Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Un-Built Environment

We have a total design failure on our hands. We have ended up with a built environment does not take account of the needs of the vulnerable, it does not produce intrinsically healthy environments either indoors or outdoors, and it has evolved in a manner that has obliterated place. Totally in contrast to what built environment is expected to achieve - to make life safer and more comfortable, productive, and enjoyable. From an ethical perspective we are witnessing a transformation that penalises those without a voice (e.g. children, elderly and disabled), rewards those with higher levels of material wealth (luxury spaces and products) and reorganises the built environment with no reference to any process of debate or consensus building with local residents.

The built environment is a powerful determinant of who gains and who loses in the distribution and redistribution of its positive and negative impacts, and has played a significant role in creating inequalities, inequities, social injustice, loss of community, loss of place identity, and a loss of spiritual dimension of life.

- Warwick Fox

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Spirituality Needed
in times of Climate Change

I will begin with what Eve Ensler (of the Vagina Monologues fame) said about killing our “Girl Cells”, the feminine principle within each one of us. We have killed our ability to display our emotions, we have killed our “heart”, our spirit and have given precedence and all power to the mind.

Being connected and contented comes from being whole. Truth, justice, compassion, co-operation, etc. comes from the wisdom that comes from being whole. It brings with it pluralism, diversity, and respect for the other.

We see what we have lost by losing the feminine within us, the spirit within us. We have a world gone beserk, unbalanced, and skewed by excessive want, acquisition, power, control, domination. It has annihilated everything around so much so that it is now in danger of annihilating itself. The male principle of protectiveness, care, leadership, governance has degenerated to divisiveness, combativeness. We see this in every field, in every aspect – politics, economics, religion.

We see from the testimonials from the communities, from the people - that left to ourselves, we humans are not divisive creatures. There is a natural tendency to work together, to collaborate and co-operate. This is reflected in the way local communities respond, function and live. Where very clearly the principles of ‘no-harm to another’ and ‘no-harm to nature’ gets automatically followed.

So, the answer is all around. It is, as Bob Dylan says, blowing in the wind. We need only to reflect, to see. The answers are inside us – individually and collectively.

At an individual level we need to withdraw within ourselves, we need to go on a inward journey that will help us to reinstate the feminine/the spirit/the heart within us. We need to become whole.

At a social level, too, we need to go within – to our roots, to our communal support systems and take up once again the power and responsibility of decision-making, governance and self-sufficiency.

We cannot wait for this to be ‘given’ to us. We must start doing it pervasively. There are many, many examples where local communities have already, in the past and also in the present, taken matters in their own hands. These processes are however unconnected. And are happening sporadically. They need to become a way-of-living.

I would like to take you to an example from the book ‘Spider and the Starfish’ by Ori Braufman. The Spider being the centralised, all-powerful, monopolistic systems. The Starfish having a nature where when one arm breaks, it regenerates not only the lost arm, but also regenerates a whole starfish from the broken arm ! Its processes of rejuvenation not centrally governed, but inherent in its every cell.

Globally, there is no better example than the Open-Source movement that has challenged and brought down mighty corporations and posited themselves as serious alternatives. So much so that these mighty corporations have had to make adjustments to integrate such alternatives within their own centralised systems.

Google is an example of creating tools and spaces and giving it away for ‘free’. Wikipedia, a brilliant example of co-operation with no profit-motive. The Social media a space of non-prescriptive gathering defined entirely by the individual. The internet itself an example of global communities. The individual blogs a rich, diverse source of thoughts and reflections of individuals.

The climate change negotiations themselves – the process – has been an example of hundreds of countries coming together for a single cause concerning all of us.

The Gen-Y is a classic example of how youngsters are countering the monopolistic culture. The ‘sprite bujhaye pyaas, baaki all bakwas’ a wonderful counter to ‘yeh dil maange more’. They are rejecting the cubicle-farms, demanding and creating more space for themselves, on their terms. The opinions of this generation no longer influenced by external, imposed ideas or ‘the Brand’, but through a communication within their own networks. They are know to be a community oriented, compassionate, take-everyone-along thinking generation. These thoughts though scattered will go a long way to affect and impact and change the collective conscious, the morphogenetic blueprints, as Rupert Sheldrake called them.

Now that Copenhagen has failed and one has seen that the scorpion has finally stung, as is its nature. So without much ado, what remains to be done is to take matters in our own hands – at individual level and at community levels. Actions for coping with and adapting to climate change consequences have to be debated within ourselves and be put in place. We need no sanction, no ‘higher’ agreement to choose differently.

We need to educate ourselves from our own experiences, go back and rediscover technologies and systems in every field that have worked for us, rejuvenate and adapt our local governance systems, protect whatever natural resources that remain and help them to revive themselves. We need to prepare ourselves for frequent disasters. We need to prepare ourselves to rebuild our homes and reorganize our cities.

One good thing that has come out of the Copenhagen collapse is that it has eliminated our dependence on “them” and squarely brought the action to “us”. With no external, international, solution coming to our rescue, we are forced to solve the problem ourselves. The feminine needs to take over. Needs to get to work on survival issues, as women have done for millennia.

We need a Satyagraha. A call for non-co-operation. We need to opt out of the ‘larger’ system. We need to ‘reject’ the “big” damaging systems and build co-operation amongst the “smaller” ground-level and viable systems. We stop contributing and participating in the larger centralised markets. We take away our dependence on centralised production systems. We need to move towards local self-sufficiency. We need to stop damage at local levels.

We have given away our power, our dignity, our capacity to the “other”. We now need to reclaim it and bring back all that we have lost. We need to reclaim our "Girl cells", our innate Feminine half.

We need to behave like the Starfish.

We need to not just adapt but mutate ! Spiritually mutate. We need today a militant spirituality. Active. Strong. Alive. Not a passive, pacifist spirituality. We need a male-female combine. A Whole.