Blog Articles

Thought shapes the environment which shapes thought

There’s an idea. It then gets developed into a concept. The concept will then often be developed into a physical product or into a system or program. In both cases an idea is developed into reality. What I wondered about recently is the affect that a physical product or system has on ones’ mind. The fact that we have four way intersections, rectangular TV sets or circular dinner plates almost everywhere around the globe – points to how incredibly uniform and standardized so many products used in modern society are. The design, the shape, the functionality of most products worldwide are essentially the same. This may be due to globalization, but what interests me is not the standardized nature of these products, but the impact that these shapes or designs have on our thinking. For example, the roads we drive on, the way that traffic lights work, the way that all appliances work – do we realize that these things which make up our artificial world determine the way we interact with one another and the way in which we think? Do we ever stop to consider whether these things have a positive or negative impact on the way we live?  What if we subconsciously reject some of these designs or systems, but have no way of expressing our discontent? When we use so many products on a daily basis, do we consider that it was a small group of people who may have designed or developed what we use every day. I’m not going for a conspiracy theory here. I don’t think many products or systems are designed to control people, although some certainly are, i just think that many products or systems are designed with budgets, deadlines and profit in mind, with inadequate energy focused on the actual purpose or function of that product or system in the long-term. What if the design is nowhere near as useful or environmentally friendly as it can be, or even as it should be? I think this is the way that fossil fuel powered vehicles will be viewed in the coming decades.

If we compare our man-made world to nature –  it is constantly changing –  the seasons, the colours, the smells, the climate. And seeing as though humans are part of nature, I believe we belong to this dynamic and transient aspect of nature. Perhaps we need to be more proactive in expressing our frustrations with certain systems or products which we use on a daily basis and which influence our quality of life.

So I think it’s fascinating to realize what aspects of our man-made world affect the way we move, interact with one another and carry out our daily lives. At least if we are conscious of these affects, we can possibly make decisions to improve our experiences – for example taking different routes when driving places, driving at different times to avoid traffic, buying things that we really are attracted to and which suit us, instead of things which are trendy or to which we are addicted, exploring the options. I think it is this awareness which leads to creativity in the form of new and exciting products, important social movements, greater environmental protection or more holistic health care. Recognizing the affect that the artificial environment has on us and what we can do to improve it is key if we are to create a sustainable, high-tech world with less inequality and suffering.

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Plastic – what are our responsibilities?

Walk into any public building such as a mall, grocery store or movie theater and you will see thousands of products all very beautifully wrapped in shiny multi-coloured plastic packaging. Soft-drink bottles, chocolate bars, yogurt, cereal and even fruit and vegetables wrapped up in plastic. Hard plastic, soft plastic, clear plastic, colourful plastic.

Now, there is no doubt that plastic is one of, if not the most abundant and useful material in the world. I actually don’t know how much of what we see around us would even be possible without plastic – especially in terms of technology such as electronics and transportation. However, most people don’t recycle at home and most businesses don’t recycle. So, there is this massive amount of plastic being generated and most of it is just ending up in a landfill – you know the place where a huge pile of waste is put into the ground? I really don’t know much about the various kinds of plastic but from what i have read it is an extremely long lasting material which brings me to my main point – why do we use an incredibly long lasting material for items that only last a days or a week or two at most? Ice cream, soft drinks, chocolate, cigarettes – all fast moving consumer goods, are all heavily packaged in plastic, yet only last a few days or weeks on the shelves and then a matter of minutes or hours after being consumed. The packaging is then thrown into the trash.

My responsibility ends here
My responsibility ends here

Many of these product companies show a little man throwing his trash so responsibly into a bin on the packaging of their products- where do they think this is actually going? Do they care at all if the packaging that they create in such enormous quantities ends up in a landfill, a river or on the streets? Once the sale is done do they care? Should they care?

I believe that any company which creates something which is going to be around for decades or centuries has the responsibility to care about what happens to it after the sale is over. I suppose it’s just part of our short-sighted money driven culture  – to not know or care what happens once the money is in the bank. But when the landfills are over-flowing (already happening in Johannesburg – seen it with my own eyes), what are we going to do about it? Some companies are now adding information about what the packaging is made from and encouraging consumers to recycle, which is good. Some retailers even have recycling bins outside their stores. Personally, I try to stay away from items packaged in plastic (not always possible). If unavoidable, I separate and recycle everything that I can. If I’m traveling or I can’t keep my empty plastic bottle or wrappers on me until I find a recycling spot, only then will I reluctantly put it into the bin. Even then – making sure the empty container is clean (if possible) ensures that it is recyclable. If the waste company servicing that particular bin happens to separate and recycle then at least that container is averted from ending up in a landfill and the methane which may be generated from rotting food left inside the container is also avoided.

Crazy idea, but I think where possible, the packaging material of products should be inline with the lifespan of the product. So projects like infrastructure, telecommunications, transport – things that will be important for a very long time to come should harness the longevity of plastic, while things like junk food and FMCG products should be forced to use short-term materials or at least biodegradable materials due to the massive quantities they are produced in and their very short life spans.

I think we will see far more biodegradable packaging in the near future and I hope companies which produce large volumes of plastic begin to think about the unnecessary impact they are having on the environment. Hopefully there will also be tighter regulations on the production of these materials. Thanks for reading!

Free your mind

Our society values alert problem solving consciousness, and it devalues all other states of consciousness. Any kind of consciousness that is not related to the production or consumption of material goods is stigmatized in our society today. Of course, we accept drunkenness. We allow people some brief respite from the material grind.

Graham Hancock

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Connect with those in need

Living in Johannesburg South Africa presents many daily challenges. I’m fortunate enough to have an education, a job, a car and a place to call home. But many people living here are far less fortunate than I am, and spend their days and nights on the streets. I know very little about what these folks get up to and how they sustain themselves but what I have noticed is that at almost every intersection in Joburg you will inevitably see a few people holding signs describing their situation and what they are in need of. The more creative will entertain by showing off their skills juggling or dancing. I’m not sure if giving money to these guys is the solution, but I’ve recently adopted a plan which I learned from my dad. He freezes water in plastic bottles and if he stops at a red light, hands them out to these dudes on hot summer days. They’re always very appreciative. It made me realize that there are possibly items that I have at home which I’ll never use and which could benefit someone else.

I’ve since put together a packet of items which I know will not serve me but may serve someone else. What I’ve been giving out lately is bars of soap which I’ve somehow accumulated, stationery and fruit. Most of the guys I’ve given to were really grateful and have subsequently asked that I bring them any old clothing, so that’s what my next plan is.

Not everyone lives in a city like this and not everyone travels by car most of the time, but for me, it’s a really simple and effective way of helping people out. I’ll see how the clothing distribution goes.

An inter-traffic juggler entertaining passers by for spare change.
One of the more creative inter-traffic performers

Organic solutions

Who controls the worlds resources? Who makes the rules, the laws by which we have to conduct our lives? Who is teaching us about the past and guiding us toward the future? Mostly government and companies run by old men.

Image from www.stencilrevolution.com
Image from http://www.stencilrevolution.com

Without entering the dark and destructive realm of pessimism, it feels as though the old have been leading us astray. Economic and legal systems seem to me to be rooted in the egos of old men and quite frankly, rotten to the core. I can’t help but feel that there is just too much red tape, too many acronyms, too many meetings and conferences reinforcing outdated ideas and ultimately too free a reign of dogmatic expression. I feel like the supposed leaders of our world; the politicians, the scientists, the doctors, the judges and the super wealthy do not understand and believe in a higher quality of life for their fellow people and other forms of life. Instead of continuously surveying the actual physical needs of our environment, the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual needs of our people, there tends to be a relapsing, dysfunctional expression of destructive behaviour from those on the world stage. It comes in the form of reprimanding, scaring, humiliating, condescending and trying to control and dominate, making a minority feel inferior. When those who call the shots behave in such primal and destructive ways, it leaves us with a massive task to attempt to truly grow as a people. Why are the rules governing our world in favour of such monolithic and wasteful organisations such as oil giants, agricultural tyrants and junk food companies?

This is a cause for concern among sane and caring people all around the world. We talk about it when we take home our salaries, when we hear about wars in the far corners of our earth. We watch documentaries about this shadow cast by such ominous organisations.

But what is happening as a result is truly amazing. One can now see the solutions and indeed the cures for these problems and insane behaviour starting to surface; arising organically in the form of organic food production, a move away from animal testing, a stronger focus on renewable energy, a rise in the importance of womens’ rights and the list goes on. This is so inspiring and is proof of the inherent good and resilience of the human spirit. It does create a contrast between what is possible for us as a species and what we have been lead to believe our value is in this world. We are not only capable of violence and destruction, but we are capable of loving one another despite our differences and creating a beautiful world for all to enjoy. It shows how ignorance can be debilitating and how important it is to love yourself, educate yourself, don’t follow the crowd if it doesn’t feel good and speak up! If you ignore your true self, you will fall prey to someone who wants to exploit you and this is where we have found ourselves as the human race – lead by those who have no interest in environmental sustainability or personal sovereignty – obsessed with short term profit, long terms selfishness and alienation.

Wind turbines in South Africa (I hope this doesn't look like an ad for Land rover)
I hope this doesn’t look like an ad for Landrover

We don’t need to be afraid of taking responsibility for ourselves and for our future. For me, this takes the form of eating locally, buying products with minimal packaging, recycling, avoiding highly processed food and chemical laden products, speaking up about injustice, saying no to violent movies and reckless companies and trying to find and support people and organisations who are committed to a sustainable future. I do believe that we have been and are constantly lead astray by many an irresponsible company, politician or celebrity. But it is becoming increasingly easy, affordable and rewarding to lead a balanced, healthy and successful life without supporting unethical organisations. I hope this article is filled with hope and not despair – knowledge is power.

Maybe I’m wrong.

Maybe I’m wrong.

 

I think that most of the problems in our society are due to a lack of efficiency from government. Private companies should take a more significant role in taking on societal challenges. They are all that we can rely on. But maybe I’m wrong.

 

All green people are greedy and can’t be trusted. They all eat the same thing and they smell funny. I’ve never been friends with a green person and I’m sure I never will be. But, maybe I’m wrong?

 

If we are unable to question our own ideas and opinions, to look in the mirror and ask whether we are wrong, how are we to progress? To have the courage and the humility to challenge your own ego and test whether perhaps your thoughts are dragging you down, is essential. It is a challenge to cultivate patience and to carefully ask yourself whether you are still on track. As long as we cling to ideas which are outdated and no longer relevant, we will struggle to progress as individuals and as a society. We have so many big challenges as the human race in this time of rapid population growth, diseases of affluence, technological advance, environmental pressure and space exploration to name a few modern trends.

 

In life we establish ideas based on what we observe in our environment, but once the environment or our perception of it changes, we need to change our behaviour as well. When the time comes, we need to update our old selves, make new connections and move into new areas of thought and action. If we sincerely listen to what others have to say and to what the environment tells us, we will have the opportunity to shift into more efficient and more pleasant forms being. The inability to become aware of irrelevant and useless concepts keeps our potential dormant and prevents us from fully realizing who we are and what we are capable of.

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“Many of us go through the motions in life without fully realizing our potential for greatness…Passing routinely through the events in one’s lifetime, from one to the next without honest reflection or examination of the meaning in them and how each experience shapes us personally, denies us that potential.”

Chirsty Turlington in Living Yoga.

 

An individual or an organization may decorate their outdated ideas with clever words or marketing schemes, but ultimately the truth will decide the fate of such a person or group. Here are some examples of ideas or concepts which I believe should be revisited with regard to their relevance to society. Hopefully these organisations and concepts can adapt and become better suited to our ever changing world, before they collapse and cause collateral damage. I may be totally ignorant with regard to some of these ideas, but maybe you can shed light on some of these topics and help me to update my own beliefs? Thanks!

 

The following is a broad list of concepts which I think are slightly archaic and may require revisiting, rethinking and some even eradicating:

 

  • The military and how murder is acceptable in the name of ‘national defense’
  • Dirty energy
  • Patriotism, racism, homophobia and other forms of arbitrary hatred
  • Land fills and non recyclable or non reusable products
  • Chemicals in food and water, genetically modified organisms and junk ‘food’
  • Television and invasive forms of advertising
  • Prison systems
  • Animal testing
  • The pharmaceutical industry
  • The definition of luxury and the arbitrary assignment of value eg. Fashion
  • Unnecessary packaging of products
  • The safety of alcohol, cigarettes and caffeine
  • Factory farming 

 

And pop music.

Prioritise your needs

What is the most important human need?

Some seem to think that it is health. Many people spend countless hours developing their bodies and trying to eat right to maintain good health. Others spend most of their time and energy focused on making money and accumulating material possessions in the name of security and comfort. Artists feel the need to express themselves at all costs us while thrill seekers jump out of planes to have their rush. Beyond all of the targets that we set, perhaps what we need and truly desire is much more simple. What we need to keep us going and what gives us deep satisfaction may not be as difficult to acquire as we think.


A person may have all the wealth and health in the world but without someone to share it with, is it much more than a day, a week or a months enjoyment? Beyond the thrills and pleasures that materials and sensations give us, I think what really matters is feeling loved and accepted. Only once our ideas and our abilities have been approved by our peers do we feel a sense of joy and accomplishment. I believe this is what we crave and seek beneath our more glamorous and crude desires. Success is, after all, relative and constantly changing. I know that on the days when I feel like I have so much to offer yet have no chance of sharing it with others I feel unfulfilled. The connection we feel when sharing thoughts and sharing experiences is much more valuable than a wealth of inanimate objects or a lonely idea.

Busy

If this idea is indeed relevant, the trick is finding out how to make others feel loved and accepted first and then allowing yourself to feel this way as well. If this is achieved, if we could feel appreciated and recognised simply by being who we are,  perhaps we would not spend so much time and effort in a struggle to acquire things and experiences in an effort to fill ourselves up? I don’t think we should shy away from experiences or aim not to acquire things that we enioy. What I’m suggesting is that we have it backwards; we value and put most of our time and effort into activities which we hope will bring us closer to what we seek, when all we have to do is simply recognise the joy in appreciating ourselves and one another.

The need to be accepted and loved is more fundamental and therefore more important than the need to have or the need to experience physical pleasure. It should thus be the foundation for pursuing and enjoying our experiences. Take a deep breath and acknowledge yourself and how far you have come. Allow yourself to feel happy and fulfilled. It may then be easier and more enjoyable to go out and pursue our goals supported by a solid foundation of self worth and a relaxed state of mind.

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