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If you want a healthier future, do not bring the past into the present

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“Anthropologists and archeologists have confirmed what Mayan legends and prophecies have long told us.” The Mayan shaman stands near the Great Jaguar Pyramid in Tikal, Guatemala, and speaks to our group.

“The Maya had lived on these lands for nearly three millennia,” the shaman continues. “They excelled in agriculture, pottery-making, hieroglyph writing, and mathematics, and devised calendars that are considered more accurate than our modern-day ones. As you can see. . .” He spreads his arms to the pyramids and temples surrounding us, “they had amazing architects, artists, and engineers. And also, extremely hierarchical male societies, with kings who controlled about 50 huge city-states. The farmers and artisans who lived outside the cities were expected to provide large portions of their produce and products to the royal and priest classes inside the cities, while the latter, through their rituals and prayers, would bring rain and abundant crops. This type of colonialism reigned for hundreds of years. However, in the end, the proliferation of the cities created crises that now seem harbingers of what we today are experiencing globally. The draining of the swamps and the deforestation required to build the great plazas, pyramids, and temples caused a radical loss in rainfall. The climate change that resulted could no longer support the agriculture required to feed the large populations. Around 900 AD that once-great civilization ended. The people abandoned their homes and migrated to the highlands.  Since the royalty and priests could no longer survive in their cities, they too fled. The cities eventually were taken over by nature. They lay hidden as tree-covered hills for centuries.”

He peers at the array of impressive structures. “Of course, we Maya are still here, but we abandoned those cities and pyramids that rival the ones in ancient Egypt, Greece, and Asia. We let nature reclaim them; trees took over. They were lost to the world for hundreds of years.”

He walks into the center of the Grand Plaza and stands between the Great Jaguar Pyramid and the Pyramid of the Masks. As we follow, I think about how the lives of the people on these trips are forever changed by their experiences.

The shaman stops. “We Mayas returned to the forests and mountains.” He surveys the people clustered around him. “Why?”

There is silence, broken only by the distant call of a howler monkey. A woman raises her hand. “Climate change?”

“You’ve done your homework,” he replies with a grin. “Climate change and a realization that we had to stop being colonized by a handful of kings and priests. That’s where one important interpretation of the 2012 Prophecy comes in.” He glances up at the Pyramid of the Masks. “Our legends and prophecies are complex and vary somewhat depending on which of the two dozen Mayan dialects you happen to be hearing. The one I favor tells of a very long period, hundreds of years, ruled by a king who drove the world into darkness, to the brink of disaster. A horrible king, usually referred to as Seven Macaw, he was vain, vicious, brutal, greedy, egotistical, and obsessed with material things. During his reign, there were huge gaps between the few very rich and the rest of the people. Severe changes in the climate resulted in massive crop failures. Then, wars between the city-states, more brutality, chaos. Of course, Seven Macaw is a metaphor for the kings of those city-states and their priests.”

“Us, today,” the woman says. She glances at me.

The shaman points at the Great Jaguar Pyramid. “Male.” He turns to face the Pyramid of the Masks. “Female.” He claps his hands. There is a resounding echo that reverberates off both pyramids. “Male and female. Balance,” he says.  “The legend tells us,” he continues, “that two young siblings, known as the Hero Twins, cut off the head of Seven Macaw and threw it into a basket. Then they replaced that king with a compassionate, selfless leader, usually called Hunahpu, who inspired people to connect with nature and delve deep into their spirituality.” He pauses and looks up at the female pyramid, then back at us. “The reason that 2012 was so important is that it is the year when the Mayan calendars that go back thousands of years ended.” He peers into the faces around him. “I know that people in your country and those who make the movies told you that the end of the calendars spelled catastrophe, perhaps even the end of the world.” He smiles. “But that’s not at all what the Mayan legends say. For us, 2012 marked the end of the old era, Seven Macaw’s colonial empire, and the beginning of the new, Hunahpu. The new calendars began after December 21, 2012.  You see, long, long ago, Mayan astronomers knew that, from the Earth’s perspective,” he looks up again, “the sun would enter the center of the Milky Way – the ‘great rift,’ the dark spot in the middle of our galaxy – on that date December 21, 2012. That represented the throwing of the head into the basket.” He places his hands over his heart. “December 21, 2012. It was a day of great celebration and ceremonial fires among the Maya.”

I remember it well. Daniel, the Ecuadorian shaman/environmentalist/guide who co-facilitates trips with me, and I had brought a group to many sacred Mayan sites in Guatemala that December. We did celebrations with shamans who keep the ancient traditions alive and apply them to the modern world; we’ve continued to do so every December since.

“However,” the shaman raises a fist. “It’s important to point out that the prophecy says that the Hero Twins must make it happen. They have to take courageous actions. Seven Macaw will not cut off his own head. Today’s leaders will not voluntarily give up their wealth and power. Not in the US. Not in Russia, China, or Guatemala. Not anywhere. We, the people, must do it. We must take action.” His eyes meet each of ours. “Twins.” Two fingers rise from his closed fist; slowly they come together.  “Men and women, people from all races, all cultures and countries, coming together, dreaming new dreams, telling new stores, working together.” He lowers his hand. “That is the Prophecy of 2012.” Again, he smiles. “It is the reason you are here.”

It is the reason I am writing these words. It is the reason you are reading them. You and I are the ones to touch the jaguar, our fear of change. We are the Hero Twins.

Excerpted from John Perkins’ upcoming book Touching the Jaguar: Transforming fear into Actions to Change the World to be published by Berrett-Koehler (the B Corp publisher of Confessions of an Economic Hit Man) in June 2020.

About John Perkins

John is a founder and board member of Dream Change & The Pachamama Alliance, non-profit organizations devoted to establishing a world future generations will want to inherit & the author of the NY Times bestseller, Confessions Of An Economic Hitman.

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Right to Repair Bill Introduced in Congress

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Hot on the heels of last week’s victory in the New York state senate, the fight for Right to Repair comes to the US Congress. Today, Congressman Joe Morelle (D-NY) introduced the first broad federal Right to Repair bill: the Fair Repair Act.

“As electronics become integrated into more and more products in our lives, Right to Repair is increasingly important to all Americans,” said Kyle Wiens, iFixit CEO. Lawmakers everywhere are realizing the need to protect our Right to Repair—along with progress in the EU and Australia, 27 US states introduced Right to Repair legislation this year, a record number.

“Every year I’ve worked on Right to Repair, it’s gotten bigger, as more and more people want to see independent repair protected,” said Gay Gordon-Byrne, Executive Director of Repair.org. Rep. Joe Morelle has been a champion for much of that journey, sponsoring legislation while in the Statehouse in Albany starting in 2015. Everywhere you go, people just want to be able to choose for themselves how to fix their stuff. You’d think manufacturers would wise up.”

Congressman Joe Morelle’s federal bill would require manufacturers to provide device owners and independent repair businesses with access to the parts, tools, and information they need to fix electronic devices.

“For too long, large corporations have hindered the progress of small business owners and everyday Americans by preventing them from the right to repair their own equipment,” said Congressman Morelle. “It’s long past time to level the playing field, which is why I’m so proud to introduce the Fair Repair Act and put the power back in the hands of consumers. This common-sense legislation will help make technology repairs more accessible and affordable for items from cell phones to laptops to farm equipment, finally giving individuals the autonomy they deserve.”

“Right to Repair just makes sense,” said Nathan Proctor, U.S. PIRG Senior Right to Repair Campaign Director. “It saves money and it keeps electronics in use and off the scrap heap. It helps farmers keep equipment in the field and out of the dealership. No matter how many lobbyists Apple, Microsoft or John Deere and the rest of the manufacturers throw at us, Right to Repair keeps pushing ahead, thanks to champions like Rep. Joe Morelle.”

“At iFixit, we believe that big tech companies shouldn’t get to dictate how we use the things we own or keep us from fixing our stuff.” said iFixit’s US Policy Lead, Kerry Maeve Sheehan. “We applaud Congressman Morelle for taking the fight for Right to Repair to Congress and standing up for farmers, independent repair shops, and consumers nationwide.”

We’re pleased to see Congress taking these problems seriously. In addition to supporting Congressman Morelle’s Fair Repair Act, we urge Congress to pass much-needed reforms to Section 1201 of the Copyright Act, to clarify that circumventing software locks to repair devices is always legal, and to expressly support the Federal Trade Commission’s authority to tackle unfair, deceptive, and anti-competitive repair restrictions.

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For a healthier planet, management must change

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Our environment sustains all life. Both human and wildlife. When habitat degrades, the lives of all that depend on it also deteriorate: poor land = poor people and social breakdown.By Sarah Savory, Zimbabwe

In Zimbabwe (like many other countries in arid areas with seasonal rainfall) we are facing the many symptoms and signs of our country’s advancing desertification: ever-increasing droughts, floods, wildfires, poverty, poaching, social breakdown, violence, mass emigration to cities, biodiversity loss and climate change. No economy can survive if we destroy our soil – the only economy that can ultimately sustain any community, or nation, is based on the photosynthetic process — green plants growing on regenerating soil.


So, if we wanted to find out the optimum way to manage our wildlife, people and economy, logically, shouldn’t we be looking at our National Parks for the best examples of what we can do for our environment? Because in national parks, we not only have the best management the world knows, we don’t have any of the issues that are normally blamed for causing desertification: ignorance, greed, corruption, corporations, livestock, coal, oil, etc. Let’s do that now…the following are all photos taken in our national parks (the first 3 were taken in May right after the rainy season when they should still be looking their best!)

As you can see from those photos, some of the worst biodiversity loss and land degradation we have in Zimbabwe is occurring IN our National Parks. But, as I pointed out, those have been run using the best management known to us and have been protected and conserved for decades. We’ve clearly been missing something…

The above 8 pictures are a mixture of National Parks and Communal Land…can you tell which is which?

We are seeing this land degradation both inside and out of our Parks because there is an over-arching and common cause of desertification that nobody has understood, or been able to successfully address, until recently.

We spend our lives blaming resources for causing the damage (coal, oil, livestock, elephants, etc) but resources are natural, so how could they possibly be to blame? Only our management of them can be causing the problem.

ALL tool using animals (including humans) automatically use a genetically embedded management framework…and every single management decision made is in order to meet an objective, a need, or to address a problem. And those decisions are made with exactly the same framework, or thought process and for exactly the same reasons, whether it is an animal or a human.

For example, a hungry otter has an objective: he wants to break open a clamshell because he needs to eat. He uses a simple tool (technology, in the form of a stone) to do so. He does this based on past experience or what he learned from his mother.

Or, the president of the United States has an objective: to put a man on the moon within a decade. He and his team use the same tool (technology, but various and more sophisticated forms of it) and base their choices on past experience, research, expert advice, and so on. It’s the same process, or framework, in both cases, only the degree of sophistication has varied.

A screen shot taken from a short video clip we took with a film crew last month, of 4 different areas, all near to each other: you will clearly see the terrible desertification in both National Parks and nearby Communal Land. In comparison, you will see a vast difference on Dibangombe, the Africa Centre For Holistic Management (our learning centre, which is only 30km from Victoria Falls.) This habitat is being regenerated for all life by simply managing holistically. Every year on this land, despite the worsening droughts, the biodiversity increases and the land and wildlife flourish.
All this footage was taken in the same area, at the same time, with the same climate, the same soils, the same wildlife and the same humans.
But different management.

To this day, this decision making process works just fine for the otter. But imagine that one day, the otter invents a machine that can crack open 1,000 clam shells a day and that all the other otters suddenly stop doing what otters are designed to do and just come to him to get their clams. They still use the decision making process but everything else has changed…that tiny advance in technology would have inadvertently set off a complex chain reaction through the whole ecosystem and there would soon be catastrophic environmental knock-on effects because the balance of the ecosystem has been upset. The ecosystem will keep trying to adjust to this change but eventually it will start to collapse. Imagine the otter started charging for the clams. Now, with every decision the otters make, in order to make sure their ecosystem didn’t collapse, they would need to be simultaneously addressing the social, environmental and economic aspects of their actions. Their management would have to evolve with the change.

This is exactly what happened to humans…As soon as our technology advanced, our management should have evolved to accommodate for it. But it didn’t.

Our natural world is rapidly collapsing all around us and we have ended up constantly chasing our tails and dealing with the symptoms and complications we’ve created. While there have been thousands of books written over the years on different types of management, if you dig a little deeper and ‘peel the onion’ the same genetically embedded framework is still inadvertently being used.

In the last 400 years, our technology has advanced faster than in all of the two hundred thousand or so years of modern human existence. Over those same few centuries, you can now see why the health of our planet has entered a breathtaking decline.  We now have the knowledge to change that…

No matter what we are managing, we cannot ever escape an inevitable web of social, economic and environmental complexity, so, in order to truly address any issue, the people and the finances have to be addressed simultaneously, not just the land itself. Isolating one particular part of the problem, or singling out a species and trying to manage it successfully, is no different from trying to isolate and manage the hydrogen in water.

With this knowledge, the Holistic Management Framework was developed. And, incredibly, it all started here in Zimbabwe, by my father, Allan Savory, an independent Zimbabwean scientist. This new decision making process ensures that no matter what we are managing, we focus on the root cause of any problem. It also makes sure that all our decisions are socially or culturally sound, economically viable and ecologically regenerative by using 7 simple filtering checks. And, it introduces us to a new, biological tool: animal impact and movement, that can be used to help us reverse desertification and regenerate our land and rivers.

This framework has received world-wide acclaim and is now being mirrored in forty three Holistic Management hubs on six continents, including the first university-led hub in the USA.

Now we can begin to understand that most of the problems we are facing in Zimbabwe today are simply symptoms of reductionist management.

Imagine that one day, someone starts to beat you really hard over the head, once a day, every day, with a cricket bat. It really hurts, and instead of trying to take the bat away from them, you just take a dispirin to deal with the headache it’s caused and carry on.

After a week, the pain will be getting much worse and the dispirin will no longer be strong enough, so you’d need a new painkiller. The stopain comes out. After a while, stopain won’t be enough, so you turn to Brufen. And so it goes on. Yet the blows continue.

Eventually, your organs will be struggling from all the medication and you’ll end up in hospital with very serious complications. The best doctors and specialists in the world are called in at great expense and they rush around treating all your worsening, and now life-threatening, symptoms. None of them can understand why you aren’t getting better – they’ve used the best medicines and procedures known. It’s because everyone is so focused on your symptoms, that nobody has looked up and seen the person standing behind you with the cricket bat.

It sounds silly when I put it like that, doesn’t it? But that is exactly what we are doing.

Our planet is in that hospital with life threatening complications, with Governments, Organisations and individuals doing their best, spending millions of dollars, often using expert advice, to find out how to treat the patient, but nobody has realised that they are only treating symptoms. Nobody has noticed the guy standing there with the bat.

The holistic management framework stops the blows to the head. As soon as we do that and the cause is being treated, all the symptoms will automatically begin to heal and fall away.

I am going to show you a screen shot taken from a short video clip we took with a film crew last month, of 4 different areas, all near to each other: you will clearly see the terrible desertification in both National Parks and nearby Communal Land. In comparison, you will see a vast difference on Dibangombe, the Africa Centre For Holistic Management (our learning centre, which is only 30km from Victoria Falls.) This habitat is being regenerated for all life by simply managing holistically. Every year on this land, despite the worsening droughts, the biodiversity increases and the land and wildlife flourish.

All this footage was taken in the same area, at the same time, with the same climate, the same soils, the same wildlife and the same humans.

But different management.

These pictures were taken on the same day on land only 30km apart in February 2018, The 2 photos on the left are Zambezi National Park and the photo on the right is Africa Centre for Holistic Management (Dibangombe)

The great news is that we can turn it all around and we don’t have the thousands of different problems we all think we do. We only have to adjust one thing. Our management.

It’s time for us to evolve from using our outdated, reductionist management framework. We need to adapt to a new way of thinking and  apply this paradigm-shifting decision  making framework so that we can all work together towards regenerating our Zimbabwe.

Culturally. Socially. Economically. Environmentally. For for our people and for our wildlife.

Let’s start by stopping the blows to the head!

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Free to Download Fight the Fire: Green New Deals and Global Climate Jobs

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Fight the Fire

Fight The Fire Book Cover

OUT NOW!

“The most compelling and concise guide to averting climate breakdown.” – Brendan Montague, editor, The Ecologist.

Download Jonathan Neale’s Fight the Fire from The Ecologist for free now.

The Ecologist has published Fight the Fire for free so that it is accessible to all.

We would like to thank our readers for donating £1,000 to cover some of the costs of publishing and promoting this book.

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