Thursday, December 9, 2010

Steps Toward a Global Uprising


Today's blog is not written by me but it's message is so important I wanted to help spread the word. Thanks for reading.

The Road Ahead: Steps Toward a Global Uprising by Ronnie Cummins

* The Long March from Cancún: Steps Toward a Global Uprising
By Ronnie Cummins
Organic Consumers Association, Dec 9, 2010
Straight to the Source

On a beautiful sunny morning, marching down the Avenida Tulúm, our five thousand strong brigade of climate change activists, armed with colorful flags, hats, signs, and banners, supercharged with lively music and drummers, are making our voices heard: "Cambie el sistema, no la clima" (Change the System, not the climate), "El pueblo unido jamas sera vencido" (The people united will never be defeated) and "Obama, Obama respete Cochabamba" (Obama, Obama, respect the Cochabamba Declaration--on the Rights of Mother Earth). One of two simultaneous street demonstrations this morning, we are heading toward the Moon Palace, 15 miles away, where hundreds of heavily armed riot police are lined up behind enormous steel barricades to prevent us from getting within earshot of the Palace, the official headquarters for the United Nation's COP 16 (Congress of the Parties 16) global climate summit.

With black military helicopters (courtesy of the USA) circling overhead, our message to the "business as usual" elite in the Palace is simple: get off your bureaucratic asses and do something. Stop allowing large corporations to use our common atmosphere as an open sewer. Stop cutting down our forests, spraying poisonous pesticides, killing our oceans, and destroying our living soils. Stand aside and let the world's 1.5 billion small farmers, ranchers, and indigenous communities cool off the planet with organic soil management and sustainable grazing and forestry practices. Tax the rich, nationalize the banks, and do whatever is necessary to pay for millions of Green Jobs and public works programs to rebuild our soils and our economic infrastructure. Stop the delaying tactics. Join hands with the global grassroots to retrofit our buildings, our utilities, and our transportation sectors and move away from fossil fuels, or get the hell out of our way.

In our dancing, chanting corps, a veritable rainbow of nationalities and constituencies, I recognize some of the climate warriors I've seen over the last few days at the alternative forums and workshops: Bolivian, Mexican, Ecuadorian, Guatemalan, and Native American indigenous people; Mexican campesinos and campesinas (small farmers); Via Campesina members from Asia, North America, Latin America, and Africa; Korean peace advocates; Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, Code Pink, and Global Exchange campaigners; the National Family Farm Coalition; anti-globalization militants, Klimaforum delegates; trade union leaders from Canada, the U.S., and Argentina; Council of Canadian activists; student organizers; and comrades from the Organic Consumers Association and Via Organica.

The bitter consensus in workshops and plenary sessions over the past week is that we can't wait for Obama or the industrialized nations to take decisive action. Along with the growing list of governments ready to move forward to reverse global warming (Bolivia, Ecuador, Venezuela, Colombia, Cuba, Nicaragua, Bangladesh, South Africa, several EU nations, and the Island nations of the Pacific) we've got to take matters into our own hands, in our local communities and regions, and build a mass movement larger than any the world has ever seen. As Bill McKibben of said today on Democracy Now:

"The COP 16 Climate Summit meeting here in Cancun is just like a family reunion aboard the Titanic We can't keep doing this. Until we can build some power outside of these arenas to actually push these guys it's not about how well people are communicating or how great the policy papers are. It's on who has the power. And at the moment, that power rests in the hands of the fossil fuel industry and their allies in governments around the world. And until we build some independent outside movement power to push back, then we're going to get scraps from the table, at the very best."

So how do we take down the climate criminals, Big Oil, Big Coal, Big Agribusiness, Monsanto, and the Military-Industrial Complex? How do we build a fierce and formidable climate conservation corps that can radically alter the dynamics of the marketplace and our suicide economy? How can we mobilize grassroots forces, alternative technology, and progressive public officials to fundamentally change the laws and public policies that are driving us to the brink of disaster? How do we scale up our organic, sustainable, equitable, climate-friendly projects and communities past the "tipping point" so that we become the norm, not just the alternative?

A full battle plan to Save Mother Earth and our climate and life-support systems requires more space than we have today. But here are several steps we need to take as we start our Long March.

Step One: Expand Our Analysis and Broaden Our Coalition

We need to educate a critical mass of the public about the real causes and consequences of global warming so as to inspire and mobilize a grassroots army of hundreds of millions of people armed with practical ideas and confidence. We need to connect the dots and supercharge the synergy between all of our burning issues and Movements (urban and rural Green Jobs for all; retrofitting the economy; stopping the wars for oil and strategic resources in Iraq and Afghanistan; healthy, climate-friendly organic food and farms; drastically reducing fossil fuel use; and environmental and economic justice). We need to break down the walls of the "my issue is more important than your issue" silos.

We need to more clearly identify our adversaries and pinpoint their most vulnerable weaknesses: Big Oil; Big Coal; chemical, genetically modified (GM), and energy-intensive agribusiness and factory farms; transnational timber companies; the Military-Industrial Complex; as well as the financial institutions that fund this Earth and climate-raping Behemoth. At the same time we need to clearly and comprehensively identify our allies: workers and apprentices who can retrofit our fossil fuel economy; organic and green-minded consumers and backyard gardeners; green businesses; environmental, justice, and peace activists; educators; students; churches and religious organizations; and a global army of 1.5 billion small farmers, ranchers, pastoralists, forest dwellers, and indigenous people. As a banner on the march says today "Campesinos y Campesinas Enfrian La Planeta." (Small farmers are cooling off the planet).

We need to educate (and shout when necessary) that there is already 435 ppm (parts per million) of three major greenhouse gases polluting the atmosphere, heating up the earth, killing the oceans, melting the glaciers and polar icecaps, and destabilizing the climate. We need to name these gases over and over again-Carbon dioxide (CO2); Methane (CH4); and Nitrous oxide (N2O); explain exactly where they come from; and then point out how we can drastically curtail and organically sequester these emissions utilizing organic farm and land management and rotational grazing.

Carbon Dioxide Pollution: 800 Gigaton Carbon Gorilla in the Atmosphere

CO2 pollution (76% of all greenhouse gas pollution) comes from burning fossil fuels (in buildings, cars, industry, and most of all in our industrial food system) cutting down forests, draining wetlands, and destroying the soil and ocean's natural capacities to sequester billions of tons of excess greenhouse gases. How do we reduce CO2 emissions as rapidly as possible? Stop building coal plants, stop tar sands and gas shale production, stop deepwater oil exploration, increase energy efficiency, retrofit buildings, ban factory farms, and slap a carbon tax on fossil fuel use that makes the polluters pay.

For a more in-depth discussion see:

How can a global alliance of food (and fiber) consumers and food and fiber producers literally suck down a significant proportion (50 ppm) of the excess CO2 that's already up in the atmosphere? Through organic and sustainable farming, grazing, and forest practices. Organic soil management on a significant proportion of the world's 12 billion acres of farm land and pasture/grazing land can sequester up to 7,000 pounds of CO2 per acre per year and lock this excess carbon naturally in the soil, where it belongs. This Great Transition to organic farming and rotational grazing, coupled with the defense and restoration of the world's 10 billion acres of forests and wetlands, can buy us the precious time we need to retrofit our economies and make the Great Transition to alternative solar, wind, and geothermal energy.

Methane: Food Inc. and Waste Management's Climate Killer

Methane (CH4) is a greenhouse gas that makes up approximately 14% of human-induced global warming. Per ton, released into the atmosphere, methane is 72 times more destructive than CO2. The good news about methane is that if we stop releasing it into the atmosphere, the 65 ppm already up there will quickly dissipate, unlike carbon dioxide (which is more long-lasting) or nitrous oxide (which for all practical purposes is permanent). Where does methane pollution come from, and how can we get rid of it? Methane pollution mainly comes from factory farms and the overproduction and over consumption of non-organic, non-grass-fed, non-grass-finished meat and animal products; from throwing hundreds of millions of tons of rotting food, paper, and lawn wastes into our garbage cans and landfills, instead of composting them for use on farms, ranches, and gardens; destruction of wetlands for shrimp and fish farms, industrial agriculture, urban development or sprawl; and industrial, chemical-intensive rice farming.

How do we get rid of excess methane? We must build massive consumer awareness that it is a "climate crime" to buy or consume meat, animal products, or any food whatsoever that comes from a factory farm or feedlot. At the same time we must educate consumers that organically managed small farms and ranches are actually greenhouse gas sequestration centers, arguably our most important allies in cooling off the planet.

In addition to boycotting any and all of the products of Food Inc. we must create "Zero Waste" households, businesses, and municipalities, not just through voluntary action, but more importantly by passing laws requiring mandatory separation and composting of all food and yard wastes. One major city in the U.S. that has already done this is San Francisco. Mandatory separation and composting of food wastes not only drastically reduces methane emissions from garbage dumps or landfills; but also creates an enormous amount of compost which farmers, ranchers, gardeners, and landscapers can then use (along with the organic concentrated liquid form of compost called "compost tea"). This will create the preconditions to replace the 12 billion pounds of deadly nitrate fertilizers that are dumped on the U.S.'s already ravaged and eroded soils every year.

Nitrous Oxide: Taking Down the Global Chemical Fertilizer Corporations Before They Kill Us All

Human-induced releases of nitrous oxide (N2O) make up 10% of all the greenhouse gases that are causing global warming. Excess nitrous oxide per ton in the atmosphere is 300 times more destructive than CO2 and unfortunately, for the present and future generations, will remain there almost permanently. Two-thirds of all N2O emissions arise from the use of nitrate fertilizers on Genetically Modified (GM) and chemical-intensive industrial farms. And of course the main crops of these fossil fuel-guzzling industrial farms are billions of tons of (pesticide and GMO-tainted) animal feed for use on factory farms or feedlots.

Nitrous oxide is extremely hazardous. It depletes the ozone layer in the upper atmosphere (thereby increasing skin cancer for humans). It increases ozone pollution levels at the ground level (fueling the current epidemic of asthma and respiratory diseases.) Poisonous nitrate fertilizers leaching into our rural wells and municipal drinking water supplies (where it combines into a super-toxic brew with pesticides) are a biological time bomb, a major cause of cancer, infertility, hormone disruption, and birth defects. Nitrate fertilizer runoff into our rivers and streams kills fish and marine life and is directly responsible for the hundreds of dead zones in our oceans, the most famous of which is the enormous dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico.

Perhaps most deadly of all, nitrate fertilizer kills our living soils and microorganisms, decreasing their ability to sequester (through plant photosynthesis) excess CO2 in the soil. Even after six decades of industrial agriculture dumping hundreds of billions of pounds of chemical fertilizers on farmlands, our living soils still contain two to three times as much carbon as the atmosphere, with the practical capacity to clean and safely sequester at least 50 ppm of greenhouse gases over the next 40 years. In other works, our living soils can save us-but only if we can stop the widespread use of nitrate fertilizers, GMO crops, and pesticides and replace these deadly chemicals and mutant organisms with organic compost and compost tea, and cover crops--augmented by the biological power and fertility generated by carefully planned, high-density rotational grazing of animals.

The energy-intensive manufacturing of nitrate fertilizers requires the use of massive amounts of natural gas, a resource in short supply, that will increasingly be needed to take us through the transition from fossil fuels to alternative energy. We can no longer afford to waste natural gas in order to uphold the profits of Cargill, Monsanto, and Food Inc.

So how do we get rid of nitrous oxide pollution? Similar to our phasing- out of methane emissions, we need a global boycott of factory farms, foods, and fibers derived from chemical pesticides, GMOs, and nitrate fertilizers. We need a million new organic, carbon-sequestering farms and ranches that feed the soil with organic compost, organic tea, animal manure, and cover crops instead of nitrate fertilizer. We need ten million more backyard and community gardens to feed ourselves locally and organically. We need mandatory composting laws so that all of our 100 billion plus tons of food and yard waste every year are transformed into organic compost and compost tea. We need to spread the word that corporate agribusiness, factory farms, and the chemical fertilizer industry are climate criminals. We either "sunset" them or they're going to sunset us.

Moving from Gloom and Doom to Green Solutions and Green Jobs

People are desperate and hungry for hope. People are desperate and hungry for jobs and a sense of meaning and mission. We in the Movement must consciously change the tone of our gloom and doom messages to emphasize the practical solutions and socio-economic benefits that we have to offer: green jobs, healthy food, climate stability, sustainability, peace, and a revitalized democracy. For the most part we don't need to invent new technologies. The tools and techniques and labor power we need are already here, although in many cases they exist only in embryonic form, in our local regions. Solar and wind technology, super-efficient and deep-retrofitted homes and commercial buildings. Organic farms, ranches, restored riparian zones and wetlands and urban gardens. Urban mass transportation, ride share and carpool systems, bike and walking paths, farmers markets, urban greenhouses. Rooftop gardens. Organic gardening and cooking classes. Financial mechanisms like Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE), community credit unions, and "Slow Money" cooperatives. We can and must cool off the planet, but luckily we have pilot projects and "best practices" and climate-friendly laws and policies that we show people right now, from Main Street and our local organic farms or ranches to green buildings, composting toilets, and farmers markets in Manhattan.

We need in short, a Green New Deal, comparable in scope to the New Deal of the 1930s that helped lift the U.S. out of economic depression. Since we don't have the political power right now to force Obama and the Congress to implement a massive Green Jobs and Climate Conservation Corps program at the federal level, let's go local instead. Let's build political power and a series of mini-Green New Deals at the city, county and state levels.

And as we move to phase-out fossil fuels and the fossil fuels industry, let's make sure that we take care of the workers and the blue-collar communities where these industries are located. For every job lost in the fossil fuel economy, in industrial agriculture, and the military industrial complex, we must create two jobs in the urban and rural organic and Green Jobs sector. When China, Europe, and the rest of the world eventually slap a carbon taxes on our exports, then maybe we'll see a carbon tax on greenhouse gas emissions here in the U.S. If we do implement a Carbon Tax that gradually but steadily raises the prices of fossil fuel energy, let's make sure that poor people and the middle class get reduced payroll taxes to make up the difference. Let the polluter pay.

So let's roll up our sleeves and get to work in our local communities. Roll out pilot projects and "structural reform" campaigns that are (a) radical but winnable; (b) that have the potential to educate and mobilize large numbers of people; (c) that build new and broader coalitions; and (d) that slowly but steadily begin to build and expand our political power. Let's point out the problems, but also point out the organic and green solutions that are already taking root.

Early in 2011, my organization, the Organic Consumers Association, joined by our labor and climate action allies, plans to launch a 20+ city campaign to take down the methane and nitrous oxide climate criminals, to build a Movement for Zero Waste and organic soil management that will hopefully mark the beginning of the end for industrial agriculture, factory farms, and the so-called Solid Waste Industry. Stay tuned for details, but please send an email if you're interesting in helping organize such a campaign in your local community. In the meantime I hope to see you in the streets and the suites raising hell about Big Oil, Big Coal, Big Ag, Big Unemployment, and Endless War. Power to the people!

Ronnie Cummins is a lifetime activist and populist hell-raiser. He is the International Director of the Organic Consumers Association and its Mexico affiliate, Via Organica.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Allergy Relief

Aloha Everyone,

Today I want to talk about my latest experiment for allergy relief. I happen to be allergic to many things which is in some ways unfortunate and in other ways a great gift. I see my allergies as a gift because they have been the greatest teachers and motivators in my life always keeping me on my toes searching for healing and relief. I have to say allergies are what brought me to my path of herbalism and apothecary practices. So, as uncomfortable as allergy suffering can be, there are some great benefits like exploring the world of plants and herbal remedies!

My latest experimenting consists of an herbal infusion made of:
3 parts nettle
3 parts peppermint
2 parts elderflower
1/2 part marshmallow root
1/4 part licorice root.

The part refers to the relationship between the amounts of each ingredient. In my case the part I am using is a tablespoon (so 3 tablespoons of nettle, 3 of mint, 2 tablespoons of elderflower, etc.). If you wanted to make a smaller amount your part could be a teaspoon.

I put the mixture into a quart canning jar and fill it full of boiling water. Be sure to do this slowly to allow the jar to warm up. Too much hot water too fast into a cold jar can cause it to crack or break. I am letting it steep from 4-8 hours. This makes the blend be strong, nourishing and something I drink over the course of the day. But, you could also mix up a batch and just use 1-2 tsp steeped in a cup of boiling water for a nice cup of tea that can bring you some relief from allergy symptoms.

Let's take a look at the purpose of each ingredient in this blend.

Nettle - Urtica dioica - Nettle contains natural antihistamines and anti-inflammatories that open up constricted bronchial and nasal passages. Its beneficial affects on allergies may be due its ability to reduce the amount of histamine the body produces in response to an allergen. In general nettle is used as a cleansing and detoxifying herb. It promotes the elimination of waste and toxins in the body through increased urination. It is also high in calcium, magnesium, iron, potassium, zinc, Vitamin B's and A. It contains niacin, vitamin C, D and K.

Peppermint - Mentha piperita - The high menthol content of peppermint helps to open up the respiratory passageways, and relieve congestion making breathing a bit easier. It also tastes good which makes it a useful addition to many tea blends. Mint is rich in Vitamins A and C and also contains small amounts of minerals such as manganese, copper, iron, potassium and calcium.

Elderflower - Sambucus nigra - Elderflower is mildly relaxing and has anti catarrhal properties which help the body get rid of excess phlegm. It is also anti-inflammatory and promotes the elimination of toxins from the body through increasing perspiration. This makes elderflower useful for nasal congestion, throat inflammation and bronchial conditions. It is high in vitamin C and flavonoids and is useful for colds and winter chills. The flowers tone the mucus membranes increasing their resistance to infection. It is suggested that elderflower infusions can decrease the severity of hayfever attacks especially when taken for some months prior to hayfever season.

Marshmallow root - Althea offcinalis - Marshmallow protects and soothes the mucus membranes which line the respiratory, digestive and urinary systems. It is soothing and and decreases inflammation of the mucus membranes helping to expel phlegm and relax the bronchial tubes. It helps with dry coughs and bronchial congestion.

Licorice root - Glycyrrhiza glabra - Licorice reduces inflammation and supports the adrenal glands. It acts as an expectorant, getting rid of phlegm and mucus from the respiratory tract. Substances in this herb are able to enhance the body's production of cortisol, a hormone that decreases inflammation. In Chinese medicine, licorice is said to replenish vital energy, moisten the lungs, strengthen the digestion and modulate the effects of other herbs. It is also very sweet so use it sparingly to sweeten tea blends.*Licorice can raise blood pressure if taken in large doses for long periods of time.

Lately, I have been experiencing some pretty drastic allergic reactions. I'm not sure what I'm reacting to but my eyes are very itchy, my nose is stuffy off and on, my lungs feel tight and constricted and I am experiencing hives off and on during the day. So I thought it would be a good time to test out this allergy tea blend. As I said above I am drinking a quart of strong infusion over the course of the day. And I have been doing this off and on for a couple of weeks now.

What I am finding is that my eyes stop itching usually within about 10 minutes. My lungs open up immediately and breathing becomes easier. My nose opens up also within about 10 minutes and often hives and rashes calm down quickly. All of this lasts for several hours. When I notice the symptoms coming on again I drink another cup of the tea. I'm mostly drinking it cold because I've let it infuse for such a long time but I'm sure a cup made with 1-2 teaspoons of the hot tea would work well for most minor symptoms.

Try it yourself and let us know what happens!



James Duke, The Green Pharmacy Herbal Handbook (2000)

Andrew Chevallier, Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants (1996)

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Bigger Visions

Greensong, as a business was created out of desire to offer healthy natural skin care products to people using local, organic and fair trade ingredients at prices everyone could afford. The foundational idea was that it would be nice for all of us to be able to take care of ourselves in the best way possible, regardless of our income, with the added benefit of also supporting others to live in healthy and environmentally beneficial ways by doing so. While I love, and believe fully in, this foundational idea making and selling body products is not the end of the story for me. For me, learning and sharing about the relationship between our health and the health of the local and global environment is where the heart of the matter lies.

Greensong's products have always been created in response to people's requests for specific things for their spas and healing centers or by customers who came to my tables at various craft shows. In this way I think of Greensong as a grassroots, community based, slow food, slow money, thinking global and acting local activity. This is important to me as I see Greensong as a response to the global challenges that face us applied at a local level in an open and flexible way.

Continuing on this path of responding to what is asked for has taken me deeper into these various ideas over the last year. Many people have asked me to show them how to make herbal products so I began to offer classes here on Kauai over the winter. I spent most of the summer at the Findhorn Community living, working, engaging with people from all over the world and eventually presenting a week long workshop there called Herbal Allies.

I have noticed in my life that teaching always provides me with the greatest opportunities to learn. In preparing for these classes I delved deeply into the relationship between humans' health and their environment and I have come to the point where I see no separation between them. My view is that we humans cannot be healthy if the environments around us are not healthy and vice versa. Our bodies are the environment. We are exchanging minerals, air and water with everything around us all the time. These things flow in and out of us continuously. And, if they are contaminated and unhealthy than we are contaminated and unhealthy, if they stop we die. It's really as simple as that.

Other things I have learned in these explorations are that environmental degradation can be reversed by planting plants and trees. Water can be cleaned by plants. Pollution can be cleaned by plants and fungi. Climate changes can be mediated by planting trees. Deserts can become full of life and water using permaculture practices. And, problems of hunger, disease, drought, poverty, violence and warfare all arise in places where plant diversity has been reduced and all the trees have been cut down.

While I love developing and making all of the products, I feel like there is something more requesting my attention. I want to make these connections between health and the environment more clear and obvious to people. I want to make the concept that as we heal ourselves we heal our planet part of our common sense. I want to support people in taking responsibility for maintaining their health by engaging in an active and harmonious relationships with Nature and each other. I want Greensong to be a vehicle for these things.

So, changes are afoot. In this moment I have a bigger vision for Greensong. I've been studying lately with David Crow of Floracopeia and many of the teachers that work with him. I like very much his ideas of plant based, local, affordable community health care and replanting the global garden. I love William Siff's and Goldthread Farm's farm to farmacy program and herbal apothecary CSA. I love the way Floracopeia and Mountain Rose support small producers all over the world to grow more plants to make the medicinal essential oils often giving life to families and communities in the process. I love the way Organic India is spreading Tulsi around the world and in the process giving farmers in India new and vibrant lives where suicide had seemed their only option. And I love the way Geoff Lawton is greening the desert doing what seems impossible but is really rather cost effective and simple.

Many wonderful and amazing things are going on all around the world every day. It leaves me breathless and smiling. I'm not exactly sure what role Greensong will play in all of this but I do know that I intend step deeper into being part of the solution and shaping the changes that are happening.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Life at Findhorn

I have been here at Findhorn for 3 weeks now. It has been a pure joy in many ways and then, of course, my stuff (patterns and issues) has been coming up which is not always so pleasant. One of my patterns is getting too busy. I try very hard to leave space in my day and in my life. Space for spontaneity, space for my thoughts, space for others, space for connection to the Divine and Nature which to me are one and the same.

When I first came here many years ago I remember thinking I was coming to a monastery sort of place where I thought I would be free to spend much of my time in prayer and contemplation and connection to Source. While that is certainly possible here, it is only possible if you are on a workshop or can learn to be connected to the Divine as you are doing everything else. In many ways this is the core of "work is love in action," and "hearing the small still voice within." It is being able to be connected and still enough within to hear the voice and feel the connection so that all one's actions come from this source.

The longer I am here the more my pattern of busyness, with the loud obnoxious, voice of "gotta get things done," fills my time and presses me. It is also a pattern of this place as everyone who lives here is often very busy and stressed. There is so much to do, so many people to hold, meals to be cooked, rooms to be cleaned, huge gardens to be tended. It seems hard to keep space within in the midst of so many people and things that need doing, hard to find quiet enough to hear the voice. So the question for me is how do I give Nature/ Spirit the value and space as an equal part of my life along with all the busy things of making money to live and taking care of all the physical things? How do we as members of the community give Nature/Spirit a voice and equal seat at the table? How do we structure our lives and organizations with Nature and the spiritual as a valued member? How do as humans in the collective of humanity live as if the living systems that support us and make this planet inhabitable for us really mattered?

There are some interesting efforts being made around the world to do just this. One that I am aware of is in Ecuador where the people have worked to include Nature in their constitution as a being with rights. In the US, corporations have legal rights as individuals without the accountability and responsibilities, they have also been given more rights than individuals now in some ways. So recognizing Nature as a being and valuing it by giving it rights seems a logical and good and important move to me. I would like to see this be the case in all countries - a recognition that our environment is of value as more than a commodity to be exploited. That it is actually a living participant in all of our lives can not be denied or neglected. As the oil continues to hemorrhage the life blood of our economy into the ocean that is the source of life it seems a good opportunity to take pause, to stop and reflect upon where our drive for progress is progressing us to? What is our constant drive for economic growth growing us into? As we damage and foul our oceans, air, water, soil where will all the animals go, how will plants continue to grow, what will feed us, what will we drink, what will we breathe, will we construct a biosphere bubble to live in? What are we doing as a species? What have we become? Is this what we want? Are the corporations who rule the world creating a world that we want to be living in, or even one that we are even able to live in?

As my pattern of filling my life with busyness fills my hours I forget about all of this. I get frustrated, irritated, and have no time to interact or connect with others. But then, I am at Findhorn. There are guests and sharings that happen. I hear the voice of a guest who says, "thank you for giving me permission to stop and connect and hear the voice of Nature." And I remember what I am doing here, and what I value. Then I get an e-mail from a friend who says take a look at Eileen's guidance for today and I know that I am connected and that I can indeed hear if I only take the time to listen . . . .

Daily Guidance
from Eileen Caddy's book Opening Doors Within

Tuesday 29th June 2010

Be not over burdened by all that has to be done. Simply learn to take one step at a time and know that each step leads you one step nearer the goal. Do not try to run before you can walk, or undertake something that is too much for you, so that you have to drag yourself along, with every step an effort. Doing so is not the right attitude; it is not being filled with My joy and freedom. It means you are trying to do it on your own strength; it means that you have separated yourself from Me and have lost the vision. Stop what you are doing, and then change your whole attitude. Hand it all over to Me, and then relax and enjoy what you are doing in a completely new way. Change of attitude can come in the twinkling of an eye, so change and change quickly, and dance and sing through this day hand in hand with Me.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Arthurs Seat

These are pictures from Arthur's Seat which is an extinct volcano located on one side of town. In some of the photos you will see parts of the city through sort of saddles in the hills. All the yellow on the hillside is the gorse in full bloom. It is such a rich beautiful yellow and smells strongly of coconut and apricot. There is also a picture of Holyrood Palace which is where the Queen stays when she comes to town and some lads enjoying a game of football on a lovely sunny day.

I had these in order but the blogger program doesn't seem to care. So sorry about the willy nillyness of the photos. Hopefully by next post I'll have it worked out better.

Next stop Findhorn.

Edinburgh #2

Next is a picture of a beautiful Iris blooming in her front garden and of Lulu her rescued greyhound who has been a gentle companion on many of my wanderings about Arthur's Seat and town.

Edingburgh Scotland 2010

Aloha from Edinburgh.
I arrived a few days ago and have been having a wonderful time wandering about, eating great food and enjoying the company of Jeanne my mother in law, and her dog Lulu. At left is a picture of the front of her house which is in a tucked away little lane in the midst of Edinburgh. On the right is her front gate which I think is lovely.

The only way I can see to do this is to make several separate posts because I can't seem to upload the pictures in the context of my words. It always wants to put them up top at the beginning. If anyone knows a better way to do this please let me know.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Walking with Ghosts

I find myself currently in a place I once was long ago. I am visiting a friend who lives in Ashland, Oregon where I also used to live off and on when I was first on my own. It was a pivotal time as it is for all of us when we first leave home to try on life on our own terms. I bonded deeply here with a few friends who have been my intimate companions through the many inconstancies of life. I look at us now, two old friends who have been through many trials and tribulations within and between ourselves and I look out the window remembering how things felt then, when we were 19 and 20.

When I walk these streets I see both what is here now and how it was then. I feel both how I am now and how I was then. It is like walking beside a ghost of myself, two dimensions overlaying each other. I can feel the feelings so clearly of what I hoped for myself and the world at that point of beginning. I had such deep passion and intense longing to right the injustices and to facilitate humans' connection to the world of Nature.

I can say from my position now, some 33 years later that nothing has changed and everything has changed. I still have the same passions and longings though the intensity has receded somewhat. In the youthful times the incredible awareness of potential and possibility lit my days in brightness stoked by an urgency to stave off the disasters that lay dormant in unsustainable choices and misused political power. Today I have more experience and a broader vision of the world, of humanity, the universe and of my own place in the spectrum. I have a much better sense of my own strengths, weaknesses and what is possible for me in this lifetime. I have been through both the light of my potential and the darkness of my fear's and have finally come to a place peace with it all.

Ironically, or perhaps incredibly, I feel like I am now come to a place very similar to where I was in those youthful days long ago filled with the magic of inspiration and passion about how beautiful this world can be. After traveling the long journey through the ills of politics, economics, environmental disaster after disaster, of lives tried and changed, loves found and loves lost, fortunes sought and re-evaluated, I have finally come out the other side where I can once again see the best in things. When I look out at these hills that once so enchanted me and see the magnificent beauty of the spring bloom of color and texture in plant, tree and flower I am once again touched by that sense of magic and possibility. I once again feel like we can't have come this far, in an evolutionary sense, only to destroy ourselves and take a good portion of the other beings with us. I believe now, as I did then, that true transformation of humanity and the planet is happening.

What I was seeking then is happening now, it just took much longer than I had expected. And I didn't end up playing the role I imagined I would play which is very likely what made it so hard to see along the way. I suppose what I see now is that is was always happening it just didn't look like what I thought it would so I didn't recognize it. That is the biggest difference between then and now, besides the fact I no longer have the body of a 19 or 20 yr old, but now I understand that things happen slowly, subtly over time, day by day. When change happens like this in such small increments it is very hard to see it. I also know now that it is the subtle changes within me that make the world around me appear differently.

Ultimately, the role I have played is not as grand or important as I had imagined it would be, at least not as measured by standard social measures. The role has shown itself to be that I follow my own conscience and my own heart. This path has led me to the learnings and changes I have made within my self and that have eventually brought me to this place where I can once again feel the existence of the magnificence of what humanity can be in its interrelationship with the living systems of the planet. As humanity slowly but surely begins to find it's place within the larger context of the living systems that nurture, support and interact with us, all that sense of passion and excitement reinvigorate me as they did in the days of my youth. So, as I walk these streets today I feel a strong presence, the ghosts of my past self, and my future self walking with me side by side. I feel humanity's past and current existence, it's possible non-existence, and it's possible transformed existence in harmony and resonance with all of life. It's like seeing in the distance something glimpsed out of the corner of your eye or listening deeply into the darkness for something beautiful you are sure you heard, something not quite grasped but deeply felt. There is a presence I know exists even if I can't quite touch it like a diaphanous vision coming into form and for the first time, in a very long time, I can feel the magic and wonder of it.

Earth, with her plants, water, dirt, trees, and creatures is truly the mother of all of us. The living beings we share this thin skin of a biosphere with are our brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins. We have no life without them, literally. Let us learn this simple fact deeply and completely. We are Nature and Nature is us. There is no out there, out there. There is no separation. We are all connected. We are all born of the same elements.

Aloha, Happy Springtime and awareness of new life to us all.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Herbal Allies #2 Basil

(Basil ( Ocimum basilicum)

Basil is one of our most common garden herbs. Who would suspect that it offers us so many healing benefits along with it's delicious addition to our pasta sauce? In old herbal lore basil is said to give courage and strength. Even today it is well known for its mood-enhancing properties. Pick up a bunch of fresh basil at the grocery store and breath in it's potent and amazing aroma. It's almost euphoric! You can enjoy basil's benefits by including it in your food, by using a few drop of the essential oil mixed with some olive oil in your bath, or just by having a potted plant in a sunny window in your house. For an easy way to add basil into your life try this simple recipe for basil infused olive oil. There are so many healing properties and uses for basil that many of us have never thought about. Some of these are listed below.

Basil has sedative and calming qualities.

Basil will help relieve the pain of tired and aching feet.

Basil is an antiseptic and antibacterial herb. Its healing properties can be used as a digestive aid to relieve nausea and an upset stomach.

Basil is antispasmodic, so aids in the healing and relief of headaches and migraines, vertigo and even colic.

As a culinary herb, basil is one of the most cleansing and helps with healing kidney and urinary problems.

Basil provides a source of beta-carotene, estragole, eugenol, borneol and Vitamin C.

Recently, there has been a lot of research regarding the health benefits of the aromatic oils found in basil. Scientific studies have established that compounds in basil oil have significant antioxidant, anti-viral, anti-inflammatory, and anti-microbial properties. This supports the traditional uses of basil for the treatment of stress, asthma and diabetes in India. The volatile oils in basil that have been shown to provide protection against unwanted bacterial growth are estragole, linalool, cineole, eugenol, sabinene, myrcene, and limonene.

The eugenol component of basil's volatile oils has been the subject of extensive study, since this substance can block the activity of an enzyme in the body called cyclooxygenase. Several over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications, such as aspirin and ibuprofen, and acetaminophen, work by inhibiting this same enzyme. These anti-inflammatory effects of basil can offer symptomatic relief for individuals with inflammatory health problems like rheumatoid arthritis or inflammatory bowel conditions.

Just for fun some of the magical aspects have been attributed to basil are:

The scent can be used to soothe tempers, especially between lovers.

Basil is often used in many love divinations.

To attract wealth, carry basil leaves in your pocket. For a prosperous business, place basil on the window sill or place some leaves in the cash register.

Basil is used to keep evil at bay. The basil plant offers good luck to the new home owners or renters.

So, as you can see Basil is truly a useful ally to have in your kitchen. Enjoy it in salads by tossing in a few shredded leaves, in pesto which makes a wonderful spread for wraps and sandwiches, in salad dressings or on pasta, we even love it blended into orange juice (strain out the pulp) for a delicious and refreshing beverage. Let your imagination run wild.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Herbal Allies #1 Yarrow

As an outflow from my Herbal Allies classes I decided I would post a weekly ally here for everyone. In the second class we were learning about various herbs that were first aid kits in themselves like plantain, ginger, turmeric and yarrow. Since these are such useful and easily available herbs I thought I would begin with them. So here is the first of many friends you will meet here:

Yarrow - Achillea millefolium
also known as woundwort

Part used: flowers, leaf and roots. The dried stalks are used in I Ching divination

Preparations: tea, tincture, externally as wash, poultice, suppository, powder

The story goes that Achilles, taught by Chiron, found this herb so useful that he had all of his soldiers carry it with them into battle hence the first part of it's name. It is true that yarrow has been used on battlefields to heal soldiers’ wounds as far back as we have stories of war. The millefolium part of the name refers to the flower which is a flat head cluster of many little white flowers. Other color flower varieties have been cultivated but it is generally accepted that the best medicinal qualities come from the white flowers.

Yarrow is considered to be warming and dry in Eastern traditions. It is primarily known for it's ability to stop bleeding and to bring on sweating which can be useful for cleansing the bod or for reducing a hot, dry, fever. It is also anti- bacterial, anti-inflammatory and repels insects.

Yarrow can be useful for digestion. It is an aromatic bitter which makes it ideal for mild stomach indigestion. It relieves that bloated feeling, flatulence, and nausea, which are symptoms of excessive eating of heavy foods. Take one dropper of tincture or cup of tea as needed to alleviate the discomfort.

Yarrow is a diaphoretic which means it makes you sweat. This can be useful for cleaning your skin, and unclogging your pores. This can also be useful in beginning stages of colds and flus. For colds and flus begin drinking hot yarrow tea 3-4 cups per day as soon as you think you feel something coming on. This can often stop the symptoms from progressing any further.

For your skin, yarrow is used for its astringent, healing and soothing effects. The astringency strengthens skin tone. It can be used for oily skin, acne, large pores, wrinkles and eczema. To make a Facial Toner, add .5 oz of yarrow tincture to 2 oz of hydrosol, distilled water for normal skin or witchazel for oily skin. If you don't have any of these simply splash your face with cooled yarrow tea.

Yarrow is a good thing to have around in your yard and in your first aid kit. It can be picked fresh and placed directly on a bleeding wound even a deep one in an emergency situation. It will help to stop the bleeding and has antibacterial properties to help stop infection from occurring. It can also be used in the powdered form sprinkled on wounds. It will not only stop the bleeding but also dull pain, and prevent infection. Or, you can spray yarrow tincture on the skin several times per day where ever there is a bacterial infection. This can sting due to the alcohol in the tincture so you may want to heat it first to evaporate the alcohol or dilute it with a bit of distilled water before using it this way.

The tincture or tea can be used for bladder infections and to regulate menstrual cycles. It can be useful for women in menopause to ease symptoms and bring create a feeling of well-being.

Yarrow extract (tincture) has been said to repel mosquitoes. As an insect repellent you can spray the tincture directly on your skin or mix it with some distilled water, witchazel and/ or a few drops of essential oils - lavender, catnip, holy basil, lemongrass, or geranium are all good choices.

So, as you can see Achillea millefolium or Yarrow is truly an herb to make friends with. Luckily it grows almost everywhere very easily on it's own and is easy to cultivate as a member of your backyard medicine cabinet.

The information here comes from:
Susan Weed -
Ryan Drum -
Howie Brounstein -
Colette Gardiner - Blue Iris School of Herbal Studies
and wikipedia

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Secret Underground Superclub Strikes Again!

We had such a great experience with the first Supperclub. Thank you all for that. So, we decided to do it again. The occasion this time is the presence of one of the most amazing chefs we know, Patrick Bremser, for a time on the island. Patrick was chef at the Lotus for the first couple of years where his food was compared to that at Millenium in San Francisco. He has been private cheffing in California this last year, among other things, and has returned to Kauai for a brief visit. We were so excited when he said he'd like to do a Supperclub with us. We know it will be completely amazing so be sure to reserve soon if you haven't already done so.

Here's the menu…

Secret Underground Supperclub
January 17, 2010

Amuse Bouche
Roasted Beet with Truffle Oil and Chèvre
wrapped in filo & drizzled with a fresh basil sauce on a few piquant sprigs of arugula.

La Deuxième
Kauai Mixed Greens with Fresh Herbs and Flowers
served with a liliko'i vinaigrette

La Troisième
Warming Winter Cioppino
with fresh catch, Kauai shrimp & local harvest vegetables
served with crostini and shaved Reggiano parmesan
(a vegetarian version will also be available)

Le Fin
Chocolate Nero d'Avola Gateau
with a bittersweet chocolate balsamic reduction and
wild waiwi (strawberry guava) coulis

Harmonious coco-water beverages will be available.
Please feel free to bring your own bottle if you so desire:
a Chianti or Montepulciano is suggested.

Sunday January 17, 2010

One seating only: 7 pm
Reservations Essential
$35 suggested donation

5956 Lokelani Road, Kapaa