'Green Warriors' is an example of how to use the medium of film as a platform for people to voice their opinions and make it heard. Dr Chhabra, an award winning director of 'Mudcake' and 'Taste of Berry' , with support from the NGO Humlog, had the skills and knowledge, and most of all the determination to make the film as an activist’s tool. He set in motion several protests by school children and others, initiated research and invited the participation of many reputed and influential people – all of which went into the making of the film ‘Green Warriors’.
There is a secret place – a hidden heaven - which no one knows about in the city of Chandigarh. However, it might be lost soon if “we the people” don’t act NOW. With this as the message, the film shows many different people and groups talk about the need to preserve the biodiversity within urban spaces.In the film, a group of school kids protest near the pond with exotic species of flora and fauna in it. The gardener of the nursery near the pond Amaratham narrates her woes. She is unhappy that the nursery has been closed down forever and along with it the Heritage village pond will be closed down too.
Factual information was procured using the RTI (Right to Information)Act, and the film attempts to document the current socio-political scenario of Chandigarh on issues such as green policies, dwindling areas of green corridor, environment policies vs. on ground implementations etc.Picturesque shots of Chandigarh city juxtaposed with powerful interviews of Shri. Sundarlal Bahuguna, officials, tourists etc, make the film a statement from the citizens to the government, urging the State to protect its commons.Evoking the pride of the citizens, the film has valuable archival footage of Le Corbusier where he talks about the philosophy of ‘Open hand’. “The seed of Chandigarh is well sown. It is for the citizens to see that the tree flourishes”.
Stating that “Karo ya Maro” should be the attitude, Shri Sundarlal Bahuguna says “Development should be for common people and not for the select few”. It highlights the ‘GREEN’ eye wash by Chandigarh administration and its fake claims of planting one million trees. Footage reveals that this was a major failure in terms of on ground implementation of Greening Chandigarh action plan-08 (with information obtained through the help of the RTI Act).Veteran Architect Mr. MN Sharma (1st Indian Chief Architect of the city) talks about haphazard growth of the city and Chandigarh being gripped by the Land Mafia, where the Public is being fooled in the name of Public Private partnership.
The City Awakens
The film was finally ready after several months of sleepless nights and one threat. Since the first screening of the film last year, Chandigarh has woken up and is fighting back through silent protests. These protests have taken different forms, including painting workshops, letter writing competitions at the Heritage pond, forming human chains and the screening of the film in different schools across the city followed by group discussions. A photo exhibition was put up by Government college of Arts along side an exhibition of paintings and protest letters by more than 1000 school children.
Since the release of the film on Oct 18th 2011, the project has come to a stop and FILE C-215 has been closed.For a film that was made with zero budget and reused tapes, the high point was when the court ordered that the land be developed only in an eco friendly manner by Chandigarh administration. A butterfly park is underway.
Green Warriors is truly a film by the people, of the people and for the people.
A 1-day Workshop on ‘Organic & Conscious Living’
Date : 25th March, Sunday 8:30 am to 6:00 pm
Venue: Bhoomi Network
Prakriya School Campus,
Off Sarjapur Road
For whom: People who wish to take charge of their ‘wellness’ through Earth conscious living choices
As most of us continue living a ‘busy’ or ‘fast’ life, rarely do we stop to observe and look at our daily choices. Whether it is the processed/polished foods that we eat, the pills that we pop into our mouths every time we fall sick or the amount of energy we consume, not just directly but also through the choice of products and conveniences. We do momentarily get concerned when we read in the papers about the dramatic rise in lifestyle diseases and cancers, but move on with our lives as we are not sure if there is anything we can do about it. The serious degradation of the environment happening all around us is again a concerning news bite but not something that we see ourselves responsible for or something that we can positively impact through our daily choices.
This program on ‘Organic & Concious Living’ promises to be a fascinating journey to explore, learn and hopefully discover in each of us a more ‘Concious’ way of living. The program, through numerous self-exploratory and hands-on activities, will traverse the various perspectives and ideas on Health, Food, Energy and Shelter. These activities are designed to not only enable us to learn new methods and techniques, but more importantly they will spur us individually and as a group to inquire and discover within us, what living consciously means, and how would we like to go about achieving it. The hands-on sessions will explore a wide range of activities such as making chemical-free tooth-powder and detergents at home, building a solar powered structure using only mud, organic gardening and learning to make delicious yet healthy food dishes.
What you can expect from the workshop?
This workshop will help discover within each of us how we would like to live more consciously and tread lightly on this beautiful planet we call home, while also gaining a hands-on understanding of the basic principles behind a wide range of topics. Through a balanced mix of reflection, dialogue, theory and hands-on, the group will explore how we can make definitive changes through a deeper understanding of what it means to live a more meaningful and conscious life.
Rajesh Thakkar, Rahul Hasija, Santhi & Pushpa will be the faculty for this workshop.
Fees: Rs 1000/- per person (Lunch, Snacks, Tea included)
Limited number of seats
Contact Person : Santhi
You can register by email or phone. Please provide your Name, Contact number and Email id.
Payments can be made by cash on the day of the program or by mailing cheque to:
No,70, Prakriya School Campus,
Chikkanayakanahalli, off doddakanelli;
Sarjapur Road, carmalaram Post
Bangalore - 560035
Online Payment Details
Beneficiary Name: Bhoomi Network
Account Number: 2757201000315
IFS Code: CNRB0002757
Bank Name: Canara Bank, Rainbow Drive Layout, Doddakanahalli, Sarjapur Road, Bangalore – 560035
Holistic Health and Yoga
by Jayawanth Bharadwaj
Date: 1st Apr, 2012, Sunday
Time: 8:30 am to 3:30 pm
Venue: Bhoomi Network, Prakriya School Campus,
Off Sarjapur Road, Bangalore
Are Stiff neck, back Spasms or joint discomfort bothering you?
Your doctor warns you may have arthritis or spondylitis but cannot help much?
You are unable to manage your weight?
Are you confused whether to focus on Pranayama or Meditation or Work outs?
Not sure how to sit correctly at the computer or while driving? Is walking or swimming safe for everyone?
Is it safe to follow Pranayama on TV? Is Suryanamaskar better than Jogging?
A comprehensive set of yoga based stretches (unlike conventional exercise),
· Ensures a functional spine, addressing root cause of many problems
· Recruits all muscle groups (not just the visible superficial muscles)
· Provides synchronized movement and efficient breathing
· Improves endocrine system (e.g. thyroid functions), lymphatic drainage with directed circulation
· Improves form and alignment for better performance in sports or any activity such as dance
Fees: Rs 1000/- per person (Lunch included)
Rs 1200/- per person after 26th Mar, 2012
"Trek through Sharavathi Valley"
“To live a responsible life on our planet, we need to learn to love and delight in the abundance of Mother Earth."
Trek through Sharavathi Valley' on 7th and 8th of April, 2012.
This programme is open for adults aged 18 years and above & for children above 10 years. Children below 10 years need to be accompanied by parents.
This programme has been designed with care to suit adults who are familiar with wilderness as well as those who have never camped or trekked before. As a community with people from diverse backgrounds, we expect a rich shared experience of learning and earth reverence at Sharavathi Valley.
Two day programme Rs 3800/- inclusive of travel, food, accommodation, forest entries and all activities.
An Organic & Terrace Gardening Workshop
Date: 7th April, Saturday, Time: 8:30 am to 5:30 pm
Venue: Bhoomi Network
Prakriya School Campus,
Off Sarjapur Road
For whom: People who wish to take charge of their ‘wellness’ and ‘health.’
For generations in India, having a kitchen-garden was integral to a complete home, where freshness and nutrition from a variety of vegetables were given significance and the words ‘pesticides’ and ‘chemical fertilizer’ were unheard of. There was no concept of wastage because everything was re-used in some form or the other. Natural resources were respected and utilized responsibly so as to preserve them for future generations – that was the prevalent culture! This forgotten and neglected way of life in urban spaces needs to be revived.
Why do urbanites have to grow organic food for consumption?
Due to migration of people to urban areas, fertile agricultural land has been converted into houses and other infrastructures thus reducing the land for cultivation. But there is a movement around the world today to transform this barren city-scape into a green and valuable contributor to health and ecological balance. Estimates show that as many as 20 million people are engaged in urban agriculture all over the world. Half of Latin American cities, 72% of urban - house holds in Russia and 14 largest cities in China produce 85% of the vegetables not only from terraces but also on empty sites, unbuiltareas, parks, etc.
In this age of pesticide-driven agriculture most of the vegetables and fruits available in the market seem to add to human diseases and ill-health. But they are packaged well and look good on the shelf. How can we then be sure if we and our children are eating pure and fresh foods? The best way to grow our own organic vegetables and greens.
What do we believe in - chemical fertilizers and pesticides, decorative plants and imported grass which yield neither flower nor fruit - or do we believeinsafe, flavourful, native, nutritious produce for our kitchens? It is for us to choose and learn a meaningful way of spending some of our leisure time.
What you can expect from the workshop?
This workshop will help us understand the basic principles of gardening and then apply it to our own context – homes, apartments or terraces. This workshop will focus on the practical aspects, so that we get a first hand experience with earth, soil, compost, nutrients on the field. It will include pest and disease management also.
Rajesh Thakkar committed to organic gardening and farming will be the faculty for this workshop.
Gardening is a healthy hobby, not only to keep one engaged for a couple of hours in a week but it gives the pleasure of being in the midst of a growing garden. Let’s jointly experience this workshop and start making our own little gardens.
Contact Person : Santhi
Contact No: 9449853834, 28441173
Fees: Rs 1000/- per person (Lunch included)
Limited number of seats
For too long, too many of us have been entranced by heroes, perhaps it’s our desire to be saved, to not have to do the hard work, to rely on someone else to figure things out. Constantly, we are barraged by politicians presenting themselves as heroes, the ones who will fix everything and make our problems go away. It’s a seductive image, an enticing promise. And we keep believing it. Somewhere there is someone who will make it all better. Somewhere there is someone who is visionary, inspiring, brilliant, trustworthy, and we will all happily follow him or her. Somewhere…
Well, it is time for all the heroes to go home, as the poet William Stafford wrote. It is time for us to give up these hopes and expectations that only breed dependency and passivity, and that do not give us solutions to challenges we face. It is time to stop waiting for someone to save us. It is time to face the truth of our situation – we are all in this together, that we all have a voice and figure out how to mobilize the hearts and minds of everyone in our work places and communities.
Why do we continue to hope for heroes? It seems we assume certain things, including the following:
Leaders have the answers. They know what to do.
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The lovely, dark and deep woods are home to thousands of kinds of birds, frogs, reptiles, mammals, plants, fungi, a myriad insects and much more. Moss hangs in long tendrils from tree branches. Sunlight filtered through many layers of leaves reaches the ground with a muted greenish glow. Rainforests are natural greenhouses, holding the humidity in and providing a rich culture for life of all kinds to germinate. Indeed, there is more diversity of living beings standing still, wriggling, and flitting about in one square metre of rainforest than any other terrestrial habitat in the world. The Western Ghats (the English-Hindi name means “the hills of the West”) were formed about 125 million years ago, when the supercontinent of Gondwana broke up and India split from Madagascar. This 160,000 sq km chain of hills and valleys, of grasslands, evergreen and deciduous forests, is one of the world’s 34 biodiversity-rich hotspots. Among tropical forests, it also supports the most number of people. In South India, many major rivers emerge as a trickle from the slopes of these ranges before coursing through the plains for hundreds of kilometers supporting agriculture and other human enterprise until they meet the sea.
Humans hunted and foraged in these jungles 12,000 years ago. Farming started 2,000 years ago, long before it did in most other tropical forests. About 200 years ago, large-scale clearing of forests for cultivation of tea and coffee began. Despite the antiquity of human occupation and usage, a third of the Western Ghats is still covered in forests. But the sad news is only 25% of this natural habitat is strictly protected. Some of the remaining tracts enjoy a modicum of protection, while the rest is splintered into fragments interspersed among vast acreages of commercial plantations. Although these shreds of forests may be small, they support significant wildlife.
It is still common to see large animals such as elephants, gaur, and sloth bears wending their way across these plantations, from one forest patch to another. Smaller creatures go even further, staking territories, hunting prey, and even having babies in these man-made landscapes. As Nisarg Prakash, a Masters student of the National Centre for Biological Sciences, recently found out: where there is adequate prey, crabs and other crustaceans, and vegetation cover for their holts (dens) along the banks, small-clawed otters are found in streams running through tea, coffee, and cardamom in the Anamalai hills. This is especially heartening news since otter pelt is one of the prime items in the illegal wildlife trade.
In 2010, a team of researchers led by M.O. Anand from Nature Conservation Foundation (NCF) set out to understand what encourages wild animals to live in these commercial lands by analyzing 35 studies involving 14 animal groups.
Different crops need varying degrees of forest clearance. After the undergrowth is cleared, cardamom is planted in the shade of forest trees, altering the forest structure the least. Coffee requires more sunlight so some trees are removed. However, to maximize profits, wild trees are increasingly being replaced by the Australian soft-wood, silver oak, which can be harvested for timber pulp. At the other end of the spectrum, tea, rubber, timber trees and paddy completely replace the forest.
Since the landscape is a matrix of these different crops and forest lots, which of these land uses promotes biodiversity? Anand and his colleagues confirmed the obvious: crops that have totally supplanted the forest were wildlife-impoverished, sustaining the least number of life forms. Conversely, plantations of cardamom and coffee grown under forest trees fostered high biodiversity but not nearly as much as forests did. But more than any other factor, it was the size of the nearest forest block that mattered; the larger the forest patch, the richer the biological wealth of the surrounding agricultural areas.
Under these circumstances, what conservation strategy should be pursued? There is no doubt that wildlife-friendly farming practices, such as advocating coffee grown under forest trees, would help enormously. But if the forest fragments were so crucial to sustaining various life forms, they need to be protected as a matter of priority, argue the researchers.
Forests patches are owned by private companies, individuals, and the Revenue and Forest Departments of the government. In some places, communities manage wooded chunks as sacred groves. Although these stands of wilderness were originally left standing to conserve watersheds and are protected by law, local people graze livestock, cut trees for timber, fuel wood, and to expand their agricultural holdings. Since setting these forests aside for conservation would entail an economic loss to companies and individuals, incentives such as certification could offer a solution.
One such certifying agency, Rainforest Alliance, and the Indian conservation organization, NCF, are members of the Sustainable Agriculture Network, a consortium of NGOs around the world, that have developed the Sustainable Agriculture Standard. T.R. Shankar Raman and Divya Mudappa of NCF conduct training programs for landowners seeking the Rainforest Alliance seal of approval. Applicants have to abide by the Standard, demonstrating improved living and working conditions of their work force and/or concessions for wildlife conservation.
A key criterion for eligibility is discontinuing the use of internationally banned agrochemicals. Even acceptable chemicals have to be treated responsibly. Employees who spray crops are provided special bathrooms, and their containers and clothes washed in designated areas. The contaminated water is channeled to soak pits or treatment facilities.
Since large dangerous animals, such as elephants and leopards, pose a threat to workers collecting firewood in forest fragments, managers of plantations are encouraged to provide fuel efficient stoves, or even better, gas cylinders and solar water heaters.
Drawing up an inventory of wildlife found in their forests and plantations is a necessary part of the certification process, and so far it has totaled up more than 100 animal and 150 plant species, including many endemic and threatened species, in the Nilgiri and Anamalai hills.
Smallholders, usually coffee plantations with no forest fragments, have the option of obtaining group certification. For instance, neighbouring farms can get together and stop coffee pulp effluent from contaminating streams; instead, it’s diverted to treatment facilities. They can also protect community forests or cooperate with the Forest Department to prevent poaching and fires in National Parks and Sanctuaries. By goading landowners to do more for their workers and the environment, these certification programs, in effect, turn them into better land stewards.
The incentive for making these changes is the increased prices that certified commodities fetch in the export market. Conscientious buyers of certified tea and coffee pay between Rs. 7 to Rs. 21 per kg. more than the average price. Disappointingly, should these Rainforest Alliance approved products enter the domestic market, they fetch no more than the rest. Creating awareness and demand for such produce in India would go farther in encouraging landowners to be ecologically and socially responsible.
Safeguarding fragments of forests will provide greater mileage not only for the biodiversity of adjacent farmlands but protected forests such as parks and sanctuaries. Such protected forests make up only 9% of the land area of the Western Ghats. Since they are too few, small and far between, and animals move in and out of them, conservation management cannot stop abruptly at its boundaries. By including private players in the overall conservation strategy, there is a good chance of retaining nearly 40,000 unprotected sq.km. of natural habitat, an area almost three times larger than National Parks and Sanctuaries. As India moves rapidly up the population and consumption ladder, people, in the Forest Department and conservation world, with the protected area fixation better wake up and smell the coffee.
‘This article was first published on Firstpost.com
Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth
Dear Teachers and Parents: Do read out this declaration to your children and sign and mail a copy of the letter to the Prime Minister given overleaf to him. Our children need to be involved in their own future…
This declaration was adopted by the World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth, in Bolivia. The Bolivian government has submitted it to the United Nations for Consideration.
Paraphrased version of Preamble and articles:
Preamble: We, the peoples and nations of Earth, considering that we are all part of Mother Earth, an indivisible, living community of interrelated and interdependent beings with a common destiny; gratefully acknowledging that Mother Earth is the source of life, nourishment and learning and proviedes everything we need to live well; recognizing that the capitalist system and other other forms of depradation have exploited and abused Earth, putting life at risk through crises like climate change; convinced that, to guarantee human rights, we need to recognize the rights of Mother Earth; conscious that it is urgent to take decisive and collective action; proclaim the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth and call on the General Assembly of the United Nations to adopt it as a common standard of achievement.
Article 1: Mother Earth is a living Being;
Mother Earth is a unique, indivisible, self-regulating community of interrelated beings that sustains, contains and reproduces all beings.
Mother Earth and all beings are entitled to all the inherent rights recognized in this Declaration without distinction of any kind – all beings have rights which are specific to their species and communities.
The rights of each being are limited by the rights of other beings and any conflicts must be resolved in a way that maintains the integrity, balance and health of Mother Earth.
Article 2 – Inherent Rights of Mother Earth
Mother Earth and all beings of which she is composed have the following inherent rights:
The right to life and to exist, the right to water, clean air and integral health and to regenerate its bio-capacity
The right to be respected, to maintain its identity and integrity as a distinct self-regulated being, and the right to not have its genetic structure modified.
The right to be free of contamination, pollution, toxic and radioactive waste.
The right to prompt restoration from violation of its rights
Each being has a right to a place and to play its role in Mother Earth and the right to well being and to live free from torture and cruel treatment by human beings
After bringing out the 8th issue of Eternal Bhoomi , we felt it was time to take a pause and re-look at what we want this magazine to be.
Article 3 – Obligations of human beings to Mother Earth
Every human being is responsible for respecting and living in harmony with Mother Earth. All humans, states and all public and private institutions must:
Act in accordance with the rights and obligations recognized in this Declaration, promote its full implementation and participate in its learning, interpretation and communication.
Ensure that the pursuit of human well being contributes to the well being of Mother Earth, now and in the future.
Establish and apply effective laws for the protection of the rights of Mother Earth and Respect, Protect, conserve ecological cycles, processes and balance of Moher Earth.
Guarantee that damages caused by human violations of the rights of Mother Earth are rectified.
Empower human beings and institutions to defend the rights of Mother Earth and all beings, amd establish precautionary and restrictive measures to prevent human activities from causing species extinction and the destruction of eco systems.
Guarantee peace and eliminate nuclear, chemical and biological weapons.
Promote economic systems that are in harmony with Mother Earth and support practices of respect for Mother Earth in accordance with their own cultures traditions and customs.
Article 4 – Definitions
1. The term ‘being’ includes ecosystems, natural communities, species and all other natural entities which exist as part of Mother Earth.
2. Nothing in this Declaration restricts the recognition of other inherent rights of all beings or specified beings.
Letter to the Prime Minister of India
Dr. Manmohan Singh
Hon’ble Prime Minister of India
South Block, Raisina Hill, New Delhi – 110101
Sub: Stand up for the Rights of Mother Earth
India today may be reveling in its nearly double digit growth but it is forgetting its ancient legacy of reverence for Mother Earth and the need to protect nature for future generations. On the occasion of the 150th birth anniversary of India’s National Poet, Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore, let us also be reminded of his innate wisdom and warning that “the greed of gain has no time or limit for its capaciousness. It’s one object is to produce and consume. It has pity neither for beautiful nature nor for living human beings. It is ruthlessly ready without a moment’s hesitation to crush beauty and life out of them, molding them into money.”
On World Environment Day in 1972, the United Nations Conference on Human Environment began in Stockholm. Smt. Indira Gandhi, our then Prime Minister, was the only Head of Government who travelled to Stockholm to participate in it. She addressed the gathering by quoting our ancient scripture, the Atharva Veda, and said “O pure Earth, May that we utilize your soil well, without causing you injury or harm or disturbing any vital element in you.” This is our civilization’s legacy – for which we have stood up and spoken on behalf of the Rights of Mother Earth and her people, and against apartheid of any kind. You are the custodian of this legacy as our Prime Minister.
We have given the world the concept of Vasudhaiva Kutubakum – the Earth family which represents the democracy of all life. Our indigenous traditions of reverence for the earth are still upheld by our tribal cultures and rural communities. The Indian constitution has also reflected this spirit by adopting the PESA act. Across India, tribals are adopting resolutions under PESA, declaring: “We pledge that the resources of our village do not belong to an individual, they belong to the community… From today we will refer to the earth that sustains us as Mother Earth. Our Mother Earth is not a tradeable commodity.”
In the wake of Rio+20, twenty years after the first Earth Summit held at Rio in 1992, we urge you to uphold our moral, political and spiritual heritage and support the Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth during the Earth Summit and be guided by its spirit in your action and policies as well.
We hope that our voices reach you and give you courage to represent our unique ecological civilization which has always stood for non-violence, peace and trusteeship of the Earth. We hope India will join the ranks of the people and nations who have the vision to endorse, support and champion the cause of the Rights of Mother Earth
For the Earth
(Add lists of names and addresses and send to our Prime Minister)
Tao is about following ‘the Way’ – finding it, losing it, finding it again. The Tao is the way of balance and harmony, between male and female, masculine and feminine, between human kind and the rest of Nature, between life and death, between ancestors and those yet to be, between microcosm and macrocosm, and between the energies of Earth and stars. It is rooted in Nature and universe, and was experienced and perceived by ancient Chinese sages through passive-receptive and active-receptive meditations – opening to oneness and avoiding the seeming dualities of body and mind.
Tao involves humility, discipline, wanting little, questioning assumptions of human self-importance, being participant – observers in Nature’s cycles, and delighting in the interplay of the Chinese elements – Earth at the centre, air/metal, fire, water and wood to the four cardinal directions. Being close to feminism and to shamanism, Tao has for long periods of time been persecuted and driven underground and then, for the exact same reasons, has bubbled up again.
Indeed, Tao in me has at times been driven underground and then bubbled up again. It has no immediate relevance to my work as a psychoanalyst and intellectual, so keeping alive such an ancient and ‘culturally other’ philosophy has at times been strange, impossible or disorienting – and I’m only a beginner. I ask myself, what is this oriental ‘call’, in languages I cannot understand, with myths more remote than those of the Greeks? After all, there is love of Nature in rich seams and running waters in my occidental roots. My answer is that it is the oriental disciplined use and appreciation of the physical body, as temple for the breath, and as giving ways to access Nature and Spirit in their own terms, with no ideological clothing or aversion, that draws me back, again and again, to Tao.
Ours is an increasingly secular, diverse, plural and slowly more pagan era, and urgent desires are emerging, wanting to connect directly with Nature and to know what that might mean.
Many, vaguely wanting to reduce their carbon and eco footprints, fear how empty their lives would be if they did. In Taoist perspectives, they fear the wrong kind of emptiness, but if they could bear it they would find sufficiency in emptiness beyond their present reach.
As an engaged citizen in a noisy, somewhat implausible ‘normal’ business of market-led social democracies, I do not find this path easy, yet disciplined participation in Taoist meditations helps me to undo the shackles of Western late-industrial intellectual arrogance. This essay is my attempt to delineate a stance by which to survive psychically in these times, which, I believe, are more troubling than collectively ‘we’ yet realize. It is not about the sublime reaches of mystical rapture, but about the rugged struggle to connect where we encounter limitation in the field of desire, and where we need to bow to greater forces.
We need to address the lack of balance where there is a cascade of dominance: male over female, human species over Nature, and the consequent ill effects. Sigmund Freud studying hysteria – a condition designated as being of the feminine – distinguished male-and-female as genders from masculine-and-feminine as psychical qualities. He considered the life force to be sexual in nature, named it the libido, and observed its course from the depths of the bodily unconscious. But he also considered libido to be masculine, in either gender, thus consigning women to a position of passivity.
Although Freud made an enormous contribution to rescuing women from the tyranny of the male gaze (and from being sexually dominated), he generated confusion as to the feminine position, which is not one of passivity but of receptivity. Ancient Tao, by contrast, distinguishes yang/masculine: hot, quick, bright, and expansive, from yin/ feminine: cool, slow, shadowy, and nourishing, and teaches that both are necessary and complementary aspects of chi, the life force.
There are many teachers and traditions of Taoist arts and practices available to us. One well-known is Master Mantak Chia, best known for his work with sexuality and for teaching practices to strengthen and clarify in the interests of enhancing balanced, loving intercourse between yin and yang energies of the body, rooted in Nature, with head in the stars.
Contemporary fast-moving, prurient excitement about all things sexual would misread Chia’s contributions as being confined to rather peculiar ways of achieving greater satisfaction. Instead, perusal of his many books leads to the realization that he is setting sexual experience, in the context of disciplined, detailed, shamanically informed practices to bring alive the relations between yin and yang in and between ourselves, and in Nature too.
The core practice is to generate the “micro-cosmic orbit”, or “small heavenly cycle”, a circling of energy from the perineum up the spine and down the front, round and round. It begins by being imagined, and becomes more and more real. This practice in “micro-ecology” – circling and conserving energies within the body – encourages self – sufficiency, helping to defeat what Buddhists call craving and psychoanalysts call lack, which otherwise seems to be filled by spurious appetites. Chia himself comes across not as an “expert’ but as ‘master’ of his subject, deeply versed in chi kung and tai chi, a Taoist doctor with many specific techniques and meditations for various ailments which, in keeping with the traditions of Chinese acupunctural medicine, he perceives as due to imbalances in body’s energy systems. Born in Thailand to a family of Chinese origin, he is apparently from a long line of shamans broken only by his father who became a Christian priest.
Kris Deva North is Chia’s UK representative and founder of the London Healing Tao Centre, All Chia’s teachings are taught there, contextualized for Westerners, with links being made to the practices and medicine wheel of the Amerindian peoples, with whom Kris has lived and studied. The practices are energetic dynamic, and intended to open the participant to the inner energy body. They are also very safe, because all Taoist practices and meditations are to do with generating, conserving and deploying chi with love, in wisdom and for healing.
The practice of the inner smile, for example, may seem weird, but it becomes very invigorating and cleansing. Imagine the sun (yang) in your brow, flooding the inner body with warmth and light, and the moon (yin) in your kidneys. When we smile, gratefully, to each of the main internal organs (heart, kidneys, stomach/spleen/pancreas, liver and lungs), we are immediately confronted with what is our normal lack in our awareness in taking these organs for granted.
Tao is ancient China’s gift to the world, and the Tai Te Ching is its classic text – one of subtle nobility opening hearts to wanting less and realizing that less is more. It is said to have been composed 2,500 years ago by a Keeper of the Imperial Archives whose legendary name is Lao Tzu, meaning ‘old philosopher’. His job gave him the opportunity to reconstruct the paths of many sages who preceded him, until, retreating to a cave, he finally composed this luminous text, proposing a way of life in keeping with Nature.
With Confucianism it forms a double helix running through the diversity of Chinese cultures. Whereas Confucius sought an ethical philosophy by which to regulate relations between individual, family and State, Lao Tzu was ambivalent about and reflective upon all such regulations, acknowledging their necessity but also seeing through them to our roots in Nature and her celestial origins. The Tao Te Ching has generated scores of translations and libraries of commentary – yet do we know what it means? Not without our self that reads it being put to the sword.
“In gathering your vital energy to attain suppleness, have you reached the state of a new-born babe? In washing and clearing your inner vision, have you purified it of all dross? In loving your people and governing your state, are you able to dispense with cleverness? In the opening and shutting of heaven’s gate, are you able to play the feminine part?” Lao Tzu calls on us to find again the charmed timelessness of the new-born babe, without regressing from our adult capacities for concern and subtle action.
There is not the slightest hint in Lao Tzu of democracy as a concept or a desirable end in itself – there is the Sage, the Ruler and the people, and the best way of ruling is to keep the people happy, their bellies full and their minds uncluttered and without desire. He taught a way of life somewhat subversive of imperial and religious control, proposing for all – including future generations and their rulers – a walk on the wild side in communion with forces and presences that inspire creation. “See the simple, embrace the primal, diminish the self and curb the desires.”
Thus it links with the interests of the oppressed wand with ethnic diversity. The ‘noble man”, in Lao Tzu’s classic, is not only the nobleman by imperial reward or acquisiotion of power, but one who lives in harmony with the natural order, delighting in physical vitality, and resisting and bypassing the enormously disturbed appetites which has opened up in us between intellectual development and the basic needs of the physical body.
Do not fear, says Lao Tzu, to live quietly, achieving nothing, with your ear to chi, the life force, and your way of life true to basic requirements – because achievements leads to excess and destruction. “When the world is in possession of the Tao, the galloping horses are led to fertilize the fields with their droppings. When the world has become Taoless, war horses breed in the suburbs.”
As we advance and Nature recedes, we turn her into a kind of simulacrum, a simulated likeness, of herself – and end up as simulacra of ourselves. Satish kumar has pointed out that we are caught in the consequences of conflating ‘ecology’ and ‘environment’: ‘ecology’ referring to the interdependency of the whole web of life-systems; and ‘environment’, to the world around us seen from our human point of view. Extending our manicured environments at ecological cost, instead of the wild we will have specimens in parks, simulacra of what they were. Like vanished stars whose light only now reaches us, the film of the tiger reassures us because it seems she’s still there.
The human race has gone absolutely global. We are an incredibly successful species, brilliant in our exuberant creativity, but we have been caught in the shadows of our success. Working psychoanalytically, watching and reading ‘the news’, and listening to friends, I am aware how preoccupied we are with our own immediacies, relating to, with, or against each other, in pursuit of our needs, wants and desires, largely to the exclusion of Nature as a presence in herself. We relate ‘about’ Nature rather than ‘to’ Nature. We have largely lost the natural intelligence of Indigenous peoples who live close to the Earth, flexible in their turning from human-specific activity into communion with Nature, and back again.
This, for me, is where Tao comes in. When I listen to many who say we need to consume less, respect the Earth more, and realize that wanting less is desirable as an end in itself, I wonder how people are to achieve that state of grace. We don’t seem to have the cultural means. In my view, we need to engage with the split between our thinking and the rest of our physicality.
Once you have crossed the threshold into communion with Nature, there is no going back, and it is from there you witness our human condition, wondering at our dangerous absurdities. Listening to Nature whilst in the midst of this, the sixth great extinction of species, and knowing it has been caused by us, it is hard to bear the loss we hear. It is then that we need whatever practices we have found, earthy, invigorating and spiritual, to keep us grounded, informed by the courage of far-reaching breath.
Despite the fact that our best efforts towards sustainability may not make the crucial difference, Lao Tzu, Christ and Spinoza all say the same: once you see something truly, you are obliged to be true to it. That is the underlying ethic. And, in practice, we need to find enjoyment in the ways of the body attuned to and at one with Nature, for then it is easier to embody the low-carbon journey, consume less and establish our earthly integrity as a simple good in itself.
At the dawn of modern science, in the age of Descartes, stood Francis Bacon, Lord High Chancellor of England and amateur scientist. “We must put Nature to the rack and extort her secrets,” he wrote. As R.D.Laing subsequently and ironically observed, “That’s no way to treat a lady!” But her being racked and extorted still proceeds at full tilt, including in our finding ever more ingenious and astounding ways to save us- or rather, our lifestyle – “because we’re worth it”.
It seems to me to be all about subjects and objects. By subjecting Nature to our will, we turn her into a set of malleable objects. Where subject dominates object, there is no balance. If we could make the natural turn from our species-specific self – absorption towards Nature and listen to her beauty, strengths, losses and fears, we would less want to do things to her and would become wiser in the ways of this Earth – and more sufficient precisely where we stand, going nowhere.
A soulless proliferation of wind turbines, photovoltaic panels and other technological fixes will not do the trick because they are all on the yang side of the equation and will merely lead to further implausible demands on natural resources. Whatever else, it is a change of orientation that is called for. Ask Lao Tzu: “The spirit of the fountain dies not. It is called the mysterious feminine. The doorway of the mysterious feminine is called the root of heaven-and-earth. Lingering like gossamer, it has only a hint of existence, and yet when you draw upon it, it is inexhaustible. If we would hold true to sufficiency in the moment, knowing that wanting less is more, and would diligently practise to generate and conserve chi, we would hold the whole world in our hands.
This article is published with permission from Resurgence Magazine, UK.
For Mantak Chia visit www.universal-tao.com, Quotations are from Tao Te Ching, trans. John Wu (1961)
Illustration by Sarah Klockars-Clauser
For every half litre bottle of carbonated soft drink (CSD) purchased, your water footprint on the earth (the amount of water depleted) is up to 300 litres of water.
Today, 50 Indian villages suffer from severe shortage and contamination of groundwater, because of soft drink production.
It takes 442 litres of water to manufacture a one litre plastic CSD bottle.
Up to 50% of the water used in each PepsiCo plant turns into wastewater.
In Mehdiganj, Uttar Pradesh, the coca cola plant has lowered ground water levels by 26 feet in 11 years. Before the plant was set up, the water level had actually risen by 26 feet in eleven years.
A kilogram of plastic that is produced for plastic bottles, releases up to 3 kilograms of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.
Eight Coca Cola plants across India release toxic sludge containing mercury, cadmium, and chromium.
Lindane is an insecticide that is used in the making of all CSDs. It’s concentration has been found to be more than 42 times the limit stipulated by the European Econmic Commission.
It’s consumption damages the central nervous system, immune system and is a confirmed carcinogen (cancer causing chemical).
When you drink a glass of water, tender coconut or just eat a fresh fruit you are NOT increasing your water footprint
Remember when you are choosing what to drink, you aren't simply looking at calories and sugar. Getting other vitamins and minerals from your drink is important, such as the calcium, vitamin D, and vitamin A or vitamin C
Drinking one soft drink makes a child 60% more likely to be obese, reducing a person’s life expectancy (the number of years they can expect to live) by 12-15 years.
Nearly 91% of all CSDs sold in India are bought by middle and upper class people in urban areas.
Today, India is the Diabetes Capital of the World. 70% of all diabetics in the world are Indian. 1 in every 5 people living in metros is diabetic. By 2030, 1 in 11 Indians will be diabetic.
A single 12-ounce can of soda has around 13 teaspoons of sugar, usually in the form of high-fructose corn syrup.
If you give up half a litre of CSD per day, at the end of the year, you will lose up to 12 kilograms of fat and save 91,000 calories and 7,280 teaspoons of sugar
CSDs are acidic - they contain carbonic and / or phosphoric acid.
Health problems that could result from drinking colas include tooth decay, pancreatic cancer, liver damage, osteoporosis, and heart problems.
The Transition movement is one of those unexpected phenomena in human culture, capturing and mobilizing an energy that rarely emerges but is deeply significant for social, political and economic change. This radical movement is grounded in the stark realization that dramatic transformations are occurring in the Earth’s climate due to humanity’s use of fossil fuels and the release of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, causing global warming, and that the supply of these cheap fuels, particularly oil, has reached or soon will reach its peak and decline ( the ‘peak oil’ phenomenon), potentially creating an economic and social crisis compared with which the present ‘credit crunch’ is a gentle warning.
Awareness of the inevitability of a transition in our culture to alternative, resilient ways of living that are not dependent on the economic growth paradigm led Rob Hopkins to explore ways of facilitating this move when he was living in Kinsale, Ireland, in 2005. His vision was for communities to “go local” in food and energy production and housing and that they should initiate this transformation themselves. It is the positive sense of empowerment this gives to people that overcomes the challenges of such fundamental change. Hopkins then moved to Totnes, South Devon where he started the local initiative called Transition Town Totnes in 2006. This began with public talks on fossil-fuel dependence and how to find alternatives through collective action in the community.
From this modest beginning, the Transition movement has exploded in the most remarkable way, not simply within the UK but worldwide. The seed planted in Kinsale and then in Totnes has produced a plant that has grown like Jack’s beanstalk with a network of Transition initiatives of different types and sizes. The latest count is 150 in fourteen countries and the number increases weekly. This represents a phenomenal rate of growth in less than three years. The Transition movement could indeed make a fundamental difference to the planet.
Co-coordinating these and ensuring some uniformity of process has been the hob of the Transition Network Ltd, a legally constituted charity that oversees with a light touch the different forms of transition that seem appropriate to different scales of action: towns, cities, counties, countries. It’s stated intention is to “inspire, encourage, support, network and train communities as they adopt the Transition model in response to peak oil and climate change, building resilience and happiness”.
In 2008, The Transition Handbook, written by Hopkins, was published by Green Books, and it has become the guide for communities seeking to participate in the transition to sustainability. Because our dependence on cheap, plentiful energy has become not simply a habit but an addiction, the Transition movement recognizes that some deep work has to be done for people to face the difficult choices confronting them. This takes the form of group engagement in a change of consciousness from focus on the individual, a primary characteristic of Western culture, to opening ourselves to interdependent relationships and community. The first stage of transition is for interested people from a community to form an initiating group that will then go through the steps of awareness-raising and laying the foundation with other existing groups in the community.
The recognition of interdependence engendered is not simply with other people but with the natural world, acknowledging that we are all embedded in the creative web of life that has emerged on Earth through 4 billion years of evolution, giving us the miracle of our living planet. Our co-dependence with the other species with whom we share the Earth is the foundation on which the Transition movement is biologically grounded, and it is the source of the basic concepts that shape the vision.
One of the remarkable features of the Transition movement is that, despite the gravity of our situation, there is a sense of empowerment and excitement that results from inviting people to discover their own solution to the problems we face. They are not being told what to do. Threats and blame do not liberate people; invitation to participate in designs for radical transformation does. This is a truly bottom-up movement of deep change which people recognize is increasingly necessary.
At the very core of the Transition message about cultivating new, sustainable lifestyles is the belief that human cultures must develop patterns of relationship in community that have the properties of natural ecosystems: they must become resilient, capable of responding adaptively and creatively to shocks and changes such that flexible responses lead to the emergence of new sustainable patterns of living.
Basic to this vision of resilient communities is the localization of food production, renewable energy, transport and housing. Each community is encouraged to design its own Energy Descent Action Plan whereby it decreases dependence on fossil fuels over a period of fifteen to twenty years. To facilitate this localization process, local currencies and banks can be developed that transform the economic system from debt-dependence and continuous, unsustainable growth to resilient local trading networks that are creative and adaptable. Local currencies already exist and serve community cohesion and stability in countries around the world, including Switzerland, Sweden and the U.S, while Totnes and Lewes in the UK have issued their own currencies to facilitate local trading. Local currencies typically flourish in times of economic hardship – for example in America’s last Great Depression – and, given the state of the world economy, there’s every chance we’ll see their ascendance again.
Accompanying these localization initiatives is the development of local governance, education and health care and the integration of practical skills, arts and crafts into learning process so that children acquire directly the know-how for living a sustainable life in community that is harmonious with the rhythms and patterns of the natural world. Implementing these changes does not depend on instructions from some central authority but on local decision-making that is self-organizing and participatory rather than top-down and hierarchal in its authority structure.
How can such radical change in the organization of contemporary society come about? This is another core component of the Transition movement: developing a bottom-up participatory process for all major decisions in the community. The Transition Network suggests a list of seven principle of transition that enable a diversified response grounded in the local context. These are:
Positive Visioning: Transition initiatives are based on a dedication to the creation of tangible, clearly expressed and practical visions of community life beyond dependence on fossil fuels.
Trust and Empowerment: Transition initiatives are based on telling people the closest version of the truth that we know in times when the information available is deeply contradictory and then empowering appropriate responses.
Inclusion and Openness: Successful Transition initiatives depend on the unprecedented coming together of diverse sections of society.
Sharing and Networking: Information sharing and learning are key principles of resilient ecologies that are central to transition.
Building Resilience: How communities respond to shocks is critical to the transitional path beyond fossil-fuel dependency. The movement is explicit in its intention to build resilience across key economic sectors (including food, energy and transport) and across a range of appropriate scales – from local to national.
Inner and Outer Transition: Transition is a catalyst to shifting values and unleashing the energy and creativity of people to do what they are passionate about.
Subsidiarity: Self- organization and decision making at the appropriate scale are key principles dawn from resilient ecological systems.
Many attribute the success of the Transition movement to its emerging holographic structure, which mimics cell growth within living organisms. The network aspires to simultaneously maximize local autonomy and maximize coherence at the macro-level through shared learning and purpose.
It has become clear in recent years that the economic system is intrinsically unsustainable and inequitable. It is destructive of ecosystems and cultures alike in its homogenizing impulse, destroying the diversity that is the foundation of resilient natural and cultural systems. However, the structure and properties of trading and exchange systems are ours to choose. Our recent experience with the toxic properties of unregulated capitalism has made it clear that we need to find other ways of carrying out exchange and trade that are more in line with the properties of natural ecosystems.
A primary source of instability in our current economic system is continuous growth, which uses up the Earth’s resources inefficiently and is driven by the monetary policy of lending with interest. This makes growth necessary to recover debt. However, there is no reason why community banks should not provide loans to savers without interest, which is a principle used by a number of successful banking schemes in Sweden, Switzerland and other countries. An economy that does not enslave people to debt is one in which they retain their freedom and empowerment.
Since natural ecosystems remain in balance with the resources available to them and with one another, we can ask if there is some regulatory principle that is natural to human communities so that they could likewise maintain equitable harmony in their bioregions. It appears that there is indeed such a principle, which could balance quantity of goods traded with quality of life. The basic idea is that as trading activity increases, facilitated by money, people’s basic needs become satisfied and there is an opportunity for them to find lives of meaning in relation to one another in community and with the natural world.
However, if trading activity becomes dominant, people spend more time working than experiencing wellbeing in family and community. Then the quality of their lives decreases and this is experienced as a loss of meaning and quality of lived experience, which people are encouraged to compensate for with more quantity of goods and money. This is the retail therapy that is notorious in our culture: a desperate attempt to fill the quality gap with quantities of consumer items. Because community has been destroyed, people often fail to notice this because of an absence of the relationships required to evaluate quality of life.
This positive feedback loop leads to the disintegration of society as people search desperately for ways of finding meaning, usually through the accumulation of money. This inevitably fails. The first step in restoring the natural balance between freedom and responsibility, people and Nature, is to recover community, which is precisely what the Transition movement focuses on. It is people’s hunger for meaning and quality in relationship that seems to be driving the Transition movement along a path to social, political, economic and ecological transformation.
As we move into the unknown territory of post-peak-oil economies, how can we be sure that transition ideas will create more sustainable and resilient ways of living? The answer is that we can’t, and we need to recognize that Transition is a social exploration somewhat along the lines of Nature’s evolutionary experiments, which continue all around us. Transition’s playful seriousness encapsulates this experiment and lack of certainty with this “cheerful disclaimer” from the Transition Towns website: “We truly don’t know if this will work. Transition is a social experiment on a massive scale. What we are convinced of is this: if we wait for the governments, it’ll be too little, too late; if we act as individuals, it will be too little, but if we act as communities, it might just be enough, just in time.”
The human spirit goes beyond the violence and meaninglessness of a fight, when the way of fighting also becomes a beautiful expression and a search for self-realisation. Most people think that Martial Arts are only for wartime effort – but apart from helping its practitioners play a functional role in society, they help them stay fit, and can become a path of personal fulfilment.
Martial arts in India, based on the Samkhya Philosophy, was born around 4,000 to 5,000 years ago. Kalaripayattu in Kerala is called the mother of all martial arts. Ancient martial arts were focused on internal health, which meant the health of the 5 primary organs – the heart, lungs, liver, pancreas and kidneys. There was, therefore, a lot of focus on developing the muscles around the core, with little or no focus on the shoulders and the arms. All the power needed for thrusting and fighting was generated from the core. The movements were modeled on the ‘Big Cats’ with the legs kept well-trained for optimal springiness.
The martial arts give importance to warming up with work on joints, circulation, and most importantly the endocrine system, as this is essential for the experience of wellness. The endocrine system varies according to the environment and the person's mindset – hence meditation also is integrated into the practise of martial arts. Meditation regulates the kind of hormones secreted by a person and keeps them balanced and healthy.
Alignment: The first thing that a martial arts student develops is “alignment”. The feet were always kept parallel and the shoulders and arms were kept close to the body to be able to engage the ‘lats’ (Latissimus dorsi – the muscle on the lateral posterior part of the back), below the shoulder.
Martial arts gradually became more sophisticated – artists realised that practising a strike with full speed right from the beginning was going to cause some misalignment. So they started training their students in basic locomotion. A concept called ‘antagonistic isotonics’ helps to explain the importance of this. Muscles always exist in pairs and function such that when one is compressed, the other relaxes. However, most people are not aware of this basic physics of locomotion and can quite often be seen tensing both muscles while moving, lifting or even walking. Through martial arts, students realise that a muscle needs to be kept tense only 50% of the time. This even helps the person relax emotionally. Bad posture and locomotion are responsible for compressing the 5 main organs - often enough to impair their proper functioning and not release the correct hormones; they can also make a person overweight which causes the joints to become weak. My teacher used to say, “Age is not how much hair you have on your head – it is how much you can run, jump and play”.
Breathing: The next thing a person learns is “how to breathe” – to spend enough time retaining the breath for it to reach the various parts of the body. A slower breathing pattern enhances health, brings down heart rate/blood pressure, and every part of the brain gets oxygenated, helping the thinking to become clearer. You can see how everything is connected and you start thinking in-depth. Breathing is considered important to see beyond what is apparent and form an an appropriate mature response.
Generation of Power: The next step is “generation of power”. There are normal aerobic or glycolic circuits that people use to generate power. Then, there are anaerobic circuits within the body, which do not need oxygen and that can generate power in a flash (called Fajin in Chinese), in the process producing many toxins, which are washed out by a healthy circulatory system. The anaerobic circuits help because they increase immunity. The body is now constantly able to flush out toxins.
Once the student has understood correct muscular alignment and proper movement, the next thing to do is to learn to ‘break out of the illusion’, and to ‘connect with the unchanging or immortal within you’. The changing or evolving part is discarded as unreal by all three schools of thought connected with the martial arts - Daoism, Buddhism and Yoga.
When illusions are destroyed and the martial artist connects with the unchanging reality, he gains strange powers, inspiring students to take up the path, even if their aspirations could take many years to be fulfilled.
Through martial arts, we learn to appreciate life. The most valuable thing that the martial arts can do for a committed student is to eliminate his fear. Fear is replaced with understanding, awareness and compassion. When I understand someone well and I see myself in his shoes, I realise that I would act the same way in that situation. It is not him, it is his conditioning. I don’t hold it against him but if possible try to remove that conditioning.
The Martial arts teach people to align themselves to a wholesome life, get their health back, to learn to breathe properly and invest in inner growth. If they can achieve these things, they can increase their lifespan, have a sense of clarity and self-worth - which will help them make a positive contribution to society.