Friday, 17 December 2010

The Language of Nature

Silence and sound are essential features of life. Everything in nature flows between two shores: from the fullness of silence to sounds and forms, and back again to silence. This is the melodious dance of creation. Is it not true that all particularities of this ever-changing world seem to emerge, are transformed and eventually return to rest in the ground of all things which is infinitely stable? Just as the sound of one's breathing emerges from the silence of unbroken wholeness, so does this world come into being from the unmanifest ground of existence. All works of art too must reflect that unmanifest eternal field of life so that all who view it will hear the song of silence awakening deep within themselves.

Onward and upward, O artists, by way of the inward journey. Life is both surface and symbol. Our task is to translate the language of nature into the language of art. It is not what we paint, what we dance, what we compose that matters so much - it is not the content, but the structure in which it rests. What matters most is how we connect the abstract wholeness of life to each of its particular expressions, the immaterial essence to its material substance.

Every point in creation contains infinity and eternity embedded within it, so one can paint virtually anything, but it is the 'cadence of interrelationship' between infinity and the point which makes the creation of the artist sing.

Infinity exists in every flower, every blade of grass, every wafting cloud. Nature is at once spiritual and material, harmonizing and diversifying. Our challenge as artists is to articulate the deepest value of life. Look around – look deeply within – look, look – be ever open to life's immensity.

Barbara Briggs is a writer, poet, teacher of Transcendental Meditation and author of The Contribution of Maharishi's Vedic Science to Complete Fulfilment in Life. This excerpt is from Vision Into Infinity, her first book, which is out of print but will hopefully be reprinted soon. Email Barbara

Wednesday, 15 December 2010


As the days grow short the shadows creep in. The blanket of leaves grows dark and lies like a shroud upon the cold body of the earth as she draws back her fluids into herself. Winter sucks the life out of the land with a harsh and oppressive hunger, and all that is soft and warm recoils in the face of her advance. The woodland creatures hibernate, sealing up their dens to salvage and sustain the heat in the heart of themselves. They wrap themselves around it and sleep, little pockets of hot life imbedded in the cold clay. Secret dreamers among the black roots, spirits of fur and claw and snuffling snout, cave dwellers, fire keepers, as silent as grubs they hide from winter’s fierce and probing tongue.
We too are called upon to descend. Into stillness. Into the heat of ourselves. Into feeling. Yet so often we fear descent and struggle to resist it. We fear the death of what we know, the collapse of all that supports us. We fear the shadows that we meet there.
Yet every winter, Nature surrenders painlessly to this descent. She follows the cycle of her own being back down into the heart of herself. Of all the lessons she teaches us this is perhaps the most profound, that descent is not to be avoided but embraced. Entered into voluntarily it is a sweet release and the doorway to transformation. It is the death and dissolution of the caterpillar in the cocoon.

Ian Siddons Heginworth is an environmental arts therapist, founder of the Devon-based Wild Things community programme and author of Environmental Arts Therapy and the Tree of Life, Spirit’s Rest Books.

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Courage, My Love

I’ve just returned from Japan, attending an international meeting to address the annual killing of thousands of dolphins there. Unbeknownst to most, this bloodbath is actually funded by the commercial trafficking of live dolphins, a few of which are shipped to holiday marine attractions and dolphin-swim parks around the world at exorbitant prices – while the rest are slaughtered as 'pests' and sold for their meat, which contains dangerous levels of toxic contaminants.

Predictably, this situation is enmeshed in a complex web of conflicting political and economic interests, while Japanese media often try to paint this issue as East clashing with West.

Dolphins – surely recognised as one of the most beautiful, joyous and inspiring of creatures, would seem a poignant representative of our troubled blue-green world. We know in our soul of souls that harming these creatures is surely wrong. 
Yet with danger comes opportunity. The plight of the dolphins represents a great challenge, extended to the human race as a whole. Can we avoid the distraction of supposed cultural divides and instead connect through something far more ancient, universal and profound – our compassion, our very humanity? 
Will we ignore the cries for help, or will we accept this challenge echoing across the seas and continents: to reach within ourselves and discover our archetypical inner hero, and stand up for all that is good and green in our world? Can we engage and inspire a critical mass of people to do the same? 
We can. And we are. Courage, my love.

You can see two short dolphin music videos I created from my time in Japan:
or on my website:

Leah Lemieux is an author and lecturer who works on dolphin protection, education and conservation initiatives.

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Perfect Symmetry Between Humans and Nature

Is not everything in nature a reflection of a feeling etched deep within the consciousness of all human beings?
On the boundless palette of the infinite, we behold ourselves. In the clear blue of the sky in mid-afternoon, do we not perceive a symbol of the clarity of human consciousness when fully open to itself? In the flight of birds, do we not have a foretaste of the exhilaration true freedom brings - to soar beyond all earthly fetters? In the rushing of waves out to sea, and the rapid pulsing of blood through our veins, can we not feel the excitement of a new adventure or whatever we wish to make of it?
In the first sprouting of a plant as it pushes through the earth, in the rain - sometimes torrential downpours, sometimes gentle, caressing - is not nature the supreme art form, capturing the totality in every expression?
Just as one may find abstract ideas and feelings in oneself embodied in nature's forms, so should one be able to find deeper, more subtle levels within oneself through an appreciation of art. The mission of the painter, poet, dancer and musician is to guide people to ever-deeper levels of attunement with the source of harmony within themselves. This attunement with deeper levels within oneself will lead mankind to perfect attunement with Nature, because at the deepest level, there is perfect symmetry between humans and Nature. Indeed, they are one.

Barbara Briggs is a writer, poet, teacher of Transcendental Meditation and author of The Contribution of Maharishi's Vedic Science to Complete Fulfilment in Life. This excerpt is from Vision Into Infinity, her first book, which is out of print but will hopefully be reprinted soon.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010


Sometimes we find rope swings in the woods and this is always an invitation for the child to re-emerge.
We have found here how we constantly swing between the wounded child that we were and the archetypal child that we are seeking to manifest. The wounded child reacts to situations and relationships that trigger its fear, subtle transferences that keep us trapped in familiar patterns and sabotage any hope of escape. But the archetypal child is a beacon that is never truly extinguished, our infinite potential for renewal, for wonder and for real and enduring freedom. The rope upon which we swing is our tenuous link to the elder, high up in the branches above. It supports us and allows us to play. Sometimes it wears thin or even breaks and we fall on our face in the mud. At those times we may need another elder, a therapist perhaps, to help us tie up another rope and reinstate our connection. But this is only a temporary state of affairs for our true elder, the one within, never stops watching over us from above.
This connection between the old and the new is rarely felt more keenly than in November when the trees sow their seeds in the presence of death, in their fallen leaves, in the compost of the old year. Here the elder and the child lie side by side, one on her death bed, the other in her cradle. There is great ambivalence in this, our grief and our hope so united.
Ian Siddons Heginworth is an environmental arts therapist, founder of the Devon-based Wild Things community programme and author of Environmental Arts Therapy and the Tree of Life, Spirit’s Rest Books.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Reining Passions

And God took a handful of southerly wind, blew His breath over it, and created the horse.... Thou shall fly without wings, and conquer without any sword. ~ Bedouin Legend

For those trying to raise awareness about an issue or cause close to their hearts, it is of utmost importance to direct one’s passion carefully.
In a world where so many seem dangerously deaf and blind to the increasing troubles that beset us, it can be incredibly difficult to summon patience and avoid succumbing to the inclination to vent one’s frustrations on the very people one is attempting to educate. Where cooler heads do not prevail, we may inadvertently find ourselves becoming part of the problem rather than the solution.
The flaring of our passion sustains our will and commitment to support restorative changes, but like a team of wild horses, if not carefully directed and guided, it can easily trample rather than enlighten ignorant bystanders.
Particularly in times of heightened debate or discussion, reining our passions in, like trying to quiet wild horses, is an unmitigated challenge.  However, doing so almost invariably rewards our efforts.  Rather than alienating others, directed passion is a powerful force of Nature that can engage and inspire those around us to join our efforts to transform our world.  Indifference and even opposition can ignite – and unite to discover solutions, as our passions carry our hopes into reality.

Leah Lemieux is an author and lecturer who works on dolphin protection, education and conservation initiatives.

Saturday, 23 October 2010

The Cove

I was encouraged to see the connection between my feature in issue 263 on the Oscar winning documentary ‘The Cove’ and the blog posts of Leah Lemieux. It seems the plight of the Dolphins are once again on the local and global media radar. I remember the first time round. I lived in Ireland for a year in 1997. Part of the journey to the Ring of Kerry was to discover for myself the local folklore of the famous Dingle Bay Dolphin, Funghi. Dolphin mania seemed to be everywhere. This incredible sea creature brought a huge boost in local eco tourism as well as a connection to the natural world that has literally changed the lives of thousands.
As a result of indiscriminate tuna fishing uncovered in the eighties, the general public realised that Dolphins were in need of urgent protection. Public sympathy was sparked. My close friend and producer Tor Cotton made the acclaimed documentary, ‘The Dolphin’s Gift’, about Funghi. The film was a success with a suitably earnest narration by John Hurt.
I worked in the press office of the Environmental Investigation Agency in the early nineties and was honoured to work with the man who got the camera on board the ship where dolphins, inadvertently caught in the tuna fishing nets, were routinely having their fins cut off and thrown back into the sea to die. Gruesomely caught on his undercover camera, the fate of the Dolphin was given massive global media profile and the senseless killings, for the most part, were stopped in their tracks. Dolphin friendly tuna logos on supermarket cans worldwide soon followed.
And so, the cycle has begun again. We find ourselves in a new urgent, dolphin saving time with, among many others, the horrific issues raised in ‘The Cove’.

My experiences swimming with Funghi were not life changing but they had a powerful, lasting effect; as do the stories of those who have looked into his all seeing eye and found themselves changed forever. Swimming In his watery world I was deeply humbled, and a little scared; reminded of my natural place on land and the respect I have, and must have, for the sea. The dolphins power and place in the ocean is without question. So we must protect and respect their right to live fully and freely; as they did for millennia; long before we entered their sacred world and changed it forever.

Caspar Walsh is Film Editor for Resurgence magazine and a wilderness and writing teacher. His new novel, Blood Road is available from Headline.

Friday, 22 October 2010


As we walk through the forest and feel the old year dying around us we can look down and see the seeds of the year to come nestling among the fallen leaves. All must die, but in the heart of death we find life waiting.
A tree that the Celts associated with this time was the elder and the honouring of the elder within ourselves is a beautiful ritual that we share at this time. Working outdoors in a group we decorate a chair with elder. Then we find or make gifts for the others, to represent qualities that we wish to honour in each of them. One by one, we sit in the chair and the robe of the elder is placed upon our shoulders. The others in the group honour us with their gifts and then we are asked to own the qualities that we respect in ourselves.
Regardless of our age we are all elders of our own lives and of the cycle that is closing now. Our elder hood comes not from what we have done but from what we have felt, from the lessons that life has taught us and continues to teach us. In this respect even a child can honour the elder within themselves.
Others too. Honouring is a gift that we can give to even the most dishonoured. In a world that respects only achievement there are many that live with a perpetual sense of shame, disempowerment and failure. But regardless of whether we live in prison, in a mental hospital, in a night shelter or in a care home, we too are eating from the Tree of life and can honour the lessons that we have learned. We too can be honoured by others for the feeling qualities that they see in us. We too can accept the robe of the elder.
Ian Siddons Heginworth is an environmental arts therapist, founder of the Devon-based Wild Things community programme and author of Environmental Arts Therapy and the Tree of Life, Spirit’s Rest Books.

Friday, 24 September 2010

Disconnection breeds apathy and destruction – connection fosters care and restoration

With this in mind, I would like to share a poignant example of the transformation reconnection can bring.
The small coastal village of Futo in Japan became infamous around the world for the brutal slaughter of many hundreds of dolphins. For thirty years, like his father, grandfather and great-grandfather, Mr. Izumi Ishii was a dolphin hunter. But, one day, Mr. Ishii looked into the eye of a dolphin he was about to kill – and a connection was made. For the first time their pitiful cries touched his heart and suddenly, he could not continue. Mr. Ishii laid down his knife, vowed never to kill dolphins again and began to speak out against the cruel practice.
It took tremendous courage for him to denounce a centuries old tradition in a country where tradition is revered. Mr. Ishii is alone in his community in trying to end the dolphin slaughter.
To demonstrate alternative ways of generating livelihood, he retrofitted his hunting boat and began dolphin and whale watching expeditions, proving to his fellows that dolphin watching is more profitable than dolphin killing. Mr. Ishii now values dolphins not for their meat, but for the wonder they incite.


Leah Lemieux is an author and lecturer who works on dolphin protection, education and conservation initiatives.

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Urgent problems require urgent solutions – (no matter the cost?)

Photograph: showing the breakdown of PNp (a highly toxic derivative of TNT)

Rapid climate change, accelerated extinction rates, precipitated ecological degradation… our world is crumbling before our very own eyes. Whilst sceptics still abound, wallowing in their own apathetic complacency, no one can deny, for example, the transformation of the Aral Sea, once the world’s largest inland sea, into a barren wasteland – all within less than a single generation. Important fish stocks are, in some cases, down 99% from the 1970s levels. At the current trends, there will be no more virgin rainforest by 2030. By then, most coral reefs will have turned into bleached skeletons of their former selves and large swathes of agricultural soil will be too contaminated with endless arrays and combinations of herbicides, pesticides, fungicides, insecticides and nematicides to sustain ever increasing numbers of hungry mouths.
Current mitigation strategies are foreseen to be wholly inadequate in dealing with these pressing matters and most are serving but to delay the inevitable. Government busybodies talk of the stabilising of atmospheric carbon at 450 ppm by the middle of the century, yet this “optimistic” goal is none-the-less associated with a global 2°C average increase; enough to upset and indeed topple the delicate balance of already stressed ecosystems. The future of our planet is entirely dependent on the actions (or inactions) undertaken today. Waiting around hoping for the best is not an option. Urgency is paramount.
Solutions can sometimes be found in the unlikeliest of places. Whilst many people – the general public, government lackeys and moderate environmentalists alike – would baulk at the idea, the application of scientific knowledge in the field of genetics to combat rapid ecological degradation is valid, viable and altogether effective. To date, media scare tactics have enveloped the field of genetic engineering in a dark cloud of frankenstinian proportions. Whilst it is true that, in the hands of capitalistic multinationals with little or no ecological incentives, genetic manipulation has led to the development of fluorescent pigs and featherless chickens; devoted independent scientists across the globe are working furiously to develop techniques based essentially on the natural abilities of biological organisms. For example, bioremediation makes use of the natural biodegradative abilities of bacteria and fungi to break down extremely toxic, synthetic compounds including POPs, PCBs, CHCs and PAHs into their non-toxic constituents.
Molecular biologists are now able to pinpoint the gene systems which grant the micro-organisms these exceptional abilities. Genetic engineering allows for the bio-amplification of these abilities as well as the transferring of these between different species (the so called and much maligned transgenics). These extraordinary feats of scientific ingenuity could, for example, allow the identification of genes conferring the ability to break down and metabolize petroleum-based products in soil bacteria. These abilities could then be transferred into other micro-organisms at the site of environmental disasters such as the recent Gulf of Mexico oil spill and speed up the clean-up process.
Whilst it is true that the liberation of transgenic organisms into the wider environment may provoke a number of negative side effects further down the line, it is a fundamental law of nature that all benefits must come with a cost. The power inherent in the application of genetics to help mitigate urgent environmental degradation must not be overlooked. In this, our 11th hour, we must fight fire with fire.                       
Glyn Barrett is currently training for a PhD in bacterial genetics at the University of Reading.

Friday, 17 September 2010


Even before the leaves start yellowing, we know that autumn is here. We feel the change of direction within ourselves, a desire to return like the snail into the spiral of our being. The sun may still be shining, but it is lower in the sky now and it picks out the cobwebs in the hedgerows and sets them ablaze in the morning when the dewdrops held upon them sparkle like diamonds. The days can be soft, hazy and warm, but the nights are growing colder. Life is beginning to pull inwards, collapsing its systems, folding its wings about itself, settling down and preparing for the endings to come.

The Celts associated this time with the ivy. They considered it the strongest of trees because it can choke and kill anything it grows on, even the oak. It can block paths or pull down walls and when we meet a huge and ancient ivy we do not just meet the plant, with its thick and serpentine sinews, but we confront also that which is hidden within. Something suffocated, ruined and forgotten. So ivy draws us inwards, into the labyrinth of our being, to meet that which still blocks our path to freedom. As the cycle of the year nears its end it is often here that we meet the aspect of our self that we keep most hidden from ourselves and others. As we return from the Summerlands it awaits us.

Ian Siddons Heginworth is an environmental arts therapist, founder of the Devon-based Wild Things community programme and author of Environmental Arts Therapy and the Tree of Life, Spirit’s Rest Books.

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

What could be more profoundly sacred than science?

Over the centuries, science has lost many of its more ‘spiritual insights’ and ceded this territory back to religion. By disowning its principal revelations – the immensity of space and time, the interdependence of all living things and the preciousness of life – science threatens to return us to the grip of the religious belief systems that dominated Western culture before the 16th century. Its insistence on separating the sacred from the material world has encouraged us to build a psychological wall inside ourselves. This makes no sense to me. If religion is concerned with life’s ultimate truths and science is the never-ending search for truth, then what could be more profoundly sacred than science?

The truth is that science has become increasing pragmatic and functional over the centuries. Largely abandoning its ability to inspire awe, it is now Western culture’s chief problem-solver. Today, science’s primary purpose is to provide answers to many of the most serious challenges facing society. Whether it’s global warming or the latest disease pandemic, we look to science and its daughter – technology – for solutions. And their responses have been remarkably effective.

Mostly funded by government agencies and corporate interests, science and technology have significantly improved the quality of human life. For instance, the average human lifespan has increased by more than 40 years in the past century alone. This impressive record of achievement has transformed science into a belief system that is now worshipped like a religion.

As it has assumed the role of chief problem-solver, science has lost much of its capacity to evoke awe and wonder. Although it can generate exquisitely beautiful images of just about anything, science has become increasingly short sighted and limited. Preoccupied with narrowly defined technical problems, many researchers have closed their eyes to unfettered curiosity and open-ended inquiry about life. Why has this happened? It has happened because science has lost its commitment to deep observation.

Observation isn’t just about seeing. It’s also about using all our sense organs – listening with our ears, smelling with our noses, feeling and touching with our skin and tasting with our tongues. The most complete observation requires total attention and is about immersing one’s whole self in the experience of discerning the other.

At this level, observation is about understanding with our hearts as well as our heads. In the process, the separation between subject and object blurs. The observer becomes connected with the observed and a relationship is forged between them. Indeed, it is only through our senses that we can create and sustain relationships.

Nature writers such as Annie Dillard, Gary Snyder, Wendell Berry and Barry Lopez understand this well. Their work is chock full of sensory awareness and insightful reflection. But this type of observation is almost entirely lacking from contemporary science. As Sherlock Holmes said to Dr. Watson “You see but you do not observe.” Today, science is seeing but it is not observing. And without the willingness to fully observe life, science is unlikely to grasp its true splendor.

Read the full article

Kate Davies teaches environmental science and is director of the Center for Creative Change at Antioch University Seattle.

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Reasons for Hope

Humanity is struggling to evolve ethically on a deep level — to choose compassion over utility and profit. In a world where greed and ignorance has put the survival of all earthly life at risk, increasing levels of compassion and ethical concern may be crucial for our survival; it may be our only hope.

Riding along the cutting-edge of this ethical expansion, scientists have now made an official proclamation acknowledging that current research reveals Dolphins qualify as nonhuman persons — intelligent, sophisticated, sentient individuals of intrinsic worth, sharing the same fundamental grounds for moral consideration as humans, including a right to life and freedom.

Currently, we treat Dolphins as if they were property, not persons; objects rather beings, and at present, many thousands are killed and injured by numerous human practices every year. To successfully make this moral leap and accept Dolphins into our sphere of ethical concern with equal entitlement to life and freedom would necessitate an immediate cessation of practices which harm them. Toward this worthy goal an international group of scientists have founded a Declaration of Rights for Whales and Dolphins.

The incomparable Albert Schweitzer declared that the most fundamental principle of ethics is a “Reverence for Life” and thus the preservation, restoration and enhancement of life becomes the anchor of our ethical evolution. This includes the realisation that the powerful and privileged status that humans enjoy on this Earth entails, not a right to exploit, but a responsibility to protect.

Thus, we find Dolphins a supremely apt symbol for the polarised human relationship with Nature and the internal struggle we are facing within human nature itself — a test of our courage and our humanity.

For more information please visit:
Cetacean Rights

Leah Lemieux is an author and lecturer who works on dolphin protection, education and conservation initiatives.

Friday, 13 August 2010

Just Bee

We are all part of one great whole, visibly or invisibly depending on each other.

Together we can make an active contribution to the great whole.

Without bees life would not taste so sweet.

There was a play on Radio 4 recently called ‘Hive Mind’. It was set in the near future in a world lacking Bees where farmers were paying immigrant workers to pollinate essential crops by hand (as featured in our Health Special in the May/June issue of the magazine), until the evil scientists came along with their ‘HoneyBots’. This was the first time I have experienced this kind of (positive?) propaganda on the radio and I am not sure how it has left me feeling about the use of this medium. In the play, the Honeybots turned bad and ended up killing the children fuelling a full-scale riot which led to their self-destruction and a return to simple hand-pollination.
We are all fully aware of the demise of the Honeybee and are constantly fed alarming statistics about the dramatic extinction rates-which, ironically, has led to a collective de-sensitization to the loss of species and habitats. Popular films such as 2012, The Age of Stupid and Avatar target (at varying levels) the fact that we know we cannot keep taking more from our Earth than we put back. But will the use of media to convey these powerful ecological messages do more harm than good?
By making the challenges and possible outcomes into entertainment do we risk downgrading the problems? Will we be open to criticism and attack from bar-stool Britain? “You’re only saying that ‘cause it was in that T.V Show”/ “That’s not really gonna happen, that was a film/play etc”.
Bees use the medium of dance to communicate the location of nectar to one another. Plants make use of colour, scent and deceptive shapes to get other organisms to carry out essential reproductive activities. Humans employ stories, fables and myths to warn of making the wrong choices, so maybe we will see the afternoon play being used more often from now on as a warning of our wrong doings.

Jon Every is a Botanist, studying Botanical Conservation at Plymouth University.

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Even Clouds of Volcanic Ash have Silver Linings

Two days spent indoors during what have been the clearest and brightest days of 2010 left the sun-worshipper in me feeling mildly anxious. The Eco-warrior in me, on the other hand, was pleased to be soaking up the warm company of like-minded people at UK Aware. As the event drew to a close some curious and ironic connections between clear blue skies over London, volcanic ash clouds from Iceland, free merchandise from 10:10 campaigners and a slightly tamer-than-expected exhibition attendance began to reveal themselves. A clear success for its 3rd year running – UK Aware was certainly more than just about buying eco products. Inspiring activists such as founder of The Big Green Idea Brigit Strawbridge, and international environmental lawyer for planetary rights, Polly Higgins, shared their own personal passions with the public. Nevertheless, the footfall during the gathering was somewhat lower than expected. But who can blame potential punters for being drawn away from a conference centre whilst the weather outside was so stunning.
What interested me though was the reason for the skies of London being in such unusually pristine condition – attributed to the absence of vapour trails from the usual flights to and from airports in the capital. According to Plane Stupid this has saved 200,000 tonnes of CO2 from being emitted by the aviation industry each day that flights were cancelled. This is the same amount that would be produced by 100,000 households in a year! So it seems that the commuter's loss can be the campaigners gain – even if it did dampen the spreading of eco-messages at the UK Aware.
A further irony is added to the situation when we learn that the metal neck tags being handed out at the event to people signing up to 10:10 are made from the jet engine of a British Airways 747 which flew into a cloud of volcanic ash thrown up by the eruption of Mount Galunggung in Indonesia in 1982 – resulting in the failure of all four engines. Read the full story of tags here. With the return of sunny weather and spring flowers to the UK, Mother Nature has put a smile on many faces this week. Many faces will still be frowning at her tremendous ability to bring international travel to a standstill too. It’s time to listen to Mother Nature’s minor grumbles of volcanic indigestion – maybe she’s trying to tell us something about our lifestyle.
Ian Tennant

Thursday, 4 February 2010

Willing But Not Necessarily Able

Just before Christmas, I went for coffee with Martin Powell, a twenty-one year old poet from Devon who's work was selected to open the CNN debate on Climate Change at Copenhagen. As Martin explained to me what sparked his interest in global issues, I was immediately struck by his sincerity and genuine concern about the state of our planet. Soon after 9/11, during his early teens, Martin found himself engrossed in the subsequent cascade of military action, but unable to understand the reason why war was breaking out. Brought to tears by the scenes aired on TV, Martin started expressing his feelings through poetry. He kept his poems private for years, until a friend persuaded him to make use of the work. Martin now plans to make a career from poetry and is currently involved in local environmental projects.

Martin's experience is similar to that of many youngsters faced with facts in our society that don't fit the values of kindness and caring so sternly drummed into them as children. As we develop from children, unashamed to question certain ‘accepted truths’, into adults with the ability to discern right from wrong - there is a precious window of time before we become distracted by the need to earn enough money for one's partner, children, dog…and of course white paint for the picket fence. During this time, youths seem more immune to the excuses used to justify war, unfair economics or environmental degradation and many feel an urge to make a real positive change in the world.

However, the question which remains nagging in my mind, is how can this bank of energy be harnessed before emotional detachment sets in? Of course, youth groups, charities and schemes exist to support such willing youngsters, but the impact they are able to make is severely limited by the miniscule resources available to them and the staff running these organisations are required to spend far too much time struggling for the next round of cash. Once again, human values take second place to monetary necessity.

It seems like a no win situation! But, maybe we can look to Bhutan for a key to the economic lock blocking the way. By introducing ‘Gross National Happiness’ values into the educational system Bhutan is restoring balance to their curriculum and giving credibility to those who stand for peace and sustainability. Let’s hope other countries follow their lead so that future generations will be able, as well as willing, to turn things around.

CNN debate on Climate Change at Copenhagen
Take Action – share your ideas on how we can re-evaluate the way society measures success at Our Future Planet.
Gross National Happiness by Rajni Bakshi

Ian Tennant