The Sustainability Principle of Energy
An essential guide to enjoying science in our communication.

This essay explores how our use of symbols can sustain us and destroy us. It suggests most inconvenient truths about our lives even as it points to how we can experience far greater joy, wonder and harmony with all.


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Sustainability Principle of Energy

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 of symbol uses
 that promote acceptance/denial 
of stewardship amidst change.)

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The Compassionate  Curriculum

A Framework for a Sustainable Education System



Key ideas from  Rationale for Compassionate Curriculum

Requisites for 
to exist:



Collegiality openness 
and sharing; 


Honesty and trust; 

Time and reflection 


Science  and creativity:

 The above requisites enable quantum leaps
 in insight.


The power  of symbols:

Symbols convey
 meaning and enable civilisation


Conserving the 
potential of 
our key symbols:

Any failure to
 conserve them 
puts us at greater risk.





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View from my window - a southerly front glows in the dawning sun 

Could it be that a truer and more joyous vision of reality exists than the current vision forming our Anglo-American culture? Yes. Could it be that the global Green Movement is the greatest threat to humanity? Yes  This article explores these two related questions and concludes we can say yes to both with considerable confidence. First I discuss the great human capacity for self-deceit. 

I start with a seeming diversion because I have first-hand knowledge that the insights this article offers can be extremely traumatic to many well meaning and caring folk. We can find it very distressing to suddenly realise a favourite illusion is a dangerous delusion. In this case the shattering of the Green Movement illusion might reveal a raft of new truths:

  • We have been our own worst enemy.

  • Some of the most overtly caring institutions may put us at greatest risk.

  • Our language betrays unhelpful elements in us we would rather not acknowledge.

  • Those who call for change may be the greatest deniers of the change they call for.

  • The lives of those who most call for conservation may in fact be the most non-conservative. 

My hope is this two-minute diversion will keep you mindful that all human beings share a great capacity for self-deceit. It is the human condition. When we acknowledge this capacity in a spirit of compassion we are liberated to more enjoy life. Without a spirit of compassion we continue to condemn others as we condemn ourselves. Without compassion we either deny the possible insights of this article altogether or we catch glimmers of the insights and our years are consumed by regret and anguish. This two-minute diversion thus assumes great value against the possible context of so many hours of needless misery.  

That special twinkle in the eye.

Have you ever enjoyed the privilege of being able to transcend the human ego and observe human activity with some degree of equanimity and compassion? It is not an easy thing to do because we are so used to thinking.  However all human beings are capable of enjoying this privileged state. A few people develop this capacity to a high art. This is evidenced in their writings, art, conversation, and often by the special twinkle in their eye. 

I have seen this special twinkle many times and often wondered what secret the person knew that I did not. It was clear to me that they experienced something I had not. I did know that these people often seemed to live wise lives, have generous spirits and be fortified by an indomitable sense of humour. How did they come by it? 

I have consistently observed one extraordinary phenomenon. This twinkle is most apparent amidst times of considerable suffering and seeming threat. They or those close to them may be in great pain from illness or injury and still this calm, kind twinkle endures. 

Over the years I came to recognise the twinkle in the eyes of people like the Dalai Lama and I noted that the great psychologist, the Buddha, is often portrayed with the twinkle. I see and hear it in Leonard Cohen on occasion. As Bono says of Leonard in the tribute movie I’m Your Man,

“A lot of writers have dared to walk up the edge of reason and stared into that great chasm, into the abyss,” Bono says. “Very few people have got there and kind of laughed out loud at what they saw.”

Listen to Leonard's song, Here it is.

These people are reported to have embraced suffering and mortality and still they smile. What is the secret? 

Six decades of experience, including that of suffering and some grief, have afforded me glimpses of what enables them to smile. Probably the greatest insights have occurred around my brief moments of meditation. During these occasions I have observed the ingenious and very determined manner with which my mind clings to the thinking process.  

I recommend a simple and profound exercise illustrating our mind’s capacity for denial. Concentrate for just two minutes on the sensations of upper lip caused by the movement of air with our breath. 

Unless you are skilled in transcending the thought process I can almost certainly guarantee that your mind will find some ingenious way to deny you this experience. You will experience some thought that distracts you from the complete experience of the sensations of your breath on your lip. This humbling activity is extremely helpful to the understanding this article in a state of compassion. It is perhaps essential. 

Now we can respond to this intrusive behaviour of our minds with feelings of anger, frustration, failure and disempowerment. Or we can respond with feelings of gratitude and fine humour and say, “Very ingenious, mind, a very clever distraction and thank you – this is not the time”. 

You will tend to find the former response simply reinforces the dominance of the mind by the thought processes. The thought process is not amenable to being denied and willed away. Indeed the paradox is that thought processes thrive in our active rejection of them. Our consequent sense of failure and frustration empowers the processes. We feel disempowered and trapped by the thought process. Responses of this type tend to become part of a cycle in which thought processes are reinforced at the expense of awareness of life. Reality is denied. 


I would rather feel compassion than know the meaning of it.

Thomas Aquinas:


The dispassionate acceptance response generates a very different result. There is an ancient saying that unwanted thoughts never come when invited. Again we find that in this case, as with life in general, we live a paradox. Acknowledge, welcome and accept the existence of the unwanted thought process and it will vanish.  

It is helpful to know about these differing responses because they determine if and how we are able to acknowledge and manage our great capacity for self-deceit in general.  

Almost invariably self-deceit is born of fear and greed of some sort. We have fears of change (our mortality) and isolation. We are greedy for power, status and material belongings. These unhelpful sensations evaporate when we experience compassion for then we are able to identify with good humour those of our illusions that are born of the worst self-deceit. We are thus transformed and more able to live in harmony with reality.

I can write millions of words attempting to tell you how the experience of compassion involves and enables the acceptance of unwanted thoughts and delusions. I confine myself to saying that the experience of one moment of compassion, one moment of kindness, one moment of good humour is sufficient to communicate it all. In that moment one experiences the capacity of human beings to transcend their ego, to embrace suffering and thus be freed from it. 

In that moment we catch a glimpse of the unhelpful illusions we labour under. In that moment we realise this fantastic and funny capacity we each have to deny reality. In that moment we are transformed into more sustainable beings. Others will see this state in the special twinkle in our eye.  

And if some element in you says this transformation is impossible, then respond, “Yes it may well be impossible but so what? I have only my fears and self-deceit to lose if it turns out to be possible. Could even be fun.” 


Our task must be to free ourselves . . .
by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures
and the whole of nature and its beauty. 
Albert Einstein


Guides to the nature of reality.

I continually talk of reality. What is reality? I cannot provide an unequivocal answer to this question. It may be that if we are part of reality then we can never fully know what reality is. However I believe we have wise guides as to the nature of reality. These include the Conservation and Uncertainty Principles of Energy.  

The Conservation Principle of Energy is perhaps as near as we have to a law of existence. It suggests that the potential of the universes (there may by more than one) is so vast it can be considered a constant. This potential, manifest as energy, is so bounteous it can be neither created nor destroyed. It also suggests that while energy is usefully considered a constant it is continually transformed in myriad ways. 

The universe at a large scale. Image taken by the Hubble Space Telescope, courtesy B. Mobasher ( The Space Telescope Science Institute and The European Space Agency) and NASA

There is overwhelming evidence in support of the Conservation Principle. It is as near as we have to a natural law. Human beings throughout millennia have subjected it to unparalleled scrutiny and experiment, searching for ways to disprove it. The reason for this intense testing of it is simple. If the Principle is true then it implies we are transient forms, as are all other forms. We too live trace lives and die. 

Our egos find this reality difficult to accept and continually search for ways to deny the fact we are mortal beings. We experience great difficulty reconciling the paradox that we are separate trace elements of the great potential even as we are part of it. We live a dance between a sense of connection and a sense of disconnection, between a sense of integration and belonging and a sense of alienation and longing. 

It may be helpful to remind you that it is beyond the capacity of thought to truly understand paradox.

[Latin paradoxum, from Greek paradoxon, from neuter sing. of paradoxos, conflicting with expectation : para-, beyond; see para-1 + doxa, opinion (from dokein, to think; see dek- in Indo-European roots).]

Paradox can only be comprehended by our total being and we experience it as an essence of life. That special twinkle in the eye expresses what words cannot – transcendent comprehension and acceptance of the paradoxical nature of our existence. The accepting individual, regardless of status or education, is more able to fully live the reality that the Conservation Principle of Energy describes. 

The Uncertainty Principle of Energy is also a very potent guide. It speaks of most dynamic universe(s) and our ever shifting perceptions of it. Most of us understand elements of its fundamental messages even though we might not realise it. We certainly experience much proof of its validity, for it has enabled transistor radios, televisions, computers, nuclear reactors and other paraphernalia of our society.

It too involves much paradox. It suggests that we cannot be certain, for instance, of both the velocity and the place of a particle simultaneously; that particles can be quanta and continuous simultaneously; and that our act of observation affects simultaneously the observed particle and other particles in distant places in the universe.  

An essential message is that we are each part of a flux of fantastic, dynamic change and, whether we like it or not, we each have roles as stewards in this change.  

This is the reality I speak of. This is the reality we humans go to extraordinary lengths to deny. Our sages with that twinkle in the eye may never have heard of either the Conservation or Sustainability Principles but somehow they have experienced the truths inherent in the principles. They have realised that all our belief systems are illusions and even delusions, transient constructs of our thought processes. They understand how we have the capacity to create most marvellous and sophisticated systems of both acceptance and denial of change (our mortality) and our roles as stewards (citizens). 

In many ways change and stewardship are the same. When one accepts change is the universal order one becomes part of all. In this state the individual accepts that their decisions affect the flows and balances of change and they embrace their roles as stewards amidst change. Every action is experienced naturally as a moral act.

This is why I tend to write change/stewardship as a single symbol.   


All things appear and disappear because of the concurrence of causes and conditions. Nothing ever exists entirely alone; everything is in relation to everything else.

The constant and ingenious endeavours of our minds at creating systems that enable us to cling to illusions that deny change/stewardship begin to appear very funny and absurd to the person who can observe them in a kind, equanimous way.   


If you realize that all things change, there is nothing you will try to hold on to. If you are not afraid of dying, there is nothing you cannot achieve.
Lao Tzu

To reiterate a prime message of this article, we may respond with anger and betrayal to our discovery that our cherished perceptions and beliefs are unhelpful illusions, if not dangerous delusions. This will tend to make us conclude life is a miserable fraud. We become filled with a sense of failure and hopelessness. If, however our response to this discovery is one of humour and compassion then we will tend conclude that our ingenious attempts to deny reality are actually very funny. We are filled with a sense of awe and wonder at existence. Hence we see the twinkle of humour, respect and acceptance in the eyes of the people who enjoy this compassionate response. 

Beliefs, illusions and delusions

Imagine you are exploring the nature of atoms at the early part of the 20th Century. Newtonian physics has created a marvelous illusion that the velocity and place of a particle can be known at any time and all works to a divine order. If the atom is not the solid building block of matter then its parts are the solid building blocks. 

Then Rutherford shatters this illusion by showing that atoms are 99.9999% space.

  And the illusion is further demolished when the existence of electrons is discovered and it is realised that they are basically waves of probability, perhaps somehow linked to our consciousness.

People like Heisenberg, prime generator of the Uncertainty Principle, wondered if they were going insane. Everything they had ever learned had been a delusion. They discovered the planet they lived on, the building they inhabited, the chair they sat on and the bodies they lived in are nearly entirely space. All that had seemed so concrete and solid suddenly became a shimmering apparition, a faint ghost of itself, a thing of ceaseless change. Suddenly their beliefs dissolved into illusions and then delusions. Which was truer - the solid concrete object or the shimmering apparition or neither or both? 

The seeming weirdness of the insights of the Uncertainty Principle further shook their sense of sanity. Their research indicated that a fusion of mind and matter occurs, in which the observer becomes the participant in the creation of the universe(s). Steeped in the belief systems of Newton and Descartes it was easy for them to feel this new vision of reality was delusional. Those that caught a glimpse of the implications for our roles as stewards amidst the flux may have experienced a fearful sense of responsibility for their activities. 

Even now many people who spend all day manipulating the mathematics born of the Uncertainty Principle cannot live it. They say that quantum theory is so different to our daily experience that the two worlds cannot be compared. They thus live in major denial of reality. Their lives contrast with those who are able to embrace this reality of change/stewardship, whether they be modern quantum physicists or the Buddha sitting under the Bodhi tree. They tend to report experiences of extraordinary coherence, integration and vitality.  

Similarly astrophysicists report similar experiences.

 The Newtonian illusion of a “clockwork” universe that has always existed gave way to an illusion of an exploding and imploding universe. This in turn gave way to an illusion of a continually expanding universe containing five times of this mysterious stuff called “dark matter” or “invisible” matter as there is “ordinary” matter. In this illusion of the universe even empty space contains large quantities of “dark energy”.

And again the ancient illusion that there are many universes is being revived with some modern physicists talking of multiple universes” and “parallel universes”. These were hypothesised thousands of years ago by physicists.

Many astrophysicists, like quantum physicists, form a fascinating phenomenon of denial. They can work all day with illusions of continual change and transformation in universes in which time, space and matter constantly change relative to each other. Many can come home and be quite unable to experience the same dynamic change and transformation in their kitchen table. Meanwhile a person who does not even know that particle accelerator and telescopes exist can be very alive in their awareness of the energetic transforming nature of their table and the universe generally. Think of the paintings of Van Gogh

In other words, it is not what we know intellectually but rather the spirit of generosity and openness of our being that enables us to enjoy a more fulsome experience of reality.  

If we concur with the dominant belief of our Anglo-American culture that science is a way of thinking, the domain of those who have much knowledge about a subject, then we tend to live in hopeless dissonance with reality. We tend to deny and reject our roles as stewards amidst change in our daily lives. Our use of technology is amoral and tends to put us at great risk. 

If instead we believe science is a state of being into which all human beings are born because of our inherent capacity for compassion then we tend to live lives vibrant in harmony with reality. We tend to accept and embrace our roles as stewards amidst change in our daily lives. Our use of technology is underpinned by a deep sense of morality and tends to enhance our lives. 

The last three paragraphs may seem a leap in logic and an unjustified statement until we explore the statistics of our individual use of the resources of our planet.  

The overwhelming evidence is that those human beings who have all the knowledge that money can buy tend to use it to form an elite that destroys the resources on Earth at a rate that is so unsustainable rate there would be an instant and cataclysmic collapse of our supporting ecology if all humans adopted their behaviour. The 1 billion residents of high-income countries consumed more than 80% of the global total.  This map, for instance, illustrates how a minority of humans are responsible for most of our fossil fuel destruction. It does not show how within countries an elite does most of the destruction.

Included in this elite are the modern self-styled scientists” and “environmentalists”. Many of their lives evidence a relative lack of science compared to so-called “non scientists” i.e. the vast majority of human beings.

This leads to the question, “How is this behaviour reflected in their use of key symbols?” 

The power of symbols.

We can explore the phenomenon of denial/acceptance of change/stewardship from another very revealing perspective – that of our symbol use.  

Symbols are paradoxical. A symbol is a crystallised quantum of information even as it is continually transforming information. It is a package of meaning in the moment that has the potential to transcend generations. A sustainable symbol is always changing even as its central message is unchanged. 

A symbol can be in the form of a sound, light, smell and any other sense we can register existence with. These words are symbols, as are the electronic pulses that enable this communication. If you are reading this then initially the words are in the form of light. However as soon as the brain registers each of these light symbols it form associations with it that all involve all our senses based on the totality of our life experience, which includes our genetic inheritance. 

All sentient beings, including Homo sapiens, use symbols to survive and procreate. Every living cell uses them to communicate and without symbols there is no civilisation. 

We exist because our cells have managed to continuously retain the information necessary for life to exist by continually transforming and adapting to all the incredible array of events that occur over 3.5 billion years – all the solar events, seismic events, atmospheric events etc.  

Equally species and civilisations of humans have disappeared because they adopted non-sustaining uses of symbols. 

There has been a tendency this past few centuries by a group of societies, perhaps symbolised as the “industrialised” societies, to believe that symbols such as words and all manner of metaphors are not material. There is a consensus in our Anglo-American culture that these types of symbols are not “physical” and consequently it is concluded that we need not be stewards of them in the same way we need to be stewards of nuclear weapons or antibiotics or arsenic. We have the phenomenon of individuals, NGOs and corporations arguing their use of our key symbols is of little consequence even as they invest millions of dollars promoting and imbedding their use of the symbols in the wider culture.   





 Energy is a vital input into all sectors of the economy. As well as supplying the power on which industry and households depend, the production and supply of energy provides employment, investment and export opportunities. - Aust. Bureau of Statistics

Greenpeace Switch Off Climate Change

This dissonance between their talk and their walk is compelling evidence of their denial of their roles as stewards of the potential of those key symbols. There is little science supporting their professed belief that our use of word and other similar types of symbol is of little consequence. 

Important evidence is emerging from those who work at that point at which mind meets matter, at the point of interaction of human consciousness and atomic transformation. This research supports the notion that information is physical. This is a revolutionary concept in our culture for it completely alters our illusions of who and what a barbarian is. The amoral wordsmith may put us at greater risk than the bomb throwing “terrorist”. 


A tongue may be only three inches long but it can kill a man six feet high. 

Old Japanese saying

The tongue like a sharp knife... Kills without drawing blood.



A convergence of illusions, first observed and recorded in historical record at least 2500 years ago, is occurring again. The illusion that the chair you are sitting on is a solid object is tending to one that it is nearly all space and probability. At the same time the illusion that symbols in the form of words and other metaphors are ethereal is tending to one that they are as physical, as material as the chair.  

We understand the need to take care that our chair has firm legs and a strong back. Powerful indicators suggest that we need take similar care that our use of symbols accurately reflects reality. 

There is one further thing I should add about symbols before we begin the next step in this essay: the search for a guide to sustainable symbol use.   

Our use of symbols reflects the state of our total being, including our primal being. In any moment we are conscious of only a trace few thousand of our being’s interactions with the universe(s). In that same moment we experience perhaps over 50 billion interactions. 

click to enlarge at

Our symbol use reflects the aggregate of all these billions of response. It thus allows us to view the truer nature of this vast subconscious that determines so much of our behaviour.    

Symbols are much more potent than that though. They not only reflect our relative states of harmony and dissonance. Their use also resonates in our psyches so they can also generate these relative states of harmony and dissonance. We do have a will.  We can use symbols with greater care if we choose to. We can choose to adopt uses of symbols based on the wisdom of the great Principles of Energy.  

At first these uses may seem strange, awkward and inconvenient when they are different to the popular uses in our culture. Indeed elements of denial of change/stewardship within us may work to make us sound incoherent to our own ears. Others may scorn and dismiss us. However with practice these symbol uses will tend to resonate with the deep wisdom of our cells that has sustained life for billions of years. Gradually we will be transformed by that wisdom and become better able to live in harmony with reality.


Sustainable Uses of Symbols

Perhaps you gave a couple of minutes to researching your psychology by observing the sensations of your breath on your upper lip as suggested. You are now mindful and smiling in your awareness of our ingenious capacity for self-denial, particularly of our roles as stewards amidst change.  

What we need is a tool that enables us to transcend our great capacity for self-deceit and that provides a guide to the sustainable use of symbols. 

Such a tool would detect whether a symbol use is underpinned by science. It would detect whether the symbol use promotes harmony with reality (sanity) or dissonance with reality (psychopathy and psychosis). It would act as a measure of the efficiency of a symbol use similar to the way we measure energy efficiency generally. 

Such an exploration involves first establishing a sustainable frame of what reality is and for the reasons I have given I have chosen the Conservation and Uncertainty Principles of Energy as my guides. The vast bulk of the evidence is that they are sustainable. They speak of a reality in which energy is as bounteous as the universe(s), all is change/transformation and humans have roles as stewards amidst this universal flux. They also provide us with this corollary: if we are to enjoy harmony with this reality then we each need work to conserve the balances and flows that sustain us. 

Being mindful of this reality we ask what does our symbol use indicate about the sustainability of our culture? Let us assume there exists an additional guiding principle that, for want of a better name, we call the Sustainability Principle of Energy. This principle is derived from the probable truths inherent in the Conservation and Uncertainty Principles of Energy and the notions that information is physical and that humans have powerful mirror neuron systems.  

A statement of the Sustainability Principle might be:


"When a symbol use works to deny change it will materially alter the potential of the universe (energy) in a way that results in a reduction in the capacity of the symbol user to mirror reality. When a symbol use works for the acceptance of change it will increase the capacity of the symbol user to mirror reality.”


The fundamental idea is that the more we able to accept change and our roles as stewards within change the greater the harmony we know with reality. The more we deny change and our roles as stewards within change the greater the misery and dissonance we know.  This insight is not new. Societies have gained and lost this wisdom continuously for millennia.

The use of the “mirror” symbol is deliberate. The human brain is laced with very sophisticated mirror neuron systems (see video) and in many ways we are Mirror Beings.

It is this capacity to mirror the universe(s) that enables us to experience compassion and thus science and thus civilisation. It means we tend to mirror the total lifestyles of others, not just the words they say. It means our use of a symbol, such as a word or a drawing, evokes a whole range of responses, most of them primal, based on the life experiences of our audience. For instance our use of the “greenhouse” symbol immediately evokes all the associations we and our audience may have had of greenhouses – typically a sense of calm, control, human engineering, transcendence of place and seasons and, in many cases, of comfort.  

Now let us assume that the existence of humanity depends on our sustainable use of the resources of this planet. These resources include its mineral, water, air, biomass and solar potential. These resources are plentiful though limited. They are sustained because trace balances exist among the great dynamic flux of change/transformation, which our solar system. If we are to be sustained then our symbol use need work to conserve these flows and balances.

An inventory of the key symbols our Anglo-American culture uses to express our relationship with the resources of this planet would almost certainly include the following symbols:






Few would dispute, for instance, that the “power” and “energy” symbols are extremely potent, being associated with the vitality of the universe.
This list is a small sample of the symbols we use to express our relationship with the universe(s), or if you prefer, our environment. At the same time an exploration of our Anglo-American discourse on conserving resources suggests that these symbols dominate and frame the discussion. (Note: I am an English speaker and thus limit myself to commentary on the Anglo-American discourse.)  

 The inventory of symbol uses in 
acceptance and denial

These symbols can be used to reflect and generate either acceptance or denial of change/stewardship. Using the Sustainability Principle as my guide I have created a symbol use inventory . Here is a sample:


 Symbol: Energy

Acceptance: Energy = the potential of the universe(s)

Denial: Energy = an individual form of energy e.g. Bulk-generated electricity, fossil fuels

Denial: Energy = power


There is not space in this essay to fully explain the implications of each symbol use for that would require a separate essay for each symbol. I do provide elsewhere more extensive draft rationale of the acceptance and denial in a symbol use though this essay is a more comprehensive and revised statement.

An exploration of our culture’s popular use of these symbols using the inventory reveals a common pattern of behaviour. They reveal a coherent and consistent pattern of denial of change/stewardship in our Anglo American culture. They strip away our illusion that we are sane, caring people living in science. They confront us with the probability that we tend to be psychotic and psychopathic in our use of Earth’s resources.

We find, for instance, that

our children learn to associate the “conservation” symbol with kindness and caring in our Junior/Primary schools. It is associated with valuing and conserving resources.

The symbol is then adopted as a self-description by some of the most non-conservative people in the world, particularly Americans, and used as term of abuse by self-styled “liberals” “democrats” and “environmentalists”. 

We find

the “energy” and “power” symbols are confused with the forms they can take and are associated with a few tradeable commodities such as fossil fuels and Bulk-generated electrical products. This is a complete denial of the Conservation Principle of Energy.

We find world first zero carbon city

the potential of the “carbon” symbol is destroyed on scale by universities, NGOs and corporations alike as they seek to use its power to serve their narrow, short-term sector interests with “carbon trading”, “carbon offsetting” “decarbonation” etc

Similarly the process of warming is equated with the process of warming up, -tackle climate change, fight global warming

which is a complete denial of change in the form of the thermodynamics of the universe(s).

All these symbol uses actively destroy the state of science in communities and we find the “science” symbol itself is used in denial of change/stewardship.

And thus we have the phenomena of, for instance, self styled “energy experts” and “climate experts” travelling around the world calling for change even as their symbol use denies the change they call for. This is not the paradox it may seem. There is a simple explanation for their confused and confusing behaviour, though it may be difficult for some to accept. I trust you lived my introduction to know we are talking about a universal human condition and can enjoy compassion for all, including oneself.

It common to witness the phenomena of these “experts” expressing great anguish and perplexity as they perceive they are not getting their messages of stewardship and change across to their audience. The reality is that they do communicate their message perfectly but it is not the one they think it is. Their prime message is the dissonance they experience between their words and their lifestyles. This is reflected in their choice of symbol uses and the way they frame their discussion. Their own dissonance is detected, reflected and generated at primal levels in the psyches of their audience.

The sustainability of our culture

I trust I have illustrated the power of symbols is sufficiently now. They are quanta of meaning that enable life to exist at every level. Our use of them reflects even as it generates our greater being, including our great subconscious. Similarly our aggregate use of symbols reflects and shapes the illusions of our culture. These in turn determine if and how nations conserve the resources of our planet.

I have discussed how our conscious acts as individuals are but a trace element of our greater being. Just as a trace symbol reflects the greater ocean of our being so to the trace conscious use of a symbol can generate large changes within that ocean. So it is with our culture’s use of symbols.

Each individual human being forms multiple symbols. These may be in the form of their general life style, their clothing, their occupation, their professed beliefs etc. Similarly every culture forms multiple symbols in the form of political, religious, social, psychological, technological and other structures. And just as time, space and matter vary relative to each other so to does the power of every symbol use vary according to the time, place and prestige of the user in their culture.

We, for instance, form consensuses about who are our symbols of expertise, knowledge and wisdom. We then accord them enhanced influence in our cultures. Their use of symbols takes on extra power and influence.

A judge who forms a consensus symbol of justice provides more power to a symbol use pertaining to the law than does the layperson.
An astrophysicist who forms a consensus symbol of knowledge about “black hole” theory provides more power to the “black hole” symbol than does the blind man.
A climatologist who forms a consensus symbol of knowledge about how the atmosphere works provides more power to the “greenhouse” symbol than does the gardener.
An “environmentalist” who forms a consensus symbol of the conservation of the resources of this planet provides more power to the “care ” symbol than does fossil fuel czar.

In other words, the power of a symbol use depends on the particular prestige accorded the user. This is elementary Public Relations theory and it forms the basis of all modern Greenwash and Banker Spin.
The PR for the bankers of the fossil fuel industry sector know, for instance, that getting Greenpeace to adopt their symbol use provides leverage that hundreds of millions of PR dollars cannot buy.
Enron invented modern Carbon Trading and it is known that CEO Ken (Kenny Boy) Lay got President George Bush to have his diplomats to engineer the dumping of Robert Watson as IPCC chair. Robert now jets around the world promoting the Carbon Trading ethos, thus promoting the interests of the Carbon Traders in our universities and the media on a scale that Ken or George never could.

And so it can be with whole societal movements. Those groups accorded the greatest prestige and reputation for caring for Earth’s resources may well be the most psychotic and psychopathic. 

For instance the greatest symbol we have for resource conservation is the international “Green Movement”. Search Google images with "green" and 16 of the 20 responses on the first page are associated with the green-care, the first icon being:

The Green Movement is a loose confederation of NGOs, Government agencies, political parties, corporations, teachers, preachers and other groups who champion the care and conservation of Earth’s resources. A significant proportion of our Anglo-American population, perhaps as much as 30% of people, see “green activists” as symbols of stewardship and accord them prestige and status as experts in caring.

Perhaps half of this 30%, i.e. 15% of people, can be considered the “change makers.”  They care so deeply to conserve the potential of our planet to sustain us that they will actively modify their behaviour. They look for sustainable models to guide them. They do not find these models in the oligarchy of bankers that rule international commerce nor in the industrialists and politicians who do their bidding. They tend to find guidance in the Green Movement as to how to be effective stewards in change.  

The role of this 15% is pivotal in the greater society, for they provide the impetus for general change in behaviour and norms of conservation. In turn the role of the Green Movement, a trace element of society, is pivotal in promoting behavioural change in this crucial 15%. Thus the combined leveraging power of the symbols used by each group on the other is immense. They work together in much the same way that trace gases such as carbon dioxide, ozone and water vapour in the atmosphere are leveraged to enable life to be sustained on Earth.  


We are now realising that a small change in the ratio and balances of these trace gases can make life unsustainable, such is their power. So it is with the Green Movement’s use of the key symbols that it employs to frame knowledge, to create our illusion of reality.

If the Movement’s uses of symbols enhance acceptance of change/stewardship then our illusions tend to be in greater harmony with reality. If its uses work to promote denial then our illusions will be in discord with reality and thus tend to increase our dissonance and misery.

A quick look through the inventory of symbol uses indicates that the Green Movement is a prime agent of denial and can be considered very psychotic. Indeed almost every example of symbols used in denial in the inventory has been sourced from our most prominent and potent Green groups – Greenpeace, Green Parties, WWF, Consumer protection groups, EDF, prominent climatologists, “energy efficiency experts”, Environmental Education resources, Government Environment Protection agencies…

How did the Green Movement become perhaps our most toxic force when the majority of its members are very well meaning people who are ultra aware of our need to conserve our global resources? The explanations are many fold.

We may cling to the very lifestyles that we preach against.

We may crave power, recognition and acceptance by our peers.

We may attempt to deny our internal problems by attempting to blame the world for our misery. Energy becomes the problem, not our use of energy. Climate becomes the problem, not our use of the atmosphere.

The heightened awareness of “environmental activists” leaves them particularly vulnerable to a sense of failure as they realise at some primal level that they do not live what they preach.

All these factors can combine to resonate in symbol uses that reflect and generate major denial of change/stewardship as the individual struggles to suppress their essential sense of failure and hopelessness. Thus their symbol uses fail to reflect reality and tend to work to destroy the hope inherent in science.

This is the human condition. We each have a great capacity for denial of change/stewardship. Without constant vigilance within compassion we very easily become our own worst enemies. We each retain the seeds of psychosis and psychopathy and these flourish in our state of denial. We become vulnerable to becoming propagandists of greed-driven individuals and corporations.

Without constant vigilance within compassion we end adopting the symbol uses of the psychopathic corporations. “Green Movement” protests at the lack of morality and sustainability of the corporations’ activities become framed in ways that endorse the corporate ethos. It becomes a hopeless paradox. The more passionate the green activist and the greater the integrity of their data the more they work directly against their expressed objectives. The more publicity and popular credence it gains the more the Green Movement ends up promoting the unsustainable activities of psychopathic corporations.

The classic example is the Enron promotion of Carbon Trading through Bill Clinton and Al Gore at Kyoto. Enron was able to exploit them to achieve its real agenda. This was to ensure the value of the mineral gas reserves owned by the corporation was increased relative to the coal reserves of its competitors and, more importantly, to ensure that carbon became a tradeable commodity rather than a precious resource to be conserved using civic tax systems.

Enron had already created the prototype global trading mechanism -

  Enron Online  

- by which it would clip the ticket on every carbon trade. Enron’s real agenda was short-term profits and it was devoid of care for our sustaining atmospheric balance.

The truth is Al Gore became a powerful symbol of climate care even as he modelled and promoted the behaviour that destroys the climate balances that sustain us. 

Energy is proud to have been the exclusive carbon offset provider for the book and movie An Inconvenient Truth and for Mr. Gore's travel promoting them. 

Thus the movie, An Inconvenient Truth, became perhaps the ultimate advertisement for cars, jet travel and Carbon Trading. The Sustainability Principle of Energy indicates the film destroys science on scale and is profoundly psychotic.

The Principle does not suggest Al consciously set out to create a manipulative, devious movie. It does not deny his overt sense of well meaning and care. It simply suggests Al Gore’s lifestyle is in deep dissonance with his proclamations. It simply suggests that the reality of Al is that he lives in a large mansion, constantly jets around the globe and has vested interests in Carbon Trading businesses. This is the model he is for his 6.7 fellow human beings. To the extent it resonates with them then it becomes their aspiration too. Such is the power of symbols and their impacts on energy flows and balances.

I will conclude with a most humbling and funny experience I had a couple of years ago. For forty years I donated blood.

Towards the end of that period I realised I had never actually watched the nurse inject the needle into my arm vein. So this time I lay there and observed the process. The nurse attempted to press the needle into my vein but could not.  Multiple attempts from different angles all failed. She checked the needle. It was sharp. She suggested the vein must be rather scarred and suggested we use my other arm. Repeated attempts failed here too and the nurse was visibly shaken and sweating now. “I have never experienced this in fourteen years,” she said. I knew her as highly skilled and she had often she had taken my blood with ease.

At this point something in me realised that perhaps I am not as fearless and accepting of the blood donation procedure as I liked to think. I glanced away and the needle slid in with ease.  I learned four things that day. Our capacity for self-deceit is amazing. This deceit can take the form of a very powerful force of physical resistance. The resistance can dissolve in a second. I am as capable of self-deceit as any other human being.

I still find this experience both humbling and very funny. When I write of the dissonance and denial propagated by the likes of Al Gore I do so with compassion. Similarly when the Sustainability Principle of Energy indicates that the global “Green Movement” may well be our greatest threat I accept this possibility even though it is immensely inconvenient. If it be the truth, so be it.  

Thanks to
for illustration

I hope you can be sustained as I am by the immense hope inherent in the Sustainability Principle of Energy. If you check down the symbol inventory for all the uses that reflect/generate acceptance of change/stewardship perhaps you to will catch glimpses of an inspiring and bounteous vision of existence. 

click to enlarge
View from my window -rainbow over Baring Heads

It is this vision of bounty that has made it relatively easy for me to stop owning cars, flying jets, eating meat and thus conserve our fossil fuel potential by a factor of about seven fold, all this despite considerable alienation and punishment by New Zealand society. (My window also overlooks Wellington Airport, through which over 5 million people pass annually.)  

click to enlarge
View from my window -summer dawn over Baring Heads

It is this wondrous vision that sustains me even as I am dismissed and ridiculed by our modern Environmental Educators when I tell them that the Sustainability Principle indicates their vision of the moral order is actually a dangerous delusion – rather than being our salvation the Green Movement is currently the biggest threat to humanity. It is a net destroyer of science in our communities. The Movement is the greatest force promoting denial of change/stewardship and thus the greatest source of misery. We are our own worst enemy.

I suggest that the inconvenience of this truth is far outweighed by the kindness and joy experienced by those who embrace the Sustainability Principle, for it is born of compassion. It can provide the experience of great wonder, generosity, hope and harmony with all.

Footnote: For more joy, see the Compassionate Education Curriculum Framework.


Link here

 for examples of the application of Sustainability Principle. 
(Inventory of symbol uses that promote acceptance/denial of stewardship amidst change.)


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