Key Life Journeys

By Sue Ellis 09 May, 2016

By Susan M Ellis

“We Are One with humanity and all of life. Business and all institutions of the human community are integral parts of a single reality — interrelated, interconnected and interdependent.”

from the   Conscious Business Declaration

We are encouraged to live in a selfish world of individuality where my needs, my profits, my desires are more important that my relationship to the whole. Such behaviour is destroying us.

But in my spiritual practice I embrace a oneness with all things. I see myself in an interconnected universe where all actions will have an impact on the whole. This means I react when I know the bees are dying partly because of man-made chemicals; when water, which should be a human right for all, is bottled in areas where drought conditions exist and the water is only sold back to those who can afford to buy it. I cringe when corporations sue countries for not allowing their poisonous product to be sold or prohibits them from raping the country of its minerals or forests.

According to a Statistics Canada survey, there are at least 850,000 people diagnosed with environmental sensitivities in Canada. This number went up by a whopping 34 per cent from 2005 to 2010. Such people can no longer enjoy living in the world we have created, often have difficulty finding jobs, housing and medical care. Imagine not being able to enter a hospital or doctors office because you cannot tolerate the chemicals in the air? We have created a toxic world.

To restore my spirit I go to the annual Green Living Show in Toronto and learn about companies selling products and communities working together promoting sustainability, natural and organic products, lessening our carbon footprint and saving what we have.

Joy was added recently when I read about a movement encouraging businesses to learn more about being conscious corporate citizens. They have created a Conscious Business Declaration and those who sign, vow to adhere to these principles.

from their website I learned -

A New Standard for Business in the 21st Century

The Conscious Business Declaration articulates essential principles that we believe will dramatically increase economic prosperity while healing the environment and improving human wellbeing. The Declaration aims to define a new standard for Business in the 21st century, one that will enable Business to become the most powerful engine on Earth for creating abundance and flourishing for humanity and all life on Earth.    

A Radical Shift in Perspective    

The Declaration calls for radical shift in perspective for Business globally, one that is already shared by humanity’s leading spiritual traditions and validated by modern science. It is expressed in the first principle of the Declaration: “We Are One with humanity and all of life. Business and all institutions of the human community are integral parts of a single reality — interrelated, interconnected and interdependent.”

So here is the   Conscious Business Declaration .   Feel hopeful. Pass it on. Know that profit can be made without destroying something to get it.

As a global community of business leaders we are committed to developing the awareness and skills needed to consciously evolve our organizations in alignment with these principles:

  • We Are One with humanity and all of life.  Business and all institutions of the human community are integral parts of a single reality — interrelated, interconnected and interdependent.
  • In line with this reality, the purpose of Business is to increase economic prosperity while contributing to a healthy environment and improving human wellbeing.
  • Business must go beyond sustainability and the philosophy of “do no harm” to restoring the self-renewing integrity of the Earth.
  • Business must operate with economic, social, and ecological transparency.
  • Business must behave as a positive and proactive member of the local and global communities in which it operates.
  • Business that sees, honors, and celebrates the essential interconnected nature of all human beings and all life maximizes human potential and helps create a world that works for all.
  • When aligned with Oneness, Business is the most powerful engine on Earth for creating prosperity and flourishing for all.
By Sue Ellis 25 Mar, 2016

I got the email below this morning from   Avaaz.org   and I was reminded that I became a member of the Avaaz movement and started receiving these emails when I signed "Join Avaaz!" on 2011-07-13. Avaaz—meaning "voice" in several European, Middle Eastern and Asian languages - was launched in 2007 with a simple democratic mission: organize citizens of all nations to close the gap between the world we have and the world most people everywhere want.

In those days there were fewer than a million supporters; as of writing there are now 43,089,227 members in 194 countries. We have seen action on many fronts, been part of changing behaviours and creating hope.

On my facebook page I asked others to sign the petition to eradicate female genital mutilation in Somalia which affects 98% of women in that country. A practice that often leads to constant pain and infections, sterility and death. Today I read that the President of the country and some ministers have signed the petition. I am the change I want to see in the world. With   Avaaz.org   I can play my part.

100% of its funding comes from small individual donations - no corporate, government, foundation, or large donor money. We can't be bought by "big money." In fact we are a thorn in the side of big money -  a 43-million-person global campaign network that works to ensure that the views and values of the world's people shape global decision-making.

So the joy filled letter I received today shares some of the achievements from petitions this year alone.

Dear amazing Avaazers,

If you ever doubt that our efforts together are worth it, or if you're just needing a bit of hope and light in your day, read on. Bet you won't be able to stop :).

Avaaz Movement Wins 2016 (So Far!!)

Fin whales swim free

For years, Icelandic millionaire badboy Kristjan Loftsson has massacred hundreds of endangered giant fin whales. But no more!! Working with allies, a million of us pressed the Dutch government to close their ports to him, then German Avaazers helped to block ports there too. Then we caused a media and political storm in the Caribbean where Loftsson’s ship was registered. After years of pressure, he’s called off the hunt!

“The global pressure brought by the Avaaz community has no doubt played a big role in Loftsson’s welcome decision.”

- Vanessa Williams-Grey, Whale and Dolphin Conservation.

Saudi Arabia: No More Weapons For You

Saudi Arabia is a human rights nightmare, but after they bombed schools and hospitals in Yemen, calls rose in Europe for an arms embargo. When EU politicians started to waver under the pressure of powerful Saudi lobbyists, 740,000 Avaazers weighed in, flooding members of parliament with messages and calls. And we won -- for the first time in history, a Western parliament voted to ban arms sales to Saudi Arabia! Now the pressure is on for governments to follow the European lead.

"We’ve received calls from Scotland to France to Yemen calling for action, Avaaz played a major role to bring this message to the European Parliament."

- Alyn Smith, Member of European Parliament

Blocking Monsanto's most profitable poison

By Sue Ellis 29 Jan, 2015

Like for the peasants in feudal and colonial times, today the inequity between the classes causes anger, hopelessness, loss of self esteem or a sense of belonging which ultimately leads to anarchy which leads to revolution. To function at our best we need to have the opportunity to achieve our greatest aspiration, be rewarded for the effort and loyalty we demonstrate and have a sense of autonomy in our lives.

I go to www.AVAAZ.ORG to restore my faith in a world where individuals want to behave towards others in the way that they would like to be treated themselves. Where we help our neighbour and the world in which we live - as a whole - not just in the service of self. Ah yes, you say, one of those bleeding heart liberals. But social media is providing the hitherto silent conscious population with a voice and that voice is getting louder.

Avaaz was founded in 2007 by an ex pat Canadian in New York. I signed up then and remember when we reached the one million member mark. As I write this in the middle of January 2015 Avaaz  has 40,819,740  members worldwide in 194 countries. There is no defined number of countries in the world but there may be between 196 and 206 depending on the criteria one uses. That is a pretty major world representation considering you need internet access and understand one of the 18 languages that the website offers.

So who are these people who sign partitions and believe in people power? The list is long but here are the first 10 by the numbers.

1.Teaching at a school or university - 11.25%

2.Student - 8.90%

3.Technology / computers - 6.46%

4.Medicine (doctor, nurse, etc) - 6.36%

5.NGO / non-profit sector - 4.99%

6.Clerical / office administration - 4.70%

7.Scientist 4.50%

8.Business management / sales - 4.01%

9.Writing - 3.82%

10.Engineering - 3.72%

So what are the values of these 40+ million educated people? In a 2014 poll members were asked to "Tick all the statements that you agree with, so we can see what values most strongly knit the Avaaz community together"

These are the values of the Avaaz community

Civic Responsibility - We have a responsibility to contribute to our communities, and to seek not just private interests but the common good

Courage, Compassion, Integrity, and Honesty - We are all imperfect, but we should seek to practice these virtues as much as we can

Ecology - Human beings are part of a web of interdependence with our natural world, and we must care for it

Personal Responsibility - We must seek to be the change we wish to see in the world

“Deliberative” Democracy - Democratic politics should be an honest deliberation among citizens about what’s best for the community, not a dirty power game among selfish interests

Equality - Every human being is of equal, precious worth, and deserving equal rights, regardless of our ethnicity, creed, gender, nationality, or sexual orientation

Animal Rights - Animals are beings worthy of compassion and deserving of rights

Democratic accountability - Government should be transparent and accountable to the will of the people.

Globalism/Humanism - As Gandhi said “I am a human being first, and a citizen of my country second.”

 

Avaaz is a truly global movement and members are evenly distributed by age: the community has roughly equal shares of young, old, and middle-aged people. Just over half of Avaaz members are women. The uniting force is a commitment to a better world.

"Since launching in 2007, Avaaz has grown into a powerful and unprecedented global democratic force.

Avaaz has a simple democratic mission: close the gap between the world we have and the world most people everywhere want. Our community is unique in its ability to mobilize citizen pressure on governments everywhere to act on crises and opportunities anywhere, within as little as 24 hours."

Priority challenges

Fighting political corruption, including corporate capture of our governmentsEconomic policy that benefits the common good over the elite few

Preventing catastrophic climate change

Tackling slavery and human trafficking

Safeguarding our health and food, including from GMOs

Protecting endangered species and biodiversity

Protecting rainforests and indigenous rights

Defending women's rights


Most of this text comes from the website but what excites me when I read it is that I share these values and ideals. I have a sense of belonging in a world wide group of 40 million people who feel the same way.

Many will say that signing petitions is a waste of time. But government and business leaders are influenced by lobbyists and negative publicity. How else would we know that Bayer and Syngenta, two of the world’s largest chemical corporations are suing the European Union for banning the sale of its pesticide which happens to kill bees? If you understand natural systems then you know that without bees, we grow no food. Trade agreements permit companies to sue countries for potential loss of profit. Canada has been signing lots of trade deals with other countries lately and all contain the clause that allow foreign companies the right to sue. With the support of petitions many politicians have changed the way they vote despite the inertia of so many of the population.

By Sue Ellis 07 Dec, 2014

Another year is into its last month. It revs up, explodes and disappears. We begin a new one. I don't know when it is that we realize that there are fewer ahead than have gone. For each of us it is a different moment. Just as it is when we realize we are not as young as we used to be, or we are not as able as we once were, or we find it more difficult, or it takes longer to do things we found easy in the past. When ever it seeped into my reality - I've got it!!

What we do with it once we have it, will impact the rest of our life. How well we adjust to the changes has a lot to do with how we were taught and how our role models behaved. My friend Edith is preparing for her 102nd Christmas and still lives alone in her own home. She has a lot of wisdom to share about the subject.

So how do I face the changes? By constantly bringing the new into my life.

 So to those who say to me What's New? This is what I tell them.

1. I'm getting my first smart phone and, who knows, I might learn to text if I see the need.

2. I've just downloaded a new fancy video editing program into my computer with a learning curve as big as a rainbow.

3. I decided on the four places I'm going to explore in 2015, so now I have to research them.

4. Since I can't crouch or kneel in my garden any more, I've planned my new raised vegetable garden for next spring.

5. AND here is the biggy. My new, improved, website. Learning curve as big as ...well you know. I'm discovering all sorts of new stuff. I've learned a new definition for the word slider - and I'm not talking baseball or small hamburgers - but those fascinating images that pop up on the top of my new welcome page. There is also a big difference if I create a post or a page, use a menu or a navigation label. So obviously I'm learning a new language.

Its all very challenging, but that is the point. How do I know of what I am capable, if I don't do it? In February I was on a camel in the Sahara Desert, and on foot climbed a huge sand dune to watch the sun set from almost the top. It was too crowded at the summit.  I didn't think I could make it anywhere near. My young Berber camel man grabbed my arm and said "but you have to."

We can't have regrets. So I did it. Please enjoy the new website.

By Sue Ellis 21 Nov, 2014

A trip to the McMichael gallery in Kleinberg always has a special place in my heart. It marked the start of my Canadian experience. I came to Canada in 1969 and I was taken to the McMichael gallery. The Group of Seven was a new phenomenon. I heard they were iconic Canadiana. I had come from the land of Constable and Turner. I could not relate. The colours, the shapes, the interpretation of nature and of houses were alien to me.

Over time, my sojourn in Canada took me north of Superior, to Algoma, to Algonquin, to Kilarney...Then I understood. I got it. I was at the McMichael in the fall of 2013. It is even more special when one goes in late September and the weather permits an outdoor picnic at one of many locations within the Gallery grounds. Embracing the natural world, however, may include curious wasps. The changing foliage, the pattern of clouds and the patchwork of colours all move the consciousness to appreciate what we had around us. A necessary attitude to embrace when entering the gallery which honours the essence of Canada, its nature and its aboriginal world. I had come this time to engage in two concurrent photographic exhibitions.

The work of the American Ansel Adams (1902-1984) is in black and white. He captured a virginal North American scene of rock faces and waterfalls and trees with sunlight, shadows and cloud. The grandeur of Yosemite National Park was nestled by raindrops on leaves. The lighting in the gallery was dim to protect the aging prints; a legacy of a man who wanted the world to appreciate, value, and explore the landscape provided, gifted to us.

A set of doors separated this intimate invitation from one of large, bright and unsettling photographs of Canadian Edward Burtynsky (1955- ) With his exhibit "The landscape that we change," he invites us to face what has been done in the name of progress to the innocent land that could have been Adams' once. The only crime this land committed was to be filled with minerals and oil, provided ground for railways or resting places for thousands of easily combustible obsolete rubber tires. Two exhibits defining the before and the after of commercial raping.

In 2006 the Canadian National Film Board release the documentary "Manufactured Landscapes" about the nature that we "disrupt in pursuit of progress." It is a harsh reality with a beauty in its own right. We see patterns made by uranium tailings in Elliott Lake, Ontario in 1995 with the statues of dead and dying trees in a stark land. 40 years previously Ansel Adams, if he had visited that spot, would have found a rocky, verdant vista.

 I witnessed a conversation. A man is returning to the Ansel Adams exhibit and his friends ask why he is leaving the Edward Burtynsky exhibit so soon. "I'm going back into the other room. I think they are more artistic." Both are artistic photographers, capturing the world they saw with honesty, love and skill. Our comfort level is not the gauge.

Further into the Burtynsky exhibit is a huge arresting photograph of an old tire dump in California. The heat produced by the rubber ignited and the fire burned uncontrolled for two years, polluting the atmosphere. In front of the picture sat a mother with her young son on the floor. She explained the picture's meaning as she interpreted it. "Everything we use" she said, "We have to think about what happens to it when we no longer want it. What will happen to it? Where will it go? We are responsible. We should be careful about everything we use." The child was totally engaged. He turned to look at another similar subject. "Look mummy, there are no trees." He got it. 

Meanwhile in Toronto, the Art Gallery of Ontario was hosting the Ai WeiWei exhibition "According to what?" The work of this multi-talented artist, sculpture, carpenter, potter, photographer, writer and musician is overwhelming in the sincerity of its message. Following an earlier visit in its run, I returned in October with my camera. His work had so moved me the first time I needed to capture it for myself.

By Sue Ellis 28 Sep, 2012

I’m suspended in space speedily, yet in slow motion, orbiting the earth. Six times in 24 hours I will complete the circumnavigation. Sometimes the passage is in darkness, sometimes a red and yellow disc highlights Gaia’s curved surface. But on other occasions all her beauty is displayed for me; all her tragedies; all her pain and all her joy. I see her snow capped peaks; her multicoloured deserts in pristine clarity. Her natural, not man made, hues are brush strokes on a massive canvas; her work sometimes applied with a pallet knife. Water is sometimes black and sometimes yellow depending on available light. Clouds sometimes hover sometimes rise as mountains and sometimes pattern the oceans with dapples light or dark shadows.

Lake Har Us Nuur in Western Mongolia is created with a light touch, navy blue at the centre and a cool pale green where waters lap the pink and beige coast. There is the Euphrates River meandering darkly through the land of Turkey which presents as angular blocks of yellow ochre and orange. Now I’m looking down on the snow covered peaks in China where receding glaciers leave trails of silt.  From the book Gaia.

By Sue Ellis 17 May, 2007

By now many of you will have seen Happy Feet, the digitally animated movie about Emperor Penguins in Antarctica. Many of you, like me, will have marveled at the beauty of the images, the realism of disintegrating icebergs, thundering avalanches and Elephant seals. This movie had the opportunity to capture the hearts and conscience of the younger generation. It could have taught them valuable lessons, preventing the repetitions of past mistakes. The movie blew it, leaving me wondering what vested interests were involved.


This movie is about a penguin that is different, growing up in a society where conformity is essential to belong. Those who are different bring shame to the family, are suspect and victimized; Reminiscent of the era seen in western society during my childhood. Those of us who were different in the 1930’s, 40’s and 50’s were pressured to appear “normal.” Those who could not were seen as freaks. President Roosevelt of the United States was never photographed in his wheelchair because it was thought that no American would feel safe being led by a “cripple.” So people who were different were made invisible. They were banished to institutions, hidden in the closet or asked to sit at the back of the bus.

Mumble, the different penguin, represents those victimized by his society, which relies on ancient dogma and value systems to survive. A society where any challenge to the status quo is met with resistance and is made the scapegoat for any crisis.

In the 1960's there was a rebellion to shake the status quo. People marched to Ban the Bomb, others marched against the war in Vietnam, women marched for liberation, blacks marched for civil rights, gays and lesbians marched for human rights, the disabled asked for equality. They came out of their institutions, their closets and moved to the front of the bus.

Those in power in Happy Feet remind us that oppression is still a force with which to be reckoned. Mumble must conform or lose his soul. But he knows he has no choice. He must honour his unique spirit. He is the revolution. He sets off to find the solution to his tribe’s dwindling fish supply. He discovers the problem is human greed, indifference and selfishness. Discoveries made possible because he was forced to look out beyond the wisdom of his ethnocentric tribe. Discoveries made possible because he accepted and asked for help from diverse strangers – The amigos,Adéliepenguins, and Lovelace the Rock-hopper guru.

The movie fails us all with its happy ending. To this point the movie has been a metaphor for all those oppressed by rigid doctrine and prejudice; a beacon for those who risk the unknown and venture forth with an open mind. To then trivialize it with an unrealistic ending – humans stopped stealing the fish so the penguins could live happily ever after - trivializes the roll of those kids sitting in the movie theatre. For it is in their hands, they can influence adults today. The movie could have ended with a question mark. We do not know the answer, but maybe they will.

The movie is billed as a comedy yet it graphically showed how the food chain works. Leopard seals do eat penguins; Skuas rip open the stomachs of penguins to eat the krill digesting there. But there is a balance in nature. Only when humans are part of that food chain is that balance lost. This movie could have taught so much about all our responsibilities. 
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