Saturday, July 01, 2006

Words of Power #25: Lost Symbols, Part II -- The Rainbow Serpent Hisses, Lessons about Sustainability & Survival from Darfur, Senegal and Ecuador

Words of Power #25: Lost Symbols, Part II -- The Rainbow Serpent Hisses, Lessons about Sustainability & Survival from Darfur, Senegal and Ecuador

By Richard Power

“The Rainbow Serpent is a living power. Whatever sex it chooses to adopt, it is a creator of worlds and master of the mighty north-west monsoon that extinguishes the dry season in torrential rains and through them fertilizes the earth. When lightening glares through the cloudbanks of the wet, it is the tongue of the Snake. When the thunder roars, it is the Snake’s voice. To be swallowed by the Snake is to drown in swirling waters that in a few terrifying moments can become a life-threatening flood. In its glittering, storm-swept shape we have come to recognize an untamed, untameable form that is not only beyond good and evil. But before good and evil. It is one of the great Creators of the Dreamtime from whose acts sprang law and custom. It cared nothing for the individual, nothing for the ephemeral generations that strut their moment on life’s stage and pass. As the seasons changed and the monsoonal clouds swirled over the horizon, it could not be defeated, but it could be contained -- and the way to contain it, the way meaning was added to this mightiest of seasonal events, was to say….‘Thus it has been from the beginning. I know because I was there. The beings of the Dreamtime are not only my ancestors, I was one of them, and to that mighty source of living energy I will return….’"
Charles E. Hulley, The Rainbow Serpent, New Holland, 1999 (ISBN 186436532-3)

This is the second in a three-part series of articles on “Lost Symbols” that can be retrieved from the depths of Psyche, and utilized anew to draw on the vast, largely un-tapped reservoirs of primordial spiritual energy common to all of us.

Words of Power #24: Lost Symbols, Part I – Aung San Suu Kyi, AQ Khan, & The World Tree dealt with the One Tree, which evokes, for me, the oneness and interdependence of all life. This One Tree, or World Tree, burst from the seed of myth and became a living truth in my life at a museum in Copenhagen, in the presence of a Bronze Age bog woman’s skeletal remains, while I was examining the contents of her medicine pouch (e.g., tiny squirrel teeth, etc.)

The Rainbow Serpent evokes, for me, the strength and sustainability required to ensure the survival of life on the planet. It hatched from the egg of myth and became a living truth in my life on a pilgrimage to Uluru. According to legend, that massive red rock, standing tall and alone, in the barren desert at the geographical and mystical heart of Australia, is the Serpent's nest.

The white men called Uluru “Ayer’s Rock,” and turned the scaling of its stone heights, while clinging to a chain link tether, into a world-class tourist trap. Mercifully, control over Uluru has been returned to the Abos. In their wisdom, the Abos have not put a stop to the blasphemy of the tourists scaling up the steep side of the sacred site. But they have posted a big sign, explaining why they do not climb it and expressing the hope that visitors do not climb it either, in several languages. Oblivious to inner dimensions, many tourists still blaspheme the holy place. But not all visitors are so insensitive, and are grateful, instead, to simply circumambulate the ancient and still living power spot.

The desert heat is intense. Thick airwaves undulate. The landscape shimmers. The only shade is the simple bus stop and latrine structure across the road. Magpies hang around it, eager to discuss (interspecies) the nature of the universe. Circumambulating Uluru is a profound experience. (I will write more about it elsewhere.)

But for now, listen to what its hissing tells us.

Like Oxygen and Water?

Oil and gas have a value that, for some of the wealthiest and most powerful men (yes, overwhelmingly, they are men), far exceeds the value of millions, or even tens of millions, of human lives. And this perceived value has blinded and numbed them to reality. Energy security and environmental security have become inextricably bound together. The issues of sustainability, global warming, the end of peak oil production, and the struggle for geopolitical hegemony are all inextricably bound together. The only sane way forward is to commit to renewable resources and a sustainable economy. But some among those wealthiest and most powerful men, blinded and numbed by the value of oil and gas, either refuse to acknowledge these truths, or in acknowledging them, distort their import into a perverse logic that somehow adds to the value of the oil and gas that they covet.

Consider the spin that emanated from the recent US Arab Economic Forum:

“Becoming energy independent is ‘na├»ve’ and would harm U.S. relations with Arab countries, energy executives told world and business leaders…Executives from Exxon Mobil Corp., Chevron Corp., ConocoPhillips Co., Marathon Oil Co. and Shell Oil…spoke out against the idea advanced by lawmakers that the U.S. is crippled by its dependence on foreign oil.”
"When they speak, you should listen to them," Prince Turki Al-Faisal, Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the U.S., said after the forum. He also criticized using "addiction" to describe oil needs. "It's misleading," Al-Faisal said. "Oil is like oxygen and water. It's a necessity of life. It is misinformed to think that any country can do without oil."
"Repeated pronouncements by U.S. policymakers about backing off Middle East imports may deter Arab countries from expanding capacity at the very time the world needs them to do so," [Bill] Berry [ConocoPhillips executive vice president for exploration and production in Europe, Asia and the Middle East] said. "We need to discard the illusion that energy security will come through so-called energy-independent America. Self-sufficient is neither attainable nor desirable."
STEVE QUINN, Energy execs say energy independence is "naive", Associated Press, 6-27-06

Which do you think is the greatest threat to the human race, and to your people in particular -- global warming, economic depression, terrorism or the proliferation of nuclear weapons? Whichever one you choose, the spin from Berry and the admonishment from Al-Faisal should sicken you and worry you.

Remember All that Post-Rwanda Rhetoric?

Darfur is, as Kofi Annan describes it, “Hell on Earth.”

During the last twenty years, the international community has stood by, impotent, while massive massacres in southern Sudan have killed 2 million people since 1983….According to a devastating report by the International Criminal Court's Procurer General presented to the UN on June 14th, more than 200,000 civilians out of 6 million Darfurians have been killed since 2003, at a rate of 10,000 victims a month. Today, 2.5 million refugees and displaced persons live in battered camps, maintained by hobbled international aid and terrorized by the Khartoum regime. Michael Chetrit and Mahor Chiche, Peace Unattainable in Darfu, Le Monde, 6-27-06

Did you know that there are thousands of Chinese Red Army troops in the Sudan? They are not there to thwart genocide; they are there to protect an oil pipeline.

“….China is in a lucrative partnership that delivers billions of dollars in investment, oil revenue and weapons -- as well as diplomatic protection -- to a government accused by the United States of genocide in Darfur and cited by human rights groups for systematically massacring civilians and chasing them off ancestral lands to clear oil-producing areas.” Washington Post, 12-22-04

If corporations are indeed citizens, as current US law (tragically, and in contempt of the framers intent), than perhaps like citizens they not only have rights, but also responsibilities. Maybe Walmart, which does so much business with China, should ask itself “what would Jesus do?”

Meanwhile, day after day, month after month, year after year, the US and the other great powers wring their hands, rustle their papers, and do as little as possible, saying that they are doing as much as possible.

”Since June 2004, 7,000 under-equipped soldiers from the African Union have been confined to the difficult role of simple observers in a region as large as France. Moreover, the African Union, which is no longer financed by the international community, does not intend to continue its mission beyond September 30.” (Le Monde)

Procrastinating politicians, and the pundits who flack for them (I call them “propapunditgandists”), will point fingers at the UN’s impotence. But the UN’s ability to act in any given situation is curtailed (sometimes rightly and sometimes wrongly) by the veto power of its permanent members. The UN’s supposed “impotence” is merely the mirror image of the great powers’ indifference and self-interest.

“Last May 16, the UN Security Council finally adopted a resolution authorizing the principle of a Blue Helmet operation in Darfur to replace the African Union mission. That resolution was adopted by virtue of Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter that makes provision for the possibility of economic or military "coercive measures." But that eventuality remains theoretical, since Russia and especially China remain very "non-committal" about any use of force. Sudan, in fact, represents 6% of Chinese oil imports….” (Le Monde)

The answer in Darfur, as Chetrit and Chiche suggest in their Le Monde piece, is force of arms. But even if the Western powers were willing to commit lives, fortunes and sullied honors to such a mission, China would have to be reassured about its bloody oil in order to win a Security Council mandate, and such reassurance would have to come, in large part, from a USA not run by oil industry men.

Where Will Quito Get its Water When the Glaciers Melt? And Who is Stealing the Solar Panels in Senegal?

There are extraordinary challenges that must be overcome on at all levels -- global, regional and local.

Here are two stories from recent months that struck me with their poignancy:

At a time when concerns about global warming and the need for renewable energy sources are grabbing headlines the world over, it seems particularly regrettable that communities would be afflicted by the theft of solar panels. Yet, this is precisely what is happening in rural areas of Senegal, in West Africa…. To date, ASER {Senegalese Agency for Rural Electrification} has installed 10,000 solar systems in 300 villages -- and plans to set up nine central solar plants on islands in the Saloum Delta, along the Atlantic coast. However, a 2005 study indicated that up to 15 percent of solar panels installed in Senegal had been stolen…. According to the 2005 study, panels are sometimes stolen and sold by the engineers and technicians who installed them. In another instance, a Mauritanian national stole panels in Senegal for resale in his own country. Abdou Faye, Theft Casts a Shadow Over Solar Programmes, Inter Press Service (IPS), 1-27-06

Melting glaciers and irregular rainfall -- effects linked by scientists to global climate change -- have already begun threatening Ecuador's electrical grids, agricultural production and drinking-water supplies. Quito is surrounded by an intricate network of open canals and rivers traversing the surrounding ridges of the Andes Mountains…The Rio Pita's flow has decreased by 50 percent in the past 20 years. Glaciologists with Ecuador's National Institute on Hydrology and Meteorology attribute the decrease to the loss of a third of the glacier atop Cotopaxi in the past 50 years. They say drought conditions, deforestation and irrigation practices may also play a role….The problem will soon reach the bigger cities. "In 20 to 30 years we will have a problem with the potable water supply," says Bolivar Caceres, a glaciologist with the hydrology and meteorology institute. As the glaciers recede, he says, there will be less water for Quito, where 70 percent of the water comes from surrounding ice caps. "Once a glacier is lost, it doesn't come back," Caceres adds. "It's a nonrenewable resource." Pauline Bartolone, When the water runs out: Ecuador's crops, its power grid and the drinking water for its largest city are all threatened by climate change, Salon, 4-7-06

When The Rainbow Serpent Coils Around the World Tree

Our circumstances demand dynamic change. Three vital factors -- security, sustainability and spirit -- must be in play for this dynamic change to occur.

What will the Middle East look like after another decade of global warming? What will the Middle East look like when oil production begins to slide precipitously? What will it look like when both inevitabilities converge? Who will stop the genocide in Darfur? How will Ecuador overcome the disappearance of its glaciers? Who will keep Senegal’s solar panels in place? What will be done for the many millions in Shanghai, London and Los Angeles when their time of tribulations arrives?

Those oil men and Arab officials gathered at the US Arab Economic Summit do not have a vision for the world – well, certainly not an expansive, or inclusive one. But within you there are seeds, whispers, prayers and shadows of such a vision. That’s why I bang the shaman’s drum for the World Tree and the Rainbow Serpent. We must bring it forth from within, and the need is urgent.

I feel the Rainbow Serpent coiling around the World Tree.

“No creature is as mysterious, magical and ambivalent as the serpent. It inhabits the depths of the earth, ocean and the human psyche. It incites fear and threatens death, yet it also offers health, power and life….” (Hulley, The Rainbow Serpent)

I feel the snake’s strength to provide energy and sustainability for the oneness of all life embodied in the boughs of the tree.

“The act of swallowing is not merely a synonym for drowning. Swallowing is a means of entry to an inner world, and regurgitation, which is bringing forth, often follows. The Rainbow Serpent shapes nature and institutes culture. It is an agent of transformation: from chaos to an organized world in which humankind can live, from physical to spiritual, from youth to maturity, from life to death, and from death to rebirth.” (Hulley, The Rainbow Serpent)

The two ancient symbols of the World Tree and the Rainbow Serpent fuse, for me, into something greater, a new whole.

Next: The Goddess of Liberty

Related Posts:

Hard Rain Journal 6-27-06: Global Warming, Bush's Alleged "Incompetence," and the So-Called "Conservative" Agenda

Words of Power #24: Lost Symbols, Part One – Aung San Suu Kyi, AQ Khan, & The World Tree

Words of Power #20: Cusco, Kyoto and The Yellow Sand Storm

Words of Power #7: Global Warming Is A Security Threat To Your Family & Your Business

NOTE: Each bi-weekly GS(3) Intelligence Briefing carries the latest news on major developments in global warming, sustainability, energy security, and the end of peak oil production.

Richard Power is the founder of GS(3) Intelligence and His work focuses on the inter-related issues of security, sustainability and spirit, and how to overcome the challenges of terrorism, cyber crime, global warming, health emergencies, natural disasters, etc. You can reach him via e-mail: For more information, go to

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,