Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Evolving Together

My last post was very enthusiastic but poorly argued. I seem to have got lost at the punch line.

I think it's true that we shouldn't be scared of each other, and it's dangerous to teach our children to be. The urge to excel isn't dangerous, it's the key to lving life as the best you can be, but we are a species who cannot excel without taking others with us. Eventually, we must take everyone with us. As the Mayans did (if they did vibrate higher and higher and all sublime as a race) we must raise the consciousness of others in order to raise our own. Co-operation is the key to success, development, what have you, which kind of rules out fear or one another.

The classroom that creates 99% losers in order to create one winner, however, is a piece of the past.

And the greatest way to be of service to everyone else is to be the best that I can be. This inspires other people to feel that they can do the same in their own field. It's being content with your own field that seems to be a challenge, not constantly comparing and measuring yourself by external measures because that creates fear and depression.

Well, better stop wittering and get on with bringing Almasi to life. She's the first character from my cartoon studio's desks.

Mwara

Labels: , ,

Monday, September 15, 2008

baby clothes update (Kenyan Educational Fears)

I've collected about 40kgs of clothes so far, baby clothes and teen girl clothes. I found a place in Forest Gate which can ship them to Kenya for £2.25 per kg with a £25 documentation fee as long as we do our own clearing. Which was a great option, as previous ways of shipping were running at £10 or £20 to Kenya. So I was going to pack about 20kgs of clothes and send, for £75. I did wonder how many baby clothes £75 would have bought in Nairobi, but I thought I might as well try it, so we could see what it was like in practice. Then I got paid and the bills hit (my other half is out of work at present) and it looks like I'll have to wait another month and see what I can do then! But I haven't forgotten or lost interest, I'm still mulling over the problem and sorting baby clothes.

In recent years I've heard twice, from concerned 30 or 40ish Kenyans, the fear that Chinese students are very intelligent and hardworking and these are the people our children are going to be competing against! This is said to show that Kenyan schools must train our children to be ever more competitive.

Well, I've been reading a lot of John Holt and John Gatto, about the long term effects on a society of compulsory, competitive schooling. And at present I'm reading Neal Stephenson's Barock Cycle, about 17th Century Europe.

Competitive thinking is, I submit, a symptom of an immature society. Africa and China are looking at each other the way France and England used to across the sea, each fearing the success of the other. As Louis the 14th says in The Confusion of the muted roar he hears across the Channel, 'I prefer silence.' In those days countries thought that if the other did badly, they themselves would needs do well. But today, as Lehman Brothers collapses, the news that US banking giants are falling causes us in the UK to tremble. We don't say, 'Bad things are happening to our neighbours. Bully for us!' We say, 'Bad things are happening to our neighbours. Soon, bad things will happen to us.'

In this interlinked world where we are all in one economic and environmental entanglement, the logical conclusion of the insanely competitive few centuries we've just had is playing itself out. Our planet is being destroyed and our economic system is collapsing under the weight of its own greed.

In this context, making the sole aim of a successful adolescence the achievement of A grades is not very bright. A grades are for getting good jobs and buying THINGS. Not for being enthusiastic about life and interacting with people. They are for avoiding poverty. But this is a fallacy built on false propaganda. The idea that our world is poverty stricken is a red herring.

We are not suffering from profligacy caused by cheap energy. We do not need to economise on energy. On the contrary, the sun delivers for free, to every part of the planet, 15,000 times more energy than we need every day. We could use twice as much energy and still have 7,000 times more than we needed. The sun and its derivatives, however (wind, waves, biomass) cannot be sold. At some point in the 1980's the conventional energy industry actually as good as stated that as no-one could own the sun, nobody should. The only way to guarantee a steady supply of money is to market consumables, which is why it's important to keep the world addicted to fossil energy. In the same way, there is no shortage of money. But 60% of the world's money is locked up in the stock market. No wonder there's too little in my pocket!

In fact the only form of poverty that matters is water poverty and poor soil. How much money is poured into research on how to make terra preta (artificially enriched soil in deserts) compared to research on new ways to suck fossil energy out of the earth beneath us?

Crude oil is a very unpleasant substance, black, sticky and smells horrid. Bio-diesel is golden and a great solvent. Moreover, everywhere we suck fossil oil out of the ground it causes war and attracts mayhem and misery. Then we burn it and destroy the planet. It really is like a curse we delved for.

Labels:

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Baby Clothes needed in Nairobi

This is a republished version of an email I received from my friend Lynn in Nairobi.

Hi,

I trust that you are all well. The reason for this email is that my firm, which is a forensic consultancy, does a lot of pro bono work in Naivasha with rape survivors and especially young girls. Most of these girls do not report the abuse as soon as it happens and will only tell someone when they realise that they are pregnant. As a firm we do the criminal paternity tests to ensure that these paedophiles are put away for the crime that they have committed.

We currently have about 10 girls aged between 14 and 17 who have been defiled by people known to them and as a result have either recently had a baby or are about to. All these girls come from poor backgrounds and may be orphans under the care of an elderly grandparent. If they are lucky the family will support them but sometimes this is not the case.

We are currently working on a particularly harrowing case of a 14 year old girl who was defiled by her biological father and now has a 4 month old baby. She has been rejected by her mother, who also has a 4 month old baby, and her grandmother and is literally living on the streets. Her father has 'disappeared' but calls her mother every so often looking for money. She is selling cabbages for someone and gets about 30 KShs every 4 days or so. Her and the baby have both suffered pneumonia recently, thankfully the baby's medical treatment is free but not for the girl so she has not been able to finish her course of treatment. We are trying to get this girl into a home that can take both her and her baby and also ensure that the home will not only be able to provide medical care but also enable the girl to go back to school, she would have been doing her KCPE this year.

I am not asking for money for these girls, what I am asking for is clothes for the babies and also for the girls, so if you know anyone with baby clothes, regardless of the age, coz these babies will grow after all, please let me know and I will come and pick them up and donate them to these girls, I know anything will be appreciated. Also clothes for the girls, like I said they are aged between the ages of 14 and 17.

On behalf of my business partner .... and myself I would like to thank you in advance and also ask you to forward this to anyone you think maybe able to help. We have a problem in our society and I like many of you lived a carefree youth, where you worried about homework just wanted to be outside playing shake, kati, tapo and all those other kid things, but these young girls don't have that choice, through no fault of their own they have been thrust into motherhood in the worst possible way.


Many Thanks

If you want to donate baby clothes, please send Mama Wangari a comment with a contact method for you, either email or telephone. I will respond as soon as I get it to arrange what's possible re delivery to Nairobi but not publish. If you want a comment published please do not include contact details in it. ie send 2 if you want one to be published.

Labels: , ,

Monday, July 07, 2008

Home-brewed bioalcohol

We're all going to have to shift to creating our own energy. We all need to live & work in buildings that generate their own electricity, and live in circumstances where we can walk to, or at least be able to name, or drive past somewhere in our weekly round, the fields where the crops are grown that give us oil for our bio-alcohol. We have the choice of doing this now, off our own bat, or doing it after 3/4's of us have died out, at which point those of us who are left will be unable to operate power plants or pipe oil, and will have to find & affix solar panels if we want electric light or heat, and plough fields to grow rapeseed etc, and make the requisite methanol/ethanol from the dung of our cows or old potatoes or whatever.

I'm a chronic guilt tripper, I've never actually done much beyond making plans and falling short - I certainly am not going to put my short up for anyone to see until I've done some more work on it. My supervisor called the other day and gave me to understand that I may graduate on it, but if I show it to anyone commercial in the state it's in it'll kill any chance of a cartoon studio dead.

But I can read. I was reading round about a war a while ago, starting with The Cat From Hue - John Laurence. Fabulous. This led me on to War is a Force That Gives Us Meaning - Chris Hedges, which stopped me dead in the water on a very fruitful sortie into the depths of the human psyche. It's an excellent title, a good point, but the book is too self indulgent.

On good people - I had a friend then who was doing a PhD on War Studies at King's, and his thesis was Rwanda. Now that was a man who walked his talk. He wouldn't have anything to do with me because I was on a reproduction kick and he needed to do his work.

He interviewed 20-30 of the genocidaires in prison and only met ONE who said, "I did these things." Everyone else said ,"These things were done." That Rwandan one is a very troubling episode, you know, because the violence was so intimate. It always is, in Africa. In Europe genocidaires press gassing buttons. In Africa they use farm tools, and afterwards (GASP) the perpetrators and their victims must learn to live together ... if you understand anything of the nature of trauma, this is beyond belief. How do you begin to fix such an out of integrity?

Some people try. I have some friends whom I met as child, in Kenya, working for VSO. They live in North Wales now, and I visited them with my family, only to meet We wish to Inform you That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families on the shelf beside my bed. Their youngest daughter has gone to Rwanda to do teacher training. And they've just left to visit her! My mind boggles at the thought. Nothing could make me go to Kigali in this lifetime. I work on the Underground, and I will go to great lengths to avoid being around when a person jumps under a train, even if it means ducking out from supporting my team.

A few other titles I wish I'd read then - Karl von Clausewitz's "On War."

Lt. Col. Dave Grossman's impressive work- On Killing

The Warriors: Reflections on Men in Battle (1959) by J. Glenn Gray

War is a difficult subject. It is evil, but is elimination less evil? How else does a society react to threat? After all, all the societies alive today are the most hardened, pugnacious ones. The soft die out. How to create a world not inimical for the soft? How are they to survive in it?

These are the answers civilisation is supposed to provide. It's making an attempt - I understand the Chinese are lifting 20,000 people a day out of poverty. Great stuff. Long may it last ... but isn't poverty good for the spirit?

Sometimes I see a flicker of a glimpse of how it might be possible to be the best that you can be, to reach your potential and thus expand the human condition, living in a comfy society in the West and not doing much, directly, for the myriad have-nots. After all, it is the spirit that matters, and what it learns. But it is a fugitive glimpse. I am not convinced it's not just fear of returning to an insecure society. I grew up with this 70's mindset, from my mum, that to do good in the world you have to live an uncomfortable life. But it does not necessarily equate that an uncomfy life is good for the world, and it is hard on one's kids. I hated having no running water. I don't want my kids living that.

On the other hand it isn't necessary for all the world to live in energy poverty, and this might be my way out. A mechanism to share wealth equitably (isn't that the fundamental question of civilisation?), and absolve me of the burden. Hermann Scheer is leading a big shift in my thinking on this.

What I've seen in Energy Autonomy is:

a) We're all going to have to shift to creating our own energy. We all need to live & work in buildings that generate their own electricity, and live in circumstances where we can walk to, or at least be able to name, or drive past somewhere in our weekly round, the fields where the crops are grown that give oil for our bio-alcohol. We have the choice of doing this now, off our own bat, or doing it after 3/4's of us have died out, at which point those of us who are left will be unable to operate power plants or pipe oil, and will have to find & affix solar panels if we want electric light or heat, and plough fields to grow rapeseed etc, and make the requisite methanol from the dung of our cows or whatever.

b) It is complete rubbish that poor people are right now trekking about seeking firewood when the sun's beating down on their backs delivering, for free, 15,000 times more energy than we need every day. It is unspeakable that species have been wiped out in the last 100 years completely unnecessarily, just so we can suck up the earth under our feet and enjoy the pleasure of selling it to each other.

c) The reason why we're not living off solar power right now is because oil/coal/gas/uranium is a product that can be sold, and nobody can sell the sunlight. In 1981 when Reagan came to power the conventional energy business shut down the nascent solar movement because nobody could own the sun, so nobody should. See Who Owns the Sun?

d) Ample proof has been available since the 1970's that renewable energy can replace conventional energy and supply the world's needs. It's not hard, for us people who can split the atom, it just needs the political will to junk the energy business. See John Wyndham's The Kraken Wakes for an explanation of why this is not forthcoming, and weep.

e) I have also conceived an overwhelming desire to make my own biofuel. Apparently thousands of people do!

I bought my first car this year - I finally buckled under the weight of two children (I actually cracked my ribs under the weight of both, abruptly applied), and I would love not to feel guilty every time I hit the road. The faint odour of chips wafting about my car as I drove would do me just fine - and I adore the idea of running out of the house with a watering-can full of fuel to pour into my tank. Just think of the expressions on the faces of the people walking past! Daft women drivers doesn't cut it!

Anyway I came up with this plan to make fuel last Wednesday, 2nd July 2008, and I read through a biofuel recipe on the net (it's not easy; takes 8-9 months to perfect it in practise) and bethought me of my dad, now aged 60, back in Kenya. He loves chemistry, especially the do-it-yourself kind, so I sent him the link. Maybe we could run a parallel conversion attempt and encourage each other?

The thought also struck me that the veg oil to turn into bio-alcohol must come from somewhere. The food prices must be getting a bit rocky in Kenya, and so that might be a problem. A practical problem, and a psychological barrier to takeup for biofuel - despite the fact that, assuming an average energy yield of 50,000 kilowatts per hectare, only 8% of the world's current forest, field and farmland acreage could provide enough cropping to suffice us all with fuel.

But Hermann Scheer says 'in semi-arid regions there is an additional cultivable potential of well over 10 million square kilometres', so maybe there might be a chance there? So much of Kenya is semi-arid, 85% I learnt in school. I wrote to my Dad.

He replied the next day that you can grow - a miracle plant really as far as I can see. Not only does it have 'a great yield of well over 2,000 barrels of oil per square mile per year; it increases the fertility of the land on which it is grown so that it can potentially be used for food crops in subsequent years. It's a perennial which can grow in arid conditions (even deserts), on any kind of ground, and does not require irrigation or suffer in droughts' - reuk.co.uk. I nearly fell off my chair.

It's like a coffee bush with spiky leaves.

So it looks like the future of the world is assured and I can slope off and attend to the next emergency, which is human rights. Because no matter how secure, healthy and wealthy we are, it doesn't count as long as one woman or child is being spoken to rudely in their own home, does it?

The recipe I lean toward is the journeytoforever.org one. I need a shed, really, cos I can't have that stuff going on somewhere I can't lock my kids out of. But I'm turning over in my head how to do the first bit, converting 1litre of veg oil.

I'd love to tile my roof with solar PV/thermal tiles, you can get those now. The single home wind turbines are great, but unfortunately my roof's 100 years old and needs replacing first, which pushes my costs up into the £30K area. Annoying, isn't it? I still need to get wealthy to save the human race! We've put in warm water underfloor heating, though, a thing I'd never have thought we could do this decade, so you never know. Energy autonomy may be closer than I think. It has to be pretty close, to do any good. I've borne two children in great labour, I certainly don't want them freezing to death in some hellish winter 50 years hence.

Labels: , , , , , , ,

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Fossil Fuel

The energy state of the world makes depressing reading! Hermann Scheer's Autonomous Energy crossed my path the last time I went to the library ... I wonder if we are going to save the planet! Well, actually the planet's in not much danger, it'll still be here. We won't. Or not many of us. I keep wondering if we're going to behave like we do in John Wyndham's The Kraken Wakes. In that apocalyptic novel the world buried its head in the sand till most of it was buried in water. The resulting population fall would be perfect, from Nature's point of view.

I think it's the fact that Scheer puts it all in terms of politics. It seems heart-rendingly senseless that millions of poor people are hunting for firewood with the sun beating down upon their backs, pouring free energy down onto them. When I think of that poor woman I saw in National Geographic last month, hacking up roots to burn for fuel in the deserts around the refugee camps of Darfur, with her toddler tied to her back ... what would it really cost to put a Photovoltaic cell on each roof worldwide, feeding an electric cooker and lights? Think of all the respiratory miseries that could be avoided ... the forests that would still clothe the globe. Bet it would cost less than will be spent this year on the never ending, never yielding anything, thankless quest for nuclear energy that nobody needs.

Many years ago my uncle  - a climate researcher since 1979 - pointed out to me that the least efficient solar panel converts energy at 22% efficiency. All the energy in fossil fuels was fixed by chlorophyll at 1% efficiency. Now I find that the sun delivers 15,000 times as much energy as we need to every point on the planet for free! Every minute of every day! I discover that scientists in 1922 were warning us off fossil fuels! 

Then a quick search on the internet discovers people who bought a house in the English countryside with the aim of getting energy self sufficient in 2006 gave up in the face of government intransigence and sold it in January 2008. See:
www.green-house-effect.blogspot.com/ 
That's horrifying. The whole entrenched energy business that continues to keep selling us stuff we really don't need and politicking us out of the power to change our energy habits. Why on earth are we sucking stuff out of the ground we need to stand on, and burning it to create all sorts of nastiness, when God's pouring clean energy down on us for free? Who can seriously believe that we have the power to split the atom and we can't develop the technology to capture enough solar and wind power to run industries? We're burning up the earth cos some of us can make money out of it. That is the sheer and simple truth. Moreover we are now dying for the privilege of so spending our money.

That joke about how they got us to switch to using disposable nappies (by telling us were too stupid to use re-useable ones - so complicated!) is very true about petrol, gas, coal and nuclear fission & fusion. Shell & BP are getting us to use them by telling us we're too stupid not to. Oh, the sheer selfishness.

Last week I read Animal's People, all about the gas tragedy in Bhopal, India. See www.khaufpur.com. Why as humans are we so helpless in the face of selfishness? Bhopal reminded me of nothing so much as the Titanic, in the concatenation of neglectful evils that met that night in 1984. The horror of it since, though ... how can people keep buying Dow Chemical stocks? Why don't they just move the population, just make it stop? It's 23 years since, for God's sake. It really would be easier to fix it than to keep explaining why not. Just make it stop. Even one child gassed was too much, let alone the hundred thousand since.

Labels: , , , , , , , , ,

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Zinging!

I've just read this article about Mugo Kibati on the Generationkenya website:

Forward Into Excellence (Mugo Kibati) by Wambui Mwangi


It's left me zinging! It's inspirational to see what an effect a father's belief in one can have - what a first memory to have! A sheer fount of power. I've just turned aside from the thought of taking the Landmark Education 'Being Extraordinary' Seminar, backing down from the challenge, and it's extraordinary to feel the effect on me of reading about someone who doesn't back down from that challenge at all, meets it joyously in fact. What a world we would have if all parents used their power so well, turning what we use to douse our children's spirits into something that charges incandescence. I'm actually scared at the thought of what my daughters could become with such affirmation from me.

I couldn't leave a comment, the link wouldn't work, but I wanted to record this moment so I'm putting it here. When I consider what I could be, that I'm not, it could be depressing. I'm still becoming, after so many years. But I'm making progress! Occasionally my light shines through. Much more nowadays, since I've started doing Landmark Education stuff. I did the Forum, and the Advanced Course, and the Integrity Seminar (not quite finished yet).It has a fabulous effect of helping me rub off the stuff I cover myself up with, and strangle my light with.

But it seems more and more impactful, to me, that I could gift my children a life without any of that rubbish. Well, I can always create that possibility for myself. The possibility of giving my children the freedom of all the power and joy they can generate. The possibility of powerful parenting. And then of course I could run my parenting courses, and spread that power.

Labels: , , ,

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Anything but ordinary: 100 things about me- # 1-20

Anything but ordinary: 100 things about me- # 1-20