My Christmas Wish

With Christmas just around the corner once again I am sure that many of you are running around buying your family and friends their gifts but I wanted to urge you all to consider carefully what it is that you are actually buying. Now by no means am I trying to suck the fun out Christmas but there is a hidden cost to be born by all who inhabit this earth as a result of our consumer-driven culture.

As our awareness of our global interconnectedness and interdependence is become more prevalent, and our impact on our environment is growing at alarming rates, it is important to consider the true cost of the goods that you buy this Christmas. While something may have a cheap price tag here for us in Australia it may have an even bigger social and environmental price tag somewhere else in the world. And what we are learning is that just because we don’t see the impact ourselves, it reverberates around the world in more dangerous ways.

Large companies call these hidden costs ‘externalities’. An example of an externality would be the costs worn by governments and councils (essentially the taxpayers) for the disposal of the ridiculous amount of waste plastic wrapping we discard each year on the 25th of December. While companies in China, or Taiwan, or Haiti etc produce these items for next to nothing, for another company here to sell them at a profit, neither are responsible for the externalised costs of the disposal of the waste. This waste is not only avoidable and unnecessary, it also carries with it an environmental cost that is felt the world over.

While I am mainly pointing to the impacts of overseas companies producing goods for sale here, the points I am conveying are not limited to overseas industry. The same things happen here in Australia, and also other ‘developed’ countries. A lot of these factories in Asia also lack any kind of waste water recycling facilities which means that the waste water full of toxins and paint products to dye the plastics is simply dumped in to their local water supply. This obviously has a huge impact on the local population who may rely on that water supply to drink from but if their water supply, directly, or indirectly, feeds in to a larger water supply, or the sea/oceans, it can have a much larger affect.

Pollutants that enter a water supply somewhere in the world can inadvertently impact the whole world. Much like air pollutants. We all breathe the same air from the same biosphere. China, or America’s biosphere is intimately connected to ours here. So although we may hear about something bad happening somewhere is in the world regarding the pollution of the seas or air it affects us all! Not just now but also well in to the future.

Another point to consider is the working conditions of those employed in sweat-shops and factories the world over; countries from which we import a massive percentage of the goods on shelves in our shopping centres. It is easy to dismiss the impact that we have from simply buying something here but we nonetheless drive these poor conditions and suppression of the human spirit through our buying decisions. Some may argue that without us to buy their products these workers wouldn’t be making any money to feed their families but remember that the human species lived for well over 150,000 years before the widespread use of ‘money’ as a means of survival and exchange.

So my Christmas wish is that you all stop and consider the true, ethical cost of the purchases you make this Christmas for your family and friends. Remember that just because we don’t directly see the impact doesn’t mean that we don’t feel it in some way. Choose quality over quantity; don’t just buy stuff for the sake of buying stuff, try to buy things that will be truly treasured and used to their full extent. Try to buy local products and minimise the wrapping; remember that just because you don’t have to see the rubbish once it gets collected doesn’t mean it is gone. Nowhere on this planet is ‘gone’, it always remains somewhere and has an impact.

Remember, less is more!

The Blink of a Cosmic Eye

The best science of our time tells us that approximately 13.8 billion years ago, give or take a few billion, that everything in our known universe was condensed in a single point about the size of a pea! Take a moment to just appreciate what that means. Everything that you can see around you squeezed into a tiny little space no larger than a pea, plus the rest of the universe. It is inconceivable! That is the theory anyway, it is impossible for us to really know but this is the currently accepted theory of the origins of our universe.

So 13.8 billion years ago, give or take, something happened and this tiny pea exploded and spewed out everything that we know today. If that doesn’t blow your mind, think; Where was the pea to begin with? Was it just floating in a blackness like we see beyond our atmosphere? Were there any other peas? Have they exploded yet? So what if our pea existed in amongst another galaxy, or universe, and the explosion of our pea pushed its own galaxy even further beyond it. It’s weird right?

This explosion, which happened from a single point, spread outward in every direction and the expansion is still happening. Entire galaxies that we can observe which display an assortment of beautiful colours are all moving outward. Obviously I have provided a very simple explanation of the events that have led to the ‘modern universe’ but is undoubtedly a seriously magnificent phenomenon.

Then about 4.54 billion years ago, give or take, the Earth that we all inhabit was formed; 9.2ish billion years after the pea exploded. Lets take a look at how large of a number one billion is; 1,000,000,000. That’s nine zeros, nine (9)! That is a freaky long time. So the earth we are currently living on is believed (theorised) to be 4,540,000,000 years old. So far in recorded human history, the longest living person died at 122 years of age. In comparison to the age of Earth, 122 years is like an ant to an elephant.

The next miracle, that really blows my mind, is that somehow in the last 4.54 billion years a concoction of elements created life! Somehow, somewhere, a whole bunch of unknown, seemingly inanimate, stuff decided to live, and breath, and interact with its environment. It doesn’t matter what scientific-sounding, long, complicated words you use to describe this event, it is still something that I would consider super weird! How does a whole bunch of space stuff that was all once compressed in to a space believed to be the size of a pea explode out to create planets, galaxies, suns, stars, and something that has the ability to think, eat, feel, breath and move?

According to Wikipedia the first life forms are estimated to have appeared around 3.5-3.8 billion years ago in the form of graphite rock. And photo synthesisers appeared around 2 billion years ago helping to create the oxygen and the atmosphere we now have. Up until about 500 million (500,000,000) years ago most life on Earth was uni-cellular, single-celled organisms. But something happened around 500 million years ago that made these single-celled organisms assess their solitude and they decided to join forces to eventually create the type of life we see today; the birds, bees, flowers and the trees.

So what about us! The earliest evidence of ‘homo sapiens’ is believed to be 200,000 years old. 200,000 is 0.0014% of the time since the big bang (exploding pea), and is a whopping 0.0044% of the time since the Earth formed. So in the grand scheme of the universe we are a very recent development really.

The next really interesting bit is the 200,000 years of homo sapiens. How we suddenly came to be around 200,000 years ago is still a mystery apparently. The common held belief that we are an evolved version of the Neanderthal lacks the evidence to support the claim, and more and more evidence is showing up to suggest that homo sapiens actually lived around the same time as Neanderthals and other close versions of upright apes.

It is believed now that the ‘anatomically-modern’ humans of today evolved as an entirely different species altogether, or got here some other way…open to speculation. Let’s recap, bang 13.8 billion years ago, Earth 4.54 billion years ago, and humans 200,000 years ago. Now, in our 200,000 year history we have developed many different civilisations which have risen and fallen and archeologists, anthropologists and other dedicated smart people dedicate their entire lives to the discovery and interpretation of the remains of such civilisations.

It is incredible to hear about the discoveries being made and the theories of why these great civilisations of the past have suddenly disappeared. Even more amazing is the level of technology that is present in the construction of their buildings, and monuments given that even today we would struggle to do what they have done. I personally believe that we have a great deal to learn from the past failed civilisations which may help us in our current crises of climate change, and our social, political and economic nightmares.

It think it is quite easy to look at those massive numbers and feel rather insignificant in the unfolding of our universe. We are but a tiny blip in the history of a massive cosmic unfolding that started with a single ‘bang’, that very possibly wasn’t even heard, by anyone, because there may not have been any ears. We don’t know! The reason for this post was not to make anyone feel insignificant but to demonstrate just how much of a miracle life is. The very fact that we exist at all after billions, and billions of years of floating star dust is a serious miracle.

The development of life is awesome, but even more awesome than that is the fact that us humans have this amazing ability of self-awareness, we know that we are. We feel, think, love, experience, cry, laugh etc, but how? I doubt we will ever really know how we all came about but what I do know is that we are the greatest miracle to have ever been, that we’re aware of. We rose alongside all of the other living, and non-living, matter of this planet, and the galaxy endowed with the ability to create, imagine, dream and truly live.

I feel at times though that as a species we aren’t fully utilising our incredible abilities. I believe that we have the most amazing potential to live the most inspiring and harmonious existence but instead we waste our time in our physical bodies destroying the very thing that gave us life, and fighting the people who are just like us. It doesn’t make any sense. Our time here should be spent rejoicing all of life for the miracle it is, and enjoying the journey collecting all of the quality experiences possibly available.

So my message to you is simple. Wake up each morning and be grateful for life. Embrace and engage others around you because we all come from the same place. Don’t waste any time doing things that don’t excite you, always live from the heart. Get out and enjoy nature, walk barefoot in the grass. Feed your body with quality food, this incredibly complex body-suit is the vessel through which you experience all of life. Fall in love and laugh with friends, and strangers. Fill your life with people and memories, not stuff. Live in the present and love every single moment of your life because it may be gone on the blink of a cosmic eye.

Societal Collapse

Extravagance of desire is the fundamental cause which has led the world into its present predicament.

Fast rather than slow, more rather than less- this flashy “development” is linked directly to society’s impending collapse. It has only served to separate man from nature. Humanity must stop indulging the desire for material possessions and personal gain and move instead toward spiritual awareness.

– Masanobu Fukuoka, The One Straw Revolution