Change Our Minds

Our actions have always been effecting the well-being of our planet, for better or for worse but few of us are used to thinking in these terms, Now, it's clear that Earth's future, our future, depends on our ability to change the way that we do things, and this requires us to change the way that we see things. We must adjust our perspective. (There are resources and links further down this page that can help to do so.)

As my friend, Michael McWilliams, said, "In a world that's awash in information, ignorance is no longer a passive sport." However, even if we're not willfully ignoring this situation, the flood of info coming at us these days is fairly overwhelming. Combined with our denial systems, it can make it hard for us to keep the salient facts in mind in a way that informs our actions yet doesn't depress and debilitate us.

We can't count on the press to keep this in focus for us. They have their own biases, and fresh news to chase. We have to cultivate our own sense of the planet's state that's as normal to us as our sense of where the household chores are at: It's time to feed the cat, do the vacuuming, then write GM to ask why they're still selling Hummers.

I've been on about this since around 1970 so it's pretty much second nature to me. I (mostly) maintain the balance between ignoring and obsessing by mixing in doses of heavy info and inspiring words with a regular media diet: 'An Inconvenient Truth' and 'Men In Black'; David Suzuki and J.K. Rowling. After all, if we can't stay loving, happy and have a laugh, how will we keep in touch with what we're fighting for?

I also suggest fitting in some mental exercise to keep the mind reasonably supple. Alertness and adaptability are de rigueur when saving worlds, so we do need our brains to be accustomed to forming new neural pathways. Besides, it's fun. Learn more about other cultures, learn a new technology, read a new author, check out new music, play a new game or try a brain teaser. I'm staring down a rubik's cube as I write this.

Of course, you can't talk about changing minds without touching on psychology, religion and spirituality. Despite my own keen interest in these areas I'm going to hold myself to a couple of points here.

a) It requires neither perfect mental health nor a conscious divine connection to appreciate the love and beauty that flower on our planet. Knowing that it's all at risk engages a moral imperative. The suicidal failure to act on this knowledge depresses us, just as surely as taking life affirming action uplifts and revitalizes us.

b) Any religion, belief system or ideology which espouses an 'end times' scenario, an opposition to birth control, an 'us and them' attitude or the use of violence to advance its goals is, by definition, spreading insanity. That is, running counter to the well-being of the whole. Such views, because they are held by so many and because they deny the reality that we must act together, now, to save our world, are a threat to the stability of those who hold them, and to the future of us all. It is crucial that such views be challenged, especially by those within the bodies that hold them.

Terry McTavish

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, concerned citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. Margaret Mead

Essays, Articles, Reports...

Practice Changing...

Reading List...

Media Links...


~Essays, Articles, Reports~

Creating the Conditions for Peace and Security
Terry McTavish

Creating the Conditions for Peace and Security

Most North Americans have never before felt the collective sense of vulnerability and grief that was ignited by the barbaric events of Sept 11th. Although we remain far more likely to be taken down by a heart attack or stroke–the victims of mega-meals, super-sizes and cutbacks to physical education programs–security from terrorism has become the preoccupation of individuals, businesses and governments. I hope that we look beyond the acrid plumes of smoke in the US and Afghanistan and focus on the root causes of most human suffering; ignorance and greed. Until we wrestle these old demons, we will not find true security.

As it now stands, the sad truth is that the callous dictates of some of our corporate and political leaders differ from those of terrorists and tyrannical regimes only in the scale of their deadly effects. The latter's being less than the former's. While my chest ached with the horror of the thousands dying in those doomed towers, my mind, steeped in horrors from around the world, reminded me that elsewhere, thousands more were starving to death... that, during the next three hours, 5,000 would starve, then another 5,000, and another... 40,000 preventable deaths that day, the next day, and the next... month after month, year after year. And, for every death, a ring of broken hearts–a shock wave of pain and anger.

Most of these too often short lives end in countries ravaged and chaotic from generations of political and economic colonization. The calculated exploitation that enriches a handful of nations has also left a third of the world in abject poverty. Seldom in history has the gap between rich and poor been so great and never has it brought misery and death to so many.

Not surprisingly, this brew of inequity, injustice and upheaval makes it much easier for those who preach hatred and violence to find both supporters and sanctuary. Perversely, many of these rogues like Osama bin Laden, also receive money, arms, organizational help and schooling in terrorist techniques from the CIA–who, in their zeal to obtain short term goals, have a bad habit of misreading long term consequences. Yesterday's freedom fighters are today's terrorists, carrying out their own violent agendas.

Agendas which they are better able to fund thanks to the inequity and social irresponsibility within the wealthy nations. We know that for every dollar spent on early childhood development we prevent $7 worth of trouble down the road. We know that family violence increases with stress and poverty, and that addiction is much more likely for the abused and disenfranchised. Still, the rich hoard more wealth than they have since the great depression, the middle class is run ragged and the poor are begrudgingly given less help than they really need. Misuse of intoxicants flourishes as we refuse to address the contributing social conditions, deny the difference between benign use and addiction, and fail to confront the irrational hypocrisy of the erratic line between legal and illegal drugs. Instead, we continue to spend billions on a futile drug prohibition effort that pushes 300 to 400 billion dollars a year into the black market it spawned. Cash for the terrorists and other threats to our security.

This untaxed economy supports illegitimate governments and enables criminal organizations to corrupt and threaten legitimate institutions and governments around the world, especially in poor nations. Coupled with the United State’s tactics of funding and arming questionable regimes and poisoning arable land in their war on the drug trade, the cycles of oppression, poverty and conflict are reinforced.

Neither military action nor pursuit of money launderers will get to the root of this flowering of evil. (Think lawn mower and dandelions.) Of course we must stop today's crop of terrorists and bring them to justice, as we must stop today's wars and enforce peace. But, beyond that, we must stop the exploitation and relieve the dire conditions that make brutality seem reasonable, noble, or simply expedient to some people. Likewise we must stop the war on drugs, help the addicts and relieve the dire conditions that make black market wealth so accessible.

I don't credit bin Laden or any terrorist with honestly trying to address global suffering with their heartless acts. I believe they are moved more by inflamed ideological passion than by simple compassion. However, we would do well to let the hurt they have caused attune us to the steady beat of pain felt each day around the world. If we care enough, we can lessen that pain greatly. Then, over time, we will have more peace and be more secure.

We will still have to mind our diet, exercise, and do something about the fact that the health of the planet, which all our lives depend on, is declining with every passing hour. But at least we'll be moving in the right direction. I think we should go for it.

Terry McTavish
Nov 7, 2001

"I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country...corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until all wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed. I feel at this moment more anxiety for the safety of my country than ever before, even in the midst of war."

President Abraham Lincoln

"But what counter-insurgency really comes down to is the protection of the capitalists back in America, their property and their privileges. US national security, as preached by US leaders, is the security of the capitalist class in the US, not the security of the rest of the people."

"A considerable proportion of the developed world's prosperity rests on paying the lowest possible prices for the poor countries' primary products and on exporting high-cost capital and finished goods to those countries. Continuation of this kind of prosperity requires continuation of the relative gap between developed and underdeveloped countries - it means keeping poor people poor.

Increasingly, the impoverished masses are understanding that the prosperity of the developed countries and of the privileged minorities in their own countries is founded on their poverty."

"American capitalism, based as it is on exploitation of the poor, with its fundamental motivation in personal greed, simply cannot survive without force - without a secret police force.

Now, more than ever, each of us is forced to make a conscious choice whether to support the system of minority comfort and privilege with all its security apparatus and repression, or whether to struggle for real equality of opportunity and fair distribution of benefits for all of society, in the domestic as well as the international order. It's harder now not to realize that there are two sides, harder not to understand each, and harder not to recognize that like it or not we contribute day in and day out either to the one side or to the other."

Philip Agee, CIA Diary

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Why Are We Not Astonished?

"Environmental scientists have made it emphatically clear -- coming about as close as scientists ever come to shouting -- that we are in trouble. What they point to can be described in terms of four global "megaphenomena" -- of rising carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere, rising rates of extinction, rising consumption of resources, and rising population. And all four, after hundreds of centuries of relative stability, have suddenly spiked.

Plotted on graphs, they look like heart attacks. Population, for example, now grows by as much every three days as it did every century, on average, for most of the one-thousand centuries before the Industrial Revolution. Yet, for all the extraordinary arm-waving of the scientists, few people seem to see any big problem. We treat this spasm of biological destruction we've ignited more like heartburn than heart attack."

For the complete article by Ed Ayres follow the link.

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Population Density, Growth Threaten Species in Vulnerable Areas -- Report
Wildlife species are disappearing.

"The high rates of population density and growth in biologically diverse and threatened parts of the world further endanger plant and animal species in those areas, according to a new report by Population Action International (PAI), a non-governmental organization (NGO) based in the United States.

Entitled, Nature’s Place: Human Population and the Future of Biological Diversity, the report states that more than 1.1 billion people live within the 25 most species-rich and environmentally threatened areas of the world. Nature’s Place documents the historical impact of population growth on biological diversity on a global scale, with special attention to the current situation in these 25 "biodiversity hot spots"."

For the complete article follow the link.

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Conserve Resources for Future Generations

It took more than 200 million years to form all of the oil beneath the surface of the earth. It has taken 200 years to consume half that endowment. If current rates of consumption were to continue, the world's remaining resources of conventional oil would be used up in 40 years.

For the complete article follow the link.

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Democracy and Globalization
John Ralston Saul

This is the audio and transcript of a lecture John Ralston Saul delivered at the University of New South Wales in Sydney in January 1999 and broadcast on ABC TV.
You can listen to the audio, read a transcript, or both.
The lecture has been broken down into the following sections:
1. Globalization
2. Democracy
3. Competition and Deregulation
4. Technocracy and Capitalism
5. Free Trade and Protectionism
6. Commodity-trading Nations
7. Distribution of Wealth
8. Education and Democracy
9. The International Money Market
10. Economists and the Crisis
11. The Current Moment
12. Conclusion
Full Transcript (printable)
Audio Information

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World Trade Or World Domination

"To its supporters, the WTO is a ray of hope for free trade and growth for even the poorest developing countries. To its detractors, and there are many, it is the enemy of human rights, the environment, labor, and local self-determination. Here are answers to some common questions about the WTO to help you make up your own mind."

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The Great Education Scandal
"Around 375 million children still out of school, teachers under siege, corporations in the classroom... Chris Brazier begins his four-part report on education by asking: who is selling the world’s children down the river?" But hey, The Coke Dude is happy.

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~Practice Changing~

Learn the Dvorak keyboard layout

We were all taught to use the ‘qwerty’ keyboard layout, purposely designed to slow down typists so they didn’t jam the early typewriters. Dvorak, a faster, easier to use layout was designed in the 30’s, but has yet to break through our wall of habit. Try it. A few hours practice, and you’ll never look back. You can usually find Dvorak listed in the keyboard options on your computer. You can get exercises free online. There are nice switchable keyboards available, and I wouldn't mind having one, but I just wrote the new letters onto my old keys. By the time they wore off a couple of times, I really didn't need them anymore. I like it a lot.

More than just an easier way to type, it's hands on experience of how good it feels to toss one of the backwards habits we've been taught and replace it with more sensible ways.

Dvorak International
Links to all you need to know, and more.

ABCD: A Basic Course in Dvorak
A little practice, and away you go.

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Play around with ambidexterity

Take something that you always do with your dominant hand—throwing, eating, whatever—and do it with your other hand. Do it that way enough to make both hand's abilities comparable. I did it with frisbee, batting, hockey and ping pong—two handed ping pong is a hoot.

Doing this forges new neural pathways in the brain and enhances the communication between the two sides of the brain. Something most of us can benefit from, especially men, who are typically weak in this regard. Overall, this can grease the wheels for new learning and for habit adjustment.

Juggling is probably a great idea. I've yet to tackle that one.

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Take a commercial break

We are subjected to thousands upon thousands of advertisements. If we think that they aren't influencing the level of our desire for consumer goods and our perception of the content that they interrupt, we're kidding ourselves.

A lot of us record shows on TV, then skip the ads by fast forwarding through them but this doesn't work for radio. There are two solutions though. The all music channels on cable is one. And, praise be, public radio is the other. Besides sparing us from the commercial onslaught, tuning in public radio has to be one of the best things we can do for ourselves, our country and the world.

This is where we can hear the cultural heart of our country beating. Artists, scholars, politicians, plus business and professional people form across the country and around the world are in unhurried conversations with some of the best interviewers alive. There's good music, book excerpts, comedy, and the latest research, leavened with the voices of regular folk from every corner of the country and beyond. If you don't have the time and money to travel and study full time, this is the best way to know our country, and the rest of the world.

You can get the CBC, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, on AM, FM, and around the world on short wave and over the internet.

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Get unplugged, and cyclic

The world we find ourselves in, with its rigid schedules, ringing phones, broadcast media, computers and video games wreaks havoc with our natural rhythms and healthy animal impulses. This is a far cry from what we were made for, and how we lived for thousands of years; as small groups scattered over a vast land, in tune with and dependent on the rhythms of nature. Anyone who gets away from it all once in a while likely has a sense of the fulfilling emergence, or reemergence, of those fundamental parts of us that resonate to a slower more peaceful reality.

There are three basic cycles affecting all life; day and night, the 28 day cycle of the Moon—obvious in its waxing and waning, the tides and menstruation—and, of course, the yearly passage of the seasons. A couple years ago, to bolster our awareness of natural rhythms, we began something that we call Moon Days.

Each full moon, for three days, we mark the lunar cycle by turning off the TV, the computer, and the ringer on the phone. We play the radio less. We try to avoid scheduling many activities and have some meals ready in the freezer. This way we can focus on spontaneous family time, whether it's going to a park or some event or just hanging out. My wife and I each try to get in some alone time as well. Then, in the evening, we walk, play cards, snuggle up and read or, hey, talk to each other.

We try not to be fanatical about any of this. We do check our email and phone messages, in case of emergency, and we do make calls out. We aren't rigid about not scheduling things—we do make plans with other people. We push Moon Days this way and that to fit some of the regular long weekend because we do have a business to run and school to think about.

Even so, it was a treat from the beginning and, after a couple years of this, we can feel when the full moon is coming; there's an inner yearning for the simplicity. It gets easier to get into that more peaceful state on those three days. It has also had a positive effect on how we are on normal weekends and, when we can really get away for a few days, it's easier to make the transition. On the whole, we are noticeably more aware of our natural surroundings all the time. It's a good thing.

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~Reading List~

From Naked Ape To Superspecies:
A Personal Perspective
on Humanity and the Global Eco-Crisis
David Suzuki and Holly Dressel
Stoddart, 1999

The Ingenuity Gap:
Can We Solve the Problems of the Future?
Thomas Homer-Dixon
Vintage Canada, 2001

The Fight For Canada:
Four Centuries of Resistance to American Expansionism
David Orchard

Taking Aim At The Brand Bullies
Naomi Klein
Vintage Canada, 2000
(Has a great reading list.)

Thinking Like a Mountain
Robert Bateman
Viking, 2000

Take It Personally:
How to Make Conscious Choices to Change the World
Anita Roddick
Conari Press, 2001

The Population Explosion:
From Global Warming to Rain Forest Destruction, Famine, and Air and Water Pollution–Why Overpopulation is Our #1 Environmental Problem
Paul R. Ehrlich and Anne H. Ehrlich
Simon and Schuster, 1990

When Corporations Rule The World
David C. Korten
Kumarian Press and Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 1995

Stolen Continents:
The Americas Through Indian Eyes Since 1492
Ronald Wright
Houghton Mifflin, 1992

Downsize This!
Random Threats from an Unarmed American
Michael Moore
Crown Publishers, 1996

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~Media Links~

Adbusters/The Media Foundation
Culture jamming, spoof ads, activsm networking. Ultimately, "an ecological magazine, dedicated to examining the relationship between human beings and their physical and mental environment. We want a world in which the economy and ecology resonate in balance. We try to coax people from spectator to participant in this quest. We want folks to get mad about corporate disinformation, injustices in the global economy, and any industry that pollutes our physical or mental commons."

Third World Traveller
"Magazine articles and book excerpts that offer an alternative view to the corporate media about the state of democracy in America, and about the impact of the policies of the United States' government, transnational corporations, international trade and financial institutions, and the corporate press, on democracy, human rights and social and economic justice, in the Third World, and in the United States."
Plus, a treasure trove of inspiring quotes.

The Globalist
"For better or worse, the global economy has engulfed us all. Yet, while it has a direct impact on everyone's lives, it remains largely ill-explained. To promote a better understanding of the issues at hand, we focus on covering the human dimension of globalization. ... Our goal is to share the results of our daily exploration of the global landscape with our readers. In that endeavor, we believe that less can be more. That is why we publish one well-researched feature each day of the year."

Index of Native American Media Resources on the Internet
Just what it says. Scroll through everything from newspapers to magazines to radio, TV and more.

The Ecologist
"The world's longest running environmental magazine... The magazine is read in over 150 countries by people with an interest in environmental, social and economic issues.
(It) covers a range of topical and general subjects and opens new areas of debate on everything from science and technology to the impacts of globalization on jobs, health and the environment."

Independent Media Center
"A collective of independent media organizations and hundreds of journalists offering grassroots, non-corporate coverage. Indymedia is a democratic media outlet for the creation of radical, accurate, and passionate tellings of truth."

The Utne Reader
"(It) reprints the best articles from over 2,000 alternative media sources bringing you the latest ideas and trends emerging in our culture... Provocative writing from diverse perspectives... Insightful analysis of art and media... Down-to-earth news and resources you can use... In-depth coverage of compelling people and issues that affect your life... The best of the alternative media.

Environmental News Network
Hey, news as though the health of the planet mattered. I'm trying this out as my home page.

The American Prospect
"The aim of The American Prospect is to contribute to a renewal of America's democratic traditions by presenting a practical and convincing vision of liberal philosophy, politics, and public life. We publish articles for the general reader that attempt to break through conventional understanding and creatively reframe public questions. Ours is not a magazine of complaint, of angry gestures, or of private irritations. It is a magazine of public ideas, firmly committed -- however unfashionably -- to a belief in public improvement. America can do much good, and it can do much better."

Mother Jones
A multi-award winning "independent, nonprofit magazine whose roots lie in a commitment to social justice implemented through...fearless and thought-provoking journalism, trail-blazing investigative reporting, and penetrating commentary from the most insightful social, cultural, and political observers in print."

New Internationalist
"A communications co-operative based in Oxford with editorial and sales offices in Toronto, Canada; Adelaide, Australia; Christchurch, Aotearoa /New Zealand; and Lewiston, USA. It exists to report on issues of world poverty and inequality; to focus attention on the unjust relationship between the powerful and the powerless in both rich and poor nations; to debate and campaign for the radical changes necessary if the basic material and spiritual needs of all are to be met."

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