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Ground-breaking floating solar technology launches in Australia

Ground-breaking floating solar technology launches in Australia

ADELAIDE, Australia, 29 April 2014 – Infratech Industries launches Australia’s first floating solar system today which will generate an estimated 57 percent more power than fixed land-based systems.

The proprietary tracking, cooling and concentrating technology uses water to counteract the gradual loss of output caused by overheating solar panels to create a better performing and more efficient system.

Based in South Australia’s Jamestown, the Northern Areas Council Waste Water Treatment Plant is the first to implement the new system which is expected to exceed the plant’s high energy needs and will feed through to the surrounding local communities and Council buildings.

Infratech Industries Director Felicia Whiting said the benefits extend beyond energy efficiencies to improve the treatment plant’s water quality and create nearly 70 new jobs for the local community as a result of the project.

“Blue-green algae is a major concern for wastewater treatment plants and the shade produced by the floating solar panels combats this problem by limiting the photosynthesis process. The energy goes into the panels, not the water, so the surface stays cool which helps to lift the quality of treated wastewater.” she said.

“On a broader scale, the technology is suitable for any body of water including drinking water and moving water bodies such as lakes. Since it reduces evaporation by up to 90 percent, it can have a powerful saving for areas affected by drought and dry climate such as Australia and California, Indonesia, Singapore and Philippines,” she said.

The Northern Areas Council will reap additional economic benefits with a cost saving of approximately 15 percent on their current energy expenditure plus an additional one percent margin on the excess energy provided to the local community.

No small undertaking and privately funded, more than 15 Australian engineers and research scientists in the Nano Science and Technology Department in Adelaide’s Flinders University were involved in the project’s technological and engineering development. The development team will remain involved as research and development continues into integrated water treatment, phosphorous treatment systems and energy storage.

Jon Dee, Australia’s leading expert in energy efficiency, author of ‘Energy Cut’ (EnergyCut.info/SME-book), and co-founder of the Planet Ark and DoSomething organisations, has applauded the innovation and leadership of Infratech Industries.

“Solar PV panels currently generate renewable electricity on more than 1.36 million Australian rooftops, so we’ve more than shown our acceptance of solar technology” said Dee. “However, many people want to see more solar innovation being undertaken in Australia by local companies, in a way that helps the environment and generates local jobs at the same time.”

“The development of Australian-owned, researched and developed floating solar is to be applauded as it shows that Australian companies can be leaders in the transition to economies that are powered by increasing amounts of renewable energy. In addition to reducing greenhouse emissions, there is also strong potential to export this technology to other countries which can only lead to even more jobs.”

As such a major milestone in the renewable energy movement, Whiting expects a national and international spotlight will be focused on Jamestown with visiting ambassadors from South East Asia, France and the Hon. Minister Ian Hunter MLC for Climate Change attending the launch with key members of the SA Cabinet having already visited the site.

“Just how strong Australia’s post-2020 emissions reduction targets remain unknown however we do know solar innovation is a milestone towards Australian councils, communities and businesses making a difference. As Australians evangelise this type of technology, it is our hope that renewable energy becomes the mainstream rather than niche solution. Change is not beyond us and this is definitely a strong step forward,” Whiting said.

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Infratech Industries Pty Limited has offices in Sydney, San Diego and Singapore. For more information on Infratech Industries and the Floating Solar technology please visit www.infratechindustriesinc.com or follow Infratech @Infratechind.

PR Contact: Catherine Slogrove, MAVE (PR for Infratech) | Mob: 0466 669 260 |
Email: catherine@mave.com.au

PR Contact: Nicole Gemmell, MAVE (PR for Infratech) | Mob: 0416 071 900 |
Email: nicole@mave.com.au

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New study calls for changes to childcare ‘mandatory’ sleep rules

New study calls for changes to childcare ‘mandatory’ sleep rules
The findings from a QUT study have put to bed the idea of mandatory sleep times in licenced childcare settings.
The research, led by Dr Sally Staton and co-authored by Professor Karen Thorpe, Associate Professor Simon Smith and PhD student Cassandra Pattinson, was conducted on behalf of the Australian-based Sleep in Early Childhood Research group.

The study, Mandatory Naptimes in Childcare and Children’s Nighttime Sleep, has been published-ahead-of-print for the May edition of the prestigious US-based Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics.

The Sleep in Early Childhood Research group also recently published a review in BMJ Archives of Disease in Childhood of 26 international articles relating to children under five and unnecessary napping.

Dr Staton said this study examined the relationship between mandatory nap times in childcare and children’s night-time sleep duration concurrently and then 12 months later.

“For the first time this study shows a relationship between observed naptime practices in childcare and children’s night-time sleep,” Dr Staton said.

It found children who were exposed to more than 60 minutes mandatory sleep at childcare slept worse at night which continued when they started school.
Dr Sally Staton
“The results showed that children exposed to more than an hour of mandatory naptime in their childcare setting had, on average, 24 minutes less night-time sleep when in childcare,” she said.

“We also found that once children had entered school and mandatory napping had ceased, those children still had a 21 minute reduction in total sleep duration.”

A sample of 168 children, aged between 50-72 months of which 55 per cent were male, was observed during the study.

A year later the children were observed in their first year of school.

“A common practice in childcare programs internationally is the scheduling of mandatory naptime throughout the childcare years,” Dr Staton said.

“This means all children are required to lie on their bed and are not permitted to engage in any other activity.”

Dr Staton said it was noted there had been little research previously on naptime programs in childcare settings and the effects of these practices on children’s sleep patterns.

Dr Staton said, however, it was estimated 30-40 per cent of children have sleep problems in the years prior to school.

“Insufficient night-time sleep in young children significantly increases the risk of poor health and developmental outcomes, most notably behavioural problems,” she said.

She said the study also found once in school, children who had been exposed to more than 60 minutes of naptime had a total sleep duration that fell below the recommended average for children aged 3-5 years as set out by the National Sleep Foundation.

“Our findings raise important questions regarding the most appropriate timing and approach for transitioning away from naptimes in young children,” Dr Staton said.

“There is not a specific age at which children no longer need naps, as this will vary from child to child.”

Dr Staton said Australian legislation required all childcare services provide for each child’s individual sleep and rest needs but there were currently no specific guidelines regarding how children’s sleep needs should be met.

“Consequently, decisions regarding the duration and mandating of naptimes for preschool children are made at an organisational level and can be influenced by staffing constraints,” she said.

“Given the number of young children who attend childcare and the relationship of night time sleep with multiple health outcomes, childcare sleep practices represent an important focus for child health.”

A pdf of the study can be made available upon request. The abstract can be viewed here.

Dr Staton can be contacted via email s.staton@qut.edu.au
Media contacts:
– Debra Nowland, QUT media officer, 07 3138 1150 or 0488 752875 or media@qut.edu.au
– (after hours) 0407 585 901

New Books on Sydney Funded – Politics and Plant Histories

Putting Sydney’s history of politics and plants in print
New City of Sydney grants will help bring history to life by supporting books exploring colonial fears of invasion, the city’s botanical heritage, and Jack Mundey’s influence on Australia’s urban conservation.
Lord Mayor Clover Moore said City historians had selected three new works that shed new light on important aspects of Sydney’s history.

“From colonial fears to garden designs and urban conservation, these three books will make a great contribution to our local history,” the Lord Mayor said.

“They focus on the anxieties among early European settlers, the part gardens have played in Sydney and NSW, and the tireless work of former Alderman Jack Mundey to protect community spaces and buildings in Potts Point and Woolloomooloo.”

Invasion: Colonial Sydney’s fears of attack, tells the story of Sydney’s enduring and often well-founded fears of external attack throughout the 19th and 20th centuries.

Written by historian Dean Boyce, it offers insights into local defences during the colonial period and canvasses the ‘invasion anxiety’ caused by France, Russia, Spain, Japan, Germany and even the United States.

Gardens as history and imagination is an edited volume produced by the Independent Scholars Association of Australia (NSW chapter). It explores Sydney’s gardens and their meanings, both to the individuals who tended them and the societies that enjoyed them during the same period.

In 10 essays by different writers, the botanical collection draws on scholarship of garden and landscape history and focuses on the social, historical and economic significance of gardens in Sydney and NSW. It will be published to mark the 200th anniversary of the Royal Botanic Gardens next year.

In The House that Jack built, author James Colman charts the role Jack Mundey, a union and environmental activist, played in the history of urban conservation in Sydney and Australia.

Colman’s manuscript covers Mundey’s instrumental role in the green bans which helped conserve a number of open community spaces and heritage buildings in Sydney in the 1970s, as well as his influence on the national and international heritage movements.

The City’s financial support of between $8,000 and $12,000 for each of the three books will help improve their standing through illustrations and quality paper, increasing their likelihood of being published.

The works are funded under the History Publication and Sponsorship Program which supports publishers and historians with the research and recording of the history of the City of Sydney. This will become part of the wider City’s cultural and creative grants and sponsorships program from July.

Applications for the next round of funding will be open until Tuesday 31 March 2015 to allow time for assessment before the end of the financial year.

For more information, visit http://www.cityofsydney.nsw.gov.au/community/grants-and-sponsorships

For media inquiries or images, contact City of Sydney Senior Media Adviser.
Phone Ben Johnson on 0467 810 160 or email bjohnson1@cityofsydney.nsw.gov.au

For interviews with Lord Mayor Clover Moore, contact Jonathon Larkin.
Phone 0477 310 149 or email jlarkin@cityofsydney.nsw.gov.au

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Cervical Cancer Vaccine Inventor Finalist in Award

The University of Queensland’s Professor Ian Frazer – hailed as “the man who saved a million lives” – has been named a finalist in the prestigious 2015 European Inventor Awards.

The awards acknowledge inventions that have made major contributions towards social, technological and economic progress.

Professor Frazer co-created the Gardasil cervical cancer vaccine with Dr Jian Zhou and has won more than 20 significant awards for his contributions to science, including being named an Australian National Living Treasure and Australian of the Year.

He was selected from 450 potential candidates to be one of 15 finalists for this year’s European Inventor Award and has been nominated in the non-European countries category.

He is also a contender in the Popular Prize section, which will be decided by public vote. You can help him win this prize by voting here.

“I’m very honoured to be named a finalist in these respected awards,” Professor Frazer said.

“Translating research into practical solutions is very important to me, and I believe the discoveries and research coming from Australia in the health and science fields are among the best in the world.

“Awards such as this promote that research on a global stage, hopefully inspiring others and encouraging collaboration across borders, leading to new innovations.”

Professor Frazer, who was the founding CEO of Brisbane’s Translational Research Institute (TRI) and chairs the TRI Foundation, is working on a vaccine for genital herpes, a virus that affects hundreds of thousands of people, threatens newborn babies and is believed to contribute to the development of HIV.

UQ Vice-Chancellor and President Professor Peter Høj congratulated Professor Frazer on his nomination and urged the public to show their support.

“Professor Frazer’s achievements are a shining example of the innovative medical and health research UQ scientists are working on,” he said.

“His projects not only benefit the local community, but have a lasting impact across the globe, with more than 144 million doses of Gardasil distributed in more than 100 countries since 2006.

“He is extremely deserving of this honour, and I encourage the community to support him by voting in the Popular Prize award.”

The award winners will be announced in a ceremony in Paris on June 11. Don’t forget to vote for Professor Ian Frazer online here.

Media: UQ Senior Communications Officer Katie Rowney, 3365 3439, Katie.Rowney@uq.edu.au; TRI Communications and Marketing Director Louise Morland, +61 7 344 37744 or 0417 679306, louise.morland@tri.edu.au.

Image: UQ’s Professor Ian Frazer has been named a finalist in the prestigious 2015 European Inventor Awards.

Greenfleet Greener

Sustainability specialist joins Greenfleet Board

Sustainability specialist Angela McClowry has been appointed to the board of Greenfleet.

Ms McClowry has 15 years’ experience driving sustainability programs across the food, energy, forestry and horticulture industries, and joins a diverse board committed to building Australia’s ‘green’ infrastructure.

According to Greenfleet’s Chairman, Gunther Jurkschat, Ms McClowry’s expertise will complement the already robust board.

“Angela has worked in sustainability roles in Australia, the United Kingdom and in the United States, and her deep understanding of strategy and implementation across a range of industries will help us steer Greenfleet’s ambitious agenda,” Mr Jurkschat says.

More information is available in the attached media release. Please contact me for images and interviews.

Karen Jamal

www.greenfleet.com.au

Good Night’s Sleep Importance Flies High

Read this story online at UQ News.

An international study on sleep and learning in flies has shown a good night’s sleep might be vital for retaining our capacity to learn and remember, with implications for the treatment of human disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease.

University of Queensland PhD student Leonie Kirszenblat said the research, published today in Current Biology, found that increased sleep temporarily cured flies with learning defects.

Different genetic or pharmacological methods were used to induce the flies’ sleep, to prove that it was indeed sleep that cured the flies, rather than any specific drug or genetic pathway.

The research, led by Washington University, involved UQ’s Queensland Brain Institute and the universities of Oxford and Surrey.

Ms Kirszenblat, said the study reinforced the therapeutic benefits of sleep, even if the different functions of sleep remained mysterious.

“A lot of human disorders result in sleep problems. For instance, many Alzheimer’s disease patients report problems sleeping,” she said.

“But in humans, it is difficult to determine causality: does bad sleep lead to cognitive disorders, or do these disorders cause bad sleep?”

The study used strains of flies with severe learning defects, or flies with memory problems that develop as they age.

“We forced them all to sleep for two days, and afterwards they all became normal learners,” Ms Kirszenblat said.

“For example, we tested flies with a mutation in a gene called presenilin, which has been linked to early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, and we put the flies to sleep by activating GABA-A receptors in their brain – which humans also have.

“So it’s possible that simply by finding effective methods of promoting natural sleep, perhaps we will see some improvement in patients’ conditions.”

Humans and flies share most genes that are important for memory, leading the researchers to conclude that the work could lead to discoveries about improving memory in humans.

“The next step is to understand the actual mechanism that improves memory after sleep,” Ms Kirszenblat said.

“If we could understand how sleep improves memory in the fly brain, perhaps these mechanisms could be tweaked to improve memory in humans as well.”

QBI’s Associate Professor Bruno van Swinderen said the Drosophila fly strains were easy to work with and study.

“This work offers a real opportunity finally to understand why we sleep, what it is good for, and how it works to maintain a healthy brain,” he said.

“At QBI we have designed new experiments in order to better study sleep in the fly model, and these were crucial for the results of this international study.

“One way we test and measure the flies’ memory is to use a visual learning task in which they must learn to avoid light that they are normally drawn to, by associating it with punishment.

“We test and measure their sleep by probing their responsiveness to different vibration intensities throughout successive days and nights, using a sophisticated computer interface we call DART: Drosophila ARousal Tracking.”

Media: Darius Koreis, +61 7 3346 6353, d.koreis@uq.edu.au; Associate Professor Bruno van Swinderen, +61 7 3346 6332, +61 420 365 450 or b.vanswinderen@uq.edu.au

Roman Death Mask

He liked the painting hanging on the wall, especially its strength. The bold lines etched upon the face were unambiguous. The clear creases bespoke of firmness. The size and shape of the head was harmoniously proportionate. The jaw line was the epitome of masculine but the lips sensuously full. He saw some of his father’s face in this canvas and also a likeness to an uncle on his mother’s side. The tri colours emerging from the torso: scarlet, green and gold – had, for him, biblical connotations, like some Luciferion manifestation gleaming against a black background. The whiteness of the skull like visage had echoes of some comic book super hero, or villain, from his childhood reading.

It was a painting of a Roman death mask, which was why the eyes were eyeless empty sockets; white portals into an interior expanse of unreadable blankness. His children had found it creepy. He supposed that others would also judge it to be disquieting. His brother had made reference to the fact of his recent milestone birthday, just passed, and that, perhaps, the striking image of a death mask was psychologically linked to thoughts about his own mortality. He had painted the Roman death masks because of the facial detail captured in plaster, which had inspired him to pick up his brushes after almost a year of inactivity. The copious lines on the faces of these ancient sentinels told the story of their lives, or rather, showed the impact events had had upon them. The Romans wore their lives like badges of honour, every wrinkle, and every line, was a mark of experience crying out, “I lived, I survived, I made my presence felt!”

They wiped their arses with sea sponges soaked in vinegar. He imagined how old arse holes filled with piles would react to the astringent sting. That could put lines on your face. They lived hard lives close to the ground; a race of farmers who became unbeatable soldiers marching in scarlet and always keeping time. They lived on porridge most of the time, which may have kept the piles at bay. Death was notoriously prevalent and like the seasonal slaughter of farmyard animals it was only a matter of time. It was hard not to admire this civilisation, from a safe distance of course. They wore medallions carved in the likeness of erect phalluses, even women and children. They worshipped fertility, the potency of the seed and its deliverer. Mars, the god of war, with sword and spear stood tall amongst them.

His Roman death mask painting captured some of that spirit, he thought to himself. It depicted an angry fucker staring out from history, daring anyone, or thing, to mock him. He hadn’t given him a name, though the Romans were very big on names; nomenclature – the systematic naming of things. They often had three names or nomens. The first, and least important, was the praenomen – something like Gaius or Marcus; there was only a limited number of these to choose from, so many had the same first name. The second name was called the nomen and this was the clan, or gens, you belonged to. A third name was the cognomen, which indicated the branch of the clan you belonged to. It was very important for them to address each other correctly at the appropriate occasion. He had called his painting “Roman Death Mask 1”, a much more functionally modern nomen.

©Robert Hamilton

Self-Reflective Comment

 

I suppose, the fact that I had just returned from my best friend’s funeral, he had taken his own life, was a strong undercurrent in my choice of inspiration for this text. Thoughts about mortality, the life lived and family were uppermost in my mind. I wondered, self-reflectively, if my painting of these Roman death masks had been some intuitive leap into the reality of Andrew’s reality, as the timing of the paintings coincided with the lead-up to his suicide. We had not spoken for almost a year, something I deeply regretted in hindsight, and he had not reached out to me in those final days of his troubled existence. The creative process contains so many arbitrary decisions involving subject matter and the like; I asked myself why I had chosen to suddenly paint this material, at this time.

I think that art, the visual medium, provides a sensory stimulus to the observer, which can trigger self-reflective questioning. Lines indicating shapes on a canvas ask our brains to register meaningful forms and often these provoke personal connotations. Writing this piece allowed me to mine my responses to this image, finding linkages to family, my late father, and to childhood memories. The writing came easy, as a series of evaluations and thoughts emerged from my self-enquiry into what the painting stirred in me.

What it means to be a man, the ageing process of the body, and nomenclature are thematic issues which emerge from the piece for me. I am getting older, old friends are starting to die, and my historical studies into an extinct civilisation evoke feelings of my own mortality. The remnants of the ancient Roman culture offer powerful symbols, which ring true to me, despite the passing of hundreds of years.

In editing the piece I cleaned up any repetition and attempted to present a concise text, which progressed. The focalisation begins with a description of the painted image by the focaliser; it expands to include related responses by family; and then temporally shifts to minutiae from ancient Rome. The juxtaposition of personal response with historical fact, I hope, provides sustained interest for the reader.

Midas Word Naming Shadows

 

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Redfern Park Family Space in the Future

Redfern park set for family-friendly makeover

A tree house for kids and a more relaxed setting for parents will be part of plans to transform Redfern’s Reconciliation Park into a more enjoyable public place.

The existing playground will be extended to include a tree house with a spinning ‘drop-zone’ pole and other new play equipment that kids will love, as well as new seating to allow parents and carers to relax.

Also included in the makeover are a community garden, repaved and widened pathways for easier access, and better lighting and sight lines for parents to keep tabs on their little ones.

“I started my political career fighting for better play facilities and am delighted to say that Reconciliation Park will soon be a much better place for kids and their parents,” Lord Mayor Clover Moore said.

“The tree house beneath the shade of a tree and a slide and swings will be popular with kids, while parents will be able to enjoy better seating and greater visibility across the park.

“Well-designed parks and open spaces are vital for people with limited or no backyards of their own. We have hundreds of parks and open spaces in our city, including award-winning Hyde Park, Prince Alfred Park, Redfern Park and Paddington Reservoir Gardens.”

While 17 of the park’s trees will be preserved, four trees along its perimeter will have to be removed to make way for the community garden and a safer entrance to the 1,260sqm park at the junction of George and James streets.

Replacement trees will be planted in the playground and low shrubs and groundcovers elsewhere.

Reconciliation Park’s famous Think Locally, Act Globally mural will be protected by a fence during construction from September to February.

Contractors will also replace about 30cm of top soil with a fresh layer in the 70sqm community garden area.

The renewal project follows a positive public consultation process that began when 33 Darlington Primary School students made more than 500 suggestions for the park.

A design plan mailed to 250 residents was followed by a meeting with City of Sydney staff on site in February.

Improvements to the park are part of the City’s Parks General Upgrade Program to provide residents with a broad range of quality play facilities.

The City’s local government area has more than 400 large, medium and pocket parks and open spaces.

Residents, visitors and workers recently ranked them the best in NSW in an independent state-wide survey.

The Benchmark Park Users Satisfaction Survey rated the City’s network of parks first among those of nine other councils reviewed.

Walk the Monkey Body

Take your brain for a walk and be healthier

The City of Sydney and Alzheimer’s Australia today joined forces to promote the healthy benefits of walking – and raise awareness of Australia’s third leading cause of death.

Alzheimer’s Australia NSW is offering a 10 per cent discount on registration to all city residents and workers for its annual Sydney Memory Walk & Jog on Sunday 14 September.

The fun day out, held during Dementia Awareness Month, raises much-needed funds to provide support, education and resources for people living with dementia in NSW and their carers.

There are an estimated 332,000 Australians with dementia. In Sydney alone there are an estimated 1,100 people with the debilitating condition, and that figure is expected to rise by 300 per cent by 2050.

Deputy Lord Mayor Robyn Kemmis said the City was investing significantly in infrastructure to make walking more accessible and interesting for residents, commuters and tourists of all abilities.

“Dementia is a devastating disease and its impact is felt right throughout our community. One person develops the condition in Australia every six minutes. That’s one of the health reasons why we are investing in creating an environment where people are encouraged to be active and walk more,” the Deputy Lord Mayor said.

“The City is investing $50 million in improving the useability and safety of the most popular walking routes in central Sydney over the next 10 years.

“We’re implementing an extensive wayfinding system to link the entire local government area and installing modern new street furniture on every street.

“Next month we will release our first ever policy on walking and in October, Sydney will welcome the world’s leading experts on walking when the City and the NSW Government host the international Walk 21 conference.

“When you create a better environment for walking, you help people’s health, reduce congestion on our roads and boost the local economy from increased foot traffic outside local retailers.”

Alzheimer’s Australia NSW CEO, The Hon. John Watkins, said walking had so many great benefits, and applauded the City of Sydney for working to encourage people to walk more, and more often.

Mr Watkins said walking had particular benefits when it came to delaying the onset of dementia.

“Not only can regular walking improve memory and thinking functions, it can also help protect against cognitive decline and delay the onset of dementia,” Mr Watkins said.

The Deputy Lord Mayor urged Sydneysiders and city workers to take up the Sydney Memory Walk & Jog discount offer.

“Alzheimer’s Australia’s Sydney Memory Walk & Jog will be a great day out for the whole family, and it also seems that taking your brain for a walk is really good medicine.”

Sydney Memory Walk & Jog is on Sunday 14 September around the Bay Run at Leichhardt. Participants can choose to take part in a 2 kilometre walk, a 7.5 kilometre walk or a 7.5 kilometre run.

Alzheimer’s Australia NSW is aiming to raise $750,000 from events across the state. Bupa is the official aged care partner of the 2014 Memory Walk & Jog.

Discount registration is now open to City of Sydney residents and workers. Visit memorywalk.com.au/sydney click ‘register now’ and follow the prompts to enter promo code CityofSyd2014 for the 10 per cent discount.

Water to Sydney Park

Water brings fresh heart to Sydney Park

Scenic cascades will carry water through Sydney Park’s wetlands to the city’s largest stormwater harvesting system to create a haven for native frogs and birds and encourage bush regeneration.

The $10.5 million upgrade will be completed later this year allowing around 850 million litres of stormwater a year to be captured and cleaned – the equivalent of around 340 Olympic-sized swimming pools.

The stormwater harvesting and water re-use facility, built in partnership with the Australian Government’s Water for the Future initiative through the National Urban Water and Desalination Plan, will provide a sustainable water supply for the park’s future needs and improve wetland rehabilitation. The final stages of the work will divert stormwater into Sydney Park wetlands through an underground pipe for treating.

Lord Mayor Clover Moore said when the project was completed Sydney Park will have undergone a total rejuvenation with new landscaping, viewing platforms, walkways and picnic areas dotted around the parklands for visitors to enjoy.

“Sydney Park is our city’s largest park and we’re improving opportunities for recreation while maintaining its cultural heritage, and strengthening environmental sustainability and biodiversity,” the Lord Mayor said.

“We’ve introduced new relaxation and recreation areas for visitors to the park and enhanced eco-systems to ensure the park remains a sanctuary for our urban wildlife.

“The park’s entire wetland system has been revitalised to increase storage and improve water filtering. We’ve created beautifully landscaped areas that include a picturesque series of water cascades with stepping stones and informal paths allowing people to engage with the water, and the natural wildlife it fosters.”

The 41.6-hectare park has the highest population of native bird species in the City of Sydney area. This includes 22 wetland species, several of which have not been reported elsewhere in the city.

City of Sydney project manager, Damon La’rance said the project which is nearing completion is one of the City’s largest single park project undertaken.

“The City in partnership with the Federal Government has rejuvenated the parks wetland system,” Mr La’rance said.

“This will allow us to clean and reuse harvested water while at the same time creating new habitat areas rich with local native plants and animals that contribute to the city’s thriving urban ecology.”

A new volunteer bush care program ‘We Heart Sydney Park’ is inviting enthusiastic green thumbs to join weekly working groups to help look after the park. Volunteers will take part in activities including weeding and planting native plants. They will also have an opportunity to meet other locals and join bird watching surveys and guided walks and talks on the park’s diverse ecosystems and history.

For more information go to: http://www.cityofsydney.nsw.gov.au/community/participation/volunteer

Sydney Park has undergone major changes since it came under the management of City of Sydney in 2004. The park includes a café, an award-winning all-abilities children’s’ play area and cycling centre. The final stages of the water re-use project are underway and the park should be fully open for public use by end 2014.

The upgrade includes:

  • Sydney’s largest stormwater harvesting and water re-use facility;
  • Revitalising the first wetland , with new pathways, wetland habitat and viewing platforms;
  • Transforming the second wetland with new stormwater treating bio-retention areas, viewing platforms, water cascades, bridges, picnic tables, pathways and lighting;
  • Adding a new bio-retention system, fenced habitat and boardwalk zone to the third wetland, picnic tables;
  • And, new public sculptures to be installed across all three wetlands.

River Red Gum True Australian

So much more than just a tree, the river red gum has been central to the tensions between economic, social and environmental values of rivers and floodplain landscapes in Australia – perhaps more so than any other Australian plant or animal.

Flooded Forest and Desert Creek: Ecology and History of the River Red Gum, a new CSIRO book, examines not only the ecology of one of the most iconic Australian trees, but how changes in attitudes towards it have reflected broader shifts in values of Australian society.

Author, CSIRO’s Dr Matthew Colloff, said that given the prominence of the river red gum in Australian culture, we know surprisingly little about the ecology and life history of it.

“The river red gum has been the subject of repeated government inquiries over its conservation, use and management. Despite this we know remarkably little about the basics of this species: its longevity; how deep its roots go; what proportion of its seedlings survive to adulthood; the diversity of organisms associated with it, and the nature of those associations,” Dr Colloff said.

Flooded Forest and Desert Creek describes what we do know about the biology and ecology of the river red gum, the changing landscape in which the tree lives and the shifting cultural context that has been shaped by our unfolding interactions with it. The author describes the factors that have driven change in river red gum forests – fire, grazing, timber harvesting, river regulation and diversions of water for irrigation – and examines how we have begun to move from a culture of exploitation to one of conservation, sustainable use and multiple values.

This shift in consciousness has been articulated in part through the depiction of river red gums and inland floodplains in art, literature and the media. Images of the tree by Hans Heysen, Henry Johnstone, Harold Cazneaux and Lin Onus are amongst the best-known and most-loved works of art in our public galleries.

The river red gum has the most widespread natural distribution of any eucalypt species in Australia, forming extensive forests and woodlands in the south-east and providing the structural and functional elements of important floodplain and wetland ecosystems. Along ephemeral creeks in arid central Australia it forms narrow corridors, providing vital refugia in the form of habitat and food resources for a whole host of animals in an otherwise hostile, arid environment.

Flooded Forest and Desert Creek also contrasts the interactions between people and the trees in arid central Australia, where the tree is sacred – standing for water, life and hope – with those further east in the Murray-Darling Basin, where conflicts between the allocation of water for irrigated agricultural production and for the environment are still being played out.

“This may give us a glimpse into how we can understand the value of this tree as part of our common heritage and how we can manage river red gum forests under a drier future climate with reduced water availability,” Dr Colloff said.

Brilliant Design Underground Sydney Library

Underground library vision takes shape

Green Square residents are a step closer to enjoying a new state of the art library following the start of the planning process for the heart of the new Green Square Town Centre.

Sydney designers Felicity Stewart and Matt Hollenstein, in association with Stewart Architecture, won the City of Sydney’s international design competition for the Green Square library and plaza.

Stewart and Hollenstein’s bold plan located much of the library below ground. One of the judges of the design competition was Australian architect Glenn Murcutt – a winner of world architecture’s highest award, the Pritzker Prize – who hailed the design as “brilliant”.

Detailed designs have now been submitted as part of the Development Application for the project. They show the library integrated with the ground level plaza, providing an “urban living room” for the fast-growing Green Square community.

Features of the library’s design include a sunken garden that bathes the library in natural light while providing a place for children to play, an amphitheatre with timber seating for up to 160 people to attend outdoor events, and a library entrance located in a dramatic glass structure that soars 15 metres.

The library’s slender, seven-story tower is one of the few structures in the plaza and will contain an acoustically-designed music room, a community function room for workshops and meetings, two levels of reading rooms and a technology suite with facilities for sound and video editing
.
Lord Mayor Clover Moore said she was delighted the development application had been lodged and residents could now see more detailed plans for the library and plaza.

“I was thrilled when two young Sydney architects won our international design competition last year with their innovative concepts that so delighted our judges,” the Lord Mayor said.
“This important project is quickly taking shape and I’m delighted to see how these plans have been refined and improved.

“Green Square is our fastest growing village and this library and plaza will provide wonderful facilities where the community can work and relax, play and listen to music, edit videos and read books in a café that’s included in these plans.”

The library and plaza are estimated to cost $47 million, part of the $440 million the City is investing in new infrastructure and facilities at Green Square. Preliminary work on the project is due to begin early next year.

The library and plaza will be part of the new Green Square Town Centre to be built over 14 hectares of land adjacent to Green Square railway station, four kilometres south of the city centre.

The new town centre is part of the 278 hectare Green Square urban redevelopment area, where around $8 billion is being spent on apartments and community facilities for the 53,000 people who are expected to live in the area

Greener Redfern Park

Redfern park set for family-friendly makeover

A tree house for kids and a more relaxed setting for parents will be part of plans to transform Redfern’s Reconciliation Park into a more enjoyable public place.

The existing playground will be extended to include a tree house with a spinning ‘drop-zone’ pole and other new play equipment that kids will love, as well as new seating to allow parents and carers to relax.

Also included in the makeover are a community garden, repaved and widened pathways for easier access, and better lighting and sight lines for parents to keep tabs on their little ones.

“I started my political career fighting for better play facilities and am delighted to say that Reconciliation Park will soon be a much better place for kids and their parents,” Lord Mayor Clover Moore said.

“The tree house beneath the shade of a tree and a slide and swings will be popular with kids, while parents will be able to enjoy better seating and greater visibility across the park.

“Well-designed parks and open spaces are vital for people with limited or no backyards of their own. We have hundreds of parks and open spaces in our city, including award-winning Hyde Park, Prince Alfred Park, Redfern Park and Paddington Reservoir Gardens.”

While 17 of the park’s trees will be preserved, four trees along its perimeter will have to be removed to make way for the community garden and a safer entrance to the 1,260sqm park at the junction of George and James streets.

Replacement trees will be planted in the playground and low shrubs and groundcovers elsewhere.

Reconciliation Park’s famous Think Locally, Act Globally mural will be protected by a fence during construction from September to February.

Contractors will also replace about 30cm of top soil with a fresh layer in the 70sqm community garden area.

The renewal project follows a positive public consultation process that began when 33 Darlington Primary School students made more than 500 suggestions for the park.

A design plan mailed to 250 residents was followed by a meeting with City of Sydney staff on site in February.

Improvements to the park are part of the City’s Parks General Upgrade Program to provide residents with a broad range of quality play facilities.

The City’s local government area has more than 400 large, medium and pocket parks and open spaces.

Residents, visitors and workers recently ranked them the best in NSW in an independent state-wide survey.

The Benchmark Park Users Satisfaction Survey rated the City’s network of parks first among those of nine other councils reviewed.

Brain Walk better Health

Take your brain for a walk and be healthier

The City of Sydney and Alzheimer’s Australia today joined forces to promote the healthy benefits of walking – and raise awareness of Australia’s third leading cause of death.

Alzheimer’s Australia NSW is offering a 10 per cent discount on registration to all city residents and workers for its annual Sydney Memory Walk & Jog on Sunday 14 September.

The fun day out, held during Dementia Awareness Month, raises much-needed funds to provide support, education and resources for people living with dementia in NSW and their carers.

There are an estimated 332,000 Australians with dementia. In Sydney alone there are an estimated 1,100 people with the debilitating condition, and that figure is expected to rise by 300 per cent by 2050.

Deputy Lord Mayor Robyn Kemmis said the City was investing significantly in infrastructure to make walking more accessible and interesting for residents, commuters and tourists of all abilities.

“Dementia is a devastating disease and its impact is felt right throughout our community. One person develops the condition in Australia every six minutes. That’s one of the health reasons why we are investing in creating an environment where people are encouraged to be active and walk more,” the Deputy Lord Mayor said.

“The City is investing $50 million in improving the useability and safety of the most popular walking routes in central Sydney over the next 10 years.

“We’re implementing an extensive wayfinding system to link the entire local government area and installing modern new street furniture on every street.

“Next month we will release our first ever policy on walking and in October, Sydney will welcome the world’s leading experts on walking when the City and the NSW Government host the international Walk 21 conference.

“When you create a better environment for walking, you help people’s health, reduce congestion on our roads and boost the local economy from increased foot traffic outside local retailers.”

Alzheimer’s Australia NSW CEO, The Hon. John Watkins, said walking had so many great benefits, and applauded the City of Sydney for working to encourage people to walk more, and more often.

Mr Watkins said walking had particular benefits when it came to delaying the onset of dementia.

“Not only can regular walking improve memory and thinking functions, it can also help protect against cognitive decline and delay the onset of dementia,” Mr Watkins said.

The Deputy Lord Mayor urged Sydneysiders and city workers to take up the Sydney Memory Walk & Jog discount offer.

“Alzheimer’s Australia’s Sydney Memory Walk & Jog will be a great day out for the whole family, and it also seems that taking your brain for a walk is really good medicine.”

Sydney Memory Walk & Jog is on Sunday 14 September around the Bay Run at Leichhardt. Participants can choose to take part in a 2 kilometre walk, a 7.5 kilometre walk or a 7.5 kilometre run.

Alzheimer’s Australia NSW is aiming to raise $750,000 from events across the state. Bupa is the official aged care partner of the 2014 Memory Walk & Jog.

Discount registration is now open to City of Sydney residents and workers. Visit memorywalk.com.au/sydney click ‘register now’ and follow the prompts to enter promo code CityofSyd2014 for the 10 per cent discount.

Palm Oil Ice Cream SA Zoo Choice

SOUTH AUSTRALIAN GOLDEN NORTH FROZEN OUT BY ZOOS SA DECISION TO CHOOSE ICE CREAM CONTAINING PALM OIL

Privately owned and operated South Australian ice cream maker Golden North remains committed to producing high quality, locally produced and palm oil free ice cream despite its products being axed by Zoos SA.

After completely eliminating palm oil from its ice cream, and jointly promoting the move with Adelaide and Monarto Zoo, Golden North had its contract broken by Zoos SA, which has entered into a deal with Unilever owned Streets – whose ice creams contain palm oil.

Golden North Marketing Manager Trevor Pomery said it was disappointing Zoos SA had decided against partnering with a company that produced high quality, South Australian and palm oil free products.

“We thought Zoos SA’s commitment to palm oil free products was as strong as Golden North’s but this has proved not to be the case,” said Mr Pomery.

“We still had just over a year to go on our contract but received a letter dated July 3 advising we were no longer preferred supplier with immediate effect.

“Since the news broke, we’ve been overwhelmed by the support we’ve received from the community, both from within South Australia and interstate.

“It is very comforting to see the level of support people have for the protection of endangered species by ceasing destruction of rainforests for palm oil production.”

Golden North Ice Cream is proudly South Australian-made and owned and has been producing ice cream in Laura, South Australia for the past 90 years.

Golden North uses only the freshest milk and cream from local dairy farmers to create its award winning rich and creamy ice cream.

Every Golden North product is Palm Oil Free and ethically produced.

For more information visit www.goldennorth.com.au

Greener Sydney

Sydney streets are even greener on the eye

Two City of Sydney programs are bringing more plant life to Sydney’s streets and making it easier and more pleasant for residents, workers and visitors to move around the city.

As part of the Greening Sydney Plan, the City is boosting standard footpath improvements by taking the opportunity to install new garden beds, trees and shrubs to soften and enhance the appearance of streets and public places.

The City has already undertaken a range of projects – with before and after photographs showing how streets can be instantly improved – and committed more than $75 million to the Footway Renewal and Public Domain Landscaping programs over the next 10 years.

Beauchamp Hotel publican, Sue Ritchie, said the introduction of planter boxes and a new garden near her hotel at the corner of Oxford and South Dowling streets had made a huge impact on the area, known as Three Saints Square.

“The little garden and the planter boxes on all five corners of the intersection help bring the community together – it’s a simple, simple thing, but really important because it has brought happiness to the area,” Ms Ritchie said.

“Every day, instead of it being grey, urban, hard and austere, it’s just mood lifting. You wouldn’t believe the positive feedback we get about how softening and pleasant the little plants are.

“For the little garden, the community had input into the design, which was fantastic of the City of Sydney, who also put a sculpture and a little seat there. It’s fabulous.”

Lord Mayor Clover Moore said increasing Sydney’s tree canopy and other plantings helped make the city a better place to live, work and visit.

“Greener streets help improve people’s wellbeing, cool neighbourhoods and support the wildlife that calls Sydney home, such as birds, small mammals and butterflies,” the Lord Mayor said.

“Streets and public spaces make up almost a third of our city area. By using these available spaces as garden beds, we can contribute greatly to increasing urban canopy, reducing the impact of the urban heat-island effect, as well as filtering stormwater before it reaches our harbour and waterways.

“The new garden beds have made dramatic improvements to the appearance of our streets and public spaces, making them more attractive to pedestrians and businesses.”

Some of the improvements have also been made under the City’s Traffic Safety Plan, targeting areas and streets with high rates of vehicle accidents.

The City’s 10-year corporate plan, with a record $1.94 billion infrastructure program, includes major financial commitments for projects at Green Square, George Street, Barangaroo and Harold Park, providing a boost to the city’s economy, businesses and employment.

About 2,000 new jobs a year will be created off the back of the plan, which includes more than 400 projects across the City’s local government area.

Coal Mine Fighter

Kokoda veteran, Bill Ryan may be 92 years old but he’s not letting that get in the way of standing up to stop a destructive coal mine. Watch this video to hear first hand from Bill why he’s doing it and how you can help: https://www.getup.org.au/protect-maules-creek

Robbie,

Two years ago, the small farming community of Maules Creek was transformed forever when fossil fuel giant, Whitehaven Coal, discovered dirty black coal deposits in the region.

Once an area of rolling paddocks and ancient forests, Maules Creek is now home to the biggest coal mine under construction in Australia. The local community, faced with a future of toxic dust, trucking highways and environmental degradation, has had little choice but to band together to protect their land, their community and their livelihoods.

This unlikely group of activists are already a force to be reckoned with. In mid-June, the likes of 92 year old Kokoda veteran, Bill Ryan and local farmer, Cliff Wallace, forced Whitehaven to “voluntarily” cease forest clearing for the rest of winter. But with springtime fast approaching, Whitehaven are getting ready to roll in the bulldozers and open the pit.

The community have got the people power they need to stop Whitehaven’s machines, but it takes more than a slingshot for David to take on Goliath. That’s where we come in. Our movement has the resources to help this people-powered campaign afford the camp infrastructure, food, solar panels, toilet maintenance and legal support they need to keep their community, and their land, fossil-free.

Watch this video, hear their stories and chip in to help them defend their land and protect their water:

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen this type of people power prevail. This past May, just a couple of hours east, another farming community stood up to coal seam gas giant, Metgasco, to keep their farms gas field-free. The awe-inspiring Bentley Blockade led directly to the NSW government’s decision to suspend Metgasco’s gas exploration licence — demonstrating that regional communities can win out against huge corporations.

Now it’s happening again, with farmers, war veterans and local business-owners standing together to defend Maules Creek. And it’s not hard to understand why when you consider that Whitehaven’s open pit coal mine will:

  • Ruin local farms and drain the water table. Dangerous dust, noise, traffic and, most importantly, falling water tables will have huge impacts on the local area and nearby residents. The area is a crucial food bowl, it’s critical we ensure it remains clean and functional for future generations.
  • Demolish ancient forests and risk threatened species. The Leard State Forest, the exact location of the coal pit, is home to 396 native species and 2,153ha of critically endangered Box-Gum Woodland — the most extensive remaining area in Australia1.
  • Disrespect Gomeroi land and culture. The mine site is also of significant cultural importance with numerous Indigenous artefacts and burial grounds. When the Gomeroi people demanded a stop-work order to try protect these sites, they were blatantly ignored. “All we ask as Aboriginal people is that they do the right thing and respect our culture and heritage,” said Traditional owner Stephen Talbott2.
  • Fuel the climate crisis. It has been estimated that the mine will produce greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to about 30 million tonnes of CO2 per year — roughly equivalent to the entire fossil fuel emissions of New Zealand3.

This mine must be stopped in its tracks in order to avoid these terrible outcomes. Fortunately for all of us, there’s already a powerful community ready – and based on the huge win in Bentley, we know they can win. However in the words of Cliff, “the day to day running of it is expensive, we rely on donations to keep it going”, and the current trickle of resources is set to fall well short of their budget for the rest of the year.

If anyone can take on a multi-million dollar corporation it’s these farmers — all they need is our help. Click here to chip in and support these farmers with the financial and legal support they need

Local resident Jenny puts it best: “This is the best farming country in Australia, this coal mine is a violation of all that the farmers hold dear here”. Together we can help the farmers of Northern NSW do what they do best — prove that people, when united, are more powerful than profits.

For their farms, our food and everyone’s future,
Michael, for the GetUp team

PS — A campaign that started with a handful of locals in a farm shed is attracting the attention of some of the most powerful environmental organisations in the country. We’re working closely with this growing alliance to help boost this strategic campaign. The number of groups involved is far too long to list here, so to find out more about the Maules Creek Alliance and how you can support them visit: https://www.getup.org.au/protect-maules-creek

[1] “Maules Creek Environmental Assessment”, World Heritage Committee
[2] “Minister ‘failed to act’ on Maules Creek mine stop-work order”, Sydney Morning Herald, January 17 2014
[3] “Maules Creek proposed coal mine: greenhouse gas emissions”, Dr Ian Lowe

Sydney Underground Bin System

DIARY NOTE: Sydney’s first underground bin system cleans up

DIARY NOTE: underground waste solution

WHAT: An innovative, state-of –the-art waste system with underground communal chutes has been installed in Darlinghurst.

The new system in Royston Street replaces an unsightly, cluttered bin bay with new recycling and waste chutes linking to an underground storage system.

Underground waste systems have been used in other cities around the world and are proven to be an effective means of managing waste in high density areas with limited bin space.

WHO: Lord Mayor Clover Moore
City’s Director Operations, Garry Harding

WHEN: midday on Monday 11 August, 2014

WHERE: Royston Street, Darlinghurst

Media contact: Claire Thompson 0408 414 376

Deva Premal is Back!

 

August New Release Catalogue – CLICK HERE!
Deva Premal is back!
Mantras For Life Deval Premal & Miten with ManoseMantras for Life includes chants to invoke very specific intentions, among them: for animal welfare; for the blessing of children; for poetry, music and learning; for perfect timing; for physical strength, and for the earth itself. Based upon the tradition of Japa, a spiritual discipline centered upon the meditative repetition of mantra (in cycles of 108 recitations), Deva Premal and Miten invite the listener to join them in chant – and to utilise humanity’s most powerful healing tool: the voice. To celebrate the release of Deva & Miten’s new album we’re offering a special buy six get one free promotion.

Elemental Music • $24.95 • CD • EM012 • Mantra • Shop Here Buy 6 Get 1 Free

New Diaries For 2015

We’re past the halfway mark of 2014 so it’s time to start getting ready for Christmas. And to help you with your shelf stocking we’ve got some must-have diaries for 2015. The Moontime Diary and Gratitude Diary ran out the door last year and Simon & Schuster have again released a Mind Body Spirit Diary for 2015. Last year it was the Book of Days, this year Every Day Matters. Also available in pocket size. More diaries coming next month. To view 2015 diary and calendar products click here.

Hay House up-and-coming new releases

Hay House have some fantastic new releases coming out ahead of Christmas, including new cards from John Holland, Miranda Kerr and Doreen Virtue as well as books by Pam Grout (author of the best selling e-Squared) Louise Hay and Bronie Ware (author of The Top Five Regrets Of The Dying). These titles will be coming out in September, October and November but are available for pre-order on our site now. So get your orders in now to ensure you don’t miss out for Christmas. You can find them in the New Releases section on our website or view them on page 3 of this month’s New Release Catalogue.

Is your business in the next Living Now?
Would you like to see your business advertised in Australia’s largest holistic magazine, Living Now? Take advantage of Phoenix Distribution’s one-page monthly advertisement which aims to help promote our best selling new releases and help you, our valued retailers.Each month we promote four exclusive Phoenix titles. August’s titles are listed below. This is a service provided at absolutely no cost to our retailers and is designed to help drive customers into your stores.

To be included on the advertisement as a Phoenix partner and stockist email: info@phoenixdistribution.com.au

Products for Living Now August
EXCLUSIVE So, Why Become Vegan?
by Sandra Kimler • 9781452513737 • PB • $27.95
The Little Book of Good Health
by Dr Sonia Kakar • 9781921966361
PB • $19.99
EXCLUSIVE Great Body, No Diet
by Racha Zeidan • 9780988290501 • PB • $19.95
The Beauty Diet
by David Wolfe • 735885589790
DVD • $39.95
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China’s New Energy Policy

What China’s energy turnaround means for us
Experts believe China’s radically new energy policy has major implications for economies and communities around the world.
Leading economists and climate scientists including Professor Ross Garnaut, China’s Energy Research Institute Director Dr Jiang Kejun and Climate Change Authority CEO Anthea Harris will meet at Victoria University on June 26 for the free public conference ‘Abrupt change in China’s energy path: implications for China, Australia and the global climate’.
This follows an article published recently in Nature Climate Change, where Victoria University’s Professor Peter Sheehan and colleagues argue China’s air pollution crisis over the past year – and its potential to destabilise the country – has provided impetus for the government to aggressively reshape its energy system, with profound implications for global climate change.
The Chinese government’s Action Plan for Air Pollution Prevention and Control (2013‐17) aims to improve air quality by 2017 with a focus on the three key regions in the heart of China: the Beijing‐Tianjin‐Hebei region, the Yangtze River Delta and the Pearl River Delta.
The Plan includes mandatory targeted reductions in fine particulate emissions, a ban on new coal power plants and sharp cutbacks in coal consumption and steel production in these regions. For example, steelmaking capacity in Hebei province, which produces about one quarter of China’s steel, will be reduced by 80 million tonnes by 2017. This is equivalent to about 10% of China’s steel production.
Most polluting heavy vehicles are to be removed from three key regions and new fuel standards introduced by 2015 and nationally by 2017. Non‐fossil energy resources will increase to 13% of total energy consumption by 2017, by comparison with 9.4% in 2012 and there will be increased emphasis on natural gas, which is to gradually replace coal by 2017 in power stations, industrial furnaces and thermal heating plants.
Meanwhile, hundreds of air quality observation stations have been installed across the country providing real time publicly available data on air quality with a monthly ‘naming and shaming’ of the worst polluting cities.
“If China’s pursues these and other plans to control air pollution, China’s emissions could peak by about 2020 and then begin to fall. This is a dramatic change relative to its previous path, and would greatly enhance prospects for holding global warming to less than 2°C,” Professor Sheehan said.
“The new direction also demonstrates an alternative path for countries, such as India, that face rising pollution from development based on coal and oil and should influence current negotiations in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change to establish by 2015 a legally binding emissions agreement to apply from 2020.”
Other event speakers include Victoria Institute for Strategic Economic Studies (VISES) Director Professor Bruce Rasmussen and head of the VISES Sustainability and Climate Change cluster Professor Roger Jones. Dr Kejun and other guests will be available for questions.
The free event runs 8.30am to 6.00pm on Thursday 26 June, 2014 at room FS1101, Level 11, 300 Flinders Street, Melbourne.
RSVP: birute.prasmutas@vu.edu.au

Available for interview
Professor Peter Sheehan, Professorial Fellow
Victoria Institute for Strategic Economic Studies, Victoria University
(03) 9919 1341; peter.sheehan@vu.edu.au

Professor Roger Jones, Head of VISES Sustainability and Climate Change cluster
Victoria Institute for Strategic Economic Studies, Victoria University
(03) 9919 1992; 0434 543 425; roger.jones@vu.edu.au

Run 4 Refugees

Run 4 Refugees Sunday 12th October

It’s Run 4 Refugees time again! Last year we had 420 amazing people run and raise over $200,000. This year we’re aiming to raise over $250,000!


It’s just under 3 months until race day so if you haven’t registered yet register soon so that your preferred distance doesn’t sell out. Head to the Run 4 Refugees page to sign up. You’ll also find the link for the Melbourne Marathon page here.

You don’t have to be a runner to take part, there are events for all levels!

Please contact our fundraising team if you have any questions about the process fundraising@asrc.org.au

Winter Appeal

Thank you so much to everyone who supported our Winter Appeal. This was our most successful appeal to date, and we couldn’t have done it without our supporters.

Stay tuned for better and more frequent updates.

Thank you all for your ongoing support.

 

Regards,

Tash Howson
ASRC Donor Relationships Coordinator
tash.h@asrc.org.au
03 9326 6066

 

Farmers Direct To Consumers

Community backs bid to bypass big supermarkets
An ambitious project designed to connect shoppers directly with farmers and to support independent retailers and wholesalers aims to crowd fund $100,000 to launch in Australia.
The Open Food Network, an online marketplace that makes it easier to find, buy, and sell local sustainable food, received startup funding from VicHealth via its Seed Challenge program, to conduct early trials.

More than 170 individuals passionate about an alternative to the supermarkets giants have already donated $15,000 towards the cause.

The Open Food Network is a bias-free, not-for-profit website which connects farmers with distribution hubs and customers, to make affordable fresh food accessible to all Australians.

The website will be further developed, with the organisers currently crowd-funding to launch the open beta version across Australia by the end of the year.

Open Food Network co-founder Kirsten Larsen said the food supply system has major issues.

“The Open Food Network has been designed in response to major problems in our food system, including too much power wielded by just a few players,” Ms Larsen said.

“The supermarkets and other ‘big guys’ are offering a raw deal and little bargaining power to both farmers and end customers.

“Proudly not-for-profit, the money we raise will go to development of this important resource for producers and independent food businesses fighting to provide an alternative to the supermarket duopoly.”

Following successful trials in Australia, the Open Food Network is building a strong following overseas, with demand for use of the system from food hubs in the UK, USA, Canada and India. A UK trial, with Europe’s largest local food network, the Fife Diet, launches next week.

VicHealth CEO Jerril Rechter said the idea of using technology to open the doors to fresh and affordable food for all is the way of the future.

“Digital technology has opened our world up to more options. We don’t have to rely on big corporations to source our food for us any longer. By connecting consumers with the growers, and supporting local businesses, it’s better for the environment, our community and our farmers,” Ms Rechter said.

“We would love to see this idea grow to reach all Australians and we know it will make a big difference.”

Local farmer Shona Crawford of Vegie Bunch, from Pearcedale in Melbourne’s South East, is involved with a trial of the network in Victoria.

“We are always looking for new ways to get our food to businesses and the community around us, but it is time-consuming and bitsy. The trial is opening up possibilities and we’re excited about what it could mean for small farmers like us,” Ms Crawford said.

The Open Food Network has small trials currently in operation in Mildura, Gippsland and South East Melbourne. Go to www.openfoodnetwork.org.au for details.

Help them to launch in Australia: http://startsomegood.com/openfoodnetwork

News

Green thumbs dig in for national tree day

Volunteers can get their hands dirty planting 4,500 new seedlings in Sydney Park today (Sunday 27 July) to celebrate Planet Ark’s National Tree Day.

More than 300 Sydneysiders and visitors are expected to join the free tree planting event, where they can enjoy a barbeque, learn about greening their homes and help cool the city at the same time.

Anyone can get involved and have a go at planting a tree. All they need to do is turn-up between 10am and 1pm and ensure they are wearing covered shoes.

The City supports the annual event as part of its Greening Sydney Plan, which encourages volunteers to contribute to greening the urban landscape.

“National Tree Day is a wonderful opportunity for the whole community to come together and help green our City,” Lord Mayor Clover Moore said.

“The City aims to increase our urban canopy by 50 per cent by 2030. We’re planting more street trees and increasing the number of trees in our parks. Events like this help cool our city and make it even more beautiful.”

Sydney Park will also host several education tents on the day, offering tips about green living and the latest innovations in sustainability.

Since 2005, the City has planted 9,791 trees. There are currently around 30,000 street trees across the city, and 12,000 trees in the City’s parks. Along with green roofs and walls they contribute to the urban canopy, help combat climate change, and create wildlife corridors for native birds and animals.

Green spaces also benefit residents’ health, cleaning pollutants from the air, creating shade in the hot summer months and enhancing general wellbeing.

Since Planet Ark launched National Tree Day in 1996, more than 2.8 million volunteers across Australia have planted over 17 million trees and shrubs.

This year, in June as a prelude to National Tree Day, Planet Ark created an urban jungle outside the City’s Customs House in Circular Quay. The installation was to highlight the many values of bringing nature into our everyday lives.

Kitchen gods and sacrifice

Excerpt from – House Therapy – Discovering who you really are at home!

By Sudha Hamilton

House Therapy is Sudha’s soon to be published new book.

 

The Kitchen

The Ancient Greeks, who gave us many of the founding principles upon which we base our modern societies – democracy; logic; philosophy; literature and poetry to name but a few salient examples, had  a rich collection of gods and goddesses. Hestia was the goddess of hearth and home, older sister to Zeus and first born of the titans Kronos and Rhea – perhaps not as well known today as her siblings Demeter, Hera, Haides and Poseidon.  This may have been due to the fact that she was swallowed first by her titan father Kronos, who in  a bid to avoid being overthrown by one of his children, as prophesied, ate all his children, she was thus the last to be regurgitated, once Zeus had forced his father to do so.

The Romans also worshipped her in their homes and knew her as Vesta. The areas of responsibility for which Hestia was worshipped and sacrificed to, were most aspects of domestic life and in particular what we now call the kitchen. For it is around the cooking hearth or kitchen that a home or house builds up or out. Hestia was always toasted at the beginning of a meal in thanks for the hospitality proffered. She was probably where the early Christians appropriated their ‘saying of grace’ before dinner from.

Homeric Hymn 24 to Hestia (trans. Evelyn-White) (Greek epic C7th – 4th B.C.) :
“Hestia, in the high dwellings of all, both deathless gods and men who walk on earth, you have gained an everlasting abode and highest honour: glorious is your portion and your right. For without you mortals hold no banquet,–where one does not duly pour sweet wine in offering to Hestia both first and last. And you, Argeiphontes [Hermes], son of Zeus and Maia, . . . be favourable and help us, you and Hestia, the worshipful and dear. Come and dwell in this glorious house in friendship together; for you two, well knowing the noble actions of men, aid on their wisdom and their strength. Hail, Daughter of Kronos, and you also, Hermes.”

Interestingly Hestia was a virginal goddess and refused the suits of both Apollo and Poseidon. Perhaps this is where we get the separation of the sexual roles of the wife and mother in the home and the focus on providing nurture and hospitality instead. Hestia was seen as the giver of all domestic happiness and good fortune in the home and she was believed to dwell in the inner parts of every home. She was also the first god mentioned at every sacrifice, as she represented the hearth where sacrifices took place – this is the direct link to our kitchens today and the genesis of the sacred chef. There are very few temples of Hestia extant and this is thought to be because every home was her temple in the Hellenistic world. I think we can draw some intuition from this in our view of our homes being places of divine inspiration.

The kitchen has of late become a popular focus of interest, with TV chefs and groovy restaurants grabbing the public’s imagination. For House Therapy the kitchen represents our centre, our practical and instinctual selves. This is where we prepare food for family and ourselves. It is also often where food is stored in the refrigerator and pantry cupboards. Food is about survival and security. There is no bullshit about these things and the kitchen is a place where the elements of nature still regularly intervene. Fire on the stove and in your oven; water at the sink, earth in the bench tops and structure; and air in the extractor, fan forced oven and all around. You can be hurt in the kitchen if you do not pay attention to what you are about. Unlike the faux furies vented in the kitchens on TV, you can experience some real passions in these hot and pressurised places at home. You might be burning fingers and dishes, dropping scoldingly hot plates and crying bitter tears over chopped onions. The kitchen is where we show our real reactions to strong emotions, pressure in our lives and our appetites and jealousies.

Have a look around now at your kitchen, the colour of the walls and general lay-out of things. What is your first impression? What does it say to you about your instinctive self? Are you clinical or passionate? Are the walls white/neutral or vivid/strong colours? Is it large or small? Is the instinctual, raw and pragmatic you an important part of your life? Or is it hidden away or missing? The trend in studio apartment architecture now, to build them without kitchens and have neutered mini servery’s instead, is a reflection of a missing essential in sections of our culture. Stripping away the practical ability to fend for yourself by cooking your own food and becoming dependent on pre-prepared meals is symptomatic of us having lost our way along the journey. Is your kitchen well equipped? Can you cook? Do you enjoy cooking for friends, family and yourself?

Returning to the rich historical connection our modern day kitchen has with Hestia’s hearth, as mentioned earlier it was the place where the highly necessary ritualised sacrifices took place. These sacrifices usually involved a calf or some other domesticated animal and those involved with the sacrifice would share in eating the meat of the roasted animal. So the power of the sacrifice would be in the ritualised slaughtering of the animal in dedication to the goddess for a particular purpose – to bring good fortune upon whatever was so desired for example. Today the cook or cooks go into the kitchen, risking cuts, perspiration and burns, to prepare a celebratory meal for our friends and or family – Christmas, birthdays and other days of ritualised festivities. We may not consciously invoke Hestia or any other gods but the overall intention is the same, we wish to share good cheer with those we love and bring good fortune upon us all.

It is interesting to ask oneself what is true sacrifice and what does it mean in our lives today? When we think of sacrificing something, we tend to see it as foregoing or missing out on something so as to have something else. “You cannot have your cake and eat it too.” Which I have always thought was an incredibly stupid saying, because what is the point of possessing uneaten cake? A sacrifice I hear you say, perhaps a slice for the gods. Interestingly the Greeks and Romans would eat the cooked flesh of their sacrifice, offering the bones and fat to the gods and goddesses, but it was the life itself, that was the real sacrifice in my view. The word sacrifice means to make sacred, so whatever we offer up in dedication to the gods becomes sacred. Actually the word anathema, was the Greek word forlaying-up or suspending something in wait for the gods, and it is has now taken on the meaning of something that is accursed, through its contact, down through the ages, with the jealous Hebrew  god, Yahweh; the Christian god. Our language, and lexicon of words, have taken an interesting journey over the last four millennia, and it is no wonder we are all a little confused at times. So we could make  a correlation between sacrificing something in our life and that thing, which  has been sacrificed becomes anathema to us or accursed. How do you feel about the things you have sacrificed in your life? A person’s love; a relationship; a career; types of food; alcohol; drugs; sex; lifestyle; freedom?  We do not live in a particularly sacrificial age, more of a ‘you can have it all’ age, but can you really enjoy it all and be present for entirely disparate things in your life? Do we appreciate things more when we make room for them in our lives? Perhaps sacrifice still has a part to play in our lives today, better sharpen those knives.

The kitchen is also a place of transformation, where base elements are turned into the gold of love and nourishment. Is your kitchen a space where magic like this happens, regularly or just on special occasions? Domestic kitchens have a great tradition throughout the West of being incredibly impractical, lacking preparation space and adequate and functional cupboards. This is now being addressed in more modern homes, as the passion is returning to the kitchen. I think that we suffered for a few decades from the ‘American wonder of white goods’ syndrome, where no home was complete without these wonderful space and time saving machines and that a mentality of faster was better grew up around them. Fast foods, sliced white bread, whipped cream in a can, all these travesties were accorded the haloed status of modernity and progress. When in actual fact they were soulless short cuts that ripped the heart out of good cooking. Yes we still do have a lot of gadgets in the kitchen but we also now understand that good food still needs dedication and application. Bread makers are great, but bread cooked in a wood fired oven tastes better and if it is naturally fermented sour dough even better. Espresso coffee from your home machine tastes a lot better than instant coffee.

Your kitchen is a place where you can practically respond to the basic needs of living. Is your kitchen letting you do this? Is your kitchen supporting you in feeling centred and secure in dealing with the vicissitudes that life often throws up? Are your knives sharp and well balanced? Do you have enough bench space when preparing meals? Does your stove cook the way you want it to cook?  If not then you are letting yourself down and going around with a bloody great hole where your centre should be. As a member of the human tribe you need to be able to fend for yourself, and the kitchen can empower you to be grounded in the here and now. Not wafting around on the ceiling hoping for the crumbs of human kindness to drop your way.

Things we can do to transform our kitchen

As a chef, who has owned and managed a number of restaurants and cafes, I know all about kitchens and their design downfalls. First and foremost it is about space and in particular bench top space where most kitchens, especially older kitchens, are lacking. Storage space comes a close second and it is in these areas that a solid beginning can be made in transforming your kitchen from a frustration trap into a pragmatic pleasure dome. Cooking is never completely easy, if it is, it isn’t real cooking, in my opinion, there must be some blood, sweat and tears in every great dish but not too much. Unnecessary suffering is not on anyone’s menu by choice.

Buy an island bench if you lack bench top space and cannot easily create more, they are great and I have several of them, and you can take them with you when you move.

Sharp knives, that are also well weighted in the overall heft of the knife, can bring a smile to any good cook and I always say, “happiness is a sharp knife.”

Obviously kitchens need to be clean and cleaned regularly for all sorts of reasons, hygiene, health and happiness. Clutter in the kitchen causes chaos and calamity, food takes longer to prepare and the energy around it is bad.

Trapped dead energy, in the form of rotting and old produce in fridges and cupboards, does not augur well for happy kitchen gods and thus producing yummy healthy and nutritious food; so clean out and clean up.

 

©Sudha Hamilton

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Is Sex A Mystical Gateway?

 

Is sex a mystical gateway, to a boundless place of untold pleasures and exquisite pains, in your life?

Sex, I think, is different things at different times of our lives. It reflects what we are seeking, at that juncture, and therefore, who, we are attracting into our life. For it is a union of energies after all, and as they say in the song, “it takes two to tango, baby.” Occasionally that saying has some negative connotations, and similarly our sexual experiences can at times be defined by our partner’s energies, for good or bad.

Making love, having sex, it is a moment when we return to our interior universe and tune into our sensory responses. It is an intensely personal experience, which is also shared, in an intimate revelation of our essentially animal natures. We roar and groan, grunt and gasp, in a symphony of respiratory action, for our ride to pleasure is carried on each breath. It is that breath, which makes sexual activity a possible doorway to the divine. Reading Tim Winton’s novel, Breath, you can sense the parallels between experiences of the ocean and sexual experiences. Metaphorical language used to describe the tumbling; submerged qualities inherent inside a wave are similar to the ocean of bliss, inside us, which can well up during sex. At times we are letting go to the inextricable force of the sea, as we must’ let go’ to the surging currents within our sexuality. We ride upon, and inside, our wave of ecstasy and our breathing triggers the biochemical reactions, which can awaken orgasmic brain activity.

Sex is most often heightened at the beginning of a relationship, when two individuals come together as strangers and begin a process of removing outer signs of independent identity. Clothing, which like a uniform represents each individuals place and possibly role in society, is stripped away and they stand naked before one another. Clothing can hide essential truths, about who we are, and allow us to pretend to be someone we are not. Sex asks of us, right at the start, to play the hand we have been dealt by nature ( I suppose cosmetic surgery has interjected here).  Sex asks us to bring the bare truth to this union, as the key to opening a doorway to bliss. Our feelings, at the beginning, can be on a knife edge, as we show parts of ourselves, normally well hidden, and vacillate between hopes and fears, regarding our acceptance by the beloved. We are not only showing our arse in public but celebrating its function and uses with another. It is a merging process, as we share and discover our erogenous nooks and crannies with another.  Our normally vigilant guard comes down and our pupils dilate, as we hold the gaze of our lover and drink in the cause of this new delight. There is the magic of the unknown in the air and it is charged with the frisson of the archetypal merging moment. There is glory and boldness, and there is surrender and humbleness, there is the charging of the stag with antlers aquiver, and the dissolving into an endless ocean of energy. There are intense moments of you and equally intense moments beyond you. There is the ride and there is the fall.

Once committed to the fruitful sexual act, and thus rewarded with acceptance by our new sexual partner, we bring a sense of hope and with it the possibility of a clean slate, in regard to an ongoing mutually rewarding physical and emotional relationship. For ‘gateway’ sex, as I call it, is a magical, sacred space and we can only access it when we have hope in our heart. The sexual realm, can ask all of us to embody archetypal energies, no longer displayed by our genders in the modern age. It can create a dichotomy or unresolvable dynamic tension, where what we play out sexually can never quite fit into the rest of our lives. It has a special place and demands distinct rules around it, for it to survive and prosper in the twenty first century. So many relationships break down here, as the magic fades in the harsh light of the day and countless tiny grievances mount up to close his or her heart away. Once that heart and hope are locked away then sex becomes a macabre shadow dance, where the bodies go through the motions but with no soul at play. It can be like someone has switched off all the nerve endings, and more importantly all the meaning, from the activity. It is like making love whilst encased in a thick glove of suspended despair. The individual has returned to that individual space and no merging is possible anymore. When love dies it is a very sad day and our consciousness’s run endless reruns of sepia tinted memories to drive all joy away. Grieving the loss of love is probably the most traumatic experience we all will experience in our lifetimes. Like the bush after a fire, everything is black and burnt away. There are skeletons of trees, which mark how high our joy once reached. The echo of love’s laughter keeps the birds at bay. For a time nothing new will grow here and the skies are always grey.

Many of us have put away the magic of sex into the bottom drawer of an old cupboard, which we never use anymore. Somewhere inside of us we have sworn off this disrupting force and condemned that last great hurt to be the final one. We may masturbate our selves, often or not, but without the emotional commitment of another’s fumbling touch. Sex is a momentary relief to help us get to sleep or a frustrated release that doesn’t stain the sheets. Layers of emotional scar tissue have built up hard upon our souls and the smile we may offer another is firmly closed indoors.  When, and if, love returns to these shores it faces a long thaw and the messianic job of raising Lazarus from the dead. I know from my own personal experience that there can be a physical delay in being able to respond sexually after a long lay-off. It is like those layers of calcified hurt must be given time to melt away before my penis will trust enough to fill with blood and stretch out to meet the new day.

Returning now to that time, when we have just established honest sexual union with our new partner and that sense of being ‘in love’ is reciprocated.  Can you remember what it is like? When every part of their body is simply amazing and emanating some intangible quality. To touch their skin is the greatest pleasure you have ever known and it is all holistically connected with some cosmic secret that you just had no idea about before it happened. When you wake up in the morning and glance over at this beatific being, lying next to you and the realisation hits that you and, he or she, are ‘together’. This is the magic realm and it is often bitter sweet for our cynical selves to recall this state of ‘in loveness’.  We have developed the habit of ‘putting down’ such heightened states labelling them  as ‘the honeymoon period’ and quickly assuring the occupants that it will be over before you know it. You cannot stay too long in fairy land and Peter Pan must grow up to face the grim realities of a real relationship. Yet today, even in the age of ‘fast food’ marriages and divorces, we still clamour to be ‘in love’ and now the Internet has brought the supermarket experience to shopping for love and relationships.  In aisle one, we have forty five year old, divorced Capricorns with a penchant for reading the newspaper on the loo; in aisle two……..

How do we integrate magic into our hum drum lives? How do we honour the gods in our lovers and in ourselves? Can we maintain a sense of reality? Can we go to work; support the family; clean the bathroom; listen to the gripers and whingers in the average world; and still delve into the delicious, dripping divinity of another realm?

Is sex a mystical gateway, to a boundless place of untold pleasures and exquisite pains, in your life?

©Sudha Hamilton

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Imagine if you will…

Imagine if you will, that you lived in a world where every day you were told that you had no influence on the really important things in your life. Imagine that you were born to parents, who likewise, believed that they, and you, had no power to affect the way life was; and that they also had been born to parents, who were very sure, that they too, were powerless in this manner. Generations of firm belief and concomitant proof, through life experience, that this was true. That reality was operating outside of you and that you had no noticeable effect upon it, it would go on doing what it would do, whether you were there or not. The sun would come up in the morning and set in the evening; the rain would fall from the sky when there were precipitating circumstances; people around you would live and die – and all of these things would happen, pretty much without your direct input making a world of difference. Imagine what affect this would have upon your sense of self worth and attitude towards your existence.

Well, welcome to the real world, and to the psychological basis of your life and the lives of the majority of the six billion people living on this planet we call Earth. Newtonian science has for the last four hundred years firmly placed us outside of reality, as spectators in our own life, able to measure things but not much else. We have been taught and told, as were our parents, that life and matter happens independently of us. We can of course engage in transmutation of substances, if we follow strict rules for doing so, in a laboratory under controlled conditions and with the appropriate levels of technological education. Our subjective consciousness, our sense of who we are and how we process the sensory experience of our lives,  however, cannot directly interface with existence. It can bear witness and it can measure, and oh what pleasure can it be to measure, everything. Science has measured and identified and named much of the fabric of our known universe, we know a hundred different names each for a billion different things we have never experienced; and most likely never will. I suppose it is a bit like that old Islamic idea of there being 999 names for God. Our Western scientific heritage has set us up as the ultimate arbiters of measurement and not so much good taste.

For the taste of powerlessness is one reason why, I think, that we have massive levels of depression in our modern cities and why we are medicating, or sedating, vast numbers of their inhabitants. Now smarties can put up their hand and say well Newtonian physics is dead, it died in 1904 with the discovery of Quantum Mechanics, but I would reply, that this fact is a well kept secret, culturally speaking, and that the greater majority of human beings are untouched by its revelations. Even Einstein struggled with accepting Quantum physics basic premise and resisted its outcomes for decades. The uncertain nature of The Uncertainty Principle does not lend itself to the delusional controlling proclivities of generations of white coated lab assistants and the population at large. We are all in love with the idea that we can benignly go about life, if we stick to the rules as Science has laid out for us, derived from all that measuring, and, like a good anti-depressant, avoid the lows by sacrificing the highs.

So the good news is, that on the most basic level we can perceive matter, the sub-atomic level, we actually do effect whatever we attempt to observe or measure, our consciousness of it changes it; and so the deadening spectator sport, that was Newtonian physics, is now obsolete. The bad news is, that the reality of this over the last hundred years has failed to bite, or be taken up by us, the masses, and that our lives continue to be mired in the complacency of our previous understanding of the workings of reality. Which means, that while we live in a truly wondrous world of modern scientific genius, the greater majority of us only get to experience it, as consumers, as if we are watching it on TV- and I reckon, that discovering ground breaking shifts in human evolution, via the Discovery Channel, years after they happen, is not an individually deeply rewarding experience. As populations in our cities, have grown and grown, we have replaced concern with the direct experience of the individual with statistical concern for the majority percentage of the many. Which is why so many people can still be unhappy or depressed,  despite the fact that their lives contain less death, hunger, poverty, disease, and numerous other positively indicated quality of life evaluation measurements.  Western medicine is a statistical science in practise and theory and concerns itself ultimately with the individual only as a unit of population. The pharmaceutical industry, which funds the medical behemoth in part and provides it with its tools for healing, is predicated on the double blind testing of its drugs and their ability to work on the greatest statistical percentage of people with as few side effects as can be managed.

“Over the last 30 years, rates of depression have been steadily increasing in Western societies. In the last ten years, consumption of antidepressants has doubled in the most advanced Western countries. Today, more than 11 million Americans are taking antidepressants. The estimated number of people in Britain taking antidepressants is two million. In Australia, 66 percent of those seeing a GP for the first time about depression have a chance of being medicated – in most cases with antidepressants. These data are so stark that most of us and our institutions prefer not to think about them.”

Dr David Servan-Schreiber, Clinical Professor of Psychiatry, Pittsburgh University School of Medicine

Author of Healing Without Freud or Prozac, 2004, Rodale.

 

So we live in a world, where care and concern, is officially monitored in terms of our per unit participation in demographic data for various population studies. We read in the newspaper, or online, about rates of unemployment, rates of breast cancer, rates of life expectancy, and rates of mortgage defaulting etc. We learn that if something affects the many then it must be powerful and have substance – it must be real. An example of this is the many chronic health conditions, which began under clouds of suspicion, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome began as this shady condition affecting bludgers and other weak and lazy people; Bulimia and Anorexia were likewise considered examples of neurotic women’s problems; ADHD is still doubtful in many people’s minds – but once weight of numbers builds up, then democracy grants acceptance for these diseased manifestations into the canon of medical reality. Pharmaceutical companies then go into overdrive to come up with a drug to cure them – often recycling ones that did not work out for other diseases, like Ritalin, now the drug of choice for ADHD and ADD.

Common sense is most people’s strongest definer of reality, meaning if the largest number of fellow citizens consider something to be so, then it must be so. The term common sense also has many subtle strands of meaning: its common sense! Can be exclaimed to mean that something is so manifestly obvious, that its truth cannot really be questioned. For something to be of common sense, it must appeal to a primary indicator of what is true, which is shared by the greater majority. We school our children in institutions made up of hundreds and sometimes thousands of pupils, we encourage socialisation and the herd mentality that goes with it. Common sense must survive the sometimes brutal testing of the mob and therefore have the appeal of being  the lowest common denominator.  Common sense is very often paraded as a decidedly uncommon virtue by those wielding it in argument.

I question whether common sense is the most apt indicator for the understanding of truth and also whether capitalism – the so called ‘free market’ and selling things – is the best distributor of truth. How will we, the masses, discover the changing nature of humanities perception of physical reality? Through our consumption of product, which has been created in light of the technological changes made possible by subatomic particle physics, and through the consumption of media informed by it. It has been over a hundred years since the first experiments baffled and perplexed physicists like Nils Bohr and Werner Heisenberg, before ultimately turning them 360 degrees around in  a new direction. Yet most people have no idea about this reality shaking, new awareness and the consequences to our culturally accepted perception of what existence is made up of and our consciousness of it.

 

“I think it would be misleading to call particles, the entities involved in the most primitive events of the theory (quantum topology) because they don’t move in space, they don’t carry mass, they don’t have charge, they don’t have energy in the usual sense of the word.

Q – So what is it that makes events at that level?

A-  Who are the dancers and who the dance? They have no attributes other than the dance.

Q-  What is they?

A- The things that dance, the dancers. My God! We’re back to the title of the book.”

 

Physicist David Finkelstein & author Gary Zukav

The Dancing Wu Li Masters, 1979, Hutchinson & Co.

 

So the nature of matter, at the most fundamental level known to humanity, is a dance of energy and barely understood as matter. We have gone on, since the publication of this book, to comprehend that much of our known universe is in fact empty space and that we could fit all the actual particles or dancing energy, which make up the six billion people who inhabit the Earth, into a small suitcase. So perhaps  Mother Earth is travelling light after all and cataclysmic disasters, like that which wiped out the Dinosaurs are not such a big deal, sub-atomically speaking anyway.

The most important aspect of this to understand, is that how the universe is perceived by those who make it their business to care, has had a filtering down effect upon humanity since the beginning of time. It may seem so much irrelevant bumph to those firmly rooted in the here and now of survival and making money, but once those, who wish to lead and control the rest of us, get hold of this information; they then utilise it for their own ends. In the West we are still greatly influenced by the thinkers and early scientists of the classical world, from ancient Greece and then Rome.

“Every domain of post-classical life and thought has been profoundly influenced by ancient models. True, these models have not always been interpreted in ways that a sober modern scholarship would consider correct. On the contrary: it has often been creative misunderstandings that have preserved the ancient heritage and made it useful.”

 

Edited by Anthony Grafton, Glen W Most & Salvatore Settis

The Classical Tradition, 2011, Belknap Press

 

Our very language, the meaning of our words, comes from those who thought in Ancient Greek and Latin.  Homer the author of the Iliad and the Odyssey, who was alive anywhere from 1200BC to 850BC, is a great example of where we can see the changes in consciousness, in the development of the words used to describe these states. Terms like thumos, phrenes, noos and psyche, which are the first recorded words referring to places within an individual where inner life is happening. There were no words for ‘mind’ or such as we would understand, and in the Iliad everything happens outside of the hero, through the directions of the gods.  Achilles is directed by the goddess Athene in his actions against Hector, during the Trojan War, and the Iliad relates similar control over the other players into the hands of the gods. Thumos originally is used as a term in the poem to indicate spirit of life, as in it ceases to exist when a warrior is slain, it then evolves to incorporate the aroused pre-battle state experienced by a warrior; and then if it is not a god urging a man into battle it is his thumos. Julian Jaynes goes on to say:

“All these metaphors are extremely important. Saying that the internal sensations of large circulatory and muscular changes are a thing into which strength can be put is to generate an imagined ‘space’, here located always in the chest, which is the forerunner of the mind-space of contemporary consciousness. And to compare the function of that sensation to that of another person or even to the less-frequent gods is to begin those metaphor processes that will later become the analog ‘I’.”

Julian Jaynes

The Origin of Consciousness In the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind, 1976, First Mariner Books,

pp 263.

 

Noos of course becomes nous, and this term is still used as a slang colloquialism in English to mean intelligence or smarts. It began in the Iliad as a term referring to perception or seeing, or a sight or show, as in for a warrior there is no better noos than hand to hand combat. Noos was then located in the chest and began to mean heart or spirit. Words in all languages evolve and often come to mean different things over time, but in these early recorded examples it can show us the development of how these people were thinking. These are the first recorded examples of the internalisation of consciousness in human beings.

This process obviously continued over time and grew and grew until we had such a strong sense of an inner subjective consciousness, and this was reflected and emphasised in our languages, that we separated mind from body; mind from matter. Dualism was born and came to flourish into Aristotelian physics, which really lasted from Aristotle’s time 384BC-322BC right up until Isaac Newton in the seventeenth century. It continues today as commonly held belief  – that our minds are separate from our bodies. And most of us live inside our heads, within those 20cm from chin to the top of our skull. Well that is where we perceive ourselves to reside – to be floating somewhere inside our craniums; as we sit slumped on our couches at night staring at flickering screens and wondering why we are depressed. So our imagined space, where we consider our consciousness to reside,  has moved from chest to head over the last couple of millennia.

Where do we reside inside ourselves? Do you know where your consciousness, spatially, has its abode? When you speak of your self, and your awareness of your self, where is that self inside you located? Where does the watcher live? What do you imagine when you refer to these things? How do you calibrate your own levels of self? Do you have a soul and is your mind separate from it?

Religion has made great use of this split between body and soul, and flourished in the crack like a healthy weed. For once you remove the necessity of having a corporeal presence, then you are unfettered by any physical limitations like material reality, you can bend truth any which way you like. God, in my opinion,  is an invention based on our own inner reflections of mind space, and, seemingly, can float like a butterfly and sting like a bee (apologies to Muhammad Ali). Has there ever been a bigger fib than the one about there being a god? An all seeing, omnipresent , omnipotent and omnificent being, who, just like Santa, knows when you are good and definitely knows when you are bad. The thought police were invented by the Church and still exist in many people’s minds today, because if you are brought up with these fairy tales about good and evil, God and Satan, Jesus dying for your sins etc – then you have been brainwashed at an early and very vulnerable age to believe in fantasy. If your mummy and daddy believed in these things and their mummies and daddies also believed in all of this, then it becomes solidly fixed as a reality; a traditional lore established over generations. People stop questioning things like this and act out of deference to the past. It takes much greater strength to question and overcome tradition, to break away from the beliefs of your tribe. Because once you believe in things that have no verifiable relationship to reality, and are simply asked to have faith, then you are lost in Maya – an illusion of ancient parentage designed to control you within the flock.

“One facet of the many faces of religion is intense love focused on one supernatural person, i.e. God, plus reverence for icons of that person. Human life is driven largely by our selfish genes and by the processes of reinforcement. Much positive reinforcement derives from religion: warm and comforting feelings of being loved and protected in a dangerous world, loss of fear of death, help from the hills in response to prayer in difficult times, etc. Likewise, romantic love for another real person (usually of the other sex) exhibits the same intense concentration on the other and related positive reinforcements. These feelings can be triggered by icons of the other, such as letters, photographs, and even, as in Victorian times, locks of hair. The state of being in love has many physiological accompaniments, such as sighing like a furnace.”

 

John Smythies

Neuropsychiatrist, 2006 – http://wn.com/John_Raymond_Smythies

Ask yourself how many assumptions, about reality and existence, you hold among your most valued truths? How many untested beliefs live inside your consciousness? Is there a god? Is there good and evil? Do you believe in sin? What about love, what is love? What is the purpose of your existence?

Do you have any proof, any discernable evidence that would stand up in a court of law for your answers to the above questions? Why do you believe the things you do? Where did these beliefs come from? Who was involved in their transference to you?

The reality is, that just because something has been passed down to you by family, does not make it true. And just because something has been written in a book, and published, similarly does not make it true, even if it is a really old book, which has been accepted as the gospel truth over hundreds of years. Truth is something we all need to seek out ourselves, in our own lifetime, and see it put to the test by experience. At some point in time, we all need to put aside, the desire to be liked and to belong, and use our time on earth to find out what is really what. Don’t take my word for it – find out yourself!

Who are you? What are you? Beyond the roles you may play of wife, husband, partner, mother, father, daughter, son, and far beyond the work you may perform. Who are you really? Deep inside your consciousness, what are you? Go beyond the pat answers you may have read in some book and answer the question from your own true knowledge and experience. Nobody knows you as well as you know yourself! So who are you?

Are you an accident of nature? A dribble of sperm and some egg, that has grown into a human being and been given your name? If you don’t know who you are, then why are you here? What is your real purpose? Why are you alive this day? Why do you have consciousness?

©Sudha Hamilton

designSauce graphic design studio sunshine coast

Materialism Our One God

Today in the harsh daylight of our overcrowded cities, in developed nations around the globe, we are encouraged to worship only one god, the holy dollar. People are rushing about in their cars, and on public transport, to reach their destinations, their places of work and of investment, where labour and lead may be turned into gold. Sitting at terminals, tapping keys, in the hope that interest rates will rise or fall, that the market will strengthen their position; and that bears will turn into bulls. If you can imagine an animated city scene, with hundreds of besuited pedestrians crossing the pavements, all with a cartoon circle above their heads, showing their thoughts as a dollar sign. This is the charge of the light brigade, where horses have become mobile phones and helmets and swords, iPods and sunglasses.

Newspapers, and online sources, today are filled with economic imperatives, and this obsession, which began in the late nineteen seventies, has become the overriding concern for dad and mum; and their kids. Money is on everyone’s lips and in everyone’s mind, how to get it, how to make it, how to keep it; and how to hide it. Everyone’s become  a banker and governments are complicit in this – the tax department has driven these changes , as your tax return became more and more complex, you had to think like an accountant to make sense of it. Paul Keating, as rock star Treasurer, had a hand in it, as he, and PM Hawke, deregulated the banks and made public announcements about “banana state economies.” Suddenly everyone had to get up to speed on the balance of payments and interest rate figures daily made the front page. It was like a crash course in economics, skewed with the dramatics and sensationalism that sells papers.

There are and were positives, about this new found economic literacy amongst the hoi polloi, as people are always empowered by knowledge. In this new era of freedom, individuals and groups, were able to break down decades and centuries of banking obfuscation, to achieve their wants; even women, who had been particularly disadvantaged by the prejudices of this male dominated industry. Economic growth came spurting out, after years of lazy conservative rule, people got money and invested it in new businesses and real estate – the housing market exploded. Of course we got some excessive behaviour, Alan Bond, Christopher Skase etc but generally it was much more for the good, as a greater number and spread of people were enabled to become productive.

However, and I will use a controversial analogy here to illustrate my point, the economic awareness grew and has now become such an overweening thing that it has strangled all other gods. I liken it to the historical journey of Western women, from their hair covered and protected imprisonment in wifely roles, through the suffragettes and then the women’s liberation movement, up until now in their emancipated state from legislated prejudice; but still with the biological necessities to be women. This potentially challenging, dichotomous position is most dramatically seen in the form of the traditionally attired Islamic woman, as she represents the other extreme pole, as if she has just stepped out of the pages of history into the twenty first century. I respect the fiercely won freedoms of today’s Western woman, but also see the conflicting impact that the demands of the world have made upon the inner life of some women. In a similar vein, today’s awareness of the economic imperative has damaged the inner life of us all, removing perceived value from other pursuits not so closely held to the material bosom.

As Science, in the service of money, has slain the Christian religion, condemning it to the irrelevancy of a surfeit of poorly attended suburban churches clamouring for ageing attendees, the great god avarice has filled the breach. Materialism, what you can buy with money, has taken hold of head and heart inside the majority of us all. What is the holiest, most sacred, thing that you can purchase? It is of course the home, a house or flat, villa or apartment, but  a home by any other name just the same. This haloed quest, the often life time journey devoted to owning your own home, is, in Australia anyway, a culturally approved goal that lies beneath the day to day activity of millions. It gives meaning to life to many of these people, and I imagine the banks must really love it. It reminds me of the association between diamond rings and marriage; doctors, pharmaceutical drugs and illness; and other firmly entrenched cultural beliefs. How do you get people to work all the time and do it more or less willingly? By making what they want so expensive that they have to. If the average home is priced around nine times the average income, and you have to borrow hundreds of thousands of dollars from the banks at substantial and fluctuating interest rates, then you are going to be tied into working for a very long time. Mentally, by the time you have paid off your house and loan, you are often so brain washed into that behaviour that you go on working anyway. Homes bought as investment properties, charge rentals at a market value so determined,  that they can pay off housing loans and or profit accordingly – thus making shelter/housing expensive for everyone.  The goal for many in owning their own home is financial freedom, which often really means, once achieved, becoming a landlord and profiting from others, for money as they say does not stand still and you will be advised by those who work with money to invest your new found freedom in more real estate; and the cycle continues.

Going to work every week day, and often doing something that you dislike in some way, treating another human being in  a less than  human way by focusing on the money at the expense of everything else, damages the soul some say. You might go to your doctor and complain that you are not feeling, dare I say it, happy, and he most probably will tell you that you are depressed and prescribe an antidepressant.

“Over the last 30 years, rates of depression have been steadily increasing in Western societies. In the last ten years, consumption of antidepressants has doubled in the most advanced Western countries. Today, more than 11 million Americans are taking antidepressants. The estimated number of people in Britain taking antidepressants is two million. In Australia, 66 percent of those seeing a GP for the first time about depression have a chance of being medicated – in most cases with antidepressants. These data are so stark that most of us and our institutions prefer not to think about them.”

Dr David Servan-Schreiber, Clinical Professor of Psychiatry, Pittsburgh University School of Medicine

Author of Healing Without Freud or Prozac, 2004, Rodale.

 

Then, in a tra la la drugged state, not caring so much about a lot of things, unable to achieve an orgasm, you will keep on doing what you were doing, working in much the same way and edging hopefully closer to that nirvana, called financial freedom. When you set out on the journey as a youngish adult, I imagine that the many things you associate with financial freedom will change over the years and that when you get there, often decades later, you will be a completely different person. It is like any long journey, in that it is better to make the experience of your journey your succour than the goal itself. Otherwise you are training yourself, every day, to switch off subtly and desensitise yourself to life, killing yourself a little bit each day in the hope that when you get to the end you will be able to turn yourself back on; and enjoy that wonderful financial freedom you see in the scenes depicted in those TV ads for the banks.

If you read a little history and have a good look at the Christian religion, you will see that belief in god, for much of their sixteen hundred years in power, was not optional. From the time of Constantine, the Roman emperor in the fourth century AD when Christianity became the state religion – the Holy Roman Catholic Church,  if you did not believe in a Christian god, and their version of that Christian god, you were very likely to be put to death. This heavy handed approach began to soften after the Renaissance in the sixteenth century, but life remained very hard for those who did not acquiesce and worship in the prescribed manner. Jews of course were murdered, exiled, banned and generally hated since the time of Christ. The crusades slaughtered millions of Muslims over centuries and religious pogroms have continued the genocide of both Jews and Muslims by Christians. I always smile when I remember Sunday School, and the things I was told about the poor Christians being thrown to the lions by the Romans, of course this was true for the three centuries it happened,  but nobody was teaching the children about the next twelve centuries of Christian atrocities committed against the rest of the world; and also within their own communities in the prosecution of heresies. History always favours the victors.

Within, and despite all this bloodshed, many people had an experience of god being present within their lives. It seems in a lot of instances to have provided these individuals with a sense of belonging to something divine, which was beyond the reach of those with the swords. I would posit that the very threat to some people’s belief in god, through perceived heretical accusations, as in the time of the Cathars in France in the thirteenth century, and in the very bloody later schism between Catholics and the Reformation Church in the sixteenth century, to name but a few, intensified their experience of their religion and god. Nobody loves quite so much as when that love is threatened and or about to go away. Religion, and or belief in god, is always like that enormous elephant in the room, which will not go away.

“Superstition requires credulity, just as true religion requires faith. Deep-rooted credulity is so powerful that it may even, in false beliefs, be thought to perform miracles. For if anyone believes most firmly that his religion is true, even if it is in fact false, he raises his spirit by reason of that very credulity until it becomes like the spirits who are the leaders and princes of that religion and seems to perform things which are not perceived by those in a normal and rational state.”

Cornelius Agrippa (1486-1535)

De Occulta Philosophia

I ask myself, a lot, what belief in god really is. Rationally there is no evidence for  the existence of a god, and in my historical search so far, there never has been any evidence. In Christianity’s case, we now clearly know that the gospels in the Bible, which were written between seventy and up to two hundred years after the time of Jesus, are not reliable historical accounts and indeed are more like PR releases or overly favourable biographical sketches, designed to sell Christianity to the Roman power elite and others. The account of Pilate for instance, is completely fictitious and reworked by the writers of the gospels to exonerate the Romans from the execution of Jesus and to put that blame squarely upon the Jews; which has had onerous historical consequences to put it mildly. Christianity is not alone in creating fictions to make it divine and more than merely human, in PR and sales there is a great and long lasting tradition, which is about making your product uniquely special and divinity ticks all those boxes. The tablet which held the ten commandments, where is it and who else but Moses really saw it and if it was placed in the Ark of the Covenant, where is it also? The Mormons then, through their prophet, Joseph Smith Junior, and I imagine from his impression of the historical precedent set by Moses as reported in Exodus, had a solid gold tablet from the Angel Moroni containing their scriptures, which conveniently only Joseph actually saw. Now Christians, who believe in Jesus rising bodily from the dead, often chuckle softly at the unrealistic beliefs of other religions, whilst having no problem with the outlandish collection of miracle stories and the like contained in their Bible. When we inherit beliefs from our parents, these loving and respected beings, and they likewise inherited their beliefs from their parents and so on, it is easy to understand why these often ridiculous beliefs have lasted so long. It is hard to shoot down the firmly held beliefs of your elders and those whom you love; many people choose to turn away from confronting the elephant in the room.

Buddhism, both the Theravada and Mahayana schools of Buddhism, are also a collection of stories tinged with the magical properties of the divine. Siddhartha Gautama, the Nepalese prince  did exist historically and most probably did venture out on a spiritual quest, but then the story tellers take over and we are regaled with unearthly feats designed to impress the uneducated masses. Hinduism is a fantastic collection of wildly colourful stories, creation myths involving gods and demons, many of them extraordinarily beautiful.

“An ancient Hindu warrior-king named Muchukunda was born from his father’s left side, the father having swallowed by mistake a fertility potion that the Brahmins had prepared for his wife; and in keeping with the promising symbolism of this miracle, the motherless marvel, fruit of the male womb, grew to be such a king among kings that when the gods, at one period, were suffering defeat in their perpetual contest with the demons, they called upon him for help. He assisted them to a mighty victory, and they, in their divine pleasure, granted him the realisation of his highest wish. But what should such a king, himself almost omnipotent, desire? What greatest boon of boons could be conceived of by such a master among men? King Muchukunda, so runs the story, was very tired after his battle: all he asked was that he might be granted a sleep without end, and that any person chancing to arouse him should be burned to a crisp by the first glance of his eye.

The boon was bestowed. In a cavern chamber, deep within the womb of a mountain, King Muchukunda retired to sleep, and there slumbered through the revolving eons. Individuals, peoples, civilisations, world ages, came into being out of the void and dropped back into it again, while the old king, in his state of subconscious bliss, endured. Timeless as the Freudian unconscious beneath the dramatic time world of our fluctuating ego-experience, that old mountain man, the drinker of deep sleep, lived on and on.

His awakening came- but with a surprising turn that throws into new perspective the whole problem of the hero-circuit, as well as the mystery of a  mighty king’s request for sleep as the highest conceivable boon.

Vishnu, the Lord of the World, had become incarnate in the person of a beautiful youth named Krishna, who, having saved the land of India from a  tyrannical race of demons, had assumed the throne. And he had been ruling in Utopian peace, when a horde of barbarians suddenly invaded from the northwest. Krishna the king went against them, but, in keeping with his divine nature, won the victory playfully, by a simple ruse. Unarmed and garlanded with lotuses, he came out of his stronghold and tempted the enemy king to pursue and catch him, then dodged into a cave. When the barbarian followed, he discovered someone lying there in the chamber, asleep.

“Oh!” thought he. “So he has lured me here and now feigns to be a harmless sleeper.”

He kicked the figure lying on the ground before him, and it stirred. It was King Muchukunda. The figure rose, and the eyes that had been closed for unnumbered cycles of creation, world history, and dissolution, opened slowly to the light. The first glance that went forth struck the enemy king, who burst into a torch of flame and was reduced immediately to a smoking heap of ash. Muchukunda turned, and the second glance struck the garlanded, beautiful youth, whom the awakened old king straightaway recognised by his radiance as an incarnation of God. And Muchukunda bowed before his Saviour with the following prayer:

“ My Lord God! When I lived and wrought as a man, I lived and wrought – straying restlessly; through many lives, birth after birth, I sought and suffered, nowhere knowing cease or rest. Distress I mistook for joy. Mirages appearing over the desert I mistook for refreshing waters. Delights I grasped, and what I obtained was misery. Kingly power and earthly possession, riches and might, friends and sons, wife and followers, everything that lures the senses: I wanted them all, because I believed that these would bring me beatitude. But the moment anything was mine it changed its nature, and became as  a burning fire.

Then I found my way into the company of the gods, and they welcomed me as a companion. But where, still, surcease? Where rest? The creatures of this world, gods included, all are tricked, my Lord God, by your playful ruses; that is why they continue in their futile round of birth, life agony, old age, and death. Between lives, they confront the lord of the dead and are forced to endure hells of every degree of pitiless pain. And it all comes from you!

“My Lord God, deluded by your playful ruses, I too was a prey of the world, wandering in a labyrinth of error, netted in the meshes of ego-consciousness. Now, therefore, I take refuge in your Presence – the boundless, the adorable – desiring only freedom from it all.”

When Muchukunda stepped from his cave, he saw that men, since his departure, had become reduced in stature. He was as a giant among them. And so he departed from them again, retreated to the highest mountains, and there dedicated himself to the ascetic practices that should finally release him from his last attachment to the forms of being.

Muchukunda, in other words, instead of returning, decided to retreat one degree still further from the world. And who shall say that his decision was altogether without reason?”

Joseph Campbell

The Hero With A Thousand Faces, 1993, Fontana Press, pp 194-196.

 

I would say that the original author of this story was probably a new parent, indicated by the hero wishing for eternal sleep over all other riches LOL. What it also tells us, is that the successful religions, which have been taken up by kings and therefore the state, all have messages at their heart which assure the listener that the rewards and sufferings of life are nothing in comparison with the promises of divinity. These are not their only messages, but clearly that message would resonate with the suffering masses – to hear that all life, good and bad, is an illusion, would be a panacea to the many who were decidedly short changed by the distribution of commonwealth. It is kings who have driven religions and enforced participation in their rituals, and kings who have controlled and censored the scriptural content of these religion’s holy books. Kings have had much more need of religion and its ability to control the behaviour of adherents, than have subjects had need of religious beliefs.

The belief in  a god, who will upon the death of the believer, even things up in terms of getting a fair share of the goodies, in heaven or some paradisiacal garden in the afterlife, has had broad appeal among the disadvantaged. I think we see that now in the fervent take up of extremist Islamic beliefs, many of these adherents are poor and have been racially slighted in the countries they reside in, and they believe that their actions and belief in a vengeful Allah will deliver them to paradise. The African American slaves took the Christian message of the meek inheriting the Earth to heart; women, who have been down trodden and abused by men, have found succour in religion, and it is often a belief which burns brightest in the hearts of mothers within a family; perhaps as salve to the tragedies that historically affected women through the deaths of their children. To believe in something better than avarice, competition and bloodshed is an understandable wish, if Darwinian evolution can only provide that the strong/intelligent will prevail, then it is perfectly understandable that humanity would invent a god that possibly offers the mercy of something else with a kinder face. Although the original incarnations of the old testament Judo-Christian religions were decidedly brutal.

“The great unmentionable evil at the centre of our culture is monotheism. From a barbaric Bronze Age text known as the Old Testament, three anti-human religions have evolved – Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. These are sky-god religions. They are, literally, patriarchal – god is the Omnipotent Father – hence the loathing of women for 2000 years in those countries afflicted by the sky-god and his earthly male delegates.”

Gore Vidal

The belief in god has been used by the strong to justify their rule and control over others, the divine right of kings to rule, and the same belief has been employed by the weak to salve their hurts and pains in the hope for  a better deal in the afterlife; it is a flexible beast this elephant. All religions seem to make a heap of promises, which require your extinction before they pay out on them, and as nobody has as yet returned from the dead (Jesus excepting but then he works for them) we are none the wiser when it comes to knowing their truth and efficacy. The poor and down trodden masses, who were forced to subscribe to the state religion – the Holy Roman Catholic Church – would have taken what message of hope they could from their time in church. The church collected taxes from these same people and controlled their lives as much as the king, for hundreds of years people were expected to go on a religious pilgrimage during their lives and if they did not they were expected to pay the church the equivalent amount of money they would have spent on their holy journey. Representatives of the church would sell common folk religious relics, purporting to be splinters of the cross that crucified Jesus and the like, and absolutions; so you could buy a piece of heaven, a bit like you can buy financial freedom through home ownership today.

I would say that in our relationship with the new religion, materialism, we have done away with a good deal of hypocrisy about money and its importance in our lives. When I was growing up it was considered rude to ask direct questions about money, which set me back somewhat for many years when it came to negotiating transactions. It was bad form to ask how much something was worth – shopping could be a struggle – bad manners to ask how much someone earnt for a living – life was a bit less exacting I suppose – I imagine as it was before the advent of the electric light, when the edges of existence were not so pronounced in gaslight and candle light. Not a bad thing sometimes to have a bit more mystery. There was however a great deal of downplaying falsely of the importance of money and this was simple dishonesty in many instances. A bit like not being able to talk about ‘fucking’ and always having to say ‘making love’ when referring to sex, which was also the case when I was growing up, at least in polite society or with a lady. But sometimes ‘fucking’ is a more correct description for the activity and incorporates more of our animal natures, whereas ‘making love’ is a far more ethereal term, non-corporeal in fact; and “fucking” is after all only a small part of making love. There always needs to be black and white in the equation, otherwise if we are forced to pretend to only live in the light, we will get corruption, as we do with celibate priests and all those who deny the darkness and their shadow side.

Similarly we need the balance of spirit, inchoate things inside of us, anti-matter if you like, especially now in the time of money. When the zeitgeist is the passion for money and the things that money can buy and people are marching to the consumerist beat, for technological toys like IPhone’s and other gadgets, then the opposite pole becomes so very important. Familiarity breeds contempt and that is what is happening, and will happen even more, with materialism, its strident voice drowns out the sensitive and the mysterious. Science like a Krispy Kreme doughnut has deliciously explained the how but has nothing at its centre to explain the why – consciousness continues to elude neuroscience and all other branches of material knowledge. We need to realise that just because we have named a street on a map and given a moment in time a precise number, that it does not truly define the reality of that particular space and moment. We have killed the mystery, the unexpected nature of existence, by naming and measuring everything and then agreeing amongst ourselves that this is its only reality – we have turned symbols into things and references into realities. No wonder so many people are depressed, having lost contact with the earth beneath their feet, because they are walking on a line on a map inside their head.

I wonder if you or I were to go and lie in a dark cave for a year, a space with no light whatsoever, but with enough warmth, food and comfort to sustain us, and we had no contact with the outside world for that entire year – how we would be on our emergence from the cave after the year? Would our consciousnesses be changed, affected, transformed in any meaningful way? What would we encounter within our own psyches and would the zeitgeist of the times slip away? I imagine that our thoughts would continue to go around and around, as they do, chasing their own tails and tales. But after awhile, with no points of external reference, with which to reinforce their existence, these thoughts would, I suspect, evolve or devolve. Perhaps as in a spiral motion returning to their points of origin, regressing to where they came from – things someone said that we appropriated; wisdom from mum and dad; teachers and mentors; books that we have read; Sunday School scriptures; and finally back even further as we lie there in the pure blackness. We would, I suspect, begin to break down all thoughts and all the things we live by, our moral compass so to speak, our very own philosophy of life, and things would be reduced to essentialities and much of the guff would simply fall away. Close your eyes now and drift away.

©Sudha Hamilton

Materialism is our god

Today in the harsh daylight of our overcrowded cities, in developed nations around the globe, we are encouraged to worship only one god, the holy dollar. People are rushing about in their cars, and on public transport, to reach their destinations, their places of work and of investment, where labour and lead may be turned into gold. Sitting at terminals, tapping keys, in the hope that interest rates will rise or fall, that the market will strengthen their position; and that bears will turn into bulls. If you can imagine an animated city scene, with hundreds of besuited pedestrians crossing the pavements, all with a cartoon circle above their heads, showing their thoughts as a dollar sign. This is the charge of the light brigade, where horses have become mobile phones and helmets and swords, iPods and sunglasses.

Newspapers, and online sources, today are filled with economic imperatives, and this obsession, which began in the late nineteen seventies, has become the overriding concern for dad and mum; and their kids. Money is on everyone’s lips and in everyone’s mind, how to get it, how to make it, how to keep it; and how to hide it. Everyone’s become  a banker and governments are complicit in this – the tax department has driven these changes , as your tax return became more and more complex, you had to think like an accountant to make sense of it. Paul Keating, as rock star Treasurer, had a hand in it, as he, and PM Hawke, deregulated the banks and made public announcements about “banana state economies.” Suddenly everyone had to get up to speed on the balance of payments and interest rate figures daily made the front page. It was like a crash course in economics, skewed with the dramatics and sensationalism that sells papers.

There are and were positives, about this new found economic literacy amongst the hoi polloi, as people are always empowered by knowledge. In this new era of freedom, individuals and groups, were able to break down decades and centuries of banking obfuscation, to achieve their wants; even women, who had been particularly disadvantaged by the prejudices of this male dominated industry. Economic growth came spurting out, after years of lazy conservative rule, people got money and invested it in new businesses and real estate – the housing market exploded. Of course we got some excessive behaviour, Alan Bond, Christopher Skase etc but generally it was much more for the good, as a greater number and spread of people were enabled to become productive.

However, and I will use a controversial analogy here to illustrate my point, the economic awareness grew and has now become such an overweening thing that it has strangled all other gods. I liken it to the historical journey of Western women, from their hair covered and protected imprisonment in wifely roles, through the suffragettes and then the women’s liberation movement, up until now in their emancipated state from legislated prejudice; but still with the biological necessities to be women. This potentially challenging, dichotomous position is most dramatically seen in the form of the traditionally attired Islamic woman, as she represents the other extreme pole, as if she has just stepped out of the pages of history into the twenty first century. I respect the fiercely won freedoms of today’s Western woman, but also see the conflicting impact that the demands of the world have made upon the inner life of some women. In a similar vein, today’s awareness of the economic imperative has damaged the inner life of us all, removing perceived value from other pursuits not so closely held to the material bosom.

As Science, in the service of money, has slain the Christian religion, condemning it to the irrelevancy of a surfeit of poorly attended suburban churches clamouring for ageing attendees, the great god avarice has filled the breach. Materialism, what you can buy with money, has taken hold of head and heart inside the majority of us all. What is the holiest, most sacred, thing that you can purchase? It is of course the home, a house or flat, villa or apartment, but  a home by any other name just the same. This haloed quest, the often life time journey devoted to owning your own home, is, in Australia anyway, a culturally approved goal that lies beneath the day to day activity of millions. It gives meaning to life to many of these people, and I imagine the banks must really love it. It reminds me of the association between diamond rings and marriage; doctors, pharmaceutical drugs and illness; and other firmly entrenched cultural beliefs. How do you get people to work all the time and do it more or less willingly? By making what they want so expensive that they have to. If the average home is priced around nine times the average annual income, and you have to borrow hundreds of thousands of dollars from the banks at substantial and fluctuating interest rates, then you are going to be tied into working for a very long time. Mentally, by the time you have paid off your house and loan, you are often so brain washed into that behaviour that you go on working anyway. Homes bought as investment properties, charge rentals at a market value so determined,  that they can pay off housing loans and or profit accordingly – thus making shelter/housing expensive for everyone.  The goal for many in owning their own home is financial freedom, which often really means, once achieved, becoming a landlord and profiting from others, for money as they say does not stand still and you will be advised by those who work with money to invest your new found freedom in more real estate; and the cycle continues.

Going to work every week day, and often doing something that you dislike in some way, treating another human being in  a less than  human way by focusing on the money at the expense of everything else, damages the soul some say. You might go to your doctor and complain that you are not feeling, dare I say it, happy, and he most probably will tell you that you are depressed and prescribe an antidepressant.

“Over the last 30 years, rates of depression have been steadily increasing in Western societies. In the last ten years, consumption of antidepressants has doubled in the most advanced Western countries. Today, more than 11 million Americans are taking antidepressants. The estimated number of people in Britain taking antidepressants is two million. In Australia, 66 percent of those seeing a GP for the first time about depression have a chance of being medicated – in most cases with antidepressants. These data are so stark that most of us and our institutions prefer not to think about them.”

Dr David Servan-Schreiber, Clinical Professor of Psychiatry, Pittsburgh University School of Medicine

Author of Healing Without Freud or Prozac, 2004, Rodale.

Then, in a tra la la drugged state, not caring so much about a lot of things, unable to achieve an orgasm, you will keep on doing what you were doing, working in much the same way and edging hopefully closer to that nirvana, called financial freedom. When you set out on the journey as a youngish adult, I imagine that the many things you associate with financial freedom will change over the years and that when you get there, often decades later, you will be a completely different person. It is like any long journey, in that it is better to make the experience of your journey your succour than the goal itself. Otherwise you are training yourself, every day, to switch off subtly and desensitise yourself to life, killing yourself a little bit each day in the hope that when you get to the end you will be able to turn yourself back on; and enjoy that wonderful financial freedom you see in the scenes depicted in those TV ads for the banks.

If you read a little history and have a good look at the Christian religion, you will see that belief in god, for much of their sixteen hundred years in power, was not optional. From the time of Constantine, the Roman emperor in the fourth century AD when Christianity became the state religion – the Holy Roman Catholic Church,  if you did not believe in a Christian god, and their version of that Christian god, you were very likely to be put to death. This heavy handed approach began to soften after the Renaissance in the sixteenth century, but life remained very hard for those who did not acquiesce and worship in the prescribed manner. Jews of course were murdered, exiled, banned and generally hated since the time of Christ. The crusades slaughtered millions of Muslims over centuries and religious pogroms have continued the genocide of both Jews and Muslims by Christians. I always smile when I remember Sunday School, and the things I was told about the poor Christians being thrown to the lions by the Romans, of course this was true for the three centuries it happened,  but nobody was teaching the children about the next twelve centuries of Christian atrocities committed against the rest of the world; and also within their own communities in the prosecution of heresies. History always favours the victors.

Within, and despite all this bloodshed, many people had an experience of god being present within their lives. It seems in a lot of instances to have provided these individuals with a sense of belonging to something divine, which was beyond the reach of those with the swords. I would posit that the very threat to some people’s belief in god, through perceived heretical accusations, as in the time of the Cathars in France in the thirteenth century, and in the very bloody later schism between Catholics and the Reformation Church in the sixteenth century, to name but a few, intensified their experience of their religion and god. Nobody loves quite so much as when that love is threatened and or about to go away. Religion, and or belief in god, is always like that enormous elephant in the room, which will not go away.

“Superstition requires credulity, just as true religion requires faith. Deep-rooted credulity is so powerful that it may even, in false beliefs, be thought to perform miracles. For if anyone believes most firmly that his religion is true, even if it is in fact false, he raises his spirit by reason of that very credulity until it becomes like the spirits who are the leaders and princes of that religion and seems to perform things which are not perceived by those in a normal and rational state.”

Cornelius Agrippa (1486-1535)

De Occulta Philosophia

I ask myself, a lot, what belief in god really is. Rationally there is no evidence for  the existence of a god, and in my historical search so far, there never has been any evidence. In Christianity’s case, we now clearly know that the gospels in the Bible, which were written between seventy and up to two hundred years after the time of Jesus, are not reliable historical accounts and indeed are more like PR releases or overly favourable biographical sketches, designed to sell Christianity to the Roman power elite and others. The account of Pilate for instance, is completely fictitious and reworked by the writers of the gospels to exonerate the Romans from the execution of Jesus and to put that blame squarely upon the Jews; which has had onerous historical consequences to put it mildly. Christianity is not alone in creating fictions to make it divine and more than merely human, in PR and sales there is a great and long lasting tradition, which is about making your product uniquely special and divinity ticks all those boxes. The tablet which held the ten commandments, where is it and who else but Moses really saw it and if it was placed in the Ark of the Covenant, where is it also? The Mormons then, through their prophet, Joseph Smith Junior, and I imagine from his impression of the historical precedent set by Moses as reported in Exodus, had a solid gold tablet from the Angel Moroni containing their scriptures, which conveniently only Joseph actually saw. Now Christians, who believe in Jesus rising bodily from the dead, often chuckle softly at the unrealistic beliefs of other religions, whilst having no problem with the outlandish collection of miracle stories and the like contained in their Bible. When we inherit beliefs from our parents, these loving and respected beings, and they likewise inherited their beliefs from their parents and so on, it is easy to understand why these often ridiculous beliefs have lasted so long. It is hard to shoot down the firmly held beliefs of your elders and those whom you love; many people choose to turn away from confronting the elephant in the room.

Buddhism, both the Theravada and Mahayana schools of Buddhism, are also a collection of stories tinged with the magical properties of the divine. Siddhartha Gautama, the Nepalese prince  did exist historically and most probably did venture out on a spiritual quest, but then the story tellers take over and we are regaled with unearthly feats designed to impress the uneducated masses. Hinduism is a fantastic collection of wildly colourful stories, creation myths involving gods and demons, many of them extraordinarily beautiful.

“An ancient Hindu warrior-king named Muchukunda was born from his father’s left side, the father having swallowed by mistake a fertility potion that the Brahmins had prepared for his wife; and in keeping with the promising symbolism of this miracle, the motherless marvel, fruit of the male womb, grew to be such a king among kings that when the gods, at one period, were suffering defeat in their perpetual contest with the demons, they called upon him for help. He assisted them to a mighty victory, and they, in their divine pleasure, granted him the realisation of his highest wish. But what should such a king, himself almost omnipotent, desire? What greatest boon of boons could be conceived of by such a master among men? King Muchukunda, so runs the story, was very tired after his battle: all he asked was that he might be granted a sleep without end, and that any person chancing to arouse him should be burned to a crisp by the first glance of his eye.

The boon was bestowed. In a cavern chamber, deep within the womb of a mountain, King Muchukunda retired to sleep, and there slumbered through the revolving eons. Individuals, peoples, civilisations, world ages, came into being out of the void and dropped back into it again, while the old king, in his state of subconscious bliss, endured. Timeless as the Freudian unconscious beneath the dramatic time world of our fluctuating ego-experience, that old mountain man, the drinker of deep sleep, lived on and on.

His awakening came- but with a surprising turn that throws into new perspective the whole problem of the hero-circuit, as well as the mystery of a  mighty king’s request for sleep as the highest conceivable boon.

Vishnu, the Lord of the World, had become incarnate in the person of a beautiful youth named Krishna, who, having saved the land of India from a  tyrannical race of demons, had assumed the throne. And he had been ruling in Utopian peace, when a horde of barbarians suddenly invaded from the northwest. Krishna the king went against them, but, in keeping with his divine nature, won the victory playfully, by a simple ruse. Unarmed and garlanded with lotuses, he came out of his stronghold and tempted the enemy king to pursue and catch him, then dodged into a cave. When the barbarian followed, he discovered someone lying there in the chamber, asleep.

“Oh!” thought he. “So he has lured me here and now feigns to be a harmless sleeper.”

He kicked the figure lying on the ground before him, and it stirred. It was King Muchukunda. The figure rose, and the eyes that had been closed for unnumbered cycles of creation, world history, and dissolution, opened slowly to the light. The first glance that went forth struck the enemy king, who burst into a torch of flame and was reduced immediately to a smoking heap of ash. Muchukunda turned, and the second glance struck the garlanded, beautiful youth, whom the awakened old king straightaway recognised by his radiance as an incarnation of God. And Muchukunda bowed before his Saviour with the following prayer:

“ My Lord God! When I lived and wrought as a man, I lived and wrought – straying restlessly; through many lives, birth after birth, I sought and suffered, nowhere knowing cease or rest. Distress I mistook for joy. Mirages appearing over the desert I mistook for refreshing waters. Delights I grasped, and what I obtained was misery. Kingly power and earthly possession, riches and might, friends and sons, wife and followers, everything that lures the senses: I wanted them all, because I believed that these would bring me beatitude. But the moment anything was mine it changed its nature, and became as  a burning fire.

Then I found my way into the company of the gods, and they welcomed me as a companion. But where, still, surcease? Where rest? The creatures of this world, gods included, all are tricked, my Lord God, by your playful ruses; that is why they continue in their futile round of birth, life agony, old age, and death. Between lives, they confront the lord of the dead and are forced to endure hells of every degree of pitiless pain. And it all comes from you!

“My Lord God, deluded by your playful ruses, I too was a prey of the world, wandering in a labyrinth of error, netted in the meshes of ego-consciousness. Now, therefore, I take refuge in your Presence – the boundless, the adorable – desiring only freedom from it all.”

When Muchukunda stepped from his cave, he saw that men, since his departure, had become reduced in stature. He was as a giant among them. And so he departed from them again, retreated to the highest mountains, and there dedicated himself to the ascetic practices that should finally release him from his last attachment to the forms of being.

Muchukunda, in other words, instead of returning, decided to retreat one degree still further from the world. And who shall say that his decision was altogether without reason?”

Joseph Campbell

The Hero With A Thousand Faces, 1993, Fontana Press, pp 194-196.

I would say that the original author of this story was probably a new parent, indicated by the hero wishing for eternal sleep over all other riches LOL. What it also tells us, is that the successful religions, which have been taken up by kings and therefore the state, all have messages at their heart which assure the listener that the rewards and sufferings of life are nothing in comparison with the promises of divinity. These are not their only messages, but clearly that message would resonate with the suffering masses – to hear that all life, good and bad, is an illusion, would be a panacea to the many who were decidedly short changed by the distribution of commonwealth. It is kings who have driven religions and enforced participation in their rituals, and kings who have controlled and censored the scriptural content of these religion’s holy books. Kings have had much more need of religion and its ability to control the behaviour of adherents, than have subjects had need of religious beliefs.

The belief in  a god, who will upon the death of the believer, even things up in terms of getting a fair share of the goodies, in heaven or some paradisiacal garden in the afterlife, has had broad appeal among the disadvantaged. I think we see that now in the fervent take up of extremist Islamic beliefs, many of these adherents are poor and have been racially slighted in the countries they reside in, and they believe that their actions and belief in a vengeful Allah will deliver them to paradise. The African American slaves took the Christian message of the meek inheriting the Earth to heart; women, who have been down trodden and abused by men, have found succour in religion, and it is often a belief which burns brightest in the hearts of mothers within a family; perhaps as salve to the tragedies that historically affected women through the deaths of their children. To believe in something better than avarice, competition and bloodshed is an understandable wish, if Darwinian evolution can only provide that the strong/intelligent will prevail, then it is perfectly understandable that humanity would invent a god that possibly offers the mercy of something else with a kinder face. Although the original incarnations of the old testament Judo-Christian religions were decidedly brutal.

“The great unmentionable evil at the centre of our culture is monotheism. From a barbaric Bronze Age text known as the Old Testament, three anti-human religions have evolved – Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. These are sky-god religions. They are, literally, patriarchal – god is the Omnipotent Father – hence the loathing of women for 2000 years in those countries afflicted by the sky-god and his earthly male delegates.”

Gore Vidal

The belief in god has been used by the strong to justify their rule and control over others, the divine right of kings to rule, and the same belief has been employed by the weak to salve their hurts and pains in the hope for  a better deal in the afterlife; it is a flexible beast this elephant. All religions seem to make a heap of promises, which require your extinction before they pay out on them, and as nobody has as yet returned from the dead (Jesus excepting but then he works for them) we are none the wiser when it comes to knowing their truth and efficacy. The poor and down trodden masses, who were forced to subscribe to the state religion – the Holy Roman Catholic Church – would have taken what message of hope they could from their time in church. The church collected taxes from these same people and controlled their lives as much as the king, for hundreds of years people were expected to go on a religious pilgrimage during their lives and if they did not they were expected to pay the church the equivalent amount of money they would have spent on their holy journey. Representatives of the church would sell common folk religious relics, purporting to be splinters of the cross that crucified Jesus and the like, and absolutions; so you could buy a piece of heaven, a bit like you can buy financial freedom through home ownership today.

I would say that in our relationship with the new religion, materialism, we have done away with a good deal of hypocrisy about money and its importance in our lives. When I was growing up it was considered rude to ask direct questions about money, which set me back somewhat for many years when it came to negotiating transactions. It was bad form to ask how much something was worth – shopping could be a struggle – bad manners to ask how much someone earnt for a living – life was a bit less exacting I suppose – I imagine as it was before the advent of the electric light, when the edges of existence were not so pronounced in gaslight and candle light. Not a bad thing sometimes to have a bit more mystery. There was however a great deal of downplaying falsely of the importance of money and this was simple dishonesty in many instances. A bit like not being able to talk about ‘fucking’ and always having to say ‘making love’ when referring to sex, which was also the case when I was growing up, at least in polite society or with a lady. But sometimes ‘fucking’ is a more correct description for the activity and incorporates more of our animal natures, whereas ‘making love’ is a far more ethereal term, non-corporeal in fact; and “fucking” is after all only a small part of making love. There always needs to be black and white in the equation, otherwise if we are forced to pretend to only live in the light, we will get corruption, as we do with celibate priests and all those who deny the darkness and their shadow side.

Similarly we need the balance of spirit, inchoate things inside of us, anti-matter if you like, especially now in the time of money. When the zeitgeist is the passion for money and the things that money can buy and people are marching to the consumerist beat, for technological toys like IPhone’s and other gadgets, then the opposite pole becomes so very important. Familiarity breeds contempt and that is what is happening, and will happen even more, with materialism, its strident voice drowns out the sensitive and the mysterious. Science like a Krispy Kreme doughnut has deliciously explained the how but has nothing at its centre to explain the why – consciousness continues to elude neuroscience and all other branches of material knowledge. We need to realise that just because we have named a street on a map and given a moment in time a precise number, that it does not truly define the reality of that particular space and moment. We have killed the mystery, the unexpected nature of existence, by naming and measuring everything and then agreeing amongst ourselves that this is its only reality – we have turned symbols into things and references into realities. No wonder so many people are depressed, having lost contact with the earth beneath their feet, because they are walking on a line on a map inside their head.

I wonder if you or I were to go and lie in a dark cave for a year, a space with no light whatsoever, but with enough warmth, food and comfort to sustain us, and we had no contact with the outside world for that entire year – how we would be on our emergence from the cave after the year? Would our consciousnesses be changed, affected, transformed in any meaningful way? What would we encounter within our own psyches and would the zeitgeist of the times slip away? I imagine that our thoughts would continue to go around and around, as they do, chasing their own tails and tales. But after awhile, with no points of external reference, with which to reinforce their existence, these thoughts would, I suspect, evolve or devolve. Perhaps as in a spiral motion returning to their points of origin, regressing to where they came from – things someone said that we appropriated; wisdom from mum and dad; teachers and mentors; books that we have read; Sunday School scriptures; and finally back even further as we lie there in the pure blackness. We would, I suspect, begin to break down all thoughts and all the things we live by, our moral compass so to speak, our very own philosophy of life, and things would be reduced to essentialities and much of the guff would simply fall away. Close your eyes now and drift away.

©Sudha Hamilton

What is it to be human?

Our Posthuman Future – Consequences of the Biotechnology Revolution

By Francis Fukuyama

Profile Books, 2003.

Book Review

A disturbing orange cover, with a picture of what looks like a conveyer belt full of robotic looking babies stretching into infinity, possibly delayed my reading of this brilliant book. Its publication date accidentally synchronised with the birth of my own children and perhaps I was too involved in the real thing to have the time to read about biotechnology and its impact on humanity; well I am glad I finally have. Francis Fukuyama likes to invoke the heavy hitters of philosophy right off and Nietzsche’s ominous quotes are littered throughout at chapter beginnings, I suppose it is called getting your attention. Fukuyama weaves around all over the place  a bit at first, delineating things by way of reference to George Orwell’s 1984 and Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, before settling down and finding his stride. These two books were the two poles of possible fears for Fukuyama’s American baby boomer generation, representing the futuristic totalitarian IT nightmare in the former and the more creepy biotechnological nirvana in the latter. We have of course now arrived into a world where, both the technologies featured in these two books  are part of our reality, and the author goes on throughout his book to show, that it is the biotechnological possibilities of which we have most to fear.

He classifies biotechnology into three major parts: Neuropharmacology; Genetic Engineering; and Lifespan Extension. Beginning with Neuropharmacology Fukuyama paints  a vivid picture of now, in our Western urban worlds, with facts about the prevalence of antidepressant drug use through Prozac and its many SSRI cousins, and even more disturbingly the massive use of Ritalin being prescribed for our children. We are deeply involved in mind and behaviour control on  a societal level through our complacent acceptance of these drugs. Doctors are prescribing antidepressants and amphetamines to men, women and children at an alarming rate. Why is this happening? Why has something like ADHD suddenly gone from not existing at all to enormous levels within our communities? Fukuyama does not take a moralistic tone in his discussion about this but brings the facts and their ramifications into sharp focus. There are various forces at work within these situations: our expectations regarding happiness are very different now to twenty or thirty years ago and our reliance on medical science has been consistently encouraged by governments and the pharmaceutical industry during the last few decades. Economically we are all expected to provide maximum levels of productivity, whether you are a mother or a teacher, we do not have the same amount of time to devote to the care of our children in many cases and we therefore expect our children to be more cooperative at school and at home. When they are not we now classify them as deficient in attention and drug them.

At the same time, as we are officially giving happy pills to a substantial percentage of our population, we are condemning and prosecuting another large section as illegal drug users. You can see the strange hypocrisy in this fact, as Fukuyama points out the similarities, chemically speaking, between  many of these drugs, like Ecstasy  and the SSRI’s, and that Speed is an amphetamine like Ritalin. It is these fine lines of demarcation within our societies, defining what neuropharmacology is really for, that this book explores. Drugs are OK if we are sick but are bad if merely for pleasure and that certain levels of unhappiness then become sickness (depression), as do certain levels of not paying enough attention (ADHD). Who is deciding the points on the scale? Doctors and the medical industry? Don’t they have  a vested interest in all these matters and indeed a trillion dollar interest in pharmacology? A lot of what this book is about, is asking who in our Western civilised worlds should be making these decisions for society and is it really OK to let the market decide? Being an American, Francis Fukuyama is living in the nation, which has the most avaristic culture in the world, especially around technological developments; as we have seen in the IT industry. He postulates that we as a world need to think about the consequences of these biotechnological developments and legislate for them; for our own protection.

Moving on to Genetic Engineering, and the myriad of biotechnological challenges we now and in the very near future face, Fukuyama shepherds in Dolly the Sheep and its obvious pointer to human cloning. Human cloning is currently banned in most countries and faces a huge amount of legal discussion, as to the rights of  a clone within our societies. The whole genetic question raises the unholy spectre of Eugenics and the Nazis experiments on the weak and their racially judged inferiors. It was not only in Germany and Japan, where these ghastly experiments went on, scientists in the US in a Jewish hospital infected the chronically ill with cancer cells, in another case it was mentally retarded children with hepatitis and the more famous case (they made a movie about it) of 400 black men, many of whom were purposely not treated for syphilis with available medication to record the diseases progression. Fukuyama’s book indicates that this whole racial genetic argument is still very much alive in the US and that the nurture versus nature questions splits the sciences down the middle on political grounds. He states that the Left have always come down on the side of environmental factors affecting intelligence levels within races – not enough to eat so the brain doesn’t develop – where the Right have been firmly on the side of white people being genetically superior in terms of intelligence. Reading all this myself I wondered about the tests being utilised in all this so called intelligence testing, the criteria for intelligence and how it is judged? Scientists, politicians and bureaucrats all testing on the basis of their own preconceived ideas about what it is to be intelligent in a predominantly white Anglo Saxon culture. And even beyond questions of race what is intelligence anyway, is it IQ or Emotional Intelligence or Spiritual Intelligence?

The horrors of rational fascistic science have lodged in the cultural consciousness and so there is a justifiable amount of fear around Genetic Engineering. In contrast to this are the things we now can do about diseases and conditions like cystic fibrosis and Down’s syndrome, which are now being screened for with preimplantation genetic diagnosis. The extension of this will be designer babies, where technology again offers the graduation from avoidance of sickness to ideas of perfection. Introducing questions of who will be able to afford it and will this become the province of the rich, thus increasing the gulf between the haves and have nots?  The author emphasises again that governments must play their part in making sure that genetic engineering does not disadvantage the already disadvantaged within our communities; and goes further to suggest that it could indeed be a technology used to improve things for these sections of the community. Fukuyama recommends international bodies for the guidance of biotechnology and offers the examples in the nuclear industry as proof of possible efficacy in this regard. The dangers of the nuclear industry (as seen by the crisis currently in Japan) are, I think he is inferring, on par with the dangers inherent in the biotechnology sphere.

Francis Fukuyama talks a lot about what it means to be human and the essential qualities of humanness. He invokes Aristotle and a whole pantheon of philosophers and moral judges in answering this question. In the end I think he comes down on the side of feeling, that it is our human feelings which define us as human. So we have the harsh and hostile world of Darwinian evolution and the men in white lab coats on one hand and the subjective consciousness of the feeling world on the other, his book may be an informed cry for help. An Achtung before it is too late and we have sold our humanness for bigger boobs, and smarter and taller, better looking kids. Stem cell therapy and the use of research involving embryos are or have been hot topics recently, with governments voting on legislation, and often doing so as votes of conscience rather than on party policy grounds. The ability to grow new cells and possibly limbs and other organs for the sick versus the rights of the unborn. This takes us back to abortion and how that is still used in many Eastern countries as a genetic engineering tool in favour of males over females in the human species. Abortion is a very volatile topic in the US especially, and anything to do with it opens up that great religious divide and debate. The genetic engineering argument embraces the scientist’s pragmatic view that if we are terminating unwanted pregnancies, and also if there are extra embryos left over from IVF, then we should be using these for embryonic stem cell research. Against this we have the Right To Life religious organisations and also non-religious anti-biotechnology groups, who see this work as a corruption of the rights of the individual, which opens the question –  at what age do we become human?

The third part of this whole dilemma, according to Fukuyama, is science’s work in prolonging our life expectancies. The twentieth century has seen the life expectancies raised in women from 46.3 and men from 48.3, in the US in 1900, to that of 79.9 for women and 74.2 for men in the year 2000. The author points out, when you combine this with falling birth rates in most Western countries we are now facing  a rapidly changing age demographic, meaning that fewer young people will be supporting many more older and infirm people in our communities and economies. In addition to the well publicised affect this will have on social security systems, there will be further ramifications with a growing divide internationally, with developing nations with higher birth rates having younger population demographics; more angry young men. Fukuyama posits that the US will have a decidedly older and more feminine population, as women live longer, and that this will contrast politically with their dealings with these young countries (I think it more likely to be a good thing as grandma is less likely to bomb people). Our Posthuman Future goes onto list many of the possible scenarios related to these population and demographic shifts related to life span extension, and in particular talks about our attitudes to the elderly, facing challenges; when we are forced to care for them on mass and they are taking our jobs – (which the baby boomers have been doing for years in Australia LOL). Fukuyama spells out the medical facts about prolonging life spans and that quality of life experience will not necessarily accompany this extension; and that our cultural worshipping of youth is very much about sexual reproductivity. Lives lived for the majority of years as aged, and non-reproductively,  will present clear cultural and psychological challenges for the participants and for all those around them. Medical science is taking us all down this path because nobody really wants to die and wants to see their parents die, and euthanasia is feared by many within our societies. We do and will need to have these discussions about death and what it means to have a life, beyond the ‘hands off’ and keep everything alive for as long as possible, which is the  current position of governments and medical science. I think we as a community will have to grow up and religions will need to pull their heads out of the sands of two millennia ago – which is when their religious texts were written.

Francis Fukuyama, being an American and working in the US education system, as the Professor of International Political Economy at John Hopkins University, in my opinion shies away from stressing the very large part that the free market in our capitalist economy plays in this. Despite the fact that the overall message of his book is that we need impartial democratic government bodies policing biotechnology, I still think the author misses out on emphasising the fact, that we as a society leave  a great deal of medical science in the hands of a market intent on making as much money as possible out of whatever situation they find or create. Our democratically elected representatives in government are too dependent on popular decisions and election campaign dollars from the pharmaceutical industry. Our scientists are equally dependent on private enterprise funded research grants and even the scientific journals, which publish the reports, are dependent on big pharma advertising dollars. If we value the dollar over everything else how will we ever get any impartiality in any decision making body and if every government department is only potentially lasting four or five years how can we carry out any far reaching legislation?

This is a really worthwhile and enjoyable book to read, drawing on our great Western philosophical canon to pose many of the questions, we as a society face in regard to the biotechnological revolution.

©Sudha Hamilton

Do you long for certainty?

The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind

By Julian Jaynes

First Mariner Books  ISBN 0-618-05707-2

Do you ever long for certainty?

Do you wish that you had a direct line to God, especially during those times when you are really unsure about what direction to take in your life? Would you like to be able to reach deep inside yourself and just know the right answer? Well according to the theory of the bicameral mind, and its part in the origin of consciousness, we all do have that facility within our brains. In fact it was originally all we did have, as it preceded that sense of I or me, our very own subjective consciousness which we all have today. Julian Jaynes published his book, The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind, in 1976 and the waves of influence have been spreading out ever since. The first sixty pages of his book are to me, the most immediately confronting and mind expanding – as they focus on what consciousness actually is or is not.

I mean consciousness is not mere reactivity or being awake, it is much more than that isn’t it? Think about what your sense of consciousness is to you. Where is your consciousness located? Is it somewhere on or in your body? What purpose does your consciousness serve? Is it so that you can learn things? Jaynes lists a number of scientific studies showing that our ability to learn things is not dependent upon our sense of consciousness and is actually impeded by it – a perfect example is when we are overly self-conscious we cannot perform basic tasks that involve motor skills, like talking. Try it now, try speaking and at the same time focus on your articulation, bringing your full consciousness to bear on every enunciated syllable. How each vibrational sound is made inside your throat – you will just stop speaking as it becomes overwhelming.

Our consciousness is also not a perfect copy of our experiences; it is not some recording device taking impressions of memories and storing them. You can show this to yourself by asking yourself what information you can remember about walking into the last room you walked into. Try remembering what was in the room and where, get a piece of paper and write down your results. You will find that you have very little to show for it, so our consciousnesses are not providing this service. Jaynes goes on to say, that when we recall a memory, we do not call up the actual physical memory but a generalised version of it largely invented by ourselves to represent whatever it is – swimming or walking in a park. The memory is a construct involving thoughts we have about the activities and often is influenced by how we imagine others see us swimming or walking  – so our consciousness is not a faithful recording of reality.

What Julian Jaynes does posit, is where our sense of consciousness has come about from, and he points the finger at language and in particular languages love of metaphor. In fact he states language is largely metaphor and shows how many words have their roots in metaphor, for example the verb ‘to be’ comes from the Sanskrit ‘bhu’- meaning to grow, or make grow. Similarly our English words ‘am’ and ‘is’ have evolved from the Sanskrit ‘asmi’- meaning to breathe. Think to yourself now just how many times our language references other familiar pictures to describe less familiar things. For example how we use parts of the human body to describe parts of other things, like the face of a clock, cliff, card; and the eyes of needles, storms, potatoes; the lips of cups, craters; and the tongues of shoes, joints; and the teeth of winds, cogs etc. Indeed we reference and compare constantly with language, in the meaning of the words themselves and in the expressions we invent to make metaphors with. The vastness of language over several millennia means that we lose touch with its incredible elasticity and tend to think of it as some solid construct, missing the obvious evidence it has to show us about ourselves and the origin of consciousness.

It is through the ability to metaphor that the modern lexicon of our language is able to remain a reasonably finite collection of words. Otherwise like the Inuit we would have to have 150 different words for snow.  Jaynes talks about the function of metaphor being one of creating understanding through familiarity. We use a familiar example to shine a light on something less familiar, but ultimately this brings us a limited understanding based entirely on the quality of the metaphor employed. I would go on to say that it means we actually know far less than we think we do. An example of this would be our understanding of what happens during an electrical storm, we have learnt at school that it involves air pressure, vacuums and particle friction but we have no real direct experience of what happens and only a theoretical knowledge of it. Our sense of subjective consciousness is based on how we perceive existence through the use of language and referencing through metaphor. It is like the relationship between a map and the geographical reality of what has been mapped. So ultimately our knowledge of reality is a tenuous one at best and it is riddled with theoretical understandings based on metaphorical language constructs. You think you know stuff that you don’t really.

Where does that certainty principle, I mentioned at the beginning, fit into this? It seems like we are getting further and further away from that shore of assurance.  Well Jaynes postulates, that prior to the development of our illusory sense of subjective consciousness, we had a fully operating God spot in the right hemisphere of our temporal lobe and it was here that we received direct transmission from the divine.  He lists a number of studies into the brain, where scientists have removed sections and whole hemispheres to reveal what areas of the brain are responsible for particular functions and how the brain adapts. He gives a fascinating example where a dozen neurosurgical patients have undergone a complete commissurotomy, the cutting of all interconnections between the two hemispheres down the middle, as a treatment for severe epilepsy. For a period of about two months some patients lose the power of speech, but gradually they all return to a sense of being how they were prior to the operation. Normal observation of these patients shows nothing amiss either. However under rigorous study it becomes clear that these people cannot see things on their left side and the dominant left hemisphere projects a repeat of the right side vision to fill in the gaps. Even more astonishing though is that the right hemisphere is actually seeing  what is there on the left side but because of the cutting of the interconnections between the two sides of the brain has no way to communicate it. Tests have shown that these people using their left hand only can point out or draw what is on the left side but have no verbal or cognitive awareness of what is there. It is like there are two separate awareness’s, functioning independently within the same body.

Julian Jaynes goes on, in a satisfyingly erudite manner, to illustrate through countless examples taken from the great recorded histories like The Iliad, The Old Testament, Egyptian Papyruses, Babylonian Cuneiforms and more, how different humankind was at this time. That this difference in how they thought was because of this bicameral mind, that there were literally two separate minds at work within them. A dominant over mind or ‘God speak’ operating from the right hemisphere, which was triggered during times of stress or novel challenges outside the normal demands of the time, and the more prosaic left hemisphere ‘man brain’, which at this time had no subjective consciousness, no sense of I or me. Jaynes takes you on a journey from languages evolution from signalling and intentional calls to the development of nouns. Remember for a long time nobody had a name for things and for individuals. Death was a different beast when the one who died did not even have a name. Try and imagine a time when the sense of self was so small or non-existent and nobody had names. When there were no names for things and no words, how would you think?

It is an incredible theory and explains a great deal about why we worshipped statues of Gods and why we buried dead kings and priests surrounded by things to eat and treasures to keep. If these Gods and their stewards were continuing to speak inside our heads, beyond their allotted life spans, then it makes a lot more sense. Religion has always been about control and if that controlling centre is inbuilt inside our brains, then anthropologically a lot of stuff makes much more sense. It explains why we still cling to religions even now hundreds of years after science had ridiculed their fundamental platforms of belief. We are programmed to believe and to follow instructions, to understand – meaning stand under God. Jaynes maintains an aesthetic appreciation for the many wonders that humankind’s devotion to beliefs in Gods have produced and he is perhaps an example of his Christian American background. Still his insights and his theory are so startlingly original that he may have had no reason to bother with aggravating those of a more narrow minded persuasion.

The modern parallels with those suffering from schizophrenia are explored and Jaynes again proffers numerous scientific studies to illuminate his theoretical claims. Joan of Arc and many of the first testament prophets are prime examples of individuals recorded in history, who heard the passionate and insistent voice of God inside their heads. These individuals often laid down their own lives and willingly would lay down the lives of others to fulfil the ambitions of the voice within their head. Culturally now we have no room for those exhibiting a fully fledged bicameral mind and the voice of God; and so we lock them up and drug them.

Jaynes points out that it is poetry, and poetries link to music, which has been the favoured speech of the Gods, with most of our great and holy missives having been delivered in verse. This fact again links the right hemisphere of our brains with our connection to God, for it is in the right hemisphere where we process music and poetry. Music comes from the Muses, and they were the daughters of Zeus – bringers of divine inspiration; our connection to the Gods. Poets have, down through the ages, often been deliverers of God’s message, and the metre of verse can have a hypnotic, hallucinatory effect upon the listener. So many of the strands of evidence produced by Jaynes, to promote his theory, illuminates these aspects of humanity with a new understanding of where they actually fit in with the greater scheme of things.

What I particularly like about Julian Jayne’s theory of the bicameral mind is that it shatters the safe and often dry outcomes of much of the study of ancient history. We are so far removed from these ancient millennia’s, and the translations of these earliest languages are rife with modern approximations, making so many assumptions about who they were grossly incorrect. This book is a quantum leap into the unknown and really worth reading on so many levels.

The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind

By Julian Jaynes

First Mariner Books  ISBN 0-618-05707-2

©Sudha Hamilton

What is the Wellness Industry?

Heading: What is the Wellness Industry?

Subheading: A look at the health system.

There has been of late, a great deal of talk about the new – “wellness industry” – and I think it might be useful to establish what some of its defining aspects are.

Looking back historically, humanity has always been interested in its own mortality, how to preserve it, improve it and prolong it. At the same time, these primary urges have also often provoked an economic response, as those with the knowledge and/or skills to heal, have sought to be remunerated for their services. A fare exchange being the bedrock upon which we have based our capitalist system, and which allows those so inclined to practice their specialised craft.

For the last hundred years, or so, the state sponsored health industry in our country has been the exclusive domain of those trained via the allopathic school of medicine (defined as the use of opposites in treating disease* and is commonly referred to as ‘modern medicine”). A consequence of this proliferation of a “one school” specialised approach, has been the dis empowerment of the individual in his or her responsibility for their own health. Our failure, to include a greater emphasis on health and wellbeing, when educating our young has further removed the individual’s ability to manage his or her own health.

However, despite some magnificent breakthroughs in the treatment of diseases such as childhood  leukemia, heart disease and many more, there has been a growing general disaffection with modern medicine and its inability to treat chronic illnesses. Perhaps also in part due to its failure to respectfully deal with the mind, as distinct from the body, and science’s continuing inability to understand human consciousness; but also in it’s arrogant dismissal of alternative healing approaches. Modern medicine is after all a big business, and like many big businesses, it prefers a monopoly to competition for those health dollars. Funded by large pharmaceutical corporations it treads a precarious path in its bid to fulfill its Hippocratic oath,** and not be swayed by the often unseen lure of filthy lucre.

It is the general overview of the modern medical/pharmaceutical behemoth, that there will be a pharmacological cure/treatment for every disease/medical condition, if you can find or fabricate the right drug/ingredient. Whether this premise is indeed correct, or not, cannot hide the fact that for many people the current crop of available pharmaceutical drugs is not the panacea that they are searching for right now. Many in the community (a recent Victorian survey confirmed up to two thirds surveyed had consulted an alternative non-allopathic practitioner) have turned away from the local GP, prescribing pain killers and antibiotics, in search of an alternative, that is possibly more inclusive and often gives them more time, care and understanding. In response to this market led shift away from complete dominance of the health industry there has been some small cross fertilisation by doctors learning acupuncture, naturopathy, homeopathy and the like – and the renaming of alternative health as complementary health (proving in business that if you cannot eradicate your competition then the next best thing is to incorporate them into your own business).

This just about puts us where we are, at the beginning of the 21C, and in the midst of a trend or movement toward wellness or preventative medicine, where a growing proportion of the population are self-medicating with vitamins, minerals, supplements and organic food. This is generally, I believe, in the hope that they will avoid many of the diseases, that their parents and grandparents have fallen foul of, and indeed beyond that- to live longer and better lives. Enter the wellness industry with its rapidly growing nutriceutical manufacturers, associated bodies representing natural practitioners, natural health media and a host of astute businesses, recognising a hugely expanding market, that have jumped on the band wagon.

As in many sections within the business community, you can find a mixture of motivating reasons why these people are involved in this particular industry: personal commitments based on health issues that have affected themselves or a close family member; vocational destiny; avarice, pure chance and a combination of the above. However, as more and more existing companies seek to align themselves with this push toward health, the number of people, who will find themselves working in a health related field, will continue to grow exponentially; and these people will need to be educated beyond their current level of knowledge.

The recognition and accreditation, recently achieved by many of the natural health educational institutions, is tantamount to this fact. The establishment of the Complementary Healthcare Council, under the direction of the Therapeutic Goods Administration, and the ever growing legislative requirements of this body- is further testament to the size and recognition of the natural health industry. Recent problems, best illustrated by the Pan Vitamin Crisis, saw the largest recall of vitamins ever seen in this country. Hundreds of lines of vitamin supplements were recalled, in defiance of the fact, that Pan, was also a manufacturer of pharmaceuticals, and that the Travacalm product, which caused the serious complaints, which led to the TGA action, was actually a pharmaceutical item. This disturbing incident has created a certain unease within the general public and I am sure has had long lasting negative implications for the industry.

However it seems regulation is necessary, and for the industry to continue to grow, certain requirements will need to be met. History shows, that pioneers, who establish new industries will often resent government interference at first, but that it is part and parcel of the natural evolution from small to big business. Of course many of the vitamin manufacturers are primarily pharmaceutical companies, who have developed the vitamins as a side line or who recognising the market growth have bought in. It does raise certain questions about their positions on the Complementary Healthcare Council and could be seen to be somewhat compromised. Who are they representing, and what hat are they wearing, when decisions affecting both the highly regulated pharmaceutical industry and the traditionally less regulated natural health supplement industry are being made. It is in my view, always a shame, when the expense of regulation moves an industry out of the financial reach of many of those who wish to take part in it, but the upside of this is the removal of many of the so called “snake oil” salesmen who inhabit it (the future possibility that snake oil is found to actually contain the ingredients of some wonder drug would render this metaphor obsolete). Welcome to the wellness industry.

* whereas homeopathy uses minute doses of substances that create similar effects to the existing symptoms of the condition.

**Hippocratic Oath — Classical Version

I swear by Apollo Physician and Asclepius and Hygieia and Panaceia and all the gods and goddesses, making them my witnesses, that I will fulfil according to my ability and judgment this oath and this covenant:

To hold him who has taught me this art as equal to my parents and to live my life in partnership with him, and if he is in need of money to give him a share of mine, and to regard his offspring as equal to my brothers in male lineage and to teach them this art – if they desire to learn it – without fee and covenant; to give a share of precepts and oral instruction and all the other learning to my sons and to the sons of him who has instructed me and to pupils who have signed the covenant and have taken an oath according to the medical law, but no one else.

I will apply dietetic measures for the benefit of the sick according to my ability and judgment; I will keep them from harm and injustice.

I will neither give a deadly drug to anybody who asked for it, nor will I make a suggestion to this effect. Similarly I will not give to a woman an abortive remedy. In purity and holiness I will guard my life and my art.

I will not use the knife, not even on sufferers from stone, but will withdraw in favor of such men as are engaged in this work.

Whatever houses I may visit, I will come for the benefit of the sick, remaining free of all intentional injustice, of all mischief and in particular of sexual relations with both female and male persons, be they free or slaves.

What I may see or hear in the course of the treatment or even outside of the treatment in regard to the life of men, which on no account one must spread abroad, I will keep to myself, holding such things shameful to be spoken about.

If I fulfil this oath and do not violate it, may it be granted to me to enjoy life and art, being honored with fame among all men for all time to come; if I transgress it and swear falsely, may the opposite of all this be my lot.

Translation from the Greek by Ludwig Edelstein. From The Hippocratic Oath: Text, Translation, and Interpretation, by Ludwig Edelstein. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1943.

©Sudha Hamilton

Books Are They Facing Extinction?

books in article in eco living magazine.

The recent financial demise of Australian book retailers, Angus & Robertson and Borders Books, is a timely reminder to have another look at the effects of the Internet and digitalisation upon the book industry. Coupling this local retail failure with the bankruptcy of the Borders Group in the US, shines a light on how books are now being sold in these developed markets. Time now to see, just what is the long term impact of Amazon and other online suppliers of books on the bookstore concept and retail book chains.

Of course A & R had stopped being an example of a good bookshop years before. Even before it was purchased by the private equity group, Red Group, it was a chain of substandard stores offering a very average range of titles. Indeed that is why it was snapped very cheaply and the new managers accentuated all that was mediocre about A & R, and then had to operate with enormous debt levels . Many will say that bad management is always the true cause of business failure in the marketplace and an inability to respond to technological challenges within your industry is merely an example of this. Borders introduced the super store concept to Australia and in the process contributed to the demise of many small bookshops around the nation.

So we can now purchase a huge range of titles online, relatively quickly and affordably. In Australia we do not pay any GST on books purchased through Amazon or some other overseas online supplier, unless we are spending over a A$1000. Many retailers are now voicing their complaints about this unfair playing field and I would posit that books are one area that the Internet is taking a sizeable chunk of sales, somewhere in the vicinity of 15 to 20%. Retailers do pay proportionately high rents in Australia and then they have to pay staff and all the other infrastructure costs associated with retailing.  So how are they going to be able to compete on price with a GST free online supplier? The consumer gets cheaper books if they are Internet savvy and or have access to online suppliers but they lose a sizeable retail presence in their local shopping precincts.

As a community we lose jobs in the book sector, which is a shame, because having personally come from a family retail book background I can tell you it is a great area to work in – very stimulating and people are passionate about their books. It is in my opinion a bit like the wine industry on many levels, the level of knowledgeable service that customers require is intense and like the wine business you cannot hope to survive as a small retailer without providing this. Fosters has been discovering this in its disastrous foray into the wine business, with massive write-downs on the Penfolds and Rosemount businesses. A & R were treating books and more importantly their customers like they were selling stationary – and they have paid the price. The amount of time in a bookshop spent researching titles for customers on a quest for a specific book, which may indeed be out of print, is enormous and you have to have people who love books working in bookshops. Of course much of this research can now be done online if the customer has access and is trained to do so.

The digital supply of books on tablets like Amazon’s Kindle will be an interesting phenomenon to watch and see whether the take-up will move beyond the initial very small percentage of the reading market. Again however this is something which moves book buying into the home and out of the shoppingcentre, removing jobs and the physical social interaction of the book buyer with the book seller. Passion will have to stay at home and sit in front of that flickering screen and book lovers will have to be satisfied with joining online forums. It is sad to see the demise of a wonderful profession, the book seller, and likewise the continuing eradication of book publishing here in Australia. The life of the mind is moving online.

©Sudha Hamilton

Suicide Rates in Australia

I read with interest a recent report into suicide, published in The Australian newspaper, where it was declared that the rate of annual suicide in Australia is now well over that of road deaths. It was, I think, a feature written with the intent to ring a few alarm bells in this country, amongst leaders and the general population. It seems to me, that despite the wonders of a hundred and one different kinds of mobile phones and the fabulous Internet, the lives of Australians, and in particular our youth, are not all they are cracked up to be. Not as they are portrayed in the countless advertisements for all these apparently necessary, technological accoutrements, which are inferred to guarantee a fulfilling life. The ability to communicate in a nanosecond, eighteen different ways does not come with an automatic application to develop content worth communicating it seems.

Gizmo’s and gadgets are not going to provide meaning to anyone’s life. Waiting for the new IPhone or tablet reader is no anteroom experience on the way to transformation. As a society it seems that we are always helpless to effect any real change in the face of the markets relentless desire to satisfy the inconsequential. The article in The Australian did not address why people and in particular young people are killing themselves, it was all about what could have been done in the period immediately prior to the suicide to prevent such a tragedy.  I always ask myself why are people killing themselves, obviously there are unique situations in each case but I also feel that there are shared cultural reasons why suicide rates are so high. Where is the deep meaning in these people’s lives and where is it rooted in your own life? Ask yourself honestly what you are living for?

  • to live a good life
  • for friends and family
  • to amass a fortune
  • so I can have sex with ______
  • to help others
  • for the love of some god
  • because I love ________
  • I don’t know I have never thought about it

These are some of the answers I have received in answer to this question. We emerge from our mother’s womb and make our way through childhood, having reasons to ‘be’ indoctrinated into us, by everything from the messages inherent within our children’s stories to the modern version of fireside chats with our parents. Early life comes with a moral behind every lesson, in the hope that it will train us to becomes good little boys or girls. But what are we training or being trained for? What is the real core meaning in our lives? What is the bottom line, when everything is stripped away and you are bare of all the palaver? Is it merely a choiceless choice! This is it, you have been born and there is no meaning to it, beyond the obvious experience itself, so just get on and make the best of it.

It seems we in the wealthy West, where we are not generally scrabbling for our very survival, are caught in this intensely materialistic society. A society which celebrates the invention and endless modification of communication devices and holds the purchase of your own home, as the most sacrosanct of all things that can be achieved in a lifetime. So our kids grow up as consumers not creators, coveting sleek, technological gadgets. Believing that liberty and freedom are achieved in the possession of these talismans of ‘cool‘, just like in the ads. Perhaps when things don’t quite pan out the way the advertising  has been assuring them they will  and they are subject to a concerted digital hate campaign via Facebook by their ‘so called’ friends, then these individuals are missing a reason to live for.

The cultural changes and evolution, which are endlessly unfolding, finds us at a time when the meaning of life, seemingly apparent in our parents and grandparents lives, have become a flicker on a screen – an entry in Wikipedia on a Google page ranking list. Belief in god has been subject to the erosion of a full twentieth century’s worth of scientific derision. So many sub-splinters of meaning came from this one awesome god delusion. Millions of people down the ages have been slaughtered in this belief and it emanates in our DNA like a blood disease. So we are left now at the altar of our lives looking around for the next suitor to give our lives something worth living for. Belief in ourselves perhaps?

Well we have become so functional in everything we do and say. Language has become so functional, losing all it’s flowery intrigues of earlier times. Education is so god damned functional, all about jobs and continuous assessments. Love has become pretty functional too, try before you buy living together and fast food divorce. Can functionality alone give deep and true meaning to life? My function in life is to ______________________ insert your own function in the space provided. Will that function give you the meaning you need to cope with tragedy and grief in your life?

If we really want to reduce the number of people killing themselves within our communities, I think we need to ask ourselves about the meaning of our lives. Digging bloody great big holes in the ground and selling ore to the Chinese is not going to provide us all with a meaningful reason to celebrate being alive. Having a new mobile phone is not going to change your life where it matters. How we educate our children and ourselves is going to get a bit closer in that search for meaning. We need to really have a look at our whole education system and see what it provides, beyond the ability to get a job. We need to move the ancient education set-up we have out of the nineteenth century, remove the god botherers from their positions of influence, and ask ourselves some real honest to _____? questions about ourselves and the meaning of life. We can do this we just need to care enough to do something.

Carbon tax time

The argument against Australia’s adoption of a carbon tax by those on the conservative side of politics is one of “let’s wait until the world has come up with an agreement about this.” Wait and see is their motto. This lack of leadership characterises Australia under the stultifying leadership of past Liberal governments, like Menzies and Howard. Tony Abbot is rallying the troops around the “no carbon tax and we will repeal it if elected” position. Even big business in Australia wants the certainty of a carbon tax, because they know they need to factor this into their pricing and fiscal realities sooner than later.

Heaven help Australia if the negative do nothing but complain factor ever swings into the balance of power. News Corp endlessly sniping at the NBN initiative, saying it’s too expensive and basically criticising any and every aspect of it they can. Imagine being a Murdoch journalist – instructed to write nay saying negative piece after piece on this brave nation changing venture. The free market has not delivered us great broadband coverage in this country, especially if you live in a regional area, and they were not going to any time soon. So shut the f—- up about letting the market take care of things.

We are only now emerging from the consequences of the über greed of a bunch of international bankers and their wonderful version of the free market. That is why world-wide government policies toward combatting climate change have been postponed, not indefinetly shelved as most short sighted conservative sided pollies would have it. Pollution must have a price in the market and a carbon tax will give us that.

Here Today Gone Tomorrow

The forces of conservatism and resistance have risen once again on the back of the global economic downturn, a disaster of their own creation, and are only too happy to say we cannot afford a carbon tax or to invest in more renewable sources of energy right now. Putting off the needs of tomorrow for the apparently more urgent demands of today. As a generalisation you can say that the world is broken up into two groups: on the one hand you have your managers who respond to what is in front of their faces and on the other you have visionaries, who consider the future and the ramifications of today’s inaction. We had a brief period in the two years before the GFC when the visionaries grabbed the ear of the public and held sway, crying out loudly for dramatic action on climate change. In times of sustained plenty the people in the West may afford a moment to listen to the murmurings of visionaries but in times of need they are deaf but to their own demands of assistance.

The political cycle makes it exceedingly difficult for governments to achieve anything, as they too soon face electoral backlash for any unpopular legislation. We are ruled by short-term self-gratification, and even that self-gratification is not true gratification, as we clamour for band-aid relief not real satisfaction. People in the over-crowded cities in the West are playing a game, like rats in a cage, working at jobs they often dislike to pay off mortgages they cannot afford. The self-interest they display is often not deeply thought out but a knee-jerk reaction to make sure they don’t miss out. Nobody is offering them a real choice in this debate, well not an easy one anyway.

Have you noticed how government leaders everywhere are looking younger and are especially groomed for TV appearances: in the UK with their new conservative PM David Cameron, Obama in the US and here in Australia Julia Gillard. Are these leaders anymore effective, as they give off the impression of more youthful vigour? No I would posit that they are actually more ineffective and less likely to have the courage of their convictions – if they could locate a conviction. Often they are controlled by the backroom, party room leaders, who must live out their ambitions vicariously as the puppet masters – being too ugly for TV appearances themselves.

The media is to blame, as they fan the fires of narcissism in these politicians with every day being a list of photo opportunities. A visual medium reducing the act of government to a series of bad TV commercials. Perhaps we are all helpless in the hands of technology and our unquestioning acceptance of the latest innovation leaves us with no backbone at all. Twitter, mobile phones, computers, television, radio – it is like a timeline of the getting of superficiality. Politics, has of course, always had its degree of artifice but that share has grown exponentially in the last few decades.

Scientists themselves – are the tests and studies designed to prove global warming a concerted effort to appear to be in control of the essentially uncontrollable? Is science a conceit in itself – this desperate need to measure everything and to advertise some understanding of life itself? Aren’t we kidding ourselves if we really think that we exert some measure of control or influence over the Earth? Ice ages have come and gone, global warmings have appeared and disappeared and yes have been cataclysmic, but is humankind able to avert a disaster of this magnitude?

We as humanity live on the surface of a planet which is thousand’s of kilometres deep and we know very little really about what happens down there. Even the weather is immensely powerful and science presumes to know much more than it actually does. We are fair weather friends to the Earth and don’t really want to know unless it adversely impacts on our lifestyle choices. I imagine the dinosaurs felt pretty powerful too and living anywhere for a longtime gives a sense of ownership doesn’t it? I am all in favour of reducing our environmental imact upon the Earth but lets not kid ourselves about saving the planet – it is going to be here or not independent of us. We are a scourge to ourselves more than anything else.

Eco Living Magazine

Tantric Sex or Tantra

Eco Living magazine presents:

Tantric Sex or Tantra?

By Diane and Kerry Riley

Tantra is a spiritual science from ancient India and in its basic essence is very similar to Taoism from China. Both involve balancing the male and female energies to create harmony and both have an ultimate goal of spiritual unity with the universe or the source or God.

The Tantric interplay of the male and female energies was represented in Hindu mythology with Shakti and Shiva, and represented in Taoism with yin and yang. Both Tantra and Taoism aimed to create union of body, mind and spirit. And in both, sexuality was seen and practiced in a spiritual context.

Tantra emphasises that we deserve all the love and sexual pleasure we can possibly receive; that sexual loving is a way to reach the mysteries of the heart, the soul; the God and Goddess within each person. It also teaches that sex is a way of bonding with a lover physically, emotionally and spiritually to create feelings of ecstatic pleasure, deep intimacy and expanded consciousness. It’s important to recognise that any judgments we have about sex reflect our inhibitions and demonstrate that we are not entirely free and accepting of our own sexuality.

Well, what’s the difference between Tantra and just having sex? One of the key differences is where the mind is. It’s the same in life. One’s experience of life depends on where the mind is. We are all living in the same world, but our experiences are determined by our perception.

And so in lovemaking it’s not what we are doing that affects us; it’s the attitude with which we are doing it that makes the real difference to our experience. If we can adopt the attitude that our lovemaking is spiritual, then our lovemaking will indeed become a spiritual experience. When I’m asked this question of the difference between tantric sex and just having sex, I use the analogy: normal sex is like running along the beach, it’s a good exercise and shouldn’t be stopped however tantric sex is more like tai chi or yoga or chi gong; it’s a different level of exercise – it harmonises body, mind and soul, as does tantric sex.

Tantra was traditionally only practised in a spiritual sense, but this doesn’t mean you have to be ‘holier than holy’ or understand Hindu mythology to incorporate the practices into your love life. Modern teachings of tantra are accessible for anyone who has an interest in adding to, and expanding the ways they make love.

Benefits and practices you can try:

For Men

There are excellent techniques in Tantric Sex to increase a man’s ability to last longer using ejaculation control skills and practices to help with erection dysfunction and feeling of virility. Viagra can help with performance but not with loving desire for his partner, (unless that desire is only to perform). Women want to feel a man’s love and connection not just his performance trying to get her to climax. Tantra teaches a man intimacy skills to turn sex into making love. For an experiment ask your man ‘How much love are you feeling while making love? ‘

Often men are more conscious about getting a result … good sex and orgasm… than how much love they are feeling in their heart. It may be that a Tantra lesson would be good to connect sex and heart feelings for him. Of course if he can’t last long, then he has no time to feel his love anyway because he is to busy concentrating on controlling himself – this is not making love.

A practice to help him with control is strengthening the pubocoxigel muscle one way to locate this muscle is to try and stop the flow during urination by contracting the pelvic floor. If you can do that then you have found the muscle. It is taught in many texts that if a man contracts this muscle before ejaculation it will stop it.

However if it is done incorrectly it doesn’t work. For example, a common error is trying to contract this muscle just before ejaculation. If you do it at 90%, and you haven’t practiced enough it won’t work and may even cause you to come. It’s best to do it in stages at 20%, at 30%, at 50%, at 75% and then 90%. I’m not suggesting non ejaculation practices that are often given in Taoist texts, because if these are not done properly it can lead to prostate problems. So for these practices to be successful and healthy full education / training is necessary.

Tantric techniques can assist in prolonging and improving the experience of love-making – for example breathing slower and deeper and concentrating more on the out- stroke than the in- stroke can help. It’s not the woman’s responsibility; it’s up to him to master ejaculation control. It’s men’s business. Men can have up to four sessions with a Tantra goddess skilled in teaching these practices to guide conscious men to be better lovers. Also these skills can be taught in a couple’s session.

Tantra for women

‘Traditional texts on Tantra and Taoism were written by men – and many of the practices strike me as having a male orientation about them, emphasizing techniques for the man to use for his spiritual enlightenment. Although the female was honored, the practices for her to do are not as easy to find. For example, so many of the contemporary books on tantra and Taoist sexology emphasize the forcing of the sexual energy, or Kundalini, up the spine with strong breathing and visualization to move it out of the sex center and into the higher center, known as the spiritual center, often called the crown chakra at the top of the head. This is most often done in a sitting crossed-legged position by oneself or with a partner sitting astride in a position called Yab/Yum.

This practice of forcefully directing the Kundalini up the spine can be good for men to learn because the energy in the genitals generally builds up quickly for them and, as a result, they often ejaculate too soon before their partner’s sexual energy has time to build. So moving sexual energy into the brain for expanded consciousness can be of practical benefit for men to help them control ejaculation. However, for some women, this practice may not be suitable, particularly if you are not consistently orgasmic. The reason for this is that if you pull energy out of your pelvis and your yoni, then it is less likely you will orgasm, and that’s not what most women want! It’s only recently that women have strengthened their connection to their orgasm, so why do the opposite?

One suggestion for women is that once you are feeling sexually excited, concentrate on swirling your pelvis, as in belly dancing movement imagining the energy rising naturally like steam from a simmering pot, radiating throughout the body – filling you with delightful pulses of sensual/sexual energy. There is no need to force anything, when it can flow. According to Dr Stephen Chang “the Tao of Sexology’ forcing can have detrimental effects ‘. Another suggestion is to actually take a belly dancing class. This really helps a free and easy movement of your hips and promotes a good and strong connection between the mind and body, especially the pelvic area, the sex area. This can greatly enhance the pleasure you feel during sex.

A practice you can do yourself at home is the ‘Crescent moon’. Stand with your legs slightly apart and your knees bent a little. Trace the shape of the other rim of the crescent moon with the movement of your hips. After a while, if that comes easily to you, experiment with figure eights and a variety of movements. Close your eyes and continue and enjoy the flow of this very feminine movement. Try shutting your eyes for a few moments so that you can sense deep into your hips and pelvic bowl.

Tips from a man- what he wants: In my consultations with men, many express their disappointment that their partner doesn’t move their hips enough. Men like it when their partner moves. Another thing men love is when their partner is making pleasurable sounds.  These are keys of tantra: sounds and hip movement. Another key is to be aware of the PC muscle and contract it during lovemaking to create pleasurable sensation for him and you. The most important thing conscious men want is for their woman to be really enjoying the lovemaking – releasing inhibitions and freeing the love goddess within. Experiment with some of these elements to create and sustain a passionate relationship. There was an episode on ‘Sex in the City’ where a group of women friends got a Tantra Goddess, a  female coach, to show them some magic strokes to use on their partner and how to create more sweet orgasms for themselves.

Tantra for couples: Tantra can bond relationships together, break habitual patterns, put new spark into relationships, balance desire levels and expand the way you make love on all levels. More and more couples are open to exploring tantra and not just accepting that ‘this is the way it is’ after a few years together. A good place to start as a couples is to hold hands and shut your eyes for a few minutes, and think about some of the things you enjoy about your partner, because we often spend a lot of energy inwardly complaining about the things that annoy us or we want to change about the other. So for five minutes, let go of that, open your eyes and take turns telling each other ten things you appreciate about them. When one partner shares something the other should simply say ‘thank you’ with no further comment. Just accept and enjoy. At the end have a hug and don’t discuss it further. Do something together like a walk or a simple act of having a cup of tea.

Sounds too simple… but try it and see the effect for yourself. Theory is knowing it, practice is living it!*

For more information and education on Tantra and any of the above go to www.australianschooloftantra.com.au

*excerpt from ‘Sexual secrets and Practices for women, unleashing the sex goddess within’ by Diane Riley (to be released later this year).

**for full instructions see ‘Sexual Secrets for men, what every woman would want the man to know’ by Diane & Kerry Riley.

Bio: Kerry and Diane Riley are Australia’s leading Tantra teacher’s and founders of the ‘Australian School of Tantra’. They have shared their deep understanding of sacred sexuality, heartfelt connection and committed relationship with thousands of men and women through their courses, books & DVD’s.

©Eco Living Magazine

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Midas Word

Natural Skin Care Solutions

Eco Living Magazine presents:

Heading: Natural Skin Care Solutions

Organic Skin Care Options

By Lesley-Ann Trow

“Nature has provided us with everything we need to nurture our skin; we should just let it get on with it.”

There’s no shortage of skincare brands – marketing, advertising and making claims on the shelves in your local pharmacy, health food store or where ever it is you go to buy your beauty products. Underneath all the hype there are some fundamental guidelines you can follow when purchasing your skincare to ensure your ‘natural’ or ‘organic’ product is everything the label says it is.

Several environmentally and health conscious skincare companies have spent a fortune in research and development to make safe products that are full of active natural ingredients and no chemical nasties. Many of these are just as, and often more effective than products sold over the counter in department stores every day. Nature has provided us with everything we need to nurture our skin; we should just let it get on with it.

Here are some of the best natural ingredients for skincare to effectively heal, nurture, moisturise and slow down the ageing process. It’s also important to note the order the ingredients are listed on the label. The more there is of an ingredient, the closer to the top of the list it is.

Jojoba Oil

With properties similar to the skin’s own sebrum, jojoba oil is easily absorbed for maximum moisturising. With strong antibacterial and antifungal properties, it can destroy skin bacteria and fungi making it useful in the treatment of acne, psoriasis, eczema and dermatitis. It’s also known as nature’s wrinkle fighter – when applied, it holds water in the skin and it even absorbs UV rays before they can penetrate the skin. It can also act as a natural preservative with its antioxidant properties.

Rosehip Oil

Best renowned for its anti-aging benefits, rosehip oil is extracted from the fruit of the rose bush. The oil is extracted in order to get the high essential fatty acids, which make it such a beneficial oil for anti-aging and regeneration of the skin. Along with the essential fatty acids, rosehip oil is also rich in Vitamin C, A, D and E and antioxidants. The vitamin C in rosehip oil is responsible for producing collagen and improving skin elasticity. Used at night, it acts as a skin multi-vitamin, replacing nutrients lost during the day and repairs the skin while you sleep. Can be used for dry skins, as it can balance the skin.

Coconut Oil

Noted as one of the best ingredients for healthy hair and used in India, coconut oil helps to condition and repair hair and help with dandruff. The different acids and antioxidants and antibacterial properties are the reasons for its benefits. Good for cooking and the face, coconut oil is nourishing and moisturising without being too heavy on the face. It’s great for dry, flaky skin in winter and for helping to improve those wrinkles or sagging.

Lavender Oil

Lavender oil is best known for its fabulous smell. Used regularly in natural perfumes or aromatherapy blends, it also has antiseptic and antifungal properties. It helps to soothe sunburn and heal wounds. Combined with chamomile, lavender oil helps with eczema treatment.

Aloe

Aloe is found in many skincare products, especially products designed for oily skin. But it’s also a great healer – it is absorbed into the skin tissues below the surface.  It’s rich in vitamins as well as being an effective wetting agent to help with cleansing.

Panthenol

This plant derived pro vitamin B5 is an effective aid for irritated or damaged skin.

Green Tea

Organic green tea (Camellia sinensis): A potent anti-oxidant known to fight free radicals helps rejuvenate the skin and prevents sun damage. Promotes elasticity – as well as being high in vitamins, including B complex.

Manuka Honey

Included in facial creams to treat acne due to antibacterial properties and also contains lactic acid and helps remove dead skin cells in facial cleansers.

Calendula

Included for its antibacterial and soothing properties. Many creams for babies’ skin also contain calendula; it’s also great in hair care to sooth sensitive scalps.

Unrefined Shea Butter

Shea butter is a common ingredient in body butters, lip balms and moisturisers – creamy yellow in colour; it has a lovely nutty fragrance. This unrefined version retains many of the remarkable properties for which shea butter is renowned – deeply moisturising, anti-scarring, anti-inflammatory, rich in vitamins A and E and other phytonutrients, and even provides mild UV radiation protection.

Preserving natural and organic skincare products has been one of the major sticking points. Certified organic skincare can have no chemical interference, this means water based products that are prone to bacterial growth once opened, must contain a natural preservative. Many products labelled organic, as opposed to certified organic (and yes, there is a BIG difference) contain safer chemical preservatives such as phenoxyethanol or benzyl alcohol.

The chemical nasties you’re looking for when it comes to preservatives include;

Parabens (Propyl, Methyl, Butyl, or Ethyl): Parabens are used as preservatives in numerous skin care and hair care products. They are highly toxic as they release Formaldehyde when exposed to the air and cause allergic and skin reactions.

There’s a whole host of other chemical nasties to avoid if you’re concerned about your health, and the health of your family. Several of these ingredients are now considered a cancer risk, especially breast cancer. More and more research is being done so that in the future they can have them banned from skincare.

Propylene Glycol: Propylene glycol is obtained from petrochemicals and is added in numerous skin care creams and lotions as an emulsifying agent. It makes the skin look smooth; however, it speeds up aging of the skin. It also causes irritation and contact dermatitis.

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS): SLS acts as a surfactant, degreaser, and emulsifier and is used in numerous foaming personal care products such as soaps, shampoos, body wash products, face cleansers, shaving cream, etc. This detergent affects the eyes and delays their healing time. It can be absorbed by the skin surface and gets accumulated in your body organs. When used in products containing nitrogen-based raw materials, it forms carcinogenic nitrates, which are known to cause irritation to the eye and skin.

Fragrance/Parfum: Artificial fragrance can cause numerous health problems including headaches, lung problems, skin irritation and dizziness.

Mineral Oil: Mineral oils are obtained from petroleum products and can cause skin irritations. They block skin pores, which restricts movement of nutrients and waste matter from the cells.

Imidazolidinyl and Diazolidinyl Urea: These are also used as preservatives and are known for causing contact dermatitis.

Ingredients with PEG in the name: Polyethylene Glycol is their extended name; they should be avoided in cleansers for your skin and hair, as independent testing has shown they can be contaminated with 1,4-Dioxane; a petroleum-derived carcinogenic compound that is also used in dry cleaning solvents, lacquers and automotive coolant.
Synthetic Colours: Synthetic colours can cause allergic skin reactions.

Triethanolamine (TEA): TEA is used to adjust the pH of the cosmetics. It causes various allergic reactions including eye problems, and dryness of hair and skin. Also look out for MEA and DEA for the same reasons.

Packaging is the final element for consideration for natural and organic skincare. Certified organic skincare can contain only natural ingredients so it’s incredibly important to stop bacterial growth, by keeping air from getting into the packaging. Some skincare companies have again spent a fortune in research and development to ensure that their super effective ingredients maintain their integrity for the life of the product. It should also be noted here that the time between starting and discarding most organic and natural skincare should only be about 9 to 12 months. A product you love to use probably wouldn’t last you that long anyway.

What to look for in packaging.

Recycleable or Reusable: just makes good sense.

Positive Packaging: Opening and dispenser is at the bottom of the packaging allowing gravity to make it airtight.

Dark coloured glass: To maintain the integrity of active ingredients and Essential Oils.

As wonderful as it would be to live in a world where all products were labelled with 100% honesty (and claims had to be proven without a doubt before they could be made); we’re not there yet.

We can all help move a step closer though by making the hugely profitable skincare industry conscious of the new paradigm by voting with our wallets and supporting skincare companies that have embraced nature in word and action by creating super effective products that have a positive impact on the future of our planet and our health.

(Lesley-Ann Trow is the founder of www.gorgeousthings.com.au – The Pink Guide to Being Green and Gorgeous)

©Eco Living Magazine

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Midas Word

Chemical Free Cleaning at Home

Eco Living Magazine presents:

Heading: Clean & Green- Chemical Free Cleaning at Home

Subheading: Would you bathe in your bathroom cleaner??

By Lesley-Ann Trow

We’ve all experienced how tough it can be to clean our bathrooms without gassing ourselves. Anyone who uses traditional household cleaners knows you’ve got to wear gloves, open the windows, and scrub whilst holding your breath. This experience should tell us a few things about traditional household cleaners, and not least that they’re having a negative impact on our health – while also being damaging to the environment.

If you’re looking to make your household cleaning safer for yourself and the environment then there are some great options available to you. The first step is to safely discard the chemical cocktail in your cleaning cupboard.

The health concerns stem from absorption of harsh chemicals directly through your skin and nasal passages to your bloodstream, as well as Volatile Organic Compounds that are found in petrochemical based cleaning products and synthetic fragrances and are released into the atmosphere as you spray your cleaners around your home. If you or your children have asthma, or you have allergies then these VOCs could be aggravating symptoms.

It’s not hard to imagine what the world will be like if we don’t address our polluting of waterways and ground water. No one wants to be responsible for making the problem worse but as Leroy Eldridge Cleaver put it – ‘you’re either part of the solution or you’re part of the problem’   – and we all have to do our bit in our own homes today. That means switching to products that are 100% biodegradable (truly green products will tell you how many days this will take – 7 is good!), buying Phosphate Free cleaners and avoiding chemicals where there is a natural alternative.

You can then take the ‘back to basics’ approach and use simple ingredients to create your own cleaners and a bit of elbow grease. This is a great alternative if you have the time and patience. From Lemon Juice and Baking Soda for scrubbing down benches, chopping boards and bathrooms right through to Vinegar to clean your windows, there’s a natural alternative to pretty much everything you find under your sink. There are recipes you can following in fabulous books like ‘Spotless’ by Shannon Lush & Jennifer Flemming or even a quick Google search will have you cleaning up an environmentally friendly storm in no time.

The other way to go, which is the option I’ve chosen in my home is to use household cleaning products that have been formulated to be kind to you and have minimal impact on the environment. Not only does this option save time and effort but in most cases the ready-made cleaning products smell much better. In some cases so much so that you’ll never need to use anything else to scent your home. These greener household cleaning products will give you all the information you need on the label. They’ll tell you if it’s a plant-based surfactant, if the fragrance in naturally derived, how many days it will take to biodegrade and if it contains phosphates.

A few brands to look out for in the Supermarket or your Health Food store are Seventh Generation – great product imported from the US, Cinderella – my favourite as they smell divine and are Aussie Made, BEE – amazing Laundry Liquid & Dr Bronners – the ultimate All Purpose Castile Soap. If you have allergies or sensitive skin, you’ll notice the difference immediately.

©Eco Living Magazine

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Midas Word

Help Save the Orangutan

Eco Living Magazine presents:

Heading: HELP SAVE THE ORANGUTAN

Palm Oil Plantations Threaten Their Survival

By Michelle Walker

Currently, these beautiful, shy and intelligent great apes are on the critically endangered list. They are in grave danger of becoming extinct within the next 10 years unless we all come together to fight for their survival.

The orangutan was once found throughout Southeast Asia, but now the species only survives in relic populations in Borneo and Sumatra. Recent estimates suggest that wild orangutan numbers could be as low as 50,000. Orangutan populations have declined by 50% over the last 10 years and their habitat by 80% over the last 20 years.

The word orangutan is Malay for ‘person of the forest’. The orangutan is 97% genetically the same as humans and has the intelligence of a 5 to 6 year old child. Orangutans are shy, solitary animals that are active during the day and build nests to sleep in at night – these are made from leaves and are high up in the trees. They live alone in large territories – probably due to their eating habits. A large portion of the orangutans diet is fruit and if there are too many trying to feed in one area this may lead to starvation. The only real social group is the mother and her offspring who live together for around 8 to 12 years. When mating the male and female usually only stay together for a few days. The female is capable of giving birth from 12 to 15 years and usually has only one baby about every 8 years. The mother and baby have a very strong bond and the baby depends entirely on its mother for nourishment, protection, to learn what to eat and where to find food, how to climb and swing through the trees and how to make a nest. The orangutan is estimated to live for about 50 years in the wild.

The single most significant threat to the survival of the orangutans is the expansion of palm oil plantations. The beautiful rainforests, in which the orangutans live, are being cleared at an alarming rate. Plantations in Indonesia have expanded from 600,000 hectares in 1985 to an estimated 6.4 million hectares this year. According to the UN, “The natural forests of Sumatra and Borneo are being cleared so fast, up to 98% may be destroyed by 2022”. This is due to the high world demand for palm oil to be used in products such as biofuel, cooking oil, chips, chocolate, biscuits, margarine, toothpaste, soap and much more.

Many consumers are unaware that they are purchasing products containing palm oil as the label usually only states vegetable oil or palm oil derivatives. As the orangutan’s forests are disappearing so is their food supply. This then causes them to go onto palm oil plantations in search of something to eat. The orangutans are then killed by the land owners or the farmers as they are considered to be pests.

As the forests are being cleared and the land burnt to make way for palm oil plantations this is also a major contribution to global warming. Biofuel was developed with the intention of being a greener fuel but bio-diesel containing palm oil is anything but green. Palm oil is high in saturated fat and low in polyunsaturated fat. Research indicates that the consumption of palm oil increases the risk of heart disease and should be avoided in your diet. This is difficult to do when manufacturers aren’t required to label it.

Another significant factor in the decline of the wild orangutan population is the illegal pet trade. Orangutan mothers are being killed so that the babies can be stolen from them and sold as pets. Unfortunately it is estimated that only one out of four babies will survive this experience.

Other issues affecting the orangutan are legal and illegal logging for timber and pulp for paper, and also gold mining. Even National Parks and protected areas are being deforested by illegal logging and mining.

Fortunately, there is a group of volunteers working very hard to try and save the orangutans and they belong to the Australian Orangutan Project. The Australian Orangutan Project is a non-profit organization and was set up in 1998 by Leif Cocks.  AOP is the Australian contribution to international efforts to save the great apes, and is a partner of the United Nations Environmental Programme, Great Ape Survival Project (GRASP). AOP’s mission is to raise awareness and ensure the survival of both the Bornean and Sumatran orangutan in their natural habitat and promote the welfare of all orangutans.

AOP has been working with in-situ conservation organizations to protect the orangutan in the wild. They provide funds for conservation, protection and education programmes such as –

  • Food, salaries, medicines and equipment for rescue centres.
  • Anti-logging patrols in National Parks.
  • Community based rangers.
  • Safe release sites for ex-pets, orphans and injured orangutans.
  • Support for conservation research.
  • Community education programmes.
  • Community based Eco Tours.

Rehabilitation centres in Indonesia and Malaysia are set up to treat and care for sick, injured, or captive orangutans. The ultimate aim is to return the orangutans back to the forest. Many have been returned successfully, however due to lack of available habitat this process is becoming more difficult.For more information or to get involved please go to www.orangutan.org.au .

For more information about palm oil, the issues and what you can do to help, such as letter writing, please go to www.palmoilaction.org.au

“Every person can make a huge difference to the lives of these beautiful animals”.

©Eco Living Magazine.

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Midas Word

Eco Living Magazine

Welcome to Eco Living Magazine’s Blog.

Eco Living Health Aware is the freshest holistic health and eco magazine now currently available in Australia in print.

Eco Living Magazine is all about vision and sustainability – inspiring all our readers to find and follow their vision and contributing practical advice to help us create a sustainable future. Eco Living Magazine is full of articles that aim to inform and motivate all those who read them to take action in their lives.

In issue 100, currently onsale, we feature Anthony Ackroyd and the power of laughter; Bernie Prior and the dance of love on four legs; building your sustainable dream home with Libe Chacos; spas and retreats are the new holiday; and Wild Borneo – an eco adventure. Great recipes for delicious and healthy food, discover organic wine and regionalism, and get the low down on the poisons in our food chain.

112 pages of transformative eco living health aware content – chock full of positivity and beautiful stories. Reviews, organic skin care tips and dance your way to health with Wu Tao. Save the gentle Orangutans by taking action against palm oil.

Eco Living Magazine great reading for the twenty first century.

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