the most important relationship is the one we are having with ourselves, which is in fact, the only relationship we are ever having.

It was the “process” of writing another book that allowed me to reflect upon the very process that led to such a dramatic shift in my perspective of not only myself but the world around me; a world I am profoundly connected to. It was an experience that allowed me to bridge the gap between two realities, one that lies within and one that lies without. It’s allowed me to restore an intimate connection to all creation and everything within it that I felt as a child and now feel in my veins every day.

Drawing upon the personal transformation that took place within me through a series of rather serendipitous and life changing events, I suddenly realized that what humanity is contending with isn’t politics, famine, inequality, bigotry, racism, declining resources, nature, or living on a disappearing planet, but rather our nature, or more specifically our nature as a product of “societal-conditioning.”

Our participation in society, driven at such a frenzied pace, slowly severs the innate relationship we have with ourselves and everything surrounding us because there’s little time to slow down and commit to connecting with ourselves. Restoring that connection first is the beginning of restoring our connection to everything. There’s a much larger aspect of ourselves that we lose sight of along the way.

So much of our inner journey of reconnecting with ourselves is derailed by the nature of society itself because so much of our lives don’t belong to us. Add the long list of obligations we have outside of our 40-hour workweek and there’s little time to focus on engineering our lives from the inside out. Our entire focus is external. We even look for the divine outside of ourselves.

There’s a price we each pay for living in today’s face paced society. We’ve been taught how to see the world and our place in it. Because we have not been encouraged to invest time and energy, nor given the tools and the resources to explore the inner, intangible aspects of a much deeper dimension of ourselves, I believe it’s harder today than at any time in history, but certainly not impossible, to shed the ideological and prescribed views we’ve been taught since childhood, and see reality for what it really is.

Humanity, especially in first world countries, lives in a commercialized reality that only spins illusions, and can meet our needs only on the most superficial level, preventing us from finding the answers to our deepest questions. We live in a state of extreme physical contentment and yet suffer from tremendous distress and discontentment within. This is because society works against the individual by keeping us centered around our careers and perpetually running from one obligation to the next.

In the 1960’s we Americans had a real shot at connecting with ourselves on a deeper level, evolving spiritually, and overcoming the deeply entrenched doctrinal beliefs that have created our picture of the world and our apparent inheritance in the life hereafter. I believe we were really stretching ourselves collectively to reinvent ourselves, in an attempt to ascend consciously and create something better than a life of endless competition in every facet of life.

With necessity being the mother of all invention, the events of the 60’s illuminated the need to change and question ourselves. We were dealing with the emancipation of suppressed black rights, women’s rights, race and sex inequality, the Vietnam War, the Cuban Missile Crisis, and the British Music Invasion (which was very welcomed). Seeing all the injustices in the world and in our country, people began speaking out and protested in the streets by defying the establishment. In the latter half of that decade, The Beatles weighed in by encouraging all of us to embrace a higher calling, and reminding us that “ALL YOU NEED IS LOVE!!!”

Clearly beginning to make an impact, the movement was met with indignation from those in Washington who were not going to tolerate it. The “powers that be” pushed back, not wanting to give up the long held control they had exerted over the masses for so long by keeping people divided. After all, people gathering in groups can quickly gain momentum and bring about change, which is why society is kept divided by nationalism, religion, political affiliation, ethnicity, race, color, social status, and on and on.  This design discourages change and keeps people focused on their own self-interest as opposed to creating a collective cohesiveness.

In the documentary, REQUIEM FOR THE AMERICAN DREAM, Noam Chomsky, an American linguist, philosopher, cognitive scientist, historian, social critic, political activist, and the man voted the “greatest intellect of the 20th Century” stated:

“Since the 1970s there has been an enormous backlash to the hippie movement from the 60s. There has been a concerted effort by both corporations and by the government to beat back egalitarian principles established in the 1960s.

 

On the RIGHT:

The Powell Memorandum sent to the Chamber of Commerce was a memorandum warning that companies were losing control of society. And taking a close look at it, it is essentially a call for corporations to use their power and their control of resources, to carry out a major offensive to beat back this democratizing wave of the 1960s. 

On the LEFT:

We had the TriLateral Commission expressing the same concern in the “CRISIS OF DEMOCRACY” report. In this report, it was determined that there was “an excess of democracy” developing. Previously passive and obedient members of society, referred to as the “special interest” groups began organizing into very large groups, and tried entering the political arena and began imposing too many pressures on the State that couldn’t deal with all of these outside voices that were intervening on their agenda.

 

It was determined that the boldness, expressed by the younger generations that wanted to have a voice in the political arena, was a failure of the schools, the universities, and the religious institutions, that we’re supposed to “carry out the indoctrination of the young into the passive, obedient, way of life that America was built on.”

The backlash to the “hippie movement” was to redesign the economy and society with the singular focus on creating docile, obedient, scared, politically impotent, bored, and apathetic members of society.  Several mechanisms were used to accomplish this:  The church, the schools, the banking system, and a trillion-dollar entertainment complex.

The church was encouraged to keep doing what they had always done; diminish self-empowerment by convincing people to continue exporting their sense of well-being and security by placing it in the hands of an all knowing deity whose designs have a divine plan. Also, the church was to continue their age-old campaign of implementing guilt and fear to push an imaginative narrative involving eternal consequences for our choices. This, of course, requires a very human-centric view of life, and the idea that the universe and the whole of existence is for the sole purpose of appealing to and being seen as worthy in the eyes of a supreme being.

The schools were to focus on rote memory as opposed to critical thinking to stifle any evaluative process that may lead groups of people to demand change. And it’s worked. Our eroding educational system has consistently been falling in world rankings for 40 years.

The bank industry, which had always been very regulated and designed to provide safe credit and protect our money, became largely unregulated and redesigned to manipulate speculative spending forecasts allowing them to make risky investments through instruments on Wall Street. Banks loans were made to take advantage of customers lending money the banks didn’t possess allowing them to profiteer on both mortgages and conventional credit loans with completely restructured mechanisms of applying interest designed to keep borrowers underwater in debt. Being approved for credit became easy and we bought in. We enjoyed a whole new standard of living with borrowed money but have since paid the price by becoming buried alive and slaves to our own debt.

And lastly, there’s the technology/entertainment industry that keeps us hypnotized through constant stimulation and the indulging of our senses with technology, sports, and the television/film industry.

In other words, society was re-engineered to keep people trapped, working, exhausted, miserable, bored, and always looking outside themselves for emotional security, self-worth, joy, love, context, purpose, and something new to be enthralled with.  It’s the “rule of the Caesars.”  Keep people distracted, under-educated, intoxicated, entertained, and financially leveraged to the gills with credit and debt, and society becomes easily controlled by keeping the individual in a constant state of discontent. Simply put, society’s design disconnects us from ourselves.

Oblivious to all these controls, we live like slaves, adhering to fixed schedules.  Slaves to the banks, slaves to a government that determines policies without our input, slaves to the churches that guilt us, slaves to gods of cruel design, slaves to a suggestive media that promotes a biased view of the world, slaves to companies who we depend on to meet our every need, slaves to the opinions of others, and slaves to the internal dialogue we’re always having with ourselves.  And yet, we continue to look “out there” in the world for something to provide us with a hoped for state of bliss and purpose.

I believe it was Jimmy Buffet that once said: “there’s a thin line between Saturday night and Sunday morning.”

We have been passively taught how to see the world, by an established system designed to keep us imperceptive and unmindful of ourselves. It keeps us divided and alienated, not only from one another but sadly even from ourselves. The world will never change until we as individual change at our core.

“The only solution for all the ills that plague humanity is self-transformation”         – Sadhguru

Virtually every problem we contend with as individuals, as a species, and as a society can be traced back to one fundamental problem, the relationship or lack thereof we are having with ourselves.  As long as we look “outside” ourselves for happiness, love, and self-acceptance, these things will always elude us.

It is the lack of relationship we cultivate with ourselves that accounts for every other issue man wrestles with within himself and that which mankind faces collectively that is reflected in the world.

This book is the product of my own personal journey to what I can only call my own personal awakening. It is, in a way, an account of the evolution of my thinking that took shape over the course of roughly 8 years. Though everything I have learned through the sciences has dramatically enriched my life beyond measure, it’s what I learned academically, looking outward, combined with a pilgrimage I took inside, that has made all the difference.

So, ultimately this book is an invitation to explore the relationship we are each having with ourselves, which as we will discover, is in fact, the only relationship we are ever having.

It is my sincere hope that this book provides a practical guide to finding a deeper sense of fulfillment, joy, happiness, contentment, and peace within your own life.

 

 

Chapter 1

“I AM”

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“I Am.”

These two words, the mere fragment of a statement, and yet an all-encompassing declaration in and of itself, are the most powerful and provocative utterance in the English language, because what ever adjective or noun follows is used to make a very definitive statement about how we see ourselves.

However misguided and grossly inaccurate reducing ourselves down to a single adjective may be, the statement “I Am . . . (whatever word follows),” is a global perspective that we each hold of ourselves and subsequently take into the world every day.  Although on the surface seemingly benign, to define ourselves in any way by applying such labels or titles to ourselves is terribly restrictive because we are identifying ourselves with a banner or an ideology that places rigid boundaries around ourselves, holding no potentiality, only limits.

We live in a fiercely competitive society, where cooperation in almost every facet of life, has been replaced by personal ambition. Though keeping us all competitive may be a good thing for investors, to a large degree our lives have been reduced in a very diminutive sense, down to exploitation, where just keeping pace with inflation and the cost of living can have a devastating impact on our outlook on life.

We are living arguably, at the best time in human history, with a better “quality of life” and more opportunities than any generation before us. But, despite all the advancements in technology, along with the countless luxuries and conveniences we’ve been provided, that have allowed us to move further and further away from the arduous lives that our distant ancestors lived, for many, life in this rat race that we’ve grown so accustomed to, is a constant struggle emotionally.  As a result, happiness can be very elusive because we’ve grown accustomed to looking for it “out in the world.”

Today we can purchase just about anything our hearts desire, and yet, even with so much abundance, so many still suffer, are bored with life, are lonely, scared, and feel disconnected. This is because society functions solely at the level of the “egoic” mind, that only knows two things; “competition and comparison.” Any time we are comparing ourselves we are living in ego and this is the lens we’ve been conditioned to view life through.

Our entire existence on this beautiful planet of ours is one of indoctrination. Who we think we are as adults, along with all of our cherished beliefs, is the result of nothing more than exposure or the lack thereof.  If, while growing up, we are not afforded the opportunity to acquaint ourselves with a variety of different perspectives, cultures, religions, and societal views we can begin to pigeonhole our beliefs about ourselves and the world around us by becoming very close-minded and unaccepting of others in order to protect our very limited views. By contrast, the more diversity we’re exposed to, the more we see ourselves as part of a much bigger “whole.” We feel a sense of camaraderie with others, and we are typically more open-minded and accepting of other’s differences.

I personally believe it’s paramount to one’s well-being and in becoming well-adjusted in such a diverse world, to expose ourselves to other cultures and other beliefs so we can move beyond our own limited perceptions. This of course requires open mindedness as a prerequisite.  Living in a world of such diversity, with so many cultures, it’s almost imperative that we get out and explore.  Travelling is a great way to move beyond our egocentrism, open our minds, broaden our perspectives, and learn to appreciate other viewpoints and approaches to life.  It almost goes without saying, but it’s true; we are so much more alike than we are different.

 

I’ve always loved a quote by Mark Twain in which he said, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”

 

Unfortunately not all of us can travel the world and broaden our horizons.  As a result, our thinking and subsequent beliefs can fail to rise above the level of our “conditioning.”

Few of us have the courage or perhaps the discipline to break through the rigid barriers around the beliefs we developed growing up as a result of familial bias and our formalized education, to develop our own beliefs or thoughts that may lie outside of what we’ve been taught to see or think.  Even fewer are emboldened enough to actually discuss ideas that may be incongruent or unpopular with respect to mainstream thinking.  I point this out because for most, reality is observed through a narrow lens of beliefs and parameters that we’ve been taught to project on it and deviating from these can be intimidating.

Understandably, we fear being alienated. We tend to prefer a sense of belonging to being ostracized for our unique beliefs. Seeking inclusion, we gravitate towards and adopt certain beliefs out of a need to belong to a group that shares our beliefs and can insulate us from the world “out there” that we’re all contending with. I believe this is why religion is such a predictable outlet for so many. But in doing so, we can tend to mistake consensus for wisdom figuring, “if every one else believes it, it must be true.”

How many unexamined beliefs do we each hold about ourselves, others, and the world we live in, or even perhaps what lies beyond the demise of physical aspect of ourself, simply because we’ve been taught them since childhood?

The purpose of this book is to challenge several assumptions we make by offering a different perspective and I say “different” because it’s a perspective that starts and stops with you, the reader. My hope is to take you on a journey that involves turning inward, as opposed to searching endlessly outside of your self for meaning, self-worth, love, happiness, and perhaps our place in this extraordinary universe we live in.

Because each and every one of us are an exceedingly unique and remarkable expression of the universe, I’ve always taught my son Alex to celebrate his distinctively individual traits and gifts, by thinking for himself, to sit with his thoughts and observe the world around him. I’ve taught him never to accept traditional or orthodox beliefs by submitting to a “group mentality” just because everyone else does; encouraging him to evaluate the beliefs of others without prejudice, to see if they stand up to the scrutiny of applying logic to them. I would often share with him, “It takes a strong fish to swim against the current.  Any dead fish can float with it.”  

Three years ago my son entered college with an almost singular focus on joining a fraternity.  Like a lot of freshmen, classes were secondary.  At 21 years of age, he’s a devoted member of the Kappa Sigma Fraternity at Ohio State University.  So much for any perceived influence I have with my son.

All jokes aside, as an only child, I actually believe his participation with his fraternity has been nothing but beneficial.  It’s taught him how to live with, share, and be considerate of others, something he never had to do growing up. It taught him how to respect others time and space, and how to work cooperatively with others. It has also really allowed him to blossom socially; things he may have never otherwise had the opportunity to learn.

Being a very social species, groups can be a wonderful outlet for us.  So when I talk about group “mentality” it’s a reference to how we often lose our individual identity to a group and our ability to think for ourselves by espousing the beliefs of the group by abandoning our own thoughts and critical thinking. Religion and Politics can be two very good examples of this.

Because we live in a society, all of what my son has learned, just like the rest of us, is part of his “conditioning.” Because we’ve been born into a pre-existing system with a social framework that requires a certain degree of conformity to rules, regulations, and socially agreed upon expectations of one another, we run the risk of losing ourselves as we assimilate modeled behaviors, thoughts, opinions, perspectives, and beliefs that are considered to be the foundation upon which society itself is built.

Consider that each one of us come into the world a blank slate with no beliefs, prejudice, bias, nationality, religion, political affiliation, or need to identify ourselves with anything.  We were born with nothing but love and the ecstasy of being alive. Along the way, we’ve been taught fear, guilt, separatism, religion, patriotism, racial bias, competition, social status, consumerism, consumption, and self-indulgence.  None of these are intrinsic to being human.  Each and every belief we’ve ever adopted was taught to us either intentionally or through osmosis by observing others.

 

 

 

 

Chapter 2

Lost In “Labels” – The Egoic Mind

 

Because of our tendency to seek acceptance and to gather in groups, people with a set of shared beliefs tend to establish banners, representative of their beliefs. As we begin identifying with groups, we begin applying their labels to ourselves like stickers in order to create a picture of ourselves that distinguishes us in some fashion from others, as a collection of these labels.  Whether we realize it or not, we’re all marketing ourselves by proxy or by identification with these groups, creating lines of distinction between us and others.

Most of us believe we live in the best country, we’ve chosen the right religion, the right political affiliation, and belong to the best ethnic group by default, but all these trademark identifications are only associations of the egoic mind.

One of my all time favorite quotes is from a man I have always had a very deep admiration for, who said:

“When you call yourself an Indian or a Muslim or a Christian or a European, or anything else, you are being violent. Do you see why it is violent? Because you are separating yourself from the rest of mankind. When you separate yourself by belief, by nationality, or by tradition, it breeds violence. So a man who is seeking to understand violence does not belong to any country, to any religion, to any political party or partial system; he is concerned only with the total understanding of mankind.”

―  Jiddu Krishnamurti

 

Each of the innumerable labels we can “cherry pick” and choose to pin on ourselves, categorically define us by compartmentalizing aspects of ourselves into boxes of nationality, religion, ethnicity, political affiliation, or occupation.  These labels only serve to alienate us from those who don’t “brand themselves” with the same labels we use to define ourselves, by putting those who share our beliefs on one side of the line we’ve drawn, and those that don’t on the other side of it.

It’s important to understand, that all of these labels represent a “fixed” set of conceptual beliefs.  In choosing to apply a particular label to ourselves we limit ourselves because there’s a good chance we won’t remain open to other ideas or another set of beliefs that our contrary to our accepted dogma.

The “labels” we subscribe to make blanket statements about ourselves are very diminutive in nature, pigeonholing our beliefs into a narrow set of parameters defined by just “one” word having a broad context, such as American, Christian, Jew, Muslim, Republican, Democrat, Conservative, Liberal, and on and on. How can such generalizations embody the totality of what and who we are?  Worse yet, we generally tend to paint with a broad brush and stereotype others who affiliate themselves with a particular group.

Such identification with labels like these, more times than not, means we have a very rigid framework that makes up the structure of our beliefs, and typically limits the degree to which we are open to other points of view and other perspectives.  For example, our political and religious disposition is developed in early childhood by adopting and assimilating the beliefs of our parents. Because we trust our parent’s perspective and how they teach us to see the world around us, these beliefs go unquestioned, because we are taught them before we can think for ourselves.

To free ourselves as adults from the grossly restrictive and entangling web created by all these confining labels we were inoculated with as children, requires a complete overhaul of our mental map, and abandoning the dogma that has been woven into the fabric of who we are. That’s not an easy undertaking. As a result, the “fixed,” overarching and separatist beliefs we hold often remain unchallenged and therefore unchanged over the course of an entire lifetime.  How unfortunate that we could pass through this life and die espousing the same beliefs we were taught as a toddler?

Clinging to unchanging beliefs for a lifetime does little to advance us in the evolution of our thought and the elevation of our soul. The famous philosopher Socrates saw this as such a wasted opportunity that he said, “the unexamined life is not worth living.”

If life has any meaning at all, it is for exploring not only the landscapes of our wondrous planet, but for exploring the landscapes of our minds and the depths of our soul because it’s all connected.

Rather than remaining inquisitive and open-minded individuals, many of us can have a tendency to be rather static and set in our beliefs, which doesn’t lend itself to our adaptability.  In accepting the adopted beliefs of our families or perhaps friends, that at least on the surface seem believable, we no longer have to devote time to learning anything else about them.  In a very tidy way, it’s one less thing to worry about and devote any mental energy to.  It frees up time for other things so we can get on with the business of life.

Having such influential and unexamined beliefs spoon fed to us, especially during the impressionable years of our childhood, is dangerous in our world of tremendously diverse cultures with such different histories and teachings.  We all have so much we can learn from one another, but being so conditioned by media and overtly protective of our stoic religious, political and nationalistic beliefs, more times than not, we drive a wedge between ourselves as individuals, as ethnic groups, and even as entire countries.  What a tragedy…

Who we think we are is relative at best because, at the level of our egoic mind, we see ourselves only through the lens of the “conditioned” self.  We see ourselves as separate, detached, isolated, and limited to this physical body we reside in. But that is only an illusion. We don’t exist in isolation. We exist in relation to everything else we come in contact with or experience.

It’s unfortunate, but only a short period of our life is lived from our authentic self, that part of us that existed before we were taught what to think, what to believe, and how to see things.

From birth till around the age of eight years old we have no self-awareness, absolutely no concept of “I” as something separate from everything else, much less the ability to define ourselves as “I am . . . fill in the blank.”  There is no “ego” yet.

Life during this period is completely experiential, like a dream, where concepts of time and separation don’t exist. There is no sense of fear, apprehension, expectation, or agenda.  Children live immersed in the eternal present” moment; an ability we seem to lose as adults, where we are never present but rather always thinking of the past, lost in our memories, or projecting ourselves into the future with our imagination.

Looking into the eyes of a young child, you’ll see that most often there is no self, only an empty yet expansive presence behind the eyes.  “Essence” is ALL that is contained in the body of a child. For a child, nothing exists beyond the precious bubble of time or temporal experience they are involved in at any given moment. If only that could last forever!

By the age of 6, our indoctrination into society begins.  We are placed in schools where we are taught vocabulary, colors, numbers, names of everything, and not only how to think, but what to think. And sadly, seeing all the other children ‘herded’ together we accept that this process we’re going through is obviously in our best interests. As a result, most of what we are taught goes unquestioned.  We no longer learn through personal observation like we did just being outside playing, but instead through passive exposure to information in classrooms we are encouraged to learn through rote memory, rehearsing, and regurgitation of material for a test.

Ultimately, what we are being taught through our schooling process, though completely unbeknownst to us at such a young age, is how to prepare ourselves for entering the workforce, how to become an integral part of society, how to become “essential” and how to “compete” in the world.  We mindlessly recite our allegiance to a country before we even know what the words mean. We’re taught to compete for good grades, compete for the best attendance, compete for prom court, compete in sports, compete for jobs, compete for advancement within a company or firm, compete in the market place, and to compete against one another for not only survival as countries, but an imaginary social status that we think somehow defines us.  From this level of thinking the innocent child inside begins to disappear underneath an ego that begins to emerge.  Life is no longer something we are connected to and having a symbiotic, mutual beneficial relationship with, but rather something to contend with and compete with.  We become separated and detached from everything, dividing even ourselves into two opposing aspects of ourselves: our essence” and our persona or ego.”

Our ego is an illusion, a mask, a persona or personality that evolves over the course of a lifetime by comparing ourselves to everyone we’ve ever met. We grow into this mask we wear over our consciousness.

This external image we project to the world whether as a professional persona in the world of business or the personality we develop for our personal endeavors and social relationships, creates a focus that distorts the perception of our authentic self.  To feel a sense of acceptance and security in the world we are encouraged to wear these masks so often that we forget the “essence” of the person that lies beneath them.  As a result, living a life of casting shadows, we are provided with only a few brief glimpses of our “real self,” our “essence,” that lies beneath the veil of our ego; beyond that which we identify with as “self,” beyond name, beyond form, and beyond thinking.

Unfortunately, fragmenting of ourselves doesn’t stop with the ego splintering from our essence; but is further fragmented into a kaleidoscope of different personalities that emerge in different environments.  Our ego is like shards of glass in a shattered mirror where each shard represents different roles we play in different environments with different people to secure something for ourselves. It might be for friendship, for sex, for entertainment, for a job, or a whole host of other reasons.  We tend to place people in our lives in the way that is most self-serving for us and meets our own self-interests.

We only delude ourselves with our ego because it creates a false image of ourselves by fragmenting us into countless categories of comparison with everyone else.  From the perspective of our ego, we never see ourselves as “whole” but instead, always see ourselves as lacking something that always makes us “less-than-whole” and inadequate. Operating from this perspective, we live with a constant underlying fear we will never measure up and easily slip into feeling like a victim when life doesn’t exactly bend to our will.

 

Chapter 3

Forgetting Who We Are

Most of what we experience in our waking state is superficial at best because our view of the world, our perception of self, and our way of thinking has been prescribed to us by well-intentioned parents, teachers, church practitioners, and through the redundant and repetitious nature of marketing.

Our indoctrination into society and the corresponding view that most of us have developed of ourselves over time started at a very young age before our cognitive development, where the lessons and beliefs we’ve come to accept were taken in on an emotional level without the benefit of applying any rational thought to these beliefs.  I believe that is why these beliefs are so hard to change as adults, because the labels we wear so proudly (religion, political affiliation, nationalism, and the corresponding political views, class distinction, titles, etc.) lie at the core of all our emotions, our sense of morality, and serve to create our view of the world.

So let’s pause for a minute and ask a question.  Do you remember who you were before you were told what to be, what to believe, how to think, who to pray to, how to vote, and how to view the world around you?  When you were a blank slate?  When you were open to life with no judgment, no prejudice, no bias?  For most of us to remember that person requires going back to life before our schooling and indoctrination to society began . . .

If I had to guess, what most of us would remember is a child who felt a boundless freedom and fascination with life by merely waking up each morning and being alive.  Every day was a gift to be experienced.  We lived moment to moment, because nothing existed outside of the moment we were in. We had no agenda for the day and a countless number of opportunities and things to explore and get into.  Life was this mysterious, cornucopia of experiences that we were a part of and thrilled to be immersed in.  We were always present and took no thought of the future or of what was coming next. We had no itinerary laid out, no urgency, and no anxiety, other than the occasional fear inducing thunderstorm that cropped up from time to time or spider that appeared out of nowhere.

We didn’t identify with any political affiliation, religious organization, or country.  We had nothing to identify ourselves with other than just being here in this wonderful, magical place, and experiencing life.  These emblematic ideologies, affiliations, and labels that we identify so strongly with and categorically define our lives with as adults, all had to be programmed into us by well-intentioned adults.  Eventually, we grow up to have children of our own and in turn inoculate them with these often unquestioned and unexamined beliefs bestowed upon us in our childhood of what the world is and how it works.

And on, and on, and on the cycle goes . . .

Life is ever-changing, where, as I had mentioned in the preface of the book in sharing my “Philosophy of Education,” we are hopefully constantly evolving and moving from a nebulous state of “being” into a state of “becoming” a better version of ourselves (and by that, I don’t mean more “successful” by any measure of societal standards).  Learning through a variety of different experiences each year with different people we meet, holds the potential to move into a much deeper understanding of ourselves.

But, arriving at a place where we “know” ourselves can be a difficult pursuit in a culture steeped in programming the individual out of the individual, where the standards 1-7governing the teaching of an educational syllabus vs. a student initiated learning model, spits out individuals that have been molded by institutionalized thinking, built upon rote memory versus critical thinking. We learn at a very young age that questioning authority and culturally accepted beliefs is discouraged.  Initially teeming with thoughts and ideas of our own we enter school where our independent thinking is methodically replaced by a curriculum of  foundational subject matter deemed necessary and agreed upon by a certain consensus.  Critical thinking is not really encouraged until perhaps the level of graduate schooling.

With everyone being inculcated with the same curriculum and socially accepted beliefs, this creates a functional society fashioned by similar contextual ideologies taught in school, about how society works or should work, with just enough differences created by religion and politics to keep us cohesive and yet divided.

Combine the influence of education, with the rigid beliefs of religion, and political affiliation, and the ever pervasive, yet subtle and insidious nature of media, that is constantly cultivating and creating our perception of the world just below our level of cognition and the individual disappears beneath the ego by identifying with a series of labels we’ve been taught to attach to everything and unfortunately even to ourselves.

Only when we drop all labels are we able to see thing as they are.

Children for example, only believe what we tell them.  The moment a child is told what something is, from that day forward that child will project on to whatever the object or thing may be, the label they were taught to give it.  In other words, from that day forward, they’ll never see the object again; they only see their thoughts. That’s because by labeling something we’ll never see it for the infinite number of qualities it possesses, we only see it as the label we’ve placed upon it.

It took me years of what I could only call a “cultural detoxification,” to un-identify with all these labels and to deprogram myself from all the cultural programming that trained me to think in a certain way and see myself and the world through the fish eye lens of endless media, marketing, and news propaganda.  Giving up television in 2007 was a big part of that.  It was literally like waking up from a deep slumber.  The view of have of myself, and the world around me, has never been the same.

 

Chapter 3

So why is it important to really understand who we are?

How we see ourselves is ultimately how we see the world we navigate through day after day.  It colors our interpretation of everything and therefore contributes to the world we collectively create together as we interact with one another and every living thing on this beautiful planet of ours.  We either see ourselves as separate from the whole of existence or a beautiful expression of it and intimately woven into it.  If we see ourselves as the latter then everything we do is viewed with a sense of inclusion, not exclusion.  It’s what creates a sense of community.  But, not just a community of people, a community of all living things.  Why do I believe that latter statement is so important?

“Everything we do affects the whole of existence.”  There is no such thing as a benign act.  This is very important to understand, because the more we connect with and understand ourselves, the more we understand our connection to others and the world we live in.  The world as it is is only a reflection of how we see ourselves as individuals and collectively as a community.

The delicate “web of life” that sustains all of us is such that there is an extraordinary “inter-connectedness” to everything.   Nature abhors a vacuum, and so as a consequence of its flawless design, nothing in nature is “independent!”  Instead, every thread in the fabric of nature is “interdependent” with each and every living and non-living thing relying on the other for its continued existence.  

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Something to keep in mind when one considers the world that we’ve divided up into countries, states, politics, social strata, class distinction, race, religion, ethnicity, and so on.  All these distinctions leave us feeling disconnected and cut off at times.

So then, why can’t we feel this connection to EVERYTHING?

It’s our identification with everything material that leads us to believe there is nothing beyond what we can perceive with our five senses, and even if there is, we don’t have time to think about all that nonsense.

It’s fascinating, that we live in a world where we are surrounded by science and technology that can detect all kinds of things that lie beyond what can be perceived by our senses, and yet we still continue to hold the belief that we are our bodies and there is no deeper reality than what we experience on the most superficial level with our five senses.  Everything we perceive as “real” is only perceived as “real” because it is vibrating at a frequency that is commensurate with our five senses. But our five senses deceive us, as they perceive less than one percent of all the vibratory frequencies that we know exist.  So it beckons the question, what is real and what is reality?

Religion, in a very futile sense, tries to bridge the gap between the ethereal realms and the “here and now,” but I believe for most, religion is insufficient at soothing our fears of the unknown and what lies beyond.  It’s ritualized, rehearsed, redundant, mental conjecture, which requires very little to no thought or self-discovery,  nor does it require a peering into the abyss because the answers are all provided in advance.  It doesn’t advocate an inward journey but rather an external projection to connect with a divine entity, “out there” beyond the physical realm.

Before the age of technology and all the countless diversions from one’s self that come with it, men had accessed a much deeper reality.  The ancient wisdom of countless sages who penetrated the veil of this physical reality by going beyond “mind” and “thought” has been almost entirely forgotten and replaced by an epidemic of amnesia, an unknowing of who and what we truly are.  We in the western world, as opposed to those in the eastern world, have chosen an institutionalized, somewhat spoon fed way of thinking and seeing ourselves and the world, over a much deeper and profound knowledge discovered by Buddha and other masters, that lies beyond the wellspring of thoughts that are constantly bubbling up inside us.  We have divided ourselves into our essence and our persona by dissociating with our essence and replacing it with a surface personality, with an ego, and countless societal distractions and technology.

Buddha said, in the Kalama Sutra, “in order to ascertain the truth, one must doubt ALL traditions, scriptures, teachings, and all the content of one’s mind and senses.”

Truth and essence lie beyond our persona, beyond thinking, beyond the mind.  In stillness, we find ourselves by discovering there is no “self.”  That may be bothersome to some, but I for one take comfort in knowing I’m connected to everything, that I have no beginning and no end, that I’m part of a whole, that I’m limitless, eternal, and exist both within and without.

 

 

Chapter 4

As Within, So Without

Most of us live immersed in our day-to-day activities, running on autopilot, in a very unnatural way, merely striving to keep up and continue addressing our responsibilities.  Unlike the natural world that we were once an intimate part of in our recent history, and operating according to natural rhythms of sleeping and waking, we now awake to alarm clocks, kick start each day with a cup of coffee, and stumble through the comfort of routine, living in a very structured, schedule-oriented fashion, with very little thought of who we are, where we’re going, and why we are here.  Most of us have never experienced our essence in a world that through mass marketing keeps us preoccupied and constantly focused on our bodies and the physical aspect of our existence.

Living in this rat race at such a hurried pace, we’ve become a society of people that are exhausted, fatigued, often aimless, and simply trying to get by with very little time to just decompress, slow down, and reflect on a much deeper facet of ourselves.  As a result, it goes neglected, undiscovered.  Most of us will die having only known the “illusion of self,” the “conditioned self,” the image in the mirror; believing we ARE these limited bodies.

In seeking our deeper “self,” that part of us that we may only occasionally recognize and identify with as the “observer” of our thoughts, or the awareness behind our thoughts; we engage ourselves in all sorts of external ritualistic techniques and practices, believing we’ll unveil deeper truths about ourselves and connect to the divine by devoting time to things like church, prayer, meditation, yoga, etc.

This too is social conditioning.  It’s a form of pathological and institutionalized thinking that has been massaged into our psyche since childhood that claims to have paved the way for us.  In a very pre-ordained way, institutions like church intercede and keep us focused on an imaginary path to the divine that simply doesn’t exist.  This is because there is nothing available to us in the external world that can point us to the path.  Truth cannot be known through any medium and certainly not through the gilded religions.  If it is known through any medium it cannot be known with confidence, only vacillation and doubt if one dares to question it.  Doubt is beautiful.  Doubt builds trust.  Without doubt, there can be no trust.  Doubt and trust are not opposites.  They are complementary and the relationship between the two is what allows trust to attain maturity.  Doubt pierces the veil of uncertainty through inquiry.  Trust is the fulfillment of our inquiry.  Doubt is our questioning, trust is our compensation for having asked the questions.  Trust leads to a deep knowing.

It’s important to question the source, the validity of the information presented to us in order to know the truth.  To know the “truth” one must be certain, not almost or approximately certain.  If there is no certainty how can one know the truth?  Truth is sought after, not handed to us.  The religious don’t search for God – they have already accepted orthodoxy, doctrine, credo, conventionalism, tradition.  There is no searching in religion, only rituals, posturing, and long faces.

It’s good if one cannot believe because not believing inspires a search, a journey to abandon convention and venture into the unknown.

Our journey is an inward journey, the destination of which lies in the stillness beneath all of our thoughts, beyond mind.  It’s in the stillness that a doorway opens to the infinite and the expansiveness of all that is.

So, finding our “true self” doesn’t involve “doing,” it involves “being.”  It involves quieting ourselves, sitting with ourselves, and going inward.

The transition from constantly “doing” to simply “being” and “allowing” does not necessarily come easy.  It’s unnatural at first, especially when one considers that always “doing” is what we’ve been conditioned to do.  Learning how to “BE” takes patience, practice, and thought at first; but in time, practice and repetition lead to the absence of thought and effortlessness.  “BEING” becomes our natural state.

“The Secret of the magic of life consists in using action in order to achieve non-action.”

– Master Lu Tsu

Connecting with our inner being is the only journey that matters and has any real relevance because that journey eventually arrives at an expansiveness of our being that we knew as a child and forgot as an adult.  This is an awareness that allows us to feel connected to everything and everyone; an awareness that feels only oneness and unity instead of separation.  It’s good to discover this before we die, because beyond the demise of our physical body lies a journey we will ultimately take alone, so connecting with our essence and being comfortable with ourselves is probably a pretty good idea.  The goal is to die to the “illusion of self” before we die.

Grounded here in the physical plane, trapped in these soul cages that we temporarily reside in, how we “experience” LIFE, that is to say, our “outer environment,” is only a reflection of our “internal environment,” and based solely upon the relationship we’re having with our self in any given moment.  Notice I did not say the relationship we’re having with others. For the most part, that’s superfluous to what we’re feeling or the appraisal we have of ourselves.

We typically don’t give any thought to it, our eyes possess a tremendous bias.  The eyes are not only lenses that take in the world, but they are also projectors.  Our minds relentlessly project our biases, beliefs, and values onto every experience we are having and on to every person we meet.  Because of this, we are constantly weaving together fantastic stories about everything.

We’re all storytellers in our heads.  We spend so much wasted energy creating novellas; short stories in the form of a prognostication to explain and give meaning to events going on around us.  We constantly speculate about the motives, behaviors, actions, and choices of others and how other’s choices may stand in stark contrast to ours.  We psychoanalyze why someone said what he or she said to us or about us.  We ascribe relevance to things and people in our lives, which is the result of the desire we project on to them, and a story we create.  In letting go and putting the mind aside, we’ll see that there is no need to understand.

Make no mistake, LIFE is lived out entirely in our heads.  Every feeling we have ever had it’s coming from the reality that we have created within us.  This can be a debilitating premise to some because prior to developing our awareness, the unfettered and unrestrained mind can make a mess of our lives by attaching meaning to all of our over-thinking.  Trapped by our ego, we are always seeking validation.

In a society where we live our lives like machines, we have been hypnotized and programmed for misery.  After all, living and making our way in the world is serious business!  Places to be, obligations to keep, deals to close, quarterly reports to pour over and finish, and bills to pay.  Who has time to be happy?

A very large percentage of the population at every tier of society is miserable, not because they live in dire circumstances, but because we have been hypnotized to live life as a series of scheduled events and a very acute focus on time.  Our lives are compartmentalized into boxes of obligations and “To Do” lists.  Consequently, we often seek to escape reality.  We find ourselves often drifting back into the past, to “better days,” or projecting ourselves into the future with hopes and aspirations of a better life, but rarely if ever are we fully “present.”

Society doesn’t allow one to live fully present.  There’s too little time for it, too many things to tend to, too much to get done, and too little time.  As a result, always focused on the next thing to get done, the next place to be, the process of living one’s life can take place at an almost entirely sub-conscious level where we are neither alert nor fully aware of what is going on around us because we are never fully present.  We’re always racing from one obligation to the next, one thought to the next.

Because I feel we often over simplify things with labels which can be interpreted in a plethora of ways, I feel the need to make a distinction between being “conscious,” and what many would consider being the opposite of sleep; a “sub-conscious” state.  By “conscious” I’m referencing the idea of truly being “awakened.”

Simply getting out of bed and diving into our day does not mean that we are truly “awake” or “alert.”   Yes, we exhibit a certain zombie-like, sub-cognitive, level of consciousness just above the sub-conscious experience of sleep, but I believe many of us would agree that before our first cup of coffee, we seem to be going through a series of routine motions that are so automatic that they barely require any thought.  For example, how many of us have driven to work and barely have any memory of how we got from home to our place of employment?  Somehow we just showed up.  Even during our waking state, we exhibit various levels of consciousness or degrees of concentration as we go through our day, but none of which would register as truly “awakened.”

Operating just below the level of our cognition, below the level of our awareness or conscious thought, is where we get in trouble emotionally.  Thoughts bubble up to the surface in a never-ending procession in response to our experiences.  Research has shown that the pattern and types of thoughts that run in the background, like apps on a phone, are a product of rudimentary thinking that developed in response to our childhood experiences, and that those patterns of thinking become automatic thoughts and behaviors that unconsciously determine all of our conscious thoughts as adults.

Running on “auto-pilot” we tend to “react” to our experiences in a preconditioned fashion (developed in childhood), applying no reasoning to those reactions.

*It’s important to note that these “reactions” are triggered, automatic impulses learned in childhood that are so ingrained in us they never make it to the level of conscious thought. They’re automatic and therefore reactionary. 

At this level of consciousness we fall victim to the automatic thinking that takes place within us, never realizing that we are in fact, separate from our thoughts and therefore always “at choice” in choosing how we engage others or respond to our experiences.  As a result, we unconsciously “react” to all these thoughts that we are having with a myriad of corresponding emotional responses to them.  But in “reacting” we have no control over how we feel.  These patterns of thinking and behavior were programmed in our childhood and are compulsory.

Buddha discovered, that until we develop our “awareness” and become the observer of our thoughts, which believe me is an endeavor in and of itself, most of our beliefs and biases remain conditioned, automatic patterns of behavior.   Our feelings will always lie beyond our control and we will remain powerless in “choosing” how we feel about things.

It’s unfortunate, but most of us will never ascend or awaken to a higher level of consciousness than the well-rehearsed, well-learned, automatic, programmed, self-activated patterns of behaviors we learned in our childhood that govern most of our behaviors and decisions throughout each day.  This is why so often many of us can feel like victims when our expectations are not met and life fails to bend to our will because we believe that life is simply happening to us and we have very little “choice” in the way we feel about it.

Let me assure you, we have far more control over our experiences than we believe we do.  The first step is developing “awareness.”

 

 

Chapter 5

The GHOST in the Machine

Awareness is simply a “shifting” of our perspective from unconscious, automatic behaviors and “reactions,” to conscious “responses” to life’s events.  Once we develop awareness, we are often shocked at how unconsciously we’ve spent most of our lives.  That’s why many refer to it as an “Awakening.”

When this “awakening” occurs the individual feels a sense of calm that they have never experienced before because they have developed an empowering state of mind and a sense of self-control in their ability to exert influence over the way they feel by becoming the awareness behind their thoughts.  They feel an acceptance and love for themselves that they’ve never felt before.  There’s often a sense of seeing the brevity and transient nature of life.  There’s a sense of oneness and a feeling of being connected to everything, so as a result, a feeling of ambivalence towards society tends to develop and the individual sees beyond the veil of illusion for the first time in their lives.  We begin to see Society and all of its mechanisms in a way that almost appears silly. One truly feels awakened, as if they have just snapped out of a very deep slumber.

It’s unfortunate, but by contrast to this, we live in a society where people feel profoundly lonely, isolated, alienated, and alone.  But these feelings are simply the product of an under-developed perspective and an inability to see ourselves in a much broader context, one in which we are connected to everyone and everything else.  Whether we realize it or not, we’re never separate or alone, because we truly are connected to everything.  As mentioned earlier, nothing in nature is independent but rather interdependent. Everything is connected. I for one, find that very comforting.

Though it may seem paradoxical, we are literally woven into this physical reality out of the very fabric of the universe itself.  We are not living “in” the universe; “we are the living universe.” We are not living “on” earth; “we are the living earth.”

That statement, of course, implies that we have always been a part of this universe because we are made of the same source material that gave rise to the universe. Numerous ancient texts use the quote “so as above, as below.” This is a statement of unity, integration, inter-relatedness, harmony, solidarity, and oneness. The fountain of energy that gave rise to the universe gave rise to us.

We have always existed, as a conscious, albeit “formless” entity. We existed before we incarnated, crossing from the “formless,” non-physical into the physical realm of “form.”  We will exist after.

Thanks to Einstein, we now know that energy and matter are interchangeable. You know, that whole E = mc2 thing?  They’re just different aspects, different states of the same thing.  What both Nikola Tesla and Albert Einstein discovered independently of one another through all their exhaustive work, is that all matter, all physical form is merely consolidated, congealed, temporarily “focused” energy taking on “form.”  But form, is an illusion. What we perceive as being real with our five senses is in fact made up almost entirely of empty space. To provide perspective, consider for a moment that if we were to remove all the space between the center of the atoms in our body and their surrounding electrons, the entire human race would fit into a space smaller than a cube of sugar. We are not what we appeared to be. The body is nothing more than a very temporary state of being that we occupy.

If that’s true, then where did “YOU” or the consciousness that is perceived as emanating from within “YOU” come from?

I would argue that our “current” physical state is just one aspect of ourselves.  There is a much deeper and expansive part of ourselves that exists beyond the boundaries of time and space and beyond form. That may sound like a bit of a stretch, I know . . . but bear with me.

Modern physics has discovered basic Laws governing Thermodynamics, the flow of energy even as it changes form, that appear to indicate that energy can neither be created nor destroyed, it can only be converted from one form to another. What that means is that all the energy in the universe that exists is all the energy that has ever existed and ever will exist. More recent discoveries in physics now seem to point to the idea that the entire universe is consciousness. Everything is alive and interacting with itself.

We don’t possess life! Life possesses us! Hard to conceptualize perhaps . . . but with a little effort, I believe one can begin to see that everything is connected.

For example, none of us would be inclined to think of our cells, tissues, or organs as living in the “ecosystem” of our body, as if they’re separate from our body or separate from what we identify with as ourselves.  We tend to think of our body and all of the corresponding tissues and organs as a unit, as one animated entity.  Why then do we see ourselves as separate from the universe?  As we will see later, the human body is a universe in and of itself.

It’s easy to hold to the belief that we are living “IN” the universe, when in fact, we emerged from and are enmeshed in the universe.  We are vessels made from and housing the universe itself.  We “ARE” the universe!

Just as a dew drop on a leaf or a blade of grass is formed by the coalescence or aggregation of moisture in the air, the moisture it’s pulling out of the air ultimately came from the ocean . . . for a span of time, it’s separate from the ocean, but it is the ocean, and will someday return to the ocean.

As observers looking out from behind these eyes, we delude ourselves by clinging to the belief that we are separate from the universe, that we are “here” in these bodies, and life is “out there,” external to ourselves. “THERE” is a devious trick of the mind. The mind always makes us interested in things far away, over “there” so we can be lead from here to there.  Our attention is always wandering to another place, another person, another thing.  As a result, we are never “HERE” and almost always elsewhere, lost in the capricious nature of our thoughts.

We in western culture have to a large degree lost the ability to just “BE” and remain “present.”  Instead, we’re always looking for the next thing to do.   Our minds are always focused on the next external future event to provide us with some form of stimulation.  This constant need leaves a lot of room for boredom, loneliness, sadness, and pain, which leads to a detachment from ourselves.  We no longer know ourselves.

In India, there is an ancient proverb – diya tale andhera – which means “there is darkness under the lamp.”  A lamp provides light that can fill an entire room and yet right underneath of it lies darkness.  As is the case with man.  We are capable of seeing all that surrounds us but incapable of seeing ourselves, who and what we really are.  We delude ourselves thinking life is “out there” and worse yet, that we are separate from it.

Consider for a moment that you have never “experienced” anything outside of yourself.

Sadhguru, an eastern guru (teacher) says,

“Whatever you look at, you see from within yourself (from inside yourself looking out).  Whatever you hear, you hear from within yourself.  Where have you seen the whole world?  Within yourself. Have you EVER experienced anything from outside of yourself?  

EVERYTHING that has ever happened to you:  Darkness and Light happens within you.  Pain and pleasure happen within you. Joy and misery happen within you.  Have you ever experienced anything from outside of yourself?  No.”

“So the question is, what happens within you and who should determine how it happens?  Someone else?  “WE” determine what happens within us. We alone determine how we experience life. To believe otherwise is the ultimate form of slavery and means how we feel will always be determined by other’s choices.” – Isha Foundation Goalcast

Though many reading this may feel lonely and all alone, we are never alone.  This is merely a story our ego has created.  It’s a failure to see our connection to everything we are a part of.  Seeing this connection brings an unceasing joy.  It helps to see that we exist, we always have, and we always will.

“Death is not the opposite of life. Life has no opposite. The opposite of death is birth. Life is eternal.” – Eckart Tolle.

We, like everything else, are a unique manifestation of the universe, much like waves on the surface of the ocean are an extension of the ocean itself.  The ocean can be used to provide perspective.  Each individual wave on the ocean’s surface represents a discrete and uniquely individual event that is separate from every other wave on the surface of the ocean.  Like us, a wave has a brief and distinctly separate life cycle from every other wave, but at the same time is connected to every other wave because every wave emerges from the same source, the ocean, just as each wave “IS” the ocean.

So it is with each individual’s life in this “physical” plane.  Though appearing on the surface to be separate from all other waves of expression (people, animals, plants, stars, etc.) from the source field that gave rise to the universe, on a deeper level, woven out of the fabric of the universe itself, we are all ONE, with each one of us intimately tied into the universe, because we ARE the universe, just as each wave on the ocean is the ocean.  We have all emerged from the same source, the same sea of energy, as we all came forth from something “formless” into something taking on or congealing into a well defined “form.” 

It may be a bit of a mental catapult, but if you can think of the universe as a vast sea of invisible, formless energy, where non-physical fields of energy coalesce and condense into physical matter, may help. This occurs much the way water vapor, though imperceptible to the eye, condenses to form clouds and ultimately rain and various other forms of precipitation.  Likewise, everything with “form” in the physical universe, including our bodies, is merely an extension of the same “formless,” imperceptible ocean of energy that gave rise to the physical universe itself and everything in it.

Everything that exists is just variations on a theme; a different wave of consolidated energy in the form of a human, a different physical expression of the original “source energy” or “source field,” but nonetheless all emerging from the same source, the same sea of energy as it emerged from something formless, nebulous, intangible, into something with form.

We as humans are just one of a whole myriad of different sentient beings and species that make up the part of the universe that has become conscious and is interacting with itself.  Let that sink in for a moment.

John Lennon glimpsed this idea when in the song, I AM THE WALRUS by the Beatles, he wrote, “I am he, as you are he, as you are me, and we are all together…”

He understood that we’re all connected and we are all one.

 

 

 

Chapter 6

The Paradox of Being Human . . . It’s ALL Perspective

Everything and everyone else is merely an extension of YOU, just as you are an extension of them.  Each being a separate wave so to speak in a cosmic sea of interacting fields of energy and consciousness.  You experience “YOUR REALITY” with you as the observer and you as the center of your own universe.  But that entire universe lies within you and without.  It flows from you and through you, just as it flows from and through everyone else.  This is why, though our reality overlaps with others, we all see things differently.  Though we are all ONE, we all see our overlapping realities through our own eyes.  This is how the universe interacts with and experiences itself through the medium of consciousness.

One of the most beautiful explanations I have ever read in describing in reality, was in a book called THE SECRET OF SECRETS by OSHO, which is a collection of talks given by OSHO, filled with detailed explanations of what Master Lao Tzu referred to as the “Golden Flower;” an allegory for the blossoming of one’s wisdom.

Once the Empress Wu asked the Master Fa-tsang if he could possibly give her a practical and simple demonstration of the principle of cosmic interrelatedness, of the relationship of the one and the many, of God and his creatures, and of the creatures one to another.

Fa-tsang went to work and appointed one of the Palace rooms so that eight large mirrors stood at the eight points of the compass. Then he placed two more mirrors, one on the ceiling and one on the floor. A candle was suspended from the ceiling in the center of the room.

When the Empress entered, Fa-tsang lit the candle. The Empress cried, “How marvelous! How beautiful!”

Fa-tsang pointed at the reflection of the flame in each one of the 10 mirrors and said, “See, your Majesty, this demonstrates the relationship of the one and the many, of God to each one of his creatures.”

The Empress said, “Yes, indeed, Master. And what is the relationship of each creature to the other?”

Fa-tsang answered, “just watch, Your Majesty, how each mirror not only reflects the one flame in the center, each mirror also reflects the reflections of the flame in all the other mirrors until an infinite number of flames fill them all.  All these reflections are mutually identical; in a sense they are interchangeable, and in another sense, each one exists individually. This shows the true relationship of each being to its neighbor, to all that is. Of course, I must point out Your Majesty,” Fa-tsang went on, “that this is only a rough approximate and static parable of the real state of affairs in the universe, for the universe is limitless, and in it, all is in perpetual multidimensional motion.” Then the Master covered one of the infinite number of reflections of the flame and showed how each apparently insignificant interference affects the whole organism of our world. Keagan expresses this relationship by the following simple formula: One in all, all-in-one, one in one, all in all.

 Then Fa-tsang, in order to conclude his command performance, held up a small crystal ball and said, “Now watch, Your Majesty, how are all these large mirrors and all the myriad forms they reflect our mirrored in this little sphere. How the ultimate reality, the infinitely small contains the infinitely large, and the infinitely large, the infinitely small, without obstruction. Oh, if only I could demonstrate to you the unimpeded Mutual interpenetration of time and eternity, of the past, present and future. But alas, this is a dynamic process that must be grasped on an entirely different level . . .”

As I had expressed previously, nothing exists independent of the whole. Everything is interrelated, interconnected, and interdependent. We as individuals are part of the whole, not separate from it.

What we each see is slightly different because we live in different realities colored by our past experiences, what we’ve been exposed to, survived, endured, been taught, accepted as truth, and so on.  As a result, we never see things as “THEY” are, but as “WE” are.  Therefore “reality” is subjective at best because no one else sees the universe through “our” eyes, which as was explained earlier, have a bias.

Though we all come from the same source no two people are living in the same reality.  Our realities merely overlap.  This is why relationships can be such a difficult undertaking.  How arduous of a task it is to get someone to see the world through our eyes, share our experiences, and view life through the lens of our thoughts, perspectives, feelings, and opinions all of which were formed through countless experiences they’ve never had.

Ah, the human experience and the paradox of being human!

Because we identify so strongly with only that which can be perceived through our 5 senses, we delude ourselves into believing that “THIS” is the “only reality.”   Since this perspective for the most part goes unquestioned and unexplored perspective we are convinced this body we reside in is what’s “real.”  I would like to propose it isn’t “real” in the sense we think it is, and that we are not this body we temporarily reside in and animate.  Sound crazy?

Consider for a moment that the body we so affectionately and intimately identify with as being “US” is a universe unto itself, housing countless life-forms.  Most, have absolutely no idea what percentage of their body can be claimed as their own.

For every cell in the human body, we have nine microbes that are not human?  That’s a 9:1 ratio of microbes to your own cells.  Put more concretely, that’s roughly 27 trillion microbes living inside us versus the roughly 3 trillion cells that comprise the human body.  These microbes are just as important to our survival as our own human cells. We literally could not survive without them. If that’s true, then our entire body is not uniquely human.  You are an animated ecosystem, only 12% of which is composed of “you” and your cells. How’s that for a mind-bending contemplation?

Thanks to the Genome Project, which successfully mapped out the entire sequencing of our DNA, we now know that our DNA contains segments genetic material from of over 145 different species of bacteria, fungi, molds, viruses, and other animal species.  Ponder that for a moment… and then ask yourself, “What truly makes us human and arrogant enough to think of ourselves as separate from nature, when we are in fact an entire ecosystem unto ourselves for microscopic life and the culmination of building blocks borrowed from 145 different species that pre-dated us?”

If we contain the building blocks of 145 different species, then what makes us, “US?”  The fact that we have a body that we identify with as “ME?”  Hmmmm….. Maybe.

EGO, always wanting attention and groping for a sense of self-importance, will cling to that belief, but I believe what makes us, “US,” isn’t our body at all.  I believe what we are is not the body we borrow while visiting this 3-dimensional classroom here in the physical plane, something we identify with as having “form,” but rather something altogether “formless.”

I believe the deepest form of spirituality is to truly awaken and “see” beyond the veil of form, to realize our “essence” is something that lies beyond form.

Clearly, we are something without form, boundless, limitless, immortal, eternal; something that has always existed and always will, a consciousness that temporarily incarnates and takes on form so as to interact, learn, experience duality, struggles, pressure, conflict, contrast, and difficulties, in order to further the growth, expansion, development, and evolution of a universal consciousness that we all sprung forth from and are always connected to.

How banal and mundane would our existence become if we had everything and had absolutely no needs?  With no struggles, no problems to solve, no pressure, no goals, no desires, and with every need met, what urgency would there be to ever learn anything from that point forward?  I truly believe this is why we take on physical form. This reality, or dimension of reality, is simply a classroom where we can experience contrast, struggles, and problems to solve. We are each at a different point along the wisdom chain.  Each one of us is on the leading edge of the expansion of the collective consciousness.  Therefore, EVERYTHING is our teacher.

As a result, we are all in this thing called “LIFE” together.  And by “WE,” I mean you, me, every person, every animal, every plant, every insect, mold, fungi, bacteria, protist, rock, plot of soil, planet, alien race, whatever.

Hearing that for the first time may sound silly, but it is a profound truth that every Mystic, Sufi, Guru, and quantum physicist understands. It’s a law that governs all life on this planet that we’re doing a “not-so-good-job” of sharing.

Native Americans have always had a very deep, spiritual understanding of this without the benefit of applying science.  It was a wisdom they acquired purely through observation, as did Buddha and the ancient mystics from the Orient.

So anytime we say, “I am this!” or “I am that!” we are fragmenting and marginalizing ourselves, disconnecting from the “whole” that we’re all a part of and reducing ourselves down to the most minuscule aspect of what we “think” we are as opposed to what we “truly” are.  We are NOT the avatars we temporarily reside in.

To see ourselves from this perspective, we see ourselves as if we are in a bubble, insulated from the whole of existence that surrounds us, isolated, detached, and separated from everyone and everything.  We see the world as external to us; we see our choices as separate and our actions as separate as if we live in a vacuum.

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But even the most seemingly benign choices we make as individuals affect not only the whole of humanity, but like ripples in a pond, affect every other person, species, ecosystem, biome, the entire ecological viability of Earth, and though few may understand this, even the collective consciousness of the planet itself.

 

 

Chapter 7

Competition, Consumerism, and Sleep Walkers

Because of our cultural programming, the decisions we make are almost always those that are an extension of the egoistic beliefs, biases, and prejudices we hold, which always see us as separate and in competition with all others, and for most, even life itself.  Life is perceived as something to be overcome, beat, conquered, controlled, and subdued.  As a result, our choices are almost always predicated on survival, self-preservation, self-interests, self-indulgence, constant distraction, and most of all, fear.  These are very low vibrational energies that disempower us and do very little to allow us to have a positive impact on others in our lives and the world around us, as we are primarily consumed with fulfilling our own needs.

There is perhaps no greater fear in western culture than the fear of not being “relevant.”  And how do we become “relevant” in a consumer/consumption-based society?  By making “money,” and acquiring “things.”  By “getting ahead” and “Winning!”

We proudly wear corporate logos on everything we buy with the belief that it projects a certain level of attainment in our social structure.  There’s nothing wrong with having nice things, but what could the “things” we purchase ever possibly say about us as individuals? And yet we live in a culture predicated on the belief that how we dress, what we drive, where we live, the size of our house, and the size of our bank account, somehow defines us. We buy things, not necessarily for their utility, but for their symbology.  In other words, we often buy things with the belief it projects an ideology we espouse or embrace. Fashion is no longer confined to just clothing.  Now, everything has a sense of fashionability to it.  Our toaster, our coffee maker, our bed sheets, furniture, shower curtain, dishwasher . . .  It all somehow says something about you.  Our society is now predicated on keeping consumers dissatisfied by always offering something a little bit better than what we already have, so that things lose their luster very quickly, leaving us with always wanting more.

Built on this ideology, happiness is always just one more purchase away, a moving target that we are “oh-so-close” to achieving.  Consumerism has become the opiate of the modern era.  The world keeps us focused on the superficial, the superfluous, and on our body. That’s because the world has no use for the non-physical, soul-level part of ourselves. The world wants us preoccupied and focused only on the body, what’s on the surface, the here and now, because the world can use our bodies, but our souls offer nothing to the competitive world of commerce and business.

So reduced to competition, our world gets shrunk down to self-interests, and often a very self-aggrandizing mindset of habitually striving for more and more.  It’s a very odd thing, this detachment we have with one another, other species, the planet, and sadly even ourselves.  Few people truly “know” who and what they are.  Casting shadows to fit in with all this madness, we’ve become detached from our inner essence, what we really are.  We develop more of a relationship with our outer facade, and keeping up a false image than we do with our “real self.”  We live in a world where we’ve been taught to externalize our self-worth, where media inculcates an unthinking populace with a barrage of programming that promotes fear and insecurity.

The term “unthinking populace,” is not meant to be derogatory or denigrating to those who choose to watch television.  Rather, it is a literal truth.  Watching television is a passive endeavor where media propaganda and advertising messages are “dumped” into our heads without scrutiny or the benefit of cognition, because television bypasses any reasoning.  To say we are “absent minded” while watching television would be an understatement.

As early as the late 60’s, psychologists, behavioral research scientists, and even neurologists, became concerned with the effects viewing television can have on brain development.  That’s because studies revealed that within 60 seconds of viewing a television screen, the human brain slips into producing alpha rhythms (the early stages of sleep or hypnosis).  This is because televisions operate on an alternating current operating at 720 Hz, which means your television is turning on and off at 720 times per second.  In other words, it creates a strobe effect that, although imperceptitv-subliminal-hypnosis-300x191ble on a conscious level, is perceived at the subconscious level. Television quite literally hypnotizes the viewer, by shutting down the frontal cortex of the brain where thinking and discernment take place.  As a result, business, news, and media corporations capitalize upon this fact, bypassing our conscious reasoning, unquestionably programming the unsuspecting populace, by painting for the viewer, a prescribed view of the world that surrounds them.

As a result, television advertising can be very insidious in nature, and anything but benign, in that, the business of marketing to a dismally conscious/hypnotized viewer extends beyond simply selling solutions to our needs.  Advertising, through repetition and redundancy, is in the business of artificially creating our needs or what we think we need to have in order to have a more fulfilling life.

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One need look no further than the launch of each new iPhone and the hoards of people that turn out to purchase it as soon as it becomes available, as evidence of our “conditioning,” and the need to have the “latest-greatest.”  It is without question a Pavlovian response, an automatic behavior, displayed as a result of being exposed to a repetitious stimulus.

Television’s sole purpose is to create consumers and prop up the economy and Wall Street; and sadly, it works.  Retail therapy (otherwise known as “shopping”) is a conditioned response to social programming and today, social media, entertainment, and sports have become the primary form of social interaction in a culture that wants to die amused to death.

 

 

 

Chapter 8

Everyone Else Appears So Happy, Why Am I Not?

It’s unfortunate, but there is a lot of suffering in the world. The suffering that takes place in third world countries is something incomprehensible to most of us, but it should probably serve as the benchmark for what real suffering looks like.  And yet, because we each suffer from the limited perspective of our own reality, despite living in a first world society with so many freedoms and conveniences, countless numbers of people at all tiers and levels of income in society are miserable. Drowning in our possessions, we still feel an emptiness; a void.

No one would ever argue that there are certainly benefits to living in a first world country, but as with everything in life there are both pros and cons. Without a doubt, we are the beneficiaries of countless advances in technology, transportation, medicine, municipalities, access to clean water and electricity, climate controlled homes that protect us from the elements, a myriad of choices in entertainment, the ability to be creative and both pursue a learning of the arts and a celebrating of the arts if we choose to, and certainly the availability of information. Conversely, all these luxuries and conveniences have unanticipated repercussions that come with them.

Driven by the pressures of the marketplace, that always seeks growth, companies are forced to compete in an unforgiving marketplace built on constant innovation and planned obsolescence, and profits. More and more profits. To maximize profits, companies pay less and less as salaries do not keep pace with inflation, benefits shrink year after year, and employees are forced to work more and more hours. We trade our lives for companies that now see us as expendable. No doubt, keeping up with our fast paced lives is daunting to say the least, where we have less and less time to invest in ourselves and explore our passions.

Though on a conscious level we may not really take time to contemplate it, we live in a culture steeped and predicated almost entirely on defining our value and importance through the acquisition of money and distracted by constant entertainment, self-indulgence, and consumption vs. sustainability. For most, our sense of self worth is based on our ability to integrate ourselves into our current system of commerce, accumulate capital, monetary wealth, status symbols, and material possessions.  Unlike our grandparents and more distant ancestors, who had considerably more responsibilities, today our responsibility has been reduced down to nearly one thing only . . . making money. If we make money, we get to participate in the game of life.  If we don’t, we stand at the end of an off ramp or a busy intersection and plead for others to help us by providing us with money as a handout.

Consider for a moment the significance of that. We’ve created a society where adults are a vanishing species. We’ve traded autonomy for convenience. When we grow up and leave home we move seamlessly from a codependent relationship with our parents into a codependent relationship with companies and corporations, that not only employ us and provide us with a means to derive income in exchange for hours of our life each day, but have become utterly dependent on to meet our every need for survival in this economic model we’re all participating in.

We are powerless without money and few know how to take care of themselves apart from the system that we’ve become entirely dependent upon to take care of us. We’re so much a part of it we don’t even question it. Being so dependent, we are easily manipulated by a Government that acts unmonitored by the citizens who are all too busy to care and have to look on, often in shock, as politicians make decisions completely independent of any popular vote or input. Subsequently, we have virtually no voice or influence in the very politics and political decisions that profoundly affect us and must suffer the consequences of having given so much power away.

So what are our choices? How do we begin to feel secure or safe in this system we’re all participating in? By continuing to do the only thing that we know to do. Work!

Without a doubt, just about everyone’s primary center of interest and most prevalent intent day-to-day, is our hyper-fixation on the acquisition of money.  How could it be anything else? Money buys things and creates spending power. Money provides security. It creates an artificial sense of importance for those that have plenty of it and, for those that don’t have enough of it to make ends meet, it creates tremendous suffering, desperation, despair, and despondency.

How many of us choose a career, not because it’s fulfilling and in line with our passions, but rather because we can make a lot of money at it? So dependent and desperate are we to make money that we’re just happy to have a job. Because of this dependency, we’re afraid to ask for raises, ask for better benefits, or demand greater compensation for our labor. Many in society, feel not only undervalued in their jobs and unappreciated, but downright abused and taken advantage of by the companies they work for, but it beats the alternative; unemployment, which is most people’s worst nightmare. This singular fear tends to make us very subservient to a system that we’re taught is here for us to exploit and capitalize on.

In today’s society, money is purported as being the sole source of happiness. The more we have, the happier we’ll be, or so we’re lead to believe.

A dear friend of mine, that I have known for years, suffers from chronic insomnia, anxiety, stress, frustration with her clients, and has a preoccupation with thoughts that she’s eventually going to lose her job if she doesn’t produce more, hit her goals for the company, or loses a client. In her own words, she has shared with me on numerous occasions that she’s absolutely miserable.

As one might imagine, I’ve repeatedly expressed my concern for her well-being, sharing with her that emotional “dis-ease” always leads to “disease.”  No sooner did I say this and my friend chose to share with me that she was just diagnosed with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, two days prior.  Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis is an auto-immune inflammation of the thyroid gland which causes a leak resulting in excess thyroid hormones (hyperthyroidism).  Over time, the inflammation prevents the thyroid from producing enough hormones (hypothyroidism).  This ultimately progresses to other auto-immune diseases that develop within the body.

I suggested that perhaps she consider getting a different career that pays less with less stress and more freedom. After explaining to me all the reasons why she can’t, she said, “I guess I’m just selfish. I love making money.”

Most of us have to have a good portion of our life in the rear view mirror before we discover that there is virtually no correlation between money and happiness.

Looking at the sheer number of drug overdoses and alcohol related deaths each year, and the overwhelming number of people in society on prescription psychoactive, anti-anxiety and anti-depressant medications, points to one conclusion. For a large segment of the population, life is scary, lonely, and depressing; and a good portion of us are merely hoping to escape it, even if just temporarily, by pharmaceutically manipulating  the biochemistry of the body to have alternative experiences, or by simply using pharmaceuticals to manage our moods and emotions.

This notion of just surviving life and all its challenges, by getting ahead, or better yet, “winning” at life, leaves a lot of room for us to be robbed of joy. But to be robbed of joy, we first have to be convinced that there’s no reason to be joyful. This is done through social conditioning. With inequality indexes showing the greatest margin between the “haves and the have-nots” in human history, life in most first world countries has become tantamount to an amusement park, where unfortunately less and less have access to the rides and less and less money to purchase something in the gift shop. But, for those that can afford it, there is so much to stimulate and indulge in. Sadly, most of these indulgences are designed to appeal to and inflate our ego.

As a result of this “conditioning,” through messages relentlessly massaged into our psyche, and an ego that lives at the level of comparison, we create a negative view of ourselves and of life by focusing on the superficial as opposed to anything of substance. Is it any wonder why we can end up feeling like a failure, with each of us carrying inside what I see as the most prevalent societal attribute of individuals swept up in American culture . . . the belief that we don’t measure up, or more specifically, “we simply aren’t good enough?”

Society, along with decades of cultural programming, has disconnected us from the natural world that we are so intimately tied to, and worse yet, made us invisible to ourselves.  Compared to every other species, we live in a very artificial reality. To feel relevant, we spend our lives trying to maintain and defend a fictional identity, an idealized version of ourselves, an ego that is always comparing ourselves to others.  Rather than just “being,” and being present, being grounded, being centered, and being patient with ourselves; we are forced to enter the fiercely competitive arena of the marketplace chasing this idealized version we’ve created of ourselves to prove to ourselves and others that we’re “relevant” and “successful,” or at least could be, if given the chance. Comparing ourselves to magazine covers that are all computer enhanced, we see little beauty in ourselves. We live in our heads constantly defending ourselves against the negative messages sent to us by our egos.

As mentioned earlier, we find that we’re rarely “present” and find ourselves constantly striving to “become” someone of higher ranking, with more titles to add to our resume, subscribing to the idea that we are actually defined by our jobs, our income, and the material wealth or possessions we accumulate along the way.  So we set goals, to have more, earn more, travel more, buy more logos and things; thinking that if we can just get “THERE” we’ll be happy.

The problem is “once we get there, there is no THERE, there” – Buddhist Proverb

We never arrive, because we simply keep making new imaginary mile markers for ourselves. That’s not to say one shouldn’t have goals, but the danger is attaching our sense of “happiness” to the attainment of those goals. This is the danger in externalizing our happiness and our concept of “success.” When we do, it’s a destination that we never arrive at. It’s tantamount to being lost and then setting off in the direction of a mirage of a desert oasis. We believe we see it with such clarity and chase after it only to realize it wasn’t real, and that neither happiness nor success is a place.

But society needs to weave this fantasy because it is this fantasy that keeps people productive, keeps Wall Street increasing profit shares, and keeps society going. Society requires man to live like a machine and die like a machine. Is it any wonder why so many are so unhappy?

Man has embedded within him the seed of a great blossoming of consciousness, but from birth, we are being hypnotized by society, by the state, by an educational system based, not on thinking, but on rote memory, by organized religion, by media, and by well-intentioned people who have already been indoctrinated into the system. They all prepare us for our participation in the system.

On some level everyone feels this sense of limitation built into the system but feels powerless in changing it. We feel the weight of the invisible chains placed upon us, in the form of mortgages, car loans, college debt, credit card debt, medical insurance, life insurance, umbrella insurance policies, and in the form of the salaries we are provided, which never seem to be enough to cover everything or provide us with the ability to dramatically move beyond our manageable living arrangements. Few decide to live with less. Instead, their solution is to work more!

We are sold a myth. We believe that society exists in our favor, for our good, that the system works for those who work hard, believe in themselves and reach for their dreams. But therein lies the illusion. Again, we are attaching happiness to the acquisition of things.

If someone makes a million dollars, they’re not twice as happy if they make two million dollars, but this is the merely a spectacle that companies, media outlets, Hollywood, and Magazine Covers continue to constantly push. The idea that happiness is something we find through the externalizing of our needs and sense of self-worth, and the idea that the cumulative sum of our acquired possessions will inch us closer and closer to a state of perpetual bliss.

The awakened person is no longer of use to society, because the awakened person is a free agent who is no longer hypnotized by society and cannot be reduced to slavery. They have a deeper commitment to existence, both theirs and others, to learning, loving, growing and preparing for their next journey beyond this life. They no longer care about the man-made structures of society and culture but rather feel intimately connected to the Earth and all things living. To the awakened; society is dead, inanimate, inorganic, and holds no virtue, no sense of wonder to the enlightened soul.

The awakened soul no longer belongs to a crowd, nor do they try to “fit in.” Our soul knows only freedom, and it is dangerous to society because society needs only our body. In awakening, our interests change from being extroverted to becoming introverted; we begin moving inward. Society is outside; it want its members to remain oblivious; society wants you to remain an extrovert, interested in power, superficiality, and prestige so that your energy goes on moving outward, attaching your ego to things. It’s a dead end and a very frivolous pursuit. At the end of one’s life one sees the utter futility of it all.

It’s become all too clique’ but it is true, “Life is a journey, not a destination.” If I had it to do all over I would have traveled much lighter.  It’s absolutely true.  The more we own, the more our things own us.

Chapter 9

“We’re Always At Choice”

Making better decisions for ourselves, and really to the benefit of others by creating healthier more harmonious relationships, involves developing a heightened sense of awarenes and elevating ourselves above our parental and cultural programming, so we can begin “choosing” to consciously “respond” to life instead of unconsciously “reacting” to it.

To understand what I mean, consider the fact that studies in behavioral research have shown that an estimated 94% of the population does not continue to develop emotionally much beyond the age of an eight-year-old child.  c0922d31967273-5668c010eb3b9

This is because our behavioral patterns are developed in our early childhood through observation, by modeling our parent’s behaviors.  Because of something called neural-plasticity, repetition creates very strong neural pathways in the brain that make most of our behavioral responses, automatic, reflexive behaviors that occur with virtually no underlying conscious thought.  These patterns of behavior are solidified by the age of eight and express themselves in the form of very predictable “reactive” behaviors that we can be plagued with for the rest of our lives.  How easily we’re triggered into reacting to people and things we see.

In other words, our core patterns of behavior are developed before we can apply any logical reasoning to them, and are created by either emulating the behavioral patterns of our parents or by rejecting them.  These behavioral patterns are unconscious, automatic “reactions” to life’s events, and occur below the level of cognition or conscious thought.  What’s important to understand is that they’re NOT based on a “choice” we make. Instead they are “automatic, involuntary reactions deeply rooted in the egoic mind!”

How many times in life do we react to things and later regret the way we acted out?  This occurs because we react before we even have time to think about what we are doing or saying.  Again, the behavioral pattern is unconscious and automatic.  As I am sure we have all experienced, these reactions often lead to regretful behaviors, when later, we think about what we did.

Most people will live out an entire lifetime unconsciously “reacting” to life and others, from a series of rudimentary emotional patterns that they developed as a child, by mimicking their parent’s behaviors.  Only when we can become the observer, the awareness behind our thoughts, are we empowered to pause and create a space from which we can make better decisions by consciously “responding” to life’s events and circumstances, instead of being triggered into unconsciously “reacting” to everything.

While developing this awareness, the key is to be gentle with ourselves. During this transition it’s important that we suspend all judgment of ourselves, lest we fall into the pattern of bullying ourselves with a self-deprecating dialogue we tend to have with ourselves.  That is the voice of our ego, damaged, wounded, embarrassed, and angry condemning the sensitive, beautiful, authentic, emotional part of our being.

It is very important to give yourself permission during times like these, to “feel” any emotions that come to the surface with no resistance. Dive into them! Feel them! Do not deny or try to resist them. Only in allowing ourselves to “feel” our feelings, can we process our feelings and develop awareness.

When we are feeling bad our tendency is to beat up on ourselves.  Our intellect, which is the egoic mind, and operates at the level of our cognitive understanding at our current age, tends to become very judgmental and abusive of our sensitive emotional self (which you may remember, for most is easily wounded and beat up on by our ego, because we don’t, without intervention, work, and developing awareness, develop emotionally beyond the emotional mindset of an 8 year old).  Simply put, the ego is our inner adult and the emotional self is our inner child.  The ego is our cultural programming.  The obedient part of our mind that is restrictive, obedient, draws within the lines, reminds us of the rules and regulations that “should” be governing our socially accepted and preordained behaviors, and applies pressure to our emotional self in the form of judgement.  It is never present, but rather combing through the past to reveal to us all the ways we failed ourselves and disappointed others.  It’s condemning.  These two aspects of who we are always at odds with one another until we integrate them by developing awareness.  It vital at these times to become acutely aware of what you are telling yourself about yourself and the messages that you are sending to your body that create so much pain and suffering.

What I cannot encourage enough, is to resist the urge to label any feeling as good or bad, right or wrong, and choose not to succumb to the tendency to tell yourself “I shouldn’t be feeling this way or thinking theses thoughts.”

An exercise I like to have people practice, is to quiet themselves when they are in pain and observe any thoughts or feelings that come up inside them, just as they would observe clouds that briefly form in the sky and slowly dissipate and vanish.  In other words, I encourage them to let them bubble up to the surface offering no resistance and allowing them take shape.  The very act of displacing our thoughts and just observing them, as if they lie outside of us, creates a gap, a space between us and our thoughts and feelings.  From this gap we have created, we are able to observe our thoughts.  It allows us to listen to the internal dialogue with having with ourselves, and the internal narrative that we have come up with to explain our circumstances.  In doing so, what we will find is that the thoughts coming to the surface are the beliefs we hold about ourselves.  Now we have something to work with.  In changing our thoughts, everything changes.  In changing the way we look at things, the things we look at change.

So much suffering comes from labeling our feelings. It’s a form of resistance, instead of allowing. In labeling our feelings we are ultimately labeling ourselves, judging ourselves, putting ourselves down, belittling ourselves, and resisting the natural flow of life as we transition.  When we do so, we are focusing on the past, which is dead, instead of in the present moment which is life.  We spiral downward in hopelessness, wishing things could be different or wishing “we” could be different and fail to see all the opportunities life is opening up to us.  We feel inadequate and irrelevant, disposable and unlovable.  In developing our awareness we come to see that all these feelings are in fact, imagined and temporary. They are merely stories we tell ourselves.

The truth is, we are what we believe and convince ourselves we are, not what anyone else “thinks” of us or has to say about us.  It is the internal dialogue that we are having with ourselves that creates all of our pain and suffering.  The only reason someone has the ability to trigger us in to hurting, is because something they’ve tapped into and released unresolved pain from our past, the parts of ourselves we’ve not yet learned to love.  It emerges from the garbage we believe to be true about ourselves, which we’ve stuffed deep down inside, and yet so readily comes to the surface when someone triggers us.  It is because in trying to hide what we really believe to be true about us, we’ve put the buttons there for them to push and trigger.  But please understand, others do not hurt us.  They only tap into the pain that’s already within us simply looking for a way out, a release.  Pain we’ve not yet overcome and let go of.

It’s important to understand that our reactions themselves are just poorly designed coping mechanisms developed as children that we designed instinctively to protect us in time that we felt threatened or afraid.  We’re pushed to harden ourselves at a very young age and encouraged to grow up quickly.   After all, society can be very unforgiving.

These reactive behaviors developed intuitively and were adopted through the observation of our parent’s behaviors that were learned from their parents, which they learned from their parents.  On and on, the cycle of adopting these behaviors continues, generation after generation.  As adults they no longer serve us, but our ego, which again, always sees us through the lens of comparison to everyone else, utilizes these patterns as the only way it knows to protect itself.  These reactions manifest themselves in the form of emotional outbursts, yelling, gossip, retaliation, vindictiveness, the need to prove we’re right, calling others out, name-calling, sadness, depression, playing the victim, and apathy.

As long as we continue to unconsciously “react” to life we will be slaves, emotionally tethered to and affected by the internal ranting of our minds. Simply put, it will be our master and we will be able to exert very little control over the way we feel or our emotional state of mind.  When we become the awareness behind our thoughts, we arrive at a place of being able to “choose” of how to respond to life; instead of reacting. We’re able to reframe our thoughts around a particular circumstance, look at it from another perspective, and understand another’s reactive behavior. Perhaps one of the most obvious signs of developing our awareness is that when some one acts in a hurtful way towards us, we don’t seek to retaliate but rather seek to understand their hurt, which is the real reason people lash out at us. Hurting people always hurt people. In elevating ourselves above our involuntary reactions, the mind becomes our servant and is no longer our master.

 

 

 

Chapter 10

We’re Only Ever Having ONE Relationship

To awaken is to see ourselves as whole, sufficient, loving, and lovable, not “insufficient or lacking.” It’s to move from an external focus to an internal journey.  It’s to realize we are here to learn, only learn.  It’s to see ourselves as “connected,” not separate, and to make decisions that supersede the will imposed upon us by the ego.  Not an easy task, but with a little practice we can learn to completely overhaul these automatic behaviors and live consciously.

Seeing ourselves for who and what we really are is paramount in a society where, short of a natural disaster, cooperation and a sense of community are no longer highly regarded values, and where by contrast, competition is perhaps our society’s most revered and highly glorified value. As a result, connecting with one’s self can be an extremely difficult undertaking in an economic model built on striving against one another, entertainment, self-indulgence, celebrity status, and the “cult of personality.” There are so many things to preoccupy ourselves with and distract us from ever truly getting to know ourselves.

It is only in knowing ourselves (our true nature) that we are able to see and feel comfortable with ourselves and others and allow our true self to emerge through the masks of the ego.  

What we “really” are, beneath these mortal coils that we temporarily reside in, is not our persona, our personality, or even our thoughts about ourselves. We are essence! Our essence dips into time and space but ultimately lies beyond it and transcends it entirely. Believe me, to conceptualize and understand this can be a very daunting task, to say the least.  It’s a very foreign concept to us in the western world.  It’s our failure to see this that keeps us always thinking LIFE is “out there” happening “to us,” acting upon us in fairly unpredictable ways, which is why we strive so hard to create predictability, continuity, and security in our lives.  And let’s be honest, life can be scary.  It was quite an arduous journey for me to learn the deeper truths that I now lean on heavily to guide me through life, but my journey is far from over.

In a society where we have been conditioned to blame others and life’s circumstances for the way we “feel” it’s important to understand that how we view ourselves and/or “feel” in any given moment is paradoxically the result of the internal workings of our minds and the thoughts we choose to ruminate on.

Contrary to popular belief, the way we feel emotionally in any situation or at any given time is NOT the product of anyone or anything external to us.  It’s the result of the internal dialogue that we are always having with ourselves in any given moment.  This internal dialogue we’re always having creates the picture we’ve painted of ourselves or the narrative we’ve created about others and/or our life’s circumstances.

For most, our internal dialogue tends to be very self-deprecating in nature.  This shouldn’t be surprising.  Our society appeals to people’s egos. It’s what drive almost all commerce in the marketplace that is predicated on competition and comparison.  But it is this internal dialogue we are always having that determines what we tell ourselves, how we react to others and treat ourselves, how we show up in the world, and how we interact with everything: the earth, the environment, and all living things.  How we view ourselves in relation to the world around us determines every cognitive, psychological, and emotional aspect of our lives.  The key point here though is “how we see ourselves” in relation to everything else.

In other words, the only relationship we are ever having, from the day we arrive, until the day we depart this world, is the one we are having with ourselves in any given moment, and that relationship is always and only taking place in our head.  How we see ourselves isn’t based on what others think of us.  It’s based on what we think others think of us. So, all external relationships essentially serve as a mirror reflecting back to us the beliefs we hold about ourselves, because it is our interactions with others that evoke innate feelings within us that we use to weave together stories in our heads to explain everything that is going on around us.

I think it’s safe to say that our self-perception is pretty important, especially in a world where there are 7.4 billion people/mirrors reflecting back to us, different aspects of what we believe to be true of ourselves.

In a world polarized by political views, religious beliefs, patriotism, class distinction, and the national fervor that is a product of identifying with our country of origin, it’s easy to get lost in the sea of labels that we identify with and may choose to pin on our self and others.

An accurate depiction of ourselves is elusive because that depiction is completely imaginary (and by imaginary I mean, only in our heads) and always filtered through the complexion of a whole myriad of different emotions that unfortunately, are always changing.  In other words, we see ourselves through a different set of lenses every time we choose to look at ourselves and contemplate the essence of who and what we are.

For the most part, as mentioned before, our perception of self in any given moment is reactionary and myopic in nature, usually in response to an external trigger, or some circumstance we find ourselves in.  It’s illusory, and making an accurate appraisal of ourselves “as a whole,” in an isolated moment of “feeling” something, is virtually impossible because we are not what happens to us nor are we the wellspring of feelings that bubble up to the surface in response to the events that transpire within a given day.

It’s often said, we can never step in the same river twice, and that is indeed, very true.  But, what is left out of that consideration, as a friend once reminded me, is that the same person never shows up to the river’s edge either.   Who and what we “are” is never the same from one moment to the next.  We are always changing.  So to see ourselves for what we are perhaps requires a different perspective.

Because life is fluid, dynamic, and ever-changing, our feelings are always changing in response to it.  If that’s all true, how could we ever form a clear picture of what we are from moment to moment based upon how we “feel?”

So, to say, “I AM . . . anything,” to label our self as anything, is a grossly limiting and terribly inaccurate statement, because our appraisal is based on how we feel in “that” moment.

An experience from my childhood may serve as a good analogy . . .

As a child, I remember seeing an object on the bottom of a pool of water, but making out what exactly it was, was very difficult because the surface waves made by other people in waters-edgethe water, caused the object to jump back and forth.  In each moment, each wave at the surface created glints of light magnifying part of the object for a fraction of a second and then another part of it for just a moment, revealing different aspects or a different portion of the object with each wave.  To figure out what it was involved either waiting for the water to become tranquil and smooth out or required observing it long enough to mentally piece these fragments together to create “the whole.”

To see who we are is just like that, and it involves looking deeper inside ourselves, past the image in the mirror.  It takes time to see beyond all the illusions of ego we’ve created about ourselves, to discover the “real” entity living beneath the skin we wear.  That’s because the stories and the illusions we create in our head have so many feelings associated with them.

Feelings are a horrible lens to take a mental snapshot of our self with.  It’s like trying to take in an enormous painting that covers the entire side of a building with our nose up against the canvas.  Depending on what part of the canvas our nose is pressed up against,  will determine the guestimation we make of what we are looking at, or in this given analogy . . . who we are.  The picture is always incomplete and always will be until we dissolve our association with form.  We, beneath the surface, are “formless.”

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We are not the avatars or the bodies that we temporarily reside in while here in the physical plane.  Consider that science has probed every orifice, fissure, sulci, and organelle in the human brain and yet has never identified or discovered where consciousness lies within the human body. It appears to be completely nonlocal.  And yet, paradoxically we all have the experience of being the observer looking out at life.  We each experience ourselves as “I.”  This is why we experience ourselves as being separate from everything we observe, and therein lies the illusion. Life is always only occurring in our heads.

 

 

Chapter 11

“Life is Never Happening to Us”

It’s important to understand that at the level of our emotions, life is never happening “to us.”  Instead, it is always and only happening “within us” as we consciously project our feelings and what we’re experiencing internally outward onto what is happening in our immediate environment.

We create stories about what’s going on as our thoughts seem to form a dialogue without any effort.  Thoughts seem to bubble up from an unidentifiable wellspring within us painting our interpretation of what is going on around us.  Only when we develop “awareness” and become the “observer” of our thoughts, can we rise above them by realizing there’s a much deeper aspect of ourselves behind the thoughts that are a product of our automatic, unconscious thinking.  We become consciously aware, and stop reacting to the thoughts we’re having, understanding that they’re simply “patterns” of automatic thinking we learned along the way.  We stop judging others and judging ourselves, and realize that our judgment of others and how they may treat us is really only a reflection of how we see ourselves.

Only then can we stop “unconsciously reacting” to life, pause, and “consciously respond” to life, knowing how others are behaving, even if in a way directed at us, has nothing to do with us, but rather is simply the result of the unconscious and automatic patterns of behavior they’ve learned along their way.

Reactions are always an unconscious provocation of the mind and involve no choice.  Responses are always a conscious endeavor, a choice.

From this viewpoint, every we experience in life; good, bad, or indifferent is teaching us something about ourselves.  EVERYTHING and EVERYONE is our teacher if we choose to examine the internal dialogue we’re having with ourselves.  Everything happening in our lives chips away at the beliefs we hold about ourselves.  When we really develop our “awareness” we will realize that every time we look outside of ourselves as an explanation for how we are feeling, there is no absolution.  We never find an explanation for why we feel the way we feel, or why others are treating us a certain way.   As a result, peace of mind is something that will always elude us.

“When we blame others, we will always suffer.”  –  Buddhist proverb.

Our experiences only reflect back to us the feelings, thoughts, judgments, and perspectives we project on to them, which are only a projection of the feelings, thoughts, judgments, and perspectives we carry about ourselves.  So, to reduce this concept down to a very elemental, punctuated statement, it is not LIFE itself, but rather “US,” who create the way we “experience” life itself.   How we “experience” life is all merely a product of our own thoughts.  Simply put, our thoughts create our beliefs, our beliefs create our story or the internal narrative we make up (in response to everything we experience), and our story creates all our feelings.  Change our thoughts and everything changes.

As Wayne Dyer stated so simplistically, “Loving people live in a loving world.  Hostile people live in a hostile world – Same world.”

Since we’re the only one “creating” the stories about our self and everything going on around us, everyone else in our lives is “off the hook” so to speak.   No one is responsible for the way we feel, other than “us” because it is “us,” and “us” alone; not others, creating all the stories in our heads and therefore all the corresponding “feelings” that we experience.  It is our own self-deprecating internal dialogue that creates virtually all our suffering in life.  Pain is inevitable in life, but suffering is a choice because it is a product of the thoughts we “choose” to mull over and fixate on.

The only one capable of hurting us is US . . . NO ONE ELSE. 

When we rely on other people to make us feel good about ourselves, joy will always elude us because someone else can decide whether we feel joy, happiness, sadness, anger, abandonment, or any other emotion.  We will have rare interludes of happiness and feel good about ourselves, but we will always be dangling ourselves precariously between emotional bliss and annihilation, and our emotional well-being will always be based upon how others are treating us, which of course is something we have no control over.  Not a very good methodology for approaching life.

The reality is, most of our emotional wounds in life are self-inflicted where, as victims of our screen_shot_2015-05-31_at_5-45-55_pm-6822EGO, we bully ourselves endlessly and convince ourselves we are nothing. It is this internal, self-deprecating dialogue we’re having with ourselves that chips away at our sense of self-worth.  For many, it can be downright debilitating.

Most of us try to control our minds and avoid negative thoughts.  And therein lies the paradox.  When we attempt to control the mind, it becomes increasingly more difficult to control.  We resist our feelings by living in denial and ultimately spiral into catastrophic thinking instead of learning to accept our feelings, and process them by offering no resistance and choosing to feel them instead of ignoring them.  Through awareness and detachment, by suspending all judgment of ourselves for what we’re feeling, and allowing the emotions to come and go; eventually, the mind will clear itself.

 

 

Chapter 12

Change Your Thoughts and EVERYTHING Changes

OSHO, arguably one of the greatest modern spiritual teachers of eastern philosophy, says this is the first step to enlightenment.  He says that “this insanity” that we are so prone to  can be overcome and alleviated by “being a simple witness of our own destructive thought processes.”

When we sit with our thoughts and just observe them, we create a gap between us (the witness) and our thoughts.  In doing so, we suddenly become aware of the fact that we are not our “mind” or our thoughts, but rather the “observer.”  In doing so, we can give ourselves permission to “feel” our feelings and process them, realizing our feeling aren’t us.  They’re automatic behaviors we learned a long time ago.  It allows us to be gentle with our self, loving and forgiving of our self and others.

Taking responsibility for our own feelings, instead of blaming others, is not a very popular concept for many because it requires too much accountability and divorces us from the luxury of blaming others.  It’s so much easier to just blame others for the way we feel, but when we blame others we’re not taking responsibility or accountability for the way we feel.  There is no absolution in blaming others.  We don’t process our feelings when our focus is on what others have done.

Something I teach, in working with others, is positive affirmations.  The human mind is a fascinating thing.  All discernment, the idea of determining what’s true or untrue, takes place at the level of conscious thought. The subconscious mind, by contrast, exercises no judgment.  Judgment is a product of cognition, applying thought to something.  There is no evaluation, judgment, or critical thinking, taking place at the level of the subconscious mind.  Our subconscious mind sees all incoming information as equal, relevant, and true. Because of the simple fact, we can take advantage of our own minds. Quite literally we can train our minds to think differently, simply by “programming” ourselves to think differently.  Just as in the pre-cognitive stage of our development, between birth and 8 years old, we learned automatic behaviors through repetition, without applying any cognitive judgment to these behaviors we were learning, we can do the same thing as an adult.  It merely involves paying no “mind” to one’s self with a simple exercise.

An exercise I have a lot of individuals do is to replace every negative thought they have, with a simple four-word phrase. Understanding that everything is our teacher, and every experience is revealing to us the beliefs we hold about ourselves, then every experience holds a lesson for us.  I teach others to have a gratitude for every experience, even the bad ones, by repetitiously repeating (out loud if possible, but if not, in their heads) the phrase “I LOVE MY LIFE!” every time they have a negative or self-deprecating thought.

Something miraculous happens every time and in every individual practicing this.  To date, with 100% success, every individual that has tried this and stuck with it, has dramatically improved their state of mind.

If at first, as the phrase is repeated over and over, the individual does not believe the statement, it doesn’t matter.  Again, the subconscious mind doesn’t know any better.   And, since it is estimated that about 98% of our conscious thoughts bubble up from the subconscious mind, as we continue to program subconscious mind, our conscious thoughts begin to effortlessly become more positive. As our thoughts become more positive, the beliefs we hold of ourselves change.  As the beliefs we hold about ourselves become more positive, the internal dialogue we are having with ourselves becomes more positive. As a result, we begin to see the world and ourselves in a different light and all of our feelings shift to a more positive and uplifting emotional state. “Change our thoughts and everything changes!”

 

 

Chapter 14

“As I See It” – A Perspective

The reason I titled this book “I AM, WE ARE . . .” is because I hold the fundamental belief that how we see ourselves is ultimately how we see the world, and because our view of ourselves and the world has been prescribed to us, we all tend to see the world in a similar fashion with only minor differences in religious and political beliefs.  I would even argue that most of our beliefs are based in fear as opposed to love.

So how does my preamble leading up to this point  shape the way we view our self and the world around us?  Since LIFE is only and always going on inside of us, let’s expand this concept of “self” to include our perception of the world around us, since after all, our view of the world is just a construct of our ego that we carry in our heads, based on the beliefs we cling to.

The original impetus for writing this particular book, before I used it as a reference for those I counsel, grew out of a response to all the hate and fear that has been highlighted in the news in recent months. It has been disturbing and very disconcerting to me that since the election of Donald Trump, entire groups are coming out of the woodwork, to give a voice to hatred in a way we haven’t seen since the 1960’s. Metastasizing like cancer, I really felt compelled to provide a different perspective.

Not knowing where to begin, I referred back to a copy I kept of a response I had written 3 years ago to an individual who chose to attack me in a public forum.  After a long rant from him expressing his vitriol and hate for Muslims, I was asked why I would defend them, and asked “What are you?  A Dreamer? A Liberal?”  As I said, the question came as a personal attack and was directed at my “apolitical” affiliation (yes, I said “apolitical” because I see the whole system as profoundly misguided) and at my spiritual views.

The particular individual was in sensed that in the midst of promoting his anti-Muslim rhetoric, I would dare challenge him by asking questions trying to determine how he arrived at his rather skewed and misguided conclusions.  My questions were met with indignation and my character, and universal acceptance of others was attacked, which lead to his question, “what are you?”  I believe his hope was that my response would provide him with a way to categorically reduce me down to a label so that my point of view would have no relevancy in his eyes and provide him with the excuse to just dismiss me.  Perhaps.

With that said, I’m sharing my response here hoping it may provide a credo, a dogma, or simply a reference point that each one of you reading might see as a foundation upon which you may choose to build perspective from or even reframe your own prejudice and bias from. It truly came from the most sincerely and authentic part inside of me.

Here is my response:

 

Since I have been woven out of the very fabric of the universe and the energy that created it, what I know to be true to the very core of my being, is that I AM a boundless, infinite, eternal, non-physical entity having a temporary human experience; here to learn, love, grow, and evolve, in this three-dimensional classroom called “LIFE.”   I AM of NO religion, NO country, NO state, NO political affiliation.  I see NO boundaries between countries, states, or provinces; NO distinction, and NO lines drawn between me and others.  I see NO race, creed, color, tint, or hue.  I temporarily belong to only one race, the human race.  I AM NOT a citizen of America; I AM a temporary citizen of the planet.  I AM one with the planet and every living thing.  I AM one with the cosmos.  I’ve crossed from the non-physical to the physical to expand consciousness and to lift and magnify others.

To ask what I AM?  I AM nothing and no one in particular, and yet everything and everyone at the same time.  With every element that comprises the physical aspect of myself having been formed in the crucible of a star, I AM not only existing within the universe, the universe is within me.  As Rumi once said so beautifully, “I AM not a drop in the ocean, I AM the entire ocean in a drop.”  Separation is only an illusion.  As mentioned earlier, we are each like a wave on the ocean’s surface, but intimately connected beneath the surface at a much deeper level.  WE ARE ALL ONE. 

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To label our self or others as anything is a dangerous and violent act.  It is to prejudiciously categorize, alienate, and separate others from ourselves.  It is to segregate and see “them” and “us” as separate from one another. It’s to focus on our differences instead of our similarities. It’s to divide instead of uniting.

The reality is, we are all far more alike than we are different, having the same basic needs, and for the most part wanting the same things for ourselves that others want for themselves and those dearest to them.

We tend to lose our true sense of identity because society’s labels put us all in boxes that count us as part of one group or another.  This is dangerous because in today’s world, faced with countless challenges jeopardizing our survival, we need a cohesive sense of community more than ever. 

Worse than restricting ourselves with these labels, is to apply them to entire groups, stereotyping them, and reducing them down to a monoculture of uni-dimensional beings that can be represented by a banner, a sticker, or a tag line.   

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To make broad sweeping generalities and point fingers at an entire culture, ethnicity, or religion because of the interests of an infinitesimally small portion of the population (governments included) is reckless and irresponsible and only serves to perpetuate stereotypes, promote bigotry, racism, profiling, and is at its very core of the bias, hate, and prejudice that breeds pride, antagonism, hostility, and war.

I’ve never personally met a Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, or Jew, that showed me anything but love, kindness, and compassion, and saw in their eyes, the same beautiful kindness, love, hope, and aspirations for themselves and their families, that I see in every person I meet.

Our churches, mosques, and temples are filled each week with those who listen to the message of “universal love and acceptance,” that has been preached for millennia, but does what we hear ever move from our head to our hearts?  Beyond our societal programming?  Beyond the pride and prejudice of believing our country, our religion, our way of life is better than everyone else’s? 

How can we claim to “believe” in the practical application of such divine principles and still subscribe to the pride associated with the archaic concepts of patriotism and the vitriolic fervor that arises in individuals by identifying with such an abstract notion such as a country?  After all, what is a “country?”  Is the flag we wave representative of the people that live in it?  If so, what people?  Does it represent their values?  If so, whose values does it represent?  Are they the values of the most predominant ethnicity?  Religion?  Race?  The Dominant political party?

I tend to believe that the banner we wave as representative of our country tends to be emblematic, like team colors, signifying the cumulative sum of that country’s corporate interests, since the only thing that tends to identify a country as a world power or not, is their economic viability and the size of the military defending those interests.  The concept of one’s country is really not representative at all of what any one given individual may hold as righteous, dignified, respectable, or as an inalienable right. 

With all the racial bigotry so evident in our recent presidential campaign rallies, religious profiling of Muslims in recent years, and the degree to which we were appalled by a sports figure’s choice to sit during the National Anthem, there’s little evidence that we believe in the very values that our forefathers fought for.  So, what does it actually mean to say, “I AM AN AMERICAN” or “WE ARE AMERICANS,” or Russian, or Serbian, or Greek, or Kurdish, or Iraqi, or anything else?”

To collectively make such a claim with any degree of pride or arrogance, elevating our nation as being better than others, is a profoundly underdeveloped mentality tantamount to that of a high school pep rally, pitting one country against another through the segregation of ideologies that may or may not represent the collective interests of the individuals living in each country.   How can we believe in something as amorphous as the concept of a country or believe that that concept can espouse divine spiritual principals, that on Sunday morning we claim to hold so dear when the idea of a country is in fact imaginary?  Every country today is made up of countless different kinds of people of every ethnicity, with countless different points of view based on the heritage and the beliefs passed down within each group’s ancestry. 

Viewed from space there are no visible boundaries dividing the Earth up into individual countries.  These boundaries, though universally believed in and accepted as real, are in fact imaginary and only serve to polarize and divide ourselves into groups based on lines and labels that don’t exist.  And yet, there are those who will die defending these imaginary lines and labels.

These wars we fight are fought for resources, political/economic dominance, corporate profiteering, or to sustain an existing system that perpetuates a cultural point of view, all in the name of “country.”  This is no different than the fighting that took place in the sandbox when we were children, played out on the grandest of scales, with the same basic argument of, “This is mine, that is yours!”  “My point of view vs. yours (Egocentrism/Bigotry), my religion vs. yours (Dogma/Institutionalized Thinking/ Profiling/ Stereotyping/Pride), my political beliefs vs. yours (Conceit/Idealism),  my possessions, wealth, and social status vs. yours (Selfishness/ Pride/ Arrogance/Conceit),  my people vs. yours (Ethnic Prejudice/ Racism/ Radicalism), and my country vs. yours (Nationalism/Pride/Arrogance).”

Which of any of these abstract precepts for war epitomize spiritual values? Where is the universal love, compassion, connectedness, acceptance, forgiveness, stewardship, or sense of community, as a collective family inhabiting a shrinking planet?  How can these values even exist in a world that has become predicated on the belief that life is competition and it’s “every man for himself?”

What humanity is painfully learning is that we haven’t matured much since we played in the sandbox as kids.  There are very few grown ups left in the world, they’re a dying breed.  We play sycophantic games as individuals to get ahead in life, while we collectively plunder the planet, consume natural resources to fuel commerce and the “marketplace,” destroy animal habitats, bringing about the extinction of countless species, destroy the Earth’s life support systems, and exploit entire ecosystems to complete collapse in the pursuit of economic dominance and marginal gains on Wall Street.  All the while we further detach from our essence, our spirit, and the divine within us. 

The good news is, life in the physical plane is fairly short and subsequently ends, so it’s only a temporary state of insanity we suffer from.

All this DIVISION is caused by the lack of a relationship we have with our self.  We remain polarized with others having different political beliefs, religious beliefs, and national affiliation because we simply fail to understand ourselves and understand our connection to one another. Society has divided us by perpetuating a constant focus on the superficial and everything external to us.  Society grooms and cultivates a constant focus on our egos, where again, we only live at the level of comparing ourselves to others, never reaching the ever-elusive perspective, that we are all one and that we are all in this thing called life together.

So then, let’s examine some otherwise unexamined beliefs.  This insanity notwithstanding, WHO ARE WE when we pull ourselves out of the realm of such contrast and contradiction?   

Man with conceptual spiritual body art

Consider for a moment, that the vast majority of the world believes in life after death, which is to subscribe to the belief that some part of us survives the demise of our physical body, which taken a step further is to believe that we are in fact, something formless, intangible, ethereal, nonphysical. If we are something nonphysical then how could our bodies, or the mental construct we create of ourselves by attaching these prescribed societal, political, and religious labels to ourselves, ever truly represent “US?”  Simply put, they can’t.

 So if the essence of what we are is something that is inherently non-physical, lacking “form,” how is it we are “here” in what we perceive to be the physical plane in the “form” of a human being? I view our “physical” state as no different than the different states of matter that molecules can take.  Just as water can take on the different states of water, steam, or ice, we as spiritual beings can take on the temporary state of coalescing or condensing into a physical being (or what appears to be a physical state) in the physical realm, but our essence is and always will be non-physical.

Everything, both physical and non-physical, is cyclical in nature, including us.  As a science teacher, I developed the realization that everything we need to know about ourselves can be observed in nature.  Earlier, I alluded to the idea that we are “formless.”  Let’s expound upon that idea here with an analogy.

Every square inch of the air we breathe is saturated with water vapor. Within every droplet of water vapor lies the entire constituency of its source, the Ocean.  It is temporarily separate from the ocean (its “source”) but it is the ocean (its “source”) and will someday return to the ocean (its “source”). Likewise, we are separate from our source energy (the non-physical/ ethereal/formless) from which we all originated, but will someday return to the source.  WE ARE THE SOURCE, and we ALL came from the same ONE SOURCE.

Our bodies are nothing more than a temporary housing, a wrapping so to speak, a vehicle for our spirit when we incarnate, that we let go of and is recycled back into the environment.  “Ashes to ashes.”  It’s all cyclical.  Just as a star’s life cycle involves dissolution (usually in the form of a violent explosion), going from something with form and structure to something completely nebulous and without form, the gaseous scattering of stardust over time coalesces, creating new stars, and the process repeats.

Drawing upon the laws of physics, and going on the presupposition that prior to the evolution of this universe of “form,” things were “formless,” then we were there in the beginning, as part of the field of “formless” energy that gave rise to everything with “form.”  

 We, being “formless,” before “form,” had to exist before the physical universe, or what we now identify with as “form” in this “physical” dimension.  In other words, we’ve always existed.  We always will.  We’ve always been immortal, eternal, limitless, and formless as a field of energy with no beginning and no end.  We never die because we were never truly born in the first place.  Being born is a product of “form,” our entry to the physical plane.  We are “formless.” 

Though we inhabit and animate this sophisticated machine we temporarily reside in, we are not the machine, we are the “ghost in the machine.”  Once the ghost leaves the machine, the machine ceases to function. As Eckart Tolle said, “Death is not the opposite of Life. Birth is the opposite of death. Life is eternal.” 

Our true essence is that which is formless, infinite, boundless, eternal, with no beginning, and no end.  Therefore, the religion, political affiliation, or national flag we choose to identify with in this temporal experience, as a human can never define us.  And yet, within this 3-dimensional hologram, we believe the illusions we’ve spun so much that we can wage war on one another in the name of these bizarre ideological concepts that only serve to separate us.  But they are just that . . . intangible concepts . . . ideas . . . beliefs, and are completely imaginary.  Cultivated since birth, massaged relentlessly into our psyche, and relatively unquestioned by the masses, they endure.

Nationalism, politics, social status, and religion are nothing more than socially acceptable forms of separatism and prejudice that serve as the pretext for justifying competition instead of cooperation, pride instead of humility, egocentrism instead of collectivism, fear instead of love, hatred instead of acceptance, and intolerance instead of freedom, as we indulge ourselves in the competitive money sport this world has become . . . . where we believe our lives are defined by what we do and how much money we make, by an imaginary class system creating an imaginary hierarchy of importance that is horribly lopsided in favor of certain groups, races, or even entire countries versus others. 

To identify with a nation, a political group, or even with a particular religion for that matter, is to separate from that which connects us as a whole.  It is incongruent with the most sacred, divine spiritual principals, and everything that quantum physics is now revealing to us . . . “Everything is interconnected and inter-dependent.”

To awaken is to see that the world is only a reflection of what we choose to believe it is, that LIFE is for the most part imaginary and illusory, lived out entirely in our heads.  What we see in the world is only a reflection of what we believe and what we see in ourselves.

– End of my response –

 

 

Chapter 15

“Forgetting Love, and Putting on Fear”

Sadly, a large percentage of the population sees a scary world, where we’re all just competing with one another as individuals, as groups, as corporations, and even as entire countries in a world that we’ve reduced down to a score board on Wall Street and the symbol in our driveway. We, as a society, have to a large degree become defined by our possessions and status.  As a result, the professional image we convey to others is paramount to our success, so our lives are lived out casting shadows and selling an acceptable image to those who can affect our livelihood.  We adopt and project a “success-oriented” and “success driven” persona, pretending to possess a fiercely competitive nature that will contribute to increasing the company’s bottom line, that is often very different than the “essence” of who we are beneath the surface. It’s all role playing.

In a very insidious way, we were indoctrinated into a system that we didn’t even realize we were participating in until it was too late. Our participation requires us falling into a deep hypnotic state where we chase after an abstract concept of what it means to be “successful” and the only thing that matters is making money.  So much so, that money and the acquisition of it is tied to every emotional state we experience.  Our lives are centered around.  This pursuit creates a culture driven by the ego and more importantly, fear.  Once proselytized, there is no end, there is no questioning it.

Our lives become that of endless consumption and purchasing symbols of our success. As we acquire more and more “things” we, of course, have to protect them. We’ve got to protect what we have in this world of “haves” and “have-nots.” We have home security systems installed, we lock our doors, and we lock our cars. We have insurance to prepare for eventualities that may never happen.  We’re very vigilant and hyper-focused in protecting our self-interests, our collective interests, and our way of life.  We outfit every store and business with cameras. We spend billions to build a military to protect our national interests.  Governments working in conjunction with all kinds of social media apps, now track every person on the planet’s location and internet activity, scan every phone call using “scrubbers” to identify key words which are seen as threatening “national security,” has in conjunction with several social media apps, amassed the largest facial recognition data base on Earth, and put into place countless other measures that limit our freedom, under the guise of protecting us. It all serves as a means of exerting “control.” This control has been an agenda for millennia.

Every major religion on Earth is predicated on promoting the fear of a dire eternal inheritance when we meet our demise, which is juxtaposed by the assurance of a heavenly paradise as an escape clause to compensate for a grossly apparent flaw in our design. The “true believer” accepts his religion’s messiah and doctrine, and in return is provided with a “get out of jail for free” card upon the completion of this lifetime. This is morbidly sick thinking and nothing but fear mongering to keep people living in fear.

Let’s be honest, there are plenty of reasons to be afraid. After all, even the human race is competing against itself and against the very planet that provides for and supports it; a blatantly obvious contradiction that most are oblivious to. The economy grows while mankind devours and poisons the planet. Built upon the obsolescence of everything, the marketplace convinces us, as individuals to acquire as many pleasantries and conveniences as possible to protect ourselves from life’s harsh reality.  As nations, instead of sharing, we compete, we fight, we conquer, we plunder, and we hoard as our world shrinks and gets smaller year after year.

What drives this insanity is not greed, but fear. But, greed is simply a byproduct of fear. Man has been conditioned to be miserable and the marketplace promises the antidote for virtually every purported feeling that deprives us of our happiness. And so we have been trained to look “outside” ourselves for happiness, never realizing it’s not out there, it’s not something we find, it’s something we create by reconnecting with ourselves.

Almost every belief we hold comes not from personal observation but rather social conditioning. The beliefs we espouse have the underpinnings of fear instead of love as a foundation.  Fear of each other, fear of violence, fear of intrusion, unrealistic fears of entire ethnic or religious groups, races, and countries, fear of terrorism, fear of being alone, fear of being insufficient, fear of not being relevant, fear of death, fear of our eternal inheritance,. . . basically, just a fear of LIFE.  These fears are ALL learned and guess what?  They can be unlearned.

We ALL entered this world, each as a loving entity, having an inexhaustible love of life, a love for ourselves, and a love for everyone and everything. We had no bias or prejudice, no religion, no political interests, knew no fear, anxiety, depression, or loneliness.  The world was an enchanting and surreal place filled with wonder and the opportunity to explore and discover.

By contrast, as adults, a large percentage of us are just trying to survive life.  So many have lost their vigor, their curiosity about life, and worst of all, the ability to love themselves.  Bombarded on a daily basis with imagery of war, terrorism, stock market and Wall Street reports, the controversy surrounding our incumbent President, and news that only focuses on everything negative, there appears to be very little love left in the world.

As a result, most have developed a defensive, “every-man-for-himself” survivalist mindset, where we pursue our self-interests, to get ahead.  What’s been lost is a sense of community, where we now have a better relationship with our phones and our computers than we do with our neighbors and friends.  We’ve exchanged conversation and connection with others for superficial communication provided through social media. To a large degree, we have lost healthy and effective communication skills and in the absence of truly connecting with one another, we’ve become very isolated and alienated from each other despite the promise that technology would make us all more connected than ever. As a result, the world can be a scary place for many.

Is it any wonder why so many are terrified of ending up alone?  Starving for love from others and seeing it as the “cure all” for every fear we possess, we desperately look for it, with the belief that if we can find LOVE with that special someone, we will treasure them for the rest of our lives.  We believe all our problems will disappear, as will we in a sea of eternal bliss.  As I mentioned earlier, I truly believe that the vast majority of human relationships are predicated on fear, insecurity, and codependency.  Not a very reliable foundation for a healthy relationship, but this tends to be the default motivation for most because most of us do not have a healthy relationship with ourselves.

This is why the world hurts so much.  We hold the belief that something is missing so we must go in search of it, pinning our hopes to elusive dreams that never materialize.  Even if we find someone to spend our lives with it’s certainly not a guarantee of eternal bliss.  One need look no further than the current divorce rate which I believe is holding steady at around 50 – 55%.  Not very good odds if we are tethering our hope and happiness to the idea of finding someone to save us from our loneliness.

So why do we continue to look to others to make us happy?  We have been molded by society, through the input of others and ever recurring marketing into an illusion of ourselves.  Regrettably, many of us focus on the “conditioned self” that lives at the level of the ego, at the level of instead of something much more substantive.

We buy into the labels others pin upon us and those we choose to pin upon ourselves, using them to build the fragile ego that we hide behind and is yet so easily offended and so easily wounded.  We lose sight of our essence. Somewhere along the way, we abandoned the child we were and loved so much, which is the most intimate relationship we’ll ever have.  Sad.

This disconnect that takes place with ourselves is a globally pervasive and epidemic amnesia that develops over time as we leave our childhood behind and enter the world of rigorously working to make ends meet.  We forget something we inherently knew as children but as adults have forgotten. With media spinning and dispensing illusions in countless ways, we endlessly compare ourselves to unrealistic images, somehow concluding that we’re not “good enough.”   Externalizing our feelings that came so natural as a child, we look outside ourselves for something that can only be found within . . . the LOVE we once had for ourselves.

Love is nothing external to us.  It is NOT something “addressed” to someone, it is NOT something we “find” with another; it is something we “ARE.”  We knew this as children, but we’ve long since forgotten it.

When we externalize love and acceptance as something we “receive” from others, we develop codependency.  We rely on others to make us happy and in essence reduce others down to the level of a drug to provide us with a hoped for feeling or experience.  When the drug wears off, we move on to a new one and look for the next soul to glob on to.   This desperate search for love leaves us groping for it like drug addicts and suffering serious withdrawal symptoms mentally, emotionally, and even physically if we fail to find it.  We exploit others to get from them what we can’t provide for ourselves.  Failing to love ourselves, any love or affection we receive from others, like any other drug, will wear off in time.  A pail with a hole in it, will never be filled.

A comparison I like to make for those who believe in love as an external pursuit is that of an amphibian; in this case, a Frog. Frogs are truly remarkable creatures in that they possess such unique characteristics that allow them to live and breathe comfortably both on the land and in the water. This is because frogs possess lungs that obviously allow them to breathe out of the water and a unique type of skin, that by way of a cutaneous (skin) gas exchange, allows them to absorb diffused oxygen from the water through their skin, allowing them to stay underwater indefinitely.  This is a key point!  Frogs are well aware of their attributes. Humans, by contrast, are a lot like a frog that does not understand the unique characteristics they possess.

Humans, by contrast, are a lot like a frog that does not understand the unique characteristics they possess.

So for the sake of comparison, I’d like to provide a story about a frog. Like all frogs, the frog in our story developed and gestated underwater in an aquatic environment, in an uneventful way, with his egg envelope firmly attached to a plant stem in the water along with his entire family.  As nature ran its course, the day came where he left his embryonic sac as a tadpole and immediately began exploring his environment with tremendous enthusiasm.

Now because he was a tadpole, he emerged from his embryonic sac along with all of his brothers and sisters, and like most species operated purely by instinct.  Instinctually, he had no fear of the water or his aquatic environment, no fear of life at all.  This new place was wonderful!  There was so much to see and do, so many things to explore and discover both above and below that water.  Everything was exciting and fun.  Every day was an adventure.  As he grew, just like us, he chose to model the behavior and choices of his family members and friends, subsequently adopting their choices, their perspectives, and their behavior.  With no parental guidance, he learned what it is to be a frog by following along with everyone else, mirrorinever really questioning much of anything.  He realized that being a frog meant, if one is going to survive, he’s got to find his way in the world by being disciplined enough to find his own food, evade predators, and begin networking and creating ties with others.

As he continued to grow, just like us, he learned to model the behavior and choices of his family members and tadpoles from other pods, subsequently adopting their choices, their patterns, and behavior.   With no real parental guidance, since frogs don’t rear their young, he learned what it is to be a frog by following along with everyone else, never really questioning much of anything.  He learned the basics and realized that being a frog meant, if one is going to survive, he’s got to find his way in the world by being disciplined enough to find his own food, evade predators, and begin networking and creating ties with others for safety until he’s big enough to take care of himself.

Swimming about freely in his magical and alluring environment, he formed friendships with plenty of other tadpoles.  Together they spent their days frolicking in the water, chasing each other, playing in the beautiful ecosystem of the tree roots and plant stems, that produced shade and pockets of sunlight that would shimmer through the water.  Slowly they grew up as their bodies transitioned from tadpoles into mature frogs.  He learned that there’s a price to developing friendships.  Frogs are instinctively social but only at a distance.   As they mature they tend to spend their time alone.

As time passed, he noticed, as he sought out his friends, that one by one they went missing.  Not knowing why he couldn’t find them, he began to speculate.  Because he had no parental figure or an elder to turn to for perspective or understanding, he came up with a whole host of elaborate stories, one more irrational than the next.  Suffering from catastrophic thinking, he always arrived at the worst possible conclusion.

Knowing that most of his siblings and friends could deftly maneuver through the water to evade predators, he ruled out the idea his friends had all been eaten.  So, he came up with a story that was completely illogical.  His contemplating lead him to the hypothesis that with age and maturity, frogs must lose their ability to breathe underwater.  He thought to himself “perhaps we’re seized with this inability with no notice with or time to get to safety.”   He surmised that perhaps this was what happened to his friends.

Choosing to be proactive and play it safe one day he crawled out of the water and up onto a lily pad. He decided that from that day forward he would never go into the water again for fear he might drown.  Day in and day out, he enjoyed the security of a life above the water but, if he was honest with himself, he missed the water terribly.  Despite his yearning for his childhood, which held so much freedom and joy, he went on jumping from lily pad to lily pad, avoiding the water.

As he went about the business of being a frog he continued to eat insects, croaking and bellowing at night, and calling out to others to stave off his fear of being all alone.  He could hear them in the distance but because of his irrational fears, his days grew more and more disparaging and lonely.  He found security in sticking with what was familiar to him . . . his habits.

As a result, he spent the rest of days out of the water jumping from lily pad to lily pad, secure in the comfort of routine, but all the while remaining oblivious and afraid of reacquainting himself with his true nature as an aquatic animal.  Had he only had the courage to face his fears and return to the water he would have discovered he was safe all along and in returning to the water he would have rediscovered his true nature.  The moral here is that his beliefs and distorted perception created an unrealistic fear that kept him from living a life of boundless potential.

The moral here is that his beliefs and distorted perception created an unrealistic fear that kept him from living a life of boundless potential and unending joy.

We, like the frog, have grown up to develop distorted beliefs about ourselves.   We too have lost sight of our true nature, our essence, that which lies beyond the veil of our ego,  that keeps us from knowing what we truly are.  We become unaware of the fact that the only relationship we are ever having is the one we are having with our self.   We spend a life-time lost in the imaginary and distorted perceptions of others and of ourselves. Believing we’re inadequate, ill-equipped to venture into the world alone, we jump from person to person, relationship to relationship, our so called “lily pads,” with the hope that others will fill the void within us and keep us safe.

So misguided are we in this pursuit, that with all of the tantalizing distractions that society offers, we can avoid ourselves forever, running from our fears by keeping busy with a never ending myriad of recreational activities to indulge in.

Few discover that our journey is not one with an external destination or one of finding a person to love us, but rather a journey inward toward our true nature.  To return to what we knew as children, our inward journey is a journey of abandoning the labels we’ve grown so readily accustomed to applying to ourselves.  It’s about letting go of the stories we’ve chosen to create about ourselves and others.  It’s about walking through our fears, our hurt, and the emotional minefield we’ve created that prevents us from moving towards a love for ourselves.  It’s an exploration that begins and ends with the discovery that all there ever was, was “us.”

Our poor unfortunate frog spent an exhaustive amount of time engaging himself in avoidant behaviors and managing his fears by escaping the natural environment of the water he came from.   Seeking the path of least resistance he became addicted to recreating over and over those experiences that provided him with a sense of familiarity and safety.  He kept his head above water by living outside of it.  In other words, escapism.  The lily pads became his proverbial drug of choice so to speak, so he’d never have to face his fears.

I’ve always believed that the greatest human addiction is not drugs, alcohol, work, gambling, shopping, or sex but rather the addiction we have to our emotions.  I believe these socially identified “addictions” are merely symptoms.  All these choices, or what some may argue isn’t a “choice” at all, but rather an “addiction,” are well rehearsed and repetitious behaviors that are so automatic that they’ve become automatic avoidant behaviors, that are seemingly impossible to over come.

Though I have not heard this idea expressed, my tendency is to believe that all addictions are in fact a form of obsessive-compulsive disorder.  The obsessions are the repetitious, over-thinking about everything, like the frog’s irrational fear of returning to the water.  The compulsions, which in psychology would be defined as the behavior that is adopted in order to alleviate the negative feelings associated with a particular pattern of thinking, manifest themselves symptomatically in the form of alcoholism, drug abuse, sexual promiscuity, gambling, shopping/retail therapy, or working excessively to avoid having to sit with our thoughts.

I believe our greatest addiction is our search for something or someone that can alleviate the pain of not loving ourselves, that drives those behaviors.

In the case of finding LOVE our search is based on the belief that finding “the one” will provide us with an eternal sense of bliss, and an escape from all our worst fears and the addictive habit of over thinking.  That may be why the world believes in the idea of “true love” as something found with another.  Though that could happen, statistically speaking, most people will never find never ending, blissful love with another person; because the love drug almost always, ultimately wears off.  In time everything extraordinary becomes ordinary.   It’s the consequence of looking outside ourselves for happiness.   Romantic love is a tantalizing indulgence between two people but in time, the biochemical romance wears off, and in most cases so does our happiness.

Happiness is truly an inside job . . .

 

Chapter 16

“Our Pain Is The Path to Our Evolving and Emerging LOVE”

What we’ve lost as civilization as we’ve continued to advance, is our understanding with respect to the value of pain as our greatest teacher and unfortunately have developed several strategies as poorly designed coping mechanisms, to keep us from ever having to deal with it.  Instead, we seek distraction in a plethora of ways that keep us largely unconscious.  As a result, seeking the path of least resistance, retail therapy, constant entertainment, and institutions like religion have become socially accepted methodologies for avoiding our pain and ever taking the journey inside to reconnect with one’s self.

So, we continue to see ourselves as separate from everything.  Separate from one another, separate from other species, separate from the environment, separate from nature, separate from the planet we live on, separate from the cosmos, separate from an ethereal creator, and sadly, even separate from the different aspects of ourselves: the physical body and the non-physical soul. Peace of mind is only found when we “integrate” the different aspects of ourselves as one.  Only then will we truly “connect” with ourselves on a level deeper than the automatic behaviors learned as children and “respond” to life instead of being slaves to our “reactions.”

The world we’ve created in its current state, is a fabrication, a consensus hallucination of countless generations, each collectively inoculating their children with their unquestioned, unscrutinized, and limited understanding of what the world is and how it works, teaching what it is we have been taught.  Never questioning the status quo we accept the world the way it is for the most part and teach each new generation the way we were taught to see it.

Love, acceptance, compassion, and kindness, are mere conjecture in a world where money, nationalism, political leverage, religious and racial bigotry, monetary segregation, education for profit, and a tiered hierarchy of class distinction exists.  To free and subrogate one’s self from the bureaucratic thinking that governs our world is truly one of the greatest feats any spirit that has incarnated can accomplish in a single lifetime.

To awaken is to discover that we are all one, we are all connected, we are all interdependent, and we are all free…..

…..not because of the country we were born into, but because we are made from the very fabric of the universe itself which is an extension of the source energy (some call GOD), and permeates everything.  Like waves on the ocean, we will always be one with that from which we have come, we are made of and always connected to.

To ask what I AM . . . . . ???   I AM EVERYTHING!

May the light that is within all of us shine forth.  Let’s imagine a better world and Shine on.

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Love and Light!

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Disclaimer: this particular writing of mine is essentially a transcript of a talk I gave in 2016 on the health of the planet, thus the title.  What could be in essence, a small book, is presented here as a singular writing.  

Though there is quite a bit of information here, I hope you will take your time with it and perhaps even choose to read a little at a time.  I hope you enjoy this editorial, as I believe it will be very eye-opening and informative as to where we stand in our relationship to the planet.

 

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Ours is an exceptionally rare and unique planet in being a planet that has both water and soil on it. The thin skin of soil that covers the Earth is teeming with LIFE.  It’s quite literally a living organism, not some dead biologically inert thing. We’re fortunate to have soil because most of the terrestrial environments  are non-living. Most of the Earth’s terrain is mineral, it’s rock, and is absent of life. And yet, milled out of this substrate, somehow in the most miraculous of ways, soil forms on this rock, creating a very thin blanket where life is possible.

Through the miracle of nature itself, over eons of time, weathering breaks down the rock.  Out of this mineral substrate, the nutrients of the rock are transformed by fungi and lichens, into the living, nutrient-rich layer we call “soil.” This precious life giving soil, that in conjunction with the oceans and the air we breathe, is what makes life, especially our lives, possible.

Nature has provided us with an instruction booklet and its instructions are laws we must abide by in order to have a sustainable future, and yet, as a civilization we are violating those laws in a dramatic and devastating way every day, rendering for ourselves a bleak future that may soon be unescapable.

The most fundamental law of Nature, that clearly modern civilization and those of us living in it has very little understanding of, is that we cannot separate our well-being from the well-being of the planet we live on, any more than a child developing in-utero can separate its well-being from the well-being of its mother that is providing for and nourishing it.  We are not just occupants of this planet we live on, we are an extension of it.  We are quite literally made of Earth . . . .

Our relationship with the Earth in the past, was balanced, interdependent, symbiotic, or in layman’s terms, mutually beneficial, one in which both beneficiaries contributed to the well-being of the other.  Unfortunately, as business and industry has evolved in the last 200 years, our relationship with the Earth has become parasitic in nature, to the extent that we are now devouring and destroying the planet in a way, that is debilitating to every ecosystem, and every other living species on Earth.   Though imperceptible to the masses living in first-world countries, where we are to a very large degree our lives have been completely removed from Nature, our blighting of the planet is clearly evident everywhere.

So to help “connect the dots,” I’m hoping to provide perspective by providing a “report card” of the planet, so to speak, in this article to see how the world is doing as a whole. This is important to understand because quite literally our children’s future depends on it.

“DRIVING WITH OUR EYES CLOSED”

When I was a child I grew up in a large family with 3 brothers and 3 sisters. My younger brothers and I would invariably rough house with one another and as you might imagine, one of us would always managed to get hurt.  My mother delegated discipline to my father, who upon arriving home from work, and just prior to dispensing his corporal punishment (spankings), would say, “it’s always fun until somebody gets hurt.”

Sadly, we don’t always foresee the outcome of our actions or understand when we should have proceeded with caution until we brush up against negative consequences . . . . like spankings for example when you’re a child. This allegory could be a metaphor for the trajectory the human race is on, and it’s an unfortunate one.

John Muir once said, “When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.”

Everything living and non-living is connected,  We are all individual notes in this GRAND SYMPHONY OF LIFE, that we all play a part in.  I think that’s important to understand, because for every action there is a reaction.  Since everything is connected, there is nothing we can do as individuals, or collectively as a society, that doesn’t either directly or indirectly impact or affect every other living thing on the planet.

But over the past 3 decades the understanding of how intimately our well-being is woven into the well-being of the planet has been lost.

WHAT HAPPENED???

Over the past 200 years, in our race to build modern civilization, the understanding of how intimately our well-being is woven into the well-being of the planet has been lost to the majority, with each new generation even further removed from that understanding than the one that came before it.  But in spite of the pervasive social apathy with respect to environmental issues and crises we’re now facing, there is an awakening occurring.

The environmental movement is one that is definitely gaining momentum, and there are a number of incredible, ingenious innovations, that both individuals and companies are coming up with to help us reconnect with the Earth.  But despite these efforts there still are tens of millions, in our country alone, that still have absolutely no understanding of how our actions influence life on the Planet. There’s a disconnect that has occurred where we’ve given up self-reliance in exchange for a CORPORATE LIFE SUPPORT SYSTEM we’ve created, that we expect to provide us with everything we need or could ever want.

We live in a world where we see money and the “economy” as the only way to survive on the planet instead of seeing the preservation of the planet itself as the only way to truly survive.  It’s fascinating when one considers that we’re the only species that has to pay to live on the planet, especially when one understands that the Earth is a community to which we belong, NOT a commodity for our consumption.  It belongs to all of us and not to corporations who now patent even life itself.  We have yet to learn this.

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Tom MacMillan, a pundit of environmental sustainability, shared his thoughts on the subject saying, “for 200 years we have been conquering Nature. Now we’re just beating it to death.   Humanity has arrived at a tipping point, where our continued existence on the planet, and for that matter, every living species, is now being threatened.  For the first time ever, scientists are  now plotting trajectories and timelines surmising how much time we actually have left.  If we continue to live life as we are today it’s far less time than most would probably guess.

DELUSIONS OF GRANDUER

So how did we end up here?

No one would argue that civilization’s advancement in the past 200 years since the “Industrial Revolution,” has been anything short of extraordinary, but it has not come without an extraordinary cost to the planet.  It’s a sad commentary, but it would appear that we as a civilization grew up before we figured out how to live on the planet in a sustainable way.

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As we are waking up to the realization of what we are doing to our planet we must now build a new civilization overtop of the existing one, because if we don’t, our children will not have a future to inherit.

There’s essentially only one way to ensure our survival and that is to imitate Nature, not to contend with it or conquer it. Unfortunately, the way we are living on the planet as a Society is completely incongruent and out of sync with the Laws of Nature that govern the long-term sustainability of LIFE. Not only ours, but every living thing on the planet.

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As a result, the effect we are having on the planet is creating stresses to every living ecosystem that are mounting in both scope and number and gaining more momentum with each passing year as the human population grows at an exponential rate.

To give that some perspective, consider that the Earth is an estimated 4.6 billion years old.  If we were to compress 4.6 billion years into a time frame of just 46 years (which just so happens to be my age), on this timescale, humans have been on the planet for a little less than 4 hours.  Our industrial revolution, “the age of technology, innovation, industry, and manufacturing,” would have been in effect for only about 1 minute out of a 46 year time span.

In that very brief span of time, since the industrial revolution began a little over 200 years ago, we have destroyed almost 60% of the world’s forests and brought about the extinction of over 50% of the world’s animals species.  In our not so distant future  we’re facing the 6th mass extinction this planet has seen as we are currently witnessing the greatest die off of species since the dinosaurs 65 million years ago.

Currently, 52% of primates, 21% of reptiles, 41% of amphibians, 31% of fish species, 13% of birds species, 31% of invertebrates (butterflies, bees, earthworms, etc.), 68% of plant species and 22% of flowering plants are at a very high risk of extinction. –  Statistics provided by the Center for Biodiversity

Based on our current economic model 100% of humanity is at risk of extinction.  If we don’t change our economic model, and choose to continue with a “business as usual” mentality, then humanity has written its final chapter and we’re living in it.  Our current economic model and way of doing business is not a sustainable scenario.  Let me repeat that.  THIS IS NOT A SUSTAINABLE SCENARIO!!!!!!   This is not something to shrug our shoulders at and continue kidding ourselves that all is well in the world or even if it isn’t  that someone somewhere is going to fix the problem.

THE WORLD AS THEY INTEND YOU TO SEE IT!!!

Scientific research worldwide over the last decade has revealed several very disturbing trends that indicate that this “unsustainable way of living” is pushing civilization towards rather dismal and dire circumstances. What projections now indicate is that in the very near future, we as a global society are poised for an economic and ecological collapse from which there will be no recovery.  Sounds bleak and may even sound alarmist, but it’s not intended to. There’s room for hope, but it involves changes in our behavior, which is never easy, especially when people don’t understand the need to.  Simply put, people  don’t know what they don’t know.  In other words, they don’t know what they haven’t been exposed to.

Noam Chomsky

Some of you reading this may be thinking, “David, what are you talking about?  I don’t see the sky falling in!”  I can certainly appreciate that perspective. For those of us living in a first world country, what I’m describing lies beyond the perception that most of us have of the world around us.   It’s simply not part of our reality, primarily because we don’t see any evidence for it in our immediate surroundings.  As we go about our daily lives, we flush our toilet, but we don’t question where it goes. We put our garbage out on the curb, but we don’t ponder where it’s transported and dumped. It just “goes away.”  We get our food from a grocery store chain, without ever questioning where it came from or what’s in it.  We don’t till the fields and harvest our food ourselves.  In other words, the world we’ve created is a society completely dependent on corporations to provide for us and we have very little if any connection to the natural world from where we came and yet are imperceptibly still connected to whether we realize it or not.  Nature for most, is something we venture out into when we just need to “get away from it all.”  It’s an escape.

Our lives to a very large degree, are very out of touch with respect to our impact on the Natural World because our lives have taken on the appearance of being almost completely independent of our very real dependence on the viability of the Earth’s eco-systems.

Our perception of what we call the “Real World” is anything but accurate, because our perception of what we think of as the “Real World,” (meaning civilization and the economy) is lacking any sense of Reality as to what the ecological state of the World we’re really living in, is actually in. This is no accident.  And yes, that complicated sentence was intended to be complicated as I’m trying to emphasize how little reality there is to most people’s perception of the world around them.

Each of our lives are essentially lived out in a bubble, where down here on the surface of the planet, our point of view with respect to what is happening globally is extremely limited. It’s only in pulling back and looking at the world from the 50,000 ft. level, that we begin to see the big picture, one that is not provided to us in mainstream media.

 THE ILLUSION OF CHOICE

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Picture provide by infographic.com

Within our MAINSTREAM MEDIA there is a constant manipulation of the information we’re provided with, providing us with a very distorted and limited view of the world.  The late George Carlin, understood the tremendous power media has in molding the public mind and public opinion.  Truly considered by many as one of the greatest comedic geniuses of our time, part of his act was to harp on media.  He would say, “My mind just doesn’t seem to work the right way.  I’ve got this real moron thing I do.  It’s called thinking.  And I’m not a very good American because I like to form my own opinions…I have certain rules I live by.  My first rule, I don’t believe anything the government tells me….and I don’t take very seriously the media or the press in this country.  It’s entertainment.”

Media has never been more consolidated and more contrived than it is today.

Consider that just 25 years ago, over 50 independent news companies provided our News.  Most of these were privately held companies with a stake in making sure that the News they were providing was very accurate. Those that could be “trusted” with presenting the most accurate news coverage were viewed most and got the ratings, subsequently getting the support of those marketing companies that would advertise with them.  It’s how they funded themselves and kept the lights on, so to speak.

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Picture provide by Infographic.com 

Today those 50+ companies have not only been acquired but consolidated by the very companies that used to advertise with them.  Six publicly traded Corporate leviathans now control all our News and paint our very distorted perception of the World. Virtually every billboard, magazine, newspaper, radio and tv broadcast, is strategically designed as propaganda with a consistent message. That message is, “don’t worry about what is going on in the rest of the world, it’s all under control.  We’re taking care of everything.  And since “happiness” is something that can be acquired through the acquisition of material possessions, just enjoy your life, tend to yourself, your obligations, your interests . . . . . . . AND KEEP SHOPPING!!!”   We have been conditioned to have a very myopic view of life, tending to our own obligations with very little time or energy to worry about much else.

Our news is dispensed by the very companies trying to sell us something at every commercial break, primarily because these are publicly traded companies with an enormous stake in what goes on in the market place.  What goes on in the marketplace drives the economy.  As a result, they have used corporate interests, theirs especially, to determine what information is disseminated to the masses and what isn’t in order to massage the public mind into seeing the world in a very specific way.  Their motives are predicated on a singular goal . . . . Maintaining the Economy at all costs, using the corporate scoreboard we call “the NY Stock Exchange,” otherwise known as “Wall Street” and a centralized banking system, as a barometer for how we’re doing.

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Picture provide by infographic.com 

So it is by design that we never hear any news even remotely related to the “Ecological or Environmental Health of our Planet.”  But as is always the case with neglect, there are always unforeseen complications and consequences that come along with blind ambition.

And therein lies the problem.  With the majority of society completely in the dark, things are going downhill, and they’re going downhill very quickly.  The life-sustaining eco-systems of our planet are in a lot of trouble.  How much trouble?  Without exception, every eco-system and every life support system on the planet is in decline.

For decades, issues regarding the viability of the Earth’s life support systems have been percolating. Over the years, countless documentaries have been made and Environmental groups have been “screeeeeeeeaming” for the masses to wake up and “Save the Planet!!!!!!”  But our apathy surrounding such concerns has created a new challenge.    The challenge now is to save civilization itself and ourselves with it.

  “A BROKEN ECONOMIC MODEL – CREATES A DYING PLANET”

Save civilization?  Why does civilization need saving?  One needs to understand what builds and maintains a civilization.  Most would argue, “The Economy.”   True, to a certain degree.  But there is something far more important that sustains civilization and it’s not a monetary system or the economy.  Truly.

But on the premise that an economy is what maintains civilization let’s ask, “what drives an economy?”   Answer:  Commerce – the exchange of money for goods and services within a given monetary system.  And what promotes commerce?  The buying and selling of goods and services.  And what ensures the buying and selling of goods and services?   Obsolescence.”

planned-obsolescence

Business and industry have made an art form out of NOT only meeting our needs, but artificially creating them through a constant barrage of media venues encouraging us to do the one thing needed to power the economy . . . . . SHOP!!!!!!!!

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Photo provided by Flicker.com

Modern Economics is a well-oiled machine, where we are inundated with advertising everywhere encouraging us to shop.  But the system we’re a part of is predicated on the fundamental law that drives economics . . . . . the ability to keep selling.  The way to ensure that it to manufacture everything we purchase so that it either breaks or is obsolete within a very short span of time.

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Photo provided by http://www.lolpics.ws

Why?

So that there is always the need to buy more of it and to massage our psyche so that we will always want the “latest-greatest” of everything.  Like a Pavlovian response, the mere mention of a new iPHONE causes many zealots of Apple’s technology to spontaneously salivate in anticipation of its launch . . . and when it is launched, hundreds, and in some cases even thousands, will wait in line for hours upon hours to purchase it, staving off for 12 more months their appetite for the next new toy.

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This represents the height of our conditioning.  It is the essence of our cultural programming.  This cultural programming is what keeps the economy going, necessitating companies need to keep making more of everything, which ensures profits in the never-ending competition for market share.

But, this approach to economics is very short sighted and cannibalistic in nature, because it is a “linear model” where resources are exploited to collapse by business and industry, that provide the masses with only “throw away products.”  Resources are fashioned into a product with a limited functionality causing it to break or become obsolete in a very short period of time, with little of it being recycled.  In other words . . . . . “We consume in a fashion that no other species does.  We create waste, meaning we create and things with no utility after their initial use.”  We are the only species on the planet that does this.

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Photo provided by http://www.worldwildlife.org

This model is based only on “consumption” which creates waste on a catastrophic scale, while we devour the planet, consume its resources, and give little to nothing back, as opposed to a “circular or sustainable model” where what is produced is reusable or can be recycled back into the environment.

This linear model where resources become depleted over time is evident in our current standard of living.  Over 65% of what we throw away and put out on the curb, can be recycled.  Sadly, statistics show that only about 46% of Americans recycle.  The numbers are far lower for the business sector which produces an amount of waste beyond one’s comprehension.

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Photo provided by Annonymousartrevolution.com

This model of doing business is one in which we have essentially “high-jacked” the planet and stolen it from every “free-living” species for our own exploitation, while we destroy their habitats.  Our neighborhoods have become ecological deserts, where countless species are displaced.  Outside of my yard, I don’t see any flowers in my neighbor’s yards, and yet we wonder why honey bees are disappearing, neonictinoids (Roundup) aside.  The bees have nothing left to pollinate.

 

 “A CULTURE OF UN-NECESSARIES”

Here in the West perhaps more than any other country, a lifestyle of unnecessary spending has been deliberately cultivated and nurtured in the public by big business. We’ve in essence turned life into a competitive money sport where our feelings are externalized, where class and our sense of importance is tied to the acquisition of material possessions, preferably name-brand.  We place a very low value on cooperation and caring for one another and glorify competition, dominance, and individualism.

We’ve been pitted against one another as individuals competing for jobs, as corporate entities fighting for market share, and as entire countries competing for resources.  Because of this we accept things like war on a philosophical level.  This misguided value system has allowed Companies in all kinds of industries with a huge stake in the public’s penchant for impulsive spending, to profiteer by promoting the idea that our happiness and our sense of importance in LIFE is something that can be bought or can be attained by achieving a certain standard of living.  By externalizing our feelings we have been programmed to become compulsive shoppers …. And who doesn’t love shopping?????

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With the economy always trumping ecological concerns, we’ve created a culture steeped in entertainment and instant gratification.  Since protecting the planet isn’t very marketable just yet, we’re kept insulated and detached from the harsh reality of what our expanding civilization is doing to ecosystems the world over.

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Photo provided http://www.politicalcartoons.com  

 SO WHAT ARE WE DOING TO OUR HOME?

I promised at the beginning of this writing that I’d provide a report card for the planet, by highlighting what are arguably the most pressing issues and the greatest threat to our continued survival on the planet. So let’s do just that by starting with our Climate.

CLIMATE

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There is no amount of time or writing I could devote to this subject that would do it justice in helping us to see our impact on the Earth’s Climate, but I am going to say this. The biggest culprit is not what you think it is…..and what is presented in the News is only half the story.  Research shows that without using a drop of gas, oil, or fuel of any kind, ever again from this day forward that we would still exceed our maximum greenhouse gas carbon equivalent of 565 gigatons by the year 2030, without the energy sector even factoring into the equation, all by merely raising and eating livestock.

Despite being what is receiving all the press right now, carbon dioxide (CO2) is not the main culprit in global warming. The reason CO2 receives the most press because its presence in the atmosphere is much more persistent and longer lasting than Methane, but Methane, which traps 80 – 120 times more heat than CO2, is the main culprit in global warming.

If we reduce a number of methane emissions in the atmosphere, the levels go down fairly quickly, as will the global temperature, in decades, as opposed to CO2, where we really won’t see a signal in the atmosphere indicating an improvement for 150 years or so.  Simply put, we don’t have that kind of time left.  We as individuals have an enormous opportunity to curb global warming, with a simple lifestyle choice we make every day.

What if I told you, your diet is contributing to Global Warming more than any other contributing factor?

The single largest contributor of Methane to the atmosphere is an Industry that can be tied to almost every environmental problem known to civilization including: deforestation, excessive land use, water use and water scarcity, desertification (the process by which deserts are created), food scarcity, world hunger, poverty, the destabilization of entire populations, and on and on, can be directly tied to cattle farming and the meat industry. This industry is one that could single-handedly bring about our demise, and it is.  It’s an environmental disaster that is being ignored by the very people who should be championing the cause to fix it, meaning our government and environmental groups but remain powerless because of the stranglehold the meat industry has on both of them. The lobbyists in Washington representing the meat industry’s interests have enormous monetary resources and make sure the public is kept entirely in the dark as to how this industry is procuring meat and how it operates.  It’s an industry that is very corrupt, parasitic in nature and wrecking the planet.

Since this article is intended to be an overview of many environmental issues I’m not going to expound upon this.  Instead, I’m going to suggest a movie that connects the dots and exposes ALL the devastating effects this incredibly abusive industry is doing to the planet.  Directed by Kip Andersen and Keegan Kuhn, COWSPIRACY shows how this one industry is contributing to Climate Change more than the entire transportation sector, including cars, trucks, boats, planes, and trains combined. I highly recommend viewing this extremely informative movie.

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Since CO2 gets so much fanfare, how does what we’re seeing today compare to what we’ve seen in the past?  Simply put, we are witnessing the highest CO2 levels recorded in almost a million years. Now, since we live in a society of climate change deniers, with politicians and citizens repeating ad nauseum, “I’m no scientist,” as a manifesto to the climate experts to justify their ignorance on the subject matter and defiantly proclaim that we have no intent on changing any of our destructive behaviors, just to give that spike in CO2 perspective, consider the natural fluctuations of CO2 over the last 6 interglacial periods. The highest CO2 has ever been in the last 870,000 years is 290 ppm. Today we’re at 411 ppm and quickly heading to 500 ppm.  There is nothing “NATURAL” about this kind of increase in C02.  It is clearly anthropogenic.  In other words, HUMAN.

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Graph provided by http://globalclimate.ucr.edu/resources.html

Ice Core “Ancient-Atmospheric” Samples

And the story isn’t any better for Methane where we have witnessed a tremendous spike in atmospheric readings since the start of the “Industrial Revolution” in the 1800’s.

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Graph provided by NOAA.org

Direct Measurement Atmospheric Samples

As the CO2 and Methane Levels have increased so have our global temperatures. The last 4 consecutive years have been the hottest global temperatures in recorded history with April, May, June, July, and August of 2014 being the 5 hottest months ever recorded.

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Graphs provided by NOAA.org

Computer simulations, accounting for the continued projected CO2 and Methane emissions, show that the temperatures are going to continue to climb considerably over the next several decades, with an increase of 6-8F by the year 2050.

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When CO2 reaches 450 ppm the polar ice sheets will go into irreversible retreat and melt completely which will account for a 216 ft. increase in sea level. This won’t happen overnight but by the year 2100 things will look quite different.

Disappearing East Coast

Picture provided by natgeo.com

Here in the states the entire eastern seaboard would be underwater for 80 – 100 miles inland.  In this scenario, New York City, Philadelphia, Hilton Head, Savannah, GA. and the entire state of Florida will disappear under water.   New Orleans, Houston, and all the cities along the Gulf of Mexico will be under water by the year 2100.

On a bright note, everyone in New York City would have beach front property…..

New York

A ROOM WITH A VIEW

It was just announced by NASA in August of 2014, that “the West Antarctic ice sheet has gone into irreversible retreat. It has passed the point of no return.” Entering the sea and melting will account for a 3 – 5 ft. increase in sea level, and will displace over 10 million people worldwide living near river deltas where crops in the flood plains will see the intrusion of salt water, ultimately destroying the crops and making the land infertile.

Whether you believe that there is an anthropogenic or human contribution to climate change is ultimately irrelevant. The simple fact of the matter is, the world is heating up, and it’s doing so very quickly.

SO WHAT ARE THE IMPLICATIONS OF A WARMER WORLD?

We need look no further than the disappearance of fresh water in the Southwest United States. A few examples providing an eye-opening look at what is taking place include:

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Butte County, CA 2011

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Butte County, CA 2014

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Disappearing Water CA 3 

Orville Lake, Ca. 2011

Disappearing Water CA 4

Orville Lake, Ca. 2014

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Disappearing Water Ca. 1

Bidwell Marina, CA 2011

 Disappearing Water CA. 2

Bidwell Marina, CA. 2014

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Lake Mead, NV 2011

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Lake Mead, CO. 2014

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Lake Mead, CO. 2014

The reason these particular pictures strike a cord with me is because 3 years ago to the day, I was standing on the middle of the Hoosier Damn and at that time, the water level was covering the exposed shorelines in white.  Today, the Colorado river that provides fresh water to southern Colorado, southern California, Arizona, and New Mexico, has dropped to 39% of it’s capacity, its lowest level in history vs where it was just 3 years ago due to Global Warming, drought, a lack of snowfall and rain in the Rocky Mountains

And just so you know this problem isn’t confined to the U.S., this is the Aral Sea lying between Kazakhstan in the north and Uzbekistan in the south.

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Aral Sea from June 1977 – June 2009

What you’re seeing here is the disappearance of 1,279 sq miles of fresh water in 22 years.  This is now a global problem and we are seeing the fastest disappearance of fresh water in history.  Water has quite literally become the new CURRENCY of the WORLD.   The United Nations and the Pentagon announced just in October that in the very near future we will be fighting “CLIMATE WARS” – wars for access to life supporting resources that still remain on the planet.   A good example of what is coming is the scenario that will soon be playing out in the United States, where the average citizen is completely unaware of how we are all connected in the global economy of our civilization.

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Map provided by www.shangri-la-river-expeditions.com

In many agricultural regions around the world snow, believe it or not, is the primary source of irrigation and drinking water.   As temperatures continue to rise, there is less and less precipitation in part of the world that rely heavily upon it.  The greatest loss of precipitation and snow occurring, is in the Himalayas of the Tibetan Plateau.  This is soon going to be catastrophic to large populaces in India and China that reside along the Indus, Ganges, Yangtze, and Yellow Rivers because of their heavy reliance on these glacier-fed rivers, where the snowmelt each year provides the water for irrigating crops in the spring and summer, that provide food for the masses.

Within 8-10 years China and India are facing debilitating water losses and subsequent water shortages.  Water shortages always lead to food shortages.

Lester Brown writes in his book, WORLD ON THE EDGE:

“For Americans, the melting of the glaciers on the Tibetan Plateau would appear to be China’s problem.  It is. But it is also everyone else’s problem.  For U.S., consumers, this melting poses a nightmare scenario.  If China enters the world market for massive quantities of grain,  as it has already done for soybeans over the last decade,  it will come to the United States – far and away the leading exporter.

The prospect of 1.3 billion Chinese with rapidly rising incomes, competing with American consumers for the U.S. grain harvest, and thus driving up food prices, is not an attractive one.  In the 1970s, when tight world food supplies were generating unacceptable food price inflation in the United States, the government restricted grain exports. This is no longer an option where China is concerned.”

Each month starting in 2008, when the Treasury Department was auctioning off securities to cover the U.S. fiscal deficit, China was the biggest buyer, now holding over $1.2 trillion of U.S. debt and has essentially become the biggest banker for the United States.  Whether we like it or not, very soon Americans will be competing with Chinese consumers for our food harvests.

Their loss is our loss.

As the availability of water and food diminishes in China, desperate for food, they will be able to outbid Americans for our own food.  Unfortunately, the economy doesn’t pick favorites. In the global economy, the market sells to the highest bidder, irrespective of nationality or who is producing what in the marketplace.

The last thing I’m going to say about global warming and climate change is its devastating impact on agriculture.

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Our ability to feed the growing population of the world, which is growing at an extraordinary rate of 232,000 people per day, is beginning to diminish rapidly because of increasing temperatures.

All life on the planet today is the product of tremendous adaptations made over eons of time in response to a whole host of environmental pressures, one of which is temperature.   In all forms, Life exists within a very narrow range of temperatures, and agriculture (vegetative life) is no exemption.   Plants, which evolved long before animal life, have the extraordinary ability to harness and utilize energy from the Sun to power a biochemical, enzymatic process of combining CO2 it pulls in from the atmosphere and combines it with water to produce carbohydrates.  This process is called photosynthesis.

Of concern, is the fact that photosynthesis is rather dramatically affected by temperature.  In a study conducted at Ohio State University, research revealed that photosynthetic activity in plants increases until the temperature reaches 68° F, where the rate photosynthesis levels out.  At 95° though, photosynthesis in rice, wheat, corn, and barley begins to decline.  At 104°F it ceases entirely.  These are heat indexes that we are hitting every year leading to tremendous crop failures, and what really sucks about this is that one of the first things to go if we continue on this trajectory is my favorite thing:

WINE.

And that’s just unacceptable….and yes, I will hold all of you responsible!!!

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DOING ARE PART….

So what can we do about it?

  • No other decision we make will have a bigger impact on Global Warming than simply minimizing or completely eliminating the intake up “RED MEAT” from our diet. . . . . which will minimize your contribution to increasing levels of methane to almost nothing.  In addition, it will stop contributing to the most environmentally destructive industry on Earth by preventing further deforestation, desertification (from overgrazing lands), water shortages and water scarcity, food scarcity, hunger, poverty, displacement of human populations, and on and on.
  • In the future cities will have to be developed around people walking or biking, instead of cars, which will dramatically reduce CO2 emissions and rising greenhouse gases.
  • Rooftops will be turned into solar cells and gardens.
  • Alternative forms of energy such as wind, solar, and geothermal sources can further reduce emissions dramatically.  Until they become more prevalent, minimizing our electrical usage with energy-efficient light bulbs and appliances helps as does adjusting our thermostats to minimize energy usage.
  • Rooftop solar water heating is a trend that is gaining tremendous momentum.  U.S. installation of these systems has more than tripled since 2005.
  • Reducing paper usage to preserve forests is going to preserve the balance in the CO2 and O2 exchange between the plant kingdom and us.  This is a system of checks and balances that we cannot afford to destroy.
  • One step that we can take to preserving trees is with respect to “Junk Mail.”  The Environmental Protection Agency reports Americans as a whole receive close to five million tons of junk mail every year with the average American household receiving 20-25 pounds of junk mail a month.
  • Catalog Choice is a non-profit group that offers a completely free service that has helped 1.3 million people opt out of receiving 19 million pieces of junk mail.   Their website streamlines the opt-out process so you don’t have to contact companies yourself.
  • On an individual level PLANTING TREES AROUND OUR HOUSE certainly, help minimize our impact on the environment. Every tree planted is one more removing CO2 buildup from the atmosphere.
  • SHOPPING AT LOCAL FARMS OR GARDENING IN OUR OWN BACKYARDS dramatically diminishes our carbon or ecological footprint.  This is because food sold in a grocery chain arrived there from vast distances and various locales often in other countries.  They are often transported by plane, by boat, by train, and by trucks, all of which run on fossil fuels, which only serves to continue adding carbon dioxide emissions to the atmosphere.
FORESTS

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Since we’re talking about planting trees.   Lets talk about FORESTS.  I’m going to keep this short and sweet. Screenshot 2014-12-16 21.40.01 copy

We are currently removing approximately 1 acre (size of a football field) of rainforest every second of every day since 1940.  To date, we’ve destroyed 60% of the world’s rainforests, 91% of which has been done to make room for Agri-business (the meat industry).  This is problematic because the rainforests are literally the “lungs of the planet” removing CO2 from the atmosphere and releasing the very O2 that we breathe.  They go, we go…

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DOING OUR PART

  • Reduce paper usage to preserve forests is going to preserve the balance in the CO2 and O2 exchange between the plant kingdom and us. This a system of checks and balances that we cannot afford to destroy.
  • Deforest your mailbox. “Junk Mail.”   Again, we can eliminate 20-25 pounds of junk mail a month by going to Catalog Choice – Their website streamlines the opt-out process so you don’t have to contact companies yourself.
  • Get News and Magazines online and if you can get used to using a Kindle buy ebooks.
  • Plant trees and flowers in your yard.  Our cities and suburbs are turning into “ecological deserts,” with yards we don’t use.
  • The declining number of bees in recent years has been unprecedented, with their numbers declining by 25% every year for the last 4 years.  Making our yards an oasis of flowers for bees can help them make a comeback.  THEY NEED OUR HELP!!!!  “ Without bees, the human race will go extinct within 4 years.” – Albert Einstein
OCEANS

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So let’s look at our Oceans. How are they doing?  Today our oceans are in near collapse because of 3 things:  Acidification of the Oceans, Overfishing, and the unimaginable amount of plastic in our oceans.

In looking at each of these, let’s start by looking at the ocean’s ph (percent hydrogen –  ph is the measure of the acidity or alkalinity of a liquid).  Because of the increasing levels of CO2 in Earth’s atmosphere, what we are seeing today is a catastrophic drop in the pH of the oceans due to the uptake of CO2.   This process is driving the acidification of oceans as the CO2 combines with H2O to create carbonic acid.

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Modeling demonstrates that if CO2 continues to be released on current trends, ocean average pH will reach 7.8 by the end of this century, corresponding to 0.5 units below the pre-industrial level, a pH level that has not been experienced for several millions of years (1). A change of 0.5 units might not sound as a very big change, but the pH scale is logarithmic meaning that such a change is equivalent to a three fold increase in H+ (acidic) concentration. All this is happening at a speed 100 times greater than has ever been observed during the geological past. This is very problematic because there are countless marine species, communities, and ecosystems that might not have the time to acclimate or adapt to these fast changes in ocean chemistry.

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The effects of this process of acidification can already be seen as coral reefs are disappearing at an alarming rate. This demise of coral reefs will be especially costly to an innumerable number of aquatic species that feed off and live within the coral reefs.  The loss of the coral reefs will expand to include the loss of many of marine species.  Current estimates project that all the world’s coral reefs will be gone by the year 2023.

Further contributing to the rapid loss of marine species is COMMERCIAL FISHING.  Simply put, this is an industry that is completely unsustainable. This is because Commercial Fishing is done using trawlers like the one pictured here.

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The problem with this type of harvesting fish from the ocean is that for every 1 pound of fish caught, an average of 4 pounds of unintended marine species is caught in trawler nets and discarded as “by-catch” or “by-kill.”

This includes whales, dolphins, sharks, seals, rays, sea turtles, squid, jellyfish, etc.

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As of today, 3/4th of the world fisheries have been exploited to total collapse.  The remaining 25% of ocean fisheries are in near collapse and because of this approach to harvesting the oceans for fish, the oceans are expected to be devoid of harvested fish by 2042.

OCEAN POLLUTION

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One of the single biggest environmental issues facing civilization is the devastating impact the waste we’re producing is having on the oceans.  Approximately 100,000,000,000 tons of plastic is manufactured every year with the average American throwing away an average of 4 ½ pounds of plastic trash a day.   Sadly, only 7% of all the plastic manufactured is being recycled.  As for the other 93%? Most of it ends up in landfills, but approximately 4.7 billion tons of plastic finds its way to the ocean every year.

The perception of plastic as a benign, harmless product could not be any more of a misguided perception.  Plastic is, quite literally, a bio-toxic material, and its presence in the ocean poses an enormous problem, not only for marine life but for us as well.  It’s a little-known fact by most, but the issue with plastic is the plastic doesn’t biodegrade. Instead, it undergoes photodegradation, where UV-light, or photos of light cause the polymer chains that the plastics are made from the breakdown into smaller and smaller polymers.  But these polymers, once manufactured, never go away.  Let me make that clear.  They never go away.   As they break down, they produce long-term, persistent, toxic chemicals such as polychlorinated bi-phenols, dioxins, and mercury, that do not degrade in days, weeks or months, but rather over decades, centuries, or even millennia.

Every piece of plastic ever manufactured still exists today, whether it’s in your house, in a landfill, in the open environment, or in the ocean.  As a result, the oceans are being turned into a toilet bowl of bio-toxic chemicals as a byproduct of plastic slowly dissolving into the oceans. We are literally “plasticizing” the oceans.

In 1997, oceanographer and racing boat Captain Charles More, made a startling and tragic discovery while returning to California from Hawaii. What he discovered was a tremendous aggregation of plastic trash floating in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. What is now known as the North Pacific Gyre, or more specifically the “North Pacific Garbage Patch,” is a convergence of plastic trash over an area half the size of the U.S. or twice the size of the U.S. depending on the size of the particulates being measured.  It was this discovery that led to an entirely new perspective on our use of plastic and its detrimental effects on the planet’s ecosystems.  More specifically, it created an entirely new concern with respect to the use of “single use” plastics.

The oceans are being turned into a toilet bowl of bio-toxic chemicals as a byproduct of plastic slowly dissolving into the oceans.  We are literally “plasticizing” the oceans.

Today there are 5 Gyres or “garbage patches” that have formed in the oceans with the largest one being THE NORTH PACIFIC GYRE, which depending on the size of the plastic that is being measured ranges in size from twice the size of Texas to the size of the United States itself.  In addition to the North Pacific Gyre, four others have been discovered in the South Pacific Ocean, the North Atlantic Ocean, the South Atlantic Ocean, and in the Indian Ocean.

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The North Pacific Gyre is not an island of trash, but rather more like a soup of plastic confetti that’s very diffuse, this is confusing for the public to understand the threat this poses, because of the fact that we can’t really see most of it.

Despite the fact that there are environmental groups, think tanks, and scientist screaming with a sense of urgency to begin solving this problem, the prevailing mentality is, “if we can’t see it, it doesn’t really exist.”  If in fact there was an island of trash that we could walk across there may be more of a public urgency to fix the problem.  But when we see blue seas with very few pieces of actual physical debris, it tends to be very deceptive and lulls us to sleep, thinking the issue is nothing to be alarmed about.  It’s unfortunate but that is in fact, the very surreptitious nature of the plastic problem.  If we could just see all of the plastic we would probably be inclined to go out and begin cleaning it up.

How pervasive is the problem of Plastic in our OCEANS?  To show how pervasive the problem of plastic has become in 2013, photographer Chris Jordan documented our debilitating effect on even the most remote ecosystem in the world, Midway Island (pictured below) which is 2100 miles from any inhabitable continent.  What he discovered was nothing short of appalling.

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What he found was shorelines covered in plastic items and countless birds carcasses with bellies full of plastic.

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Pictures provided by Chris Jordan www.chrisjordan.com

Once inside the sea animals, the animal is doomed because plastic itself cannot be broken down and most of it cannot pass through the digestive tract of the animal.  It is estimated that Midway Island accumulates approximately 20,000 lbs of plastic garbage every year…..

Because of plastic in our ocean, dozens of species are going extinct and disappearing from the planet forever because of us.  We are right in the middle of the greatest die-off of species on the planet since the age of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago, all as a by-product of our “civilization.” Plastic in the environment, especially in the oceans, has literally reached critical mass and if not addressed will be the catalyst in the extinction of countless marine and avian species.

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These whales have a story to tell us . . . . . 

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Plastic Bags are by far and away the number 1 killer of marine wildlife and even if we don’t live near a shoreline, we’re all contributing to the problem.

The average American consumer will throw away approximately 500 plastic bags per year.  As the artist above displays in dramatic fashion (no pun intended), that’s quite a number.  While we like to think that they go to a landfill, and many do, wind currents still carry a number of them to waterways where it still finds it’s way to the ocean.  Subsequently, it’s ingested by turtles and seabirds who mistake it for jellyfish which is the primary source of food for them.  Approximately 100,000 Sea Turtles die every year from ingesting plastic.

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With that said, consider some sobering facts about plastic bags . . . . .

  • Over 1 trillion plastic bags are used every year worldwide.
  • A single plastic bag can take up to 1,000 years to degrade.  What’s scary about this fact is that once ingested, it does not break down.  When the marine animal’s body decomposes, the bag is released, where it can then be consumed again, and the cycle repeat..
  • More than 3.5 million tons of plastic bags, sacks and wraps were discarded in 2008.
  • Only 1 in 200 plastic bags in the UK are recycled (BBC).
  • The U.S. goes through 100 billion single-use plastic bags.
  • Plastic bags are the second-most common type of ocean refuse, after cigarette butts (2008)
  • Plastic bags remain toxic even after they break down.
  • Every square mile of ocean has about 46,000 pieces of plastic floating in it.

Facts provided by http://www.reuseit.com

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Dean Jordan PhD, Dean of Political Psychology, International University for Graduate Studies shared his thoughts regarding plastic by saying:

“Plastic now runs our lives . . . . We’ve always been told that if we would just recycle and throw trash away responsibly, everything will be okay. The lie that is built into that, is the fact that there is no place called “AWAY.” There is no place to really throw things away. Litter isn’t the issue. The issue is the manufacturing and use of plastics in the first place, and the fact that this stuff doesn’t degrade. It doesn’t go AWAY.

What kind of egotism is it that we have as a society, that we’re willing to use something once, for five minutes, and then turn around and simply throw it into this magical place called “AWAY.”  It is going to here long after we are all gone, and even much longer than when are great, great, great, grandchildren are gone, and all the while it will only continue to degrade into toxins and pollution that will continue to harm the environment, harm us, and harm our children for generations to come.”

The single action of choosing to dispose of plastic properly could save countless animals lives, including our own.  If we see garbage on the ground and choose to walk past it, the very act of picking up that plastic bottle or plastic item could make all the difference in the world.  The reality is, we are always at choice.  Just recycling plastic is no longer enough.  We’re allowed to ask for biodegradable paper products.  We’re allowed to say no to the Styrofoam cup.  We’re allowed to say no to plastic cups and bottles.  We’re allowed to say no to the plastic grocery bag, and on and on.

The choice is yours . . . . . . Prevention is the key.

In a story that only karma could write, our nativity regarding our relationship with and abuse to the planet has come full circle with serious consequences for us and our children, that is rapidly bringing a close to our time left on the planet.

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DOING OUR PART

RECYCLING IS NOT ENOUGH!!!!

  • How can we expect any company, whose main product and therefore profit involves the production of plastic bottles, whether for water, soft drinks, alcohol, cleaning product, etc. to claim that they are for the environment when in fact they are the leading source of the problem?
  • REFUSE TO USE ANY PLASTIC BAGS!!!!
  • STOP PURCHASING PLASTIC WATER BOTTLES!!!!  Instead, use reusable water bottles. Companies like BRITA and BOBBLE make reusable water bottles with carbon filters for drinking pure filtered water. Each filter can filter the equivalent of 300-350 water bottles.
  • AVOID THE USE OF ANY TOOTHPASTE, GEL, FACIAL WASH, OR BODY SCRUB CONTAINING PLASTIC “MICRO BEADS!!!!”
  • AVOID THE USE OF POLYSTYRENE (OTHERWISE KNOWN AS STYROFOAM)
    WHEN SHOPPING!!!! Bring your own bags with you. Whether shopping at the grocery store or shopping at the MALL, bringing your own bags prevents plastic from ever having a chance of finding its way back into the environment.
  • WHEN SHIPPING!!!! USE “ECO-FRIENDLY” BIO-DEGRADABLE (VEGETABLE BASED) PACKAGING PEANUTS AND OTHER PACKAGING MATERIALS. These are packaging materials made of starch, that to dispose of can simply have water added to them, where they dissolve entirely and pose no threat to the environment.

Ultimately the choice is ours!

FUKUSHIMA

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Next up in our purveying of civilization’s gallery of destructiveness is Fukushima.  This is a disaster of unfathomable proportions.

Following a major earthquake, a 15 meter (45 ft.) tsunami disabled the power supply and cooling of three Fukushima nuclear reactors, causing a nuclear meltdown accident on  March 11th, 2011.

Fukushima Reactor

The devastating effects to the reactor structure were initially well reported in all forms of media across the world, but the disaster was downplayed by TEPCO.  We were told there were “partial” meltdowns, we now know that they were each a 100% core meltdown.  All three cores largely melted in the first three days.

In order of magnitude, this disaster is many times that of Chernobyl, especially because fixing the problem is the problem!!!!  There is absolutely no protocol, no strategy in place to deal with this catastrophe.  Nowhere is there any literature or instructions on how to fix this issue.  They are literally making it up as they go along and continue to, to this day.

At the time of the initial disaster 300 tons (600,000 lbs.) of water was filtering through the site daily and seeping directly into the seawater and has been doing so for the last three and a half years unabated.  Ground water underneath the damaged infrastructure, continues to be contaminated with many different radioactive compounds such as radioactive hydrogen, tritium, cesium 134, cesium 137, and strontium.  A veritable cornucopia of radioactive elements.

Workers have been pumping this water out, at a rate of 400 tons each day, and storing it in hastily constructed steel tanks on the site.

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There are now more than 1060 tanks and the ‘tank farm’ now dwarfs the original nuclear plant in size.  Because of their poor construction, the concern is that another earthquake with a magnitude of 6 or more will more than likely rupture every tank releasing millions of tons of highly radioactive laced water into the ocean.  This is a compounding problem.  As the radiation seeps into the sea, algae absorb and concentrate the radioactive elements 100’s of times.  Crustaceans concentrate them 100’s of times.  Fish who feed on the corals concentrate it 100’s of times, where they are consumed by larger fish that concentrate it even more.  Since we sit at the apex of the food chain, by the time we eat the fish at the top of the aquatic food chain, we are ingesting radioactive elements that have been concentrated by tens of thousands of times versus those radioactive elements free-floating in the open ocean.

Within days of the incident, nuclear radiation and radioactive isotopes were measurable, and not in insignificant proportions, in the rainfall here in the United States.  In addition, ocean currents are now carrying the radioactive waste to our shorelines, and the fish we are harvesting from the Pacific are loaded with Cesium 137 in their tissues.  These radioactive isotopes decay over hundreds of thousands of years and will continue to contaminate the food chain for as long.  All of these radioactive isotopes cause cancer.

German scientists constructed a computer simulation model monitoring the levels of pollution in the Pacific Ocean alone.  They show that the entire Pacific Ocean will be polluted with radioactive material by 2017.

The issue in fixing the problem is that core reactor #4 contains more than 1,500 fuel rods that are under 30 meters (90 ft.) of water in a severely damaged building above ground.  

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The amount of radiation in each of the 1,500 contains approximately 14,000 times that of the Hiroshima bomb.  These need to be removed from the fuel pool because in the event that there is another major earthquake, and the building goes down, all those fuel rods will be exposed to the air and will start burning, releasing an immeasurable about of radiation that at the very least would be 10x’s the amount of radiation released at Chernobyl.  This radiation would pollute all of Japan and most of the Northern Hemisphere.

The rods need to be removed and contained, but the only plausible plan for removing them is to use a crane to delicately lift them out of the cooling pool.  This is normally done using computers with only millimeters to spare.  If the fuel rods touch, criticality could be reached resulting in another core meltdown.  Nothing like this has ever been attempted, and if the rods touch all of humanity will be threatened for thousands of years.

I wish I had a “DOING OUR PART” addition to this section but there really isn’t anything “we” can do.  This one lies beyond our reach.  The one addendum I will add is to ask where your fish from when purchasing it, whether out or at the grocery store.   Purchasing fish from the atlantic may be a consideration.

SOIL

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Without soil, no life could exist on LAND.  Soil is the fundamental resource for sustaining life, and a precious resource at that, considering that it takes approximately 500 years to produce just one inch of soil.  I’ve found over the years that few people know the difference between soil and dirt.  To understand the quality of the food we’re eating, we need to understand this fundamental difference.

This is what SOIL looks like.  It’s rich and fertile teeming with life and with biologically active nutrients and minerals.  It’s literally a living organism.

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This is what DIRT looks like.  Dirt in contrast to Soil is mineral, devoid of LIFE.

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Back in the late 1930’s the chemical company DuPont sold the idea that chemistry was better for agriculture than the natural forces that had always governed plant life on the planet.  They referred to this as “Better Living Through Chemistry.”  Today we now know better.  Industrial agriculture through chemistry has literally killed the soil and every year continues to.

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Today our crops are grown in dirt, not soil which is why it requires such heavy supplementation with commercial fertilizers. We are told by the corporate killers like MONSANTO that commercial agriculture is the only way to feed the growing population.  But after 30 years of collected data,  we now know that the natural processes at work in nature are not something we can improve upon.  These processes have developed over millions of years and are by far and away the most efficient way to create the greatest agricultural-yields and feed the masses.

Organic farming, using cover crops at the end of each season returns detritus and biological actives back into the soil that can produce 2-10x’s the agricultural yields of commercial petroleum-based agriculture.

Today, commercial agriculture has become almost entirely dependent on artificial, petroleum-based fertilizers, toxic pesticides, and GMO’s to maintain their yields.  This is an industry that has literally been hijacked by companies like MONSANTO who have developed patents on seeds that can only be grown once in to make commercial farmers completely dependent on them in order to grow anything.  With the coercion of our government and MONSANTO leaders running our Department of Agriculture, legislation has been put in place to make it against the law for farmers to keep seeds and forces them to only grow with genetically modified seed, the health effects of which are well documented and have been connected with diabetes, countless cancers, and several other diseases.  To learn more about our food industry and GMO’s I highly encourage viewing several documentary films such as FOOD, INC., GMO’s OMG, and SYMPHONY OF SOIL……

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Beyond becoming the world’s biggest science experiment, the issue with commercial agriculture is that it pollutes our water tables and ground water with pesticides and fertilizers that enter our rivers and ultimately feed the oceans with poisonous chemicals.

Agricultural Runoff

This is because only 10-15% of the fertilizers dumped on the soils are actually utilized by the plants themselves.  As much as 85% – 90% of the fertilizers used to support these crops end up in the water table eventually finding its way to streams, tributaries, rivers, and ultimately to the oceans where they are toxic to aquatic life.  As of today, 270+ dead zones have been discovered in the oceans and are directly related to Agricultural Runoff.

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DOING OUR PART

Support your local farmer

So what can we do about it?

  • If at all possible, I cannot urge you enough to buy organics, for your health, for the health of the planet, and the health of every living thing on our planet.
  • Shop at your local FARMER’S MARKET or Finley Market downtown, and support your local farmers.
  • As a society we have got to take accountability for what we are doing to the planet.  A good first step is weaning ourselves off of commercial agriculture, and corporate groceries stores. Support local organic farming.
  • And if you’re slightly more daring, grow your own garden.

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Not only is it good for our local economy but it reduces our carbon footprint to almost zero and it’s a legacy we can leave our children.  We get back to being self-sustaining.

RESTORING OUR PLANET

RESTORING OUR PLANET

SOCROTES once said, “people get the government, they deserve.”

I’m going to extend that concept by saying“ people get the government, the society, and the world they deserve.”  We can fight with the politicians.  We can fight with the corporations.  We can march in the streets with banners and have clean up rock campaigns with the hopes of changing the world.  But the bottom line is, the world will never change until we as individuals change.

Mahatma Ghandi once said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.”

The very corporations and the very governments we march against are the very corporations and the very government that we vote for each and every day with the choices we make.  Every dollar we spend we are voting for the world the way it is.

The lifeblood of each and every corporation, bank, and government, is money. We have it, and they want. These entities are merely a leviathan we’ve created through complacency, convenience, and in choosing to continue support them.  The only power corporations have over us is the power we give them by choosing their products and services.  If collectively we chose to stop buying bottled water and using plastic bags they would have no choice but to discontinue manufacturing them.  If we do not like what a bank is doing with our money, simply pull your money out and move it elsewhere.

The collective action of 314 million Americans is more than any government policy could ever hope to implement, change, or influence.  And today we are stepping into the essence, the power, and magnitude of who we truly are and what we value.  No one wants to look into the mirror and admit to themselves that they are the problem because ultimately that would require us to look at the consequences of what it is we each have done in taking the future away from our children.

And it is being taken away!

Hope lies in the fact that there is a spiritual awakening occurring in small pockets of humanity, where individuals and small groups are truly beginning to reconnect with nature.  People are slowly beginning to rediscover our relationship with the natural world.

What we are finally starting to realize is that there is no one steering the ship, there are no leaders moving us in a positive direction, and they’re certainly not to be found in Washington D.C. or in the corporate entities on Wall Street.  There are small pockets of heroes choosing to champion the cause of protecting the planet from our continued neglect,

We cannot continue blaming society for all the ills we are now confronting.  Now is the time for each of us to step into the essence of who we are and the world we’ve created.  Now is the time to restore our relationship with ourselves, with each other, and with the earth.  Now is the time to begin speaking out for life.  For the ecology of the planet, not the economy!  It’s time to become advocates and heroes for Earth.

So how do we go about the task of restoring the planet?

By first realizing that in killing our ecosystems we are ultimately cannibalizing the planet that provides for us and bringing about our own demise and every other species.  Recognizing that fact first, choose to begin Reducing, Reusing, Recycling, Refusing, and our independence from our dependence on corporations and blind submission to corporate interests.  If society continues with a “business as usual” approach to industry and business, doing tomorrow what it is we have always done up until this point, nothing will change with respect to the global ecological forecasts.

Dramatic changes are going to be required of each of us . . . but the single biggest impact we can have in saving both civilization and the natural world is educating our children, teaching them to have a reverence for the Earth and its life support systems.   This is the only way our children will have a viable planet left to inherit.

It’s our world.  We can each make a difference, starting today . . .

Love and Light to you in your continued journey of discovery,
David

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Image Credit: Tyrone Siu/Reuters

“We are living on the planet as if we have another one to go to.” – Terry Swearingen

Our planet is a beautiful one, but it’s ecological integrity and sustainability has reached a tipping point. Civilization is on an irrational and deadly course, and this course has now become a crisis.

Our planet has never needed protection before and life has always flourished on its own. But today, we are now facing a number of threats as a byproduct of the advancement of our civilization that is now threatening the viability of every species on Earth. Today, every living system on earth is in decline. The world and its resources are now being cannibalized by the most dominate species on the planet.

In the last 250 years since the Industrial Revolution began, the explosive growth of business and industry has not come without an extraordinary cost to the integrity of the planet and countless ecosystems.  Despite the disparaging lack of exposure in mainstream media, man’s impact on the planet has been and continues to be nothing short of disastrous.

Today, a whole host of problems are now threatening our long-term survival on the planet and our children’s future.  Unfortunately, we are facing a number of crises that are mounting in complexity and in scope, the cumulative effect of which may have already created insurmountable odds where the hope of reversing these trends and protecting our children’s future is dwindling.

With our growing population and the advancement of our civilization, the economy slowly gained precedence over the reflection upon how we’re impacting the Natural world.  As a collective consciousness reflecting societal values, it has become more important than the ecology of the planet.

In our relentless pursuit to compete in the marketplace, industry has been driven to create more and more conveniences for us, which has created a “throw-away society.” That terminology, which could almost be regarded as trite and passé, is an oversimplification of the dangers posed by our most prevalent waste material . . . . . . plastic.

The convenience and cost effectiveness of plastic has lead to its use in just about every aspect of our lives, but its benefits are easily dwarfed by the very disturbing and life-threatening consequence of its use.  By “life-threatening” I mean threatening to all life, NOT just humans.  Because of a lack of media exposure, the masses remain completely unaware in their understanding of how our collective actions are literally creating a biochemically toxic planet.  As a byproduct of our consumption-based lifestyle, pollution and waste has become a devastating consequence of our choices and is now endangering the future of not only ourselves but truly every species on the planet.

By far and away, the single biggest pollutant society creates is “Single Use Plastics!!!!”  By single use, we mean plastic that has a utility confined to one single use and is then discarded.  Things like:  Ziplock bags, Saran Wrap, plastic grocery bags, bottled water, shampoo bottles, cosmetics, and more.  Since these are products everyone purchases, no one is exempt, we’re ALL contributing to the problem.

Living in the mid-west, many absolve themselves of any culpability in contributing to the problem, by believing that because of our lack of proximity to the oceans, we can’t possibly be contributing to the decline of the oceans or the environment as a whole.  It’s a sad commentary but nothing could be further from the truth.  Isolating the use of just one such “single use plastic,” such as plastic grocery bags, one can easily begin to see that even those of us at a great distance from the oceans are still part of the problem.

With less than 40% of Americans recycling, most plastic grocery bags unfortunately, end up in a landfill where wind currents and breezes lift the plastic bags from the mass of garbage and carry them into the canopy of surrounding trees, litter our highways and surrounding forests, and choke waterways where they begin their long journey to the oceans.

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This is but one example of how “single use plastics” are leading to the degradation and decline of our oceans. Countless examples could be given but our impact will become very evident later in this writing.

Approximately 280 – 300,000,000 metric tons of plastic is manufactured every year with the average American throwing away approximately 4 ½ pounds of plastic trash a day.

Sadly, only 7% of all the plastic manufactured is being recycled. As for the other 93%? Most of it ends up in landfills, but approximately 8 million metric tons of plastic finds its way to the ocean every year. [1]

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Do to a lack of media coverage, the accumulation of plastic in the oceans is a far bigger problem than most are aware of, because these are extremely long-term, very persistent, deadly, toxic chemicals that do not degrade in days, weeks, or months, but rather over decades, centuries, or even millennia.

Every piece of plastic ever manufactured still exists today, whether it’s in your house, in a landfill, in the open environment, or in the ocean.  This is because the chemical polymers they are manufactured from and consist of never go away.  Let me repeat that.  The polymers they are made of NEVER GO AWAY!!!!  Plastic is a substance the planet simply cannot digest or recycle back into the environment.

Because of advances in civil engineering and planning, man has almost completely divorced himself from the natural world, as is evidenced by society and industry’s misunderstanding and disregard for what is in best interests of the environment which provide for us and every living thing.  As technology has evolved it has served to subrogate us from a deep spiritual knowledge possessed by the ancients, that saw their divine connection with the natural world and the entire cosmos. We once saw ourselves as woven out of and into the very fabric of the universe itself, but to a very large degree, we’ve lost this connection to the Earth and the Cosmos.

What was lost was an ancient spiritual knowledge and understanding that life is only passing through us from the past into the future.  We are merely vessels temporarily “housing” life.  Unfortunately, as this knowledge was abandoned we it replaced it with the perverted ideology of materialism and consumption, along with the idea that we only live one life and disappear.

This mindset, firmly in place, has created a society that is predicated largely on entertainment, consumerism, conveniences, and an egocentric perspective of life, where we are oftentimes detached from the consequences of our actions. As a result, with the advancement of technology, making our lives easier and easier, our most sacred responsibility of preparing the way for future generations has been abandoned.  The care taken by nurturing and protecting the planet we live on as an endowment for those that come behind us has been superseded by a narrowing focus on our lives in the “here and now” with little regard for the environment or consideration for what we’re leaving our children to inherit.

THE CONSEQUENCE OF NEGLECT . . . . 

In 1997, oceanographer and racing boat Captain Charles Moore, made a startling and tragic discovery while returning to California from Hawaii. What he discovered was a tremendous aggregation of plastic trash floating in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. What is now known as the North Pacific Gyre (pronounced – jī(ə)r), or more specifically the “North Pacific Garbage Patch,” is a convergence of plastic trash over an area half the size of the U.S. or twice the size of the U.S. depending on the size of the particulates being measured.

It was this discovery that led to an entirely new perspective on our use of plastic and its detrimental effects on the planet’s ecosystems.  More specifically, it created an entirely new concern with respect to the use of “single use” plastics. Astonished by what he saw, Capt. Moore has made saving the oceans his life’s work ever since.  Shortly after his discovery, he and a team of scientists returned to this ocean desert to begin conducting research on its origins and the now well-documented hazardous effects of its degradation.

AN ISLAND OF TRASH?

Reading this, one may envision an island of trash floating in the ocean. If only we were so fortunate!  That statement might sound a bit sarcastic, but at least if it was an island of trash and debris, containing what is becoming the biggest ecological disaster and biohazard in human history, it would be something that we could at least go out and clean up. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple of an issue. The problem is far worse.

Imagine a substance that can never ever disappear but only break down into smaller and smaller particulates till it becomes so fine and infinitesimally small that it simply creates an almost invisible mesh that is diffused throughout every square inch of the top 100 meters of ocean water and you’re starting to get the picture. The oceans are being turned into a toilet bowl of bio-toxic chemicals as a byproduct of plastic slowly dissolving into the oceans. We are quite literally, slowly “plasticizing” the oceans.

To help create a picture of our ocean gyres where the plastic is accumulating, it is important to note, this trash is not like an island of debris with items touching one another. To the contrary! Although there are aggregates where fishing nets and garbage have collected, it’s more like a slimy, gelatinous, plastic soup, where the plastic has dissolved in the water to the extent that it is now a chemically rich, toxic film that floats near the surface with particulates of plastic of various sizes in it. This mass of plastic constitutes approximately 50% of the trash that has converged here. The other 50% sinks and is at the bottom of the ocean.

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Above:  Trawler Samples from the Pacific Gyre

The North Pacific Gyre is an enormous expanse of ocean and represents the largest climatic system on Earth. It is a circulation of currents that is roughly the size and area of Africa, or 10,000,000 sq. miles, and the currents along it’s periphery take approximately six years to complete one cycle. [3]    As a result of these enormous circular currents, garbage and more specifically plastics have aggregated into 2 very distinct patches – the Eastern Garbage Patch and the Western Garbage Patch.

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Map provided by NOAA at www.marinedebris.noaa.gov/info/patch.html

In addition to the North Pacific Gyre a total of five Gyres have been discovered in the world’s oceans all of which are seeing enormous aggregates of garbage and plastic accumulating in them. 

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Map provided by 5 Gyres at www.5gyres.org

The consequence of this garbage in the ocean is devastating to aquatic life and represents a greater, long-term, biohazard than even the worst oil spill in history.

The hazardous nature of plastic is because the decomposition of plastic, depending on the type, can take between 20 – 1000 years for its physical composition to decompose into the individual micro-polymers it is made up of.  Complicating the issue is the way plastic decomposes. Plastic is not “bio”-degradable.  It is not devoured by bacteria, mold, or fungi like organic matter is.  Plastics, viewed at the level of its chemical bonds, are polymer chains (multiple links) created from monomer (single) hydrocarbon molecules that degrade through a process referred to as photo-degradation,” a process in which the absorption of light, or more specifically, photons of light cause a chain or matrix of molecules to break apart.  Ultraviolet light weakens the polymer chains until they break, which is why we see the confetti-like microplastics found in the ocean.  Each break in these chains causes the release of hazardous, bio-toxic chemicals such as dioxins, mercury, and Polychlorinated Biphenyls or PCB’s.

As the plastic degrades into smaller and smaller polymers, this “confetti” becomes “neustonic,” meaning it is now “bio-available” to sea animals, or small enough to be ingested, and can enter the digestive tract of sea animals that eat it.

The images below illustrate how small these plastic particulates, known as “micro-plastic,” can be.  Without exception, these microplastics can be found on every shoreline worldwide and are so small that they are virtually indistinguishable from the granules of sand themselves.  By simply taking a handful of sand and dumping it into a bucket of water, one will see the sand (which is essentially natural glass) sink to the bottom and the tiny pieces of plastic confetti float to the surface.  Recently, microplastics have even been found in sea ice at the poles according to the UNEP.  Sadly, their presence is very pervasive.

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But not all of these microplastics are the end product of photodegradation.  In the last decade, numerous companies jumped on the bandwagon touting the benefits of the tiny polymer microbeads as “polishing agents” or “exfoliating agents” in their toothpaste, gels, facial soaps, and body scrubs. What makes these so problematic is the fact that most municipal water systems aren’t equipped to remove or filter these microbeads out of the water so they end up in our streams, rivers, and oceans, having devastating effects on aquatic life.

Compounding the problem is the presence of “micro-fibers” that end up in our waterways, marine ecosystems, and ultimately our oceans, as our clothes, made of synthetic fibers such as acrylic and nylon breakdown in our washing machines.  By sampling wastewater from domestic washing machines, ecologist Mark Brown estimated that around 1,900 individual fibers can be rinsed off a single synthetic garment – ending up in our oceans. [4]

Following his research, Mark Brown shared his findings with the largest outdoor apparel companies that are big purveyors of synthetic plastics, looking for their support in changing industry standards with the hopes of producing more durable materials that would produce fewer microplastics.  He approached companies like Patagonia, NIKE, and Polartec, but none of these companies agreed to lend their support.

And that brings us to the problem:  Eventually, all these polymers break into pieces so small that they are invisible to the naked eye (thus the film on the surface of the water and translucent or opaque appearance throughout the water to various depths) but are never truly gone.  They’ve simply degraded to the microscopic level, but are very toxic and profoundly more hazardous to the environment and to every species, including us.  With no government or legal protocols governing the manufacture of such products in place, the burden falls to us as consumers to make better choices when choosing what products to purchase and to avoid the purchase of these kinds of products.

SO HOW DOES THIS EFFECT US?

Most of the plastic in the gyre is roughly the same size as krill and plankton that sea animals feed upon, so it is very common for it to be mistaken as a food source and ingested.  Because of its toxicity, the ratio of plastic to plankton is a very important ratio to keep track of in taking measurements of this particular debris in the ocean.

In the span of 10 years, with the first samples being taken in 1999 by Captain Charles Moore and a team of researchers, and the last samples being taken in the year 2009, the ratio of plastic to plankton went from a 6:1 ratio to a 36:1 ratio. The bioavailability of this plastic to sea animals is now six times what it was just 10 years ago, and sadly, this trend is not abating. Currently, of the 8 million tons of trash that are going into our oceans every year, 80% of this trash is coming from land and the other 20% coming from ships and platforms in the ocean such as oil drilling platforms and cruise-liners. In an interview with Fresh Air’s Terry Gross and Edward Humes, author of Garbology, “the weight of plastic finding its way into the sea each year is estimated to be equivalent to the weight of 40 aircraft carriers.” [1]

If the threat was only to sea creatures, that would be bad enough. But now, the threat is to all of us and our children.

In a story that only karma could write, the plastic we manufacture, purchase, and have grown accustomed to carelessly throwing away, is the very plastic creating a whole myriad of previously unforeseen and soon to be dire consequences for us.

Once degrading to the molecular level, the plastic ingested by fish and sea animals is absorbed into their bloodstream and tissues. This is where the insidious nature of plastic’s slow and unique demise of breaking down into smaller and smaller polymers, combined with our throwaway mentality, comes full circle.  In what could be seen as almost an “act of justice” for our complete disregard for the environment, is now jeopardizing our long-term survival as a species on this planet.

Studies performed at the University of California – Santa Barbara, revealed the unthinkable. Devastating to consider, these studies have now found that these microscopic polymers once ingested diffuse into the tissues of fish and other animals where they can remain for months and can accumulate in the blood cells themselves. The problem with this is that the plastic contains persistent biochemically toxic concentrations, approximately 1,000,000 times greater than that found in seawater. [2]

Ultimately, these sea animals that are part of our food chain are now serving as a vector, in a negative feedback loop for humans, allowing these bio-toxins to be absorbed by humans ingesting them. These microscopic particles of plastic cannot be cooked out of the meat.  Most disturbing about this finding is that prior to recent studies; experts believed that it would be impossible for plastic to be passed from species to species and find its way up the food chain. To the surprise of the researchers, not only did we find it was possible, but what we discovered was that as the polymers became smaller and smaller the more the rate of transfer from one species to the next increased. In other words, the smaller the polymers become the more they are absorbed and the more hazardous they become, infecting each species as it consumes the other.

In a study done in Singapore, scientists purchased fish in every single market in order to study the possibility of plastic being passed through the food chain.  What their research uncovered was devastating.  In every fish they sampled they found dioxins and polychlorinated biphenyls, which are used in plastic manufacturing. It is also found in the lining of canned food as an epoxy and a rust inhibitor which is leaching into the canned food itself and has serious health effects. It is an endocrine disruptor and can change hormone levels in people. Beyond that, they have also been tied to heart disease.

The reason we are seeing so many plastics in the oceans is that of our “Culture of Convenience,” which utilizes single-use plastics for everything.  Single use plastic is fantastic from an economic standpoint because their use warrants the need to always make more.  More plastic, more money!  But from an ecological standpoint, this approach to business is a system that is horribly flawed and inherently unsustainable. We cannot continue taking from a finite system and expect it to keep producing for us forever, while we’re using plastic items for a few minutes and then throwing them away.

AN INVISIBLE CONCERN

Walking along our beaches worldwide where more and more plastic is washing up every single year, one may be convinced, living in our own garbage is something we have just come to except. As mentioned earlier, because the North Pacific Gyre is not an island of trash, but rather more like a soup of plastic confetti that’s very diffuse, this is confusing for the public to understand the threat this poses, because of the fact that we can’t really see most of it. Despite the fact that there are environmental groups, think tanks, and scientist screaming with a sense of urgency to begin solving this problem, the prevailing mentality is, “if we can’t see it, it doesn’t really exist.”

If in fact there was an island of trash that we could walk across there may be more of a public urgency to fix the problem. But when we see blue seas with very few pieces of actual physical debris, it tends to be very deceptive and lulls us into a state of apathy, thinking the issue is nothing to be alarmed about.

It’s unfortunate but that is, in fact, the very surreptitious nature of the plastic problem. If we could just see all of the plastic we would probably be inclined to go out and begin cleaning it up. What is invisible to the naked eye is where the real problem exists.

Using a plankton net trawler, to sift through the ocean water in order to obtain samples, what researchers have discovered is very alarming. Over 500 samples have been taken throughout the five gyres around the globe and of all of those samples, only two came back with no plastic in them. This is a globally pervasive problem in which our entire oceans are becoming infused with plastic.

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Plankton Net Trawlers

IMPACT ON MARINE LIFE

As a result of our use and subsequent discarding of plastics, over 350,000 marine mammals are killed each and every year by either eating plastic or by becoming entangled in it, including dolphins, whales, sea lions, seals, along with countless species of fish.

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“Despite appearances, this is not designer beachwear for aquatic animals!”

Approximately 100,000 sea turtles are killed every year by attempting to ingest plastic bags which are mistaken for their main source of food, jellyfish, and over 1.2 million sea birds die every year from ingesting plastic. [2]

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Photo provided by National Geographic at www.tommtaylor.wordpress.com/2010/11/03/digital-image-creation

Over 1,000,000 seabirds die annually from ingesting plastic.

Bird in plastic

Currently, 663 Species of sea animals (2/3rd’s of aquatic life) have been identified as being adversely affected by the presence of plastic in our oceans.  But in truth, every organism in the ocean is affected by the presence of this plastic, in every depth of the ocean. We are finding micro plastic in krill and all the way up through the food chain in the bellies of fish, seals, whales, and seabirds.

Plastic has truly become the deadliest predator in the oceans.

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Images provide by ENV at www.tomnotman.com

To illustrate this point, in January of this year, a Pilot whale washed up on the beach in Lanai, Hawaii. The whale was completely intact but somehow its stomach had come out of its body and was lying on the sand. In opening the stomach, they discovered the whale had ingested over 20 lbs. of plastic.

A sperm whale washed up on the shores of Spain and a necropsy was performed in order to determine what caused its death. Beyond belief, scientists discovered over 400 pounds of plastic in its belly. [5]

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Photo provided by Inquisitr at www.inquisitr.com/561291/whale-death-caused-by-eating-plastic

Once inside the sea animals, the animal is doomed because plastic itself cannot be broken down and most of it cannot pass through the digestive tract of the animal.

Dozens of species are going extinct and disappearing from the planet forever because of us. Today we are currently seeing the greatest die off of species on the planet since the age of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. Plastic in the environment has literally reached a tipping point and if not addressed will be the catalyst in the extinction of countless sea species.

To show how pervasive the problem of plastic has become, in 2013 photographer Chris Jordan documented our debilitating effect on even the most remote ecosystem in the world, Midway Island. What he discovered was nothing short of appalling.  In Seabirds on the island of Midway, more than 2,000 miles away from any inhabitable continent, he found shorelines covered in plastic items and countless birds carcasses with bellies full of plastic.

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How much plastic is out there? It’s astounding! Over 20,000 tons of plastic debris washes up on Midway Island every year, with 5,000 tons of debris being fed by mothers to their chicks. As a result, 1/3rd of these chicks will die of plastic ingestion before ever reaching adulthood. To view a four-minute trailer for his movie, click on the link provided here.

Midway Island: A Love Story For Our Time

http://vimeo.com/25563376

By the year 2050 society is going to add an additional 33 billion tons of plastic to the oceans. [3]  To say this is problematic would be an understatement because as for now, we still are not entirely sure where even half of the plastic goes, which is approximately 15 billion tons of plastic unaccounted for.

Marine Biologist Dr. Andrea Neal, studied what happens when microbes come in contact with plastic polymers and waste debris in our oceans, as well as studying the degradation rate and effects of these polymers breaking down in the oceans.

UV light interacting with these polymers changes the surface charge of the polymers, making them a favorable environment for microbial life.   Even more insidious than this, is the fact that the UV light changes the actual structure of the carbon groups in these polymers.

“Because we get about 98% of our carbon from dissolved carbon in ocean water if we are changing the structure of carbon at its most basic level and we are in fact changing the very building blocks of life itself.  Because the oceans are so vast, the tendency is to believe that they are somewhat impervious to the effects of our neglect. Contrary to popular belief, studies have shown that the oceans are in fact an incredibly delicate and fragile system. The smallest changes in temperature can affect the ocean’s conveyor belt, the smallest changes in the chemistry or pH of the ocean can kill massive numbers of species.

For example, studies recently discovered that the sunscreen people wear into the ocean have killed off entire coral reefs.  With respect to Global Warming, we have changed the temperature of the ocean so dramatically since the birth of the Industrial Revolution that now over 50% of the world’s coral reef ecology has disappeared.”

 Dr. Andrea Neal, CEO of Blue Ocean Sciences [3]

OUR DYING OCEANS

Oceans today are on the brink. They are suffering from so many stressors, that we have begun to see their decline to such an extent that the demise of the oceans as a life support system is becoming inevitable. Samples taken every day of the ocean reveal an entire menagerie of issues we must now confront, including increased acidification of the oceans, radioactive waste and radioactive heavy metals still leaking into the ocean from Japan’s crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant since March 11th 2011, oil spills, radar, and most pronounced and pervasive, is PLASTIC!

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Photo provided by KUWAITIFUL at www.kuwaitiful.com/information/beach-pollution

How does this impact us? It impacts everything starting with carbon, oxygen, the food we eat, the water we drink, and more. It affects every aspect of our lives. If we do not change what we are doing to the ocean, we are literally destroying the building blocks of life itself.

SO WHAT DO WE DO ABOUT IT?

SOCRATES once said, “people get the government, they deserve.” I’m going to extend that concept by saying people get the government, the society, and the world they deserve. To put it more bluntly.

“WE” Are The Issue!!!

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Photos provided by GREENPEACE at www.greenpeace.org

The world is a reflection of who we are, and what the world is reflecting back to us is that most of us are in a deep slumber and have been lulled to sleep by an entertainment complex that has kept us very distracted and very uninformed as to what the real issues are in the world.  Real news is superseded by the superficial. The real issues are not what is going on in “Hollyweird,” nor is it what is taking place on Capitol Hill, in corporations, or abroad.

We can fight with the politicians. We can fight with the corporations. We can march in the streets with banners and have clean up rock campaigns with the hopes of changing the world. But the bottom line is, the world will never change until we as individuals change.

Mahatma Ghandi once said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.”

The very corporations and the very government we march against are the very corporations and the very government that we vote for each and every day with the choices we make. Every dollar we spend we are voting for the world the way it is. The lifeblood of each and every corporation, bank, and government is money. We have it, and they want.

I, like many, would love to think that, somewhere a crackpot team of scientists will figure out how to fix the issues we face.  I would love to think technology will fix everything.  But until companies begin producing products that are environmentally safe, the burden is on us to “choose” as educated consumers and make better choices.

The environmentally irresponsible and neglectful corporate entities doing the well-documented damage to our ecosystems are monsters that we’ve created through complacency, convenience, and in our choosing to support them through the purchasing of their products.  They have morphed collectively into a leviathan that is now devouring the planet.  The only power corporations can exert over us is the power we give them by choosing their products and services.

Let’s ask a simple question.  Why does any business fail?  It’s because people have chosen to spend their money elsewhere.  We support corporations by choosing their products and services.  Likewise, our lack of support puts them out of business.  Simply put, as consumers, we can starve the corporations that are ecologically irresponsible by spending our money elsewhere.  In doing so, we’re cutting off their revenue stream and those corporations will either adapt to the new demand created by consumers or they go out of business.

If collectively we chose to stop buying bottled water, they would have no choice but to discontinue the manufacturing of it. If we collectively chose to stop using plastic bags at the grocery store, they would have no choice but to discontinue production. If we do not like what a bank is doing with our money, simply pull your money out and move it elsewhere. The collective action of 314 million Americans is more than any government policy could ever hope to implement, change, or influence.

Through our ignorance and our arrogance, we have neglected the planet on such an unprecedented scale that now we are stepping into the essence, the power, and magnitude of who we truly are. No one wants to look into the mirror and admit to themselves that they are the problem because ultimately that would require us to look at the consequences of what it is we each have done in taking the future away from our children. And it is being taken away!

Hope lies in the fact that there is an awakening occurring in small pockets of humanity, where individuals and small groups are truly beginning to reconnect with nature. People are slowly beginning to rediscover our relationship with the natural world. What we are finally starting to realize is that there is no one steering the ship, there are no leaders moving us in a positive direction, and they’re certainly not to be found in Washington D.C. or in the corporate entities on Wall Street.

Because we are a society of people immersed in the business of our daily lives fulfilling our own personal obligations and responsibilities, the “bigger picture” is something that eludes us.  And why wouldn’t it?  These issues aren’t talked about in the media.  Subsequently, there is very little concern about our collective impact on the planet as a society.  As a result, very few have awakened to the horror of what we doing to our home.

Today, we are beginning to eat the very plastic we throw away.  Few have truly begun working towards what benefits the whole of humanity.  There are only small pockets of heroes choosing to champion the cause of protecting the planet from our continued neglect, and those that do are often written off as “tree huggers” supporting “hippie causes.”

We cannot continue blaming society for all the ills we are now confronting. Now is the time for each of us to step into the essence of who we are and the world we’ve created. Now is the time to restore our relationship with ourselves, with each other, with the earth, and the universe.

Now is the time to begin speaking out for life. Not for the businesses or the banks on Wall Street . . . . . for the ecology of the planet, not the economy! It’s time to become advocates and heroes for Earth. Can you think of a better cause? Can you imagine having a better circle of friends than those willing to save Earth as an endowment for future generations?

RESTORING OUR PLANET

So how do we go about the task of restoring the planet? By first realizing that in killing our ecosystems, we are ultimately cannibalizing the planet that provides for us and bringing about our own demise and every other species. Recognizing that fact first, choose to begin Reducing, Reusing, Recycling, Refusing, and Reclaiming our independence from our dependence on corporations and blind submission to corporate interests.

Recycling is in and of itself, NOT enough . . . .

As a result of the Earth Day Movement, so many corporate killers have jumped on board to present products in a way that is referred to as “Greenwashing” the public mind. They take on the appearance of helping the environment, and provide citizens with a way to feel good about themselves for recycling, while simultaneously contributing to the problem. Remember, plastic never truly goes away.

As a consideration, let’s ask the obvious question. How can we expect any company, whose main product and therefore profit involves the production of plastic bottles, whether for water, soft drinks, alcohol, cleaning product, etc. to claim that they are for the environment when in fact they are the leading source of the problem? As we’ve discovered, even in recycling plastic bottles a percentage of it ultimately finds its way back into the environment, back into the oceans, back into the food chain, and ultimately back into our diet where it begins to create a whole host of health problems.

This is really an ethical issue for all of us in considering our children and the condition we’re going to leave the world in for them to inherit. Companies do not have a moral conscience when it comes to the “Economics of commerce” which is why the “Ecology of Commerce,” which involves understanding that everything we buy means they’re going to have to deplete more natural resources in order to make more of it, is not considered. It is rarely considered in the marketplace, which is predicated on the manufacturing of things with “planned obsolescence” as part of its design so that what is purchased will fail or to be used once and thrown away in order to keep selling more of it and making sure stockholders are making money. It is very disheartening, and a very sad commentary indeed, that money is far more important than the environment.

As a glowing exception to this model, when France and Australia were faced with the increasing number of plastic bottles ending up on beaches and in and around their cities, they decided on a very simple and environmentally responsible solution. For once an ethical decision was made to put the environment ahead of profiteering. By ethical, I’m referring to the fact that a society collectively looked forward to what it was they were leaving behind for future generations and changed their habits and the infrastructure of their society for the better. They stopped producing plastic bottles and instead created drinking stations for people, which forced citizens to begin using reusable containers instead of single-use plastic bottles.

The most effective technique any of us can employ in solving the problem is to refuse to use anything that is wrapped, sold, or marketed, with plastic or at the very least dramatically reduce our use of plastic items. This may be impossible, but we can make huge strides in diminishing our use of plastics. We are as much of a contributor to the problem as is any business or industry manufacturing plastic products. To give this argument some weight consider just for a moment the direct and indirect costs of bottled water.

Everything we do, every choice we make, every action we take counts. Understand, that everything you purchase means they’re going to make more of it. Reach for the glass bottle or do you reach for the plastic bottle of water? The glass bottle of water is far less damaging to the environment than the plastic.

Choosing to throw anything plastic on the ground carries with it the possibility that it could find its way into a storm drain or sewage drain, find its way to the rivers, and ultimately end up at sea. The single action of choosing to dispose of it properly could save countless animals lives, including our own. If we see garbage on the ground and choose to walk past it, the very act of picking up that plastic bottle or plastic item could make all the difference in the world.

The reality is, we are always at choice. We’re allowed to ask for biodegradable products. We’re allowed to say no to the Styrofoam cup. We’re allowed to say no to plastic cups and bottles. We’re allowed to say no to the plastic grocery bag, and on and on.

Prevention is the key.

What we cannot afford to do is walk through life with the misguided belief that someone, somewhere is going to figure it all out and that someone other than our self is going to save the planet. It is all of us making better choices that will create a much better future for our children.

The only way to confront the issue of global pollution and the increasing amount of plastic in the environment is with the choices we make every day. Every day we vote with our dollars in determining what it is we choose to purchase. If we stop purchasing items containing plastic or wrapped in plastic, sales decrease and manufacturers begin looking into alternative ways to meet a specific need.

“Plastic now runs our lives . . . . We’ve always been told that if we would just recycle and throw trash away responsibly, everything will be okay. The lie that is built into that, is the fact that there is no place called “AWAY.”   There is no place to really throw things away.   Litter isn’t the issue. The issue is the manufacturing and use of plastics in the first place and the fact that this stuff doesn’t degrade. It doesn’t go “AWAY.”

What kind of egotism is it that we have as a society, that we’re willing to use something once, for five minutes, and then turn around and simply throw it into this magical place called “AWAY.” It is going to here long after we are all gone, and even much longer than when are great, great, great, grandchildren are gone, and all the while it will only continue to degrade into toxins and pollution that will continue to harm the environment, harm us, and harm our children for generations to come.

Dean Jordan PhD, Dean of Political Psychology, International  University for Graduate Studies. [3]

CHOICES WE CAN MAKE . . . . 

REFUSE TO USE ANY PLASTIC BAGS!!!!   The average American throws away over 500 plastic bags annually.

STOP PURCHASING PLASTIC WATER BOTTLES!!!!   Instead, use reusable water bottles.  Companies like BRITA and BOBBLE make reusable water bottles with carbon filters for drinking pure filtered water.  Each filter can filter the equivalent of 300-350 water bottles.

AVOID THE USE OF ANY TOOTHPASTE, GEL, FACIAL WASH, OR BODY SCRUB CONTAINING PLASTIC “MICRO BEADS!!!!”

AVOID THE USE OF POLYSTYRENE (OTHERWISE KNOWN AS STYROFOAM)

WHEN SHOPPING!!!!  Bring your own bags with you.  Whether shopping at the grocery store or shopping at the MALL, bringing your own bags prevents plastic from ever having a chance of finding its way back into the environment.

WHEN SHIPPING!!!!    USE “ECO-FRIENDLY” BIO-DEGRADABLE (VEGETABLE BASED) PACKAGING PEANUTS AND OTHER PACKAGING MATERIALS.  These are packaging materials made of starch, that to dispose of can simply have water added to them, where they dissolve entirely and pose no threat to the environment.

Ultimately the choice is ours!

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References

[1] How Plastic In The Ocean Is Contaminating Your Seafood by ELIZA BARCLAY  December 13, 201310:07 AM ET

[2]   Inside the Garbage of the World. Film for Action.

[3] U.N. report: Oceans are trashed with plastic by Casey Tolan for CNN Published On: Jun 24 2014 05:43:02 AM EDT Updated On: Jun 24 2014 09:25:00 AM EDT

[4] Inside the lonely fight against the biggest environmental problem you’ve never heard of by Mary Catherine O’Conner    The Guardian, Monday 27 October 2014  10:21 EDT

[5] Spanish sperm whale death linked to UK supermarket supplier’s plastic by Giles Tremlett  The Guardian, Friday 8 March 2013 12.53 EST

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MAY 30, 2014

SCIENTISTS CONSIDER NEW NAMES FOR CLIMATE CHANGE

BY ANDY BOROWITZ

Scientists Consider New Names for Climate Change : The New Yorker.

NEW HAVEN (The Borowitz Report)—After a report from the Yale Center on Climate Change Communication showed that the term “climate change” elicits relatively little concern from the American public, leading scientists are recommending replacing it with a new term: “You will be burnt to a crisp and die.”

Other terms under consideration by the scientists include “your cities will be ravaged by tsunamis and floods” and “earth will be a fiery hellhole incapable of supporting human life.”

Scientists were generally supportive of the suggestions, with many favoring the term “your future will involve rowing a boat down a river of rotting corpses.”

“Any of these terms would do a better job conveying the urgency of the problem,” Tracy Klugian, a spokesperson for the newly renamed Yale Center for Oh My God Wake Up You Assholes, said.

Get news satire from The Borowitz Report delivered to your inbox.

Photograph by Mike Olbinski Photography/Corbis.

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Since our well being and survival as a species, and for that matter, all species, is dependent upon the well-being of the Earth, caring for the Earth and its life support systems is imperative.  Simply put, a finite system cannot produce forever.  Preserving the life supporting aspects of the planet that can be “sustained” shouldn’t be a matter of debate.  Reducing our Carbon and Ecological Footprint to as close to zero should be our primary consideration in protecting the Earth for future generations.

To provide perspective on the need to work towards the sustainability of the planet, consider that the world’s population is currently growing at a rate of 85 million people per year.  Put another way, that’s 232,000 people added to the planet every 24 hours or 232,000 more mouths to feed every day.  By the year 2100 (in a little over 80 years) there will be 32 billion humans on the planet.  One can see that with this kind of exponential growth, our failure to develop an economy based on protecting and sustaining resources, as opposed to cannibalizing the planet, is something we can’t afford to keep ignoring or deliberating over.  If we don’t begin sustaining the natural world, our consumption of its finite, natural resources will have an end game scenario that is fairly predictable.

Since every material possession we have is a manipulation of the natural world, then a large percentage of what we purchase is recyclable. Almost 65% of what goes out to the curb and is subsequently sent to a landfill, can be recycled. Newspapers, aluminum cans, glass, aluminum foil, aluminum pans, electronics, batteries, motor oil, plastics 1–7 and on and on, can all be recycled. Some recycling companies do have stipulations with respect to what plastics they will accept for recycling . . . . . so checking with the waste management company covering your community may be a good idea.

In a recent conversation with a follower of my blog, she shared with me, that although she really enjoys the topics I have expounded upon she would like a “To Do List” streamlining what we can do on an individual level for the sustainability of the planet. Her suggestion did not go without consideration. I don’t know that this particular blog really requires much more of an introduction than that.  So here goes, in no particular order, a list of considerations in preserving the Earth for future generations:  Let me start by saying . . .

THE SINGLE GREATEST THING ANY OF US CAN DO TO MINIMIZE OUR IMPACT ON THE EARTH IS TO AVOID POLLUTING IT AS MUCH AS WE CAN.  THE KEY IS TO MINIMIZE THE WASTE WE EACH PRODUCE!!!!

One of the single best ways to really reduce waste and make purchases that are relatively benign in terms of any negative impact on our eco-systems, is to shop with the largest online Wellness Company, MELALEUCA.

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Melaleuca is a consumer direct company that utilizes “green” practices, “just in time” manufacturing and shipping techniques, produces 85% less waste than traditional manufacturers, and deliver their products directly to your doorstep.  One UPS truck delivering products to 100 houses produces considerably less of a carbon footprint than 100 people driving to the store for their weekly consumables.

What makes this company so unique, is they have an entirely different business model and philosophy than traditional companies.  They do no advertising, despite being a $2 billion a year completely debt free company, a Better Business Bureau triple A rated company, a Fortune Inc. “Hall of Famer,” and a Fortune 100 Company.  Why is that important to know?  Last year, P&G sunk $30 billion (yes that’s billion) into advertising alone.  Who do you think pays for that?  Correct!  We do.

Melaleuca relies on referral marketing, because they believe they can spend that kind of money better by sinking it into research and development and making better, safer products, making it possible for families to live clean and protect the environment by combining the best of nature and the best of science.

All Melaleuca products feature natural, biodegradable ingredients like tea tree oil and thyme oil to disinfect surfaces, citric acid to remove hard water stains, plant enzymes to clean dishes, and to gently release tough stains from laundry.  They have no safety caps on any of  their products because none of their products are caustic, carcinogenic, mutagenic, toxic, or poisonous.  Their products use no bleach, ammonia, phosphates, formaldahyde, phthalates, triclosan, or any other caustic or carcinogenic ingredients.

Their products are far more efficacious than traditional store bought products from other large corporations loaded with inexpensive, harmful, synthetic chemicals that are well documented as being carcinogenic, and found in so many household cleaners, personal care products, skin care products, and dental products.

Specializing in health and wellness, Melaleuca manufactures over 450+ health and  wellness products, nutritional supplements, cleaning products, beauty and personal care products, make up, skin care, and other non-grocery consumable items that your family is purchasing week in and week out.

Melaleuca does not ship water in any of their products.  Why is that important?  They are very concentrated (containing no water), which means we are protecting entire eco-systems by NOT depleting a water table in one part of the country, by shipping water to tens of thousands of locations all over the country. This preserves the local ecosystems in Idaho where Melaleuca is based, and saves tremendously on packaging by manufacturing much smaller bottles and containers, eliminating up to 85% of the manufacturing and distribution costs and waste produced by other companies, which means considerably less waste going to landfills.  With only 41% of Americans recycling, that means most of the waste produced by commerce and consumption in our society, ends up in a landfill.

Because we are eliminating this waste and the subsequent costs, Melaleuca can offer their customers superior products with better ingredients for far less than the cost of what consumers are paying for the same category of products at the grocery store, and they’re shipped directly to your doorstep which provides convenience. Hours are no longer wasted driving to and from the store, walking up and down store aisles, and waiting in line to check out.

To learn more visit:  www.melaleuca.com

Because their entire business model is predicated on referral marketing, email me at david@shiftethos.com and I can show you how to open a shopping account with them.

Opening a shopping account with Melaleuca would be a good start, but there’s sooooooo much more we can do in becoming good stewards of the planet.

Another company that shares a very similar vision is a Norwegian Company called Norwex.

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In celebration of their 20th anniversary in 2015, the company expanded their Mission:

Improving quality of life by radically reducing chemicals in our homes which is the same mission as Melaleuca.  The primary difference between the two companies is what they offer.  Though there is some overlap, Melaleuca is more about health, wellness, and nutritional products, whereas NORWEX is more about practical cleaning utensils, towels, mittens, etc.

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The water droplet—part of the Norwex legacy from the beginning—signifies purity and no harmful chemicals.  The leaf reflects their commitment to protect nature and the environment.  The home symbolizes their Mission to create safe havens around the world.  The circle represents the global nature of their Mission and Vision.  Together, they stand as a powerful symbol of what Norwex represents.

To visit their website click here:   https://norwex.biz

Shopping with both these companies will go a long way in minimizing you negative impact on the planet….

But to go beyond what these 2 companies can do in minimizing out impact on the planet, let’s start by talking about Recycling . . .

RECYCLING is a great first step . . . but only a “first step.” 

What do I mean by that?

As someone who tries to recycle almost everything, I will always be an advocate for recycling as opposed to not recycling and that’s because almost everything can be recycled in some capacity.  But even recycling is still adding to the problem.  That’s because most plastics can only be recycled for two generations i.e.. twice.  Beyond that they lose their adhesive qualities which necessitates making more.  The real aim is to avoid plastic all together as much as possible.

But since plastic is nearly impossible to avoid, let’s recycle…Why?

Well, let’s just start by stating that Americans throw away enough garbage everyday to fill 63,000 garbage trucks. To look at that from a more personal perspective, within a given lifetime, the average American will personally throw away approximately more than 600 times his or her body weight, which for an average adult would leave a legacy of 90,000 pounds of trash at the end of their lifetime. Of the garbage Americans throw out, more than half of it can be recycled, which is enough to fill a football stadium from top to bottom everyday.  That just sucks for the planet!

Of these recyclables, Americans throw away enough aluminum to rebuild the world’s entire commercial air fleet every three months, enough steel to reconstruct Manhattan, and enough wood and paper to heat 5 million homes for 200 years.  So as you can see, recycling is a great way to make a significant difference.  But beyond recycling glass, plastics, and paper, so much more can be recycled . . . .

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If an item has a plug, uses batteries, needs charging or has the above picture of a crossed out wheelie bin on it – it can be recycled.

When it comes to recycling, I think it’s important to discuss the single biggest culprits of man made pollution:  PLASTIC!!!

ONE OF THE BEST DECISIONS WE CAN MAKE TO PROTECT THE ENVIRONMENT IS TO AVOID USING PLASTIC AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE:    ESPECIALLY “SINGLE USE PLASTIC”

An entire exposé could be written on the chemically hazardous properties of plastics.  Plastic and its disposal should literally be treated as a toxic, bio-hazardous waste material.  This is not exaggerative.  To learn more read my blog on plastic titled:  IGNORANCE, ARROGANCE, NEGLECT AND CONSEQUENCES: THE STORY OF PLASTIC, OCEANS, AND OUR SURVIVAL.

Recycling plastic in general is a bit of a sticky subject.  It’s an enormous problem because plastic is an enormous industry.

It’s unfortunate, but our concept of recycling is somewhat misguided because the rather malleable public mind has been psychological conditioned into believing that recycling is preventing, circumventing, or fixing the problem created by plastic waste.  That’s because our entire perspective of recycling plastics has been created by the very companies who’s livelihood is dependent upon it.  Companies like Coca-Cola and Pepsi for example, create the image of caring, and in a very feeble way, encourage people to recycle, but this is all nothing more than “Green Washing” the public.  It’s marketing, nothing more.  It creates a good image as a company that cares about the environment, but they really don’t. How do I know?  Because their entire industry is predicated on selling consumers “throw away” beverage containers.  Every bottle that is thrown away just means that they have to make more . . . and they’re all to happy to.  Can you imagine a world where the only Coke or Pepsi available to the public came from fountain dispensers, and each consumer had to bring their own container or glass?  They want us throwing away our little plastic bottle so they can sell us more.

Again, recycling is something that makes us feel a little better by doing something “green.” We believe that as stewards of the Earth and the  Environment we’re doing something good, but all of our efforts are really only slowing the problem, not fixing or avoiding it.  That’s because most plastics can only be recycled approximately 2 – 3 times before it loses all of its adhesive properties and its ability to be molded or fashioned into anything useful.  So even though we may choose to recycle plastic, we’re still ultimately creating waste.  We’re just postponing the problem a little.

Another problem with “recycling” plastic is that very few recycling facilities currently recycle all the plastic they collect.  Fortunately, here in Cincinnati, the burning of the Rumpke Recycling facility 3 years ago, lead to the building of a $32 million single source facility that set the high mark in our country.  Now considered to be at the apex of recycling facilities, this facility is setting a new precedent in the industry.

Unfortunately, most facilities can only repurpose about 20% of the plastics they collect for resale on the open market, so recycling is not enough, because even if we are recycling, sadly, about 80% of the plastic we purchase is still producing waste.

The best decision we can make is to “Refuse” anything plastic, as much as possible.  We are allowed to say no at the grocery store when they start putting our groceries in plastic bags.  If you are without reusable shopping bags, choose paper bags which are least biodegradable, so that in the event that they would end up in a landfill they will not harm the environment when they decompose.   It is my hope that the paper bag would be recycled and never make it to the landfill.  Here’s hoping!

Avoid using or purchasing any plastic items.  Choosing NOT to use plastic grocery bags at the checkout counter of the grocery store has an enormous impact on the environment.

Over 350,000 marine mammals are killed each and every year by either eating plastic or by becoming entangled in it, including:  dolphins, whales, sea lions, seals, along with countless species of fish.  Approximately 100,000 sea turtles are killed every year by attempting to ingest plastic bags which are mistaken for their main source of food, jelly fish.  And over 1.2 million sea birds die every year from ingesting plastic.

Every organism in the ocean is affected by the presence of this plastic, in every depth of the ocean. We are finding micro plastic in krill and all the way up through the food chain in the bellies of whales and seabirds.  Even if you don’t live near the ocean, you’re not off the hook (no pun intended).  We’re all contributing to this!!!

Once making its way to a landfill, wind currents often pick up plastic bags and carry them for miles, and deposit them in waterways such as streams, tributaries, and rivers that eventually carry the plastic to the ocean.

Because the photo-decomposition of plastic is incredibly slow, depending on the type, it can take between 450 – 1000 years to photo-degrade.  In that time frame one plastic bag can kill multiple marine animals because once ingested, the decomposing body of the animal releases the plastic bag where it can be ingested again killing another sea animal.

If the threat was only to sea creatures, the threat would be bad enough but now the threat is to our own children.  Studies performed at the University of California – Santa Barbara, have now found that these microscopic polymers once ingested diffuse into the tissues of fish and other animals, and ultimately are then absorbed by humans who ingest them.  These microscopic toxins that are a concentration of approximately 10,000 times the chemical in its natural state, find their way back up the food chain and ultimately wind up back in our bodies as a toxic foreign body in our tissues.  Again, to learn more read my blog on plastic titled: IGNORANCE, ARROGANCE, NEGLECT AND CONSEQUENCES. THE STORY OF PLASTIC, OCEANS, AND OUR SURVIVAL

In addition, these plastics leach oils and chemicals into the oceans that are harmful for marine life and also contribute to the declining numbers of fish populations. Oceanic studies have now identified over 200+ “dead zones” in the world’s oceans where no marine life lives.

We are literally creating a toxic planet with plastics.  Please avoid their use as much as possible…..

PLEASE REFUSE TO USE ANY PLASTIC BAGS!!!!

The average American throws away over 500 plastic bags annually and worldwide we throw away approximately 1.7 trillion a year.  Please do your part to avoid their use.

CHOOSE TODAY TO STOP PURCHASING PLASTIC WATER BOTTLES!!!!

Instead use reusable water bottles. Companies like BRITA and BOBBLE make reusable water bottles with carbon filters for drinking pure filtered water. Each filter can filter the equivalent of 300-350 water bottles.

But by far and away, the best filtered water bottle currently available is the CLEARLY FILTERED STAINLESS STEEL water bottle.  Whereas Brita will filter out chorine, some pesticides, and antibiotics, only Clearly Filtered removes all heavy metals including even Fluoride.  Check out their website here:  www.clearlyfiltered.com

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AVOID THE USE OF ANY TOOTHPASTE, GEL, FACIAL WASH, OR BODY SCRUB CONTAINING PLASTIC “MICRO BEADS!!!!”

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The issue with microbeads is that they do not biodegrade.  These plastics undergo photo-degradation and breakdown into neustronic plastics, or plastics that at the molecular level are ingested and absorbed into the tissues of fish, thus entering our food chain, where we ingest them.  Once in their tissues and subsequently in ours there is no removing from our bodies.  The chemicals such as dioxins, BPA, and many more, are carcinogenic.

Since we’re talking about Toothpaste . . . . What to do with an empty tube of Toothpaste?

Tom’s Terracycle is a division of TOM’S OF MAINE the maker of toothpaste made from all natural ingredients.  They make a whole myriad of products all using all natural ingredients.  But what makes this company so unique is their devotion to the environment and not compromising on their ethics when it comes to protecting the environment and the Earth’s life supporting eco-systems.

This company doesn’t just use environmentally responsible packaging and strive to maximize the recycled and recyclability of their packaging, but they’ve also developed a recycling program called the TOM’s NATURAL CARE BRIGADE TERRACYCLE COLLECTION PROGRAM where they are trying to become a zero waste company.  They not only accept the return of all their products but also accept any company’s products or packaging that make tubes of toothpaste, plastic deodorant dispensers, liquid soap bottles, etc.  How cool is that!!!!!

I keep all of my used toothpaste tubes, deodorant containers/dispensers, etc. in a container that, when full, is shipped back to TOM’s of MAINE Terracycle Program.  To learn more visit:   http://www.tomsofmaine.com/planet/overlay/TerraCycle

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AVOID THE USE OF POLYSTYRENE (OTHERWISE KNOWN AS STYROFOAM)

This is a movement that is rapidly gaining momentum.  Numerous states and hundreds of cities have banned, literally outlawed the purchase, use, or possession of styrofoam.  For obvious reasons.  It’s plastic…..   For a complete list of cities and states that have banned styrofoam click on the link below:

http://www.groundswell.org/map-which-cities-have-banned-plastic-foam/

WHEN SHOPPING!!!! Bring your own bags with you. Whether shopping at the grocery store or shopping at the MALL, bringing your own bags prevents plastic from ever having a chance of finding its way back into the environment.  Several eco-friendly companies create and sell reusable home, kitchen, produce and grocery bags made from all natural, organic materials.  Best part is when using these, we produce no waste.  Some of my favorites include:

Simple Ecology:  http://www.simpleecology.com

Ecobags: http://www.ecobags.com

Carry Green: https://www.carrygreen.com

WHEN SHIPPING!!!! USE “ECO-FRIENDLY” BIO-DEGRADABLE (VEGETABLE BASED) PACKAGING PEANUTS AND OTHER PACKAGING MATERIALS. These are packaging materials made of vegetable oil and starch, that to dispose of can simply have water added to them, where they dissolve entirely and pose no threat to the environment.

VIRTUALLY ALL PAPER and  BOOKS CAN BE RECYCLED

If you’re like me, nothing can replace a book.  I write notes in the margin of every book I read so I can reference things later.  Thankfully, I’ve learned to recycle just about everything, but for those that really like them, perhaps something like a Kindle, Nook, or any other tablet providing ebooks is a far more ecologically responsible way to prevent waste.

LOVE COFFEE???

Kuerig along with some other coffee machine makers have made single serve coffee makers a staple in almost every household and business.  I used to own one, but I sent it to the recycling plant where its parts will all be repurposed.  The biggest design flaw in all of these coffee machines though, is the disposable plastic cups that contain the coffee, which are placed in the machine and disposed of after the water has filtered through.  The problem is that the plastic the K-cups are made of is virtually impossible to recycle.  Consider a few hundred million Americans alone having a cup or two of coffee everyday with their Keurig.  THAT’S A LOT OF WASTE!!!!!  In 2014 Americans threw away approximately 9 billion K-cups.

How bad is this problem?  John Sylvan the inventor of the Keurig Coffee Maker doesn’t even own one.  It’s gone on to be the biggest regret of his life, knowing now the amount of waste his coffee makers produce.  No longer the owner of the company, he has tried to get the company to do something about the catastrophic amount of waste the K-cups produce, but in his own words, “they don’t want to listen.”  To read more about John Sylvan’s dilemma and the issues surrounding the use of your Keurig click here:

http://www.businessinsider.com/k-cup-inventor-john-sylvans-regret-2015-3

There are a number of alternatives to producing so much waste.  Companies like Keurig themselves make reusable cups for their coffee machines along with a whole host of others.  But you will still probably want to kick your Keurig to the curb (that is to say, recycle it).  This article will certainly fill in the blanks of all the health risks associated with the use of your Keurig.

Apart from being environmentally responsible, click here to see another reason why you may want to kick your Keurig to the Curb anyway:

http://getbetterwellness.com/?p=6503

In short, Keurig.com states, “Once your Keurig home brewer has been primed, you cannot empty the water from the inside. The internal tank of the brewer cannot be drained.”

Biofilms are found wherever there is water and a surface to stick to (like your shower curtain).  The rubber tubing and the internal tank of the Keurig cannot be drained. It is more than likely that bacteria and mold are happily living inside that hidden water tank where it is nice and dark and warm. Another mold-magnet is that black rubber ring on the bottom of the exterior water container.

Plastic K Cups Conundrum

The Plastic

The K Cup is a composite plastic, #7. Although this is technically BPA-free the chemicals from the composite plastic are not safe and they still have estrogenic activity. As long as I’m mentioning fake estrogens coming from the plastic in your K Cup, don’t make a bad situation worse by adding soy milk to your coffee!  The effects of prolonged intake of soy are well documented.

The Cups Are Non-Recyclable

This is a big problem for the environment since we have seen an explosion in the use of single cup coffee makers, like Keurig, in the last few years. MotherJones.com reported, over 8.3 billion K Cups a year are discarded, enough to circle the earth 10.5 times!

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An alternative to Keurig is to purchase a French Press, a Turkish Coffee Pot, or a percolator.  There is no waste associated with these approaches to making coffee….So easy to use, even our monkey above is using a French Press.  I love mine.

I purchased a French Press after retiring my Keurig and it was the best decision ever.  Now I grind fresh coffee beans every morning, place the grinds in the bottom of the french press, add boiling water, let it sit for 3 minutes, press it, and viola!  Incredibly awesome tasting coffee that tastes better than any pre-packaged grinds.  That’s because what’s in your Keurig K-cups has been sitting in those boxes for months before it ever makes it to a store’s shelf and to your mouth.

It takes 2 minutes to bring water to a boil in my tea kettle and I have a fresh cup of coffee with 5-6 minutes.  My Keurig saved me maybe 3 minutes in the morning (and yes I timed it) but at the expense of creating a lot of unnecessary waste and with the added risk of exposure to estrogenic chemicals and bio-slime in the tubing.  Now I produce no waste and best of all I compost my coffee grinds or pour them over the base of all the plants in my yard where they make a great fertilizer.

Saran Wrap?

A great alternative to using plastic saran wrap to preserve leftovers are the Charles Viancin Lilipad Silicon Lids.  I love these and use them at my house.  These reusable, ingenious lids, create an airtight seal that can be applied to mixing bowls, glasses, cups, etc. (see images below) and replace the throw away saran wrap which ultimately ends up in a land fill.  They can be purchased on amazon.com, ebay.comwww.livinginnovative.comwww.surlatable.com, and various other websites.

CV102 ALL Lilypad Silicon Lids

Another great eco-friendly alternative to saran wrap and throw away Glad Ziplock Bags that I use, is Bee’s Wrap a beeswax and cloth food storage alternative.   I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this stuff and routinely wrap a sandwich, cheese, vegetables, or anything else I would otherwise wrap in saran wrap and again, create no waste.  You can even  use it to cover a bowl!

Use the warmth of your hands to mold the bee’s wrap, sealing the top of a bowl, half of a lemon, the end of a crusty loaf of bread, or wrap a piece of cheese.  When cool the wrap stiffens holding its shape and seal…unwrap and reuse over and over.

Visit www.beeswrap.com for details.  It can be purchased at their website or on various other websites such as: www.amazon.com, www.ebay.com, www.williams-sonoma.comwww.thegrommet.com/Bees-Wrap, and many other websites.  I purchased mine from a vendor selling it at Findley Market in Cincinnati (a national monument that is like a ginormous Farmers Market only it’s been around for like 100 years).

Bee's Wrap   Bee's Wrap 2

TRY USING “PHOSPHATE FREE” DETERGENTS

Phosphates help to remove food and grease, reduce spotting and filming, control water hardness and suspend the bits of food so they were not redistributed on your dishes. That’s the upside! But phosphates which are used to support the growth of plants in gardening, fosters the growth of algae. When too much phosphate is present, excessive amounts of algae can develop. This may lead to undesirable water quality impacts including reductions in aquatic life, poor taste and odors in drinking water.

Alternatives to Using Static Free Dryer Sheets

None of us like our clothes to have static, so by necessity dryer sheets are almost a must.  The unfortunate side of doing so means, that these chemically treated sheets end up in a landfill, creating more waste and consumption, not sustainability.

Fortunately, a company called Woolzies, has found a 100% eco-friendly solution to that dilemma by creating Woolzies natural dryer balls that produce no waste.

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Regular fabric softener’s both in liquid and sheet form contain numerous first chemicals which are toxic to the environment and even more dangerous to many people who have serious allergic reactions to them. The elderly and small children can suffer from a variety of negative symptoms which are really just allergic reactions to the harsh chemicals contained in these chemical fabric softening products.

“Woolzies are pure handmade New Zealand wool dryer balls that soften your laundry naturally without any of the chemicals of conventional fabric softeners. Unlike the plastic dryer balls, they are PVC free and won’t fall apart or melt on you.

  • Because Woolzies bounce around in your dryer, they naturally separate and create space between your laundry, thereby allowing the hot dryer air to circulate better and subsequently cut down on drying time by about 25% in large load in 35 to 40% in small loads. This of course saves both time and money for you and energy for the environment.
  • They dramatically reduce static and wrinkles.
  • Use Woolzies to snuggle up with naturally downy soft laundry that’s completely free of harmful chemicals.
  • Woolzies are also hypo-allergenic and totally safe for people with wool sensitivities as they will not shed onto your laundry.
  • Unlike even natural dryer sheets and liquid fabric softeners, Woolzies last for 1,000 loads and are therefore extremely eco friendly.

So why risk your health and waste your money with regular fabric softeners when you can save time, energy and money with all natural pure Woolzies!”

You can purchase them and other environmentally friendly products at their website:  www.woolzies.com

Of course, an alternative is to make your own.  A google search will provide you with a number of websites that teach you how to do so….

CONSIDER THE USE OF REUSABLE SOAP NUTS INSTEAD OF COMMERCIAL DETERGENTS

A metamorphosis in both personal and household cleaning has occurred over time. From ancient Ayurvedic shampoos and hair treatments to the best 100% organic modern scouring powder, soap nuts are making an indelible mark upon history. We are watching a worldwide paradigm shift towards effective, healthier and eco friendly natural soaps and cleaners in process. And it’s one P&G is not going to be happy about.

Soap Nuts (soap berries) are the fruit of the Chinese Soap Berry Tree. These amazing berries are harvested and then sun dried. Soap nuts are found in both the eastern and western hemispheres, but are native to India and Nepal. They have recently become a popular environmentally friendly alternative to chemical detergent, and are a gentle option for those with allergies to chemicals in regular detergents. The drupes (soapnuts) contain saponins which are a natural surfactant. They have been used for washing for thousands of years by native peoples in Asia as well as Native Americans. The soap nut shell absorbs water and releases the saponins which circulate as a natural surfactant in the wash water, freeing dirt, grime, and oils from clothing.

Some  benefits of our Whole Organic Raw Soap Nuts (with seed) include:

● Reusable up to 4-6 times for laundry
● Hypoallergenic, fragrance free, eco-friendly, biodegradable & organic
● Low sudsing – perfect for high efficiency (he) washers
● Free of synthetic chemicals, fillers, toxins, dyes & perfumes
● Ideal for cloth cotton diaper laundering

And best of all, used soap nuts can be composted, so there’s no environmental waste.

If purchased in powder form, it uses can be expanded to include being used as a scouring powder (better than Comet), a shampoo and scalp treatment, Tea and  Coffee maker cleaner, and countless other uses.

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To learn more or purchase, here is an awesome resource:

www.soapnuts.pro

USE ECO-FRIENDLY CLEANSERS, SOAPS, AND DETERGENTS

All of these are cleaning products that are biodegradable, non-toxic, contain no phosphate and have hundreds of uses.  They are safe around children and animals (and most if not all meet all PETA Standards).  Because these are so safe, I use a cloth to clean my kitchen counters, stove, table, etc and simply run water through it when I’m done.  I ring it out and use it again and again.  This prevents me from generating waste with the use of paper towels which I rarely ever use anymore.

CONSIDER INSTALLING A BIDET

One of the best decisions I’ve ever made.  Every year 15 million trees are cut down worldwide to make toilet paper.  Though a novel idea to Americans, bidet’s are quite common throughout the rest of the world.  Cleaning your bum with a bidet is not only far more hygienic than wiping, it prevents the loss of countless trees and the clear cutting of entire forests.

If the idea of increased freshness and less irritation doesn’t appeal to you, consider this: Americans use close to 8 million tons of toilet paper every year,7 and forests are being destroyed to keep up with this demand. As reported by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC):8

“Giant paper producers are forcing the destruction of our continent’s most vibrant forests, and devastating the habitat for countless wildlife species in the process.

Instead of making better use of materials such as post-consumer recycled fiber and agricultural residue to meet the escalating demand for toilet paper, paper towels and other disposable tissue products, these companies buy virgin pulp from suppliers that reach deep into North American forests for timber, from northern Canada to the southeastern United States.”

If every US household replaced even one roll of virgin fiber toilet paper with one made from 100% recycled fibers, 423,900 trees would be saved.9  You can also opt to choose toilet paper sourced from forests certified by the Forest Stewardship Council.

However, even toilet paper that comes from specially planted tree plantations is not a sustainable choice in the long run, as these single-species plantations cannot compare with the species-rich forests that have formed a natural habitat for centuries.

Aside from the waste, the process of bleaching toilet paper white leads to the creation of cancer-causing chemicals like dioxins and furans, which not only enter the air but also waterways, soil, and the food chain. Exposure to even low levels of dioxins has been linked to hormone alterations, immune system impairments, reduced fertility, birth defects, and other reproductive problems. – Source: Mercola.com

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AVOID THE USE OF HOUSEHOLD PESTICIDES 

If you really must kill insects, fly swatters do a pretty good job.  Personally, I don’t ever kill bugs.  On the occasion that one finds its way into my house, I simply get toilet paper that allows me to very gently pick it up without crushing it, and I simply take it outside and release it.

CONSIDER DITCHING YOUR FAVORITE SHAMPOO AND USING BAKING SODA AND APPLE CIDER VINEGAR.  SOUND CRAZY?  

Google this and see the countless articles written about people who not only were completely skeptical, but who will never go back.  Their hair is actually healthier, fuller, and more vibrant than it ever was with even the most expensive shampoo’s . . . .

How to do it?  Take a bottle and fill it with half baking soda, half water. Then take another bottle and fill it with half apple-cider vinegar, half water. Keep the bottles in your shower. This seems to be the optimal level of dilution—not too basic, not too acidic (though of course all our individual scalps have their own unique balance of oils, fungus, and bacteria). Shake before using as the materials will separate. Use as much as you need.

For both the baking soda and vinegar steps of the process, focus on the roots of your hair, not the tips.  You will be amazed at how much better your hair feels and looks.

And no!  Your hair will NOT smell like vinegar….

PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE!  DON’T EVER POUR HAZARDOUS MATERIALS DOWN THE DRAIN OR IN THE ENVIRONMENT

Ultimately these chemicals find there way into our water tables and water ways where their presence kills fish and wildlife.

MOTOR OIL AND OIL FILTERS CAN BE RECYCLED

All oil changing facilities, mechanic garages, or motor part retail facilities will properly recycle motor oil.

Used oil can contain contaminants such as lead, magnesium, copper, zinc, chromium, arsenic, cadmium and chlorinated compounds.  Used motor oil represents more than 40 percent of the oil pollution in our country’s waterways.  One gallon of used motor oil can pollute one million gallons of drinking water. Don’t pour used motor oil down the drain or on the ground. Used oil is easy to recycle. It can be re-refined into motor oil.  Even after draining, used oil filters contain about 10 ounces of used oil, as well as one pound of reusable steel.  Just to show the impact of us collectively doing this consider that the oil filters sold annually in California alone could be recycled into 67 million pounds of steel, which is enough steel to build three large football stadiums!  Recycle your used oil filter at any of these service stations.

Auto Zone     800-288-6966

Accepts up to 5 gallons of motor oil per day. Also accepts car batteries. Call prior to dropping off.
http://www.autozone.com

NAPA Auto Parts     800-538-6272

Accepts motor oil from residents. Also accepts car, boat, motorcycle batteries. Call prior to dropping off.
http://www.napaonline.com

Pep Boys    800-737-2697

Accepts up to 5 quarts of motor oil per customer per day. Also accepts car batteries. Call prior to dropping off.
http://www.pepboys.com

Wal-Mart Tire & Lube    1-800-WALMART

Accepts up to 5 gallons of motor oil per day. Also accepts car batteries and tires (charge). Call prior to dropping off.
http://www.walmart.com

BATTERIES (INCLUDING CAR BATTERIES) CAN BE RECYCLED  

Used batteries are accepted at LOWES, HOME DEPOT, WHOLE FOODS, BATTERIES PLUS, and most BEST BUYS.

Today’s common household batteries—those ubiquitous AAs, AAAs, C’s, D’s, and 9-volts from Duracell, Energizer and others—are not thought to pose as great a threat to properly equipped modern landfills as they used to because they contain much less mercury than their predecessors.

Perhaps of greater concern nowadays is what’s happening to spent rechargeable batteries from cell phones, MP3 players and laptops. Such items contain potentially toxic heavy metals sealed up inside, and if thrown out with the regular garbage can jeopardize the environmental integrity of both landfills and incinerator emissions. Luckily, the battery industry sponsors the operations of the Rechargeable Battery Recycling Corporation (RBRC), which facilitates the collection of used rechargeable batteries collected in an industry-wide “take back” program for recycling.

Still recyclable batteries if properly disposed of are a much better alternative to regular batteries, saving the consumer tremendously financially and creates a lot less waste.

Car batteries, by law, must not be disposed of with household waste.  They are collected at almost all garages, Auto Parts Stores (Several of which are listed above) and scrap metal facilities.

ALMOST ALL METAL SCRAP AND ELECTRONICS CAN BE RECYCLED INCLUDING: 

Non-Ferrous Metals, Aluminum, Aluminum Cans, Aluminum Wheels, Copper, Insulated Wire, Brass, Bronze, Stainless Steel,

Ferrous Metals, Steel (prepared and unprepared), Sheet Iron (clean and unclean), Cast Iron

Household Appliances (Dishwashers, Washing Machines, Coffee Makers,  etc)

Refrigerators, Freezers, Air Conditioners (compressors must be removed).

Lead, Die Cast, Catalytic converters, Electric Motors, Compressors

Auto Cast, Motors, Radiators (aluminum, aluminum/copper, and car radiators), Metal doors

Screws, nails, and other hardware, Ironing Boards

Old Televisions, Stereos/Sound Components

iPads, iPods, Tablets, Computers, Projectors, Printers

Hair Dryers, Hair Straighteners

Coffee Makers, Food Blenders, Electric Can Openers, Fire Alarms, Irons, Lamps, Keyboards, and any other electronic device, can be recycled.

Go to GOOGLE or BING and do an online search to find regional companies that recycle them.

Here in the midwest COHEN RECYCLING takes all these items!!!!!

RECYCLE PRINTER CARTRIDGES AND TONER CARTRIDGES

Printer Cartridges and Toner Cartridges can be both refilled or recycled.  Staples, Hewlett Packer, Xerox, Office Depot, and most computer printer retailing facilities recycle cartridges for you and some even offer cash incentives to do so.

In purchasing a new inkjet or laser cartridge, look at the instructions in the box of your new laser or inkjet cartridge to find out how to recycle your old one. Many companies will provide instructions with the packaging materials and free postage if you wish to recycle your old cartridge.

OLD STYLE INCANDESCENT LIGHT BULBS (WITH THE GLOWING TUNGSTEN FILAMENT IN THEM) CANNOT BE RECYCLED BUT CFL ENERGY EFFICIENT LIGHT BULBS CAN AND SHOULD BE RECYCLED

Recycling these prevents the release of mercury into the environment.  CFLs and other fluorescent bulbs often break when thrown into a dumpster, trashcan or compactor, or when they end up in a landfill or incinerator. Other materials in the bulbs get reused.  Recycling CFLs and other fluorescent bulbs allows the reuse of the glass, metals and other materials that make up fluorescent lights. Virtually all components of a fluorescent bulb can be recycled. Visit: search.earth911.com to find out where you can recycle CFL light bulbs in your region.

USE CANDLES???

I for one rarely have lights on in my house unless I’m reading or cooking.  For whatever reason I find candles very relaxing and calming which makes for a great prelude to meditating, something I try to do every night before going to bed.  As you know, candle never burn all the wax.  They burn till the wick is gone, leaving a considerable about of the candle left over and unusable.  DON”T THROW THE CANDLE WAX AWAY!!!!!

Go to your local Michael’s Arts & Crafts store or to your local Hobby Lobby where they sell candle making kits for a little over $20.  By simply melting down the wax on your stove, using a pitcher in the candle making kit, you can pour yourself a whole new set of candles and it didn’t cost anything after your initial purchase….  And better yet, you’ve created no waste!

RECYCLE ALL CARPET

Would you believe by volume and weight carpet is number one filler of landfills?  It’s true.   Carpets are made of several chemical compounds but for the most part they are essentially plastic.  Because they are plastic they do not biodegrade.  Plastic only photo degrades in the presence of light.  Once in a landfill, with no access to light, they never degrade.

Also, the primary compound in carpet fiber, as with most plastics, is hydrocarbon, which is commonly drawn from fossil fuels, which is what we are trying to move away from.   When buying carpet, the retail installers will remove the old carpet for you (but you may want to check and make sure they are going to recycle it).

Do-it-yourselfers will have to determine where the nearest carpet recycling facility is.  A visit to Carpet America Recovery Effort’s website http://carpetrecovery.org is the easiest way to find these facilities; the site has a map of the U.S. with carpet collection centers listed by state.  Let’s keep carpet out of the landfills!

RECYCLE CORKS, PLASTIC TUBS, PLASTIC GROCERY BAGS, AND EVEN WATER FILTERS

All WHOLE FOODS INC. locations recycle plastic grocery bags regardless of where they are from, plastic tubs such as yogurt tubs, fruit tubs, batteries, and yes, even BRITA Water Filters.

Today most grocery stores have a bin near the entrance of the store for recycling plastic grocery bags.  Please, please, please choose to recycle these bags, which have become the number one killer of sea life and birds.  Even when they are thrown away and sent off to a landfill, when the garbage truck dumps at the site, a number of these are blown by the wind, end up in our water ways, and float out to sea.

RECYCLE OR DONATE LATEX PAINT

Latex paint is not a hazardous waste material and can be safely thrown away with your regular trash once it is solid.  Since garbage collectors cannot pick up liquids, simply leave the lid off and mix in sand, sawdust, or kitty litter to speed up the drying process. Once it is solid, place the can next to your trash with the lid off so your garbage collector can see that the paint is dry.

RECYCLE SHOES

Soles 4 Souls

Accepts shoes either locally or via mail in.
http://www.soles4souls.org/about/locations.html

REDUCE PAPER USAGE:

It’s one thing to “recycle” but “reducing” our consumption altogether makes an enormous impact on our consumption of resources.  Reducing paper usage preserves forests and maintains the balance in the CO2 and O2 exchange between the plant kingdom and us. This a system with checks and balances that we cannot afford to destroy.  Considering the anthropogenic (human) contribution to Global Warming and its devastating effects, being cognizant of our paper usage is a must.

Going to completely paperless billing and online sources for news and entertainment is a tremendous step towards reducing our carbon footprint.  Virtually every paper magazine has an online version of the magazine that can viewed and read as opposed to purchasing the physical version of it.  This keeps paper out of our landfills and preserves trees.  To provide perspective, a one run copy of the New York Times Sunday Edition requires almost 100,000 trees.  Do your part and preserve these trees.

STOP THE “JUNK MAIL” AND DEFOREST YOUR MAILBOX

Almost 75% of the junk mail we find in our mailbox isn’t read so why keep receiving it?  Visit Catalog Choice, a non-profit group that has helped 1.3 million people opt out of receiving 19 million pieces of junk mail.  The Catalog Choice website www.catalogchoice.org streamlines the opt-out process so you don’t have to contact companies yourself. And the best part? It’s totally free. With a few clicks you can stop unwanted junk mail from coming to your house. This one website is designed to enable you to “opt out” of company mailings by picking those companies you want and don’t want to receive mail from.  This one step can reduce our ecological footprint and waste immensely. 2nd only to carpet, believe it or not, paper and paper products are the largest contribution to our landfills.

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Another awesome website is www.dmachoice.org.  This is a mail preference service that allows you to choose what mail you receive and what you don’t by giving you the choice to opt in or opt out corporate mailing lists.  If you do not want to remove yourself from all mailing lists, you make your choices by company.   The website also offers the ability to stop a good portion of junk email you receive.

Getting off commercial Email lists

dmachoice.com also provides a registration form to register with the eMPS.  eMPS is the Email Preference Service and allows you to remove your email from national lists.   You will continue to receive email from groups or advertisers who do not use eMPS to clean their lists.

Although registration with eMPS will help reduce the number of emails you receive, it will not stop all commercial emails. You may continue to receive emails from groups or advertisers who do not use eMPS to clean their lists. Email of a business-to-business nature received at your place of employment is also not affected through registration with eMPS.

The DMA does not provide marketers with consumer email lists for marketing purposes. The Email Preference Service is available to companies for the sole purpose of removing your email address from their email lists. This service does not apply to advertising emailed to your business address.

To unsubscribe to emails that have managed to add you to their daily or weekly subscription go to unroll.me or click here:

https://unroll.me/join?oIMD%2F6wD

CONSIDER ALTERNATIVE ENERGY:

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Though for many of us, getting “off the grid” so to speak may not be an affordable option, for those that can afford to purchase alternative energy such as wind, solar, and geothermal sources of energy, can reduce CO2 emissions dramatically. Until large purchases like these become more affordable and more prevalent, minimizing our electrical usage with energy efficient light bulbs and appliances helps as does adjusting our thermostats to minimize energy usage.  Make sure lights are not left on in rooms that aren’t occupied.  Personally, I light candles in my house almost every night, simply because I find it very calming and like to meditate at night.

Rooftop solar water heating is a new trend that is gaining tremendous momentum especially in the western U.S. with states such as California, Oregon, and Washington.  U.S. installation of these systems has more than tripled since 2005.

USE LED or CFL ENERGY EFFICIENT LIGHTBULBS.

Why? One it will lower you bills dramatically both from a purchasing cost standpoint, and in terms of monthly electrical bills. They are front loaded in cost but in the long term will pay dividends, saving an enormous amount of money over the long term.  A typical incandescent light bulb with a tungsten filament lasts about 1,000 hours and costs 50 cents. You’d need six bulbs and spend about $42 on bulbs and electricity over the life of those bulbs. Or, by contrast, with the purchase of one LED or CFL light bulb, you’ll spend approximately $12, electricity included, with an expectant life span of approximately 10,000 hours.  Anyone surviving a 3rd grade math class can see this is kind of a no brainer.

One of my blog readers had expressed concern about the mercury found in CFL Light bulbs, but studies on them have found them to be extremely safe as long as they are handled properly.   This will ultimately be a personal decision so I encourage doing some research on your own.  Learn more by clicking on the link:  energyblog.nationalgeographic.com/2014/01/08/separating-myth-from-fact-on-cfls-and-leds-five-concerns-addressed.

BUY A BICYCLE . . . . and get healthy!

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Bike small distances with a backpack to the store, to friends, or to work if possible . . . . . . This is personally one of my favorite things to do, and when weather permits, I bike about 100 miles a week.

DRIVE A HYBRID OR COMPLETELY ELECTRIC CAR

The Tesla Model S has receive tremendous press recently as the first viable electric car.  Going from 0-60 in 4 seconds it’s clearly worthy of all the hype.  But Tesla’s work pioneering this bold initiative is just beginning. Many car companies are now moving rapidly towards designing cars that reduce CO2 emissions.

CARPOOL OR TAKE MASS TRANSIT WHEN POSSIBLE

Many cities are now incorporating light rail systems, trains, subways, and an increased number of hybrid buses into their civil engineering designs and their transit management designs.  Mass transit curbs CO2 emissions dramatically.

BEGIN COMPOSTING . . . .

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Would you believe 25 – 30% of what goes to our landfills is kitchen scraps and food waste?  Composting (keeping your food scraps in composting containers that can be purchased at Lowes, Home Depot, Menards, etc or just in a pile in a designated part of your yard) provide you with a great way to fertilize indoor plants, mulch beds, or even the lawn itself.  I keep a composting container under my sink in my kitchen.  All the leftover food scraps in my house go out to my compost pile.  Even living in an apartment, one can compost and empty their container one a week into the surrounding environment.  Something I say to my son Alex is, “always give back to nature the unadulterated (pure, natural) things nature gives to us.”

Food waste simply has no place in a landfill.  Buried, it takes up space (30% of the volume of the landfill), has no access to air, bacteria, sunlight, moisture, and requires a tremendous amount of time to break down.

Bottom line:  “Do nature a favor and give back to it, what we take from it.”

DON’T BAG GRASS TRIMMINGS.  COMPOST GRASS, LEAVES, AND YARD DEBRIS

Like food scraps, if there is a need to bag your grass trimmings, empty the bag somewhere on your property if possible, in a compost pile that can be kept, letting nature do what it does best . . . . . . recycle the biodegradable material back into the surrounding environment.

If you simply cannot bear the thought of keeping a compost pile or don’t have the space to compost, please be responsible and place the grass trimmings in a compostable lawn bag as opposed to a plastic bag.  The reason this is so important is, grass and yard waste are organic materials that biodegrade.

Typically most cities that allow for the collection of yard waste will pick it up separately and have specific requirements and restrictions that must be adhered to, such as placing the yard waste in compostable bags.  This is because, in the event that yard trimmings go to the landfill in a PLASTIC BAG they create another problem.

Exposed to the elements, the detritus (biodegrading material – yard trimmings in this case), releases methane which can be harvested as a source of energy, even though I would argue, methane as a fuel source is not a good idea.  That’s because, methane is 10,000 times more of a greenhouse gas than CO2.  And though landfills burn off the methane and others capture the methane for resale, this process is very inefficient.  A very large percentage of the methane is simply released into the atmosphere.

In a plastic bag, this problem is interrupted and slowed dramatically, where the yard trimmings, like food scraps, are now taking up space in the landfill, as opposed to being sent to a methane capturing facility where the compost can be harvested.

The other issue with sending yard trimming to a landfill is that, until recent legislative changes were made, the amount of methane coming out of landfills because of the collection of yard trimmings, was remarkable.  Metrics were obtained on their contribution to global warming, and today continue to be measured as a contributing variable in the anthropogenic (human) contribution to climate change.  It became such a serious matter that the U.S. Composting Council in recent years has passed laws in 28 states, banning the collection of yard waste.

In the event that you bag yard trimmings, please use compostable bags and check state and city requirements, restrictions, and protocols, to ensure your yard trimmings are going to the right destination.

GROW A GARDEN

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Growing a garden in our own backyards it’s probably one of the most environmentally conscious decisions we can make.  In shopping at chain grocery stores, which is obviously necessary during the winter months, we are purchasing food that has often times come from great distances, often times from other parts of the world. The carbon footprint that is created in bringing foods from halfway around the world is enormous.

By growing our own gardens, we become self-reliant, we diminish our carbon footprint, and we are working towards the sustainability of the planet. If there is not the means to grow a garden, consider shopping locally with local businesses and local farmers. Farmers market would be a great example of a place to buy produce and dairy.  Our investment in local farmers helps sustain their farms. It also removes GMO’s from our diet and disempower’s corporate giants like Monsanto.

Thousands of people are learning to grow their own food. It’s not just a great idea in theory.  There’s a growing movement of those who have found very practical ways to grow their own food.

Food is a tricky issue because the cost of food is used as leverage to sell to the less fortunate or financially challenged, forcing them to compromise their health based on the financial feasibility of eating better. One can get a value meal from McDonald’s for 99 cents or a head of organic kale for $2 at the grocery store.  Lower income families have to make difficult choices when feeding their families that others don’t.

Not everyone can grow their own food, but in cities like Detroit great strides are being made with the growing number of community/shared gardens where for as little as $10 a month people can rent a small plot of land and be taught how to grow their own food. In addition, city parks, like those in Seattle and around the country have begun programs that involve growing fruit baring trees in the recreational for anyone to eat from for free, with little signs that even encourage thinking in a communal way by encouraging those taking the fruit to limit themselves to just one piece of fruit……

It’s unfortunate that not everyone can grow their food, but a large enough percentage of the population can if they want to.

We like the convenience of having companies do the work for us, but it creates a dependance on them that allows them to do what this article is sharing. Not all of us, but a growing number of people can shop local and support local farming, which is economically and ecologically more responsible, diminishes our carbon footprint, saves on cost in the long run, feeds the local economy, reduces the profitability of corporate giants like Wal-Mart and enormous grocery stores, like Kroger, Publix, and others, prevents monopolies like MONSANTO’s stranglehold on food production, distribution, and food control, allows for innovation with farmers coming up with non-GMO approaches to agriculture and on and on….

If a descent percentage of people chose to do so, and it’s far more possible than most think, we could literally starve MONSANTO, who now owns the entire agricultural division of our government, to death. The lifeblood of every corporation is commerce and money. We have it, they want it. If we cut off the revenue stream to Monsanto the corporation will collapse. It’s really a matter of educating individuals to make better decisions.

And yes, it’s far more than just vegatables. It’s processed foods as well and the meat industry which is the most destructive industry on the planet. I would highly encourage a viewing of the documentary COWSPIRACY which is profoundly insightful on this issue.

http://www.cowspiracy.com

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No Garden? Here Are 66 Things You Can Grow At Home In Containers

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PLANT TREES IN YOUR YARD . . . . better yet, fruit bearing trees!

Aside from the benefits trees provide in terms providing oxygen and pulling carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere, trees provide a habitat for birds and other animals, whose homes continues to be encroached on by our expanding civilization. Plus, large expanses of lawn require pesticides and chemicals to maintained the lawn that ultimately threaten wildlife.

Visit the ARBOR DAY FOUNDATION at  www.arborday.org  and become a member.  You can shop for trees and they even have a program where you can receive trees for free.

CONSIDER HARVESTING BEES AND PURCHASE OR CREATE A BEEHIVE

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The value of keeping bees goes beyond the obvious benefit of creating your own honey.  There are also health benefits as well as the eco-conscious choice to providing a home to bees.  Recently, the declining numbers of bees and butterflies have been headlines in the news.  In many areas, millions of colonies of wild (or feral) honey bees have been wiped out by urbanization, pesticides, and parasitic mites, devastating the wild honey bee population. When gardeners wonder why they now see fewer and fewer honey bees in their gardens, it’s because of the dramatic decrease in our wild honey bee population. Backyard beekeeping has become vital in our efforts to reestablish lost colonies of bees and offset the natural decrease in pollination by wild bees.

Here are a couple great resources I’ve found:

www.backyardhive.com

www.honeybeesuite.com

www.agdev.anr.udel.edu/maarec/beginning-beekeeping-2/apiary-location

PLANT BEE AND BUTTERFLY ATTRACTING FLOWERS.

Look around your neighborhood.  What don’t you see?  Flowers….

Most of communities have become ecological wastelands or ecological deserts. Communities built today are built with no real consideration regarding the displacement of all the natural species of animals that lived within a given area before we removed the forest to make room for our houses. What you don’t see in most peoples front yards anymore are flowers.  Our houses all seems to have plenty of bushes and shrubbery but few if any flowers.  With nothing left to pollinate, bee and butterfly populations dying off at an exponential rate. How quick we are to forget that without bees, over 80% of the food we eat cannot be grown.

To help maintain their numbers, flower gardens can really help them make a comeback.  Providing them with pollen and nectar sources is an act of reverence for these species.

“Without bees, humans would go extinct within 4 years.”  –  Albert Einstein

PUT UP BIRD FEEDERs FOR BOTH SEASONAL/MIGRATORY BIRDS AND HUMMING BIRDS

SHOP AT LOCAL FARMS AND FARMER’s MARKETS

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Shopping locally dramatically diminishes our carbon or ecological footprint. This is because food sold in large chain grocery stores arrived there from vast distances and various locales often in other countries. They are often transported by plane, by boat, by train, and by trucks, all of which run on fossil fuels, which only serves to continue adding carbon dioxide emissions to the atmosphere.  Another added benefit is that your contribution to local farmers may be the very thing sustaining their farm which oftentimes, has been passed down and worked by generations of a family.

If getting to a market place where local vendors, farmers, and retailers sell goods and produce is difficult, check with the market place itself.  Many vendors do home deliveries with produce, meats, and even pet foods.

SHOP WITH ENVIRONMENTALLY CONSCIOUS VENDORS

Coffee shops, bars, and restaurants are slowly making the move towards using recycled materials and biodegradable products that do not harm the environment. Ask and encourage business to become more environmentally sound.  WE VOTE EVERYDAY WITH OUR DOLLARS.  Consider that every dollar we spend this supporting a given business.

BECOME A MEMBER OF, DONATE TO, BANK WITH, OR USE CREDIT CARDS PROVIDED BY ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION GROUPS WHO GIVE A PORTION OF EVERY PURCHASE TO SAVING AND PROTECTING THE PLANET . . . .    BY DOING SO YOU CAN KEEP CURRENT WITH WHAT IS GOING ON WITH THE PLANET AND HOW TO CONTRIBUTE TO THE SOLUTION.

Groups such as:    THE SIERRA CLUB  www.sierraclub.org       THE WORLD WILDLIFE FUND   www.wwf.org        THE NATIONAL RESOURCES DEFENSE COUNSEL – NRDC   www.nrdc.org      GREENPEACE INTERNATIONAL   www.greenpeace.org     THE NATURE CONSERVANCY   www.nature.org     THE WILDERNESS SOCIETY  www.wilderness.org     THE NATIONAL WILDLIFE FEDERATION   www.nwf.org      THE ARBOR DAY FOUNDATION    www.arborday.org

DON’T LITTER.  EVER!!!!!!

I can’t emphasize this enough.  When we litter, what we dispose of is often mistaken for food or nesting material, and can have extremely adverse effects on wildlife.  This issue is compounded when considering the decomposition rates of what we litter the environment with.

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CLOTHES AND TEXTILES

Damaged clothing and even faded curtains – that aren’t suitable to be passed onto someone else can be recycled and made into new items, such as padding for chairs and car seats, cleaning cloths and industrial blankets.

Some charities such as the FREE STORE FOOD BANK, the SALVATION ARMY, ST. VINCENT DePAUL, and AMVETS collect clothing and textiles for recycling. check with your local store.
Clothing and textile banks are often in supermarket and local car parks – check to see if they take items for recycling

Some shops such as H&M and Marks & Spencer collect unwanted clothes in-store. Marks & Spencer also collect via their charity partner, Oxfam and offer a discount off your next purchase.  Check also with consignment shops who will sell your clothes for you and give you a portion of the sale.

Some antique and vintage shops will buy second hand clothes, such as evening wear and vintage items

Offer clothes to friends and family or give them to a consignment store and make a little money

USE CLOTH NAPKINS INSTEAD OF PAPER NAPKINS  AND A REUSABLE CLOTHS WHERE YOU WOULD TEND TO USE PAPER TOWELS

For example:  In my house I almost never use paper towels for anything.  As mentioned earlier I using some of the non-toxkc, biodegradable cleaners listed above, I use a cloth to clean my kitchen counters, stove, table, etc and simply run water through it when I’m done. I ring it out and use it again and again eventually washing them after a couple day’s use. This prevents the generating of more paper waste sent to the landfills created by using paper towels.

USE CLOTH DIAPERS INSTEAD OF PLASTIC DIAPERS

Disposables diapers account for 3.4 million tons of landfill waste per year and DO NOT EVER decompose (since very little breaks down in a landfill, biodegradable or not).  Even the one labeled as “biodegradable” aren’t in a landfill because there is no exposure to light, air, or moisture.

IF YOU HAVE CATS TRY NOT TO USE CLAY BASED CAT LITTER

On average, a cat using a litter box filled with traditional, clumping litter will later lick off 1/8 teaspoon of bentonite clay, silica gel and fragrance crystals.  These chemicals can be toxic to cats and cause cats to vomit frequently.  There have been numerous cases in which kittens with a sensitivity to these chemicals have died.

In addition to the health effects of  clay-based clumping cat litters, the other problem is that they do not decompose.  They are mined for in China, shipped to the United States, which creates a huge carbon footprint.

Alternative to clay-based cat litters are wheat based or walnut based clumping litters that contain no chemicals and are completely biodegradable.  Others include newspaper and granular pine pellets.

FOR CAT AND DOG HAIR?  

Traditional lint rollers contribute more and more paper to our landfills.  SCOTCH BRITE Corporation has now developed a reusable lint roller that picks up cat hair very effectively.  After using the roller, simply run it under a faucet to wash the hair off and reuse.

Scotch Brite Reusable Lint Rollers

I use a “drain trap” to capture the cat hair, as opposed to letting it go down the drain where it could potentially clog pipes, and simply throw the cat hair outside.

TWO QUESTIONS WE SHOULD ALWAYS ASK, BEFORE THROWING ANYTHING AWAY:

Whenever throwing something away ask,

1. “CAN THIS BE RECYCLED?”

. . . . . . . . and if throwing it away seems simpler than taking the time to recycle it, ask yourself, 

2.  “WHAT WOULD A COUPLE HUNDRED MILLION OF THESE LOOK LIKE IN A LANDFILL?”  Keep in mind that there are 314,000,000 american throwing garbage away everyday when 65% of what we put in the garbage CAN be recycled.  EVERYTHING THAT IS THROWN AWAY REQUIRES MORE NATURAL RESOURCES TO MAKE MORE OF IT.  

So, I suppose a third question could be asked. “IF I THROW THIS ITEM AWAY HOW MANY RESOURCES WOULD BE REQUIRED TO MAKE A FEW HUNDRED MILLION MORE OF IT WHEN RECYCLING IT WOULD REQUIRE NO MORE RESOURCES AND WOULD PRESERVE THE PLANET?”

Aluminum and glass, for example, can be recycled an infinite number of times.  Why would we ever throw these two items away?

To just continue with a throwaway mentality is to literally rob our children of their future. Consumption only leads to one end result. . . . .  the depletion of resources.  Consumption, versus sustainability, is literally stealing from our children to pay for our lifestyle today.

AND LAST BUT CERTAINLY NOT LEAST:   “EDUCATE, EDUCATE, EDUCATE, YOUR CHILDREN!”  If it cannot reused, recycled, repurposed it probably isn’t a good idea to purchase it….

Sadly our children grow up to leave us and pursue their own lives, just as we did. They will only venture out into the world as stewards of the planet and teach their children to do so, if in fact they were first taught by us.

To make every purchasing decision an environmentally conscious one, I encourage you to visit a website www.inhabitat.com which features an endless library of articles on green companies, green products, and green design.  Happy shopping!!!!

Love and Light in your continued journey of discovery,

David

P.S. If you can think of something I may have overlooked, or a business that you believe could use a shout out, please feel free to comment and offer input . . . . . Thanks so much for caring about the Earth that is home to all of us!

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Penguins

“SHOULD WE REALLY BE CONCERNED WITH GLOBAL WARMING?”

Last night while eating dinner at a Carrabba’s near my house I ended up sitting at the bar next to a very charming man who engaged me in conversation for quite some time. As often happens, he eventually inquired what it was I did for a living.   In sharing with him that I was currently writing a book, a blog, and had recently put together a website to heighten awareness regarding the ecology of commerce and the negative effects our current economic model has had on the natural world, the conversation as you might imagine, blossomed into a much more elaborate discussion where I was asked to explain what was meant by the “Ecology of Commerce.” This brief exchange is symbolic of where we are as a society in understanding our relationship with the Earth and our impact on it.

Current ecological trends indicate that in the very near future we as a global society are poised for an economic collapse from which there will be no recovery. To understand the complexity of this point of view, we need to look somewhere other than Wall Street as our barometer for how the economy is doing and will be doing in the long term. The Financial sector of our civilization has little relevance in looking at the long-term sustainability of civilization. Countless civilizations before ours have collapsed and none were predicated on the demise of the monetary system.

In virtually every case of a civilization collapsing, environmental decline precipitated the unraveling of the social empire. Water shortages led to food shortages, which led to civil unrest. Those affected the most by food and water shortages in essence became “environmental refugees.” Left in dire circumstances, they fled to other countries where they were uninvited and therefore unwelcomed. As a result nations competing for available resources engaged in war, which ultimately led to the collapse of those civilizations. Today, these issues are very real for all of us and we are in far more decline than we previously anticipated.

Though the economics of commerce in our advancing society have been understood for hundreds of years, it’s the “ecology of commerce” (our effect on the natural world) that until recently, has been poorly understood, along with consequences that have been poorly anticipated.

Today, the evidence is overwhelming. The Earth is in trouble.  If the Earth is in trouble then “we are all in trouble.”

Civilization’s advancement in our recent history has been nothing short of extraordinary, but it has not come without extraordinary costs to the planet, a price we may pay dearly for in the very near future, according to numerous studies over the last decade revealing a planet rapidly in decline. It is our failure as a global society, not only on the part of governments, industries, banks, and Wall Street, but by us as consumers, to see that, not money, but our natural resources and the natural world are the only real commodity on Earth.  Sadly, our misguided perspective has led to a profoundly misguided focus on maintaining the “economy” as opposed to the “ecology” of the planet. It is this inability to see our connection with the planet and what we are doing to it that is, what many researchers believe, pushing the human narrative into its final chapter.

It’s unfortunate, but we cannot separate our well-being from the well-being of the planet we live on any more than a child developing in-utero can separate its well-being from the well-being of its mother that is providing for and nourishing it. Understanding our delicate and often precarious relationship with the natural world is a story that our distant relatives possessed and passed down to each generation, but today this knowledge has been lost to all but a very small percentage of the population and perhaps some environmentally conscious groups. Each generation is more cut off from this knowledge than the one that came before it. Those that implore the masses to concern themselves with the preservation and sustainability of the natural world are often viewed as sensationalists over dramatizing our plundering of the Earth. This is a reflection of truly how blind we’ve become in understanding that the system we believe we are contributing to in a positive way is the very system that is bringing about our own rapid decline. It’s not yet popular to be environmentally conscious, but very soon it will be, as very soon we will have no choice.

For decades, issues regarding the viability of the Earth’s life support systems have been percolating. Environmental groups have been screaming for the masses to wake up and “Save the Planet,” but the apathy surrounding such concerns has created a new challenge. The challenge now is to save civilization itself. The stresses to the environment and to civilization are mounting in number and in scope, gaining more momentum with each passing year, and in looking at the projections as they unfold in various regions of the world and in countless categories, such as population growth, deforestation, desertification, disappearing species, global warming, ice melt, rising sea levels, environmental pollution, waste, every growing plastic gyres in our oceans, and on and on, we’ve not turned one of them around, despite the fact that these issues have been known about for decades. Today, every life support system on the planet is in decline, and though there are many contributing factors, the anthropogenic (human) impact on Climate, namely Global Warming, is the one that will reshape civilization and redefine how we live on Earth. This single issue, that is the elephant in the living room that few care to talk about, is an enormous indicator of things to come. The impact of how the climate is trending paints a very bleak picture both ecologically and economically for our children and our children’s children. So let’s take a look at how this single issue, which is just one of many, is shaping our children’s future.

THE EVIDENCE

Though there are countless measurements, studies, and sources to draw these conclusions from, the chart provided below, in a succinct but very compelling way illustrates the trending increase in temperatures from 1880 through the present:

Produced by NASA, the chart illustrates how temperatures have compared to “normal” (or the 1951-1980 average) from 1880 to present, from pole to pole (-90 latitude to 90 latitude).
  From the 1880 to the 1920s, blue and green shades dominate the chart, signaling cooler than normal temperatures in that era.  Then, from the 1930s to the 1970s, warmer yellow, oranges, and reds shades ooze in, balancing the cooler shades.
  But since the 1970s, the blue and green shades rapidly erode and oranges and reds take over, dramatically.
  The rapid warming at the northern high latitudes especially jumps out in recent decades, reflecting “Arctic amplification” or more intense warming in the Arctic.  Although the warming is most pronounced up north, it is apparent at almost every latitude.
   And yes, you can even sense the much discussed slow-down in the rate of warming over the last 10-20 years as the coverage of oranges and reds has remained pretty static.  
Of course, it is widely accepted the Earth has warmed in the last century, or, as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change put it in 2007, the warming of the climate system is “unequivocal.”  [1]

 NASA Temp Chart

Viewed another way . . . . .

Global Temperature Graft

Fig. 2: Definition for global warming: Temp. increase in the last 150 years http://www.globalwarmingart.com/wiki/Image:Instrumental_Temperature_Record_png

When view across the Last Three Decades . . .

Last 3 decades temperatures

Graph provided by Finnish Meteorological Institute and Finnish Ministry for the Environment

In talking with individuals, such as the gentleman I met at dinner, there tends to be a tremendous lack of understanding in the general public regarding the issue of climate change. It’s a charged and polarizing subject matter that many like to weigh in on but few of which are actually armed with any substantial evidence to support their opinion, relying heavily on mainstream media to shape their opinion. Sadly, the media tends to deliberately muddy up the facts and offer more opinions than actual science on the subject.  The opinions solicited by talk show hosts and morning show celebrities, are often being offered by individuals in business or economics with no background in climatology or the sciences. Also, there is an enormous disparity in the general public’s understanding regarding the difference between weather and climate that further clouds their appraisal of the complicated issue of Global Warming.

Today, 97% of climatologists, and the rest of the scientific community, see the evidence to support global warming and dramatic climate change in the future as “overwhelming and irrefutable,” and they have good reason.  For those continuing to believe climatology is not an “exact science” guess what?  It’s not.  Nothing in science is.  But as the graph below demonstrates, of the peer-reviewed climate studies conduced in the last 21 years, the overwhelming majority support the idea that global warming  (occurring at the rate it is as opposed to the time frames found in the ice core studies), today is caused by the human, or anthropogenic, contribution to greenhouse gases.

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Image  provided by SLATE

http://www.slate.com/blogs/bad_astronomy/2012/12/11/climate_change_denial_why_don_t_they_publish_scientific_papers.

Let’s me be clear on this point.  Despite what the mainstream media is purporting, “there is no huge controversy over the anthropogenic contribution to global warming in the scientific community.”

Science thrives on dissenting ideas, it grows and learns from them. If there is actual evidence to support an idea, it gets published even if it goes against the mainstream.

The media’s presentation of the issue is where the controversy lies.  The loudest voices offering up “opinions,” instead of publishing papers, are coming from fossil fuel funded groups, such as the Heartland Foundation (who are funded with the sole intention of disseminating disinformation), bankers, businessmen, and economists, not scientists.  Everyone can have an opinion on global warming and almost everyone does to a greater or lesser extent, but opinions doubt change the immutable facts . . . the world is getting hotter, with each year’s temperatures, breaking the records and heat indexes of the previous year.

We shouldn’t be debating Global Warming in as much as we should be debating what to do about it.  As I will illustrate later in this article, everyone, irrespective of what country we live in, will have their lives dramatically changed.  This is because we compete in a global market where we are not connecting the dots and seeing how, what effect other countries ultimately effects us.  That’s what is simply NOT understood by the masses.  Focusing only on the economy is an end game scenario that’s not pretty.

Estimated Temperature Projections

So, why be concerned?  Estimating population growth, increased industrial contributions, increased ocean exposure as ice melts, continued deforestation, desertification, and a number of other contributing factors, such as Agribusiness, computer models predict temperature increases of about 3° to 5° C (5° to 9° Fahrenheit) by the year 2100 or soon afterwards accounting for a rise in sea levels by approximately 25 meters (about 82 feet).

Global Temp Projections

Fig 4: Definition for global warming: Temp. increase until the year 2100

http://www.globalwarmingart.com/wiki/Image:Global_Warming_Predictions_png

So what is the main culprit?   Without a doubt, it’s Methane and Carbon Dioxide.  Otherwise known as CO2, its increase in concentration is very disconcerting because the dramatic continued rise of this greenhouse gas since this Industrial Revolution, is not slowing, it’s accelerating.  Investigations reveal that catastrophic changes in the environment will be seen as the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere reaches a level of 450 ppm.

Because ancient climates are preserved in ice core samples, that allow us to very accurately measure the concentration of gases in the atmosphere at various times in history, the Glaciers themselves are telling us a story.

Ice Sheets are ginormous domes of ice that preserve climate records much like tree rings.  Snow added to the top each year compresses into ice creating a distinct layer that scientist can drill holes into and pull a core sample from that allows us to examine bubbles of ancient air trapped in the ice.  By measuring the chemistry of the ice we can determine past temperatures and measure the carbon dioxide content of the atmosphere.  What we’ve learned from these measurements is the corresponding relationship between Carbon Dioxide and temperature.  They go up together, they go down together.

Over the past 800,000 years, until the last 40 years, the concentration has never been more than 280 ppm.  That is until we started adding CO2 to the atmosphere.  Since the Industrial Revolution, over the last 220 years, CO2 levels have risen on average 2 – 3 ppm each year.  In June of 2013, we reached 390 ppm which is 40% higher than CO2 variances that occurred due to natural reasons.  Now we’re heading for 500 ppm or more.

figure-6

Image provided by Johns Hopkins University                                                                                      http://jhupressblog.com/2013/06/

It was predicted that if this rate remains unimpeded, the critical value of 450 ppm’s will be reached in approximately 25 to 30 years from now, or maybe sooner.   As of April 2014,  CO2 levels breached the 400 ppm mark for the first time in recorded history.  By June CO2 levels had approached 410 ppm.  The rate of increase at which CO2 is being added to the atmosphere is 500-1000 times greater than the pace at which CO2 fluctuations occur due to natural causes.  Sadly, this still hasn’t made headlines. The anthropogenic (human) contribution to this phenomenon is indisputable.

SO WHY ALL THE CONFUSION?

I believe the reason there is still so much debate amongst the general public is that they are presented with so many mixed messages.  In an attempt to bolster their stance on one side of the issue or the other, individuals take a very myopic view of global trends by using their local weather as their personal prognostication of whether “global warming” is real or not.  Looking at their local weather, they may choose to believe there is no evidence for it because their weather doesn’t seem to be consistent with what scientists report globally.

For example, in and around the Ohio Valley where I live, an unusually large amount of snow fell this past winter between the months of December 2013 and February 2014, when there was almost no snowfall for several winters prior.  In addition, the Northern Hemisphere’s Polar Vortex, an air mass of frigid arctic air, which is normally confined to regions in northern Canada, in and around the Arctic circle, took an unprecedented dive southward plunging deep into the States, creating some of the coldest winter days in recorded history.  As a result, many scoffed at the idea of global warming, using the dumping of snow witnessed this past winter and record low temperatures as evidence that the world is not warming up,  and concluded that the topic of climate change is simply non-sensical.  It’s disparaging that this abbreviated assessment on the part of many is lacking even the most basic understanding of the fundamental tenets of global warming.

So how do we explain the record breaking cold temperatures of this past winter in a world that we are told is warming up and breaking heat indexes records every year?

If there is one thing that all scientists agree on with respect to the world that is heating up, it is that climate instability will become the new norm.  One need not look any further than the weather patterns in the past two weeks in Cincinnati, where in May, a series of days with high temperatures in the upper 80s were followed literally overnight by a series of days where the high temperatures had fallen into the mid to lower 40s.  We were literally wearing shorts and t-shirts one day and winter coats the next.

To be very clear, global warming is NOT a “weather” phenomenon.  It’s a pattern of weather over very, very long periods of time that are following a very clearly defined path; temperatures that are only continuing to climb to unprecedented levels.  In order to understand climate, we look at long-term trends in weather, over not weeks or months, but rather years, decades, centuries, and even millennia.

Scientists see the events of this past winter as evidence of weather being fueled and affected by Global Warming, not a disproving of it.  As the world continues to heat up the differential between two interacting air masses of different temperatures, pressure, and air density, increases dramatically, causing more and more erratic weather patterns.

Looking at the jet stream for example, the instability created by the increasing differences in air pressure, temperature, and density both above and below the jet stream, as well as north and south of it, creates a push and pull effect on it that makes the jet stream behaves like it is drunk, becoming more and more unstable, and wandering into regions it normally wouldn’t.   The warming temperate region’s air mass becomes less dense and weakens.  As a result, the cooler, denser air of the polar vortex, like a bully pushing around the weaker kid on the playground, capitalizes on this weakening, temperate air mass and pushes south as an unwelcome intruder, cooling and coalescing the water vapor it comes in contact with, subsequently dumping snow in large quantities on the land masses beneath it.  The illustration below explains . . . . .

Polar Vortex

Illustration courtesy of ECO WATCH

http://ecowatch.com/2014/01/07/polar-vortex-does-not-disprove-global-warming

Put another way, why does the vortex weaken?

Now it gets interesting. More and more Arctic sea ice is melting during summer months. The more ice that melts, the more the Arctic Ocean warms. The ocean radiates much of that excess heat back to the atmosphere in winter, which disrupts the polar vortex. Data taken over the past decade indicate that when a lot of Arctic sea ice disappears in the summer, the vortex has a tendency to weaken over the subsequent winter if related atmospheric conditions prevail over the northern Atlantic Ocean. The situation looks something like that shown in the graphic below. (For a full explanation, see the Scientific American article that accompanies the graphic.)

Although the extent of summer sea ice in the Arctic varies year to year, overall it has been disappearing to a notable degree since 2007 and it is forecast to continue to vanish even further. That could mean more trouble for the polar vortex, and more frigid outbreaks—a seeming contradiction to “global warming,” perhaps, but not for “global weirding,” also known as climate change. [2]

vortex-graphic

Graphic by XNR Productions – Photo courtesy of Wing-Chi Poon on WikimediaCommons

These “weird” global weather anomalies, happen because we all share the same atmosphere, where the weather in one part of the world can radically change the weather in another part of the world oceans apart.  

Powering our day-to-day weather patterns around the globe is the process of convection,” in which warm air rises and cooler air from surrounding areas pushes into to the vacant space that was occupied by the rising warmer air.  Locally, this movement of air is what creates breezes. The wind blowing past you is on its way to fill a void of space where the heated warmer air is rising.

This process is illustrated below, in the blue areas dissecting the atmosphere, where the heated surface of the Earth warms the air above it, causing it to rise and be replaced by sinking cooler air.

convection-earth-1bth41m


When we apply this concept to the interactions between enormous air masses (often larger than even the continents they pass over), this is what creates our weather on a day-to-day basis.  As the graphic below illustrates, when the edges of two air masses of different temperatures, pressures, and densities collide the moisture in the air at those edges or “frontal boundaries” is affected and creates showers and thunderstorms.  It is the interface between these frontal boundaries where “all” storms, rain showers, and snow showers occur.

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As a cooler, more dense air mass pushes into and under the warmer, less dense air mass it causes the warmer air mass to rise and the water vapor contained in it, to cool and coalesce, forming water droplets that fall back to Earth in the form of rain, hail, or snow.  On the grand scale, as the temperatures in a given region increase, warmer rising air masses sequester cooler air from surrounding regions causing the temperatures in those areas to fall.    This creates temperature and weather instability worldwide.

As the atmosphere tries to create equilibrium, the increasing global temperatures cause these weather patterns to take on a more capricious nature creating uncharacteristic weather in different regions for months or years.  This is exactly what has been predicted by all the computer simulations and is why some of the hottest summers in one region of the world can create some of the coldest winters in other regions of the world.  We cannot look at the local weather patterns that play out in the course of one week as evidence for or against global warming.   Viewing them against the backdrop of climate trends that climatologist have been monitoring for decades is the only way to see these anomalies for what they are; evidence that the world’s weather is becoming more unstable as the world heats up.  As the world continues to heat up we will see these erratic patterns of weather becoming more commonplace.

As mentioned earlier, few scientist today believe that Global Warming, and for that matter the human contribution to it, is still a matter of debate.  The longer we continue sticking our heads in the sand and ignoring the issue, the higher the stakes get.  Never before has the focus on Global Warming and its dire effects been under more scrutiny. In global assessments monitoring ice melt in Greenland, the Arctic, and in Antarctica, it’s obvious why there is so much concern.

Fracturing ice, or what is known as “calving,” is a process by which ice rifts and subsequently breaks away from the glacier or the ice shelf it is a part of.  It is a very reliable indicator of climate change, and everywhere we look, the ice is disappearing much faster than any of the computer models predicted.  One dramatic example of this is the Ililussat Glacier in Greenland, which has retreated more in the last 10 years than it has in the last 100 years.

Screen-Shot-2013-06-20-at-5.31.59-PM

Though scientists agree that sea levels have risen and fallen significantly over the 4.6 billion years geological lifespan of the Earth, the recent rate of global sea level rise has departed from the statistical averages of the past several thousand years and is rising more rapidly with each passing year.

This is very disconcerting, as it reveals to us that the climate on Earth is changing dramatically. Other highlights of glacial calving in recent years include an event in 2008, where climatologist observed in one week the disappearance of sea ice in the Arctic larger than the United Kingdom. In January 2010, an area larger than Rhode Island broke off the Ronne-Filchner ice shelf in Antarctica, which was followed in August 2010 by an event at the opposite end of the planet where an area known as the Peterman Glacier in Greenland, saw a massive iceberg, 97 square miles in diameter (an area four times the size of New York City), calve and break off into the sea. In November of 2013, it was announced that an iceberg ten times the size of New York City broke away from Antarctica’s Pine Island Bay. Last week, NASA announced that the collapse of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet is “unstoppable,” and if it melts completely would account for a 13 ft. rise in sea level.

AntarcticaTemps_1957-2006_0

Visualization of Antarctic temperature changes.  

NASA Earth Observatory

Dr. Rignot said in the NASA news conference, “Today we present observational evidence that a large sector of the West Antarctic ice sheet has gone into irreversible retreat. It has passed the point of no return.”

Another report last week, deemed the collapse of the Thwaites Glacier Basin in another part of Antarctica, as “inevitable,” which in 2002 saw the calving and subsequent breakage of a 2,000 square mile ice sheet.  The melting of this glacier, which has been described as the “linchpin” for the entire West Antarctic Ice Sheet, would by itself account for a 2 ft. increase in sea level in decades to come. This accelerating trend will have catastrophic effects on the world’s coastlines and enormous effects on the global economy in the future.

UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL . . . 

Glacier Island Antarctica

Glacier Island Antarctica calving ice sheet

Photo provided by NASA Goddard Space Flight Center CC, BY

THE IMPACT ON YOU AND I PERSONALLY

Though there are countless ways Global Warming impacts us, I will present one scenario of how we are all in the same boat and like it or not we’re all in it together.

One reading this may think, “How does this concern me?” To understand and appreciate the magnitude of concerns surrounding rising sea levels, consider that worldwide more than 100 million people live within 3 ft. of the ocean. [3]  Those affected first by rising sea levels would be the rice farming populaces in and around river deltas in Asia who would see their crops disappear into the sea. But they’re not the only ones who would be affected by rising sea levels. Large cities where human populations have concentrated near coastal areas—Shanghai, Bangkok, Jakarta, Tokyo, London, and New York will be underwater before the end of the century if rising CO2 levels and their corresponding impact on rising sea level continues at the current rate. In countries like the Netherlands, where nearly half its landmass is already at or below sea level, the projected economic and humanitarian impacts on their society will be catastrophic. Here in the United States, 39%, (123 million people) live directly on the shoreline, with 52% (164 million people) of our population living in coastal counties within 50 miles of the shorelines and would be directly impacted by rising sea levels.

This poses a threat because as sea level rises, salt from the intruding sea will inevitably find its way into freshwater aquifers, where it will threaten sources of drinking water and also make raising crops problematic, if not impossible. In areas of the Middle East, for example, where Egypt’s crops and agriculture have been established around the Nile Delta, widespread erosion and saltwater intrusion would be disastrous since the country, which is predominantly desert, contains very little arable land for agriculture. The London-based Environmental Justice Foundation reports, that “a one meter [3-foot] sea level rise . . . . . would account for the loss of at least 2 million hectares in the fertile Nile Delta, displacing 8-10 million people, including nearly the entire population of Alexandria.” [4]

But they’re not the only ones. River deltas have always given rise to large populations, and are subsequently some of the most vulnerable to climate change. Other river deltas including the Mississippi, Irrawaddy, Niger, Ganges-Brahmaputra, Mekong, and Yangtze, would all be vulnerable to encroaching sea water, as it would eventually seep into the freshwater aquifers that are used to irrigate crops. Irrigating crops with water heavily contaminated with salt would destroy the crops by profoundly changing the pH (the acidity) of the soil, making it very difficult to grow crops for a very long period of time, not to mention what the implications are for their drinking water. One can begin to fathom the unprecedented ecological effect this would have on food production in all areas of the world for literally billions of people.

A rising sea level though is not the only threat created by global warming. In many agricultural regions around the world, snow, believe it or not, is the primary source of irrigation and drinking water. As temperatures rise, there is less and less precipitation in areas of the world that rely heavily upon it. Glacial snowmelt in the snow caps of the Himalayas in Asia and in the Andes mountains in South America are suffering the most from increasing temperatures, with the greatest loss of snow/ice occurring in the Himalayas of the Tibetan Plateau. The disappearing snowmelt would be catastrophic to large populaces in India and China that reside along the Indus, Ganges, Yangtze, and Yellow Rivers, because of their heavy reliance on these glacier-fed rivers, where the snowmelt each year provides the water for irrigating crops in the spring and summer, that provide food for the masses.

Lester Brown writes in his book, WORLD ON THE EDGE:

“For Americans, the melting of the glaciers on the Tibetan Plateau would appear to be China’s problem. It is. But it is also everyone else’s problem. For U.S., consumers, this melting poses a nightmare scenario. If China enters the world market for massive quantities of grain, as it has already done for soybeans over the last decade, it will necessarily come to the United States – far and away the leading exporter. The prospect of 1.3 billion Chinese with rapidly rising incomes competing with American consumers for the U.S. grain harvest, and thus driving up food prices, is not an attractive one.

 In the 1970s, when tight world food supplies were generating unacceptable food price inflation in the United States, the government restricted grain exports. This is no longer an option where China is concerned.”

 

Each month starting in 2008, when the Treasury Department was auctioning off securities to cover the U.S. fiscal deficit, China was the biggest buyer, now holding over $1.2 trillion of U.S. debt and has essentially become the biggest banker for the United States. Whether we like it or not, our near-sighted view of the global economy by only concerning ourselves with how our country is doing, while failing to understand all the moving parts and the ecology driving it, has to change. Americans will soon be competing with Chinese consumers for our food harvests. Their loss is our loss. As the availability of water and food diminishes in China, the global market sells to the highest bidder, irrespective of nationality or who is producing what in the marketplace. This is just one of a number of scenarios illustrating the complexity of our world economy. Preventing the demise of the natural world is in everyone’s best interests.

China aside, we here in the States are not exempt in suffering the effects of diminishing snowmelt. For example, the Colorado River is the primary source of irrigation water for many southwest states. Snowmelt from the snowfields and snowcaps in the Rockies contribute considerably too much of its volume of water. California, which depends on water channeled from the Colorado River, also depends heavily on snowmelt from the Sierra Nevada mountain range to supply water for irrigation to the state’s fruit and vegetable crops. As mountain glaciers, snowcaps, and snowfields continue to shrink, the reduced runoff will create unprecedented water shortages resulting in tremendous societal stresses as food supplies tighten in densely populated parts of the world.  The impact is already being felt in the southwest as another year of devasting drought has caused the Colorado River to dry up right before our eyes over the course of 3 years.

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Butte County, CA. 2011

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Butte County, CA. 2014

Disappearing Water CA 3

Orville Lake, CA.  2011

Disappearing Water CA 4

Orville Lake, CA. 2014

Unfortunately, California isn’t the only place suffering the effects of a warming world.  Texas has also seen the devastating effects of a planet that is heating up.

Disappearing Water

Lake Meredith, TX.  1999

Disappearing Water Lake Meredith

Lake Meredith, TX. 2011

And just so the reader isn’t lead to believe these are isolated cases of water loss, one need look no further than the disappearance of the Aral Sea located between Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan over the last 30 years

Aral Sea compilation

Aral Sea 1977 – 2009

(1,279 sq miles of fresh water lost)

If these were the only problems to consider in a warmer world, it would be sufficient, but as temperatures rise, there are other problems that emerge. Another threat from increasing temperatures is the effect it has on photosynthesis.  In a study conducted by Ohio State University, research showed that photosynthesis in plants, namely those that provide us food, increases until the temperature reaches 68° F, where it then plateaus until the temperature reaches 95° F. At this temperature, we see diminishing returns where photosynthesis goes into decline producing fewer and fewer carbohydrates and the plant’s growth is stunted.  At 104° F photosynthesis stops altogether. Likewise, the pollination of rice follows the same pattern. Studied in depth in the Philippines, scientists discovered that the pollination of rice falls from 100% at 93° to nearly zero at 104°. [3]  The combination of these two phenomena alone can create an unprecedented diminishing of food harvests.

Adding complexity to this issue, geo-political matters of the State often creates stark contrasts and difficult challenges in deciding what is more important when prioritizing the economy, business, industry and the marketplace, or sustaining the ecology of a given geographic region of the planet. This is because making the changes in industry will require monetary funds that in the long term will pay dividends, but in the short term can stress the economy by over-extending budgets. Unfortunately, the longer we wait, the stakes merely get higher and higher as civilization continues to grow, which today is occurring at an exponential rate. It’s both sad and ironic that the two countries that were planning to build the most coal-fired powered plants are China and India, the two countries that stand to suffer the most from a decision that will only serve to compound the issue of diminishing snow melt. There is now a drastic effort in both of these countries to consider alternative forms of energy.   Thankfully, China recently announced plans to build the biggest solar array and the largest off shore wind farm on the planet.  Signs of hope are starting to emerge.  Here in the United States, we are woefully behind Europe in moving from fossil fuels, to alternative energy.  We can only hope that this movement will gain momentum in the years to come.

WHAT CAN WE AS A SOCIETY AND AS INDIVIDUALS DO ABOUT IT?

If society continues with a “business as usual” approach to industry and business, doing tomorrow what it is we have always done up until this point, nothing will change with respect to the global ecological forecasts. Dramatic changes are going to be required in which future cities, both here and abroad, will have to be built around people, not cars in order to diminish CO2 emissions. Industry has to adopt better practices that minimize our ecological footprint and impact on the natural world. Alternative forms of transportation, such as light rail systems, electric trains, hybrid cars and eventually electric cars, like the Tesla Model S, will have to become implemented into civil engineering plans and become the predominant mainstream form of transportation.

Cities developed around people walking or biking will dramatically reduce CO2 emissions and rising greenhouse gases. Alternative forms of energy such as wind, solar, and geothermal sources can further reduce emissions dramatically. Until they become more prevalent, minimizing our electrical usage with energy efficient light bulbs and appliances helps as does adjusting our thermostats to minimize energy usage. Rooftop solar water heating is a trend that is gaining tremendous momentum. U.S. installation of these systems has more than tripled since 2005. Reducing paper usage to preserve forests is going to preserve the balance in the CO2 and O2 exchange between the plant kingdom and us. This a system with checks and balances that we cannot afford to destroy.

One step that we can take to preserving trees is with respect to “Junk Mail.”  The Environmental Protection Agency reports Americans as a whole receive close to five million tons of junk mail every year with the average american household receiving 15-20 pounds of junk mail a month.

The Catalog Choice, is a non-profit group that offers a completely free service that has helped 1.3 million people opt out of receiving 19 million pieces of junk mail.   Their website streamlines the opt-out process so you don’t have to contact companies yourself.

Chuck Teller, the CEO of Catalog Choice said, “Companies actually make it pretty complicated to opt out many times. … We’ve taken a five-minute process, and we make it around 10 seconds to make an opt-out choice, record that choice, and if the mail comes back, come back and file a formal complaint.”

New legislation called the “Commercial Privacy Bill of Rights” could help reduce the junk mail clutter by limiting the amount of information that is shared with marketing companies — but that’s being opposed by the direct mail industry.

Reforestation, replacing those trees that have been lost as urban areas expand further and further out from the epicenter of the city, and sprawl into natural habitats surrounding the cities. On an individual level planting trees around our house certainly help minimize our impact on the environment. Every tree planted is one more removing CO2 buildup from the atmosphere.

With that said, shopping at local farms or gardening in our own backyards dramatically diminishes our carbon or ecological footprint.  This is because food sold in a grocery chain arrived there from vast distances and various locales often in other countries.   They are often transported by plane, by boat, by train, and by trucks, all of which run on fossil fuels, which only serves to continue adding carbon dioxide emissions to the atmosphere.

But the single biggest impact we can have in saving both civilization and the natural world is educating our young, teaching them to have a reverence for the Earth and its life support systems.  This is the only way our children will have a viable planet left to inherit.

For more ideas on how to protect the environment read my blog titled:  THINGS WE EACH CAN DO TO PROTECT THE ENVIRONMENT.

In the future, it will become more and more imperative that we abandon our patriotic identifications with the countries we live in, and far more expensive in our Global View by seeing, that we all share one planet.  We are tied together today in ways most will never be able to contemplate, because our tendency is to have a very myopic view of the world we live in, preoccupied for the most part with only what is going on in our lives. In a global economy we are all affected by industrialization, whether it takes place here or abroad because of the interdependence of one nation upon another in importing and exporting resources to sustain civilization. We cannot change the climate dramatically in one part of the world without its effects being felt by everyone on earth. This is a scenario we all participate in. We have to understand, we are all in it together, regardless of each country’s and each government’s economic and political goals

The thin blanket of air that extends above us is a shared system, shared by the entire world. Climate change is not simply a matter of the world getting warmer. What is poorly understood by society is how our impact on global climate change is far-reaching and permeates virtually every aspect of not only our own personal lives, but that of geopolitical interests, economic interests, and agricultural interests. It creates concerns with respect to water shortages and the availability of food in various regions of the world, which spills over in matters of national security, as conflicts along national borders that will undoubtedly occur as people, whose ecology has been adversely affected by climate change will be forced to emigrate to regions or countries where food and resources are still available. Crossing borders in large numbers poses a threat to a country’s economic sustainability, and raises a number of moral and ethical questions. Do we simply close our borders and turn our backs on the prodigious number of people facing desperate situations and tremendous human suffering? Or do we provide them refuge as they retreat from their desolation? These considerations would require perhaps reconciling the disparity that sometimes lies between our political, national, and patriotic views, with our spiritual beliefs of being our brother’s keeper, or by all together choosing one point of view vs. the other.

As the world’s climate changes, regions of the world will become profoundly affected and vulnerable on an economic level to being cut out of the equation in the distribution and allocation of food, clean water, and resources. Because financial currency is used as a means of an exchange and allocating resources, those countries in the best monetary standing on the global stage would be able to ultimately sequester the majority of the worlds available resources, food, and water, which in turn would put tremendous stresses on far less economically stable countries. One can clearly see how the issue of climate change is far more complex than just breaking out the sunscreen where the world is becoming a warmer place.

 REFERENCES

[1]    Global Warming in One Unmistakable Compelling Chart:  The Washington Post

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/capital-weather-gang/wp/2013/09/04/an-unmistakably-compelling-chart-of-global-warming

[2]  Extreme Winter Weather Explained: by Scientific American.

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/the-winters-of-our-discontent/

[3]  Signs from Earth:  The Big Thaw by National Geographic

http://www.economist.com/blogs/graphicdetail/2012/06/daily-chart-3

[4]  Brown, L. 2011. World on the Edge: How to Prevent Economic and Environmental Collapse. 72-73.  W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.

[5]  Brown, L. 2011. World on the Edge: How to Prevent Economic and Environmental Collapse. 47-48.  W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.

Love and Light to you in your continued journey of discovery,

David

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A Fragile System . . . . .

flower-TED

Photography by Louis Schwartzberg

Just as the Earth provides for us in a symbiotic or mutually beneficial way, we as stewards of the Earth must always be cognizant of the fact that what we take from it is not easily replaced. Consider for a moment, it takes approximately five hundred years for nature to create one inch of topsoil from the underlying rock that a bulldozer can remove in a heartbeat. In the case of disappearing species, once gone, they can never be replaced. As each one disappears, the delicate balance in the web of life is disrupted and in some cases can have catastrophic effects on the survival of every other species. Look no further than the rapidly declining numbers and potential fate of bees. If all the bees on planet Earth disappear, and currently they are at an alarming rate due to the misguided application of under-tested pesticides, without their ability to pollenate plants, there are few crops that can be harvested and humans would disappear from the face of the Earth within an estimated four years of their extinction. Our withdrawals from the natural world will be paid with compounding interests if each year’s neglect of the natural world continues the way it has. What takes us only days to take from the environment, can in many cases take thousands of year for nature to replace or rebuild.

Today, where 217,000 people are added to the planet every day, it is imperative that we shift our focus from one of consumption and waste to one of sustainability. Revisiting with our children what our ancestors taught, to educate our children and our grandchildren of our delicate relationship with the Earth. Now is the time to again, fall in love with the Earth, to see our connection to it, to protect it, to respect LIFE, all life, and build a sustainable future for our descendants as we send our love into the future.

Love and Light in your continued journey of discovery . . . . .

David

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Life is Beautiful……

Butterfly

I chose to post this picture because I felt it represented the aim of SHIFT ETHOS. That aim is to help people fall in love with nature again.  Although the picture in this post is not his, anyone viewing the works of Louis Schwartzberg, who used time-lapse photography to show us the elegant dance of life in all living things that would otherwise be imperceptible to the human eye, would realize the world is alive, communicating with itself, and is playing in a graceful and elegant dance with itself. In a TED talk he gave in June of 2011, he said it most magniloquently when he said:

“Beauty and seduction is nature’s tool for survival, because we protect what we fall in love with. It opens our hearts and makes us realize we are a part of nature and not separate from it. When we see ourselves in nature, it connects us to each and every one of us because it’s clear that it’s all connected and one.”

Perhaps if we can come to  discover the beauty and seduction of nature and see our connection to it we would be far more inclined to protect it.  To hear his inspiring talk and view the amazing works of Louis Schwartzberg go to:

Enjoy and be inspired!

Love and Light to you,

David

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“We are living on the planet as if we have another one to go to.” – Terry Swearingen

Today, the evidence is overwhelming. The Earth is in trouble. If the Earth is in trouble, then “we are all in trouble.”  If that sounds ominous, it’s intended to.  Learning about the true state of our planet is usually nothing short of shocking when one pulls back the thin veneer of reality and sees what we’re doing to the planet.  The old adage, “out of sight out of mind” certainly applies here.  Those of us in first world countries live a comfortable existence filled with a myriad of conveniences that other would only dream of.  But sadly, those conveniences come at a staggering price to the planet.

In our comfortable, tranquil, little lives filled with endless avenues of entertainment, 1000 TV stations, satellite radio, chemically treated and manicured yards, clean drinking water, an endless array of stores to shop to our heart’s content at, garbage that just goes “AWAY,” (where, we know not), groceries that provide all our food, our perspective of the world rarely goes beyond our own self-interests.  Shopping and entertainment have become the opiates of our time in a society where we are kept from ever feeling culpable in contributing to the decline of virtually every ecosystem on the planet.  This is because mainstream media has no interest in the ecology of the planet and the viability of its life-sustaining aspect.  All eyes are trained towards Wall Street and the “economy,” not the ecology of the planet.  This is a dismally blind perspective that harkens a rude awakening when people finally wake up one day to realize, we can’t eat money or our possessions.

Though the economics of commerce in an advancing society have been understood for hundreds of years, it’s the ecology of commerce that has been poorly understood and the consequences of which that have been poorly anticipated. It is our failure as a global society, not only on the part of governments, industries, banks, and Wall Street, but by us as consumers, to fail and see that not money, but our natural resources are the only real commodity on Earth.  This failure on our part has led to a profoundly misguided focus on maintaining the “economy” as opposed to the “ecology” of the planet. It is our blind ambition coupled with our inability to truly understand our connection with the planet and what we are doing to it, that is pushing the human narrative into its final chapter.

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It’s rather unfortunate, but we cannot separate our well being from the well-being of the planet we live on any more than a child developing in-utero can separate its well-being from the well-being of its mother that is providing for and nourishing it.  In nature, everything strives for homeostasis or balance.  Almost everything in nature exists in a symbiosis, a mutually beneficial relationship, where both nature and each species in it is the benefactor of what each contributes to the relationship.  MANKIND and our civilization is the exception to that rule.  Sustaining the planet is only possible when we imitate nature.  Virtually every aspect of civilization is violating every law of nature that makes life possible.  In other words, we are living in direct opposition to nature and life itself.  One need look no further than the fact that we are witnessing today the fastest and largest scale die-off of species since the disappearance of the dinosaurs, all as a result of the growth of civilization.

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By contrast to the rest of the planet and animal kingdom, man’s relationship with the planet has become nothing short of parasitic in nature.  Similar to a virus feeding on its host, humanity is devouring the planet at an alarming rate and creating waste that not only cannot be recycled back into the Earth.  The advancement of civilization represents the transformation of a once vibrant, living, thriving, organic, and homeostatic biosphere, into an inorganic, inanimate, non-living civilization built from unnatural materials and chemicals that cannot be digested by the planet. This is creating an imbalance that is slowly making a very large swath of the planet, inhospitable to life.  As these materials weather, decay, and subsequently leach into the environment, the chemicals they consist of poison our air, soil, and waterways.  No one in their right mind would ever contemplate going to a local stream, tributary, river, or lake and drinking from it without first filtering the water extensively and boiling it.  It’s because deep down inside we all know that the world we’ve created is on some level, bio-toxic virtually everywhere.

Understanding our delicate and often precarious relationship with the natural world is a story that our distant relatives possessed and passed down to each generation, but today this knowledge has been lost to all but a very small percentage of the population and perhaps some environmentally conscious groups. Each generation is more cut off from this knowledge than the one that came before it.  Those that implore the masses to concern themselves with the preservation and sustainability of the natural world are often viewed as sensationalists over dramatizing our plundering of the Earth.

This is a very sad reflection of truly how blind we’ve become in understanding that the economic system we believe we are contributing to in a positive way is the very system that is bringing about our own demise and virtually every other species on the planet.  It’s not yet popular to be environmentally conscious, but very soon it will be, as very soon we will have no choice.

Our current inability to see how we are all connected in this intricate web of life and see how “we’re all in it together” means that the fighting over diminishing natural resources, the continued neglect of the planet, and our inability to live as a unified global community, will continue to accelerate towards a future in which the health of the planet will continue its decline at a stupefying rate, if we don’t make sweeping changes soon.  If we merely continue with our “business as usual” mentality we will continue our downward spiral, destroying the planet that sustains us.

And therein lies the problem.  Sadly, there is no contingency plan for the human race if the planet is exploited to collapse. There is no life raft waiting for us to board and go drifting across the vast sea of darkness we call SPACE in hopes of finding another planet to inhabit and start over. There is no PLAN B or PLANET B.  I believe this fact is very relevant.

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Today, the legacy we are leaving for our children and our children’s children to inherit is a legacy in which, in our race to produce and sell things in the marketplace, we poisoned, polluted, and destroyed entire ecosystems, wildlife habitats, and the environment, to bring about the extinction of millions of species.  Currently, it is estimated that approximately 20 more species go extinct every single day as a result of mankind’s destruction of habitats.

Countless natural resources, rain forests, river delta’s, and entire ecosystems both on the land and in the seas, that have been exploited to collapse, have been destroyed over the last one hundred years in order to feed a marketplace with only one aim, “profitability!”  Through the destruction of these ecosystems and the species that inhabit them, the removal of each species from the planet only beckons our own removal from it. This is because nothing in nature is independent.  All of nature and the species that reside on our planet are connected in a delicate, “inter-dependent” web of life.  Remove enough threads from this web and like a house of cards, the Earth’s life support systems collapse and are no longer capable of sustaining life.  Bees are a great example of this.  If all the honey bees that pollinate our crops were to go extinct, humanity’s demise would take place within 4 years.  It’s all connected.

Sustainability and preservation of the natural world until very recently simply has not been a consideration in an economic model built and predicated entirely on entertainment, consumerism, consumption, planned obsolescence, waste, and maintaining the illusion of value we assign to things. This neglect is the product of a dichotomy that exists between choosing to maintain the global economy instead of the global ecology.  Many scientists believe it is pushing civilization to the point of no return.

The latest ecological trends now show that the environmental carrying capacity of our planet for our growing population is taxing the planet’s agricultural yields beyond capacity, and that by the year 2030 we could be facing catastrophic challenges even in first world countries, with respect to food and water shortages, fiscal deficits, and diminished resources, preventing the sustainability of a global economy, much less the world as a life supporting planet. To maintain our current rate of consumption of resources beyond 2030 would require 1.7 Earths.  In other words, we’re losing ground quickly.  The growing population’s needs are outpacing the availability of resources and the Earth’s ability to keep providing for us.

It’s unfortunate that with each passing year, investigations into the health of ecosystems across the planet have continued to reveal only more and more dismal findings. In looking at the world and the issues we’re facing in long-term forecasts and projections, the most recent statistics in ecological evaluations regarding damage to the natural world paint a dim outlook. This slow demise of the planet’s natural resources is damage that we as a species are solely responsible for.  Together we’ve created it, and now we have to collectively restore it and restore it quickly.  It will take a concerted and monumental effort on the part of the masses to save the world’s ecosystems that we are so heavily dependent upon.

Like reading a child’s report card where we are failing in every category, for the first time in human history our security and continued survival as a species is truly at risk, where timelines predicting the collapse of civilization, as we know it, both economically and ecologically are now being plotted.

This is not a sensationalist statement to dramatize the need for becoming environmentally conscious, nor is it a reference to armed warfare or terrorism.  They represent only a minor threat compared to the threat that all humanity is facing in a rapidly approaching future.  But as resources become scarcer, as they are destined to, war is more than likely going to increase in frequency and duration.

Today we are rapidly approaching issues that are profoundly more ominous and will affect us all, irrespective of what country we may live in.  There are a number of issues accumulating and reaching critical mass that are pushing us towards a tipping point that there is no coming back from, including:

  • Global warming and the subsequent climate changes that will accompany a warmer world
  • Rising sea levels and the tremendous loss of real estate along shorelines around the world, not to mention entire ports that will have to be moved further and further inland as oceans rise
  • Effects of higher temperatures on photosynthesis and pollination diminishing crop yields such as wheat, barley, and rice dramatically
  • Decreasisnowmeltelt volumes because of diminishing snow fall around the world which diminishes the agricultural yields in cities that rely on the snow melt to provide water for irrigation
  • Deforestation and the removal of top soil increasing soil erosion and water runoff rates, resulting in countries that will lose the ability to feed themselves, economically collapse, and subsequently become “failing states”
  • Accelerating desertification of vast geographic stretches of terrain making agriculture impossible, which is now encroaching on massive populaces in China, India, Africa, and the Middle East, as well as cities in the Western United States
  • Commercial over-fishing of the oceans with estimates depleting the oceans entirely of consumable fish by the year 2042
  • Today we’re witnessing the greatest species die since the disappearance of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago
  • In the last 120 years mankind has brought about the extinction of 54% of the world’s animal species and removed 69% of the world’s forests…
  • 2/3rd of the world’s animals species will be extinct by 2020
  • The destruction of ocean habitats due to increasing acidity in the ocean because of photo-degrading plastics and bio-degrading garbage.
  • As much as 85% – 90% of the fertilizers used to support these agricultural crops end up in the water table eventually finding its way to streams, tributaries, rivers, and ultimately to the oceans where they are toxic to aquatic life. Currently, 250 “Dead Zones” in the ocean, where no life exist, have already been discovered
  • Diminished rainfall in regions dependent on it for agriculture due to global warming
  • Disappearing water tables and aquifers due to over drilling in the last 20 years
  • Water shortages in countless regions around the globe which inevitably leads to massive food shortages and dramatically escalating food prices, which in turn creates “environmental refugees” migrating to countries with food, which has pronounced political and economic implications
  • The inability to continue maintaining current agricultural yields which are already being pushed beyond a sustainable capacity to meet the needs of an exponentially growing population
  • Plasticizing of the planet. Sobering facts about plastics:
  • Over 1 trillion plastic bags are used and discarded every year worldwide, many of which find their way from landfills to waterway and subsequently, the ocean.  Every year 4.7 million tons of plastic enters the oceans.
  • Currently, 663 Species of sea animals have been identified as being adversely affected by the presence of plastic in our oceans, but in truth, every organism in the ocean is affected by the presence of this plastic, in every depth of the ocean. We are finding micro plastic in krill and all the way up through the food chain in the bellies of fish, seals, whales, and seabirds.
  • A single plastic bag can take up to 1,000 years to degrade. What’s scary about this fact is that once ingested, it does not break down. When the marine animal’s body decomposes, the bag is released, where it can then be consumed again, and the cycle repeat.
  • More than 3.5 million tons of plastic bags, sacks and wraps were discarded in 2008.
  • Only 1 in 200 plastic bags in the UK are recycled (BBC).
  • The U.S. goes through 100 billion single-use plastic bags per year.
  • Plastic bags are the second-most common type of ocean refuse, after cigarette butts (2008)
  • Plastic bags remain toxic even after they break down, releasing dioxins, mercury, and bisphenols into the environment.
  • Every square mile of ocean has about 46,000 pieces of plastic floating in it.
  • The presence of dioxins (one of the, if not the most, biotoxic, carcinogenic chemicals on the planet) created by photo-degrading plastic in the ocean, has been found in every fish for consumption that now serves as a vector for ingestion by humans.
  • 2011 Tsunami in Japan buried the Fukushima Nuclear under 90 ft. of water, following a 3 core nuclear reactor meltdown.  1,700 cooling rods (each with 140,000 times the radiation of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima) has been leaking 400 tons of radioactively polluted water into the pacific everyday since the event occurred.
  • Increasing poverty, due to a massive loophole in capitalism that creates an ever widening inequality in the distribution of wealth, even in first world countries, creating economic stress and civil unrest
  • Insolvency of virtually every bank on Earth means a global economic collapse is imminent.

These are many but not all of the precipitating factors that will bring about challenges unlike anything we have ever faced before.

We have always believed that this was a scenario our great, great, grandchildren may face someday, but it is abundantly clear with the most recent projections regarding economic and ecological trends, along with the fact that an estimated 215,000 people are added to the planet every day, that our rapid consumption and subsequent destruction of the planet will have consequences felt in our own lifetimes. To continue meeting just our current needs of consumption would require 1.5 Earths as opposed to the one Earth we now inhabit.  This is NOT a sustainable scenario.

There is not one scientific, peer-reviewed paper published in the last 30 years that contradicts one indisputable fact. Every living system on Earth is in decline. Every life support system on Earth is in decline.

Because sustaining resources as opposed to consuming them has not been a variable in the equations used to mathematically determine rising and falling stock values, our misguided focus has had us racing to gain market share in the ever evolving economy while neglecting both the direct and indirect cost to the ecology of the very ecosystems that provide the raw materials needed to bring products to market.  We are quite literally robbing Peter to pay Paul.  As we continue to consume resources in a finite system, pretending the system will last forever is an absurdity that we can no longer afford to espouse.

This unfolding drama is one that is fed into by all of us with the choices we make everyday. It has, in our most recent history, now extended beyond us harming one another as members of our human family, to harming and jeopardizing the well being of every other species on the planet and the planet itself on an unprecedented scale.

If this sounds pretty dismal, it probably should. This is a wake up call.  In considering my son and the world that I myself would be a contributing factor in shaping and leaving to him, I’m reminded of a beautiful and challenging quote by Mahatma Gandhi who said, “Be the change you want to see in the World.”  Knowing that our children’s own future inheritance of a viable planet is being taken from them because of our blind ambitions as a society, what greater cause could each of us commit to than the sustainability of the natural world and its resources for our children to someday inherit?

We don’t all have to write a book, start a blog, or establish an environmental group to bring about change. Big changes come with lots of people doing little things everyday that collectively bring about change.  The way we contribute to sustaining and bettering the world is in the individual decisions we make each moment by choosing to recycle everything from glass, plastic, paper, and electronics, choosing to compost or simply throw our food in the garbage, choosing to have or create energy efficient homes or not, choosing to purchase from environmentally conscious companies with “green” products, safe for the environment, or not.

We vote and express our values everyday with how and where we spend our money, and ultimately with WHAT WE BUY.  It is the collective sum of all of our choices as individuals and as a society that determines the health and vitality of our planet.

Money is merely a form of energy that only expresses and magnifies what it is we value. The choices we make affect the whole of humanity, because our purchases, in ways that are invisible to most of us, are contributing to a marketplace predicated on its consumption of the natural world. Where we spend our money either contributes to or detracts from the sustainability of the planet.

Industry only manufactures what we demand of them, and our demands are made known by what it is we choose to purchase.  We, not industry, determines what is made available for purchase by the masses and what isn’t.  As long as it sells, they’ll keep making more of it, whatever “it” may be.

It is the hope of Shift Ethos, that individuals will begin connecting the dots in seeing the big picture of how intimately our well being is determined by the health and vitality of the planet, so that we can all make more educated and environmentally conscious decisions, as opposed to decisions made from a lack of understanding how our individual actions affect the whole of humanity.

Raising awareness will become paramount to humanity’s continued survival as we write the next chapter in our narrative. This will require quite a shift in our current way of thinking and way of approaching life. It is my sincere hope that the decisions we make moving forward will be weighed out against the backdrop of knowing what kind of a world we are inextricably destined to leave future generations, unless we start asking everyday how what we are doing right now will affect those who come behind us.

Love and Light,

David

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