Category: sustainable economy

When Technology Outgrows Conscience

When Technology Outgrows Conscience

simonelipscomb (6)In my cross-training efforts the elliptical trainer provides an opportunity to catch up on TED talks. While I whirl and sweat I watch videos from these amazing talks and recently I’ve been viewing those related to oceans.

I watched three today and each one nurtured a perplexing subject that has been surfacing in my mind over the past few years. Today I heard a clear question whispered from the ethers: Is it really good to discover new sources of life and potential material wealth when human consciousness has not evolved at the same pace as technological development?

Shark caught and left to die on the beach. I asked the fisherman why he allowed the shark to die...'because they are dangerous' he said.
Shark caught and left to die on the beach. I asked the fisherman why he allowed the shark to die…’because they are dangerous’ he said.

As a species on the planet, we appear to be more at war with it than stewards of it. This is evidenced by the conflicts we wage on each other in our neighborhoods, in oil fields, in mountains hiding gold and other valuable metals, in our oceans. Exploitation is still the collective mindset of our species.

Machinery at Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge trying to remove a large, sunken mat of oil during the BP Oil Spill
Machinery at Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge trying to remove a large, sunken mat of oil during the BP Oil Spill

Billions of dollars are spent on cancer research yet we haven’t understood and acted on the realization that what we are doing to the water, air, food sources are all contributing to the increase of cancer. The toxins we dump onto and into our planet are killing us and all life. But we, as a whole, stick to the mindset that more is better and profit at any cost is acceptable. The disconnect is clearly destroying us.

We have tried to conquer, control, manipulate our oceans, soil, energy resources and have failed with this mindset. Only when we apply principles of cooperation and respect toward each other, the planet, animals, plants, air, water do we create opportunity for balance and plenty for all.

Our group from a week with Joanna Macy, our mentor who teaches how to stay sane while working to help the planet
Our group from a week with Joanna Macy, our mentor who teaches how to stay sane while working to help the planet

My hope is that before we discover marvelous, new, wondrous places, resources and animals to exploit that we step back, take many breaths and allow our sense of ethics and conscience to catch up with technology that we use daily to destroy the very thing that gives us physical life. It is time for us to learn a heart-centered approach to living and allow the blossoming of love within us to guide us rather than our ego-driven and self-centered desires.

simonelipscomb (5)When we collectively can reach across the self-created constructs that divide us related to race, religion, politics, and more then perhaps we will be ready to care for new and marvelous discoveries on our planet. Until then, let us cultivate responsible stewardship and unconditional love.

Good Stuff

Good Stuff

It is easy to look around and see the terrible things happening in the world–the hatred and anger friends spew at each other over political, religious, environmental, human and animal rights issues–and think we have never, ever been in such a time of darkness. Our planet is heating up again and rapidly, people are arguing over the cause rather than joining together to work for solutions and many of us feel depressed, frustrated, angry and sad. Have you felt any of these things?

But then there are so many people working for good. Working to bring light and peace and love into this world regardless of the cynics, regardless of how hopeless it looks. And when I take time to see these miraculous stories of hope, I realize that true change is not only possible, IT IS HAPPENING! (Shouty capitals written from joy and hope!).

We have the intelligence to make the change and more importantly, we have the heart of compassion within us…every one of us has this spark of light within that only needs attention to grow. What we dwell on increases. If we focus on all the bad, it increases. But if we dare to give our attention to the good, the light-filled path, the heart of compassion….well, this grows and expands. And to think of how this can grow, starting with a few hearts lifted in love and surrender to the common good….oh, this is exciting indeed. And hopeful. And catching like a wildfire on dry grass.

We hunger for peace and light in this world. We have believed the lies and allowed those in power to separate us by putting us in boxes, in categories and we end up in the boxing ring of power for more. It’s time to walk out of the competition and come together. First, by simply acknowledging the beauty of each other and this wonderful planet.

Who is in? I am all in!

Standing Up to a Big Blow–Lesson in Life from My SUP Board

Standing Up to a Big Blow–Lesson in Life from My SUP Board

Yesterday morning started with a visit to Gulf State Park before the sun peeked above the horizon. I arrived early for my first sea turtle volunteer patrol walk because I wanted to take a few photographs before meeting my walking partners. It was serene and lovely and the Gulf of Mexico was gently rolling like it sometimes does. No shore birds were out yet so the only sound I heard was the shuuusshing of sand and water and shells tumbling together.

I met my walking partners and we headed out for our walk to the Gulf Shores Public Beach. We immediately met a group of giggly young folks drinking beer and smoking….yes….before sunrise. We had been warned that we might see left-over partiers from the pre-Hangout Music Festival day. And it only got worse as we neared the music festival staging area. Never mind sea turtle crawls…we were busy dodging condoms floating in the tidal pools, beer cans, liquor bottles, articles of clothing, half-burned cigarettes…not the usual sight on these white sand beaches.

The once ‘public beach’ was fenced off so as to not allow the public inside. Or sea turtles that might not have received the press package about the festival and thus altered their egg-laying plans. We carefully watched for sea turtle tracks as we tiptoed through all manner of human nastiness. Almost two years ago I was tiptoeing through volatile crude oil on the beach but today I felt volatile. A few days earlier the City of Gulf Shores bulldozed sand dunes with sea oats growing on them to make way for this parade of the worst of humanity. If you or I had picked a sea oat on our own property we’d be ticketed. If we had bulldozed a dune full of sea oats we might be in jail. I guess it just depends on who you are and who you know and how much you pay the right people. I don’t know what to think after witnessing this and hearing loud diesel generators and buses running non-stop. Talk about your green festivals!

After completing the turtle nest patrol I walked in the opposite direction, into Gulf State Park. Shores mostly untouched by development called to me as I walked in the soft, cool sand. I reflected back to when I worked in the park as naturalist–over 30 years ago–and the frustration I felt by the encroaching development and the political demands placed on the resources within the park. I remembered something I wrote in my first book, Sharks On My Fin Tips: “I left the Gulf Coast many years ago feeling hopeless in my efforts to help the land amid hungry developers yet on that day (a visit after Hurricane Ivan) I felt a renewed sense of commitment. I could use a tool that might truly make a difference–my words.” (p. 11).

Another quote from the book also haunted me as I walked back to my car, “Did I abandon this land when I left it many years ago? Had I left home, in the truest sense of the word?”

This morning I needed to be on salt water, away from the crowds and connected with the elements to ponder the questions that were raised within me yesterday. I am not a grouchy, un-musical person. I love music and play piano, guitar, flute, drums….it’s part of me. But profit at any cost? Had I left 21 years ago and returned to find that profit and money–greed–were still the determining factors along the coast? The dune is in the way….just bulldoze it. Never mind that it’s against the law! And fence off the public beach and don’t allow people to visit it unless they pay the $150+ to attend the festival. Does anyone else feel frustrated at this kind of behavior? These double-standards? This profit-at-any-cost mentality?

So…..I drove to Johnson Beach, part of the Gulf Islands National Seashore. After showing my annual pass and I.D. I drove to a boardwalk and couldn’t help noticing that both the Gulf and Sound were very much affected by the strong and steady ESE winds. Oops…so much for a calm, contemplative morning.

After unloading my board and gear, I walked to the Sound and was nearly knocked off my SUP board as soon as I stood up. The wind was really kicking. Rather than paddle against it with no warm-up, I decided to just do a downwind paddle and then deal with the paddle back after my body was ready for the assault of wind against woman.

The downwind run was screaming. I was flying and my thoughts were far from the anger and frustration of the previous day. Concentrating on staying balanced with a wicked back and cross-wind was my only focus. In 15 minutes I covered an amazing distance. How awesome that I’d get to paddle against that crazy blow to get back to my take-out point. Honestly, that’s not what I was thinking.

As soon as I came out of the calm canal I had drifted into and faced the wind, it caught my body and tried to push me back into the serene water. Who wouldn’t like that? But I really wanted to get back to my car. The breeze (ha…breeze) was so strong that I dropped to my knees. That helped but I was still making little progress. Finally, I sat back on my heels and finally my blade starting generating forward motion.

Being in this prayer position, I decided to say a prayer to gain understanding about the struggles I was having emotionally from yesterday’s experiences. I started thinking about the land and water and wildlife still being exploited for human greed. I felt weary of the entire human-dumb-ass behaviors which was exacerbated by the weariness I began to feel as I paddled into the wind. As I struggled to paddle, I thought how 30 years ago I struggled to make a difference along the coast. How I’d given up and let the ‘human wind of development’ push me away and relinquish my dream to help people appreciate and care for this beautiful place. It was relatively easy to just let go and forget the developers and others who always put wildlife and the Earth last–dead last. I let myself go into ecological numbness. I didn’t know how to deal with the grief about the planet so I just shut down.

But that oil spill…remember THAT oil spill? It’s what called me home.

It’s not easy standing up against strong forces that want to push over everything in their path to make a buck. It’s sometimes almost impossible to stand and fight greedy humans. So maybe I can alter my approach and drop lower and catch less ‘wind’ but still keep going, keep going forward. Or maybe I might have to crawl a while and make seemingly little progress like I did at Johnson Beach when I sat on the back of my board in shallow water and used my toes to crawl along the bottom as I rested my arms and shoulders. The key is to keep moving and keep working to spread the beauty of this place and speak up against those who truly do not care for anything but money and power. They will fall…eventually. Nature is more powerful. Ask Hurricane Ivan. Or Katrina. Humans have no power compared to the power of nature. Okay….I understand, I thought.

I got back to my take-out point and sat on my board for a long time contemplating life….watching the endangered Least Tern feeding just a few feet from my board, wondering if they knew they were endangered (no…of course not) and thinking how they go on regardless and continue to live and enjoy life. I watched families playing along the water’s edge and Great Blue Herons waiting for fishermen and women to reel in their breakfast. I realized, in those long, blissful moments spent bobbing up and down on my board, that I don’t have to stand up to power and money-hungry humans alone. Many of us feel the same way. We can proceed little by little to speak out, write, work…whatever we have to do…to save this amazing place from annihilation at the hands of those who fail to understand and appreciate the treasure it is…just for the beauty and life it contains. Not because it can generate a profit.

Stand Up 4 The Gulf…something you might find interesting and might like to help build!

The Psychosis of Christmas

The Psychosis of Christmas

This piece was written four years ago but it seems to fit perfectly again this year. With no editing, I present the following commentary.

I stopped dead in the aisle, overcome with three different Christmas songs playing at once along with the noise of an air compressor rattling twelve-foot high shelves. The compressor was keeping giant inflatable globes pumped up but it was creating a background noise that did not quite cover up the tinny tunes blaring from various outdoor speakers or the overhead Muzak speakers spreading Christmas music. I had to stop walking my cart down the aisles of tacky decorations and breathe. I muttered out loud, ‘What am I doing here?’

Almost immediately my inner muse giggled and I understood. I was doing research for an article on greed that had been on my mind for a couple of weeks. The only logical, reasonable explanation for me being in the gigantic store was research. Certainly I would not, in my right mind, enter into such a madhouse the weekend before Thanksgiving.

I wandered on, through a fog of fake Christmas snow, to find two cheap boxes of Christmas ornaments with which to finish my hodge-podge of a tree. I thought of my tree. Many of my ornaments are hand-made by my daughter and me or they are old and carry some sentimental value. My tree is not the most beautiful tree from the standpoint of outer beauty, but it does have a lot of heart and a lot of Christmas-past memories that drape its branches. I wanted a few sparkles to make it glow. Thinking of the hand-made ornaments on the tree made me remember a Christmas years ago.

When my daughter was in first grade we went on our yearly excursion to the tree farm. That year I found I could not kill a tree. Armed with a saw, we wandered through rows and rows of beautiful trees but I could not bring myself to kill one. So we purchased our first artificial tree. I have had some version of a fake tree for the past fifteen years. A lot of love has gone into the artificial trees and I rest well knowing one more tree each year is out there breathing for us. Thus far I’ve saved fifteen trees.

I really love Christmas, even with the retail hoop-la. Two of my friends and I admit we listen to Christmas music long before Thanksgiving arrives. It is inspiring and hopeful and it brings back such good childhood memories. I almost felt guilty for putting my tree up before Thanksgiving but my family is visiting and I decided to bring in the Christmas spirit a little early.

Last week I unpacked the tree, put it together and decorated it. When I plugged it in I opened my arms wide and invited the Spirit of Christmas to fill my home while Christmas carols filled the room. That was before my trip to Christmas hell.

A bump to my buggy brought me back to the moment. I stood in the aisle with huge, fluffy angels and glittery stars trying to find a topper for the tree. ‘What is with this craziness?’ I wondered. Then I thought back to a news report I had heard weeks ago stating that retailers were fearful of the slow economy causing people to purchase less. In an effort to have a profitable season they moved their target date for holiday marketing up several weeks to lessen the possibility of a less profitable season. Goodness knows we all need a few more ipods or x-boxes or our lives would just suck, wouldn’t they?

Now I’m not being a scrooge but I have to wonder when enough profit is enough or when enough stuff is enough. Does anybody know?

I have a theory and it has to do with the greed of our particular little country, the good old USA. This is my theory. We are such a consumer-machine that the downfall of our country will not be through violence or disease. Our downfall will be a direct result of our greed. And China has already figured it out. All they have to do is poison the little toys that EVERYone has to have for their kids and before you know it, we’re being killed by our own greed. There’s something to be said for population control but wouldn’t be better if it was by some intelligent planning rather than our own avarice?

Before I continue I must point out that I have toys. I also have a nice home and fun vehicles to drive. I’m not trying to exclude myself from my own commentary. On the contrary, I’m asking all of us to take a moment and step away from the ‘wish list’ and ponder the idea that we could all get by on a lot less and most likely wouldn’t suffer in the process. Are we willing to turn ourselves into slaves to a retail god?

Maybe you don’t like my conspiracy theory but you have to admit it is kind of funny. Or maybe it’s really sad.

How do we invoke the Spirit of Christmas without buying in (pun intended) to the Christmas psychosis that has hypnotized our country? How can we take the values of love and giving and leave the retail circus behind? Is it possible to summon the beauty of the holiday season without the parade of plastic Santa’s?

I continued my research in the store, observing other people and looking at the over-priced LED tree-topper stars that claimed to blink as bright as Bethlehem. I just wanted something meaningful to top my tree. I pushed the squeaky buggy, weaving in and out of aisles of people that looked as confused as I felt. Finally I found a tasteful black bear with a wreath around his neck. YES! That would be perfect since I live in the mountains and have bears frequent my yard. I picked it up and read the price tag: $3.99. YES! That’s great. But wait a minute. Where was it made? Made in China. Never mind.

I walked away without the bear. My only purchase was two boxes of ornaments for the price of one and a half boxes. I got out of the store for less than ten dollars. But to exit I had to run the gauntlet of two extremely long aisles of candy, just what everyone needs after the stress of a psychotic Christmas experience.

Can we bring the beauty of the holiday season into our homes, into our hearts without the stress of having the prettiest tree, the loudest outdoor speakers blaring Santa tunes and without going into debt to buy presents that will be forgotten within two weeks? I’m going to try. This year my goal is to keep my heart open and invoke the spirit of love into my home and life. I believe it’s possible to focus on light and love rather than surcome to retail hypnosis.

In Star Trek: The Next Generation there is a race of human-machines. They are humans that are slowly turned into machines. The Borg, as they are called, has a saying: “Resistance is futile, prepare to be assimilated. We are the Borg.” Let’s don’t become assimilated into the greed machine. We have choice.

Update 2011–I’m not putting up a Christmas tree this year. Many changes are happening in my life and I find myself preparing to move and showing my home to potential buyers. So this year, I’ll have to let my ornaments rest. Hopefully I’ll be relocated to Coastal Alabama next year. Meanwhile, I’ll enjoy wonderful memories of family visiting the mountain last year. Isn’t that what the Season of Light is really about?

Let’s see if our accelerated consumerism can take a back seat. On my list this year? To love each other and the planet a little bit more. What’s on your Christmas or Hannukah or holiday list this year?

Evolution of Humanity

Evolution of Humanity

I sat in silence holding love and appreciation for this magnificent planet in my mind and heart. Images came and went–animals, people, bodies of water, forests, sky. There was only peace and interconnection.

Let this day be a marker for us to rise above our selfish concerns and elevate our thoughts to what is good for the whole. No longer worried about ‘making a name for ourselves’ or receiving recognition for who we are or what we do, may we drop all striving for me, me, me and open our hearts for the good of the whole, for the good of this beautiful water planet.

As Osho writes, May the veil of illusion burn away as the sense of groping in darkness dissolves. May we be witness to the process of humanity evolving into the beings we can be. Let all thoughts of separation drop away and may we let go the poison fed to our minds. May our entire lives become flames of awareness.