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Bonus Joules: Great Ideas

Bonus Joules and the Knowledge Economy

Great Ideas


We meet some of the great ideas Bonus Joules thrives on
Bonusjoules Blog April 4 2005


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“At the heart of this assessment is a stark warning”. So said the 45-member Board of the UN Millennium Ecosystem Assessment Synthesis Report last week.

The stats are impressive: 2,500 pages of assessment drawn up by 1300 researchers from 95 nations.

The message is depressive: Humans are damaging the Earth at such an unprecedented rate that the strain on the planet may destroy about two-thirds of its ecosystem services, according to a landmark international study.

"Human activity is putting such strain on the natural functions of Earth that the ability of the planet's ecosystems to sustain future generations can no longer be taken for granted…"

Interested folks might find the Greenfacts summary useful though I have not verified it for myself yet.


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As I write, Linda Clark on NZ National Radio is about to interview one of the authors of the study. (Walt Reid?). She describes it as the most comprehensive study of the state of health of planet ever. Interesting mindset. I would have described it as a study of the ability of the planet to sustain a species with habits like humans. Surely the focus is on our sustainability, our health.

And talking of health, our present health systems are based on oil and the supply of that is looking increasingly finite. I read somewhere, dear reader, that it takes you on average about 20 minutes to “earn” a meal using an oil-based economy. Without it you would, on average, spend about 111 hours “earning” a meal. Put another way, a century ago, nearly all the calories required to put a calorie of food on your plate came more or less solar-based sources of energy and there were less than a couple of billion of us. Now five out of every six calories required to put a calorie of food on the average plate comes from oil.

(I just checked the latest on oil prices and find an interesting article in Sydney morning Herald.)

Looks like light crude broke records again on Friday, peaking at $US57.70. I am always suspicious when I hear terms like “Top energy derivatives trader” but it seems a Goldman Sachs report on Thursday is suggesting we might have entered a “super-spike”, which could eventually drive prices towards $US105. The article also mention the Oz Reserve Bank is meeting to discuss raising interest rates. Don’t know about you but I got another letter from my bank last week raising my mortgage rates. I wonder if people like Sir Roger Douglas and other fiscal obsessives will ever realise the relationship between inflation and economies based on oil use? I suspect history will reveal their economic policies are not very clever at all.

How might a cartoonist illustrate the sensibility of most people, including that of our cartoonists, to the role of oil in our lives? I think it would show a petrol hose passing direct from the pump into one ear of their heads and out the other and into their car tank. Check out Garrick Tremain's offerings this week -petrol saving and petrol shock. Me? Draw me looking a bit wide-eyed with someone pouring a barrel of oil into my porridge plate. (A cartoon of an oil feed hose direct into my mouth might encourage impressionable kids to commit dangerous activities.)


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Anyway, to use an old New Zealand expression, it looks like we are up shit creek without a paddle. We need ideas. Well, I would like to invite you up another creek, Waiorongomai River to be precise. Think very small river or stream. This is where the concepts of Bonus Joules and Junk Joules and Energy Gobbledygook were spawned.

Creeks are great places, clean ones that is. They are places of hope. They can open us up to insights into vital scientific concepts and enable us to truly go with the flow of the planet.

That is why I say how wonderful if every kid should have a creek to play in, to reshape its flows by re-patterning its pebbles into dams and channels. Tuis should call in the shading kowhai tree and the kereru (wood pigeon) swoop in a lazy whoosh overhead. Large sun-warmed rocks should warm their hands and feet as the water chills with the evening. At night every kid should go to sleep in bed with the chatter of the creek echoing in the still of the bush clad hills of their minds. In the morning they should run through the fields to the creek, filled with a sense of the excitement of discovery. How has the night recreated their day’s creations? Yes, I had that wonderful childhood.

(For those who wonder what a creek is, in New Zealand it is the name for a small stream, usually boulder clad and fresh from the hills.)

1950s
Always I discover changes with the dawn up the creek. Rains scour all evidence of my creations out of existence. Or the creek dwindles in the hot summer’s night and my creation now lies dry, waterless, stranded, lifeless, like a skeleton of a once sparkling dream. Always I am fascinated to discover where my dams and channels have broken and the new paths the waters have formed. Sometimes I break them myself and see if I can predict the shape of things to come. Sometimes I am right. Often I am surprised. The unexpected happens and as I learn how it came to be, it comes to seem so right. It is easy to feel that something in playing with me just as I play with it.


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2005

The creek shaped at the primal level of my emergent being an awareness of something great and marvelous. Only now can I begin to articulate it as an awareness of energy, the potential. It shaped it deep in the cells of my bones and it flows in my blood. I trust that awareness even though it is beyond words and images. It resonates in me and acts like a great bullshit detector. It humbles me and opens me to the awesome.

50 years on, the timeless experiences of the creek opens me to Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle of energy in which I find messages of tolerance and compassion. It is easy for me to accept that everything is linked, that we create even as we are observing, that we are each part of the whole and can never truly know what good comes from bad, that we each have our unique vision and each is essential to the revelation of the whole of the potential that is energy.

40 years on, the warming-cooling waters and airs of the creek awaken me to my Thermal Being and opens me to question the prevailing image of Earth in a greenhouse. This image makes no sense. It expresses nothing of the dynamic, organic world I live in. It seems a dangerous image to base a civilisation of 6.4 billion souls on. Especially as I recall how the most carefully built dam could dissolve at the touch of one drop of water on a misplaced grain of sand. I realise now how the creek awoke me to my Trace Being and the fineness of existence.

30 years on and when the dams broke in the night and the waters formed seeming unpredicted patterns seeming so right in the aftermath, I realise now I was being opened to embrace Chaos Theory. I was seeing it in the birth and death of each eddy that I created with my movement of each stone in the creek. It was awakening me to the patterns of weather that shapes life on our plant and to the ebb and flow of the galaxies that shape Earth. While it is coincidence Chaos Theory and I were conceived in the same year it is no coincidence it was born of a meteorologist.

20 years on and the timeless dream world of the creek with its only constancy being that of continual change opened me to the wisdom in the science of the ancient yogis. The creek was a world of paradox, a living, vibrant testimony to powers beyond words. I breathed that testimony into each pore of my being. I was able to sense the truth in the paradox presented by the great Zen teachers when they used words to communicate the indescribable. And in my acceptance of paradox I caught glimmerings of the messages of quantum physics.

In the crystal New Zealand night skies the Milky Way sparkles so close the tinkle of the distant creek echoes off the stars. Indeed to the young mind of a child standing in the paddock gazing up, the stars are as close as the dark shadows of the hilltops. Maybe the sounds of the creek are the sounds of the stars? Standing there I face one of the truly great paradoxes. The universe is a vast as it is intimate. The closer it is the further I can see. I am miniscule and alone yet I feel the universe touch my skin in reminder I am part of it. Always there are the sounds of the creek and the wind. I am filled with such sense of majesty.

50 years on I will find that majesty so beautifully captured in the great symbol of the Principle of the Conservation of Energy when I set out to explore the nature of energy.

A few hours in the creek can remind us of the great messages of the sages. How many ways have they tried to say that if we give everything away then everything comes to us. Of course, this sounds crazy in our acquisitive, consumption driven society where we are constantly told to take take, take. We are even told to relax and take a deep breath.

How daft is our society and especially the last advice! Have you ever pressed on a dead sheep as a kid? I did. It came “alive” and started “breathing in" again! Amazing eh, especially as it had maggots coming out its eyes. What I was discovering was that the sign that we are alive is the fact we are able to create a vacuum. We are alive because we have the ability to give our breath away. The universe does the rest after that. Trusted, it floods us with vital resources.

Yes, even at the most intimate level of our breath we have a screwed idea of how energy works. So don’t be surprised if you find you give a great sigh as you play up the creek. You are learning a wonderful thing –to give a deep breath. And know trust.

ENDS

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