Wednesday, May 7, 2008

The Story of Stuff

From its extraction through sale, use and disposal, all the stuff in our lives affects communities at home and abroad, yet most of this is hidden from view. The Story of Stuff is a 20-minute, fast-paced, fact-filled look at the underside of our production and consumption patterns. The Story of Stuff exposes the connections between a huge number of environmental and social justice issues, and calls us together to create a more sustainable and just world. It'll teach you something, it'll make you laugh, and it just may change the way you look at all the stuff in your life forever.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

I Want to Leave This World With...

Written by YES! Alumni and LPSC Facilitator, Austin Willacy:

i want to leave the world with a legacy of love that makes people know that they are sufficient, that they can do enough, that they are smart enough, that if they ever do something they think is wrong it’ll be worked through and talked out in a loving, respectful way. i want everybody to have what they need to thrive, not just survive and i want everybody to know that no matter who they are, where they live, what they wear, how they look, how much they weigh, what color their eyes or hair or what language they speak that they KNOW that they are as important as anybody else, that they are exactly who they are supposed to be and that they are perfect, beautiful and profoundly loved.

i want to leave the world with music that reminds people that they are seen, heard, held and loved whenever they forget their singularity and songs that remind the singular into a collective so that the injustices visited upon people anywhere cease because people everywhere don’t feel the inclination to abuse their brothers and sisters and because it wouldn’t be tolerated even if they did.

i want to leave the world with time to heal itself.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Walking to Tibet Again!

2003 World Jam alumnus Tenzin Tsundue is a Tibetan refugee born in India. He is a writer-activist, a leader in the non-violent Tibetan struggle for freedom, and the General Secretary of Friends of Tibet (India). As China prepares to host the Olympics, Tenzin feels there is a significant opportunity to generate global attention for the Tibet issue. He is part of an internationally organized March that will take him to his homeland again. Read below to hear what he is doing, and how you can be involved should you so desire.

— Ocean Robbins

Dear Friend,

The time has come for me to go to Tibet again. Last time when I went to Tibet in 1997 - after my graduation - I was arrested by the Chinese authorities, beaten up, interrogated, starved and finally thrown out of Tibet after keeping me in their jails for three months in Lhasa and Ngari. I walked to Tibet, on my own, alone, across the Himalayan Mountains from the Ladakh.

Eleven years later, I am walking to Tibet again; this time too, without permission. I am returning home; why should I bother about papers from Chinese colonial regime who have not only occupied Tibet, but also is running a military rule there; making our people in Tibet live in tyranny and brutal suppression day after day, everyday for fifty years.

The Year 2008 is a huge opportunity for the Tibet movement to present the injustices the Tibetans have been subjected to, when China is going to attract international media attention. I am taking part in the return march from Dharamsala to Tibet, that is being organized as a part of the "Tibetan People's Uprising Movement", a united effort put together by five major Tibetan NGOs: Tibetan Youth Congress, Tibetan Women's Association, Gu-Chu-Sum Movement of Tibet (an association of former political prisoners), National Democratic Party of Tibet and Students for a Free Tibet, India.

The march will start on 10 March 2008, from Dharamsala, the capital of Tibetan exiles and will pass through Delhi and then head towards Tibet. Walking for six months, we might reach the Tibet border around the time China opens the Beijing 2008 Olympics (August 14-25). Presently it's too early to approximate at which border point we would be crossing; Tibet and India share a border that runs 4,075 Km along the length of the Himalayas. We might choose any point, or even multiple points. We'll see the situation.

I know there had been similar attempts in the past, but this is 2008, and I have seen the organizers working extra hard with strategic planning, taking care of every minute detail, and the best thing is that we have all the NGOs working unitedly for the common goal. This unity is our strength! I do not know where we would end up, that's why I am giving away the little collection of books (my only possession in life) to a library at is being setup in McLeod Ganj, Dharamsala. My friends: Lobsang and Nyingje (who served in the Indian army as part of the Tibetan battalion) are also giving away their personal belongings; committing themselves for the march.

Of course the Indian police will do their duty; the Chinese army at the Tibet border would be overtly enthusiastic. Since we are leading a peaceful march, with absolute commitment to non-violence, I do not think anyone - either from Indian authority or Chinese - would impose themselves on us. Inspired by Gandhi's Salt March, even if they did try to stop us, we are not stopping. For how many days can they jail us for just walking peacefully? And why should the Indian government stop Tibetan refugees voluntarily returning home on foot?

In the past I have climbed buildings to shout for freedom, thrown myself at the Chinese embassy gate in New Delhi, spent months in jails, got beaten up police, fought court cases, but I never lost the dignity of the struggle: my believe in Non-violence. The March to Tibet will be non-violent; it is a sadhana, a spiritual tribute to the truth and justice that we are fighting for. This is our Long March to freedom.

And on our journey home, we will cook and camp in tents on the roadside, there will be the marchers and the support marchers, the kitchen team, logistics, media and the medical team. There will be dancing and singing, and theatre and film shows on the road as we take this long journey home.

Dear friend,

Here is an opportunity to join a historic non-violent freedom struggle, a people's effort to win freedom for a country that remains subjugated even in 2008. I request you to join us, support us in whatever ways possible. We need people to know about it, so spread the word. You can walk with us, as we walk for six months, maybe you can join us for a day along the path, even one hour, or for a week, months as a supporter. Schools, colleges and even whole town can walk with us. We need volunteers, media people, writers, photographers, bloggers can help us. We need nurses, cooks, technicians and your prayers.

Ever since the march was announced on 4th January 2008, Tibetans have been talking about it; it's a major discussion in the refugee camps. Recently the organizers launched the entry form. And I heard people are slowly getting themselves registered. You too can register your volunteer online. For more information please visit: For enquiries email the coordinators: Lobsang yeshi or sherab woser.

Join us.

Tenzin Tsundue

Thursday, January 24, 2008

A Video From Some Wonderful Friends of YES!

Earth Alive has recently produced a promotional movie about the work our friends Kokomon and Aeeshah Clottey (former YES! Jam presenters)- a collage of media from their recordings of them over the past 7-years. Because we feel you'll appreciate their powerful message, we invite you to view the film.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Dimensions of the Great Turning

Joanna Macy has been one of my great teachers and mentors. She wrote this article in 1999, and I feel it carries much wisdom for our times and so I wanted to share it here.

Ocean Robbins

An Expanded Definition of the Great Turning

I want to share with you something that has been a tremendous inspiration to me. That is, broadening our view of time, and looking at this historical moment not as something we are trapped in and cannot see beyond, but as a time whose role we can appreciate.

Lester Brown of the World Watch Institute talks about this as the time of the ecological revolution. He says it's the third revolution of our species that we know about. The first was the agricultural revolution"that took centuries. The second was the industrial revolution, and that took generations. The third, the ecological revolution, is the shift from the industrial growth society to a life-sustaining society. He says that the ecological revolution is born of necessity and driven by evolutionary pressure to bring into being a sustainable civilization. But, unlike the past revolutions of our species, this has to happen in just a few years. Not only that, it has to involve not just our technologies and institutions and the systems of production and distribution; it also has to involve our values and our perceptions"who we think we are and how we experience our relationship to each other and to the world.

I would like to talk about how this is happening and how we can take part in it and experience the great adventure of our time. Lester Brown calls it a revolution, but I like to imagine that future generations, even as close as the 2030s, 2040s, will look back on this time and call it "the great turning."

They'll look back at us and say, "All those ancestors back then, bless them. They were involved in the great turning, and they didn't know whether they would make it or not. At times it looked as if it was hopeless, futile. Their efforts seemed paltry, darkened by confusion, and yet they went ahead and they took part in it." And I'm imagining that they'll look back with almost a kind of envy, seeing more clearly than we can now the high adventure that it represents, this great turning from a growth-addicted, unsustainable society to a stable, life-sustaining one.

Lest I sound too wildly optimistic, let me acknowledge that we don't know if this great turning is going to happen fast enough or fully enough to stop the unraveling of the systems supporting complex, conscious life forms on this planet. It's not clear yet whether we re going to pull it off. There's no guarantee.

You know, when you make peace with that, you realize something. It liberates you from having to be braced all the time against bad news and constantly feeling you have to work up a sense of hopefulness, which can be very exhausting. That's one thing the Buddhists have taught me. There's a certain equanimity and moral economy when you're not continually trying to evaluate your chances of success.

Yet we can certainly see the great turning happening now, and most clearly if we look at three particular dimensions of it. These three are interdependent and mutually supportive.

The first I call "holding actions." These are the many forms of legal, political, legislative, and regulatory activities by which we are slowing down the destruction caused by the industrial growth society. To be included also are the many kinds of direct action"blockades, boycotts, civil disobedience, tree sitting. Through these we are managing to save some species and some ecosystems, save some lives, save some genetic material for the life-sustaining society that's coming.

These holding actions can be exhausting, though. It's good to know that it's OK to step back. Many of us, if we step back when we feel bruised and bent out of shape from being there in point position on issue after issue, feel as if we are abandoning ship. We feel guilty about it. But we need to know that the great turning is vast, and if we step back, it's like the lead goose dropping back from point position to fly in the windstream of the others. We're not abandoning anything. We don't cease being who we are, and we don't stop being deeply allied with the ongoingness of life.

The second dimension of the great turning comprises the new structures, institutions, agreements, and ways of doing things. It is extraordinary how swiftly these are springing up like green shoots through the rubble of our dysfunctional civilization. I don't think there has ever been a time in human history when so many new ways of doing things have appeared in so short a time"from ways of owning land, to co-housing, to eco-villages, to cooperatives, to new local currencies, alternative schools, alternative modes of healing. They reveal an amazing degree of ingenuity, an awesome readiness to experiment and create. Even though these emergent and often embryonic systems sometimes look fringe, perhaps, or marginal, they are the seeds of the future.

Yet these new forms will wither and die unless they're deeply grounded in our values. So the third dimension of the great turning is in the way we see things and understand our connection and requirements for life. There is a revolution going on in our grasp of what we really need, and it is quietly spreading now in the simple living movement.

I teach general living systems theory because it helps us understand that our true nature is in relationship. Deep ecology, which is also very important for me, is the moral and intuitive expression of this systems view, where we give up clinging to some special status as the crown of creation and rejoin the earth community. Then we can experience our own specialness in ways that allow us to see the specialness of every other life form. Arne Naess, the philosopher who first used the term "deep ecology," also coined another term: "ecological self." The ecological self recognizes and enjoys our interrelationship with all that is, as if we were living cells in the body of earth.

Here, in this dimension of the great turning, we are coming out of the prison that the Western, mainstream mind hasput itself in"that of the rugged individual, the separate self, defended and needy"and we are freed to experience our inter-existence. It is an incredible moment to be alive. That is why I like working with people in groups, experientially, where we can hear from ourselves and each other and experience interactively this new way of being in our world as part of the living body of earth.

In our time we are not only finding new ways of thinking, but re-encountering very ancient ones. The religions of the East -- Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Sufi, Taoism -- come to greet us, and also the earth wisdom traditions of indigenous peoples. It's as if they're all walking into the room, the old shamans, and the witches, and the ancient storytellers and seers, to keep us company now and inspire us. To be alive in this time is to find it easy to be a mystic, because so much is telling us about the presence of the sacred. I've started a list of the attitudes that can help us in this great turning, and I've come up with at least five to share with you:

It's not something you immediately think of in relation to the disasters of our time: the pollution that is cloaking our cities and poisoning our air and water, or the bombs that are dropping, or the money that we're pouring into missiles instead of schools, or the growing gap between rich and poor. Yet it is precisely in this moment that we can profit from this teaching, which is featured in every religious tradition. For example, at the beginning of a Buddhist practice period, you give thanks for having a human life. You give thanks not because humans are superior but because humans can change their karma. We have free will, the extraordinary capacity to be able to direct our attention and make choices.

Don't be afraid of the darkness of your own pain, whether it's anguish for the world or rage for the suffering of your brothers and sisters. If we are like living cells in a collective body, it is natural that we feel the trauma of this larger body. It isn't crazy, or weak, it is natural that we suffer with our world. That is the literal meaning of compassion:suffer with. We are all woven into this life, and we all know on some level that the fate of the world is our fate, too. There is no private salvation. So we must take care not to pathologize our grief. It is worthy. And we must not fret when we cannot see clearly. That's the nature of systems"they are not machines whose behavior we can predict. They unfold, and in the unfolding, new, undreamt of possibilities emerge. So don't be afraid of the dark. The future ones will say of us: "Bless 'em, they were groping their way but they still went ahead."

Just because we can' see clearly how it's going to turn out is no reason not to cook up the most vivid of dreams. Whatever takes birth out of the darkness can only do so if we have been able to imagine it. Sometimes I think our imagination is the least developed muscle in our repertoire. Let the future into your hearts and minds and into your imagination. We will never be able to build what we have not first conceived.

There are so many different issues, and they seem to compete with each other. Shall I save the whales or help battered women? Shall I protect the rainforest, or work on nuclear waste, or AIDS? It helps to realize that the part contains the whole. All the manifestations of the disease of our time have their source in the assumption that we are separate, and in the resulting illusion that we are somehow immune to what we do to other beings. But the root mistake is the same. The truth is that when you are working for the rainforest, you're also working for the whales or homeless children. This understanding is part of the great turning. It's a question, then, of finding what you love to work on and taking joy in that. Just don't try to do it alone. Link arms. Find the great gladness that is there for us in collaboration, the way we can spark each other's ideas and release each other's powers.

Since every atom in our body goes back to the first flaring forth of space and light, we're really as old as the universe, which is continually happening. It's right here, unfolding in us, through us. So when you are lobbying at your congressperson's office, or visiting your local utility, or testifying at a hearing on nuclear waste, or standing up to protect an old grove of redwoods, you are doing that not out of some personal whim, but in the full authority of your 15 billion years. Practice knowing that. It is true. It helps us glimpse the enormous promise that is there, and feel life's desire to go on. The life of this planet has desired you into being, and through you it can continue.
- "Coming Back to Life: Joanna Macy," a talk originally published in TIMELINE, September/October 1999

Friday, December 7, 2007

The Green-Collar Solution

An October, 2007 article by Thomas Friedman in the New York Times was right on about the urgent need for, and incredible opportunity in, aligning the environmental and social justice movements. I consider Van Jones, the subject of the article, to be a dear friend and one of the most vital voices of sanity in our times. I urge folks to read the article, and check out the organization at .

A Prisoner's Purpose

I found this Templeton award-winning article to be profoundly inspiring. Its author, Kenneth Hartman, is serving life in prison, and has been living behind bars since he was 19. This is the eloquently written, deeply personal account of his journey of awakening to his own sense of purpose in life. And his work, starting with his own journey of self-knowledge and liberation from the shackles of mental prison, has touched thousands of lives. As he writes:

For me, after these years of struggle, and a lot of bruises incurred along the way, pursuing something worthy of sacrifice has altered my sense of myself. I am reminded of the words of Feoder Dostoyevsk’s Grand Inquisitor, that the secret to a life well lived is to have something to live for. I have identified my raison d’ etre, taking the hard-won knowledge I have earned from a lifetime of imprisonment and putting it to good use; more specifically, reforming the world’s largest prison system from within one of its cells. It has been, and will surely continue to be, a hard slog but it must be done. For some reason I am not fully sure of, luck of the draw, fate, providence, it appears to be my task.”

Check it out. I think it will inspire you as it has inspired me.

Ocean Robbins