Much needs to change in our world, and while this was clear before Covid-19, the pandemic is highlighting festering issues and creating a space in which to re-access current modes of living. New and just socio-economic and political systems are required together with positive values that encourage the good. Mankind needs to learn to share, to live more simply, to cooperate and to create a world free from conflict, and the planet needs to be allowed to heal. The list is long, but everything is interrelated.
Underlying the various crises facing humanity is a crisis of identity. Identifying almost exclusively with the form (physical body, thoughts and emotions), we believe that we are separate – from one another, the natural world and from that animating force to which we give the highly charged name of ‘God’, whatever that may be. The belief in separation is firmly held and is constantly perpetuated by the structures of the day – social, economic, educational, and so on – it conditions relationships, is a source of deep seated psychological conflict and fear and cloaks the truth.
The reality is Oneness; all of life is interconnected, whole. The essential first step in the process of renewal (for us and the planet) is for humanity to see itself as one, and from this realization to design systems and ways of living that cultivate and strengthen the experience of oneness. Humanity is a family, a group, large and diverse, consisting of unique individuals with a variety of gifts and qualities, all sharing the same constitution and inherent nature, and all suffering from the same or similar fears and longings.
Belief in separation has led to the creation of divisive unjust systems and a ‘dog eat dog’ mentality, a widespread acceptance that man/woman is inherently selfish, greedy and driven by pleasure. As we transition out of the present dying order and into the new, many people are challenging this false idea and calling for a shift, not only in the modes of living, but in ways of thinking.
Oneness and Fragmentation
One of the most significant characteristics of our times is the polarization between large sections of the population. There is the worldwide movement towards collective action, greater tolerance and cooperation, and, rooted in the past, the converse reaction towards tribal nationalism, the aggrandizement of the Nation and the success of the individual at the expense of the group: Unity or Oneness in opposition to Fragmentation or Separation. On the noisy surface at least, fragmentation is in the ascendancy, and unity, although often warmly refereed to, rather like a much-loved eccentric relative, is held within the margins and spoken of in condescending unrealistic terms.
Fragmentation constitutes the normal, if totally unnatural, way of things; it characterizes virtually every aspect of life and describes the state of mind of most, if not all of us. Where competition exists (and its hard to find anywhere where it doesn’t), where ideology dictates and nationalism triumphs, fragmentation, like a giant jigsaw puzzle will be found scattered across the mind and the society, in chaotic, yet familiar disorder.
Motive is also a primary factor in the creation of fragmentation and the belief in separation. Any kind of motive – noble or ignoble – creates fragmentation, and where is there action free from motive? Desire, which sits alongside motive, colors all activity it seems, polluting and corrupting as it passes from one form to another, one discontented agitated mind to the next.
Generations have been systematically conditioned into believing that this is the way to live, that we are separate and must compete with one another to survive; that greed, selfishness, social division and tribalism are part of who and what we are as human beings, and that there is no alternative. According to the Doctrine of Division it’s good to ‘love your country’ above all others, flags are saluted, anthems of obedience and loyalty sung, conditioning the mind young and old. To compete to be the best and to overcome your enemies or competitors essential, if we, as separate divided human beings are to survive and prosper, to fulfill our potential.
This fundamentally misguided, and false approach has led to the creation of a deeply divided world, to brittle unkind systems of governance and control that perpetuate violence and social injustice, creating a frightened world community at odds with itself and the natural world, to say nothing of ‘God’. Fragmentation is division and where division prospers so does conflict, internally (psychologically and physiologically) and externally.
From this fractured state of mind decisions flow, personal and collective, political and corporate. The negative results of which we see in our own lives and in our societies; endless war’s, needless poverty and acute economic inequality, social division, relationship break down, mental health illnesses, climate change and the widespread collapse of ecosystems, etc., etc. Fragmentation and the fervent belief in separation defies the natural way of things, which, if allowed to flow unimpeded is ordered and harmonious. It crushes brotherhood, sews mistrust and suspicion of ‘the other’, and obstructs totally the experience and realization of our innate self; that essential reality that, beyond the time bound constructs of thought, we all are. That is our true being, and when actions proceed from that unified non-fragmented place harmony ensues.
If we are to move out of the crumbling chaos of the old and create a new and just civilization in which humanity can live peacefully together for the first time in our long and painful history, we must first of all recognize that we are one; that all of life is interconnected, something we know in theory, but disregard in practice. The new forms and ways of living that must emerge need to be based on and encourage expressions of brotherhood and compassion. This will establish a living cycle of love; yes, perhaps unsurprisingly it’s all about love, and the absence of it. Unity is an expression of love.
The creation of a fertile ground in which harmony can come into being is a great deal easier than might be imagined. As humanity collectively demonstrates (excluding the minority) in times of need, underneath the outward shows of cruelty and selfishness, mankind is good; remove the obstacles (fear, desire, competition etc.) to compassion and that unifying force – love, which is our very nature, will naturally and spontaneously express itself. As the shoals of fish swimming in the previously polluted Grande Canal in Venice show, remove the noise and pollution, allow the filth to settle to he depths and the waters become clear by themselves.
In 1960 there were around 3 billion people on Earth, by December 2020 the number had leapt to 7.8 billion. The world is wildly overpopulated: with every day that passes the numbers grow, and the collective human impact on the environment intensifies.
If the current rate of growth continues the UN estimates that by 2050 there will be 9.8 billion of us. Growth is fastest in Africa, where the agency “expect more than half of global population growth between now and 2050 to occur.” In other parts of the world, Europe and China for example, the birth rate is falling.
Population increases create greater demand on natural resources — water, food, fuel, land/space, the need for health care, education, housing, travel, goods and services grows. And even though it’s the rich and multi-national corporations that are responsible for the majority of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, adding 2 billion people, even in poor nations, increases them and fuels climate change
But lets be clear, excessive consumerism is the wind driving greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, and the poor consume little. Its the rich that greedily devour (multiple houses, boats, cars, private jets/air travel, loads of stuff) followed by the consuming masses in developed countries. Conspicuous consumerism is a man-made disease; an artificial ideologically induced virus enflamed by desire. Raw materials, production and transportation are required to subdue the discontent, the machinery of business turns, GHG emissions are spewed out, disrupting the natural order, sowing chaos, perpetuating unhappiness.
And while the rich shop and waste, the poor and marginalized look on, angered, embittered and drained by the injustice and brutality of it all. Confined to the shadows where they can be disregarded, it is they who are buffeted most by ecological vandalism, intense heat, droughts and flooding. They are the first to lose their homes, their livelihoods and their futures to climate chaos, triggered by wealthy nations who lit the fuse of destruction and continue to fan the flames.
In order to stop climate change its broadly acknowledged that GHG emissions must be drastically reduced, with the aim of stopping them completely, and sequestration (through photosynthesis) maximised. Green, or greenish pledges are routinely made by governments, but the level of political duplicity in relation to climate change is shocking, and action seldom follows such rhetoric. After the Paris Agreement in 2016 e.g., commitments to limit temperature rise to as close to 1.5ºC (by 2100) were made which, the UN Secretary-General António Guterres said, “were far from enough to get there, and even those commitments are not being met….I [December 2020] call on all leaders worldwide to declare a state of climate emergency.”
When a national state of emergency is called, in response to say a pandemic, an earthquake, or terrorist attack, all government agencies are, or should be, galvanized, working cooperatively to respond to the demands of the hour; civil society and businesses contribute to the national effort — producing a vaccine in record time e.g., distributing aid, or setting up food banks. Climate change and the broader environmental emergency is the most serious ‘state of emergency’ humanity has ever faced, yet the response by governments, businesses, and large swathes of the population is half-hearted at best. In many areas the causes of the crisis are being stoked, complacency reigns and The Crisis of the Age intensifies.
It was the lack of climate change solutions that inspired the founding of Project Drawdown in 2014. Set up to “uncover the most substantive solutions to stop climate change, and to communicate them to the world.” Their vision is a refreshingly positive one: Stopping global warming, they say, “is possible, and with solutions that already exist.” In 2017, ‘Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming’, was released. A comprehensive solutions table was compiled, based on reducing rising temperatures by 2100 to 2ºC and the less impactful 1.5ºC, which should be the minimum target of our collective efforts
Somewhat surprisingly, perhaps, empowering women tops the chart of solutions. Family planning coupled with educating girls (could together prevent 120 gigatons of GHGs by 2050, more than on and offshore wind combined), specifically in developing nations, “is one of the most powerful levers available for avoiding emissions by curbing population growth”. It has high community benefits as well; educated women are unlikely to marry young or enter into forced marriages, and access to family planning enables them to decide when to have children and to have less. “They have lower incidence of HIV/AIDS and malaria. Their agricultural plots are more productive and their families better nourished.” In addition, they are more resilient and resourceful and are better able to deal with the impacts of climate change. As the co-founder of Drawdown, Paul Hawken put it, the answer to climate change is — “not a solar panel it’s a woman.”
Another major area of GHG emissions Drawdown discusses, and one that we can all act on, is food waste and the environmental and health benefits of adopting plant rich diets. Roughly a third of the world’s food is wasted, — approximately1.3 billion tons a year. This in a world where an estimated 800 million people are hungry or malnourished. Not only would reducing food waste be good for the planet is could help end hunger; figures from the UN Environment (UNE) reveal that: “If just one-fourth of the food currently lost or wasted globally could be saved, it would be enough to feed 870 million hungry people.”
Wastage in developing countries is mainly unintentional, food rotting on farms or during distribution for lack of refrigeration. Improvements in storage, processing and transportation are needed, all of which developed nations could provide. In wealthier nations food is thrown away by consumers, supermarkets and restaurants. This can easily change; national/international public awareness campaigns and the establishment of national food-waste targets would help shift behavior.
Then there’s animal agriculture, which, in addition to a range of other environmentally destructive impacts, is a major source of GHG emissions (mostly from dairy and meat production). Drawdown note that, “If cows were their own country, they would be the third-biggest greenhouse gas emitter in the world.” Research shows that eating a diet free from animal produce is the single biggest way to reduce our environmental impact (cutting emissions by up to 70%); it’s also a healthier way to live.
Solutions to global warming do exist, but they need to be implemented and the pervasive complacency overcome with coordinated, consistent action. If temperature increase is to be limited to 1.5ºC by 2100, the IPCC state that emissions must “decline by about 45% from 2010 levels by 2030, reaching net zero around 2050.” Given the fact that GHG emissions continue to rise this requires urgent coordinated action: large scale investment in renewable sources of energy; drastically reducing consumption and tackling inequality; reforesting; moving away from industrial-scale animal agriculture and curbing population growth — brought about by empowering girls through education and access to family planning.
For any of this to happen and at the needed pace, the crisis, which is the greatest test humanity has ever faced, must be approached as an international state or emergency. Overseen by the UN Environment agency national governments together with big business, must lead the way and be pressurized to do so by an aware responsible public. The house, our house is literally burning, and, despite millions of people screaming for change, the behavior, and ways of living that ignited the fire continue unabated. If action isn’t taken now, much like the death of a neglected parent or friend, time will run out, and no matter how loud the cry, it will be too late to express the love we always said we felt but rarely displayed and were not prepared to sacrifice anything for.
Only the most deluded denier can now question that the global climate is dramatically changing, and that the chaos is man-made. Extreme weather events – wildfires, drought, intense heat, hurricanes – are becoming more frequent, the impact on ecosystems and biodiversity, populations and infrastructure devastating. Fueled by the industrialized nations and the lifestyles of the rich, it is developing nations in the global south that are most severely impacted by climate change, with the poorest communities, particularly women and children, hit hardest.
The disruption to weather cycles is caused by global warming (increases in average surface temperature) which results from a buildup of what are commonly called greenhouse gases (GHG). Carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O), trap heat which would otherwise pass out of Earth’s atmosphere, resulting in a rise in average ground temperature. Burning fossil fuels (coal, natural gas and oil) is the primary source of emissions, as well as industrial animal agriculture, which is not only a major source of greenhouse gases, but is having a disastrous impact on the environment more broadly, including deforestation, and air and water pollution.
With 28% of the total, China (population c.1.4 billion) is the world’s biggest producer of GHG emissions, however when measured per capita it ranks only 47th. China is also one of the world’s biggest investors in renewable energy, and plans to produce 35% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2030. It is the USA (population c.328 million) – the second largest overall polluter – that has the highest per capita emissions in the world, and by some margin. Collectively the top four emitters (China, USA, EU + UK and India) produced 55% of all GHG emissions in the last decade.
No matter where they are produced, GHG emissions effect everyone everywhere. Unsurprisingly the biggest single source, accounting for 73% of emissions is energy consumption from fossil fuels. A study by The Guardian in 2019, found that over a third of “all energy-related carbon dioxide and methane” emissions since 1965 have been produced by just 20 companies: Chevron, BP, Shell and Exxon top the carbon charts, producing over 10% of the world’s carbon emissions since 1965.
Everyone, particularly everyone in developed countries, contributes to the clogging fog of global emissions, but, in addition to the energy corporations, the group burning colossal pyres of fossil fuels and those who are therefore disproportionately responsible for climate change is the wealthy. Research by Oxfam and the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI), published in September 2020, shows that between 1990 and 2015 (a critical period in the evolution of climate change) when GHG emissions grew by 60%, and cumulative emissions doubled, the richest 10% on the planet (c. 630 million) were responsible for a staggering 52% of the total. As if this isn’t shocking enough, drilling down on the figures reveals that the “richest one percent (c.63 million people)…were responsible for 15% of global emissions during this time.”
This huge increase in emissions depleted “the global 1.5C carbon budget [amount of CO2 the world/country has agreed it can produce to meet warming targets in a particular time period] by nearly a third in those 25 years alone.” In contrast the poorest 50% on the planet (c.3.1 billion people), all of whom live in developing countries, used just 4% of the available carbon budget, producing a mere 7% of cumulative emissions.
From Growth to Social Justice
‘Carbon Inequality’ (differences in expenditure of the agreed carbon budget) reflects and amplifies the broader socio-economic imbalances in the world. In the 1990 – 2015 period global GDP doubled, wealth and income inequality grew, consumption levels increased, and although millions were raised out of the most dire levels of poverty ($1.90/day) the income of around half the worlds population remained at less than $5.50 a day.
Even when the poor see some paltry change in their lives, within the present paradigm the main beneficiaries of growth are always the rich; growth intensifies inequality, concentrating wealth, and with it political/corporate power, in the silk-lined pockets of a tiny percentage of the population: A diminishing few, mainly men, predominantly white, controlling more, consuming more, and greedily depleting the global ‘carbon budget’ at the expense of the rest of the population and future generations.
While the benefits of establishing a carbon budget are debatable, the fact that virtually all of it is eaten up by those responsible for the majority of GHG emissions is particularly unjust. Greenpeace relates that an average citizen (it’s much higher for the rich) in the USA, Canada and Australia emit 150 times the amount of carbon compared to someone in Malawi in Southeast Africa. Adding injury and destruction to insult is the fact that poorer countries and communities, who have done little or nothing to cause climate change, are being most severely impacted by its devastating effects.
The breeding ground for climate injustice and social inequality is the competitive ideology inherent within the global socio-economic order, the values it promotes, the behavior it encourages. Endless consumerism and perpetual economic growth are essential components, but for GHG emissions to stop – not reduce, but stop altogether – this crude idea of development, which is a cornerstone of government policies and business plans around the world, must be rejected, and priority given to creating environmental responsibility, social justice and unity.
The challenge of the age
In December 2015, 194 countries signed up to the first-ever universal, legally binding global climate change agreement, adopted at the Paris climate conference (COP21). The treatise sets out a framework to limit global warming to “well below 2°C and pursuing efforts to limit it to 1.5°C.” To achieve this target countries have established nationally determined contributions (NDC), but even though some countries have announced headline-grabbing targets (EU to reduce GHG by 40% by 2030 e.g.), in its 2020 Emissions Gap Report, the UN states that not only are polices inconsistent with such figures, but that “countries must collectively increase their NDC ambitions threefold to get on track to a 2°C goal and more than fivefold to get on track to the 1.5°C goal.”
Currently, despite Covid-induced economic and trade restrictions in 2020, GHG emissions are climbing at an average rate of 1.3% per year. By the end of 2019, according to Oceanic and Atmospheric Research (NOAA), emissions had increased 41% since 1990. The resulting threat, to ecosystems, animal habitat and human communities, is huge; in a recent report in Frontiers in Conservation Science (FCS), an international group of scientists outline a “ghastly future of mass [animal] extinction, declining health and climate-disruption upheavals” because of collective ignorance and inaction, primarily by government and big business. “Future environmental conditions will be far more dangerous than currently believed,” they state, “the scale of the threats… is in fact so great that it is difficult to grasp for even well-informed experts.”
Scientists have been making such warnings for years, but politicians, business leaders, the rich and complacent have routinely ignored them, unprepared to make the necessary sacrifices and changes in approach and behavior required in order to save the planet. FCS make clear that dealing with the crisis requires fundamental changes to “global capitalism” as well as education and equality. Under the shadow of Covid-19 governments around the world acted, some more effectively than others, but all responded.
The environmental crisis is a great deal more serious, it is the challenge of the age and demands a (UN) coordinated global response. Radical action is needed and urgently, specifically action that brings about changes in behavior among the principle GHG emitters: The rich, the energy companies, big business and the consuming masses within developed nations. Environmentally responsible action by individuals, flying less, using less plastic, eating less animal produce, while important, will not deal with climate change. Systemic change is urgently needed, together with a shift in attitudes away from excess to sufficiency.
We live in a world of plenty, resource rich, financially wealthy, but, despite this abundance an estimated 700 million people go hungry every day. Millions more are food insecure, meaning they may have food today, but have no idea if they will have any tomorrow or next week. Additional millions can only afford nutritionally barren, poor quality food laced with salt and sugar, increasing the risk of illness and obesity.
In September 2020 a report published by the Global Hunger Index concluded that hunger could be eradicated by 2030, at a cost of $330 billion if rich countries doubled “their aid commitments and help poor countries to prioritize, properly target and scale up cost effective interventions on agricultural R&D, technology, innovation, education, social protection and on trade facilitation.” The detailed report lists 11 countries with ‘alarming levels of hunger’, eight of which are in Sub-Saharan Africa; two are war zones: Yemen and Syria. A further 31 nations (26 are in Africa) are listed as having ‘serious levels of hunger’.
Statistics around hunger and malnutrition are disturbing and shameful. After years of gradual decline, since 2015 the number of undernourished people has been increasing yearly: from 2018 to 2019 the number of undernourished people grew by 10 million, and Covid has intensified this trend. Hunger now affects 9% of people in the world – 60% of whom are women and children. The World Health Organization (WHO) state that “47 million children under 5 years of age are wasted [severe acute malnutrition], 14.3 million are severely wasted [malnourished] and 144 million are stunted; around 45% of deaths among children under 5 years of age are linked to under-nutrition.”
Hunger is a violent act, a shameful scar on our collective consciousness. The principal cause is routinely stated to be poverty, and while it’s certainly true that those with money don’t starve, the primary underlying cause is social injustice, and a set of perverted assumptions about the worth of one human being compared to another. In addition, there are two main drivers: Climate change and armed conflict – often erupting in poor nations with fragile social support structures. Where there is war there is hunger; people are displaced and food shortages are quickly created. Climate change, which is affecting poor countries more than the rich, comfortable, and complacent, nations is the other key trigger. Oxfam lists five links between changing climate and hunger:
Lost livelihoods as harvests diminish through drought or other extreme conditions, e.g., the 2020 locust infestation that decimated the horn of Africa. In addition to intensifying food insecurity such events can force people to leave the land and migrate in search of (economic) opportunities elsewhere. Increased prices/food shortages. Food may be available but when weather impacts on infrastructure (roads, bridges docks), food cannot reach markets, shortages occur, prices rise, the poorest go without. Access to water, particularly in drought-prone areas, e.g. Somalia. Nutrition/health: Climate change-driven water scarcity impacts on the ability of famers to produce enough quality food. Those impacted most are children. Oxfam – “climate change is intensifying the threat from the three biggest killers of children – diarrhea, malnutrition, and malaria.” Inequality: Climate change intensifies inequality. Developed, western countries are historically responsible for the weight of greenhouse gas emissions; those most at risk of the impact – including food insecurity – are the southern hemisphere nations, with women and children hit hardest.
Hunger and poverty are issues of social justice; it is deeply unjust that simply because a child is born in a poor village in Sub-Saharan Africa or a city slum in South-East Asia, that he/she is at greater risk of malnutrition, hunger-related illness and starvation, than a child born in the lap of middle class prosperity. Hunger could be ended tomorrow but complacency allows it to continue, because it doesn’t affect the privileged, the comfortable, and on the whole takes place elsewhere. It is a consequence (on of many) of a particular approach to life, not lack of food, and of systemic structures designed in response to this construct.
This approach is a narrow ideological view based on competition, the commodification of all aspects of contemporary society, and the focus on individual achievement over group well-being. Selfishness and social division have been fostered and, in spite of routine acts of community kindness, a ‘dog eat dog’ mentality has taken root. To the extent that, as a global community, we let children die or suffer from various levels of malnutrition simply because their family or community are poor, their country, often culturally rich and diverse, economically undeveloped.
Crisis of Values
As the West emerges from the Season of Overindulgence and Waste, and Covid-19 continues to impact public health and national economies, the divisions in our world are more visible than ever; the privileged versus the marginalized; the supported versus the neglected; the hungry versus the satisfied; the rich versus the poor or economically anxious.
While hundreds of thousands lost their jobs in 2020 and were forced to turn to governments and charities for support, the number of billionaires in the world increased to 2,189, and their overall wealth surged, Forbes record, “by more than $2 trillion…to reach an all-time high of $10.2 trillion.” In China alone the country’s super-wealthy earned a record US$1.5 trillion – more than the past five years combined. Such increases are the inevitable consequence of a socio-economic system designed to concentrate wealth, and thus power, in the hands of a few.
It is totally unjust and immoral and has fostered a set of destructive divisive ideals that allows hunger, poverty and the environmental emergency to exist. At the core of the interconnected crises facing humanity is a crisis of values, which can cogently be described as a spiritual crisis. As a consequence of the reductive values of the time, ‘value’ has been equated to gain: Monetary worth/profit, status and influence. Someone or something capable of generating income or return that is higher than another is prized. Business strategies and decisions are chiefly dictated by profit, the ultimate value and principle factor in determining action. Countries (like Australia, Canada, the UK) have adopted immigration policies based on the ‘skillsets’ or human values they require. Refugees/asylum seekers are valued (and earn points) or not, depending upon their ability to add worth to the overall national economy. Those with no such attributes (not enough points) are deemed to be of no value to society and are rejected, relegated to the shadowy peripheries of society.
This valuation of human beings as economic commodities or assets is utterly abhorrent and is a contributory reason why hunger still stalks the land, the notion that some people are more worthy, are of more value that others, that some can be left to starve or become ill due to lack of nutrition while others cannot.
Humanity is, it appears, faced with a choice between values and ways of organizing society that flow from the unifying magnetic force we call love, and those rooted in fear, selfishness, and greed, which, while fading, are currently pervasive. But if the issues of the day are to be overcome there is actually no choice, and millions of people around the world know this. The solutions to the issues of the day lie in totally rejecting attitudes that divide humanity, and adopting values that rest in and cultivate unity and brotherhood. Perennial values held within the hearts of men and women everywhere that encourage social/environmental responsibility, cooperation and tolerance and give expression to our essential oneness.
There are said to be around 30 armed conflicts currently taking place in the world, some large, some small, all deadly. The warring factions of today are more likely to be insurgent groups – ‘rebels’ (sometimes fighting proxy wars for a regional or global power) or terrorists, extremists – right and left, battling with a federal army or police force – than nation squaring up to nation.
Research shows that less people are dying in such clashes than at any time in history. This is positive of course, but the number of deaths isn’t really the issue, although clearly less is better. What’s important is to unearth the reasons for violence, to create a world in which the causes of conflict are removed and allow peace, that long held ideal, to be realized.
In addition to armed battles, societies everywhere are violent, dangerous places in varying degrees, as are many personal relationships and homes. Then there is the vandalism mankind is inflicting on the natural world, on intricate ecosystems, on plant and animal species, on the air, the waterways and the earth itself. Although this form of abuse may appear separate from uniformed killings, stabbings or roadside bombs, it flows from the same destructive source – human consciousness and behavior.
Humanity appears to be incapable of living together in peace, or in harmony with the other kingdoms in nature; our long past is punctuated and in many ways shaped by war, by death, destruction and suffering, and by wholesale vandalism and exploitation, of one another, of groups that are (militarily/technologically) weaker, and of the environment.
Some argue that human beings are inherently brutal, others that we are conditioned into violence. This is the reductive nature versus nurture debate; a conversation that centers around the degree to which each aspect influences and colors the behavior of the individual: is humanity (or a specific individual) inherently violent and abusive for example, or is such behavior the result of conditioning, the way we are raised, nurtured, the type of atmosphere we are exposed to, the prominent values and modes of living that are promoted and unconsciously absorbed?
While people’s natures vary and we are all unique individuals – different yet the same – within each and every human being the potential for tremendous good exists (routinely demonstrated in times of need), as does the propensity towards great cruelty, to which some appear more at risk than others. The environment in which an individual lives, the conditioning factors he/she is exposed to, the values and beliefs, all influence the extent to which one or other innate tendency is expressed and or comes to dominate.
Although some forms of conditioning are more damaging than others, all conditioning inhibits, divides, and creates a false sense of self and a distorted view of others. Conditioning into competition, into tribalism/nationalism and adherence to any ideology – religious, political, economic – constructs a barrier, fuelling division, facilitating violence; that which is inherent, the seed of the good, is stifled, consigned to the margins, merely an alarming echo, the voice of conscience. As a result of the current socio-economic system, which has found its way into all aspects of life, including education and health care, such conditioning is widespread.
It is a socially unjust model, a violent system founded on ideals that agitate the negative and breed violence. Competition, ambition, greed and desire are promoted, in fact they are essential for its survival; nationalism, via the agency of competition, encouraged. All perpetuate and strengthen separation, dividing humanity, one from another, and where division exists – within the individual and/or within society – conflict is inevitable.
Under the Doctrine of Greed everything and everyone is seen as a commodity, a consumer of relative value, or an obstacle to enrichment of some kind (indigenous people living in the Amazon rain forest for example), something or someone that can be used and profited from, and when drained of value, discarded. Inequality of all kinds, wealth, income, opportunity, influence, is built into its mechanics, which grind the goodness out of all but the strongest; social justice denied, injustice ensured.
Social injustice is a form of mass violence, perpetrated by the architects and devotees of the system, all of whom have profited well and are determined to maintain the cruel status quo and remain in power for as long as possible. Given the level of injustice, particularly between the rich global north and impoverished south (albeit with pockets of enormous wealth), it is surprising that riots don’t break out all the time. There is resentment and anger among people everywhere, but physical exhaustion, economic insecurity; fear and a conditioned sense of guilt and inadequacy coalesce to inhibit action.
Barriers to Peace
The concept of peace has been held in our collective consciousness for at least two thousands years, probably longer. Peace between nations, peace within countries and regions, peace in our communities, longed for by people everywhere and routinely promised by politicians and leaders of all colors, while they invest in the machinery of war, trade in arms and follow the ideology of conflict. Hollow hypocritical words uttered without intent like a mechanically recited prayer, and so (for the most part), like other noble constructs, peace has remained an ideal. And believing in the ideal alone, the conditions for its realization have not been created, systems that ensure conflict are maintained, and so, inevitably violence has erupted, again and again and again.
Despite this fact, and contrary to our history of brutality and cruelty, peace and harmony are the natural order of life. They are aspects of life that are eternally present – like the sun, which even when obscured by cloud or darkness remains in the heavens. All that is required is that the obstacles to their manifestation be identified and removed.
The principle obstruction is division, followed by selfishness and greed. The notion that we are separate, from one another, from the environment and from that which we call God; divisions based on tribal/nation affiliations, ideologies of all kinds (including religions), race and or ethnicity; inequality and social injustice in its myriad forms. Greed and the focus on material wealth, and with it political influence, is itself divisive and has led to the violent exploitation of people (the slave trade being perhaps the greatest and most abhorrent example) and the natural world.
In order to rid the world of violence an understanding and rejection of those modes of living that create environments of conflict and fuel discord is needed; a shift in consciousness away from selfishness, greed and tribalism; and recognition that humanity is one. We are living in extraordinary times, transitional times, and such a realignment is well underway; there is a growing awareness that if humanity is to overcome the issues of the day and save the planet we must come together, cooperate and share. In the pursuit of peace sharing is essential, for without it there can never be social justice, and social justice is critical in creating trust and community harmony.
Together with justice and freedom, peace is no longer simply a dormant ideal, a cherished aspiration, it is a living force flowing through the hearts of men and women throughout the world, inspiring collective action, demanding change and an end to all forms of violence. Its time for humanity to come of age, to reject all that divides us, to unite and create a space in which peace and harmony can ring out across the world.
Grandmothers carrying babies, mothers, children, men young and old with nothing but the clothes on their backs are fleeing fighting in northern Ethiopia and making their way to Sudan, where emergency camps await them; according to the UNHCR 5,000 a day are making the journey.
Ethiopians are killing one another in the Tigray region of the country where an armed conflict is raging between the Ethiopian military and forces loyal to the regional government, the TPLF (Tigray Peoples Liberation Front), a group that some in the country describe as terrorists.
The TPLF formed the dominant force within the ruling coalition (the EPRDF), and ran Ethiopia with an iron fist from 1991 until 2018. Brutal and centralized, human rights were trampled on, free speech outlawed, state terrorism routine; the TPLF were vicious, ruled by fear and are hated still by many Ethiopians, inside and outside the country.
Sustained protests led to their overthrow in 2018 when the new Prime Minister took office. Although the EPRDF coalition remained, the approach changed dramatically under PM Abiy Ahmed and his team; a sense of optimism swept across the country and many Ethiopians living abroad returned to help rebuild their homeland. The TPLF were marginalized, vilified in some quarters and a number of the key figures arrested for crimes committed when in power, more arrest warrants are outstanding.
Bordering Eritrea in the North and Sudan to the West, Tigray is a small region (accounting for only 6% of the population), which has built up an extremely strong, armed unit (police/militia), with, according to some sources, around 250,000 men in uniform, including 20,000 commandos.
And the people cry out
On November 4th they attacked the Ethiopian National Defense Forces Base located in the Tigray region, reportedly killed a number of soldiers and stole artillery and military equipment. The Ethiopian government’s response was to initiate military operations; actions described by the Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed as law enforcement and by others, including the TPLF, as an act of war.
Some form of conflict had been brewing for some time, the criminal raid on the military base being the final straw in a series of provocations; most notably holding banned regional elections in September (which the TPLF won). As a result, the government claims the TPLF is not a legitimate regional government. For their part, due to general elections being postponed because of the coronavirus (although there have been very few cases in Ethiopia) and the government remaining in office, the TPLF claim the government is not legitimate either.
Many have been calling for talks between the parties, directly or via mediators, and an immediate unconditional ceasefire, but neither of these common-sense suggestions seems likely. As Prime Minister Ahmed shouts that this conflict can only be resolved militarily, and declares a ‘final push’, the voices of the TPLF express their determination to defend their land; ‘Tigray is now a hell to its enemies….the people of Tigray will never kneel.’ And so it goes on, humanity’s lunacy.
There is no communication from within Tigray, the UN and other humanitarian agencies have been denied access and the government is controlling the narrative.
The situation is extremely serious, unless handled with great care it could quickly escalate into a wider armed conflict dragging in neighboring states, and triggering a major humanitarian incident, the seeds of which have already been planted. With no supplies being allowed into the region food is running low in Tigray, as is money, and an estimated 30,000 people have fled their homes and made their way to Sudan were they are being accommodated in basic camps. Before the fighting began the International Organization for Migration (IOM) revealed that there were more than 1.8 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Ethiopia; around 100,000 of whom are in Tigray.
Beyond the pettiness of governments, the duplicity and self-interest of geopolitics, it is the people who suffer the greatest loss and pain in a conflict, and so it will be in Ethiopia.
Death destruction and trauma are the hallmarks of war and armed conflict; lives are lost, mostly civilian non-combatants lives, homes demolished, people displaced, fear created, poverty and hunger exacerbated. This is what war is, it is an abomination and it should be avoided at all costs; where disputes arise alternatives should be found, fully explored, compromise reached and violence rejected. And in a country like Ethiopia where most people are poor, their lives hard, a country that ranks 173rd out of 189 countries in the UN Human Development Index, war should never be contemplated. The government has fighter jets and tanks, but people are hungry and homeless, health care is inadequate at best, education poor, and now there’s a war; it is lunacy, isn’t it?
Violence has been the resounding tone of human history, tribal conflicts abound, fights over land and power, resources and dominion over others. Currently there are around 30 violent conflicts taking place in the world including the Ethiopian one: data from the Armed Conflict Location & Event data Project (ACLED) shows the areas where clashes between state forces and others have occurred. Most incidents in red are in the global south, but if you factor in national homicides and general violence, it’s a worldwide image of carnage.
Talk of ‘peace’ and ‘brotherhood’ is commonplace, but the killing and fighting goes on and on; hollow words then. Even in Ethiopia, where religion – Christianity and Islam, both of which espouse peace – dominate the lives of most people. Look at Syria, or Yemen, Afghanistan, Libya; beautiful countries all, wonderful people, and yet conflicts persist, death and destruction continues daily. And now Ethiopia, where the fear must be that even if the TPLF are ‘defeated’ they will go underground and an armed insurgency will take hold – something that is in a sense even harder to combat or limit.
It is time for humanity to grow up and recognize that we are brothers and sisters of one humanity – this is not some religious platitude, or new age drivel, it is a fact in nature. I spent two years working in Ethiopia running aid projects and feel a close connection to the country; it is a wonderful land, the people are warm and kind, but social divisions rooted in ancient tribal groupings are deep, historic grievances unresolved. The path out of conflict into peace is the same in Ethiopia as it is for the world as a whole, it is made up of principles of goodness that are innate, but buried; it requires the negation of behavior and modes of living that divide and ferment suspicion and resentment.
Unity, cooperation, tolerance and sharing, these are the key qualities of the time and the antidotes to hate and division; we could add forgiveness, understanding and respect. All flow from the same foundation – love. Not sentimentalized, corrupted love, but love as the cohesive force binding all life together; that impelling agent for good.
It matters not what the political justifications are for violence; of course if attacked a nation, region, family, individual will defend themselves, but to attack – with ‘overwhelming force’ and justify the killing as necessary, as the Ethiopian PM is doing – is to feed that fog which obscures our inherent humanity, the nature and residing quality of which is love. It is this purifying quality, which needs to become the guiding force for our actions, in Ethiopia and throughout the world.
For most of 2020 Covid-19 has dominated mainstream media, and whilst serious, the pandemic is but the latest in a series of dark clouds gathering upon our collective horizon: interconnected crises, from the environmental emergency to war, poverty, inequality, and social division among others. All flow from the same root – a misguided set of conclusions about life and ourselves; this fragmented and conditioned pattern of thinking fuels actions that result in the various crises we see all around us. It is the consciousness of humanity with its misplaced values and beliefs, its ideologies and reductive notions of self that constitute the underlying crisis.
For the issues of the day to be met and overcome a major shift in attitudes is needed, a change in consciousness allowing for the creative re-invention of civilization to take place. The current ‘way of life’ is largely unhealthy, for the individual and society, and has proved deadly for the natural environment. It is an unkind brutal construct based on ideologies that separate, setting one against the other, creating an atmosphere of fear and suspicion. Pleasure and desire are promoted as surrogates for natural happiness and love, competition and conformity insisted upon; it is an outdated construct that has no place within the positive movement of the times, which is well underway.
The transition into the new is happening apace and as those forces obstructing change begin to be swept aside there is a sense that humanity is poised to turn a corner. Sharing, cooperation, tolerance, understanding, these are some of the keynotes of the time. Perennial principles held within the hearts of people throughout the world, and which, given the correct conditions will explode into life, sweeping aside all obstacles to freedom, justice and unity. But resistance is fierce, conditioning and attachment to the old ways, strong. And the issues are daunting, overwhelming.
Given these prevailing conditions and the hostility to fundamental change – as opposed to the manipulation of existing systems – it is difficult even for the most optimistic of us to imagine a new world evolving within the short space of time we have. It is hard to see how humanity can make the leap, embrace a radically new, simpler way of living, and overcome the enormous challenges without support and guidance.
We are not alone
While the responsibility to create a new just civilization rests entirely and solely with humanity, we are not alone in this endeavor, nor have we ever been. Withdrawn from the hurly-burly, the noise and pollution, and unknown to the vast majority of people (particularly those in western countries), there exists a large group of highly evolved, perfected men, who, from behind the scenes, are actively engaged in all aspects of life on Earth. They are the senior members of the spiritual hierarchy, (spoken of by H.P. Blavatsky, Helena and Nicholas Roerich and Alice A Bailey among others) the Masters of Wisdom and Lords of Compassion.
The Masters are our elder brothers, those who have gone ahead of us, and have become perfected. They are the custodians of the plan of evolution, yes, according to the esoteric literature there is a plan, one that involves all the kingdoms of nature including the human and works towards total harmony.
At the head of the hierarchy sits Maitreya, the World Teacher. Maitreya is awaited by all the world’s religions under different names: He is Krishna, for the Hindu, the Imam Mahdi for Muslims, Maitreya Buddha expected by Buddhists, and embodying the Christ Consciousness, the second aspect of divinity, the energy of Love, Maitreya is the Christ; the Lord of Love, the Prince of Peace – a deeply controversial statement that many Christians will no doubt resolutely reject.
Maitreya is the teacher for this time and He is once again among us waiting for the most positive moment to step forward into full public view and begin His open work. This is the message that British artist and writer Benjamin Creme shared with the world for over forty years. I first heard him speak in 1987 and although I had no knowledge of such things I intuitively recognized that what he said was true.
According to Creme, Maitreya has been in the everyday world since July 19th 1977 when He “descended from His ancient retreat in the Himalayas” and entered His ‘point of focus” as it is called” – London, England. Maitreya is a teacher in the broadest sense; He comes for everyone as our brother and friend. He will offer advice, guidance on how the crises that weigh so heavily on humanity can be overcome; “My task will be to show you how to live together peacefully as brothers. This is simpler than you imagine, My friends, for it requires only the acceptance of sharing” – from Message no. 82 (of 140 messages given by Maitreya between September 1977 and June 1982). Sharing is crucial: when we share, we create the conditions in which trust and justice can come into being, and when these are present peace between people becomes possible; conversely, without trust and (social) justice there will never be peace.
To claim that the World Teacher is here and waiting for the right moment to emerge is of course deeply contentious, and many may dismiss it out of hand. But whilst the appearance of the teacher – a Buddha or Christ figure – is indeed extraordinary it is not unusual. We have lost sight of ourselves and our long past; historically a teacher has always come forth from the spiritual hierarchy at particular times of crisis or transition; and we are living through such a time. So why should now be any different? Look at the world; it is in a state of enormous turmoil, of division and pain, opportunity and awakening. On the one hand huge numbers of people throughout the world are calling for change, for justice and freedom, an end to racism and hate and for substantive action to tackle the environmental emergency. In the opposite corner are the reactionary fearful forces that are desperate to stop progress and to maintain the cruel status quo. It is these very forces that are the major obstacle to change and the swift emergence of Maitreya, who is the harbinger of the new.
Their weapons of choice are fear and division, interconnected poisons that feed on each other, and that once imbedded can tear people apart, feeding hatred and anger, within a family, a society or nation. One of the loudest expressions of the reactionary strain in recent years has been the rise of political populism, and with it tribal nationalism, intolerance and isolationism. With the fall of Trump – a hugely significant and positive event for the world – this destructive movement has lost one of its leading cheerleaders, others will gradually fall by the wayside and become increasingly marginalized figures.
After decades of tension there is a real sense now that the tide is finally turning, a feeling that a pivotal point has been crossed. Few can deny that change is underway; as a guide to the direction of such change, which must be measured and ordered, and the nature of our actions, Maitreya advises us to “Take your brother’s need as the measure for your action and solve the problems of the world. There is no other course.”
The momentum will continue to increase, dynamically gaining greater and greater strength, leading to the inculcation of totally new structures and modes of living. And as resistance is overcome, not through conflict, but by growing awareness and the weight of collective will, the space into which Maitreya can step forward will open up, allowing for what one of the Masters describes as the “Dispensation of Love” to take place.
Destructive human behavior based on selfishness, greed and ignorance has created the interrelated environmental emergency. A global crisis of unprecedented scale that threatens the survival of over a million plant and animal species, the security of tens of millions of people and the health of the planet.
Unlimited irresponsible consumption of goods, services and animal food produce is the underlying cause; destructive unhealthy behavior encouraged by short-term political and business policies rooted in nationalism and the ideology of competition and greed.
Land sea and air are contaminated everywhere, more or less; the natural climatic rhythms have been radically disrupted, chaos created where order once held sway; the great rain forests of the world are being decimated, trees cut down, land turned over to cattle, or agriculture – principally to grow soya for animal feed – indigenous peoples displaced or killed, cultures shredded, ecosystems shattered, animal habitat destroyed, plant species crushed under the vile weight of corruption and money.
The scale and urgency of the crisis is impossible to overstate; with every new scientific paper that appears the reality becomes more and more overwhelming, the task of salvage more daunting, the need for action more urgent. Most people of course don’t read such texts or notice the rare piece of news coverage that they, or the natural world more broadly receive. And despite being the most pressing issue of this or indeed any other time, within government circles, corporate boardrooms, as well as far too many individual households, the environmental catastrophe remains a marginal matter within the relentless urge for profit, economic growth and personal pleasure; little more than an afterthought within the business plan, a political add-on to appeal to the green contingent or customer base.
In opposition to this crippling complacency there is a growing army of people ringing alarm bells, trying to instill a sense of urgency and wake people up. Loud voices, some well known, like Sir David Attenborough, Greta Thunberg and Prince Charles, who has been ‘banging on’ about environmental abuse for thirty years or more, together with movements like Extinction Rebellion and the Schools Strike for Climate, and a raft of environmental campaign groups such as Greenpeace and the World Wildlife Fund. All work tirelessly to share information about the scale and depth of the crisis and raise awareness.
And awareness is growing, behavior shifting; the details and scope of the emergency may not be known but there is a general awareness (in developed nations at least), however vague and inadequate, that the natural environment is in crisis, particularly among young people, who, in many cases are rightly appalled (and extremely worried) at the level of environmental vandalism perpetrated by previous generations. But the scale of change is nowhere near what is needed and it’s too slow; gradual changes over decades or generations will not cut it, neither will reliance solely on technology.
The response among corporations and governments is consistently inadequate, and the reaction of the mass of people is often indifference and/or a sense of individual inadequacy in the face of such massive issues. Most people live hard insecure lives, are physically tired, emotionally drained and mentally confused, overwhelmed by their own difficulties and trying, for the most part, simply to get by, to feed themselves and their families and find some lightness within what are often heavy days and dreary nights.
If, and it’s a large ominous if, humanity is to reverse the damage, education and widespread environmental/social responsibility are essential.
A global public information campaign is urgently needed. Coordinated by the UN Environment agency utilizing national media outlets and designed in conjunction with environmental groups to raise awareness not just of the scale of the emergency, but to encourage responsible ethical behavior among populations, corporations/businesses and Governments. Environmentally progressive policymaking can no longer be a series of ill conceived halfhearted add-ons within the manifestos of political parties and leaders running for office. Environmental responsibility must be fostered so that it becomes the central consideration in all decision making, for governments, businesses and individuals. It is part of a broader sense of social responsibility, which includes the recognition that we are responsible for one another, and requires the cultivation of a general attitude of positive communal living.
To be responsible is to respond. To respond to the need, whatever that may be, to the challenge or the urgency of the time. The nature and quality of the response is critical, what it is that we respond with. If the response is anchored in selfishness and conditioned by motive, if it is limited by ideology or constrained by considerations of personal gain, financial profit or economic growth for example, then the response, and this is what happens in most cases, will not only be inadequate to the demands of the moment, it will intensify the issue, or crises. Such actions are rooted in the past and cannot, therefore sufficiently meet the crisis; whatever it is, in this case, the environmental crisis, fully, because the crisis is taking place now.
Being responsible also means being “accountable for one’s actions”, which is a quality of living that is lacking in varying degrees, among politicians and corporations – where it is virtually totally absent, as well as large swathes of the world’s population. In place of social/environmental responsibility the dual poisons of complacency and irresponsibility habitually condition action, adding to an overall atmosphere of selfishness and social division. We have come to believe in separation, identifying ourselves with a nation, race or belief system, divided from, superior or inferior to another, ‘the other’, who may not look, pray or think like we do, and therefore cannot be trusted. The ideology of division, based as it is on fear and hate is anathema to responsibility.
If, and there again is that omnipresent if, there is to be an adequate response to the environmental emergency a new atmosphere of collective responsibility needs to be fostered and the nations of the world must unite; this call for united global action is a common-sense statement enunciated and agreed upon many times at various gatherings, but like world peace or equality its little more than a hollow ideal under which the pattern of competitive nationalism drones on, and on and on. International agreements are signed, no doubt in a spirit of optimism, and sincerity, but hypocrisy and duplicity are the worldwide hallmarks of politicians, and commitments are largely ignored, the business of corporate politics continues unhindered and little or nothing changes.
The greatest environmental impact, for good or ill, lies with governments and corporations, but the behavior or individuals is crucial; en-masse it is the neglect, greed and rampant consumerism of the people of the world (primarily the wealthier people of the world) that is the underlying cause of the interconnected environmental crisis. All of us are equally responsible – individuals, businesses and governments – particularly those of us living in the developed nations, and that responsibility demands a change in lifestyle: living simpler lives, consuming less, in many cases, much less, and making decisions based on environmental considerations first.
If we embrace this sense of individual responsibility for the whole, recognizing it to be not just true, but an opportunity to contribute in a positive manner, fully and deeply, then maybe, just maybe, the planet beautiful can be salvaged and with it social harmony and unity be realized.
It’s the beginning of autumn in the northern hemisphere, a beautiful and refreshing space between the heady days of summer and the chill of winter, a transitional time. And collectively we are living through a time of global transition; a shift from one civilization, colored by certain influencing qualities, to a new time, growing out of the old but infused with a different energy, with distinct unifying qualities and evolving modes of living.
Inherent in this natural movement is the promise of change, but also resistance and tension, resulting in conflict and fragmentation. Ancient divisions are being strengthened, new divisions fermented, injustices highlighted; under the action of cleavage all are being drawn to the polluted surface of human affairs.
With every day the weight and impact of the new intensifies, the forces of the old, the forms and systems, institutions and structures decline, fragment and decay. Despite this disintegration, attachment to the familiar is strong, and change in any direction, particularly when it threatens to weaken the control of the controllers, evokes a strong opposing reaction. Broad lines of demarcation between people desperate for a different way (the majority in many cases), for social justice, environmental action and freedom, and those fighting to maintain the status quo have become increasingly stark.
Resistance is fierce among those groups that are wedded to the existing unjust, dysfunctional ways, many of whom hold the reins of power – political and corporate; believing in the doctrine of greed, which has served them well, and defining life in narrow materialistic terms, they refuse to see any alternative to the ideology of money and nationalism, and will fight to the bitter end. But transition to a new way of living is beginning and will accelerate, impacting on all areas of society. Some transitional trends have been accelerated by the Covid-19 pandemic, including working practices, transportation (particularly in cities) and the shift to online shopping.
The old is established, its modus operandi defined, institutions and systems, ideologies and values well known, imbedded in the minds of all. The shape of the ‘new’ is not known, forms need to evolve, but its qualities are becoming clear. It speaks of unity, cooperation, tolerance and understanding, social justice and freedom. Universal perennial principles held within the hearts of many for generations, which under the ideology of division, have been ignored or buried, at best partially honored, selectively demonstrated; broad principles that will increasingly determine the tone of the new civilization.