Saturday, May 26, 2007



Next weekend will mark the fifteenth anniversary of the UN Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, fifteen years since Severn Suzuki hurled her powerful words on behalf of the children of the world asking that future generations be offered deeds as well as words from the adult generation. She especially asked that the wealthier nations lessen their habits of unbounded consumption and offer assistance to the poorer nations so that together all nations might achieve a better world. She asked that everyone "walk their talk."

This morning I read about the current trends of new car buying in the United States:

DETROIT, May 25, 2007 — With gas prices well over $3 a gallon nationwide, many drivers are lining up to buy small cars.

But hundreds of thousands of consumers aren’t giving up anything to downsize. Instead, they are simply adding pint-size transportation to their driveways, parked alongside their S.U.V. or pickup. In households that own a small car, the family fleet is close to an average of three vehicles, according to CNW Marketing Research, which tracks industry trends (the national average is just over two cars per household; America was a one-car-per-family nation a generation ago).

These growing fleets suggest an approach to conservation that is more addition than subtraction. “Small cars are like a fashion statement,” said Art Spinella, president of CNW Marketing. read full NY Times article

I thought again about Severn's words and remembered a Brazilian proposal made last year.

BRASILIA, Brazil, November 07, 2006 - The Brazilian secretary of forests and biodiversity, Joao Paulo Capobianco, said Brazil will present a plan for rich nations to put money into a fund that developing countries can tap after they prove they have slowed initial deforestation rates. "A country will only have the right to claim resources after the environmental benefit is delivered," he said in an interview.

Critics have said Brazil just wants to get paid for protecting the Amazon, the world's largest rainforest and home to maybe a quarter of all species on earth.

Slowing deforestation was a cheap and fast way to lower global carbon emissions, nearly a fifth of which come from clearing land and burning trees, Capobianco said.

"When deforestation comes up, people in America, England, France, Italy, they take to the streets and protest because Brazil is cutting down the rainforest," Capobianco said. "The question isn't why would they invest money in this. The question is why wouldn't they?"
read the full article at Planet Ark

And finally I recalled a fact that I used to speak about in my years of traveling the US as an advocate for protecting forests everywhere: The United States has has cut more than 90% of its primary forests in the process of its economic development, while 80% of the primary forests of Brazil are still standing.

Everyone wants a better life. Do we really want Brazil to follow the US example of deforestation in order to improve the lives of its people? Think about it.

Friday, May 25, 2007


Fifteen years ago at the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Severn Suzuki (the daughter of Canada's main environmental voice David Suzuki) spoke plain simple words to the leaders of the world. Now it has been placed on YouTube with a Portuguese translation. I feel that it is especially important to listen to her words again (and again), especially since everything she was talking about is even more challenging today.

Severn said it all. When will we hear it?

Severn Cullis-Suzuki has been active in environmental and social justice work ever since kindergarten. She was twelve years old in 1992 when she gave this speech, and she received a standing ovation.

"Hello, I'm Severn Suzuki speaking for E.C.O. - The Environmental Children's Organisation.

We are a group of twelve and thirteen-year-olds from Canada trying to make a difference:
Vanessa Suttie, Morgan Geisler, Michelle Quigg and me. We raised all the money ourselves to come six thousand miles to tell you adults you must change your ways. Coming here today, I have no hidden agenda. I am fighting for my future.

Losing my future is not like losing an election or a few points on the stock market. I am here to speak for all generations to come.

I am here to speak on behalf of the starving children around the world whose cries go unheard.

I am here to speak for the countless animals dying across this planet because they have nowhere left to go. We cannot afford to be not heard.

I am afraid to go out in the sun now because of the holes in the ozone. I am afraid to breathe the air because I don't know what chemicals are in it.

I used to go fishing in Vancouver with my dad until just a few years ago we found the fish full of cancers. And now we hear about animals and plants going exinct every day -- vanishing forever.

In my life, I have dreamt of seeing the great herds of wild animals, jungles and rainforests full of birds and butterfilies, but now I wonder if they will even exist for my children to see.

Did you have to worry about these little things when you were my age?

All this is happening before our eyes and yet we act as if we have all the time we want and all the solutions. I'm only a child and I don't have all the solutions, but I want you to realise, neither do you!

* You don't know how to fix the holes in our ozone layer.
* You don't know how to bring salmon back up a dead stream.
* You don't know how to bring back an animal now extinct.
* And you can't bring back forests that once grew where there is now desert.

If you don't know how to fix it, please stop breaking it!

Here, you may be delegates of your governments, business people, organisers, reporters or poiticians - but really you are mothers and fathers, brothers and sister, aunts and uncles - and all of you are somebody's child.
I'm only a child yet I know we are all part of a family, five billion strong, in fact, 30 million species strong and we all share the same air, water and soil -- borders and governments will never change that.

I'm only a child yet I know we are all in this together and should act as one single world towards one single goal.

In my anger, I am not blind, and in my fear, I am not afraid to tell the world how I feel.

In my country, we make so much waste, we buy and throw away, buy and throw away, and yet northern countries will not share with the needy. Even when we have more than enough, we are afraid to lose some of our wealth, afraid to share.

In Canada, we live the privileged life, with plenty of food, water and shelter -- we have watches, bicycles, computers and television sets.

Two days ago here in Brazil, we were shocked when we spent some time with some children living on the streets. And this is what one child told us: "I wish I was rich and if I were, I would give all the street children food, clothes, medicine, shelter and love and affection."

If a child on the street who has nothing, is willing to share, why are we who have everyting still so greedy?

I can't stop thinking that these children are my age, that it makes a tremendous difference where you are born, that I could be one of those children living in the Favellas of Rio; I could be a child starving in Somalia; a victim of war in the Middle East or a beggar in India.

I'm only a child yet I know if all the money spent on war was spent on ending poverty and finding environmental answers, what a wonderful place this earth would be!

At school, even in kindergarten, you teach us to behave in the world. You teach us:

* not to fight with others,
* to work things out,
* to respect others,
* to clean up our mess,
* not to hurt other creatures
* to share - not be greedy.

Then why do you go out and do the things you tell us not to do?

Do not forget why you're attending these conferences, who you're doing this for -- we are your own children. You are deciding what kind of world we will grow up in. Parents should be able to comfort their children by saying "everyting's going to be alright" , "we're doing the best we can" and "it's not the end of the world".

But I don't think you can say that to us anymore. Are we even on your list of priorities? My father always says "You are what you do, not what you say."

Well, what you do makes me cry at night. You grown ups say you love us. I challenge you, please make your actions reflect your words. Thank you for listening"

Thursday, May 24, 2007


Oil refinery photo: NY Times May 24, 2007

According to today's NY Times: "Gas prices are spiking again -- to an average of $3.22 a gallon.... And some oil executives are now warning that the current shortages of fuel could become a long-term problem.... They point to a surprising culprit: uncertainty created by the government's push to increase the supply of biofuels like ethanol in coming years."

Meanwhile, here in Brazil, Toyota is introducing a new line of flex-fuel cars that run on both ethanol and gasoline. Because ethanol is generally cheaper at the pumps (even when the price is adjusted for the fuel being 30% less efficient), 8 out of 10 new vehicles are of the flex-fuel type. (Associated Press)

I think that these articles might give an inaccurate impression that: 1) auto fuel is terribly expensive in the US and that 2) Brazil demonstrates that a simple shift to ethanol can solve the fuel crisis.

The US is about to shift to using more biofuels simply because the supply of inexpensive oil is shrinking and because it is increasingly concentrated in the hands of foreign regimes that are not necessarily friendly to its interests. It would be a mistake to think that this shift will result in lower prices at the pumps.

Indeed the problem is that fuel prices in the US are way too low. Yes, Brazilians are switching from gasoline which presently costs, here in São Paulo, about $4.60 per gallon in US dollars to ethanol which runs about $3.50 (when the price is adjusted for lower mileage). But that $3.50 per gallon for ethanol is not only higher than the current US average for gasoline but it is an enormous price when faced by a population that has one fifth the average annual income of Americans.

Brazilians are certainly leading the way toward having a bio-fuel economy that can provide self-sufficiency. But that is because the relative price of fuel is so high that they cannot afford gas-guzzlers and wasteful driving habits. The same thing will happen in the US when low costs at the pumps are no longer promoted by having no energy policy. As soon as the price is right, Americans (like Brazilians) will shift toward better technologies and behaviors.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Was Timothy Leary Right?

Fractal art by Jock Cooper
Jock Cooper fractal-4174

From TIME magazine.
Thursday, Apr. 19, 2007


Are psychedelics good for you? It's such a hippie relic of a question that it's almost embarrassing to ask. But a quiet psychedelic renaissance is beginning at the highest levels of American science, including the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) and Harvard, which is conducting what is thought to be its first research into therapeutic uses of psychedelics (in this case, Ecstasy) since the university fired Timothy Leary in 1963. But should we be prying open the doors of perception again? Wasn't the whole thing a disaster the first time?

The answer to both questions is yes. The study of psychedelics in the '50s and '60s eventually devolved into the drug free-for-all of the '70s. But the new research is careful and promising. Last year two top journals, the Archives of General Psychiatry and the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, published papers showing clear benefits from the use of psychedelics to treat mental illness. Both were small studies, just 27 subjects total. But the Archives paper--whose lead author, Dr. Carlos Zarate Jr., is chief of the Mood and Anxiety Disorders Research Unit at NIMH--found "robust and rapid antidepressant effects" that remained for a week after depressed subjects were given ketamine (colloquial name: Special K or usually just k). In the other study, a team led by Dr. Francisco Moreno of the University of Arizona gave psilocybin (the merrymaking chemical in psychedelic mushrooms) to obsessive-compulsive-disorder patients, most of whom later showed "acute reductions in core OCD symptoms." Now researchers at Harvard are studying how Ecstasy might help alleviate anxiety disorders, and the Beckley Foundation, a British trust, has received approval to begin what will be the first human studies with LSD since the 1970s.

Psychedelics chemically alter the way your brain takes in information and may cause you to lose control of typical thought patterns. The theory motivating the recent research is that if your thoughts are depressed or obsessive, the drugs may reveal a path through them. For Leary and his circle--which influenced millions of Americans to experiment with drugs--psychedelics' seemingly boundless possibilities led to terrible recklessness. There's a jaw-dropping passage in last year's authoritative Leary biography by Robert Greenfield in which Leary and two friends ingest an astonishing 31 psilocybin pills in Leary's kitchen while his 13-year-old daughter has a pajama party upstairs. Stupefied, one of the friends climbs into the girl's bed and has to be pulled from the room.

A half-century later, scientists hope to unstitch psychedelic research from their forebears' excesses. Even as the Clinical Psychiatry paper trumpets psilocybin's potential for "powerful insights," it also urges caution. The paper suggests psilocybin only for severe OCD patients who have failed standard therapies and, as a last resort, may face brain surgery. Similarly, subjects can't take part in the Ecstasy trials unless their illness has continued after ordinary treatment.

Antidrug warriors may argue that the research will lend the drugs an aura of respectability, prompting a new round of recreational use. That's possible, but today we have no priestly Leary figure spewing vertiginous pro-drug proclamations. Instead we have a Leary for a less naive age: Richard Doblin. Also a Harvard guy--his Ph.D. is in public policy--Doblin founded the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) in 1986 to help scientists get funding and approval to study the drugs. (Doblin, 53, says he was too shy for the '60s, but he was inspired by the work of psychologist Stanislav Grof, who authored a 1975 book about promising LSD research--research that ended with antidrug crackdowns.) Doblin has painstakingly worked with intensely skeptical federal authorities to win necessary permissions. MAPS helped launch all four of the current Ecstasy studies, a process that took two decades. It's the antithesis of Leary's approach.

All drugs have benefits and risks, but in psychedelics we have been tempted to see only one or the other. Not anymore.

Some useful links:
Alto das Estrelas
Jock Cooper Fractal Art

Thursday, May 10, 2007


In 2005 O GLOBO, Brazil's largest and most mainstream TV network, ran a documentary about Santo Daime on its weekly magazine FANTASTICO, which is the most widely watched family show in the country. The result was to bring the Santo Daime out from the Amazon forest into the central national media spotlight and living rooms across Brazil. Now, thanks to Benno from Holland who, together with Malcolm Kyle, made the subtitles, this report and the mission of Mestre Irineu may also reach out into the English speaking world.


More recently, O GLOBO presented a wonderful treatment of the special history of Mestre Irineu and the Santo Daime in its widely watched mini-series Amazônia.

Many ayahuasca traditions are now gaining legitimacy around the world. In the states, where the sacrament has been opposed by the Federal Drug Enforcement Agency, the União do Vegetal succeeded in bringing the issue of religious use of ayahuasca to the US Supreme Court which unanimously decided for the church and against the government. The full story of that victory and many fine perspectives on ayahuasca were recently written up by Michael Posner in an excellent article called "Plants with Soul."

Wednesday, May 09, 2007



I've been thinking a lot about the artistic vision of Henry Moore. So I revisited a short essay that I wrote awhile ago and made a few "refinements" trying to get the words and images to journey together. For me Moore was the greatest sculptor of the 20th Century, presenting a totally radical re-vision, a deeper re-cognition between matter and awareness. I'll try to explain why I feel that way.

In 2005 I was very fortunate to see the Henry Moore Retrospective Exhibition which traveled from England to Brazil for showings in Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo and Brasília. This was the first time that Moore’s works had been shown in Latin America. I visited the exhibition only briefly in Rio which whetted my appetite. When it arrived in Brasília I was drawn to it as a child is drawn to a candy store. I think that I went to it four times but even that was hardly enough.


Immersing my awareness in the works of a great artist like Moore was a powerful experience. Almost immediately, the way that I perceived the world began to change. It’s not easy to express exactly how it changed but my attention shifted. I began to see objects not as isolated entities but as embedded in larger environments – the inside and outside and surroundings of the subject became more apparent and as important as the piece of art.


I understood that the final perceived vision is an interaction, a dynamic and participatory dance of form and space. Moore demolished the hierarchical, elitist and monumental vision of art as somehow above, beyond and separate from the viewer. He re-visioned the sculpture, the viewer and environment as part of a participatory world.


In one of the statements by Moore which was displayed on the exhibit walls he says that he learned that sculpture was not simply a manipulation of the material form but also a shaping of the space around it. He wanted his large pieces to be displayed in nature where they could interact with the surrounding space – as a form, as a window, as a reflection, as occupied and unoccupied space.


I thought of the profound Buddhist insight that is the opening of the Heart Sutra: Form is Emptiness. Emptiness is none other than Form. Moore’s sculptures are, of course, solid objects but the presentation of the work is a performance, an interaction with the environment and a living testament to the truth of this Buddhist insight about impermanence. Each location, each perspective, each eye presents something new. Form, emptiness and constant change. Somehow, it seems more like a conversation than a permanence.


Moore said that he considered art to be his spirituality which I take to mean that the work and the practice of the artist are to discover truth, reveal vision and create beauty.

There is a very poignant moment in the documentary film about his life where Moore recalls the series paintings that he was commissioned to do about the WWII bombing of London. He said that when air raid sirens would start that he would feel a “strange exhilaration.” In the Tubes which served as the bomb shelters he joined the masses of people huddled and stretched out for the night. Moore -- who is arguably the master of the reclining figure -- said, “I had never seen nor imagined so many reclining figures.” Those paintings -- primarily scenes from the bomb shelters -- are hauntingly beautiful portrayals of people nested safely underground.

The theme of being safely held is powerfully presented in his sculptures


Even with his fallen warrior, the return to the ground, rather than a conquering of it, feels more like a nurturing than a defeat.


I understand Moore’s work,
above all, as a "monumental" return to humility. I don’t mean the stylized humility of manners and social forms. I mean “humility” as in the Greek root word -- humus. Moore took artistic beauty off the high pedestal, reclined it close to the ground or reduced it to the simplest of lines and materials, and in the end established beyond any doubt that the humble form is noble.


It is the nobility of the Mother, our Mother, Mother Earth. She is the very ground of our existence, the source and foundation of life, the lowliest and most powerful of all beings.


I chose to refer to Moore as a "re-visionary artist" because his art brings us back to a deeper vision of our relationship to the ground below us, to our Mother, to the earth. Looking once again at a slideshow of his works, I can only feel grateful... and childlike.

Click for the slideshow.

Sunday, May 06, 2007


This is an important visionshare about how one man with a vision was able to re-green the desert that all the previous experts who had tried using modern techniques had failed to achieve.

This video from Jordan was produced by the Permaculture Research Institute in Australia. The permaculture movement has spread around the world. This month the spotlight is on Brazil which is hosting the Eighth International Permaculture Conference.

Thursday, May 03, 2007



A few years ago I made a bunch of collages just for the fun of it. It was before I got into the computer so they were cut with an exacto knife and pasted with rubber cement. Much later I photographed them and played around some more in the computer. Here are a few that I still like: