A Speech by John R. Rifkin, Ph.D.
For the Second Annual OH Expo, 8/19/06
I want to start by thanking Stacy Plouffe and Carmelita Garcia, the founders and organizers of the Organic and Holistic Expo, for inviting me to speak to you today, and for their vision in bringing together people who share their views of the need to market Earth-friendly and ecologically sound services and products. I also want to thank all of you for coming out to the expo today and supporting the Organic and Holistic movement.
Normally, I do most of my talks about anger, power and relationships. Today, however, in honor of the OH Expo, I want to talk about your power, global warming and the Organic and Holistic movement.
The Organic and Holistic movement is ecological almost by definition. Practitioners of Holistic healing view the body as a whole system that is interconnected with the whole of the planet. Organic foods are grown and raised with a view that pesticides and artificial fertilizers may not function well within the context of either the body or the planet. Traces of these chemicals can cause harm to the environment and therefore to the people that live on the planet. There is plenty of evidence of pesticides negatively impacting our health.
I remember reading "Dune," by Frank Herbert in 1967, and discovering the concepts of ecology by reading a science fiction novel. Later, in the summer of 1971, after I had moved to Colorado , I studied with Buckminster Fuller's World Game, where we attempted to design the systems that would work best for us as a planet, disregarding politics and conventional boundaries. We did this, to some extent, by using Dr. Fuller's invention of the least distorted maps of the globe. He used a 20 sided solid, a duo decahedron, to collapse the globe onto. Then, since this is a figure that can be made flat in a number of ways, you can unfold it to have a picture of all the land surrounded by water, or of all the water surrounded by land. Using these innovative maps, it was easier to look at the most efficient transportation and energy systems. It was a stimulating and exciting time. It's work that still needs to be done for us to function efficiently as a planet of people.
Today, as we see the beginnings of climate change based of human activity, it is increasingly clear that changes are coming to how humanity will be able to live on this planet. It is clear that global warming is based on the increase in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Our responses to these changes will necessarily be based on our learning to develop technologies that are more and more green, more and more holistic and which use energy that does not generate carbon dioxide.
As I've come to look at where we need to be going in the immediate future, it's clear that we need to transfer directly from solar energy to electric energy. This technology is already available today! If you can afford to by the panels, which are rapidly coming down in price, you can live carbon free in terms of your home's energy needs. If you can afford to buy an electric car, you can drive carbon free.
Only the natural energies that come directly from solar energy are truly carbon free, and only carbon free energy can pull us back from the brink of disaster related to the build up of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and the global warming that follows from this. Once we have carbon free energy, we can meet all of our transportation needs through electricity and its applications though electric cars and mass transit.
Earlier this summer I was buying some roses at an organic nursery in Boulder and they had a quotation that captured my attention. The quote was from Sir Francis Bacon, an author who is considered to be the father of inductive reasoning. To give this quote perspective, Francis Bacon lived in the late 1600's, and yet it has relevance even today: "Nature is only to be commanded by obeying her."
This quote by a great man almost four centuries ago seems like a great lead into my talk today. It is interesting in that it captures our need to be in charge and to be powerful, yet also captures our powerlessness in the face of the power of nature and the planet, all in the same short sentence. We are powerless in the face of floods and droughts, hurricanes and other storms.
I want to go back and talk a little bit about technology, which I mentioned a few minutes ago. The dictionary defines technology as "a capability given by the practical application of knowledge." Technology is using what we know to better our human condition.
The human condition is not easy, in spite of some of the ease we experience today in this country. Much of humanity is still in the process of trying to climb up out of the mud, to move from a poverty-stricken, subsistence quality of life to one of dignity and accomplishment. To move beyond that to a life of true fulfillment is still a distant dream to many of us.
Yes, life is hard for everyone, and even harder for those of us living at this subsistence level. Technology represents a way to improve all of our lives.
And yet our technology cannot command nature unless it obeys her. This is a lesson that the Organic and Holistic movement embraces. We are one planet, interconnected, needing a green technology to recognize and work within this concept. Our technology needs to work in harmony with Mother Earth.
We are moving, gradually, towards developing and utilizing ecological technology. Fuels whose only pollution is heat, recycling abilities that will eventually approach 100 per cent of all manufactured material and biodegradable technologies. As I said earlier, we need to capture solar power in all of the available forms it takes, hydroelectric power, wind power, and the direct translation of solar to electric.
In the meantime, how do we find our personal power to support this holistic process? How do we use our personal power to support the movement of civilization towards the goal of fulfillment in the lives of every possible human on our planet?
In my book, "The Healing Power of Anger: The Unexpected Path to Love and Fulfillment," I discuss in great length the process of individuals achieving their own personal power and recovery from psychological and emotional problems. I'll give a brief overview here to make sure we understand the role anger plays in empowerment.
All problems begin with injury. The two most primary human emotions are pleasure and pain. For the most part, we don't have too many problems with pleasure, though the human psyche is so creative that even pleasure can be pulled into the service of pain through addictions.
But the primary negative human emotion is pain or injury. This starts with the fact that we need a relatively constant temperature and an ongoing intake of potable water and nutrition. We need to be safe.
These needs cause pain or injury when they are not fulfilled. Three secondary emotions follow pain or injury. Sadness I define as a grieving or honoring of that injury. Fear is energy the body generates to avoid being hurt again. Finally, I define anger as energy the body generates to fix what is hurting you.
The central thesis of my book is that when you begin to look at anger as energy, it is easier to be more compassionate towards those who feel anger. Also, when you look at anger as energy, it becomes clear that it has to go somewhere. The energy of the anger that you experience from injuries every day will either be used functionally or it will go into some form of dysfunction.
There are only two ways you can use your anger functionally. Self-nurturance is when you can act directly on yourself, to nurture yourself. Empowerment is when you can act on the world, to get the world to nurture you. If your anger about your injuries isn't used in one of these two ways, it will go into some form of dysfunction.
This dysfunction can be acting out your anger in a destructive behavior to things or others, or it will be actively self- abusive. Either one of these choices will leave you feeling worse about yourself.
So, the question for today, and this talk, is how do we find ways of using our anger about the ways in which the world does not work functionally to use it for empowerment? How can we act on the world to move the social agenda forward in ways that are consistent with our beliefs in holism? How do we use our personal power to influence others and move us all closer to functioning within our interconnectedness with the planet?
The Organic and Holistic movement looks at the world as completely interconnected. My personal transportation utilizing fossil fuel helps to warm our planet which harms the home of the polar bear and threatens many species, which harms me and the entire planet. Yet I still need and desire personal transportation. Remember James Taylor's song, "Traffic Jam?" There's a great line at the end where he says "You know that I thought that I was cool, runnin' around on fossil fuel, 'til I found out what I was doing was drivin' down the road to ruin."
We have to have greener, non-carbon dioxide generating personal transportation. We have to have good, affordable mass transit. We have the ability to generate electricity directly from the sun. We have the ability to use this energy for personal transportation. Not doing this becomes a moral decision when the consequences impact the sustainability of our planet.
We all have innumerable decisions to make every day. Do you throw away that aluminum can or recycle it? It is becoming a moral decision. Do you watch someone else throw away an aluminum can or do you volunteer to recycle it for them? How about that plastic water bottle?
Just as I encourage my clients to not live in to depression or anxiety, and to take back their personal power in their own personal struggles to overcome their emotional problems and to thrive, I'm here today to encourage you to continue your fight to move us all forward to living in harmony with this planet. In the handout that is available and circulating, I have copied a list of ten recommendations from the Union of Concerned Scientists. These are things that you can personally do, right now, to immediately slow the amount of carbon being released into the atmosphere and slow or even reverse the rate of global warming.
Now it's clear, that we must all begin to use our personal power in the individual, daily decisions that we make. It is also clear that the problem is one that presents itself to the whole planet, and that systemic change is necessary to reverse global warming. We need the governments to all recognize, as many governments already do, that changes need to be made. We need the governments of the world to support the utilization of solar power and electric cars.
If the governments are supporting the utilization of this technology, the massive production of these technologies will dramatically bring down the costs. Every home needs to have photovoltaic panels and or shingles so that they can produce solar energy. Electric cars need to be the standard and their efficiencies increased. These things can be done. They are viable right now. And our planet is in peril if we do not get the word out to everyone.
Use your personal power! Vote! Vote at the ballot box for the people who will support moving us forward into green technologies! Vote with your dollars for products that support and live in harmony with this planet! Vote with your energy for recycling waste products. Vote by planting young trees to reduce the amount of Carbon Dioxide in the air. Vote by recycling as much as you can. Vote with all the daily decisions you make. Vote by not letting your car run when it doesn't have to. Vote by talking to others about the need to become conscious and aware of these issues. If you can afford it, vote by buying a hybrid or electric automobile. Vote with your work for Organic and Holistic endeavors that will continue to make this planet viable and support humanity as we grow past our adolescence and towards maturity as a species that recognizes our creativity, diversity and need for the fulfillment of each individual.
You, who are here, today, are the leaders! Your personal power will only continue to grow as our interconnectedness becomes a more and more obvious reality.
One last thought: if you haven't yet seen the Al Gore movie, "An Inconvenient Truth," do so as soon as you can. Recommend it to others.
Remember, "Nature is only to be commanded by obeying her."
Thanks and power and good luck to you all!