Lake at dawn on Feb. 2, 2017 - bruce witzel photo


The greatest revelation is stillness


~ Lao Tzu ~

To be gentle and subversive – an alternative truth!

We will continue to fail in our ability to love until we recognize that it is the personal responsibility of each individual to learn how to love…

Love must be an integral part of all areas of our society, so that it can halt the march of isolation, separation and a hostile social order…

Petra Kelly (1947 –1992)




Considering this Saturday’s wide-spread peaceful protests against the new American Trump administration, activist Petra Kelly’s essay below on Social Defence written 25 years ago, still sing true today. 

Petra was born in Germany in 1947. Her step-father was an American army officer based in Germany, although Petra remained a West German citizen. The family returned to the United States in 1959. Petra was active in the civil rights movement during the 1960’s.  During Robert Kennedy’s bid for the US presidency she was a campaign organizer. 

After studying political science at the American University’s School of International Service in Washington, D.C., Petra returned to Europe. During the 70’s she worked on Public Health Issues and Environmental Protection in Brussels for the European Community Commission. Later, 

Petra Kelly was a leader in the peace and anti-nuclear movements  when I heard her speak in Vancouver in the mid 1980’s. She was also deeply involved with ecological and human rights issues, helping form the German Green Party and becoming among the world’s first green parliamentarians in 1983. In the late 80’s and early 90’s she helped organize support for both the Free Tibet Movement and the Chinese Democracy Movement.Tragically, she was murdered in 1992.


Listen up! Here an excerpt of her life-work.


Wildlife near Carbondale, Colorado 2 - bruce witzel photo


On Nonviolent Social Defense 


Social defense is practical and pragmatic. It requires excellent preparation, organization, and training; a courageous, creative, and determined citizenry; and a radical commitment to democratic values. Independent, resourceful, freedom-loving people that are prepared and organized to resist aggression cannot be conquered…


In the 20th century, we have seen several examples of the effectiveness of nonviolent social defense. The home-rule movement led by Gandhi mobilized so much grassroots pressure that the British were forced to withdraw from India. The civil rights movement created profound changes in U.S. society. Philippine “people power” overthrew Marcos non-violently. And in Eastern Europe, it was citizens’ movements, not political or military powers, that toppled the state security systems.


Full demilitarization can only come about in a society in which power is shared at the grassroots. In the nineteenth century, Henry David Thoreau called upon free citizens to engage in civil disobedience and nonviolent actions whenever there is an injustice. Civil disobedience and nonviolence are an integral part of any democratic society. Even in Western democracies, the state seems invincible, and as individuals, we often feel powerless, unable to have much effect. We must remind ourselves that the power of the state derives solely from the consent of the governed. Without the cooperation of the people, the state cannot exist. Even a powerful military state that is nearly invulnerable to violent force can be transformed through nonviolence at the grassroots. Noncooperation, civil disobedience, education, and organization are the means of change, and we must learn the ways to use them. Direct democracies will come into being only when we demand from our leaders that they listen to us. This is fundamental to Green politics. Power is not something that we receive from above. To transform our societies into ones that are peaceful, ecological, and just, we need only to exercise the power we already have.


Like the militaristic mode of defense, social defense demands courage and the willingness to place the interests of the community ahead of individual self-interest, relying as it does on well-organized, tightly bonded affinity groups in every neighborhood prepared to conduct acts of nonviolent resistance on short notice. Every neighborhood must know how to conduct resistance and subversion. This method of democratic security requires little material apparatus but a lot of organization and training…


Faith that we have a natural disposition to love, that we are possessed of moral conscience, and that all life is sacred, are at the foundation of nonviolent action, and we can see their power in practical application. The political techniques of nonviolence — noncooperation, civil disobedience, grassroots organizing, fasting, and so forth — derive their power from the faith and confidence that through the integrity and self-sacrifice of our actions, we can awaken our opponent’s conscience and bring about a change of heart. Gandhi was uniquely creative in applying nonviolence as an effective force for political and social change. For him, nonviolence was always active, powerful, and dynamic, and had nothing to do with passivity or acceptance of wrongful conditions. He acknowledged the influence of the nineteenth century Indian women’s movement in the development of his approach. Because women’s contributions to nonviolence are often unrecognized, this influence is especially encouraging.  He was also directly influenced by Jesus’ gospel of love and the writings of Tolstoy, Emerson, and Thoreau.


Violence always leads to more violence, hatred to greater hatred. Nonviolence works through communion, never through coercion. We must win over, not defeat, our opponent through openness, dialogue, patience, and love. Our real opponent is not a human enemy, but a system and way of thinking that give some people the power to oppress. Each struggle is part of a larger vision, one of building a society dedicated to the welfare of all. Gandhi felt that India could only become healthy with strong, politically autonomous, economically self-reliant villages. He was critical of industrialism for dehumanizing workers, splitting society into classes, and taking work from humans and giving it to machines. And he saw that any centralized production system requires a state that is restrictive of individual freedom. To him, the spinning wheel represented the dignity of labor, self-sufficiency, and humility needed to guide the people of India in the work of social transformation. Gandhi’s influence runs deep in the Green movement. Satyagraha and all it implies have inspired and informed our vision of nonviolent change.


All forms of structural and institutional violence — the arms race, warfare, economic deprivation, social injustice, ecological exploitation, and so forth — are closely linked…


A nation’s policies, values, institutions, and structures comprise the preconditions for violence or for peace. Gandhi said, “Nonviolence is the greatest force (hu)mankind has ever been endowed with. Love has more force than a besieging army.” Martin Luther King, Jr. added that this power of love is physically passive but spiritually active — that “while the non-violent resister is passive in the sense that he is not physically aggressive towards his opponent, his mind and his emotions are constantly active, constantly seeking to persuade the opposition.” Nonviolence is a spiritual weapon that can succeed where guns and armies never could. “Democracy can only be saved through nonviolence,” Gandhi said, “because democracy, so long as it is sustained by violence, cannot provide for or protect the weak. My notion of democracy is that under it the weakest should have the same opportunity as the strongest. This can never happen except through nonviolence.”


Excerpt from Thinking Green (1993), by Petra Kelly



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The Sacred Black Hills of the Dakota - bruce witzel photo (2)



In this world there is nothing softer or thinner than water.

But to compel the hard and unyielding it has no equal.


Waterfall in Yosemite - bruce witzel photo (2)



That the weak overcomes the strong, that the hard gives way to the gentle :

This everyone knows, yet no one acts accordingly.


Lao Tzu

Holiday Reflections

This past week Francis and I returned from Christmas with our family in Alberta. I haven’t flown for a good decade and you can see the return flight to the Pacific Coast was beautiful – though I used up so much carbon credit, or love miles as George Monbiot calls such a trip.

January 7, 2017 - A view of Comox Valley - my birth place.

January 7, 2017 – A view of Comox Valley – my birth place.


It's good to be back home safe on the ground on our beloved Vancouver Island.

It’s good to be back home safe on the ground on our beloved Vancouver Island.

As always, Francis has some wonderful holiday reflections and photos on her blog and you may find it enjoyable to check out about High River Alberta. We made the headlines in their local newspaper, so read on. To each of you, please take care in 2017. Peace and fellowship – Bruce.


Saint Benidict's Anglican Church (2), High River Alberta, Jan. 04, 2017 - bruce wtizel photo

Grandkids change so fast. The opportunity to reconnect with where they are in their lives is a precious one. We took Emma and Brit on a snowy outing to the High River Cemetery. More about why in a later blog. Emma was so excited to run between the gravestones and brush off the powdery snow so she could read the inscriptions. She is at that wonderful stage when the ability to read has clicked and she can’t wait to decipher the written word anywhere she finds it. The day was quite cold and when Brit headed back to the car, Emma looked disappointed. She told me, “I don’t want to leave.” I told her we would come back in the summer and spend as much time as she liked. She said, “Can I wear a dress?” I felt that would be perfectly fine.

High River Cemetery

A couple of snow angels visited…

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 Permculture flower


“We can choose this moment of crisis to ask and answer the big questions of society’s evolution like, what do we want to be when we grow up?”

– Paul Gilding






A year ago at Christmas I read the book The Great Disruption: Why the Climate Crisis Will Bring on the End of Shopping and the Birth of a New World published in 2011. The unusual title caught my eye, although I hesitated checking it out. The Birth of a New World part of the title won me over. I took notes and here is my report.


The author, Paul Gilding tells us early on: “It’s hard to hold paradox in our heads – that things are desperately dangerous and urgent but we must act positively and full of hope.”




He warned the reader not to be disheartened by The Great Disruption the earth is currently going through. Covered in the 1st half of the book, this section details how humanity has screwed the planet up big time.


What the world is experiencing in The Great Disruption is like a death or loss, with its five stages of grief (the Kubler-Ross model) – denial, anger, bargaining, depression and finally acceptance.




Gilding says that “grieving is an appropriate response” for the world we’ve destroyed and the resulting pain, “but sustained despair is not.”


And then, like taking a breath of fresh air, the 2nd half of the book shifts to a new paradigm of opportunity, hope and love. Gilding calls this the The Great Awakening.


Pacific coast sunset - bruce witzel photo


“We all know what we need to do,” Gilding writes. “Shop less, live more. Build more community… Make our lives more connected… Make good companies better, make bad companies go broke… Elect good political leaders and throw out bad ones. Roll out technologies that work and phase out those that don’t.”


A_New_Harvest,_with_Wendell_Berry,_Henry_County,_KY,_2011_-_photograph_by_Guy_Mendes                                                       Wendell Berry

The Great Disruption is Similar to World War Two


The Great Disruption initially gives a bleak prognosis of the current climate crisis and what it means for the world. The resources of the planet are finite and the present model of economic growth is unsustainable. Even the notion of sustainable growth is at odds with itself.


Looking towards Mount Hood and downtown Portland, Oregon - bruce witzel photo (2)


Gilding compares the situation today (of climate change) with World War Two. Much of the world was in denial of the military build-up and expansionism of Nazi Germany and other Axis powers. However, upon long overdue realization the allied Nations rapidly mobilized against overwhelming odds. People joined together and made incredible sacrifices because there was no other choice. Paul Gilding says the world is in that situation again. Except today, the enemy is us.


prominent_quote05PaulGilding1000 - Copy


He asserts that “most of all, we need to stop waiting for someone else to fix it. There is no one else. We are the system, we have to change.”


Towards a New World


Who is this us Gilding speaks of? And how does this us change?


“My notion of democracy,” he affirms, “is that under it the weakest should have the same opportunity as the strongest… No country in the world today shows anything but patronizing regard for the weak… Western democracy as it functions today is diluted fascism… True democracy cannot be worked by 20 men sitting at the center. It has to be worked from below, by the people of every village.”


4 seated bicycle in Bend, Oregon (2)- fran guenette photo


If I remember correctly, it was about midpoint of the book that it shifted as thus. I was amazed and excited, turning page after page of innovative and practical examples and solutions, happening now and rapidly expanding. The list is long and encouraging.


Here is a small sampling:




Networking and Social Capital to build resilient community through bartering, car sharing, community vegetable plots, street parties, and free-cycling, to name a few.


ScreenCapture of Freecycle website-2


Another example is recycle banks (like recycling loyalty programs), where companies measure the amount of recycling with electronic tags and then homeowners and businesses are credited accordingly. These credits are used by individuals to cover the cost of different fees in the local municipality. Everyone benefits from reduction in wasteful landfill costs and recycle banks have had excellent results. 




New models of financial institutions that use transparent and Ethical Banking, investing only with companies that have sustainability, social accountability and climate solutions at their core. For example, Tridos Bank in the Netherlands has a mission statement that says in part that they “seek to help create a society that promotes peoples quality of life and has human dignity at its core.”

They have an active international department, supporting microfinance and fair trade initiatives across the developing world. Tridos returns are so consistent that they limit what percentage any one investor can hold to reduce the risk to their stated mission. Mid 2016 assets were 12.6 billion Euro (13.1 billion U.S.) 

An example of an NGO that uses microfinance as a tool for change and social justice is which is a simple way for individual to lend or borrow money. 907 million dollars have has been loaned  by 1.6 million people to 2.2 million borrowers in 82 developing nations, with a 97.3% repayment rate.






Re-emergence of co-operatives like Fonterra Dairy which accounts for 7% of New Zealand’s GDP. Or Sweden’s Sodra with its 52,000 forest owners – they recovered so much waste energy from their forestry and pulp operators they now produce more energy than they use, in synergy with wind turbines on their forest lands.


Air generator and lake sunset -bruce witzel photo




World energy savings of upwards of more than $100 Trillion by 2050 according to the International Energy Agency. One example of this is the company Easy Being Green. In one year its 200 employees installed more than 5 million free energy efficient lightbulbs and water saving devices by generating and selling carbon credits that reflected the energy saved. This prevented 4 million tons of CO2 entering the atmosphere and homeowners now have lower energy bills.


LED and CFL energy efficient lightbulbs - bruce witzel photo

                     Energy efficient lighting - bruce witzel photo


Gilding points out, “The main message here is not the many exciting ideas but the extra ordinary capacity of human ingenuity… to take these solutions to scale at an amazing pace.” He believes that “Companies will respond when consumers and investors change their demands.”


microfinance & ethical banking


And in speaking of investing and in particular the amorality of money, Gilding reminds us that although it has been used for bad, it also can be used for good.


Conclusion – The Great Awakening


As The Great Disruption winds up its final thesis, the author posits the following scenario:


“For the immediate future this will be our most important task. We will have to roll out new technologies on a massive scale to prevent the climate from tipping over the edge. We will mobilize mindboggling amounts of money, people and focus to this task… as fast as we possibly can. This will be seen as a massive economic transformation… But it will not be a true transformation. That genuine transformation will start at the same time but build more slowly… a steady state, sustainable economy built on the pursuit of quality of life, a more equitable sharing of the world’s wealth, and learning to operate in harmony with the ecosystem’s capacity to sustain us. We will build an economy around a simple idea – having happier lives… and of a life being well lived.”


Gilding asks “Will we succeed?”


Boy in Kaslo BC - Fran Guenette photo


His answer: “Yes, if we decide to.”




After reading this book I actually felt happy and encouraged, something everyone needs. It presents a realistic viewpoint that the current Great Disruption will lead to a Great Awakening. Although this transition is not without incredible sacrifice and suffering, it is also full of promise and hope. I highly recommend the book, as a signpost to this new era.


Cheers ~ Bruce


Bruce at Cluxewe River musicfest - fran guenette photo


Postscript – Official Book Synopsis


A global climate crisis and with it, the end of economic growth – is no longer avoidable. The Great Disruption began in 2008, with spiking food and oil prices alongside the starkest evidence yet of dramatic ecological change. The mess were in, however, is not as simple as fossil fuels and carbon footprints. We have come to an end of a world economy based on consumption and waste where we lived beyond the means of our planets resources.

The Great Disruption is a bracing, honest look at the challenge humanity faces, but it also offers  deeply optimistic message. The coming decades will see loss, suffering, and conflict as our planetary overdraft is paid. Yet they will also bring out the best humanity has to offer: innovation, compassion, resilience, and adaptability. The crisis will inevitably change our economic model and the way we live our lives.

Paul Gildings tough minded, truly big picture view reminds us that our greatest triumphs have always come at our darkest times.

Paul Gilding is a member of the core faculty for Cambridge University’s Programme for Sustainability Leadership. He has served as the head of Greenpeace International and advised both fortune 500 companies and community based NGO’s.

A Christmas Album (Wishes from Bruce)


North Vancouver Island snowscape - bruce witzel photo (2)



Deck in the snow @ the lake - bruce witzel photo



LED's Lights on our deck - bruce witzel photo



Peace on earth -bruce witzel photo


Christmas star  @ the lake - bruce witzel photo


Bruce with his new Christmas gift from Dougie - Fran Guenette photo








          Christmas Cheer

              from Bruce







river near winter harbour - bruce witzel photo

PLAN B, THE NEW HORIZON (To Live the Impossible Dream)


In his masterwork, Don Quixote, Cervantes wrote, “Maybe the greatest madness is to see life as it is rather than what it could be.” Moving beyond the environmental and economic crossroads where humanity stands today requires shaking this madness and giving birth to a common vision of a world of sustainable peace and justice and equity. . .


Elk herd near Sayward BC on Vancouver Island, Dec. 8th, 2016 -  bruce witzel  photo

Elk herd on Northern Vancouver Island, Dec. 8, 2016


Some of the most basic elements of creating a common vision rest on new conceptions of security built on a strong foundation of human security. Human security is based on meeting the needs of people and the planet, not one that focuses primarily on the often aggressive framework of the defence of the apparatus if the state – at huge costs to humanity and the environment.


Cartoon - value for shareholders


Tackling that outmoded worldview must be the collective action of civil societies and governments. No one changes the world alone. Alone, thinking about all of the challenges in today’s world, can be completely overwhelming and, worse, disempowering. But when we choose to work together in coordinated action toward achieving the common goal of sustainable peace on a sustainable planet, there is little we cannot accomplish. . .


Our sun-tempered home and small Air 403 windturbine on Feb. 4, 2004 - bruce witzel photo

Our sun tempered cabin and wind turbine, Feb. 4, 2004


Creating change is hard work; it is not impossible work. It takes all the elements of the global community working together in a strategic, coordinated action to a make a vision a reality. Change does not happen simply because we wish it would. It is the result of the hard work of millions of people around the world – every single day.


It is a wondrous adventure that we must all be part of to turn our vision into sustainable reality.


~ Jody Williams ~


Mountains north of Sayward BC on Vancouver Island, Dec. 6, 2016, - bruce witzel photo

Beaufort Mountain Range and North Vancouver Island forest and snow, Dec. 5, 2016


Jody Williams is an American political activist known around the world for her work in banning anti-personnel landmines, an important new horizon indeed. She is a Nobel Peace Prize laureate and she has chaired the Nobel Women’s Initiative since 2006.


Cheers from the North Island


~ Bruce ~

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